History of the Bible: 
The Development of the Canon and the History of Translations

      "The 'canon' of scripture means the list of books accepted as holy scripture... which are acknowledge to be, in a unique sense, the rule of belief and practice. The question to be examined... is: how did certain documents, and these only, come to receive this recognition? Who, if anyone, decided that these, and no others, should be admitted to the list of the holy scriptures, and what were the criteria which influenced this decision?... It is from the contents, the message of the book that it derives its value, whether we think of the gospel in particular or the Bible as a whole. It is therefore important to know what its contents are, and how they have come to be marked off from other writings--even holy and inspired writings. That is the point of examining the growth of the canon of holy scripture."  (from chapter 1 of The Canon of Scripture, by F. F. Bruce)
    Course description
    Course load and procedures
    Theological perspective of the course
    About the authors
    Required texts and registration

    Description of the course

    Schola's History of the Bible course will survey the growth of the canon and attempt to answer the important questions about how we got our Bible and about the role of the Church in the development of the canon by reading through Bruce's The Canon of Scripture; it will also review the history of translations made of the Bible into ancient and modern languages by means of Bruce Metzger's The Bible in Translation. There will also be some short readings on the internet to supplement our study of these two books. 

    There are at least three very good reasons to study this subject. First, these subjects are fascinating in their own right, and any Christian's understanding of the faith and of the Church and of God's providential care for it, will be increased tremendously by the insights gained into the history of the book we consider the most important one of all. 

    Second, the history of the canon and of translations is an important element of apologetics: being able to answer questions from inquirers about how we know the Bible is true depends in part upon being able to answer questions about how we got it. 

    Third, it is a critical issue for Protestants in conversations with Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, as the development of the canon is a key issue in their positions on the authority of church tradition. They often know far more about these issues than Protestants do, to our shame. We would do well to learn the history behind the discussions in the interest of speaking intelligently and of charity in representing their positions to others, whatever we come to think of their arguments.

    Course Load and Procedures

    The course load is not a heavy one. Reading will average 40-50 pages per week or 8-10 pages per day, so about a half hour of reading per day should be expected. There will be a special forum for the class on which students will post written responses to the reading, to  assigned questions, and to the class discussions.

    Theological perspective of the course

    In a course like this, doctrinal perspectives (especially on the church) affect the discussion even more than is usually the case. My own theological perspective is that of classical Protestantism, and the Westminster and continental standards in particular (see "Statement of Faith" on the Personal Information page). But that particular "reformed" perspective is not what I take as of first importance (because the Scripture is always the highest and only ultimate authority of faith and practice) and therefore is certainly not required of the student. Of first importance is the gospel as expressed in John 3:16, Romans 10:9-13, and I Corinthians 15:1-4. Second in importance is Christian unity and love in the bond of peace as expressed in Galations 5:22-23 and  throughout I John. Third, I believe the Apostle's Creed and Nicene Creed to be biblically sound basic summaries of essential Christian doctrine.

    About the authors

      Frederick Fyvie Bruce (1910-1991) - known as "the dean of evangelical scholars" - was Rylands Professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis at the University of Manchester; a world-renowned expert on the Old and New Testaments and defender of their truthfulness. One of the editors of the New International Commentary series, and a special reviewer for the NLT. Titles: The Canon of Scripture; Hard Sayings of the Bible; Hard Sayings of Jesus; Israel and the Nations; Jesus: Lord and Savior; The New International Bible Commentary (Ed.); The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?; New Testament History; Paul, Apostle of the Heart Set Free; and commentaries on John's writings, Acts, Hebrews, and most of Paul's letters. (bio credit) He was a life-long member of the Open (or "Plymouth") Brethren.

      Bruce Manning Metzger (born 1914) is the George L. Collord Professor of New Testament Language and Literature Emeritus at Princeton Theological Seminary. He is the author of hundreds of articles on Bible translation, textual criticism, the Hebrew Bible, the Apocrypha, and the New Testament. He has published numerous books, including The New Testament: Its Background, Growth, and Content; A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament; Lexical Aids for Students of New Testament Greek; and The Canon of the New Testament. He was the general editor of the New Testament Tools and Studies series, The Reader's Digest Bible, and The Oxford Companion to the Bible and was on the editorial boards of the International Greek New Testament Project, the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament, the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, and the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. He is ordained in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). (bio credit)

    Course prerequisites

    Prerequisites: Great Books 1 and 2 (or by special arrangement). Great Books 3 or comparable medieval study and some background in church history is recommended. This class is best suited to students 16 years old and up. 

    Cost: $200. Total cost of the two texts with shipping will be around $35.

    Required texts and registration: 


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