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Religion: The Canons as a Standards to Measure One’s Faith Essay

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Updated: Mar 23rd, 2022

Introduction

The readings found in the Hebrew Bible, New Testament, and Qur’an are as a result of divinely inspired records of God’s revelation to the men who wrote them and are referred to as the Canon of scripture. The word canon “goes back to Latin in the Greek word kano, chiefly meaning a ‘reed’ or ‘rod’. It later obtained two secondary meanings: 1) a measuring-rod or standard and 2) a list or index” (Bruce 39). In the early third century A.D, Origen used the former to point out that the bible was the standard of faith. This was meant to be the index by which people were to judge their actions as recommended by their religion. A century later saw Athanasius use the latter of these meanings in referring to the contents of the Bible.

“In the sense in which these books constitute the ‘list’ of writings which the Church reckons as the authoritative documents of divine revelation” (Bruce 78).

Hebrew canon

The Hebrew Bible recognizes twenty-four books that make up the bible. According to common knowledge, the thirty-nine books which make up the Old Testament are is the basis of the foundation of the beginning of Christianity although the Hebrew Bible counts the twelve ‘Minor’ Prophets as one book. It further counts the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles as one each; Ezra and Nehemiah are counted as one book. This brings out the differentiation in the Hebrew bible that has a total of twenty-four and the common bible which contains thirty-nine books.

The structure or compilation of the Hebrew Bible is divided into three divisions: the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. There is no reason to put forward this method of compilation as it neither follows a chronological order of how they were written nor subject matter. The law consists of the five books written by Moses; the Prophets consist of the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings (the ‘Former Prophets’), Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the ‘Minor’ Prophets (the ‘Latter Prophets’); the final part the Writings consist of three groups; firstly the Psalms, Proverbs, and Job; secondly a group of five books called the ‘Five Scrolls’, Canticles, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther; and thirdly the books of Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles.

The New Testament canon

The authority of God in the New Testament cannot be exclusively attributed in the writing of the twenty-seven books that make up the New Testament as is the case with the Old Testament or Hebrew bible. The New Testament canon still acknowledges His authority and acceptance of it is as basic as that to the Old Testament. It is seen in the New Testament writings both directly and indirectly. “The Gospels are the written form of the witness borne to Christ by His apostles, whom He specially commissioned and to whom He promised that His Spirit would enable them to remember and understand His words” (Bruce 56). Every early Christian believed, as of today’s Christians that God revealed Himself supremely and finally in Jesus Christ and this forms the basis of the New Testament (Bruce 61).

The order with which we are familiar in our English Bible is partly based on the subject matter; it is, for the most part, the order found in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible made in the third and second centuries B.C. It appears that the order of the Hebrew Bible which has come down to us is the order with which our Lord and His contemporaries were familiar in Palestine. In particular, it appears that “Chronicles came at the end of the Bible which they used: when our Lord sums up all the martyrs of Old Testament times, He does so by mentioning the first martyr in Genesis (Abel) and the last martyr in Chronicles (Zechariah). (Luke. 11: 51; and 2 Chronicles. 25: 21)” (Bruce 86).

The Qur’an

Its writings borrow heavily from the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament canon. Most of the events described in it can be seen to have a basis on the other two canons. It is also a standard of measure for the Muslim faith. Although some dissimilarities with the New Testament and Hebrew bible can be observed in it such as different names of major actors and different attributes to the prophets, it is generally similar to the other two.

Comparison and contrast

Although there is the presence of the authority of God in the writing of the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament canon) and the New Testament canon, there is a difference in how it is manifested. In the Hebrew bible, it is directly seen as the men who wrote these books were in direct communication with God. The New Testament has both instances of direct and indirect manifestation of this authority.

The Hebrew bible is acknowledged as the foundation of the belief in Christianity as it is today with the New Testament being believed to be a fulfillment of what was foretold by the Old Testament canon. The Old Testament as known today differs slightly from the Hebrew Bible as it has more books than it. In the Hebrew Bible, there are twenty-four books, unlike the Old Testament that has thirty-nine.

The structure and flow of the Hebrew bible are rather different from the New Testament. It is neither chronological nor subject-oriented. It is not understood what prompted this kind of compilation of the books that make up this bible. The books of the New Testament, on the other hand, show a chronology of events and some indication of subject matter can be seen throughout its setting.

In the book of Luke 25:44, the Lord, in some way, was aware of the threefold separation seen in the Hebrew Bible (the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings). This is evident in the way he speaks about the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms( this may not just refer purely to the book of Psalms but to the whole category of the Writings where the book of Psalms is found first. The evidence to support this division of the Hebrew Bible comes from the second century B.C. during the translation from Hebrew to Greek of the book of Ecclesiastics (the apocryphal book), the translator was unmistakably familiar with it. The translator goes further to make more than just one reference to this division in his translation’s foreword that was done at about 132 B.C (Bruce 54).

Conclusion

As this paper has shown the canons are a standard of measure or any index on which to measure one’s faith and judge everything they did as recommended by their religion. Therefore the Hebrew Bible, New Testament, and Qur’an can all be termed as standards of faith in their respective religious contexts. The differences in these three canons are outweighed by the similarities that cut across them. The Hebrew Bible can be considered as the basis of the foundation for the New Testament. Within the Qur’an, there are many instances where events, people, and prophets are similar to the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.

Reference

Bruce, Fred. ” The Canon of Scripture.” Inter-Varsity, (1954): 19-22. Print.

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IvyPanda. 2022. "Religion: The Canons as a Standards to Measure One’s Faith." March 23, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/religion-the-canons-as-a-standards-to-measure-ones-faith/.

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IvyPanda. (2022) 'Religion: The Canons as a Standards to Measure One’s Faith'. 23 March.

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