Just before his death Moses wrote the book of Deuteronomy, which finalized the first major set of inspired books that would become part of the Bible. This set is known as the Pentateuch, or Law, and is composed of the following five books: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Upon completion of the last book Moses, a Levite, gave them to the priests so that they may be preserved:
"So it was, when Moses had completed writing the words of this law in a book, when they were finished, that Moses commanded THE LEVITES, who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord, saying: 'Take this Book of the Law, and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there as a witness against you; . . .' " (Deuteronomy 31:24 - 26)
It was from the death of Moses that, according to The Holy Bible in Its Original Order - A Faithful Version, Second Edition (HBFV), the priest and Levites were made the official protectors of God's word. Their job was to make faithful copies and to preserve his revelations to man for future generations.
God, for many years after Moses, inspired others such as Samuel, King David, King Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel to write books. It wasn't until the late fifth century B.C., however, that these books were collected and compiled to form what we know as the Old Testament. Ezra, a priest at the temple who lived more than eight hundred years after Moses, led the effort to canonize the Old Testament.
What exactly is canonization? Canonization is the process by which a collection of writings comes to be considered authoritative, definitive and fixed by a religious authority. It was during the canonization process that the number of books in the Old Testament and their book arrangement was set.
How did we get the Old Testament?
Ezra and the Great Assembly brought together all the writings inspired by God and produced an Old Testament made up of twenty-two (22) manuscripts (books). The number of finalized manuscripts (22) is the same as the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet.
The Old Testament canon was divided into three major divisions: 1) The Law, 2) The Prophets, and 3) The Writings (also known as "the Psalms" because the book of Psalms is listed first in this division).
It was this inspired division of the Bible that Jesus referred to when he said the following.
"Then He said to them, 'These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the LAW of Moses and the PROPHETS and the PSALMS (or Writings) concerning Me'" (Luke 24:44)
How did we get the New Testament?
A generally accepted theory is that the New Testament canon was completed late in the fourth century A.D. This theory, however, is NOT true. According to the HBFV, many scholars have arbitrarily divided the canonization of the New Testament into five periods. The finalization of what would become our New Testament, they state, did not occur until the third Council of Carthage in 397 A.D.
The TRUTH is that God did not commit the collection and finalization of his books to men of questionable faith over a period of 300 years. He instead choose to canonize his word through the three Apostles who were the most prolific writers of New Testament books - Paul (14 books), Peter (2 books) and John (5 books).
Paul’s Epistles were completed by him beginning in 63 A.D. These initial Epistles were forwarded to Peter and John, who fully accepted them as Scriptures. Peter, in his second epistle, left no doubt that he and the apostle John were forming the official text of New Testament teachings. Peter also referred to this written remembrance as the 'prophetic word confirmed.'
"Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease . . .And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts;" (2Peter 1:15, 19)
God choose the apostle John to set the order of the New Testament books and finalize the Bible.
"Although Paul and Peter had canonized their writings before they died, the official canonization with the final arrangement of the books of the entire New Testament was accomplished by the apostle John in 96 - 99 A.D. As one of the last living apostles and the last living eyewitness of Christ’s transfiguration, John was uniquely qualified and chosen by Jesus . . . " (HBFV, pages 70 - 71)
How we got the Bible is an amazing story that spans centuries of human history. The first book was written around the 1660's B.C. and the last one was completed at the close of the first century A.D. Although many have tried to stamp out its existence, the Scriptures have survived and thrived into the 21st century as still the most popular writing in the world.