A Biblical canon or canon of scripture is a list or set of Biblical books which establishes the names of books considered to be authoritative as scripture by a particular religious community, generally in Judaism or Christianity. This technical term is late and Christian, but the idea is Jewish. The internal wording of the text can also be specified, for example: the Masoretic Text is the canonical text for Judaism, and the King James Version is the canonical text for the King-James-Only Movement, but this is not the general meaning of canon.
These lists, or canons, have been developed through debate and agreement by the religious authorities of those faiths. Believers consider these canonical books to be inspired by God or to express the authoritative history of the relationship between God and his people. Books excluded from a particular canon are considered non-canonical — however, many disputed books considered non-canonical or even apocryphal by some are considered Biblical apocrypha or Deuterocanonical or fully canonical, by others. There are differences between the Jewish and Christian canons, and between the canons of different Christian denominations. The differing criteria and processes of canonization dictate what the communities regard as the inspired books.
- McDonald & Sanders, editors of The Canon Debate, 2002, The Notion and Definition of Canon by Eugene Ulrich, page 29 defines canon as follows: "...the definitive list of inspired, authoritative books which constitute the recognized and accepted body of sacred scripture of a major religious group, that definitive list being the result of inclusive and exclusive decisions after serious deliberation."; page 34 defines canon of scripture as follows: "...the definitive, closed list of the books that constitute the authentic contents of scripture."
- McDonald & Sanders, editors of The Canon Debate, 2002, The Notion and Definition of Canon by Eugene Ulrich, page 28; also from the Introduction on page 13: "We should be clear, however, that the current use of the term "canon" to refer to a collection of scripture books was introduced by David Ruhnken in 1768 in his Historia critica oratorum graecorum for lists of sacred scriptures. While it is tempting to think that such usage has its origins in antiquity in reference to a closed collection of scriptures, such is not the case." The technical discussion includes Athanasius's use of "kanonizomenon=canonized" and Eusebius's use of kanon and "endiathekous biblous=encovenanted books".