By Norman Geisler

Why are there only these 66 books in the Bible?  Because God is the ultimate author of the Bible, and He inspired only these 66.  All Scripture is breathed out of the mouth of God.  What the human authors wrote did not originate with them but with God, who moved upon them.  So God determined which books would be in the Bible, and the people of God merely discovered which books these were.  Believers did not bestow authority on them; God did.

How did the people of God discover that only these 66 books were inspired of God? Because only these had the “fingerprints” of God on them.  These “fingerprints” of God include characteristics reflected in the answers to these questions:  (1) Was it written by a prophet of God, such as Moses or Paul?  (2) Was it confirmed by acts of God?  Did the human author tell the truth of God known from other revelations and facts?  Did it have the power of God to edify?  Was it accepted and collected by the people of God?

The collection of books known as the canon of Scripture was made gradually as the books were written.  When Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible, they were taken immediately and put in the most holy place.  The book of Joshua, his successor, was added to the collection upon his death.  Likewise the books of Samuel and the prophets were added after they wrote them.  Daniel had a collection of Moses’ books and the prophetic writings up to Daniel’s time, including the book of his contemporary, Jeremiah.

The so-called missing books of the Old Testament, known as the Apocrypha (meaning “hidden” or “doubtful”), are not missing and do not belong in the Old Testament for many reasons.  (1) Unlike the canonical books, the apocryphal books do not have either an explicit or implicit claim to be inspired by God.  In fact, some even disclaim being prophetic.  (2) They were written between 250 B.C. and the first century A.D., but according to Judaism, the Spirit of prophecy had departed from Israel before that time, by about 400 B.C.  (3) The Jewish historian Josephus gave the names and numbers of the authentic Jewish Old Testament, which correspond exactly with the 39 books of our Old Testament.  (4) Judaism, which produced these books, has never accepted them into its Bible (the Hebrew Scriptures, corresponding to our Old Testament).  (5) Neither Jesus nor the apostles ever cited any of the Apocrypha in the New Testament as inspired.  (6) Most of the church fathers of the first four centuries of the Christian church did not accept these books as inspired.  (7) Jerome, the great Roman Catholic scholar who translated the Latin Vulgate Bible, emphatically rejected the apocryphal books.  (8) The acceptance of these books in A.D. 1546 by the Roman Catholic Church is unjustified since: (a) they were the wrong group to make this decision (Christians, not Jews); (b) it took place at the wrong time (sixteenth century A.D.); and (c) it was done for the wrong reasons (for example, to support the doctrine of prayers for the dead in response to the Reformation and biblical teaching to the contrary.

The New Testament books were also written by apostles and prophets of God, who were confirmed by acts of God, and their books were immediately accepted into the growing canon of Scripture.  Luke acknowledged that other narratives were written in his time (possibly Matthew and Mark).  In 1 Timothy 5:18, Paul cited the Gospel of Luke as “Scripture” alongside the Old Testament.  The Apostle Peter referred to Paul’s epistles as “Scripture,” just like the Old Testament.  The first-century church publicly read and circulated the books written by apostles and prophets.  What is more, the early Christian fathers, beginning in the first century, collected every one of the 27 books of the New Testament and cited almost every verse and over 36,000 quotations!  From the second century A.D. on, there were collections of these books and translation in other languages, such as Syriac and Old Latin.  All groups of Christendom, including Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestants, accept all and only the 27 books of the New Testament as the inspired Word of God, right alongside the 39 books of the Old Testament.

The apocryphal books of the second and third centuries A.D. are universally rejected by the Christian church.  There are many good reasons for this.  (1) They were not written by the apostles whose names they bear, since the apostles died in the first century.  (2) They contain many heresies and doctrinal errors.  (3) They claim to contain childhood miracles of Jesus, but John said Jesus did not perform any miracles until He was an adult.  (3) They contain highly embellished accounts of Gospel stories, indicating they were later fabrications. (4) They are rejected by every section of official Christendom.

In brief, only the 66 books of the common canon claim to be and prove to be the divinely inspired, infallible, and inerrant Word of God.  That is, only these books were inspired of God, written by prophets of God, collected by the people of God, and preserved by the providence of God for the spiritual edification of the people of God.