“Deciding” the Canon of Scripture: Damasus and the Council of Rome in 382 AD

Historical recognition of the canon of Scripture is far more complicated than most realize, particularly for the Old Testament (OT). I’m planning a series on the OT canon, but here I hope to address a commonly asserted but false claim, namely that: Pope Damasus/the Council of Rome in 382 decided (or canonized) books of the Bible.

This claim surfaces frequently in online discussions. Both lay and professional apologists repeat it. The latter should keep the former in check but that rarely happens. Repetition of these false claims does not contribute to productive dialog. I suppose those who make a living preaching to the choir don’t consider historicity and productive dialog of much concern. A scholar with whom I recently corresponded said it well: “The biggest pitfall of most avowed apologists (of all stripes) is back-projection, wanting to see the present Church (and typically the one to which they profess membership) in the past.”

The books of the Codes Sinaiticus do not exactly match the canon of Scripture recognized by any Christian tradition.
Codex Sinaiticus (source) is a mid-4th century manuscript that contains the earliest complete copy of the NT. It also contains some, but not all, of the contested OT books that appear today in Catholic Bibles (see here).

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