Cannon (Term)

In Christian theology, the term “canon” refers to the set of books that are recognized as the divinely inspired and authoritative Scripture of the Christian faith. The word “canon” comes from the Greek “kanon,” meaning a rule or measuring stick, which metaphorically applies to the standard by which religious texts are determined to be authoritative for faith and practice.

The formation of the canon involved a complex historical process by which the early Church recognized certain writings as normative and inspired, guided by criteria such as apostolic authorship, consistency with received doctrine, and widespread acceptance and usage in worship across different Christian communities. This process culminated in various church councils and synods, which affirmed the canonical status of the books.

For Protestant Christians, the canon consists of 66 books, including 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches include additional texts in their Old Testaments, known as the Deuterocanonical books, bringing their totals to 73 and more, respectively.

Theologically, the canon serves as the ultimate rule of faith, providing the foundation for all doctrine, moral instruction, and the life of the church, central to its teaching, liturgical practices, and theological reflections.