The expression “Bible canon” came to denote the collection, or list, of books accepted as genuine inspired Scripture.
The term “canon” is derived from the Hebrew word qa·nehʹ (reed). Reeds were used as a rule or measuring device. (Eze 41:8) Fittingly, the Bible canon, or catalog of inspired books, enables the reader to “measure” faith, doctrine, and conduct.
The canon of the Hebrew Scriptures was established by the end of the fifth century B.C.E. According to Jewish tradition, the skilled scribe and inspired Bible writer Ezra began the work, and it was completed by Nehemiah. (Ezr 7:6, ftn.) The writing of the Christian Greek Scriptures was completed during the time that the gifts of the spirit were operative on Christ’s followers. (Joh 14:26; Re 1:1) Some Christians had the gift of “discernment of inspired expressions.” (1Co 12:10) Thus, they could, without referring the matter to a supposed church council, determine which of the letters the congregation received were inspired of God. With the death of John, the last apostle, this reliable chain of divinely inspired men came to an end. Therefore, with the book of Revelation, John’s Gospel, and his three letters, the Bible canon was closed. The testimony of later, noninspired writers is valuable only as an acknowledgment of the Bible canon, which God’s spirit had guided and authorized.