As councils met, and groups of learned men poured over traditional teachings, the foundations of the modern Bible as we know it came into being.
By the time of Athanasius’s 39th Festal Letter – written by the Bishop of Alexandria on the topic of Easter celebrations in 367 AD – we find the first recorded source to list of all twenty-seven of the canon New Testament Scriptures. Not long afterward, in 380 AD, St. Jerome began translating his own version of the Bible, the Latin Vulgate, from his studies of both the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament.
In 397 AD a decision was made at the Council of Carthage to finally and officially list the accepted books of the Bible. Not only did it formally recognize the Tanakh of the Jews as the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament, it also listed the twenty-seven books of the New Testament as valid. Prior to their official canonization here, only twenty-one or so New Testament books were acknowledged by believers across the land. In addition to these, there were as many as ten books in circulation that were disputed in some circles, and a number of others that were clearly regarded as heretical frauds. It was largely because of both the widespread acceptance of the true and historically-sound Scriptures and the similarly common rejection of the heretical books that an official council to establish doctrinal canon was so long in coming. Such simply wasn’t deemed necessary for quite some time. Additionally, the Carthaginian Council took the liberty to recognize a number of the apocryphal books as not inspired but still of intrinsic value. This wasn’t surprising in the least considering how traditionally both historic Jewish and Christian scholars alike regarded such works as non-canonical.
Shortly after this, around the year 400 AD, Jerome completed his Vulgate translation of the Bible. This important version rapidly became the official Bible of the Western Church, persisting as such until the 1500s, and even now it remains in high regard within the Catholic Church.
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