Canonization is the process by which certain religious texts were grouped to form the Bible. Before this, the individual books were independent as scrolls that would be read by the scribes and priests in the temple. The canonization process made it easier for Christians to read God’s word because they were all grouped together. However, it was not without controversy because there was some debate on what qualified as canon. Eventually, two Bibles were canonized – one with 73 books (the Catholic Bible) and the other with 66 books (the Protestant Bible).
The Book of Eli and the Bible
The book of Eli is not included in either the Catholic or Protestant Bible. Even though this has sparked a lot of interest in recent decades, there is nothing to it because the book of Eli didn’t even exist. Eli is a Bible character whose story is recorded in the Book of Samuel. However, Eli did not write any book so there was no book of Eli that could be added to the Bible to begin with.
Did the Council of Nicaea Approve the Book of Eli?
There has been some debate on whether or not the Council of Nicaea approved the Book of Eli. However, this debate doesn’t hold any water because the Book of Eli never existed. So even if the council of Nicaea were to adopt an additional book into the canon, the book of Eli wouldn’t be it because it didn’t exist. Secondly, the Council of Nicaea was not constituted to deal with the canon. On the contrary, the council was commissioned by the Roman Emperor Constantine I in AD 325. Its main deliverable was to deal with the theological disputes that are referred to as the Arian controversy. The controversy stemmed from disagreements on the understanding of Christ. Arius (from Alexandria) posited that Christ was not divine but another created being. This did not sit well with most Christians who believed the divinity of Christ to be at the center of the faith. The council ultimately condemned Arius and formulated the Nicene Creed, which affirmed the belief in Christ’s divinity and His oneness with the Father.
Who Was Eli?
Eli is not a fictitious Hollywood character – he is mentioned in the Bible. Elis was a priest in ancient Isreal and he had a unique role in the sense that he served both as a priest and as a judge in the city of Shiloh. Eli served in a transitional period because, after he and his successor (Samuel), Israel was no longer ruled by judges but by kings.
Eli was a devout man who was desiccated to God’s services. He judged Israel for a period of 40 years which represents an entire generation. He is remembered for two notable things – first was his kind consideration of Hannah, a woman who came to the temple in distress because she was barren (1 Samuel 1:9-10). He is also remembered for the significant role he played in mentoring Samuel who would take over from him upon his death.
Ironically, his good character and devotion to God did not rub onto his two sons, Phinehas and Hophni. Even though the two sons served as priests in the temple, they violated God’s laws and were driven by greed and personal gain rather than a heart for service. For instance, they would take meat sacrifices that were not allocated to them and they would also engage in extramarital relations with the women who had come to serve at the tent of meeting.
Eli tried to chastise his sones but it is believed that he did not do everything in his power to restrain them. Due to his lack of zeal in dealing with his sons, God sent a prophet who delivered a stern warning to Eli concerning his sons. The punishment was that the sons would not grow old and that they would be cut off from their priestly duties. This is the judgment that resulted in the cutting of Eli’s priestly lineage. We see this in the fact that God raised Samuel, who was not a son or a descendant of Eli to take his place.
Eli passed away at the age of 98 and his sons also died at the same time. The Philistines had attacked Israel and because they noticed the significance of the Ark of the Covenant, they targeted it and killed Eli’s sons in the process. As such, his legacy and lineage died with him. Interestingly, the report of his son’s death was delivered by the same person who delivered the news of the capture of the Ark of the Covenant. However, the capturing of God’s ark is what grieved him so much that he had a heart attack and died on the spot.
When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell backward off his chair by the side of the gate. His neck was broken and he died, for he was an old man, and he was heavy. He had led Israel for forty years. 1 Samuel 4:18
Eli’s story is only recorded in the book of Samuel and contrary to common belief, there is no “book of Eli” that documents the story. He is like many other renowned Bible characters (e.g. David, Paul) who did not have a book named after them.
To reiterate, the Book of Eli was never part of the Bible, and it was not removed from the Bible because it was never included in the canonical collection of biblical texts. Eli was a significant figure in ancient Israelite history, serving as a priest and judge. His legacy is primarily associated with his devotion and the challenges he faced in his role as a father to his wayward sons. While the Book of Eli may have generated interest due to its title, it is essential to distinguish between this unrelated movie and the historical events in Israel.