STEP ONE: WRITE THE OLD TESTAMENT
HISTORICAL BOOKS: Told the story of Israel from the time of Joshua’s conquest of the Promised Land to Israel’s war against the Greeks in the decades prior to the coming of Christ.
WISDOM BOOKS: These books gave instruction and insight regarding the pursuit of God and human virtue.
PROPHETIC BOOKS: Writings of the Major and Minor Prophets warning Israel to turn away from sin and towards the LORD.
STEP TWO: MAKE THESE BOOKS ACCESSIBLE
TRANSLATION: Many Jews in the first century lived outside of the Holy Land and spoke Greek. In order to make the Hebrew-language Bible accessible to Jews who did not speak Hebrew, translations were made into Greek. The most important of these is known as the Septuagint (translated 3rd century BC).
SEPTUAGINT: Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible made in Alexandria, Egypt. With the Septuagint, Greek-speaking Jews throughout the Mediterranean world had the Hebrew Bible in a language they understood. It’s also the translation used by Jesus, the Apostles, and the early Church.
STEP THREE: WHAT BOOKS TO INCLUDE?
CANON: A definitive list of Biblical books. Determining what books to include in the Bible was entrusted to the Catholic Church. While there is a full canon of all Biblical books, we can also talk about the Old Testament canon and later the New Testament canon. The full Biblical canon was not complete until AD 382 (see Step Five).
OLD TESTAMENT CANON: A list of books in the Old Testament. Jews at the time of Jesus had not yet finalized which books were canonical according to Judaism. In time this would mean that Jews and Christians would have to decide what Old Testament books to include in their Bibles. For this reason, Jews, Protestants, and Catholics, have different Old Testament canons.
COUNCIL OF JAMNIA: A meeting of Jewish scholars thought to have taken place in the late 1st or early 2nd century to finalize the Hebrew Canon. While the historicity of this council has been questioned, the Jewish community by the 2nd century settled on a Hebrew Canon that rejected any Old Testament books not found written in Hebrew. Some books, like I Maccabees, were rejected for this reason only to be rediscovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls in Hebrew centuries later. Protestants accepted the Hebrew canon of 39 books while Catholics kept all 46 books of the Greek Septuagint used since Apostolic times. Both Protestants and Catholics agree on the 27 books of the New Testament.
STEP FOUR: WRITE THE NEW TESTAMENT
GOSPELS: Matthew, Mark, and Luke (written between AD 50-70); John (c. AD 90).
HISTORICAL LITERATURE: The Acts of the Apostles was written in the 60s.
EPISTLES/LETTERS: The letters of St. Paul were written in the 50s-60s. The “Catholic” epistles were written during or after this period.
APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE: The Book of Revelation was written in the 90s but there is some evidence to date it to the 60s.
OTHER BOOKS: Other first century books were read at Masses during the first centuries of the Church. These included the Didache, 1 Clement, Barnabas, and the Letters of St. Ignatius.
STEP FIVE: WHAT BOOKS TO INCLUDE?
COUNCIL OF ROME (AD 382): After nearly 300 years of reading scripture during the sacred liturgy, Pope St. Damasus I sought to make a final Biblical Canon for the Church and a new translation of that canon into Latin for the Latin-speaking Christians (the New Testament was written in Greek). In AD 382, the Pope led a local Roman council to decide this.
CATHOLIC BIBLICAL CANON: The Council of Rome used the canon found in the Septuagint—which Judaism after Jesus did not accept—for its Old Testament canon and approved the 27 books we still use today in the New Testament.
THE VULGATE: Commissioned by the Council of Rome, St. Jerome left Rome for Bethlehem with assistants to translate the canonical list of books into Latin. Their work led to the Vulgate, used by the Church for centuries to come.
CATHOLIC ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS: Douay–Rheims (1582—New Testament/1610–Old Testament), Jerusalem Bible (1966), Revised Standard Version: Catholic Edition (1966—used in the English Catechism), New American Bible (1960–used at Masses in the United States).
WHAT IS THE “APOCRYPHA”?
APOCRYPHA: Books that, while spiritually edifying, are not considered canonical and thus not part of sacred scripture, the inspired Word of God.
JEWISH AND PROTESTANT APOCRYPHA: Books of the Old Testament, accepted by Catholics, but rejected by Jews and Protestants. Catholics call these books the Deuterocanonical books.
CATHOLIC APOCRYPHA: The books of the Catholic Apocrypha would include books like III Maccabees (of O.T. times) and Barnabus (of N.T. times).