One thing to keep in mind is that the church did not create the canon, or books included in what we call Scripture. The church recognized the books that were inspired by God when written. [The word canon comes from the root word â€œreedâ€ (English word, â€œcaneâ€; Hebrew form ganeh and Greek Kanon). The reed was used as a measuring rod and eventually meant â€œstandard.â€ As applied to Scripture, canon means â€œan officially accepted list of books.â€]
There were approximately five guiding principles used to determine whether or not a New Testament book is canonical (Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible [Chicago: Moody Press, 1968], 141):
- Is it authoritative? Did it come from the hand of God? Does this book come with a divine â€œthus says the Lord?â€ Does it agree with earlier revelation?
- It is prophetic? Was it written by a man of God?
- Is it authentic? The church fathers had the policy, â€œif in doubt, throw it out.â€
- Is it dynamic? Did it come with the life-transforming power of love?
- Was it received, collected, read and used? Was it acceptable to the people of God?