Most people assume (even if they don’t realize it) that religious books are ultimately man-made enterprises. It’s always a group of humans somewhere that are imposing their religious views on others. And if the canon is merely the (arbitrary) choice of a bunch of humans, then it can be edited, reworked, rewritten, or even just ignored.
“Who chose the books of the New Testament canon?”
Among the countless questions I have heard over the years about the origins of the canon, this may be the most common. And that’s totally understandable. The Bible didn’t drop from heaven on golden tablets, perfectly complete and intact. It was delivered through normal historical channels, and people want to know the details of how that happened.
The problem, however, is that the wording of the question already presumes the answer (or at least part of it). Most people don’t realize this, of course. They are just honestly asking a question, probably using words that come most natural to them (or that they’ve heard others use). But, this particular framing of the question has a number of built-in assumptions that need to be recognized.
Most notably, there is a problem with the word “chose”. It assumes that the church proactively, overtly “decided” which books belonged in the canon. This usually conjures images of some meeting, or council, where people voted on books—some books making the cut, and others left out.
Moreover, the word “chose” also gives the impression that there would not be a canon unless the church acted. It’s almost as if a group of people got together and an individual said, “Hey everyone, don’t you think we need a canon of books?” Then, after everyone nods their head in agreement, the individual says, “Ok then, let’s go find the ones we like the best!”