The second section of the book the canon of scripture by F.F. Bruce deals with the canon of the Old Testament. The author examines how the Old Testament became more clearly understood through the fulfillment of Jesus. The ancient books of the Old Testament became new and meaningful to early Christians due to the illumination shown on the text of the Old Testament through their fulfillment in Christ. One of the underlining principles in determining the Old Testament canon is whether or not a book or set of books are supported by the events and the words surrounding the life of Christ. Another important aspect in determining which books belong in the Old Testament is through tracing any recurrent patterns in the story of God’s dealing with His people. It is true that the Old Testament books were originally understood to be a Jewish book. It was thought of as the Jewish scriptures. However, though the text never changed, it was the Christians understanding of it in light of what Jesus did that had changed. Jesus came to fulfill the law. Once Jesus came, the understanding of the Old Testament became much clearer.
The author continues his thoughts on the Old Testament canon by looking more deeply in the Old Testament canon and how it came to be accepted by Christians. A journey through history is given by looking at the acceptance of the canon both in the east and in the west. Names such as Origen, Justin Martyr, Athanasius and others come to mind in relation to the understanding of the Old Testament canon in eastern culture. Each of these individuals along with other later Greek fathers give their own list of what they believe should be accepted as the Old Testament books. In the Latin west we find names such as Tertullian, Jerome, and Augustine. Each of these men contributed to the limitation of certain books in the Old Testament canon. There were also the church councils. These councils did not necessarily establish the canon of the Old Testament; rather they just simply confirmed what was already understood to be the books of the Old Testament.
The author also deals with the Old Testament canon by examining the history before and after the reformation. It is noted that with the revival of serious Biblical study in the early Middle Ages, fresh attention was paid to questions of canonicity. These issues came even more to the forefront when Luther maintained the authority of scripture alone against that of the church. The question then arose to what exactly is ‘scripture alone.’ By the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries we have the canon of scripture as we have it today. In the early translations, such as the King James Version of 1611, the apocrypha books were included. However, the tide began to turn when the reading of the apocrypha books ceased to be read in the Church of England. Not long after this we have the famous Westminster Confessions of Faith which included the order of both the Old Testament and New Testament books as we have them today.
As one studies how we got the Bible we have today, there is a greater appreciation developed for the preservation of God’s Word. Through all the changes and debates of history and men, the Word of God still stands. Even through the various versions of scriptures that have been published by sinful men, the Gospel message has never changed. This is a miracle in and of itself. May God give us all a greater appreciation for His Word.