I haven’t done enough study on canonicity to do a full-fledged article on that topic specifically, so this won’t be addressing that issue alone. What I’m really getting at with this topic is the affect of canonicity on the way we read the Bible. It’s interesting that we didn’t only choose which books we would put in the Bible but in what order they would go as well. We have the Old Testament books that stumble through biblical history, randomly throwing in Leviticus and Ruth which seem wildly out of place, and then we jumble around the Major and Minor Prophets and hope that in a straight read through we will understand it all. In the New Testament it only gets worse, we have the retelling of the gospel, a re-retelling of the gospel and two more after that, which all have different stories and agendas. Then rather abruptly we jump to the book of acts and all these letters to churches and groups and it can be extremely difficult to wrap your head around it all.
Focusing on the New Testament specifically, the main thing that you have to avoid is thinking of it as a book which was written from start to finish all at once. Each of the gospels was meant to be a separate documentation of the life of Jesus and each of the letters were written separately with difference purposes and audiences in mind. If we try to break up the Bible in to a title, thesis, body paragraph, level two title type of book then we will only be met with frustration. In order to understand each of these books they must be read as separate books (the way they were written). In order to understand the gospels and the epistles we need to read them as if we were the churches and people that were meant to be receiving them.
The other thing about canonicity that we can not overlook is that the ESV canon as we know it is not the only one out there. Many different groups also contain the book of Enoch, stories about Solomon, different iterations of the Gospels as told by Thomas and Marry Magdalene and a whole bunch of crazy stuff that many Christians completely overlook.
The issue isn’t whether or not you believe in these controversial books. The issue is that people don’t realize that Bibles have a history of how they got to us. They didn’t just descend from heaven in the English Standard Version with all the red letters and place holding ribbons. What we need to do now, is recognize that the Bible was meant to be read a certain way and we must not try to change that way to suit what we want in our modern lives today.