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Hebrew Canon Research Paper

Today we have the Bible, but before we had the Bible there was the Hebrew Canon. The history of how the Hebrew Canon came to be, how it was developed overtime, and how the canonization of the Old Testament was different from the New testament are all important topics to explore when trying to understand and study today’s Bible. The Canon was a collection of sacred writings that were from God, written by man (Hebrew Bible). The Canon, also known as the Hebrew Bible, contains a total of 24 books and is divided into three main parts: The Pentateuch, the Prophets, and the Writings.

The Pentateuch was made up of five books known as the books of Law: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy (Hebrew Bible). The five books of Law were written by Moses, the chosen leader of God’s people who lead the Israelites out of Egypt and on the journey to the Promise Land (Formation and History of the Hebrew Canon). The Prophets were the books of the Bible that told the story of every prophet God called during a certain time in Israel’s history. Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and The Book of the Twelve were considered the prophets in the Canon (Hebrew Bible).

The Book of the Twelve in the Christian Bible are actually separate individual books instead of one, but they were originally written as one whole book. Contemporaries wrote these books if not written by the prophets themselves, contemporaries were people who lived at the same time as the prophets and who witnessed what was happening during that time (Contemporaries). The writings consisted of 11 books: Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentation, Esther, Job, Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles.

Psalms was predominantly written by King David; the most important king in all of Israel’s history (Kranz). Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs were predominantly written by Solomon; the son of King David, King Solomon was known for his wisdom and was the wisest king Israel ever had (Kranz). Lamentations was written by the prophet Jeremiah, Esther and Job are unknown, Daniel was written by Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah were written by the prophets Ezra and Nehemiah, and Chronicles was written by the prophet Ezra (Kranz).

These three main divisions made up the Hebrew Canon and still hold great importance in the Jewish culture today. The words in these writings were sacred because it was God’s word directly to his people and what is amazing is that these writings still apply to us today. Before the Canon became a book it had to go through a series of tests that would determine whether its writings were authentic and divine. Canon actually means “measuring rod” canonicity is actually a set of standards that these books have to meet in order to be considered as scripture (Litke).

Early historians asked a series of questions to determine whether these books were real or not. They asked If these books were authoritative? Meaning were the words in these books from God and spoken by God. They asked whether these books were prophetic, meaning were they written from a man of God, someone who God spoke directly to. This could be a prophet of those times, a scribe, a judge, and even a king. For example, King David had many conversations with God and that’s where a lot of Psalms came from.

They would also ask the question of authenticity, was what was written consistent with the rest of the Bible? Did it align with God and was it filled with truth? Another question asked, is it dynamic? Did it show God’s mighty power and his works? The last question asked was if it was received by God’s people? Were these words and scriptures used by God’s people and accepted by them? This can honestly be looked at as a personal question and it can be answered very differently. That is why today there are many different versions and translations of the Bible that exist.

The Canonization of the Old Testament and the New Testament were different. The Old Testament was Canonized based on Christ’s references of the Old Testament scriptures in the New Testament. They were able to determine the authenticity and authority of the Old Testament books based on how in (Matthew 21:42) Jesus refers back to those books as scripture (Litke). This actually happens many times in the Bible where Jesus or his disciples would refer back to scripture from the Old Testament in their New Testament writings.

That solely could confirm that these books were real and God breathed, but there was also a lot studies done by historians to prove the authenticity of these scriptures. The New Testament was Canonized based off of the apostles and disciples that claimed their writings. Within the New Testament books the apostles and disciples of those days claimed their writings and many of their writings start by telling us that they were the ones who indeed wrote these books (Litke). For example in (Colossians 1 “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother. ) (New International Version, Col 1).

Paul opens up his writing stating his name in his letter so that the church would know who was writing to them. The New Testament books were also proven authentic and authoritative based on the connection they had with the Old Testament scriptures, in 2 Peter 1:1-2 it says, (“Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate your to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles. ) (2 Peter 1. 1-2). Again we see how the apostle refers back to the Old Testament.

The fact that there were apostles and disciples that walked with Jesus and who were eyewitnesses to everything that happened during those days proved these books to be real. They wrote down their experiences and the words given to them directly from Jesus and from God himself. Now an important perspective to have is that the church did not choose what books were authentic, God did. It was through the Holy Spirit and the revelation from God that these books were determined to be authentic.

It is very easy to see this as people solely choosing what is real and what is not and humans alone cannot determine something like this. Scripture comes from God and is given to men, mans job is to be discerning and to witness the canon not determine what is true and what is not. The way these books were developed, by whom they were written, and how they were developed and proven differently are all very important topics to look at in order to understand the Bible that exists today. The Hebrew Canon was the first authentic “Bible” and is still being used and influencing people today.

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