Q. Could you please explain who decided what books would be in the bible? And when was this decided?
A. The earliest indications of the Old Testament canon come from the time of Ezra and Nehemiah and suggest that the process had begun during the Babylonian captivity (605-535 BC) with the Torah (the 1st 5 Books of the Bible). But the process was probably not complete until sometime in the 2nd Century BC. Deciding which books were to be included was done by senior priests based on general agreement that each book was authentic (written by the person identified as its author) and divinely inspired.
The New Testament had pretty much come together by 150AD but there continued to be discussion about a few books until about 400 AD. It was not officially canonized until the Council of Trent in the 1500’s. There were three basic criteria for inclusion.
1. Were the authors either eyewitnesses to the events they wrote about or at least directly taught about them by the Apostles?
2. Was each book’s teachings consistent with church practice and tradition?
3. Was each book already in general use by the church, and accepted as the Divine Word of God?
In both Old and New testaments, the books included had to be generally viewed as the work of divinely inspired writers who faithfully converted God’s Word into written form. (2 Peter 1:20-21)