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The Foundation of Orthodoxy and Canon

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The Foundation of Orthodoxy and Canon


The foundation of canon and Orthodoxy is a fascinating story. It can be traced back to the 2nd century in Rome. To begin with is the definition of the term canon. It refers to the holy biblical books of New Testament that guide Christians. They are highly respected since in divine and compose the Christian Holy Bible. The books are divided into two New Testament and Old Testament (Green, 2009).


It believed in faith and unity and was a way to bring Christians together. It played a great role in the year 1920 during the formation of ecumenical and world of churches in Amsterdam. It was found in the early church, which was found in Alexandrian, Constantinople, Ethiopia, Georgia, Armenia, Antioch and Jerusalem. Its history can be traced back to apostles and Jesus Christ. They spread Christianity in middle ages in Bulgarians, Russians and Serbia. There emerged conflict between the Eastern Patriarchates and Catholic Church (Hurwitz 1994). It can be viewed from four eras that include early Christianity, which include the ancient religion and apostolic period. Secondly, it is Zantine era when there was the rise of ecumenical councils in Roman who spearheads the establishment of the canon.

The Ottoman era

 It occurred in the 15th century, in Balkan and Greek. It ended in the year 1830 after falling of Constantinople. Finally, the modern era saw the formulation and translation of canon to various languages. There emerged Christian missionaries who started going to the world to preach the gospel and convert people to Christianity.

Christianity spread widely in Rome Empire among the Greeks. The early apostles established Christian communities in different regions and cities. The first group was established in Jerusalem. The Orthodoxy believed in Christian succession. These communities knew they were custodians of the Christian traditions. Later on, the word community was changed to Church. It was a Greek word Basilica meaning the gathering of likely minded people.

Conflict in the early church

It started in the second century. There were several cracks among the early Christians. New groups rose who had different interpretations of the Bible, which were not acceptable since they were contradicting the word. This conflict led to east-west schism. There was a chain of events, which happened, and culminated in the sacking of Constantinople. The events, which led to sacking, were not theological; they were issues regarding linguistics, cultural and doctrinal.

The issues were about the question of the Holy Spirit and supremacy of the bishop of Rome. They believed the bishop was sovereign, and he had universal power over entire universal jurisdiction. This was contradicting the beliefs in church because supremacy was not contained in one church.

The Roman believed and preached about Papal power, which superseded the entire church authority. The Eastern Church started questioning the Rome understanding of Episcopal power. The orthodoxy did not agree with Rome on interpretation of Holy Spirit. The transfer of capital to Constantinople brought conflict .The Romans were afraid because they had started losing political influence. The Roman did not recognize the new Constantinople, who was promoted to the second rank. The citizens started questioning the bible, it also created the new urge for the church to search for the true canon to be used in the church. The conflicts in the early church and the rise of heresies prompted the church to search the right books.

                                        Key events, which led to recognition of canon

The development of canon was gradual with several issues that influenced the search for the canons. The heresies and conflict in early church brought pastoral concern. Several authors came up with different books; they accepted some while rejected others. It was a long process, and different methods were used. The following are events that led to development of canons:

Increased awareness and desire to know the Bible

Christianity became widespread; there was increase awareness about the Bible, and people started critically analyzing all events in the Bible. They learned about the existence of the apostles who had definite powers of healing and raising the dead. The apostles were representatives of the Christ, Matthew 10:40. He entrusted them to continue preaching the gospel and promised to send them the Holy Spirit, who will guide them. In addition, the apostles witnessed the salvation in Jerusalem. This desire prompted the early Christianity community to capture apostolic work in the canon (Knoeferle, Crocker, Scheepers & Pickering, 2005).

The apostolic fathers

The emergency of apostolic fathers in Rome influenced the recognition of the canon. They were concerned with moral and practical issues than theological doctrine. The Old Testament emphasized on doctrinal laws, which were not practical in Rome. Those they believe there was continuity of the Old Testament covenant include; Ignatius of Antioch, Clement of Rome, the Epistle of Barnabas and Polycarp. Polycarp tried to show the relationship between the Old Testament and the apostles of Jesus Christ. Jesus came to fulfill the scripture in the Old Testament indicated in various books, for example, the book of Isaiah.

Rise of Heretical movements

These were movements, which brought new teaching contrary to the Old Testament and understanding of Christianity, God, and Holy Spirit. They include; Marcion, Gnostics, and Montanans. Montanans came from Asia and preached the unacceptable gospel. They had rejected the Old Testament and viewed God as an inferior God. They preached that Jesus had come to liberate the human beings from laws and authority of the Old Testament.

The Marcion’s unity and influence became widespread. They developed their canon and were rejected by other churches. They believed their leader Paraclete was the Holy Spirit promise that Jesus Christ talk about with his disciples. They also believe the second coming of Christ and New Jerusalem will happen in Phrygia, which was their capital city. They believed one can renew his gift of prophecy, and the Holy Spirit manifested himself through prophets.

The Gnostic heretics believed there was one true ultimate God, who has never created anything he just brought forth the visible and invisible things. They acknowledge the world is imperfect because it was created in a flawed manner. It explains why life is full of suffering. They claim nature punishes each person through inflicting fear, pain, and death. In addition, the manifestation of pain is the occurrence of disasters and natural catastrophes (Carlson, 1996). This heretic teaching incited the early church to research more on the Bible. That led to the establishment of the Canons. It was a gradual process, which involved several church leaders in the early church.

The church response

The church responded by developing several Canons, They include;

Muratorian Canon

L.A Muratorian established it in 1740. It was written in Rome. It analyzed all the New Testament books and shares his personal comments and views. He also listed all the books except Hebrews, James, and Peter (Honko, 1979).


He has developed his own Canon. He did not include Hebrews in the canon and rejected all the general epistles since they contradicted the apostle’s teachings. The epistles were the letters written by Paul to various churches.

Tertullian and Origen

These two authors aided in the developed of the canon. Tertullian originated from Africa. He includes 22 books in his Canon, but he did not include Hebrews and James. Origen went ahead to recognize 22 books in the new Canon. He embraced and rejected some letters written by Pauls. He did not recognize the book of Philomena and revelation. Revelation is the book that summarizes the Old Testament and the New Testament.


Various people tried to establish different Canon. The church recognized the four gospels such as Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John. They also acknowledge the works of Luke, which were compiled in the book of Acts of Apostles. All the letters written by Paul were accepted and formed the Pauline epistles. The book of Hebrew brought controversy because the early Christian authors rejected it. The Eastern Church accepted Paul wrote it as a letter while the Western church rejected it. Towards the end of the second century, the Canon had received full acceptance by the church worldwide. Though some churches like the Ethiopian church acknowledged all books in the Canon, it included eight more books.

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