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How we got the Bible

by Alan Jones









God reveals His mind, speaks His mind in human language, the Creator talks with the creature.

Beyond natural revelation, there is special revelation.

Questions Man Seeks to Know ???:

Who is our Creator?

Why did He make us?

What does He expect from us? (What are our responsibilities to Him and to one another?)

What happens if we donít meet His expectations?

What is the meaning of life? Is death the end of us?

The Bible gives answers to manís questions and claims that these answers come from God Himself.

Reception by the First Readers

Who were the first readers of the O.T.? Did they first receive the O.T. as the word of God and not men? (cp Heb 1:1). Why did He speak to them? Why would a message God spoke long ago to the ancient Israelites be of importance, and therefore, of interest to us? How does the fact that the O.T. was written to someone else affect our interpretation and application of what we read?

God spoke in these last days through His Son (Heb 1:2). Who did Jesus speak to in the N.T.? Why would a message God spoke through His Son to Christians, to individuals and congregations, in the first century A.D., be of importance, and therefore, of interest to us? How does the fact that the N.T. was written to someone else affect our interpretation and application of what we read?


Was there a need to circulate the O.T. books? Compare this with the need to circulate the N.T. books.


Why did the O.T. books have to be collected? Why did the N.T. books have to be collected?


"canon"- from Greek, meaning "standard" or "rule". It came to mean "rule of faith" or "authoritative Scriptures". Why is a book that is inspired also authoritative?

Why were the 39 books we call the O.T. received as inspired? Were other books written in Israel? Why were they not received as inspired?

Why were the 27 books we call the N.T. received as inspired? Did the early Christians write other books? Why were they not received as inspired?



Johann Gutenberg (1396-1468) invented the printing press in 1454. Before this, how was Godís Word spread and preserved for future generations?

Do we have any original manuscripts of the Old or New Testament? What problems occur when copying? How many "variants" do we find in the text and what is their significance? How do we know that what we read today is the same as originally written? How do we know that what began as the Word of God has not become the word of men?

Creating a Standardized Text

The copies that have survived ("extant" copies) do not all read the same. How do scholars sort out the differences in search of the original reading? How do they come up with a text of the original language from which translations can be made into the various languages of the world?


How do men come to know the Word of God if they do not know Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek?

The complete Bible has been translated into over 200 languages and portions of it in over 1000 languages and dialects.

Our interest will be on the history of English translation and on what to look for in a translation.

How do we choose a Bible so that we may understand the Word of God and apply it to our lives?

Our Reading

After seeing what is involves in the formation and preservation of the Bible, how can we leave the Book closed?

"for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is through the living and enduring word of God. For all flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of the grass. The grass withers and the flower falls off, but the word of the Lord endures forever. And this is the word which was preached to you. Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation." 1 Pet 1:23-2:2.


"The most basic question about the nature of the Bible centers in its claim to be Ďinspiredí or to be the ĎWord of Godí. Just what is meant by and what is included in this claim is the subject of the first link, and, in that sense, the most important link in the chain of communication Ďfrom God to usí."- A General Introduction to the Bible, p. 26.

Definition of Inspiration

The word "inspiration" is used only once in the Bible and is applied to "all Scripture" (2 Tim 3:16), though the concept is seen throughout. "Scripture" or "the Scriptures" include both Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament is often called "the Scriptures" (cp. Acts 17:2, 11; 18:28, 1 Cor 15:3,4). The New Testament is also called "Scripture" (cp. 1 Tim 5:18 where Lk 10:7 is quoted and called "Scripture" and 2 Pet 3:15-16 where the letters of Paul are referred to as part of the "Scriptures").

Literally the word "inspiration" means "God-breathed". He is the author of Scripture. The Bible calls the Scriptures "the oracles of God" for they came from His mouth (Rom 3:2; Heb 5:12; 1 Pet 4:11). Though men penned the Scriptures, the words did not originate from their minds (1 Cor 2:9-13; 2 Pet 1:20-21). The "hand of the Lord" came upon them, prompting them to communicate His word to men ( 2 Kgs 3:15-16; 1 Chron 28:19; Eze 1:3, 8:1 & 11:25). The Spirit of the Lord spoke by men. His word was in their tongue (and pen) (2 Sam 23:2). However, the Holy Spirit conveyed Godís message in the usual language of each writer (cp. the Greek of Luke, the doctor and Paul, the well-educated man, to Peter and John, the fishermen).

Every word of Scripture came from God and so carried with it His authority (Mt 22:32, 43; Jn 10:35*; Gal 3:16, even to the tense of the verb and the singular or plural of the noun). Truly, God gave significance and authority to every "jot" (the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet" and "tittle" (the smallest stroke of a letter) of His revelation (Mt 5:17-18). The words were not to be added to or taken away from (Dt 4:1-2; Rev 22:18-19)

* Edward J. Young commented on Jn 10:35:

"The force of his argument is very clear, and it may be paraphrased as follows: "What is stated in this verse is true because this verse belongs to that body of writings known as Scripture, and the Scripture possesses an authority so absolute in character that it cannot be broken. When Christ here employs the word Scripture, he has in mind, therefore, not a particular verse in the Psalms, but rather the entire group of writings of which this one verse is a part."

Additional Evidence of the Bibleís Claim of Inspiration

Additional Passages Claiming the Inspiration of the Old Testament:

"Thus saith the Lord" or related expressions such as "the Word of God came to" are found 3808 times in the Old Testament. "Saith the Lord" is found in 25 of the 39 books of the O.T. The expression is prominent in the "Prophets", as would be expected.

"That it might be fulfilled" is found 33 times in the N.T. with reference to O.T. passages. The O.T. predicted events beyond the ability of man to foresee (cp. 2 Pet 1:10-11) and when they occurred, the N.T. writers pointed back to the O.T. passages that they and could see and all men should see were inspired of God.

"It is written" is found 68 times in the N.T. with reference to O.T. passages. Numerous other times what was "written" was appealed to other than in the exact phrase "It is written". The N.T. writers obviously held that the O.T. Scriptures were inspired of God, else they would not have appealed to them as if they possessed the authority of God.

Writings of O.T. men were attributed to God or the Holy Spirit by N.T. writers:

David Ps 110:1, cp. Mt 22:43 "David said in the Spirit"

David Ps 69:25; cp. Acts 1:16,20 "The Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David"

Psalmist Ps 95:7-11; cp. Heb 3:7-11 "Just as the Holy Spirit says"

Sons of Korah Ps 45:6; cp. Heb 1:8 "But of the Son He (God) says"

Psalmist Ps 102:25-27; cp. Heb 1:8,10-12 "But of the Son He (God) says"

Isaiah Isa 7:14; cp. Mt 1:22-23 "Spoken by the Lord through the prophet"

Hosea Hos 11:1; cp. Mt 2:15 "Spoken by the Lord through the prophet"

Moses Gen 2:24; cp Mt 19:3-6 "He who created them Ö said"

Moses Mk 7:10, 13 "Moses saidÖ invalidating the Word of God"

Eliphaz Job 5:13; cp. 1 Cor 3:19 "For it is written"


Additional Passages Claiming the Inspiration of the New Testament

Jn 14:26

Jn 15:26

Jn 16:13

Rom 16:25-26

1 Cor 14:37

Gal 1:12-13

Eph 3:3-5

1 Thess 4:15

Heb 1:1-2

2 Pet 1:3-4

Jude 3



A compelling reason for a serious examination of the Bibleís claim of inspiration

The Bible very clearly claims to be from God. Paul said, "All Scripture (which would be both Old and New Testaments-AJ) is inspired by God"- 2 Tim 3:16. Since Scripture is said to come from God, naturally it is presented to its readers as possessing the authority of God. Men were urged to use it as the standard to live by.

Jesus, who lived as a Jew under the O.T., appealed to it as authority. When tempted by Satan, He three times referred to an appropriate "It is written" to explain to him why He would not do as he said (Mt 4:4,7,10). When Jesus was asked questions, He pointed the inquirers to the Law for the answer (e.g. divorce- Mt. 19:3-4 and eternal life-Lk 10:25-26).

The N.T., which claims to be applicable to both Jew and Gentile is set forth as the standard of authority. Paul instructed Christians to "Stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us." (2 Thess 2:15).

Both Testaments contain consequences for disobeying them. Hebrews 2:2-3 points out that disobedience under the O.T. brought its just punishment. The question is then posed as to what chance those who disobey the N.T. message have of escaping.

According to the N.T., God, through His Son Jesus, will one day judge the secrets of men by the gospel (Rom 2:16). At that great day, eternal sentences will be handed out, according to how men have lived, sentences of eternal life or eternal punishment (Mt 25:46).

If the Bible isnít Godís Word, men have nothing to fear. It is a lie! It is a fraud and a hoax and one of the most successful ones in the history of mankind! BUT, IF IT IS GODíS WORD, menís eternal destinies will be based on their obedience to it. Such consequences invite men to more than a casual examination of its claim to be inspired.

What is "external" evidence and what does it do for the Bibleís claim of inspiration?

If the Bible is the Word of God, it must be error free in all facts that may be substantiated by sources outside or "external" to itself. These sources would include science, history, geography, and archaeology. If the Bible is not correct when compared to known facts, how can it be the perfect God-given guide for men to live by? If the Bible contains inaccuracies, then the door to its possible inspiration is slammed shut!

On the other hand, manís various fields of learning cannot prove the Bible to be inspired. Just because a book is true does not mean that it is "God-breathed", for men can author books that are true. However, if the Bible is accurate when compared to know facts from various fields of learning, then the door is left open that the Bible could be inspired of God. It is not possible to verify every person, place, event, or statement in the Bible. However, the numerous things that are verifiable are sufficient evidence to give men confidence in the things that have not yet been confirmed.


"Archaeology" is the study of things that are old" made from what ancient people have left behind. The spade of the archaeologist has dug up and continues to dig up evidence that confirms the truthfulness, accuracy, and therefore, trustworthiness of the Bible. Note the following examples:

Beginning in 1964, two professors from the University of Rome, Dr. Paelo Matthiae and Dr. Giovanni Petinato, worked to excavate a site known as Tell Mardikh in northern Syria. They discovered a kingdom known as Ebla, which at its height in 2300 B.C., had a population of 260,000 people. There are at least three things confirmed about the Bible by this finding:

  1. Some had argued prior to this finding that Moses could not have written the first five books of the Old Testament because writing was unknown in the period of history which the Bible places Moses (1400 B.C.). However, the Ebla tablets show that even 1000 years before Moses, laws, customs, and events were recorded in the same area of the world where Moses lived.


  2. Critics of the Bible had also thought that the system of law recorded in the books of Moses was too complex to have been written by the primitive people of his day. The Ebla tablets, hoever, contain a very elaborate legal code, similar in many respects to what is found in Deuteronomy.


  3. The Ebla tablets confirm Genesis 14 as being historically accurate. Prior to the discovery of these tablets, the "five cities of the Plain" (Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Zoar) mentioned in Genesis 14 were considered by unbelievers as only legendary. Yet the Ebla tablets refer to all five cities. One tablet even lists them in the same order as Genesis 14:2.


Until 1906, the Hittites, who are mentioned over 40 times in the Old Testament, were unknown outside of the Bible. Skeptics laughedÖ until 1906 when Hugo Winckler dug up the Hittite capital near Ankara, Turkey. Today, enough information has been found about the Hittites to provide us with thick books in the library, as well as the possibility of obtaining a graduate degree in Hittite civilization from the University of Pennsylvania.

John Garstang, while excavating Jericho in 1930-36, was startled to find "the walls fell outwards so completely that the attackers would be able to clamber up and over the ruins into the city". Why was he so surprised? The walls of cities, when attacked from the outside, do not fall outward, but inward. The Bible gives the explanation in Joshua 6:20. The hand of God was responsibleÖ "The wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city every man straight ahead, and they took the city."

In 1993, archaeologists at Tel Dan in northern Israel uncovered a shattered monument with the words "King of Israel" and "House of David" on it. This was the first non-Biblical evidence of the dynasty founded by King David.

A triumphal relief on a wall in the temple of Aman at Karnak, Egypt shows treasures being taken by Shishak, an Egyptian king, from Rehoboam, king of Judah, as 1 Kings 14:25-26 records. Other Egyptian records show that Shishak died the next year and his son, Osorkon, gave 383 tons of gold and silver to the gods in the first three years of his reign. This makes the Bibleís description of Solomonís wealth believable, which many have doubted in the past.


In 1881, Sir William Ramsey took the book of Acts as a guide and set out to follow Paulís journeys, conducting excavations along the way. He did this to prove that Luke, the author of Acts, was incorrect in his history. Ramsey took the popular view of his time that Acts was written in the late second century. He believed the book to be legendary or mythical, an imaginary account of supposed events in the lives of early Christians. He was confident that through his efforts he could show Acts and therefore, the entire New Testament, to be unreliable.

After fifteen years of investigation, in 1896, Ramsey published a large book, St. Paul, the Traveller and Roman Citizen. The skeptics were furious. Ramsey had become a believer in Chris-tianity! What had caused Ramsey to make such a turn around in his belief? His excavations showed that Luke was accurate, even in small details, concerning what he wrote in the book of Acts. He was not someone who made up a story 150 years after Christianity began, who was unfamiliar with the time period. He must have lived in the time period that he wrote about, as Acts says.

Rulers throughout the Roman Empire were known by different names in different cities and regions. Yet Luke always assigned to them the appropriate Greek term for their locality, such as "praetor" in Philippi (16:22), "politarch" in Thessalonica (17:6), "proconsul" in Corinth (18:12), and "first man of the island" on Melita (28:7). Concerning the proconsul in Corinth, Ramsey even located a reference to Gallio, the man who was named by Luke! He found an inscription that read, "Lucius Junius Gallio, my friend and the proconsul of Achaia."

Geographical references made by Luke were also proven correct by Ramseyís archaeological finds. Iconium had been thought to be a city of the region of Lycaonia. If so, then Lukeís statement that Paul fled from Iconium into Lycaonia would make no sense (Acts 14:1,6). It would be like saying the Paul fled from Detroit and went into Michigan. But, Ramsey found a monument that showed that Iconium was a city of the region of Phrygia, not Lycaonia, and his statement makes perfect sense. Luke described Philippi as "first of the district" (16:12). The word "district" (Gr. "meros") was not considered by scholars to be the correct term to describe the region that Philippi was a part of. But, Ramsey, through his digs, proved it to be correct.

A final example of Lukeís accuracy as found by Ramsey is the theatre in Ephesus that Luke said that the city rushed into (19:28-32). Ramsey not only found the theatre, but also found that it was capable of holding 25,000 people.

Ramsey summed up his years of research as follows, "I may fairly claim to have entered on this investigation without prejudice in favor of the conclusion which I shall now seek to justify to the reader. On the contrary, I began with a mind unfavorable to it Ö Luke is a historian of the first rank Ö this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians."



If the Bible is the Word of God, there must be evidence from within its pages that shows that man was not capable of writing it by himself, but that he had to have Divine aid and guidance. If there is no internal evidence pointing to the Bibleís inspiration, then, despite its claim of inspiration, it is no different than the other books in the library- it is authored by men. But evidence is abundant that men could not have authored the Bible without Godís help, especially in two areas, the unity of the Bible and fulfilled prophecy.


Letís suppose we gathered 40 men from different walks of life and we had each independently write a section of a book that is to have a unified theme. Do you think their material would fit together? Do you think complete agreement would exist between them? Of course not. Yet, this type of unity is exactly what we have in the Bible.

The Bible was begun by Moses in the deserts of Sinai and finished by John on the island of Patmos almost 15 centuries later. In this time, about 40 men of different times, cultures, and occupations wrote 66 different pieces of literature. Many of these men did not know one another or know of the books that had been written or were going to be written. The books were written in several styles (narrative, history, law, prophecy, poetry, and letter). Yet, amazingly, the Bible possesses unity in its teaching as well as its theme.

Unity of Teaching

The Bible contains almost innumerable teachings. Naves Topical Bible does not presume to list all Biblical topics and lists over 20,000. But, one may pick any subject of his choosing and study all the references on it and he will find that all the Bible writers are in complete harmony on that subject. Most subjects are found in a plurality of books, written on by several authors, yet there are no proven contra-dictions (see Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible by John W. Haley, where supposed contradictions are explained). Jesus prayed to the Father, "Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth." (Jn 17:17). Truth is by definition unified, absolute, and contains no contradictions. A careful and honest study of the Bible will show that it meets the definition of truth and, since it was composed by so many over a long time, it could not be merely the word of men, but it must be as it claims, the Word of God.

Unity of Theme

Although composed of 66 books, the Bible is one story, the story of Godís plan to save man. The problem is revealed in Genesis 3, sin. In the rest of the Bible, Godís solution to the problem of sin through the Christ unfolds. This is why Godís revelation is called the "mystery" (Eph 1:9-10). Godís plan was for all men to be in one saved body, the church, which has a special relationship with His Son (Eph 3:10-11). Such a plan is beyond complete human comprehension (Rom 11:33-36), but the Bible reveals what we know about it. On the next page is an outline of the Bibleís theme:

Outline of the theme of the Bible:

  1. Promise of Christ (Gen 3:15; 12:1-3)
  2. Prophecy of Christ (Acts 3:22-26; 1 Pet 1:10-12)
  3. Preparation of Christ (Mk 1:1-8)
  4. Perfection of Plan in Christ (Acts 10:36-43)
  5. Proclamation of Christ (Acts 1:8; Rom 16:25-27)
  6. Perfecting Men in Christ (Col 1:23-29)

Summary of the theme of the Bible:

God promised man that a Savior would come from the seed of woman. He later promised specifically that He would bless all nations through the seed of Abraham. God made of Abraham a great nation, Israel, and gave them Canaan to live in (Genesis-Joshua). God continued to care for them, promising that the Messiah or Christ would come to this world through them. Israelís prophets foretold the various details of this Christ (Judges-Malachi). Finally, John the Baptist came to prepare the way. Then Jesus was born, lived, and carried out his mission as predicted (Matthew-John). The good news of the Christ was then preached throughout the world (Acts). Letters were then written to Christís disciples so that they might grow to spiritual maturity (Romans-Revelation).


In respect to the unity of the Bible, it is obvious that such unity is beyond human capability. One mind was behind that writing of the Bible, and that mind had to be a Divine mind. The only reasonable explanation is that "men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God" (2 Pet 1:21)


In the Bible, a prophet was one who was a spokesman for another (Ex 4:15-16; 7:1-2). Primari-ly, a prophet in the Bible was a spokesman for God. Many times Godís prophets gave predictions of the future that God revealed to them.

No man knows the future. If the Bible can be shown to contain predictive prophecy, then it must be concluded that the Bible was authored by God and not by men. How can we know if those in the Bible who claimed to be prophets of God were His prophets? The Bible itself proposes a simple test. If a prophetís prediction did not come true, then he was not a prophet. If it did, he was (Dt 18:21-22). The Bible contains many predictive prophecies that we can put to the test, especially concerning the Christ. In this lesson, we will cite as evidence of the Bibleís inspiration, the prophecies of Godís judgment against Tyre and Babylon.

Predictions Concerning Tyre

Ezekielís prophecy concerning Tyre was given in the eleventh year of Jehoiachinís captivity (Eze 26:1; cp. 1:2) which would have been 586 B.C. Specific predictions the prophet Ezekiel made concerning the fall of Tyre are as follows:

  1. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, would destroy the city (26:7-11)
  2. Many nations would come up against the city. The debris of the city would be scraped from her and the ruins of the city would be dumped into the waters (26:3-4,12)
  3. The city would be rebuilt no more (26:14,19,21)
  4. Great water would cover the city (26:19)
  5. The city would become a place for the spreading of nets (26:5)

Predictions of Ezekiel fulfilled:

In 573 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Tyre, breaking down the walls, towers, and houses, and making spoil and prey of their goods (according to 26:4,12). However, the majority of the people of Tyre moved by ship to an island Ĺ mile off the coast and fortified a city there.

This is where the "many" nations and the scraping and dumping of the debris comes in. The people of the new city of Tyre were next opposed by Alexander the Great. Since he had no navy, Alexander had no way to conquer Tyre, a sea power. So, he demolished the remains of the old Tyre, scraping the dust from her, making her a bare rock (26:4). He then placed the stones, timbers, and dust in the water to form a causeway, 200 feet wide between the old and new cities (26:12). Completing this involved the help of many nations; Sidon, Aradus, Byblus, Rhodes, Soli, Mallos, Lycia, Macedon, and Cyprus (26:3). These nations were hired by Alexander to protect his workmen with their fleets. Alexander conquered Tyre within seven months of the completion of the causeway.

Until this day, the mainland city of Tyre has never been rebuilt. Those who travel to the site come back with reports of fishermen spreading their nets on the rocks. Writing about the present state of the site, Jidejian says, "Looking down into the water one can see a mass of granite columns and stone blocks strewn over the sea bottom. Until recently, the ruins of Tyre above the water were few."

Predictions Concerning Babylon

Isaiah made his statements about Babylon by 700 B.C. at the latest (cp. Isa 1:1 and the list of the kings he prophecied during) and Jeremiah made his no later than 586 B.C. (cp. Jer 1:3 and the list of the kings he prophecied during). Specific predictions of Isaiah and Jeremiah concerning the fall of Babylon:

  1. The Medes would destroy them (Is 13:17-18; Jer 51:11,28).
  2. The city would be conquered easily, while the Babylonians were drunken, without a fight (Jer 51:30-32, 38-40, 57-58). This is a remarkable prediction considering the fortifications of Babylon. The city had 14 miles of walls on three sides and the Euphrates River on the other. The outer wall of the city was 311 feet high (30 stories) and was 87 feet wide (11 car widths). In addition, there were 250 watchtowers that were 100 feet higher than the walls (cp. Jer 51:33 and Godís attitude about their fortifications!).
  3. The city would be completely destroyed (Isa 13:19-22; Jer 50:3,12,39; 51:61-64)
    1. As when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah
    2. Never to be inhabited
    3. Arab would not pitch his tent there
    4. Shepherds would not make their flocks lie down there
    5. It would be a place for wild beasts

Fulfillment of Isaiah and Jeremiahís Predictions

Babylon was destroyed by Darius the Mede on October 13, 539 B.C.. The Medes diverted the Euphrates River and entered the city in the abandoned riverbed while the Babylonians were celebrating a feast and were drunken (cp. Daniel 5:1, 30-31). The Medes were aided by deserters who drew up the plan of attack.

Alexander the Great thought to restore the great temple of Babylon, but cost prevented him. When the Seleucids gained control of the area, they decided that reconstruction of the city would be as costly as building a new city. So they built Seleucia, 40 miles north of Babylonís ruins. Everyone and everything living in the area of the ruins then left for Seleucia.

By the time of the reign of Augustus Caesar (27 B.C.-A.D. 14), Strabo said, "The great city has become a desert." In A.D. 116, the emperor Trajan described the once glorious Babylon as "mounds and legends of mounds."

Layard describes the site in modern times as "a naked and hideous waste. Owl stark from the scanty thickets and the foul jackal stalks through the furrows. Truly, the glory of kingdoms and the beauty of the Chaldeesí excellency is as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah."

Saddam Hussein was trying to rebuild Babylon, in fact had the project about half completed, when the beginning of the Gulf War of 1991 stopped his efforts.


The more time that passes with the condition of Tyre and Babylon remaining in accordance with Bible prophecy, the stronger the argument becomes that Ezekiel, Isaiah, and Jeremiah, were prophets of God and that the Bible must be the Word of God.



We have established the basis for belief in the inspiration of the Bible. In this lesson, we will learn about how the inspired Scripture was written down for its original readers. We will begin to understand the amazing process of the formation and the preservation of the Scripture; the process that has resulted in our ability to read and understand what "God breathed" long ago.

I. History of Writing

  1. Earliest known writing: Egyptians, 4000-5000 B.C. Hieroglyphic writing appears to have begun just prior to the founding of Dynasty I in 3100 B.C.

  2. A Babylonian inscription of King Sargon I dates from about 3750 B.C.

  3. From about 3500 B.C. we have the cuneiform (small wedge-shaped letters) tablets of the Sumerians. The Sumerian account of the flood dates from about 2100 B.C.

  4. As noted in lesson two, the Ebla tablets, found in northern Syria, date from about 2300 B.C. Since 1974, 17,000 tablets have been unearthed.

  5. Certainly, men wrote long before Moses. The skeptics who laughed at the idea have been more than silenced; they have been embarrassed.

II. Writing Materials

  1. Stone: earliest writing material almost everywhere. Cp. 10 commandments; Ex 31:18; 34:1,28. A stone copy of the law of Moses was made after Israel entered the promised land, as God had commanded through Moses (Dt 27:1-8; Josh 8:30-35)

  2. Clay: This was used in Sumer as early as 3500 B.C. Huge libraries of clay tablets have been discovered in Assyria and Babylon. Writing would be done while the clay was still damp and soft. Then it would be dried in the sun or baked in a kiln to make a permanent record. See Eze 4:1 where Ezekiel made a map of Jerusalem on clay. Broken pieces of pottery, known as ostraca, were also written on in ancient times, a kind of "recycling".

  3. Wood: Wooden tablets were quite generally used in ancient times. They were very common in Greece. At Athens in the fourth century B.C., the tablets were whitewashed so they could be written on easier and were used for official notices. Sometimes wooden boards were coated with a wax writing surface. It is thought that the "tablets" mentioned in Isa 8:1, 30:8; Hab 2:2, and Lk 1:63 were wooden.

  4. Leather: Animal skins played an important role in the writing of the Bible. The Jewish Talmud, the book of Jewish tradition, required that the Scriptures be copied on animal skins, indicating that this was an ancient practice. The use of leather as a writing surface may be implied in King Jehoiakimís use of a penknife to cut Jeremiahís manuscript (Jer 36:23).

  5. Papyrus: This writing material was made from the papyrus plant that once grew in abundance along the Nile River in Egypt. Its use dates back to 3500 B.C. Its rolls were the "books" or the ancient world until 1st or 2nd century A.D. when the scrolls began to be replaced by the "codex" or the book as we know it today. The average papyrus scroll was 30 ft. long and 8 to 9 in. wide. Writing was usually done only on one side. Often the scroll was put on a wooden roller so that it could be rolled and unrolled easier. To identify the scroll, a piece of papyrus with the name of the writing was placed on the outside of the scroll. The scroll was placed in a wooden case to protect it. It is believed that the N.T. was penned on papyrus. Two of Johnís letters were for sure (see 2 Jn 12; 3 Jn 13).

  6. Vellum or Parchments: King Eumenes (197-158 B.C.) improved the process of treating animal skins to make them ready for writing. Vellum was made from the skins of calves and antelopes, while parchment was the skin of sheep and goats. Paul especially wanted Timothy to bring him the parchments (2 Tim 4:13). In the making of vellum and parchments, the hide is not tanned, as with leather. Also, leather was prepared for writing on one side only (as papyrus), while vellum and parchments were prepared on both sides. Vellum and parchments were used for more than 1,000 years in copying the N.T. These skins were much more durable than papyrus, which eventually came into short supply. Beginning in the 4th century A.D., the majority of the copies of N.T. were made on vellum. The two most valuable N.T. manuscripts in existence today are found on high quality vellum.

  7. Paper: The Chinese invented paper in the 2nd century B.C., but the rest of the world did not learn about paper until much later. In the 8th century A.D., some Arabs captured some Chinese prisoners who were skilled in making paper. Gradually, this knowledge spread and by the 13th century A.D. most of Europe was using paper. While paper was not available to the writers of the Bible, a considerable amount of surviving Biblical manuscripts, especially those from the East, are paper.

III. Languages of the Bible

  1. Hebrew: Almost all of the O.T. was written in Hebrew. Hebrew is written right to left. There are no vowels. The sounds are different than English and the vocabulary is totally unrelated to English. Psalms 119 is sectioned off by the Hebrew alphabet with the first word of each section beginning with the title letter.

  2. Aramaic: This is a kindred language to Hebrew. The Jews picked it up in Babylon while in captivity. Apparently, after the captivity, the Jews needed a translation from Hebrew to Aramaic so that they could understand Godís Word (Neh 8:8). Aramaic is used in Daniel 2:4b-7:28 and Ezra 4:8-6:18 and 7:12-16. Aramaic was the language of Jesus and His disciples- Mk 5:41; 7:34; 14:36 (cp. Rom 8:15, Gal 4:6); Mt 27:46; 1 Cor 16:22 "maranatha".

  3. Greek: "Koine" ("common") Greek was the language of the N.T. This was the universal language of the world when the N.T. was written. Thayerís lexicon has a long listing of "Biblical Greek" words in the appendix to his lexicon. It was thought in his time that there was a "Holy Ghost" Greek, that many words used by N.T. writers, were not used by men outside of the Scriptures. This was because the Greek of the N.T. was being compared to the literary writings of the same period. However, the discovery of many non-literary writings, beginning in the 1890ís, has proven that the language of the N.T. was the colloquial (informal) language of daily life in the 1st century A.D.



How did the Old Testament books that God inspired get into the hands of each generation of Israelites? Since God revealed his message to Israel through His prophets in many portions and many ways (Heb 1:1), how did the Old Testament come together? Let us look to the Old Testament itself for some answers.

I. Law of Moses

  1. Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord (Ex 24:3-4).

  2. Provision for priests to read the law to all Israel every seven years (Dt 31:9-13).

  3. Responsibility placed on Israelís parents to keep the Law ever in front of their children (Dt 6:4-9).

  4. Joshua made a copy (Josh 8:32).

  5. Scribes such as Ezra made copies (Ezra 7:6, 11, 12, 21).

II. Prophets and Writings

  1. As the writer of 2 Samuel wrote of the life of David, he inserted Psalms 18, an indication that Davidís Psalms were being circulated and collected (2 Sam 22:1).

  2. The author of 1 Chronicles tells us that when David first assigned Asaph and his relatives the responsibility of giving thanks to the Lord, they sang a medley of praise (1 Chron 16:7-36). They sang Psalms 105 (vs. 1-15), Psalms 96, and Psalms 106 (vs 1, 47,48). It is obvious that, since the Psalms were being used in worship, they were being circulated and collected.

  3. 2 Chronicles refers to the book of Psalms (29:30); Isaiah (32:32); Lamentations (35:25), and Kings (20:34; 35:26-27).

  4. Copies of the Proverbs were made by men of Hezekiah (Prov 25:1).

  5. The elders in Jeremiahís day quote Micah (Jer 26:16-20).

  6. God used Job as an illustration of a righteous man to Israel in the time of Ezekiel (Eze 14:14,20).

  7. Daniel finds the answer to the length of the Babylonian captivity in the "books", obviously a collection of Scripture that included Jeremiah (Dan 9:1-2; Jer 25:11,12).


It is clear from the Old Testament itself that, as God spoke in many portions and in many ways, the writings of his spokesmen were circulated throughout the nation and were added to the Law of Moses, Godís original revelation to Israel, being received as "God breathed" Scripture.



As the Old Testament books were being written, circulated and collected, the Israelites who lived at the time of their writing received them as inspired. Those who lived at a later time also put these books to the test to make sure that they indeed could be considered "God-breathed" and were not the mere words of men. Other books that were written while the Old Testament was being written were also put to the test, but failed to pass the test. The study of these things will answer these questions for us, "Just how did the 39 books of the Old Testament come to be received as inspired? How do we know that they should have been received? How do we know that other books were rightly rejected and not included in the Old Testament?"

I. Important Terms in Understanding How Books Came to Be Accepted as Inspired

  1. Canon- from the Greek word "kanon" meaning a rod, ruler, staff or measuring rod; Used as a figure of speech to mean a standard or norm (see Gal 6:16, "rule"). Athenasius (A.D. 296-373) was the first to use this term for the books of the Bible that were officially accepted as inspired.

  2. Homologomena- literally "one word" or agreement. Books that are referred to by this term have been accepted as inspired by virtually everyone.

  3. Antilogomena- literally "spoken against". Books that are referred to by this term have had their inspiration disputed at some time by some people.

  4. Pseudopigrapha- literally "false writings". These books were written under pen names of Biblical characters. These books were considered to be uninspired by virtually everyone.

  5. Apocrypha- literally "hidden or secret". It is not certain how this term came into use to describe books that were written. Some say the word meaning "hidden or secret" was applied to them because they were books for the spiritually enlightened to understand. Others believe the word meaning "hidden or secret" was applied to them because they are books in which it is hard to find inspiration. Most of the Old Testament Apocrypha are accepted by the Catholic Church, while all of the New Testament Apocrypha are rejected by all.

II. Five Tests of Canonicity (Tests applied by those seeking to recognize the inspiration of a book)

  1. Authoritative? Does the book speak with the authority of God, using expressions such as "Thus saith the Lord" or "It is written"?

  2. Prophetic? Was the book written by one who was recognized as a prophet?

  3. Authentic? Does the book tell the truth when compared to books already received as inspired? Is it consistent or are there contradictions?

  4. Dynamic? Does the book come with the life-changing power of God? Was it written to make a spiritual impact on its readers?

  5. Reception? Has the book been received as inspired by the first readers? By later readers?

III. The Old Testament is an Arranged Collection of Books: English Bible vs. Hebrew Bible

When we understand the Hebrew arrangement of the Old Testament books, we will be able to see (as we study the next lesson) that statements made by Jesus and other men argue that the books of the Old Testament have been rightly received as inspired.



The Law (Pentateuch) - 5 books

Poetry - 5 books

            1. Genesis

               1. Job

            2. Exodus

               2. Psalms

            3. Leviticus

               3. Proverbs

            4. Numbers

               4. Ecclesiastes

            5. Deuteronomy

               5. Song of Solomon

History - 12 books

Prophets - 17 books

        1. Joshua

      A. Major                     B. Minor

        2. Judges

          1. Isaiah                     1. Hosea

        3. Ruth

          2. Jeremiah                2. Joel

        4. 1 Samuel

          3. Lamentations         3. Amos

        5. 11 Samuel

          4. Ezekiel                   4. Obadiah

        6. 1 Kings

          5. Daniel                     5. Jonah

        7. 11 Kings

                                            6. Micah

        8. 1 Chronicles

                                            7. Nahum

        9. 11 Chronicles

                                            8. Habakkuk

       10. Ezra

                                            9. Zephaniah

       11. Nehemiah

                                           10. Haggai

       12. Esther

                                           11. Zechariah


                                           12. Malachi





The LAW (Torah)

The Prophets (Nebhiim)

The Writings (Kethubhim)

     1. Gensis  A. Former Prophets:   A. Poetical Books:
     2. Exodus    1. Joshua      1. Psalms
     3. Leviticus    2. Judges      2. Proverbs
     4. Numbers    3. Samuel      3. Job
     5. Deuteronomy    4. Kings   B. Five Rolls
   B. Latter Prophets:      1. Song of Songs:
     1. Isaiah      2. Ruth
     2. Jeremiah      3. Lamentations
     3. Ezekiel      4. Esther
     4. The Twelve      5. Ecclesiastes
      C. Historical Books:
         1. Daniel
         2. Ezra-Nehemiah
         3. Chronicles




Having understood from the last lesson 1) the meaning of "canon", 2) the criteria by which books have been accepted into the canon, and 3) the divisions of the Hebrew Bible, we are prepared to discuss the historical evidence that the Old Testament books that have been received as inspired truly should be accepted as such. Also, in this lesson we will examine the reason why five of the Old Testament books came into question by some for a time.

I. Historical Support for our Present Old Testament Canon

  1. Jesus (A.D. 30)- When Jesus spoke, He made both a twofold ("Moses and the prophets") and a threefold division of The Old Testament ("the Law of Moses, and the Prophets, and the Psalms") (Luke 24:27,44). Jesusí threefold division of the Old Testament shows that the canon He recognized is the same as the Hebrew Bible of today. Also, Jesusí statement about God avenging all the righteous blood shed on the earth when He destroyed Jerusalem reflects that the Old Testament He recognized began with Genesis and ended with 2 Chronicles, as the Hebrew Bible of today.

  2. Philo (A.D. 40)- referred to "the Law, Prophets, and hymns and others which foster perfect know- ledge and piety."

  3. Josephus (A.D. 37-95)- "We have not ten thousands of books, discordant and conflicting, but only twenty-two containing the record of all time, which have been justly believed to be divineÖfrom Artaxerxes (the successor of Xerxes) until our time everything has been recorded, but has not been deemed worthy of like credit because the exact succession of the prophets ceased. But what faith we have placed in our own writings is evident by our conduct; for though so long a time has now passed, no one has dared to add anything to them, or to take anything from them, or to alter anything in them." -- Against Apion, I. 8

  4. Council of Jamnia (A.D. 90)- This Jewish council formally recognized the Hebrew canon, the 39 books of the Old Testament, as we number them.

II. The Antilegomena of the Old Testament (Five Books Questioned by Some for a Time)

  1. Song of Solomon- This book was thought to be too sensual. The physical attraction of the human body is put in "bold" terms (4:1-8, 5:9-16, 7:1-13). On this E.J. Young rightly wrote, "God has placed this Song in the canon in order to teach us the purity and the sanctity of the estate of marriage which He Himself established."- An Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 355.

  2. Ecclesiastes- This book was said to relate too pessimistic of an outlook on life. Some called it the "Song of Skepticism". Critic of the book missed the point of the book as seen in its conclusion (12:13-14). Some also charged the book to contain the Epicurean "eat, drink, and be merry, because tomorrow we die" philosophy of life, but these critics took passages about how God intended life to be enjoyed out of the context of the book. Such pleasures are seen to be vain (2:1- 2) and life should not be about them, but about fearing and obeying God, in preparation for judgment (12:13-14).

  3. Esther- The name of God is not in the book, so some doubts arose about its inspiration. However Godís Providence can be seen in the book (4:14) and the book reveals a significant event in the accomplishment of the eternal purpose of God. The book of Esther relates how the Jews were saved from extinction, preserving the promise of God to Abraham that through his seed all nations would be blessed (Gen 12:1-3).

  4. Ezekiel- The Jewish school of Shammai thought that Ezekiel contradicted the Law of Moses. No specific example they cited has stood the test of investigation. Their interpretation of these books, rather than the books themselves, caused them to think there were contradictions and therefore to reject Ezekiel, as they had already received the Law of Moses as inspired.

  5. Proverbs- This book is said to contradict itself. The Talmud (Jewish book of tradition) says, "The book of Proverbs also they sought to hide because its words contradicted one to another" (See 26:4-5, an example of an alleged contradiction).

III. Conclusion

The fact that the books that are included in the Old Testament were challenged as to their inspiration and not received as "God-breathed" on a whim, a coin flip, or a vote strengthens our faith that the books we hold as part of the "Holy Bible" truly are "holy". Jesusí testimony surely shows us what He considered as the beginning and the end of the Old Testament canon and sets forth clearly the divisions of the Old Testament that are maintained by the Jews until this day. Sources outside the Scriptures also confirm that what we pick up our Old Testament we hold in our hand what has been properly received as the Word of God.

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