Who or what were the gatekeepers when it came to choosing the gospels and canons in the bible?

Scholars know a fair amount about this subject.

I can refer you to the excellent Wikipedia article:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Development_of_the_New_Testament_canon As another student has mentioned, the NT canon began with the Council of Nicea but didn’t end there. A scholar I’ll cite a lot in relation to the New Testament is Bart Ehrman, who has a blog on this topic: https://ehrmanblog.org/question-on-how-we-got-the-canon-of-the-new-testament-for-members/:  (I’ll quote part of it since it’s behind a paywall: “This did not happen overnight.  The first – the very first – author to list our 27 books of the New Testament as THE New Testament was the powerful bishop of Alexandria, Athanasius, who in the year 367 CE wrote a letter to the churches in his jurisdiction, giving them pastoral advice, including which books were acceptable as scriptural authorities to be read in the churches (and which were not).  There were other authors before (and after) Athanasius who provided such lists.  But his list was the first that coincided with the list we use today.   After his time, other church authorities continued to have other opinions.”)

Why were some books rejected? Here are a few possible reasons:

  1. They were in Greek. While a lot of Jewish people wanted to learn about literature, philosophy, and art from the Greeks, the dominant feeling was that the Greeks were bad and participated in shocking practices like running around naked, and also they persecuted the Jews quite horribly. So anything in Greek got banned, even though by the time of the gospels, people were reading the Hebrew bible mainly in Greek.
  2. They were not considered authoritative, either because they were late, they were considered forged, or they had a hero who was a woman. Or they were really crazy, like Enoch, which was nevertheless quite influential.
  3. They espoused beliefs that conflicted with Deuteronomy or other law books.
  4. They duplicated other material (for example, Jubilees and the Apocalypse of Moses both said new things about Adam and Eve. But it’s not like they were going to stick these books in the middle of the Torah, which was already super established).
  5. The New Testament books were often thrown out if they were considered forgeries. One guy tried to jettison the whole “Old Testament” because he didn’t like God as much as Jesus. (The idea that the two were related wasn’t universally accepted at first).
  6. Esther almost didn’t make it in. Her story had been rejected by the Essene community in Qumran (holders of the dead sea scrolls). Martin Luther wanted to exclude it too. But it told the story of Purim, which was very important for the Jewish people.

We’re going to be watching a movie about this closer to the end of the semester. It is a two-part film called “Banned from the Bible” that you can usually find on YouTube.

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