Micheal Williams had a post asking if it was heresy to question if certain books belonged in the bible. My short answer to that is it is never heresy to question anything.
But there were many comments that I felt compelled to respond to and it got so long I decided to make a post about it instead.
One poster said:
The Bible as we know it today is not the Bible as it was written. That set of books was written in several classical and pre-classical languages, and was translated multiple times to reach its expression in modern English — and that’s probably the least of what’s been done to it.
For very long periods — centuries — the Bible was effectively the private property of the Catholic Church. That is, persons not in Holy Orders were not permitted access to it. During that period, it is quite possible that large segments of the Bible, particularly the books of the New Testament, were altered to conform to what the Church wanted to teach.
This is just plain wrong. I first heard it from a Mormon trying to discredit the Bible and it is often used that way. It is a common misconception about the origin of the bible. While the Roman Catholic Church controlled the access to the bible in Europe until Gutenburg that is only part of the story.
Even during this period the Orthodox Church used the same bible as the Catholic and would never allow the Catholics to change it.
Modern translations are based on texts from as early at 70 A.D. Translators don’t go to the last English translation that was made and make a new one. They go to the oldest texts they can find and make original translations from them. Modern archeology has found many new texts from the first century and they can be used for new translations.
But the really good thing is they show the incredible accuracy of what we have had for 2000 years. The Bible has changed very little over those times.
How the NT Cannon was Selected
When the canon was selected – and this really predated what we now call the Roman Catholic Church – the criteria used to decided what goes in was “Is this book accepted among all of the churches as being inspired?”
When Constantine became a Christian there were many writings that people considered inspired. Constantine wanted one set he could use and feel comfortable about. So he brought together a council of bishops and asked them to create such a book. Rather than just doing it themselves, they polled the various church around the world asking what writings they considered inspired and used regularly in worship.
From this they selected only books that were in general use in all of Christendom. Revelations was selected because it was used by all the churches.
And there were many books that were popular among those bishops on the committee that didn’t go into the canon because they weren’t used elsewhere.