The Bible we have today is known as the complete or closed ‘canon’ of Scripture, that is, those books that are recognised as being the inspired Word of God. The New Testament canon first became established in 367A.D., when Athanasius – known as the father of orthodoxy – listed all of the books of the New Testament in his thirty-ninth Paschal Letter, and the canon was also later confirmed at a gathered church council in Carthage in 397A.D. The word ‘canon’ comes from the rule of law that was used to determine if a book measured up to a particular standard. Three criteria were used in recognising and acknowledging canonicity; these were:

  1. Was the book known to be apostolic in its origin – that is, did the book derive from the teaching of the apostles?
  2. Was the attitude towards such a book as inspired Scripture, accepted and recognized by the early churches?
  3. Did the book promote sound doctrine and truth?

Article by J.N. Birdwell, ‘Canon Of The New Testament’ published in The New Bible Dictionary, 1962, London: Inter- Varsity Press, p.194–197