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4:2 Creating the Bible

The Bible only contains a small selection of Christian scripture. Within the first 400 years of Christianity there were in existence more than 20 gospels, 15 apocalypses, and nearly 50 other religious texts about Jesus.

Canonizing is the process of picking and choosing which of these scriptures make it into a Bible. What Christians worship and believe in today was decided long ago based on political, not religious, reasons.

The Selection Process

Canon of the Bible By end of 2nd century signs of efforts in stopping certain texts while promoting others began to emerge. These efforts ranged from letters encouraging others to not read certain texts to bishops charging half way across Europe to stop the circulation of unfavorable texts. The next 300 years would see the emergences and enforcement of an official list of accepted works, a cannon. The Bible we know today did not exist in its current form until 1647 at the Assembly of Westminster, the most recent major Canonizing of the Bible.

The most influential canon in the history of Christianity is the one ordered by Constantine during the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE. The creeds established during this canonizing of scriptures eventually became the foundation of modern Christian beliefs even though this version of a Christian bible did not lead to the version we have today. With all of the various bibles being canonized and the multiple canonization of our current bible one must wonder what was the selection process of gospels and books based on? Why were Mark, Matthew, and Luke accepted into the cannon but not the writings of Peter, Marry, or Thomas? There were various deciding factors but all of them were based on personal or political motives. Below are a few examples.

  Suffering in the Bible

Suffering is Needed

In the 3rd and 4th centuries Christians throughout the Roman world including Egypt suffered persecution. Their refusal to worship other gods and their persistence to flaunt their own beliefs created tension and suspicion. Because of this the Romans slaughtered thousands of Christians in brutal and dehumanizing ways so any gospel that didn't speak directly to the suffering of the people wasn't going to catch on. A gospel like Thomas would bring no reinsurance for those facing martyrdom. Writings of a Jesus who simply was a teacher of wise words would not have appealed to the general public unless Jesus suffered like his followers.

Need for Antiquity

Need for Antiquity

The Marcionite scriptures would have done away with all the Old Testament scriptures since they believed Jesus came to do away with Yahweh, the god of the Old Testament. During this time however the people thought antiquity was very important. They thought that religious scriptures had to be ancient in order to be true. Without older scriptures in the Bible the general public would not believe in this new religion.

Non-Elitist

Non-Elitist

The Gnostic scriptures stated that only a select few insiders could understand the true message of salvation. If any of the main Gnostic texts were selected to be in the Bible then Christianity would have become a closed elitist society and this would not appeal to the general public.

Sexism

Sexism

Throughout the Roman church the positions of power are filled with men. Women have a role but it is as a mother or wife. The four gospels record that Jesus chose 12 disciples and that they were all men. In Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John women are barely mentioned but in the suppressed gospels of Philip, Marry, and the acts of Thecla and Paul woman took center stage. Many of the excluded scriptures even suggested that a woman was Jesus' favorite disciple instead of Peter. In a political system where men claim superiority it is obvious why scriptures that place women as equals would not be accepted into a canon.