In the writings of the early Christian fathers, there are numerous "canons" of scripture, however it began to take final form somewhere around the time of the 3rd council. To trace the development of the canon of the New Testament, you would have to follow the trail through a number of local councils, etc. I think that there is a booklet available from St John of Kronstadt Press which contains a summary of the development of the Scriptures, but I am not at home with my library and so I'll have to ask for a "recess" until I can look it up and give you title and summary.
I often use metaphore and parable when preaching, and I'd like to share a brief version of one with you that addresses just this issue. Picture a beautiful jeweled pendant. The centerpiece is a brilliant flawless diamond and it is set in pure radiant gold, intricately worked and designed to set off the diamond in its greatest beauty. Surrounding the diamond are carefully chosen stones, lesser gems, but no less flawless and beautiful, rubies, emeralds, saphires, pearls, etc. These are chosen and arranged to compliment and augment the brilliance of the diamond and in no way detract from the diamond's beauty, but rather everything together presents a beautiful whole.
The pendant is the whole of Holy Tradition, which is the expression of the revelation of Christ in the Church. The central diamond is the Holy Scripture and the surrounding gems and gold are the lives of the saints, the writings of the fathers, the services and traditions of the Church. Now if someone were to see this pendant who did not like pearls, he might think to himself, "if only we took off the pearls, this would be much better" and if he did so we would still have a beautiful pendant but somehow lessened. Then perhaps portions of the pendant are allowed to become tarnished so that they no longer reveal their beauty and instead of cleaning off the tarnish and restoring the gems, those portions are removed - perhaps even replaced by rhinestones. Then along comes someone else who doesn't like emeralds and removes all the emeralds. And again along comes someone else who removes the remaining saphires etc. Finally someone views this once beautiful pendant and not having seen its former beauty thinks that it is an ugly thing but the diamond is beautiful and so removes the diamond and trashes the rest. The diamond is still beautiful, brilliant and valuable. It is set apart and displayed by itself - a truly beautiful thing, rescued from an ugly setting. But only those who never saw the original setting could say that for the diamond, when removed from the pendant is somehow lessened and there is no longer the goldwork and the other gems to set it off and make it a part of a greater whole. This is what has happened to the Holy Scriptures in the protestant Church. Slowly, gradually all of Holy Tradition has been stripped away either because someone didn't like this or that piece or perhaps the true beauty of a portion was tarnished and it was tossed away without knowing its true value or perhaps a cheap substitute attempting to replace that which was lost was done away with etc. until all that remains of the Tradition of the Church is the Bible. And so they have it - a beautiful gem of the Church but out of context, out of place and its true beauty, revealed by the setting, is lost and in fact the horror stories of the distorted condition of that setting have led to the opinion that this gem is better off without and any attempts to place it back in context are resisted, in some cases violently.
I hope this little story helps to provide some understanding of how the Holy Scripture is a part (a beautiful, brilliant, central part) of Holy Tradition and to remove it from the context of Tradition is to lessen it and hide its true beauty.
Fr David Moser <MOSERD@DELPHI.COM>