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How we got the Bible

by Alan Jones







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.

  1. What books are in the Apocrypha and where are they placed in the Catholic Old Testament?


Type of Book

Revised Standard Version


Where in O.T.

  Didactic    1. The Wisdom of Solomon (c. 30 B.C).    Book of Wisdom After Song of Solomon
     2. Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) (132 B.C.)    Ecclesiastes After Song of Solomon
  Religious    3. Tobit (c. 200 B. C.)   Tobias   Before Esther
  Romance    4. Judith (c. 150 B.C.)   Judith   Before Esther
  Historic    5. I Esdras (c. 150-150 B.C.)   III Esdras*   -----------------
     6. I Maccabees (c. 110 B.C.)   I Machabees   After Esther
     7. II Maccabees (c. 110-70 B.C.)   II Machabees   After Esther
  Prophetic    8. Baruch (c. 150-50 B.C.)   Baruch chptrs 1-5   After Lamentations
     9. Letter of Jeremiah (c. 300-100 B.C.)   Baruch chapter 6   After Lamentations
    10. II Esdras (c. A.D. 100)   IV Esdras*   -----------------
  Legendary   11. Additions to Esther   Esther 10:4-16:24  End of Esther
        Throughout Esther
       (Jerusalem Bible)
    12. Prayer of Azariah (2nd or 1st   Daniel 3:24-90   Daniel Chapter 3
          century B.C.) (Song of Three Young     (Some added to end
          Men)     of book)
    13. Susanna (2nd or 1st century B.C.)   Daniel 13   Daniel Chapter 3
    14. Bel and the Dragon (c. 100 B.C.)   Daniel 14   Daniel Chapter 3
    15. Prayer of Manasseh (2nd or 1st  Prayer of Manasseh*   ------------------
          century B.C.)    

*Books not accepted as canonical at the Council of Trent, 1546.


II. Arguments in favor of accepting the O.T. Apocrypha with a response:

  1. The N.T. quotes mostly from the Greek O.T. (Septuagint or LXX) that contains the Apocrypha.


    Response: It is significant to note that copies of the O.T. in Hebrew (which have been called the

    Palestinian Canon) 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 translated.


  2. Some Apocryphal books written in Hebrew have been found among other O.T. canonical books in the Dead Sea scrolls.

Response: 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 canonical.

    C. The N.T. alludes to the Apocrypha (e.g. Heb 11:35; cp. 2 Maccabees chapters 7 and 12)

Response: An 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).

  1. 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.


    Response: 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.


  2. 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.


    Response: No 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.


  3. Catacomb scenes depict stories from the Apocrypha.


    Response: 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.


  4. The Syrian church accepted the Apocrypha in the fourth century A.D.

Response: 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.

   H.   Augustine and the councils he presided over at Hippo (A.D. 393, 397) accepted them.

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.

    I.    The Roman Catholic Church proclaimed them canonical at the Council of Trent in 1546.

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 in extant

Latin manuscripts. 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 (1532).

   J.    The Greek Orthodox Church accepts them.

Response: 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".

   K.    The Apocryphal books continued in Protestant Bibles as late as the 1800ís.

Response: 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.



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?

  1. In the books of the Apocrypha, we find no claim of inspiration and no, "Thus saith the Lord."

  2. 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?

  1. 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)

  2. 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 prophets.

III. Truthful?

  1. Judith- "Nebuchadnezzar, who reigned over the Assyrians from his capital, Nineveh" (1:1)

  2. 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).

  3. Baruch- Plea for God to hear the prayers of Israelís dead (3:4)

  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 (15:12-16);

  5. 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?

  1. 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".


  2. 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?

  1. First readers- the Jews who lived when the books of the Apocrypha were written did not receive them as inspired.

  2. 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.



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

  1. 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.


  2. Why have such few manuscripts of the Old Testament survived?

1. Animal skins are highly perishable.

2. War- Jerusalem was conquered 47 times from 1800 B.C. to A.D. 1948.

3. Ceremonial burial of worn out manuscripts.

4. Scribes 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?

  1. 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.

   B. 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 body,

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.

III. Abundant Supporting Evidence for the Accuracy of the Massoretic Text of the Old Testament

  1. 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 text.

  2. 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 .

  3. 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.

  4. Syriac Peshitta- Syrian translation made as early as the 1st century A.D. Early translations

    compare very well with the Massoretic text, while later translations were influenced by the


  5. 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.

  6. 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.



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 found.

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

  1. 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 the Messiah.

  2. 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.

  3. 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

  1. 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 A.D. 233)

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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

  1. Not mentioned in O.T. or N.T.; primary sources of information about them are Philo, Josephus, and Pliny.

  2. While explaining his religion to the Greeks, Josephus spoke of three "philosophies", the Pharisees, Sadducees, and the Essenes.

  3. "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.

  4. 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.

  5. Their number was about 4000 according to Philo.

  6. Some of their beliefs and characteristics:

1. Simplicity of life- spent much time in study and worship.

2. Industrious- manual labor demanded of all.

3. Practiced a "community of goods" instead of individual ownership.

4. Some renounced marriage.

5. They practiced strict discipline.

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.

  1. 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 Discipline 6:6-8)

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 Discipline 7:10-11)

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


   A. 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.

   B. 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

the Samaritan Pentateuch.

   C. 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

variations throughout.

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.



Without reservation, 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 our reading.




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 begun.

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-     11, 12-15

II. There are indications of the circulation of the New Testament books

  1. Circulation was a necessity because of the writerís audience


    1. Some 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; Jd 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


  2. 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 Encylopedia)

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.

  1. 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).

  2. Peter refers to a collection of Paulís letters and classifies them as "Scripture" (2 Pet 3:14-16)


IV. Conclusion: Even within the New Testament itself we see that the canon is forming as the first

readers and the Christians to whom these books were first circulated among received them as

inspired and began to collect them together.




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)

  1. 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).

  2. Homologomena- Books that have been accepted as inspired by virtually everyone.

  3. Antilogomena- Books that have had their inspiration disputed at some time by some people.

  4. Pseudopigrapha- Books written under pen names of Biblical characters. These were considered as uninspired by virtually everyone.

  5. 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)

  1. Authoritative? Does the book speak with the authority of God?

  2. Prophetic? Was the book written by a prophet?

  3. Authentic? Is the book true when compared to itself and writings recognized as inspired?

  4. Dynamic? Is the book a life-changing message?

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

III. Recognition of the New Testament Canon (Download chart-clickhere)

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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 books.

IV. The N.T. Antilogomena (Disputed Books)

  1. 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.

  2. 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 strawy epistle".

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

V. Conclusion

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.



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.

  1. 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 translated.

  2. 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.

  3. 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?

  1. Papyri- 85 fragments of various sections (i.e. gospels, acts, Paulís letters, general letters, Revelation) of the N.T.

  2. 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 manuscripts.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.?

  1. "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.

  2. 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?

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

V. Conclusion

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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