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The Foundation of Orthodoxy and the Canon

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Dave Davidson

CHHI 301

Rev. William Hughes

February 6, 2012

The Foundation of Orthodoxy and the Canon

Over the years there has been a continuing discussion about what it means to be Christian and what constitutes the real and true Christian doctrine. Many groups of people have had debates concerning what were divinely inspired words from God. When it comes to these instances that have taken place over the last few centuries there have been key moments throughout history that have confirmed and cemented what works were really inspired by God. As Christians began to establish themselves as a formidable religious group they were confronted by others who questioned their beliefs and doubted the source of their faith. In response to these doubters, Christians saw the need to found the orthodoxy and establish the canons.

Before the events that led to the founding of the orthodoxy and establishment of the canons can be discussed the teachings that were questioned must first be addressed. The teachings that will be talked about are those of the apostles, the human authors that were inspired by God. "God is the Divine Author of a group of books, narratives, letters and songs that were written for the use of man to come closer to Him through Jesus Christ"(McFarland). The apostles took what they were taught by Jesus and wrote that down on paper. The apostolic writings were the basis for all Christian belief. Copies of these writings would be made from the originals and taken from church to church. The writings were so important that they later became the basis for the Bible.

During the time of the churches growth there were members within the Christian that began to question specific parts of the church doctrine. These, and other disagreements between members of the church, are known as heresies. Heresy is "A doctrinal view that deviates from the truth, a false teaching" (Slick). While there have been numerous heresies throughout the history of the church perhaps the most severe has been with regards to the nature of Jesus. Heresies concerning Christ include people who believe Jesus is not God, people that believe He was the son of God but not equal to God, and others who believe the Trinity is three separate Gods, rather than one entity.

"As the early church grew in its scope and influence throughout the Mediterranean area, various teachers proposed controversial ideas about Christ, God, salvation, and other biblical themes. It became necessary for the church to determine what was and was not true according to the Bible" (Slick). By the late second century it was clear to church leaders that an orthodox standard of faith needed to be established. As Tertullian stated "It is clear that all doctrine which agrees with the apostolic churches - those moulds and original sources of the faith - must be considered true, as undoubtedly containing what those churches received from the apostles, the apostles from Christ, Christ from God. And all doctrine must be considered false which contradicts the truth of the churches and apostles of Christ and God"(McFarland). Through this idea, and an understanding that Christianity originated with Jesus, there was standard for which belief could be tested.

The writings that are the basis of the Christian doctrine, those believed by all Christians to pass the standard of faith test set forth by Tertullian, are the books of scripture that have been inspired by God. The works that church leaders determined passed that test are known as the Bible. "Today, our Bible is an inspired canon of the 39 commonly received books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament that forms the orthodox belief, founded upon the inspired moving of Him amongst man and His creation" (McFarland). Over a span of many years specific events and moments came to determine what books of scripture would, or would not, be deemed worthy of being canonical.

On April 18, 1546, the present Roman Catholic Canon was approved by a vote at the Council of Trent. There were many councils before the Council of Trent that would try to determine what books would be included in the Roman Catholic Bible. The books of the canon of the New Testament were mostly written during the first century and probably finished by 150. Even though these books were written and universally accepted as canonical by the mid 300's, they were not formally recognized as authoritative until the Second Council of Trullan in 692. It would take almost another 900 years to reach a consensus regarding the Old Testament Canon.

A period between 325 and 787, the period of seven Ecumenical Councils, is one of the most important eras for the recognition the canonical books. During this period, in 325, the First Council of Nicaea took place. During the Council of Nicaea Constantine gathered a council of Christian Bishops with the hopes of coming to a consensus about some of the major issues with Christianity. The most significant accomplishment for the Council was agreeing on the first uniform Christian Doctrine, the Creed of Nicaea. The Nicene Code established a precedent for future councils to create statements of belief and canons of doctrinal orthodox. Again, with the

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