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As Catherine Cory explains in her book, “A Voyage through the New Testament,” there are four inclusion criteria that affected the development of the New Testament canon: 1) apostolic origin 2) theological correctness 3) authority of the church leaders and 4) widespread appropriation of the churches. So then, the books that were eventually chosen for inclusion in the canon met the aforementioned criteria as determined by the discernment of the ecumenical councils, which will be discussed later. For now, let us examine each of the four criteria.
The second criterion, theological correctness, depended largely on the early church’s conception of orthodoxy (straight teaching). What was the right teaching? Did the narrative in question reflect the right teaching or did it clash with the teaching of the apostles? Further, was the narrative or letter a hindrance to perpetuating belief in the Gospel or did it serve as a reinforcement for maintaining the faith? As one can see, this criterion was largely dependent upon a pre-existing tradition, which determined the right teaching.
The third criterion, authority of the church leaders, was not only influential in determining the orthodox teaching but also in picking the actual books which would be included in the canon. The books which are now in the New Testament were not voted in by the Christian populous (most Christians during this time were not even literate!), but were chosen by the church authorities, namely the bishops and other influential theological figureheads.
Lastly, in order for a given book to be included in the New Testament it had to be widely used by most Christian communities. Many of the gospel narratives and Pauline epistles were being circulated and copied by established Christian communities so they could be used in worship services. If a book was used by a majority of Christian communities and not just one isolated church, it would have positively affected its consideration for inclusion within the canon. Maintaining the universality of the Gospel was an important consideration, which is why this last criterion was most likely established.
===When did Christians officially have a Bible?===