How and when did we get the 27 books of the New Testament?

Question of the week:  Did you ever wonder how we got 27 books of the New Testament? 

The first century. In the first century, multiple books (or scrolls) circulated in the region about the life and death of Jesus. The authors Of these various writings were all expressing their version of the truth. Luke 1:1-4 actually acknowledges that there were other accounts that had been previously written. But he emphasizes that his is the real one. And remember this was written in around 80 CE, 50 years after the death of Jesus.

Luke 1:1-4 (NIV):  Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

Forgeries. There were several books written by authors who put the name of one of the apostles on it, claiming it to be authoritative. But in reality, most of these were forgeries.Some Christian groups, though, continued to consider the Gospel of Peter or the Gospel of Thomas as authoritative; others accepted a variety of “other” letters of Paul; other churches accepted the Apocalypse of Peter.  Many churches did not accept Hebrews or Revelation; most had never heard of 2 Peter. 

Finally someone drew a line in the sand. It was not until 367 CE that anyone-who-was-anyone listed the 27 books we see today.  This came in a letter written by the powerful bishop of Alexandria, Athanasius, addressed to his churches at the time. 

Retraction. In earlier 3BT posts, we made a statement that the Council of Nicaea in the 300s made the definitive ‘cut line’ for which books were in. But a recent post by Bart Ehrman claims that the New Testament was derived more by consensus (although not universal) than by formal vote.   
Letters to the Editor

Last week’s edition prompted multiple responses. This was surprising because, well … it was Leviticus. Nevertheless, this one from subscriber Janelle was timely. 

”Leviticus 11:8, which is discussing pigs, reads “You shall not eat of their flesh nor touch their carcasses; they are unclean to you.” And you’re doubly breaking that if you wake up, eat some sausage then go throw around the football.

Janelle did not take direct credit for finding this observation. But we thought it was definitely worth a publication.

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