How we got the Bible>
How we got the Bible
by Alan Jones
LESSON NINE: THE OLD TESTAMENT
APOCRYPHA, PART ONE
In this lesson, we will learn what the books of the O.T.
Apocrypha are, where those that have been accepted are found in the Catholic Old
Testament, and why it is argued that the accepted books should be part of the
Old Testament canon of Scripture.
- What books are in the Apocrypha and where are they placed in the Catholic
OLD TESTAMENT APOCRYPHA
Type of Book
Revised Standard Version
Where in O.T.
|| 1. The Wisdom of
Solomon (c. 30 B.C).
|| Book of Wisdom
||After Song of Solomon
|| 2. Ecclesiasticus (Sirach)
||After Song of Solomon
|| 3. Tobit (c. 200 B.
|| Before Esther
|| 4. Judith (c. 150
|| Before Esther
|| 5. I Esdras (c.
|| III Esdras*
|| 6. I Maccabees (c.
|| I Machabees
|| After Esther
|| 7. II Maccabees (c.
|| II Machabees
|| After Esther
|| 8. Baruch (c. 150-50
|| Baruch chptrs 1-5
|| 9. Letter of
Jeremiah (c. 300-100 B.C.)
|| Baruch chapter 6
|| After Lamentations
|| 10. II Esdras (c. A.D.
|| IV Esdras*
|| 11. Additions to Esther
|| Esther 10:4-16:24
|| End of Esther
|| Throughout Esther
|| (Jerusalem Bible)
|| 12. Prayer of Azariah (2nd
|| Daniel 3:24-90
|| Daniel Chapter 3
century B.C.) (Song of Three Young
|| (Some added to end
|| of book)
|| 13. Susanna (2nd or 1st
|| Daniel 13
|| Daniel Chapter 3
|| 14. Bel and the Dragon (c.
|| Daniel 14
|| Daniel Chapter 3
|| 15. Prayer of Manasseh
(2nd or 1st
|| Prayer of Manasseh*
*Books not accepted as canonical at the Council of Trent,
II. Arguments in
favor of accepting the O.T. Apocrypha with a response:
The N.T. quotes mostly from the
Greek O.T. (Septuagint or LXX) that contains the Apocrypha.
is significant to note that copies of the O.T. in Hebrew (which have been
do not contain the Apocrypha. The collection of books made by the nation
who first received
the books from God would be more significant than a collection of books made
by others. And, it has not been proven that the LXX of the first century (when
the N.T. was written) included the Apocrypha because the earliest extant
(surviving) manuscripts that include
the Apocrypha date
from the fourth century A.D. The LXX collection of books that contains the
Apocrypha has been
called the Alexandrian Canon for it was in Alexandria, Egypt that the LXX was
Some Apocryphal books written in
Hebrew have been found among other O.T. canonical books in the Dead Sea
The discoveries at Qumran included not only the Bibles of the Essene
community, but fragments of hundreds of books that they had in their library,
It cannot be assumed that because a book was in their library they considered
in canonical. No commentaries on non-canonical books have been found, tending
to support the contention that the Apocryphal books were not viewed as
The N.T. alludes to the Apocrypha (e.g. Heb 11:35; cp. 2 Maccabees chapters 7
allusion or even a quotation made by a N.T. writer does not prove that the
source the N.T. writer referred to was considered inspired by the writer or
should be considered inspired by the first or later readers. Jude quotes a
pseudopigraphal book (Jude 14-15; cp. Enoch 1:9), while Paul quotes pagan
poets and prophets (Acts 17:28-29; Tit 1:12-13).
The three great Greek
manuscripts that are most significant in the study of the N.T. text, (Sinaiaticus,
Alexandrinus and Vaticanus) that date from the fourth and fifth centuries A.D.
include the Apocrypha among the O.T. books.
The fact that the Apocryphal books were a part of the Greek manuscripts of the
fourth century A.D. does not prove that they were a part of the canon in the
first century A.D.
Many of the church "fathers"
accepted all of the books of the Apocrypha as canonical including Irenaeus,
Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria. Some of these men quoted the Apocrypha
in public worship and used it like Scripture.
early council of the church accepted them and many of the church "fathers"
vehemently opposed the receiving of these books including Athanasius, Cyril of
Jerusalem, Origen, and Jerome.
Catacomb scenes depict stories
from the Apocrypha.
Scenes from the catacombs do not prove anything about whether or not these
early Christians received these books as inspired, but they only prove the
existence of the books.
The Syrian church accepted the
Apocrypha in the fourth century A.D.
The church in Syria did not accept these books until the fourth century A.D.
The second century A.D. Syrian Bible did not contain the Apocrypha.
Augustine and the councils he presided over at Hippo (A.D. 393, 397) accepted
Response: These were small
local councils and their voices are the only significant ones from ancient
times that recognize the Apocrypha as part of the O.T. canon. Other writings
of Augustine show that he gave a "secondary canonicity" for the Apocrypha and
a "primary canonicity" for the books included in the Hebrew Canon. He also
accepted I Esdras, but rejected Baruch.
The Roman Catholic Church proclaimed them canonical at the Council of Trent
Response: The Council of
Trent was the first official proclamation on the Apocrypha made by the Roman
Catholic Church and did not come until 1500 years after the books were
written. The timing of the addition of books is highly suspicious. The added
books support "salvation by works", "buying atonement", and "prayers for the
dead", hot topics of debate between the Catholic Church and Protestant
Reformers. They had been quoted against Luther in debate a few years before
the Council of Trent accepted them. II Esdras was not accepted by the
Council. This book emphatically denies the value of prayer for the dead.
Mysteriously the section of II Esdras that teaches this (7:36-105) disappeared
It was written by an unknown Jewish author in Aramaic about A.D. 100. It was
circulated in the Old Latin versions of the Bible around A.D. 200. It is found
in the Latin Vulgate in A.D. 400, but it was not found in another Latin
manuscript until one was found in 1874. It is thought that it was deliberately
cut out of Latin manuscripts because of its teaching. After the Latin Vulgate,
it did not appear in "Western" Bibles again until a Protestant, Johann Haug,
in his work of Translation from surviving Aramaic texts, (1726-42), put it in
his Apocrypha. It is interesting to note that not long before 1546,
Catholic scholars mad a distinction between the Apocrypha and the O.T. canon.
Cardinal Ximenes did so in his Complutensian Polyglot (1514-17).
Cardinal Cajetan, rival of Luther, did not comment on the Apocrypha in his
Commentary on all the Authentic Historical Books of the Old Testament
The Greek Orthodox Church accepts them.
The Greek Orthodox Church has not always accepted the Apocrypha and their
position has been
by no means clear. Not until the Synod of Constantinople (1638) were these
books considered canonical. And, even as late as 1839, their "Larger
Catechism" omitted the Apocrypha because "they do not exist in Hebrew".
The Apocryphal books continued in Protestant Bibles as late as the 1800ís.
Apocryphal books appeared in Protestant Bibles even prior to the Council of
Trent, but were generally placed in a separate section, as long as they were
included in the Bible, since they were not considered to be of equal
authority. Luther spoke against the Apocrypha in his Bible published in 1543
by placing it in the back.
LESSON TEN: THE OLD TESTAMENT APOCRYPHA,
In the last lesson, various justifications for including the
Apocrypha in the Old Testament were presented. None of these compel us to
receive the Apocrypha as inspired. This lesson will show that there is every
reason not to include the Apocrypha in the Old Testament, as it does not pass
the five tests of canonicity.
I. Claim of Inspiration?
In the books of the Apocrypha, we find no claim of inspiration and no,
"Thus saith the Lord."
The preface to Ecclesiasticus or the Wisdom of Sirach reads, "It is the
duty of those who study the Scriptures not only to become expert themselves,
but also to use their scholarship for the benefit of the outside world through
both the spoken and the written word, So my grandfather Jesus (ben-Sirach- AJ),
who had applied himself industriously to the study of the law, the prophets,
and the writings of our ancestors, and had gained a considerable proficiency
in them, was moved to compile a book of his own on the themes of discipline
and wisdom, so that, with this further help, scholars might make greater
progress in their studies by living as the law directs." This book is
admittedly just the fruit of a manís study of Scripture! How could anyone say
that it should be considered inspired- that it should be classed as Scripture,
along with the Scriptures the man had studied?
II. Written by a Prophet?
According to the Jews, the succession of the prophets ceased after the
time of Artaxerxes, the Persian king who ruled from 465-424 B.C. Recall the
quotation from Josephus cited in lesson eight, "from Atraxerxes (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)
The books of the Apocrypha were written from around 200 B.C. to A.D. 100,
well after Josephus said that the Jews recognized an end to Godís prophets.
The Jews did not and have not recognized those who wrote the Apocrypha as
Judith- "Nebuchadnezzar, who reigned over the Assyrians from his capital,
Tobit- He say that he was a young man when the Kingdom of Israel divided
(931 B.C.) and went into captivity with his people at Nineveh in Assyria (722
B.C.) (1:3-6). He would have lived over 200 years, yet the book says that he
died peacefully at the age of 112! (13:14) Also the book teaches that alms
wipe out all sins (12:8-10).
Baruch- Plea for God to hear the prayers of Israelís dead (3:4)
2 Maccabees- prayer on behalf the dead that they might be forgiven; buying
atonement (12:39-45); intercession of the dead on behalf of the living
Ecclesiasticus- helping parents, almsgiving atones for sins (3:14-15, 30),
manís wickedness better than a womanís goodness (42:14)
IV. Dynamic? Spiritually Life Changing?
Much is legendary
1. Tobit- "fish story"; heart and liver of fish
chase away demon; gall of the fish cures man of blindness ch 6, 11
2. Prayer of Azariah- "fiery furnace" embellished;
flames poured out above it to a height of 75 feet; The angel of the Lord
"scattered the flames out of the furnace and made the heat of it as if a moist
wind (another translation is "a dew-laden breeze"- AJ) were whistling through.
The fire did not touch them at all and neither hurt nor distressed them" (vs.
25-27 of Prayer; Dan 3:47-50 in Catholic Bible)
2. Bel and the Dragon- Daniel exposed idolaters by
putting ashes on the floor of the temple, killed a dragon with a "hairball".
Contains the trivial
1. Tobit- "The boy and the angel left the house
together, and the dog came out with him and accompanied themÖ The dog went
with the angel and Tobias, following at their heels." (6:1, 11:4)
2. Ecclesiasticus- "table manners" (31:12-21)
V. Received by the first readers? Later readers?
First readers- the Jews who lived when the books of the Apocrypha were
written did not receive them as inspired.
Later readers- See lesson nine for a complete discussion. The Jews have
never received the Apocrypha into their canon of Scripture. The Apocrypha have
tagged along with the O.T. canon since their translation into Greek in
Alexandria, Egypt and appeared in English translations of the Bible until
1827. From the time of their translation into Greek, their status has been
debated, with the majority of "Christians" classifying them as distinct from
the O.T. canon, though some argued for their acceptance into the canon.
Official inclusion of the Apocrypha into any O.T. canon in any widespread
fashion did not come until 1546 by the Catholic Church and 1638 by the Greek
Orthodox Church. The Catholic Church needed to have the Apocrypha included in
the Scriptures to defend themselves against the Protestants, casting serious
doubt on their decision to receive them. The Greek Orthodox Church has wavered
in their position, very appropriately pointing out in their 1839 "Larger
Catechism" that they do not exist in the Hebrew canon. Surely the first
readers are in a better position to determine the inspiration of a book than
those living hundreds of years later!
The books of the Apocrypha do not pass the tests of
canonicity. Many of the books fail all five tests. All fail at least three
tests, 1) claim of inspiration, 2) authorship by a prophet, and 3) reception by
the first readers. Jesus recognized "the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings" as
the extent of the O.T. Scriptures. The modern Jews still recognize the same
divisions of the O.T. and the same books as Jesus. We are right to do the same.
LESSON ELEVEN: EVIDENCE FOR THE OLD
We have established a strong basis of confidence in the
formation of the Old Testament. The thirty-nine books we have received into our
Bibles have been properly received as those inspired by God. Our concern now is
for the preservation of the Old Testament. Are the words which we now read the
words which God spoke to Moses and the prophets? Men wrote down what the Holy
Spirit moved them to write (2 Pet 1:21). But, none of their writings have
survived. We must rely on copies of the original manuscripts. How confident can
we be in their accuracy? Did the O.T. Scriptures begin as the Word of God, but
become merely the word of men through the corruption of the text? Or can we
believe that, through faithful copying, we may still read the Word of God?
I. The Basis of
our Old Testament Text
Until recent times, just four major
manuscripts provided the basis of the Hebrew text:
1. Cairo Codex
(A.D. 895)- contains the former and latter prophets.
2. Leningrad Codex
of the Prophets (A.D. 916)- also contains the prophets.
3. British Museum
Codex (A.D. 900-1100)- contains the Pentateuch.
4. Leningrad Codex
(A.D. 1008)- contains the entire Old Testament.
5. The latest
edition of the Hebrew Bible (Kittelís Biblia Hebraica) is based on the
above manuscripts, particularly on the complete Leningrad Codex.
Why have such few manuscripts of
the Old Testament survived?
1. Animal skins are
2. War- Jerusalem
was conquered 47 times from 1800 B.C. to A.D. 1948.
burial of worn out manuscripts.
destroyed manuscripts with variants when they made standardized texts.
II. Since hundreds
of years passed between the writing of the Old Testament and the earliest extant
(surviving) manuscripts, and we have so few manuscripts, how can we be sure of
the O.T. text?
Scribal Techniques of the
Massoretes (A.D. 500-1000)
1. The work of the
Massoretes produced the surviving Hebrew manuscripts. These scribesreceived
their name because they acknowledged their dependence on the Massorah,
the authoritative traditions concerning the text.
2. The Massoretes developed
practices to assure the accuracy of their work. They numbered the words,
letters and verses of each book. They counted the number of times each letter
was used in each book. They calculated the middle verse, middle word, and
middle letter of each book. They found that the middle verse of the Pentateuch
is Lev 8:7, while the middle verse of the whole O.T. (as they arranged it) was
Jeremiah 6:7). The scribes checked all these things to assure that their
manuscript was accurately copied.
Copying Rules of the Talmudic Period (300 B.C.- A.D. 500)
1) A synagogue roll
must be written on the skin of clean animals
2) Prepared for its
use by a Jew
3) These rolls must
be fastened together with strings taken from clean animals
4) Every skin must
contain a certain number of columns, equal throughout the codex
5) The length of
each column must be between 48 and 60 lines; the breadth 30 letters
6) The whole copy
must first be lined; if 3 words are written without a line, it is worthless
7) The ink should
be black, prepared according to a certain recipe
8) An authentic
copy must be used to copy from; the transcriber must not deviate from it
9) No word or
letter, not even a yod must be written from memory
10) Between every
consonant must be the space of a hair or a thread
11) Between every
section must be the breadth of 9 consonants
12) Between every
book must be 3 lines
13) The fifth book
of Moses must terminate exactly with a line; the rest need not do so.
14) The copyist
must sit in full Jewish dress,
15) Wash his whole
16) Not begin to
write the name of God with a pen newly dipped in ink
17) And should a
king address him while writing Godís name, he must not take notice.
Supporting Evidence for the Accuracy of the Massoretic Text of the Old Testament
Samaritan Pentateuch- Hebrew
text from about 400 B.C. when the Samaritans separated themselves from the
Jews and built their place of worship on Mt. Gerizim (cp. Jn 4:20-22). When
compared to the Massoretic text, most variants have to do with spelling and
grammatical differences that do not affect the message of the text, while a
few variants exist because the Samaritans changed the text to correspond to
their beliefs. Over all though, there are few major variations and the
Samaritan Pentateuch serves as a witness to the accuracy of the Massoretic
The Septuagint- The
translation of the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek from 250-150 B.C. This was
the text most often quoted by Jesus and the inspired writers of the N.T. and
was the "Bible" of the early church. This gives us confidence in the
translation. And the Greek translation gives us confidence in the Massoretic
Hebrew text .
Aramaic Targums- Paraphrases
of the Hebrew Scripture in Aramaic which became the language of the Jews
following Babylonian captivity. By the 5th century A.D., two
official Targums had appeared, one of the Law and another of the Prophets.
These are know for being very literal in their translation and so serve as
valuable evidence of the accuracy of the Massoretic text.
Syriac Peshitta- Syrian
translation made as early as the 1st century A.D. Early
compare very well
with the Massoretic text, while later translations were influenced by the
Latin Vulgate- The Old Latin
translation of the O.T. dates back to A.D. 150 and was made from the
Septuagint. But from A.D. 390-405, Jerome translated the Latin Vulgate
directly from the Hebrew and throws much light on the Hebrew text of his day.
We can therefore compare his Latin translation with the Massoretic text.
Other evidence: O.T.
quotations in the Talmud (the Jewish book of traditions A.D. 200-500) and
ancient versions such as Coptic (Egyptian), Ethiopic, Armenian, and Arabic.
LESSON TWELVE: THE OLD TESTAMENT TEXT
AND THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS
Before 1947, the oldest extant (surviving) Hebrew manuscript
of the Old Testament dated from A.D. 895 and the oldest complete Hebrew
manuscript dated from A.D. 1008. Well over 2000 years had passed from Mosesí
writing until the copies made by the Massoretes that survived. We had reason to
believe in the accuracy of the text of the Massoretes. They were so meticulous
in their copying. So were the scribes of the Talmudic period before them. And
other versions, especially the Septuagint, point toward the text of the
Massoretes being true. But so much time had passed. Were their
manuscripts correct? More evidence would be helpful. And more evidence was
In 1947, an Arab shepherd boy, Muhammad adh-Dhib, while
pursuing a lost goat, 71/2 miles south of Jericho and a mile west of the Dead
Sea, found some jars (cp. Jer 32:14) in a cave containing several leather
scrolls. Little did he know that his finding would lead archaeologists to the
thrilling discovery that were 1000 years older than those copied by the
Massoretes! These scrolls would be able to confirm the Old Testament text in a
way never dreamed possible.
I. The Find
- From March, 1947 until February, 1956, 11 caves were discovered and
excavated near Qumran. A community of a sect of the Jews lived there, awaiting
- Thousands of fragments that once made up a 400 book library were found.
Most importantly, the library contained manuscripts of every O.T. book except
Esther (which was quoted in another book, the Zadokite Work). One of the most
significant finds was a complete copy of Isaiah.
- Commentaries were found on Gen 49, Psa 37, 45, 57, 68; Isaiah, Hosea,
Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah. No commentary was found on a book
besides those in the O.T. canon.
II. The Dating of the Manuscripts
- Carbon 14- applied to a one ounce piece of linen wrappings from one of the
scrolls by Dr. W.F. Libby of the University of Chicago in 1950. The age was
placed at 1917 years (+/- 10%), dating the manuscripts between 168 B.C. and
- Paleography (study of writing forms) and Orthography (spelling) was
applied to the scrolls and the majority of the scrolls dated from the period
of Nash Papyrus (200 B.C. to A.D. 200); some before 100 B.C. (Self-dated
manuscripts from the time of the Second Jewish Revolt, A.D. 132-135, were
found to be paleographically newer than the Dead Sea scrolls). A fragment of
Leviticus possibly dates from the 5th century B.C. and is identical
with the Massoretic text!
- Archaeology- the pottery found in the caves is late Hellenistic (150 B.C.-
63 B.C.) and Early Roman (63 B.C. to A.D. 100). Coin inscriptions range from
135 B.C. to A.D. 135.
- By all methods of determination, without doubt, the Dead Sea scrolls are
about 1000 years older than the manuscripts of the Massoretes!
III. The Essenes
- Not mentioned in O.T. or N.T.; primary sources of information about them
are Philo, Josephus, and Pliny.
- While explaining his religion to the Greeks, Josephus spoke of three
"philosophies", the Pharisees, Sadducees, and the Essenes.
- "Essene" was a term used to describe communities of Jews who probably
developed as a branch of the Pharisees and existed up to and including the
time of Jesus and the apostles.
- The separated themselves from the rest of the Jews, regarding themselves
as the only true (i.e. pure) Israelites and they refused to participate in
what they believed to be the corrupt religious observances of their day.
- Their number was about 4000 according to Philo.
- Some of their beliefs and characteristics:
1. Simplicity of
life- spent much time in study and worship.
manual labor demanded of all.
3. Practiced a
"community of goods" instead of individual ownership.
4. Some renounced
5. They practiced
6. They repudiated
slavery and war.
7. They did not
take part in Temple worship.
8. They did not
sacrifice animals, regarding a reverent mind as the only sacrifice.
9. They practiced
ceremonial cleansing. The the 5th hour, they would assemble,
clothed in white veils, and they would bathe in cold water; but they
emphasized that the inner man must change to be forgiven.
10. They believed
in immortality, but denied a bodily resurrection.
11. They stressed
the virtue of hospitality.
The Essenes viewed the study of
Scripture as VERY IMPORTANT.
1. "And whatever
place there be ten men there shall not cease to be a man who studies the law
day and night, constantly, concerning the duties of one toward another. And
let Ďthe manyí awake together a third of all nights of the year in order to
read the Book, to study the law, and to worship together" (Manual of
2. Assemblies of
"the many" had to be given due reverence. If an individual went to sleep
during the session, he was punished 30 days (Manual of Discipline 7:10)
3. "The man who
departs from a session of the many without permission and without good reason,
up to three times during one session, shall be punished ten days" (Manual of
4. Purpose of
study: To guide in conduct "until the coming of the prophet and the Messiahs
of Aaron and Israel" (Manual of Discipline 9:11)
IV. Comparison of
the Dead Sea Scrolls with the Massoretic Text
Similarity- "The two copies of Isaiah discovered in Quamran Cave I proved to
be word for word
identical with out
standard Hebrew Bible in more than 95% of the text. The 5% of variation
consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations in spelling"- A
Survey of O.T. Introduction, p. 25.
Differences- Some of the readings in the Dead Sea Scrolls that differ from
the Massoretic text
are the same as the
Septuagint, lending support to the Greek Translation. In a similar way,
readings from the
Dead Sea Scrolls, when they differ from the Massoretic text, give support to
General faithfulness of the Massoretic text
1. In Isaiah 53, a
chapter with 166 words, 17 letters were different. Ten of the letters were a
matter of spelling, four were style changes, and the remaining three composed
the word "light" which is added in vs. 11 and does not greatly affect the
meaning. "Light" is also supported by the Septuagint. This is typical of the
amount and the significance of the
2. The first
translation to make use of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Revised Standard Version,
1952) adopted 13 readings from them in Isaiah. Eight of these were already
known from ancient versions and all were of little consequence.
we can say that our Old Testaments are reliable. The Dead Sea Scrolls allow us
to examine the copying of the Scriptures over a 1000 year period. Indeed, they
were copied with great care! The Dead Sea Scrolls, when combined with the
evidence known prior to their discovery, provide overwhelming evidence that the
Word of God has not been corrupted by men, but has been faithfully preserved for
LESSON THIRTEEN: THE CIRCULATION AND
COLLECTION OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
The Old Testament was written to one nation in one
geographical spot in the world. Therefore, as men were moved by the Holy Spirit
to write (2 Pet 1:20-21), their books were easily and quickly circulated among
the Jews and added to the collection of "Scripture". However, the New Testament
was written to many different individuals and congregations throughout the Roman
Empire. Therefore, it would be expected that it would take time before all of
these writings were circulated among all of the disciples of Christ and were
collected together into the New Testament. But, as this lesson will show, even
in the New Testament itself there is evidence that this important process had
I. God intended
that the New Testament writings be a permanent reference work for Christianity
A. A permanent
basis for faith- Jn 20:30-31; 21:24
B. A permanent
explanation of the mystery of Christ- Eph 3:3-5
C. A permanent
reminder for Christians of all pertaining to life and godliness- 2 Pet 1:3-
II. There are
indications of the circulation of the New Testament books
Circulation was a necessity
because of the writerís audience
congregational letters were addressed to a larger audience than one
congregation- 1 Cor 1:1-2, 2 Cor 1:1; Gal 1:1-2
2. Some letters
were "general", written to Christians everywhere- Js 1:1; 1 Pet 1:1, 2 Pet1:1;
3. The book of
Revelation was circulated among the seven churches of Asia. The order of the
churches is in the
form of a circuit- Rev 1:4,11
Paul told the Laodiceans and the
Colossians to exchange letters- Col 4:16 (The book of "Ephesians" could very
well be the letter to the "Laodiceans", see International Standard Bible
III. There are
indications that not only were the books of the New Testament circulating, but
they were being accepted as Scripture and were being collected together.
Paul quotes Luke as "Scripture" (1
Tim 5:17-18, cp. Lk 10:7) with the same authoritative weight as the Old
Testament passage he quotes (Dt 25:4).
Peter refers to a collection of
Paulís letters and classifies them as "Scripture" (2 Pet 3:14-16)
Even within the New Testament itself we see that the canon is forming as the
readers and the
Christians to whom these books were first circulated among received them as
inspired and began to
collect them together.
LESSON FOURTEEN: THE CANONIZATION OF THE
How did the 27 books of the New Testament come together as a
collection of books considered by all Christians to be inspired? What basis do
we have for faith that what we hold in our hands is the complete Word of Jesus
(Heb 1:1-2) without addition or subtraction?
I. Review of Terms (cp. Lesson Seven)
- Canon- from Greek word "kanon", "a measuring rod, ruler".
Figuratively used to mean a "standard or norm" (cp. Gal 6:16, "rule"). Term
first used by Athenasius (A.D. 296-373).
- Homologomena- Books that have been accepted as inspired by
- Antilogomena- Books that have had their inspiration disputed at
some time by some people.
- Pseudopigrapha- Books written under pen names of Biblical
characters. These were considered as uninspired by virtually everyone.
- Apocrypha- Books were put in this category either because they were
for the spiritually enlightened or because it was hard to find inspiration in
them (the origin of the term "apocrypha" is uncertain). No one accepts any of
the N.T. Apocrypha as inspired.
II. Review of Five Tests of Canonicity (cp. Lesson Seven)
- Authoritative? Does the book speak with the authority of God?
- Prophetic? Was the book written by a prophet?
- Authentic? Is the book true when compared to itself and writings
recognized as inspired?
- Dynamic? Is the book a life-changing message?
- Reception? Was the book received as inspired by the first readers?
By later readers?
III. Recognition of the New Testament Canon (Download
- By individuals- In the writings of the early Christians that have
been preserved, all the books but 3 John are quoted before A.D. 150. All books
are referred to as authentic but 2 Timothy, Philemon, James, 2 Peter, and 2 &
3 John before A.D. 215.
- By various canons- Marcion made a canon to fit his beliefs in A.D.
140 (listing as inspired only Luke and most of Paulís writings). The first
legitimate canon was the Muratorian Canon (A.D. 170) that included all of our
presently received books except Hebrews, James, and 1 and 2 Peter. All but
Revelation was included in the Baracoccio Canon (A.D. 206) and the canon made
by Athenasius (A.D. 367) included all 27 books in our present New Testament.
- By translations- Old Latin (A.D. 150-200) had the same books as the
Muratorian Canon. The Old Syriac (A.D. 400, made from a text from the A.D.
200ís) had all but 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, and Revelation.
- By councils- Council of Nicea (A.D. 325) recognized all but James,
2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, and Jude; future councils recognized our present 27
IV. The N.T. Antilogomena (Disputed Books)
- Hebrews- Question of authorship. In the East, it was considered to
be written by Paul and was readily received. In the West, the authorship was
undecided and also the Montanist sect based their false doctrine on it. But,
eventually it was decided that while the Montanist doctrine did not agree with
the rest of Scripture, Hebrews did.
- James- Some questioned the authorship of the book, but the main
question was authenticity. The Question was how to reconcile Jamesí teaching
of salvation by works with Paulís teaching of salvation by faith, not by
works. Martin Luther placed it at the end of his N.T., calling it a "right
- 2 Peter- Authorship was the question. 1 Peter was readily accepted
as being authored by Peter. On the surface, 2 Peter seems so different than 1
Peter. However, a closer look reveals similarities.
- 2 and 3 John- Authorship was the question. These short letters were
of a private nature and enjoyed more limited circulation. The author refers to
himself as "the elder" rather than "the apostle". Even so, these book were
recognized as inspired sooner than 2 Peter.
- Jude- Authencitiy was questioned. Jude refers to pseudopigraphal
books, the Book of Enoch (vs. 14-15) and possibly the Assumption of Moses (v.
9). But, compare other citations of uninspired sources: Acts 17:28 (Aratus); 1
Cor 15:32 (Meander); Tit 1:12 (Epimenides). A quotation from a source is not a
recognition of the sourceís inspiration.
- Revelation- Authenticity questioned. The Montanist sect developed a
millennial doctrine from the book. As with Hebrews, it was finally resolved
that the problem was not with the book, but with the interpreters.
It is clear that the process of the canonization of the New
Testament, like that of the Old, was not a "flip of a coin" or a "voting in of
what I like" and a "keeping out of what I donít like". Serious and careful
consideration was made of each book, with the proper criteria in mind, over a
long period of time. So, with trust in the Providence of God (cp. 1 Pet
1:22-25), we can have the utmost confidence that what we hold in our hands is
the complete Testament of Jesus Christ, the imperishable seed of His kingdom,
containing everything we need to know for life and godliness.
LESSON FIFTEEN: EVIDENCE FOR THE NEW
We have solid evidence that the 27 books found in the New
Testament were the ones authored by Jesus through the Holy Spirit. But, did they
remain the words of Jesus after centuries of copying? Or was the message changed
into the words of mere men due to errors in the copying process?
I. Overwhelming Manuscript Evidence for the N.T.
- While few Hebrew O.T. manuscripts survived, there are over 5,000
manuscripts of the Greek N.T. in the world today! Scholars study this abundant
evidence to determine the Greek text from which our English Bibles are
- Compare the number of extant (surviving) N.T. manuscripts with the number
of extant manuscripts of any other ancient work. Homerís Illiad comes
in second place with only 643. Most ancient works that are studied without
question in high schools and universities are based on fewer than 10 copies.
- Not only is the number of extant N.T. manuscripts significant, but the
time between the original writing and the date of the first surviving copy is
as well. The N.T. has a shorter space between the originals and the first
surviving manuscript than any other ancient writing.
II. What does the Greek Manuscript Evidence Consist of?
- Papyri- 85 fragments of various sections (i.e. gospels, acts,
Paulís letters, general letters, Revelation) of the N.T.
- Uncials- 268. These manuscripts were written with all capital
letters, had no spaces between the words and no punctuation. This style of
writing dates from the 4th to the 9th century. These are
the most important evidence of the N.T. as they are the earliest complete
- Miniscules- 2,792. These copies were made in small, cursive
handwriting. They date from the 9th century until the invention of
the printing press in 1454.
- Lectionaries- 2,193. Lectionaries are short sections of Scripture.
These were used as "Scripture readings" in the church services and date from
the 6th century onward.
- Ostraca- 25. The ancients "recycled". They wrote on broken pieces
of pottery and a few pieces with the N.T. written on them have been found.
III. What Additional Evidence Supports the Text of the N.T.?
- "Church Fathers"- The Christians who wrote before A.D. 325, quoted the N.T.
36,000 times. In various writings, they had quoted all but 11 verses of the
N.T. by A.D. 200.
- Translations- Early translations of the N.T. which have survived include
Old Syriac, Syriac, Old Latin (from A.D. 150-200), and the Latin Vulgate (A.D.
384, 10,000 manuscripts in existence)
IV. What are the Most Important Manuscripts?
- Vatican (Codex B). This is the earliest and most important. The manuscript
dates from the 4th century and contains practically all the O.T.
and N.T. It is considered the most exact.
- Sinaiatic. This copy is considered to be almost as important as the
Vatican. It dates from the middle of the 4th century and contains
part of the O.T. and the complete N.T.
- Alexandrian (Codex A). This manuscript contains most of both Testaments.
It dates from the 5th century. Scholars say that its quality is not
quite as good as the Vatican and the Sinaiatic.
- All three of these most important witnesses to the N.T. text were found
after the translation of the KJV, yet surely nothing of any major significance
has changed in our later English versions because of their discovery!
If we can believe the
text of any ancient work, we can believe the text of the New Testament!
Thanks be to God,
whose Providence has blessed us with such abundant evidence so as to remove
all doubt. We have in
our hands the words of Jesus, His Son!
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