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Q How were the 66 books of the Bible determined to be the Word of God?
 

A To be precise, it is important to emphasize that the church in its councils did not determine what were the books of the Bible, but rather the church recognized the books inspired (literally breathed out) by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21). Five basic criteria were used throughout history and finalized in the church councils (Geisler and Nix “A General Introduction to the Bible”): 

1) Is the book authoritative? Does it seem to have the authority of God? Some books claimed to have God’s authority but other problems, such as magical ideas, contradicted their claim. The book of Esther was doubted on this basis because it never mentions God, but later it was accepted because the authority is there, even if not obvious.

2) Is it prophetic? Or in other words, was it written by an OT prophet or a NT apostle or disciple of an apostle. 2 Peter and Hebrews were both disputed on this basis but eventually accepted.

3) Is it authentic? Is it true historically and does it accord with other known doctrine? The books of the Apocrypha were largely rejected on this basis. James was disputed, but accepted when the early church Fathers decided his doctrine of faith was not really in conflict with Paul’s.

4) Is the book dynamic? Does it obviously have a transforming influence in people’s lives? Some of the rejected books like 1 and 2 Maccabees are good history but do not have this power in people’s lives.

5) Was it received? If churches and individuals in general accepted the book on the previous four criteria then it was accepted by the church councils. If a book was generally rejected by all then it had not much chance in the church councils. They obviously did a lot of considering of how much support a book had.

These were the criteria, but, of course, the process had a lot of ins and outs. Bible believing Christians have always assumed that, because 2 Peter 1:21 says that that the Holy Spirit superintended the writing of the Bible, He would also have superintended the transmission and collection of all the correct books. You might want to check in a good conservative INTRODUCTION to the Bible (like Geisler and Nix) for more information. Also, a good Bible Encyclopedia would have some information.
 

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