Scripture Canon

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
~ Matthew 5:17

But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.
~ Galatians 3:22

And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
~ 2 Timothy 3:15, 2 Peter 1:21, 2 Peter 3:15-16

And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.
~ Colossians 4:16

For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
~ Revelation 22:18-20

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
~ 2 Timothy 3:16

The Canon of Scripture, by Thomas Boston. This is from his work, “The Divine Authority of the Scriptures”.

The Canon31 of Scripture

The Scriptures of the Old Testament are those that begin with Genesis and end with Malachi. The Scriptures of the New Testament are those that begin with Matthew and end with the Revelation. And it is worthy of our special remark that the Old Testament and the New, like the cherubims in the most holy place, stretch forth their wings touching one another: the Old Testament ends with the prophecy of sending Christ and John the Baptist (in) Malachi 4, and the New begins with the history of the coming of these two.

The Hebrews divided the books of the Old Testament into three: the Law, the Prophets, and (the Writings).32 The Law contains the five books of Moses; the Prophets are twofold—former and latter. The former are the historical books of the Old Testament: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings; they were so called because they told things already done. The latter related things before they were done and are of two sorts: the greater, which are three, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel; the lesser twelve, that is, Hosea, Joel, etc. The written books were called so because they were written by such as had the gift of the Holy Spirit, as the Hebrews speak, but not of prophecy. And of that sort are Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticles,33 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, and Daniel. The Hebrews ascribe this division of them to Ezra; and it seems our Lord Jesus Christ acknowledged the same, while He tells His disciples (in) Luke 24:44 of the writings of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms.

The books of the New Testament are divided into three sorts: Histories (the Four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles), the Epistles, and the Revelation, which is prophetic.

Different authors34 wrote the books of both Testaments. As to the Old Testament, Moses wrote the Pentateuch; only some verses in the end of Deuteronomy, where Moses’ death is recorded, could not be written by him, but are said to have been written by Joshua. (He) also wrote the book that bears his name; or, according to the opinion of some, it was written by Eleazar, Aaron’s son. Samuel is supposed to have written the book of Judges, and, it would appear, the last part of the book of Joshua, containing the account of the death of Joshua and Eleazar. Some think that (each of) the Judges wrote the history of (his) own time, and that Samuel at last did put them all into one volume. The book of Ruth also was written by him, as the Hebrews tell. He also wrote the first book bearing his name to the 25th chapter, where his death is narrated. The rest of the chapters of that book and the whole of the second book are said to have been written by David.35 The books of the Kings are supposedly written by David and Solomon36 and other prophets that lived in these times, so that each of them did write what was done in his own time. Job is supposed to have written the book that bears his name. David wrote the Psalms, but not all: such as are not his have the author’s name prefixed, such as Asaph, Heman, etc.37 And they were all by Ezra collected into one volume. Ezra is said to have written the books of Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah; Mordecai, that of Esther; and Solomon, the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Canticles. Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the other prophets, wrote everyone their own prophecies, containing a short sum of their sermons.

As for the books of the New Testament, without controversy, the evangelists wrote the Gospels, according as their names are prefixed to them. Luke wrote the Acts of the Apostles; and the remaining books, the Epistles and the Revelation, were written by those whose names they bear. Only to the Epistle to the Hebrews has there been some doubt, some ascribing it to Luke, some to Barnabas, others to Apollos, and others to Clemens. But many learned men38 have given good reasons to prove it to be written by the apostle Paul.

But the principal author is the Holy Spirit, whence39 the Scripture is called the Word of God. The penmen were but the instruments in the hand of God in writing the same. It was the Spirit that dictated them, that inspired the writers and guided them. But the inspiration was not the same in all points to all the penmen: some things were before utterly unknown to the writer, as the history of the creation of the world to Moses; the prediction of future events in respect of the prophets, which therefore the Spirit did (directly) reveal to them. Other things were known to the writers before, such as the history of Christ to the four evangelists,40 etc. In respect of these, there (was) no need (for) new revelation, but a divine irradiation41 of the mind of the writer, giving him a divine certainty of those things that he wrote. By this inspiration, all of them were infallibly guided, so (that) they were put beyond all possibility of erring. And this inspiration was extended not only to the things themselves expressed, but to the words wherein they were expressed, though agreeable to the natural style and manner of each writer (2Pe 1:21; Psa 45:1). Upon this account the Scripture is attributed to the Holy Spirit, without making any mention of the penmen (Heb 10:15).

Question: But what opinion are we to form of the books called Apocrypha, and why are they so called? Answer: These books, which are found placed in some Bibles between Malachi and Matthew, are called Apocrypha. (This) is a Greek word signifying hidden or absconded.42 The reasons of this name are given thus: (1) Because the Church did not acknowledge them to be of divine inspiration. (2) Because the names of the authors were hidden. (3) Because they contain some things unknown to Moses, the prophets, and the apostles. (4) Because, for the (previously mentioned) reasons, they were judged unworthy to be publicly read in the church. Concerning these books, we believe that they are not of divine inspiration, and therefore no part of the canon of Scripture; that is, they are not to be admitted as any part of the rule of faith and manners. Therefore, they are of no authority in the Church of God for the determining of controversies in religion. Though they may be of use as other human writings, yet they are not otherwise to be made use of nor approved. The reasons are,

1. The church of the Jews did not acknowledge them for canonical. The apostle tells us, “The oracles of God”—under the Old Testament dispensation—“were committed” (Rom 3:2) (to them). They even forbade their children to read them until they came to mature age.

2. They were not written in the Hebrew tongue, but in the Greek. And the authors of them (came after) Malachi, who was the last of the prophets: according to the saying of the Hebrews, the Holy Ghost went up from Israel after the death of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. And 1 Maccabees 4:46 plainly shows that there was no prophet among them to show them what they should do with the stones of the polluted altar. And it may clearly appear to any unbiased person that the interposing of these books between Malachi and Matthew does cut off the beautiful connection between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New, and how Malachi’s prophecy is designed of God to close up the Scriptures of the Old Testament, in that he prophesies most distinctly of the coming of Christ and John the Baptist, His forerunner, with the accomplishment of which Matthew begins his gospel, as I observed before.

3. The primitive church for the first four centuries did not receive these books. And when they came to be read, the reader stood in an inferior place. They (were) then read as profitable books, though not of divine authority.

4. They are nowhere cited by Christ and His apostles. Yes, He did (clearly) reject them, (when) He divided the Scriptures into Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms (Luk 24:44). And whereas the apostle tells us that “the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2Pe 1:21), the authors of these books pretend to no such thing…

Lastly, they neither agree with themselves nor the Holy Scriptures. (This) may plainly appear to those who will consider them diligently. 1 Maccabees 6:16, compared with verse 4, (says) that Antiochus died at Babylon. Yet, 2 Maccabees 1:13-16 (says) that when he was come into Persia, he was slain in the temple of Nanea, whom he pretended he would marry and would receive money in name of dowry by her priests. Yes, 2 Maccabees 9:28 (says he) died in a strange country in the mountains. The book of Tobit is stuffed with absurd stories: it makes the angel Raphael tell a lie and teach Tobit’s son a devilish art to drive away the devil with the heart and liver of a fish; and when the evil spirit smelled the smell, he fled into the utmost parts of Egypt, etc.…These things plainly show that these books are not from the Spirit of God.


31 canon – list of all the books that belong in the Bible; from the Greek κανών (kanōn) = “reed; measuring rod; standard of measure.”

32 Law…Writings – Hebrew divisions are Torah (Law), Nevi’im (Prophets), and Ketuvim (Writings), often referred to as the Tanakh, from the first letters of these divisions.

33 Canticles – Song of Solomon; from the Latin canticulum = little song or hymn.

34 Where Scripture itself does not identify the author of a book, one cannot be dogmatic. Boston’s identification regarding such books arises primarily from Jewish tradition.

35 Some attribute it to Samuel, Nathan, and Gad.

36 Some suggest Jeremiah.

37 Some include Ethan, the sons of Korah, Solomon, and others.

38 For example, John Owen (1616-1683).

39 whence – from which.

40 evangelists – authors of the Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

41 irradiation – beaming forth of spiritual light; illumination of the mind.

42 absconded – concealed; hidden away.