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Canon and Canonization

The evolution of the Hebrew canon Canon is gotten from the word “kanon” which means “something straight”. Conon in a literally sense is a piece or collection of writing that is recognized as being that the work of a particular author or writer. In biblical sense, canon according to B.A Sizemore, a canon is a rigidly limited collection of literature that is believed by a religious community to be inspired by God to be the basic guide for the regulation of a religious institution.

The Canon of the Old Testament is classified into three:

1) The Law (torah or Pentateuch)- Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy it was said to be canonized because the Israelites considered the law to be of greater value than any other book. Furthermore, the torah served as a constitution to the Israelites, this was clearly stated in the books of Exodus otherwise known as the first law and repeated in Deuteronomy as the second law. This was canonized in 400BC

2) The prophets (neblim)-the prophetical books were the next to be canonized, they were considered important because of the prophetic message. They were canonized in 200BC. A prophet is commissioned for two reasons:

  1. Forth tell-preaching
  2. Fore-tell-prediction

There are two categories in the Old Testament

The Major Prophets: they are known by the volume of their books, e.g. Isiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel.

The Minor Prophets: they have lesser volume of books, e.g. Obadiah, Amos, hose and Joel

NB : It should be noted that there are other categories of prophets which can be broadly

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divided into two:

1. The writing prophet
2. The non-writing prophet

The writing prophets were considered to be educated and were able to pen down the inspiration.

The non-writing prophets are those who are considered uneducated and such could not write their history and biography. However, their history was as recorded by scholars, e.g. Elijah, Elisha, etc.

3) The writings (Ketubiim or hagiography)- It was said to be the last to be canonized at a conference or council of jamnia, examples of writings include Joshua, Judges, Ruth, etc. it was canonized in 90AD.

NOTE: There are 39 books in the Old Testament and 15


Apocryphal means something hidden, they are books whose authorship are questionable.

Criteria for Canonization

For a book of the bible to be accepted, it has to pass through some tests which are :

  1. Written by a recognized prophet or apostle
  2. Written by those associated with
  3. recognized prophet or apostle
  4. Written by those associated with recognized prophet or apostle-supervised or taught by a prophet or apostle usage and recognition
  5. Ecclesiasticism-church
  6. Truthfulness
  7. Relevance

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