The First Official Christian Bible
Around 325 A.D., Constantine summons all the Christian Bishops to assemble at Nicea to unify the teachings regarding the life and ministry of Jesus. After they had reached an agreement on what would be taught on the most significant point
of contention, that Jesus was indeed both God and man, and not just the highest created being by God, they set their sights on determining which of the existing writings would make up the first official Christian Bible. With such a vast number of varying opinions, beliefs, cultures and teachings within the Roman Empire, a key factor in this compilation would be that the books considered for inclusion most be those that were acceptable to the entire church.
Eusebius Pamphili was a historian and considered expert by his peers. He would often be called upon to explain or interpret difficult sections of written works. He also became the Bishop of Caeserea in Palestine around 312 A.D., and was one of the most prominent of the church fathers assembled at Nicea. In that very same year that the council at Nicea met, Eusebius had already published his work on church history, which contained eighteen books that he felt should make up the new Christian Bible, and thus was asked to present it to the council. It is interesting to note that in his presentation, Eusebius makes reference to the “books or writings that were accepted by the people, which were currently being utilized”, such as the four gospels, the Acts of the Apostles and Paul’s letter. He also mentions what he called “disputed books” some of which we currently have in the canon such as 2nd & 3rd John, James and Jude.
Eusebius also insisted that the epistles of John and Peter must be included, although being very aware that many of his fellow Bishops struggled with the thought of including the revelation of John. They thought that his apocalypse of violent metaphors directly conflicted with Christ’s message of peace.
The council would adjourn without reaching a resolution on which books would make up the canon. However in 331 A.D., six years after the Nicean council, the Emperor Constantine would send a letter to Eusebius, granting him the responsibility of creating the official Christian Bible, and to produce 50 copies for the churches in Constantinople. Eusebius would simply take the 18 books that he believed worthy of inclusion, from the church history he had written in 325. In addition, he included the Hebrew Bible, creating both an Old, and a New Testament.
Unfortunately, this Bible commissioned by Constantine, and thus the list of books that it contained, was lost with time. And even though Constantine’s Bible, created by Eusebius was sent to each of the churches in Constantinople, 40 more years would pass before the church would officially canonize an ultimate list of 27 New Testament books.
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