Canonicity of The Old Testamant

Canonicity is attributed to sources that are considered accurate and authoritative. It's further reinforced by having strong relevance and reliability in a collection of material. In the case of Old Testament books, canonicity is of chief concern. For people to simply believe the Old Testament is God's Word without giving due diligence is to build one's faith on uncertain terrain. One can have a child's faith to believe in the finished work of Christ but would betray additional commands to:


"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." -2nd Timothy 2:15


Or as Hebrews 5:12-14 reasons:


"For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil."


These 'powers of discernment' come from having a firm understanding of why the Old Testament is God's Word manifested in written form. Answers for why people believe the Bible to be true are simply not acceptable to say, "Because God says so". While God's Sovereignty is indeed made universally plain (Romans 1:20), He has given everyone the ability to reason (Isaiah 1:18) whether His Word is true or not.


Therefore, we begin by examining the 66 books that make up the Old Testament which are:

    1 Samuel
    2 Samuel
    1 Kings
    2 Kings
    1 Chronicles
    2 Chronicles
    Song of Solomon


I. Composition

The first five books of the Old Testament (OT) are called the 'Torah' or 'Pentateuch', which were written by Moses. Moses was the only man to have received God's Word in written form on two stone tablets that are widely known to be the Ten Commandments (Exodus 31:18). The Torah is part of the Tanakh, which is sectioned in three ways: the Torah (Law), Nevi'im (Prophets), and Ketuvim (Writings).


Additionally, throughout the OT, various authors refer back to the Torah (McDonald 2020), which establishes the credibility and authority of Moses by God (Deut. 4:14; 5:1–2; 1 Kings. 2:3; 8:9; 2 Kings. 14:6 Ezra 7:6; Neh. 1:7; 8:1; Ps. 103:7; Dan. 9:13; 2 Chron. 23:18; 25:4; Mal. 4:4; Matt. 19:7–8; 22:24; Acts 3:22; 7:37–38; Rom. 10:19; 1 Cor. 9:9; Heb. 9:19; Rev. 15:3).


In 170 AD (Eusebius and Oulton 2000) , Melito, bishop of Sardis wrote about the OT composition saying


"When I came to the east and reached the place where these things were preached and done, and learnt accurately the books of the Old Testament, I set down the facts and sent them to you. These are their names: five books of Moses, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua the son of Nun, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kingdoms, two books of Chronicles, the Psalms of David, the Proverbs of Solomon and his Wisdom, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, Job, the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, the Twelve in a single book, Daniel, Ezekiel, Ezra."


II. Consistency

We see Christ and New Testament (NT) authors quote heavily from OT Scripture over 295 times (Nicole 1959, 137-41). This includes all sections of the Tanakh. However, apocryphal books pose certain discrepancies that were intentionally rejected as canonical.  For instance, in the 1st-century Jewish apocryphal writings, 'The Life of Adam and Eve', a certain passage from sections 29.2-29.5 details a vision Adam has received from the archangel Michael. This vision reads,


"Then they will build a house for the Lord God on my behalf that he might hear you and look down upon me and free me from Lord their God in the land which he will prepare for them, and there they will transgress his precepts. Their sanctuary will be set afire, and their land shall be desolate, and they themselves will be dispersed because they provoked God."-29.5


However, this vision could not have been true because it is inconsistent with 2nd Samuel 7:1-8. God never commanded a single judge in Israel to build Him a house, let alone a temple.


"But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, “Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord: Would you build me a house to dwell in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’ -2nd Samuel 7:4-7


III. Centeredness

The entirety of Scripture is centered on Jesus Christ (John 1:1-5; Hebrews 1:1-4). When determining what is truly from God's Word, we must look at that work's centeredness on the Gospel of Christ. Any deviation from this center should throw a red flag to its agreeableness, authenticity, and authority. Continuing with our prior example of non-canonical texts, The Life of Adam and Eve falls short of its centeredness on the Gospel as well. We read in sections 32.1-34.2, that God was angry with the two and intended to afflict them with "seventy afflictions" upon their bodies. While it may make for an interesting perspective from their imagined standpoint, it's not centered on God's plan for the redemption of humanity. Namely, we read in section 34.1,


"Immediately, the Lord God grew angry with us and said to me: 'Because you have forsaken my mandate and have not kept my word which I entrusted to you, I will bring upon your body seventy afflictions. You will be racked with pains from the top of your head, eyes, and ears, to the bottom of your feet, and in every single member.' This he counted as punishment fitting in suffering [to the seriousness of our transgression] concerning the trees (of suffering for the transgression of the fruit of the tree?)"


Yet, Genesis 3:15 says,


"I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”


This verse is widely known to be the first prophecy in the bible that foretells about Christ

overcoming the world and saving all of humanity. God's character is not to bring judgment and punishment without restoration. Most OT prophecies were arranged by God to include some form of restoration through Christ; something we do not see in this these apocryphal works.



Eusebius, and John E. Oulton. The Ecclesiastical History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 2000.


McDonald, Richard. “Did Moses Write All of the Pentateuch? (Even His Own Obituary?).” Southern Equip. Last modified June 26, 2020.


Roger Nicole, "New Testament Use of the Old Testament," in Revelation and the Bible, ed. Carl F.H. (London: Tyndale Press, 1959, pp. 137-41.