The origin of the New Testament canon

For the early Christian congregation, today's Old Testament comprised the actual Bible. In addition, the recorded "words of the Lord" (logia) soon came to be accorded special regard. The logia were at first passed on verbally. Even before any accounts of Jesus' activity were ever recorded in writing, the congregations had various creeds and hymns in which the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ were professed. These also found their way into the writings of the Apostles.


The oldest early Christian writings handed down to us are the letters of Apostle Paul. These were read aloud in the divine services and then passed along to neighbouring congregations.


After the epistles of Paul, the gospel of Mark is the oldest written testimony of Christian belief. The content and structure of the gospels according to Matthew and Luke are closely related to it.


In order to preserve the apostolic tradition, pass along its teachings, and distinguish it from false doctrines, it became necessary to prepare a collection of New Testament writings that would be binding upon the church. An Easter letter from Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria dating from the year AD 367 lists all 27 writings of the New Testament as binding. This canon was ultimately ratified by the synods of Hippo Regius (AD 393) and Carthage (AD 397).


The Old and New Testament canons did not come into being on account of human contemplations alone, but most of all through the will of God.