This is the fourth in a series attempting to nuance the statement, “The Bible says…” I encourage you to read the story so far:
Textual Criticism
The Septuagint (LXX)
Hebrew vowel pointing

The canon

If you say, “The Bible says in Matthew 5:6, ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.'” you are probably a Christian.
If you say, “The Bible says in Genesis 1:5, ‘God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.'” you could be a Christian, or a Jew, or a Samaritan.
If you say, “The Bible says in the Wisdom of Solomon 3:1, ‘The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and there shall no torment touch them.'” you could be a Roman Catholic, Orthodox, or Anglican.
If you say, “The Bible says in the Book of Enoch 1:8, “the just he will give peace, and will protect the chosen, and mercy will abide over them, and they will all be God’s, and will be prosperous and blessed, and the light of God will shine for them.” you are probably Ethiopian Orthodox.

And so on. And so on.

The point is, the “Bible” is a library of books, “works”, scrolls. Different communities bind together different collections of such scrolls and call it their Bible.

Some people put significance upon the order in which the scrolls are bound together – interpreting the latter in the light of the former, for example. But the order in which books are bound varies also.

Some people treat the conclusion of the scroll of Revelation as if the author is referring to the whole collection of books now bound together in one binding (a codex): ” I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book; if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away that person’s share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” (Rev 22:18-19) Obviously the author was making no reference to bound together scrolls, codices, nor had any idea where this scroll would be placed in any ordering of scrolls.

The categories into which works are bound together also varies. The 39 Old Testament Books of protestantism are arranged as 24 books in the Jewish Tanakh. There are 66 books in the Protestant Bible. There are 81 books in the Ethiopian Orthodox Bible. Christians list Joshua, Judges, Kings, and Samuel amongst the historical books, while Jews place them in the Nevi’im, the prophets.

We do not agree about what is in the Bible, nor by what criteria, nor in which order, nor in which categories. We say, “The Bible says…” with some care, and some humility…

Similar Posts: