What is a canonical text?

From a Biblical point of view canonical text are writings included in the list of sacred books officially accepted as genuine.

Believers consider canonical books as inspired by God or as expressive of the authoritative history of the relationship between God and his people.

Some books such as the Jewish-Christian gospels, have been excluded from various canons altogether, but many disputed books—considered non-canonical or even apocryphal by some—are considered to be Biblical apocrypha or Deuterocanonical or fully canonical by others.

Differences exist between the Jewish Tanakh and Christian biblical canons, although the Jewish Tanakh did form the basis for the Christian Old Testament, and between the canons of different Christian denominations. The differing criteria and processes of canonization dictate what the various communities regard as inspired scripture.

Many modern Protestants have four "Criteria for Canonicity" to justify the selection of the books that have been included in the New Testament—though these ideas are not isolated to Protestant theology, but extend to or are derived from other Christian traditions:

  1. Apostolic Origin – attributed to and based upon the preaching/teaching of the first-generation apostles (12) (or their close companions, Paul, Mark and Luke).

  2. Universal Acceptance – acknowledged by all major Christian communities in the ancient world (by the end of the 4th century) as well as accepted canon by Jewish authorities (for the Old Testament).

  3. Liturgical Use – read publicly when early Christian communities gathered for the Lord's Supper (their weekly worship services).

  4. Consistent Message – containing a theological outlook similar to or complementary to other accepted Christian writings.

There are many variations to what is considered a cannon by the various religious groups and there is no singular standard among them.

There are some 4,300 religions of the world with 6,800 living languages spoken somewhere in the world and all of them borrow from one or more cannons which make up their belief systems.

As an example: Rabbinic Judaism recognizes the twenty-four books of the Masoretic Text, commonly called the Tanakh as conical.

Ethiopian Jews—also known as Beta Israel—possess a canon of scripture that is distinct from Rabbinic Judaism.

Another version of the Torah, in the Samaritan alphabet, also exists. This text is associated with the Samaritans and similar disparities exist throughout all these beliefs, including those of ancient Egypt and Rome.

The world's 20 largest religions and their number of believers are:

  1. Christianity (2.1 billion)

  2. Islam (1.3 billion)

  3. Nonreligious (Secular/Agnostic/Atheist) (1.1 billion)

  4. Hinduism (900 million)

  5. Chinese traditional religion (394 million)

  6. Buddhism 376 million

  7. Primal-indigenous (300 million)

  8. African traditional and Diasporic (100 million)

  9. Sikhism (23 million)

  10. Juche (19 million)

  11. Spiritism (15 million)

  12. Judaism (14 million)

  13. Bahai (7 million)

  14. Jainism (4.2 million)

  15. Shinto (4 million)

  16. Cao Dai (4 million)

  17. Zoroastrianism (2.6 million)

  18. Tenrikyo (2 million)

  19. Neo-Paganism (1 million)

  20. Unitarian-Universalism (800,000)

Why Christians Believe What They Believe 

© Tony - W.A.M