Foundation Topic

How Did We Get the Books of the Bible?

The Bible is a collection of 66 books that tells one unified story. Over time, people recognized these books to be telling one story. These books are unique from others and claim to be God’s Word. We call this collection of books considered to be God's Word, "the Canon."

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Learn about the canon

God has said all that needs to be said in what we find between the covers of our Bibles.

Theme Verse
John 21:25 ESV

Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

Short Content

Where Did the Bible Come From?

If God really did speak, we would expect his words to be recognized as divine. That’s exactly what happened!

God began his story with the Jewish people. He chose them as a people to tell his story. He spoke to them through leaders and prophets about his plan and the people of Israel began to collect and treasure what he said. They recorded his word on clay tablets, parchment, and scrolls in collections they called the Tanakh, what we know as the Old Testament.

After many years, their story still unfinished, it ended on a cliffhanger as God’s voice became silent. God promised the Jewish people all throughout their Scriptures that he would send a rescuer to deliver not just their people, but also the whole world from the curse of sin.

God would deliver all of us from the sin in our hearts and the wedge it puts between us and our good Creator. Through the Christ (Messiah), God would invite the whole world into his plan, and make a way for all people to know the true God.

Just when the Israelites gave up all hope of a savior, the promised hero showed up—plot twist—as a baby. He is the reason for Christmas. He is the reason time is marked based on his birth — B.C. (Before Christ) and A.D. (Anno Domini, translated as, In the Year of Our Lord). The hero God sent to save the world was his own Son born in human flesh.

God spoke most clearly to us about himself through his Son, Jesus—through his life, death, and resurrection.

Then, four of Jesus’ followers each wrote an account of Jesus’ life, and each book became recognized as an extension of the Hebrew Scriptures. They were called “Gospels” or “good news,” and are the first four books of what we call the New Testament.

Before Jesus left earth, he promised to write one last chapter of God’s story. Until the death of the apostle John, who wrote the last book of the Bible, God’s Spirit kept writing his story through a number of Jesus’ followers.

They explained the significance of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and how he fulfilled the Jewish Scriptures. These authors explained the good news of how the God of Israel can become your God and my God.

In God’s wisdom, he used these select authors to tell us all we need to know about God, his plan, and how to live the way he intended for us until Jesus returns to judge the world. When Jesus does return, he will judge us based on whether we believed in him and his Word or not. Most importantly, he will judge us based on whether we believed in his Son, Jesus.

See, the books of the Bible weren’t just chosen by men. Instead, they were given by God. As they were given, they were treasured and recorded. Years after the apostle John died, it became apparent, as people studied the Scriptures, that God was done revealing himself, and we need not wait on a new revelation. All we need to do is return to what God has already given us—his complete story—to hear him speak.

God’s Word—his Old and New Testament—shines brighter than other books as something totally unique. The books of the Bible were, over time, recognized by men and women for what they are—the precious self-disclosure of God himself.



How Did We Get the Bible?
Articles: 10 Min

The Bible is divided into two parts...

So how did we get the Old Testament canon?

How did we get the

New Testament canon?

History of the CanoN

First Five Books
Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible (Genesis-Deuteronomy), known as the Law, the Torah, or the Books of Moses.
Prophets and Writings
Over the next millennium, various authors wrote the rest of the Old Testament. These books were ultimately collected into two groups of books known as the Prophets and the Writings.
Greek Old Testament
A group of about 70 Jewish scholars translated the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Old Testament. It became the basis for many future translations of the Old Testament. It’s also the source text for numerous New Testament quotes of the Old Testament.
Many other Jewish writings were in circulation, known collectively as the Apocrypha, but these were not canonized by the Jews. While often read by Christians, these books were never quoted as Scripture by Jesus.
Hebrew Scriptures
By Jesus’ time, all of our current Old Testament was compiled in a collection and known as the Hebrew Scriptures (e.g., Luke 24:45), commonly referred to as the Law, Prophets, and Writings/Psalms (e.g., Luke 24:44).
New Testament Books
All 27 books of the New Testament were written over roughly 55 years. Most likely James was written first and Revelation, last.
Authority of NT Books
Various early church fathers like Polycarp (66-155), Irenaeus (130-202), Tertullian (160-220), and Origen (185-254) quote from, or authoritatively reference, most of the New Testament books.
The Muratorian Fragment
The Muratorian Fragment lists 23 of the current 27 books of the New Testament as canonical.
Four Great Codices
The “four great codices” were produced—Codex Vaticanus, Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Alexandrinus, and Codex Ephraemi—which serve as the oldest existing manuscripts to contain the entire Bible.
27 Books Affirmed by Athanasius
In his Easter letter, the bishop of Alexandria, Athanasius (296-373), listed the official 27 books of the New Testament recognized by the Eastern church. In it he also condemned the use of Apocryphal books.
66 Books Affirmed
The Synod of Rome confirmed the 66 books of the Bible as canon for the Western church.
The Vulgate
Early church father Jerome (347-420) completed the Latin translation of the Bible, known as the Vulgate (updating the Old Latin Vetus Latina), a translation that dominated Western Christianity for over 1000 years and remained the official Catholic translation of the Bible until the 1960s.
The Gothic Bible
The missionary Ulfilas translated the Gothic Bible, using a Gothic alphabet he created (311-383). This was one of the first Bible translations used specifically for missionary endeavors.
Canon Closed
The Council of Carthage confirmed the canon of Scripture for the entire Church as the 66 books in our present Bible, declaring the canon “closed,” meaning not open to the addition of new books.
Worldwide Translation
Various translations of the Bible appeared as Christianity continued to spread, including Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, Old Nubian, and Classical Ethiopic. These translations are especially important as they show us which biblical books were considered canonical by different areas of the worldwide church.
Masoretic Text
Jewish scholars produced the authoritative Hebrew text of the Old Testament, known as the Masoretic Text. It served as the basis for the Old Testament translations of the King James Version (1611) and the American Standard Version (1901).
English Bible Translation
John Wycliffe (1330-1384) translated the Bible into Middle English, from the Latin Vulgate, for which he was executed by the Catholic Church.
Gutenberg Bible
Using the Latin Vulgate, the first Bible was printed (known as the Gutenberg Bible) using the new technology of Gutenberg’s printing press and revolutionizing Bible production, which previously had been painstakingly done by hand.
Greek New Testament
Dutch scholar Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466-1536) produced the Textus Receptus, a rendering of the Greek New Testament that was used as a foundation for most Protestant Bible translations including Tyndale’s English Bible (1526), Luther’s German New Testament (1522), and the Spanish Reina-Valera Bible (1602).
First Complete English Bible
Myles Coverdale (1488-1569) translated the first complete Bible into Modern English.
Apocrypha Added
At the Council of Trent, the Roman Catholic Church confirmed the inclusion of 7 Apocryphal books into its canon of Scripture, something that had been rejected earlier by Martin Luther in his complete German translation of the Bible in 1534, on the basis that Jesus never refers to them as sacred Scripture.
Geneva Bible
The Geneva Bible was published, complete with study notes and cross references, becoming the dominant English Bible translation of the 16th century, used by such famous people as William Shakespeare, John Bunyan (author of Pilgrim’s Progress) and Oliver Cromwell.
The KJV Bible
The King James Version of the Bible was completed. This translation dominated the English-speaking world for nearly four centuries.
Dead Sea Scrolls
Hundreds of ancient Jewish religious manuscripts, known as the Dead Sea Scrolls (dated 200 BC-100 AD), were discovered in a cave in the Judaean Desert. Containing copies of all the Old Testament books except Esther, these scrolls confirmed the accuracy of Old Testament transmission through the centuries.
New International Version
The first edition of the New International Version (NIV) of the English Bible was published. Today the NIV (revised 2011) is the world’s most popular version of the Bible.
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Video: 1 Min
by Michael Kruger at Ligonier Ministries
Article: 30 Min

Where Did the Bible Come From?

by Wayne Grudem at Zondervan

Video: 6 Min
Article: 5 Min

How and When Was the Canon of the Bible Put Together

by Got Questions Ministries


Let this be recorded
for a
to come,
so that
a people
yet to be created
may praise
the LORD.

Psalm 102:18 ESV

How Did the Books of the Bible Become Authoritative?

by F.F. Bruce

The New Testament books did not become authoritative for the Church because they were formally included in a canonical list; on the contrary, the Church included them in her canon because she already regarded them as divinely inspired, recognizing their innate worth and generally apostolic authority, direct or indirect.

See quote source
Video: 13 Min
by Rob Plummer at Southern Seminary

Praise & Worship

King of Kings

by Hillsong Worship
What Books Belong in the Bible?
Article: 12 Min

Why Were Some Books Left Out of the Bible?

by Clint Arnold at The Good Book Blog


Are the Books in the Apocrypha God’s Word?

by Wayne Grudem

Thus the writings of the Apocrypha should not be regarded as part of Scripture: (1) They do not claim for themselves the same kind of authority as the Old Testament writings; (2) they were not regarded as God’s words by the Jewish people from whom they originated; (3) They were not considered to be Scripture by Jesus or the New Testament authors; and (4) they contain teachings inconsistent with the rest of the Bible. We must conclude that they are merely human words, not God-breathed words like the words of Scripture… Therefore, they have no binding authority for the thought or life of Christians today.

See quote source
Article: 7 Min

Why the Apocrypha Isn’t in the Bible

by Ryan Leasure at

Revelation 22:18-19 NIV

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.


Gotta Know the Books

by Shai Linne
Deuteronomy 29:29 CSB

The hidden things belong to the Lord our God, but the revealed things belong to us and our children forever, so that we may follow all the words of this law.


God’s faithfulness
to his people
convinces us that
there is nothing missing
from Scripture that God
thinks we need to know
for obeying him and
trusting him fully.

Article: 12 Min

Is the Canon Closed?

by Michael J. Kruger at The Gospel Coalition

Hebrews 1:1-2 ESV

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.


We should not
expect any further “revelations” until
Christ returns,
for God has laid
the theological foundation
of the church through his
holy “apostles and prophets”
(Ephesians 2:20),
and we are not to add to
that foundation,
but build on it.

John 21:25 NLT

Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written.