The author of the Canon of Scriptures, F.F. Bruce, continues to lay out a rather exhaustive history of the development of the canon of scriptures that we have today. Moving on in time, we come to the studies of Athanasius. As bishop of Alexandria, Athanasius devoted most of his thirty-ninth festal letter to a statement about the canon of scripture and its limits. He produces a list of both the Old Testament and New Testament books. Athanasius is the first writer known to us who listed exactly the twenty-seven books which traditionally make up the New Testament in catholic and orthodox Christianity. Those books that were unfit for reading in the church and also in the private life of the believer were identified by Athanasius as the apocryphal works.
Chrysotom, known as, ‘John of the golden mouth’, was the bishop of Constantinople from 397-407. He was the first to refer to both testaments as ‘the books’. Previously, this term was used only of the Old Testament writings. The usage of the term ‘the books’ later developed into the term ‘Bible’.
F.F. Bruce also includes the history of the west in the fourth century to Jerome. During this time there came attacks on the Christian scriptures. This age included great persecution and the ordering of the destruction of the scriptures. However, the Word of God prevailed and the canon of scripture became even more established. When we come to Jerome we find the scriptures continuing to spread as he is somewhat responsible for what we know as the Latin Vulgate. The canon of scriptures during this time is coming ever so close to being finalized and accepted by the Christian community at large.
Augustine is also mentioned in the Canon of Scriptures taking us all the way to the Middle Ages. Augustine was one who believed the canon was ‘given’ to him. Though the church had not made an official declaration of what the canon included, Augustine assumes the canon of scripture to be final as it was given to him.
As the finality of the canon continues to be developed we find the councils of Hippo and Carthage in 393 and 397, as the first church council to lay down the limits of the canon of scripture. Other councils would soon follow which gave even greater credence to the finality of the canon as we have today.
After looking at the history and early development of the canon, the author then gives a history of the New Testament in the age of printing. As the scriptures began to spread through the development of print, we find great contributors such as Martin Luther, William Tyndale, and John Calvin. William Tyndale is credited to ‘printing’ the scriptures in English as the printing press is developed, though John Wycliff produced a handwritten translation of the Bible in English before this time. The listing of the books of the Bible in the Tyndale Bible was followed by other English translations for the next few years. Tyndale separated the books of Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation from the other books in the canon. It is thought that Tyndale struggled with the validity of these books. It is at this point that a fixed canon is assumed. From the fourth century and beyond, we find the books of the Bible we have today as the complete canon of scripture, though there were variations in their order.