An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church


This word comes from the Latin for “writings” and refers to a collection of the most important documents in a given religious community. Many different religions have scriptures. The term “canon,” which means a rule or listing, refers to the list of items included in a scripture.

The word “Bible” is used by Christians to refer to the OT and NT, the two parts of scripture. Other books, called the Apocrypha, are often included in the Bible (BCP, p. 853). In the Jewish tradition the OT is called Hebrew Scripture. When early Christians began to select writings for their scripture, they wanted to keep the Hebrew scripture and therefore chose to use the titles Old Testament (or covenant) for the Jewish writings and New Testament for the normative Christian writings. The Apocrypha is a collection of books written by people of the old covenant. The Articles of Religion note that these books may be read “for example of life and instruction of manners,” but are not used to establish any doctrine (Art. VI, BCP, p. 868). Selections from the Apocrypha are included in the BCP lectionaries for the Holy Eucharist and the Daily Office.

The selection of writings to be included in the NT was not final until about 360 A.D. Some Christians did not want to include the Gospel of John or the Second Letter of Peter. After a long period of time, the currently accepted canon of scripture was determined on the basis of apostolic authorship or attribution and widespread acceptance of the texts included in the canon.

All persons ordained as bishops, priests, or deacons in the Episcopal Church must solemnly declare at their ordination that they “do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation. . . .” (BCP, pp. 513, 526, 538). Scripture, along with tradition and reason, is one of the sources of authority in Anglicanism. Selections from scripture for the Episcopal Church’s services of the Holy Eucharist and the Daily Offices are provided by the lectionaries of the BCP (pp. 889-1001).

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.