The Infallible Word
Does God exist?
Does God exist? This is at least the fifth time that I’ve taught this lesson on the infallibility of the word and every time I prepared I always thought I was missing something by not addressing this question: Does God Exist? The assumption I make is that everyone believes there is a God and the next step is to answer how does God reveal Himself? Today, I want to do things a little different and equip you with a few arguments to confirm God’s existence. I am not doing this to prove to you that He exist, but more so that you will have some ammunition in your witnessing arsenal. In other words, this teaching isn’t on His existence but I believe that this does go hand in hand with the rest of what I want to share with you today. So, I will hit some highlights on a few arguments, and I will leave it up to you to do further reading and prayer to make these a part of your tool bag.
This argument got its start during the 17th century by a fellow named Rene Descartes. He is considered to be the Father of Modern philosophy. His argument goes something like this. I am an imperfect being, but within me I have an idea of a perfect being. How can I an imperfect being have a notion of perfection if there isn’t a perfect being giving me the notion of perfection? –Today, this argument doesn’t hold much sway, but nonetheless it does get us thinking beyond ourselves.
Anthropological Argument (or also called the moral argument)
This argument poses the question of right and wrong. How does man have a sense of what is morally right or desirable? Where does man get this sense of good and evil? –This is a little better than the Ontological because it does get us evaluating moral absolutes and their origin.
The philosophical argument begins to address a question every body asks at some point. Why am I here? For what purpose was I born? And secondly, the world, the world seems to have a purpose who or what gave the world purpose? There is nothing here by random chance. Everything from the Rain Cycle to the Circle of Life to Atomic Theory seems to have a purpose. – This is getting a little closer to home with most people, but is still subjective.
Cause and Effect
This argument is probably my favorite because it is least subjective than the other three we mentioned. Cause and Effect simply reminds us that no matter where we look there is a law of nature called cause and effect. You do X and you can expect Y. Scientist call this “Causality”. You may be familiar with Newton’s 3 laws of Motion. This is the foundation for the Cause and Effect argument for God’s existence. It goes like this. If the world we live in today is an effect of a cause what was the cause… and you take it back to the very first cause. Some may say the first cause was “Big Bang” but since we are using scientific language lets stay scientific. The law of thermodynamics clearly states and has been proven oh since the beginning of time that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. So in the big bang theory, you still haven’t gotten to the original causal point for the energy. But, when one examines this evidence including the existence of God then this for me explains the reason there are natural laws and the “effect” of creation was in harmony with the laws of causality and thermodynamics.
He exists, how will he tell us? Revelation
Now that we know God exists, we will start calling Him by name, YHWH. YHWH reveals himself to us in two distinct manners. The first is called General Revelation and the other Special Revelation.
Ps 19:1-6 tells us that the heavens declare Yahweh’s glory
Acts 14:17 Paul tells us that the seasons are a witness of YHWH
Rom 1:18-20 “What can be known about God is evident among them”
20 From the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse.
Special Revelation is what the bible reveals about Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is where we will spend the rest of the class, understanding the medium and mode in which YHWH reveals Himself: specifically the Bible.
In our day, TRUTH has become a relative term. We hear things like “Truth in Advertising” and immediately one is faced with the realization that sometimes there are “different versions” of the same truth. Many people in a spiritual sense might even believe that all religions hold the same “Truths” by saying or believing all roads, or paths lead to heaven or God. Meaning they believe that their judgment in the afterlife is based solely on their core beliefs and how well they lived up to their own standards. In a book called A Survey of Bible Doctrine, Ryrie states that “Everyone has a basis of authority which becomes a base of operations for his thinking or doing” Basically, what you hold as your core belief will become your standard of truth and everything about you is based on that standard or as he called it “basis of authority”. Every man, woman and child is a theologian. Some of us are more trained or well versed than others, but we all have a core belief about God.
In Yahweh’s eyes, truth is not relative, nor is it subjective. Yeshua told his disciples that He was the Way, the Truth, and the Life and no man can see the Father except by Him. This one statement declares ONE WAY, ONE TRUTH and ONE LIFE. Truth defined in Greek means “Unveiled Reality” those things that are in accord with what really happens, facts that correspond to reality whether historical or eternal.
Matt 16:17 – Yeshua revealed by Father
Luke 2:26 – Yeshua revealed by Holy Spirit
1 John 1:2, 3:5, 3:8, 4:9 – Yeshua revealed to disciples
There is only ONE Reality and it’s not from our perception by Yahweh’s!
How did Yahweh make His Revelation?
How can we know God- Yahweh unless He reveals Himself to us? Lets look at 1 John 1:1-4. This passage tells us that Yeshua Ho Mashiach (Hebrew transliteration for Jesus the Messiah) existed from the beginning yet was experienced by the disciples’ senses. He was real. Secondly, that the Word of Life was revealed by many and testified by others. Thirdly (the Key) Father, Yahweh unveiled the reality of the Word of Life who is His Son Yeshua. And finally, John and others write and tell others about this revelation or unveiling. Now notice the language. Yeshua is called the Word of Life. Where are words kept as a matter of record? In writings, correct? And we just said in verse 4 that John and others wrote about Yahweh’s revelation. So lets talk about those writings as we call them the Bible.
First of all, the Bible isn’t the only book to claim Divine Authorship or to claim to be a revelation of God. But let’s understand that any book that claims these things need to be tested. I am going to assume that a perfect being namely God would reveal Himself that there would be some method for us who aren’t perfect to know and distinguish His TRUTH revelation from the counterfeits. There should be some obvious tests for us to determine a book of this uniqueness, which has Divine Authorship and Divine Revelation. I like to call this uniqueness God’s Fingerprint.
I wont argue that there are nuggets of truth in other religious documents such as the Koran or the Vedas or the Illiad and Odyssey. But the reality is that the truths in these are tangled with an abundance of error and inaccuracies. I know what you’re thinking; critics claim the bible has its share of error and inaccuracies! And if you give me time I will cover these later and show you its one thing to make a claim of error and inaccuracies and yet another to prove it.
Lets examine two books along with the Bible that also claim Divine Authorship: The Koran and the Book of Mormon. These two books are reported penned by a single individual. Muhammad is credited with the Koran and Joseph Smith for the Book of Mormon. Both The Koran and The Book of Mormon are rife with historical inconsistencies and inaccuracies. The Koran, which claims to be dictated from co-eternal being changes view points from heavenly to earthly. An individual named Zaid Ibn Thabit under the guidance of Muhommed’s father-in-law compiled the Koran. Later in 650 AD a group of Arabs compiled a “unified” version of the Koran and destroyed all variant copies. Take note that the winds of time didn’t engulf the variant copies, but were initially annihilated.
The principle reason we need to dismiss the Koran and the Book of Mormon is that neither of them demonstrates prior prophecy and later fulfillment, as does The Holy Bible. Most notably, this is the delineating mark that separates the Scriptures from every other book that claims either Divine Authorship or Divine Revelation. Secondarily, the Holy Bible gives its believer’s hope not in works, as does the Koran or Book of Mormon but hope that comes as a result of faith on the blood and work of Yeshua.
The bible is the only book that claims Divine Authorship and Divine Revelation of the One True God—Yahweh with the intention of providing a way for man’s salvation. We can trace this all the way back to the Garden of Eden. The attack in Gen 3 came on the revealed Word of Yahweh – Gen 3:1 “Did God actually say…”. Since the beginning, man has two choices 1) accept and receive Yahweh’s word as the highest value or 2) replace His revelation with our own ego as the highest value. To state this another way, there are two alternatives: The inerrancy of Holy Scriptures or the inerrancy of your own personal judgment. If the bible contains errors in the original autographs then it would require an infallible human judgment to distinguish validity between false and truth. Even the agnostic and the atheist must assert for themselves as infallible in their own judgment of scriptures—putting themselves above and beyond error.
From start to finish it took nearly 1600 years for us to get the Divine Revelation from YHWH. He used 40 men whose lives were as diverse as kings to doctors to fisherman and everything in between. The Bible was originally written in 3 different languages: Chaldean, Hebrew and Greek. Yahweh used different literary styles ranging from poetry, history, biography, letters and songs. Each book was written during a different circumstance such as during a time of war, famine, or prosperity. Yet despite the fact of all these variances, there is One theme: Yeshua – One problem: Sin – One solution: The Blood. Neither the Koran or Book of Mormon can boast in unity as the Bible can.
2 Tim 3:16 declares all scripture is inspired, but what exactly does “inspired” mean and is inspiration necessary?
The word inspired comes from the Greek word theopneutos. Theo means God and pnema means spirit or breath. Hence we get the phrase, “God-Breathed”. The inspiration of the scriptures is very much a necessity. The inspiration is what helps preserve the scriptures. What good would it be to us today, if God’s revelation was not accurately recorded? His scriptures would be subjective but that is not the case. The scriptures are accurate because the inspiration guarantees the truth of the revelation.
Benjamin Warfield, “Inspiration is, therefore, usually defined as a supernatural influence exerted on the sacred writers by the Holy Spirit of God, by virtue of which their writings are given Divine Trustworthiness”
Charles Ryrie, “Inspiration is… God’s superintendence of the human authors so that, using their own individual personalities, they composed and recorded without error His revelation to man in the words of the original autographs.”
What we are saying is that the inspiration can be cataloged into 5 elements.
- the Divine Element – Yahweh superintended the writers insuring accuracy
- the Human Element – Human authors wrote according to their own personal style and personalities
- the Result – is the recording of Yahweh’s revelation; truth without error
- inspiration extends to the words used by the authors also called “verbal”
- inspiration relates to the original autographs.
The evangelical view states that the scriptures are the plenary (full or complete) verbally, infallible, inspired and inerrant-in-the-original manuscripts Word of God.
With these five elements in mind, we can touch on some counterfeit views of inspiration.
Natural Inspiration- Teaches that there is nothing supernatural about biblical inspiration. This view claims the authors were of unique or unusual insight into religious matters.
Spiritual Illumination- suggests that some men may have a greater degree of spiritual insight and that the inspiration comes on the person himself. Through that anointing the scriptures were penned.
Partial Inspiration- this theory holds the view that the parts of scripture that deal with religious topics are inspired but other topics such as history or science the non-faith topics are not inspired. This view rejects verbal plenary inspiration. The begging question here is, “what is in error and what isn’t?” In plain terms, one cannot allow for error in history or science without also ending up with error in doctrine.
Conceptual Inspiration- teaches that only the ideas are inspired but the words are of human choice. This view opens the door to errors based on word choice of the author. “Did Yahweh really mean…”
Matt 5:18 and 1 Thess 2:13 both support verbal plenary inspiration of the bible. We must conclude then that the Divine Revelation has come down to us in not only a useable but reliable form which does not depend on man’s fallible judgment. In order for the Revelation to have any merit it must be with out error—inerrant. Without inerrancy, the Divine Revelation cannot be a trustworthy declaration of Divine Truth.
The claim for inerrancy is for the original autographs. These originals must be free from error and mistakes or else they couldn’t be Divinely Inspired. We know there are copyist errors in copies of the originals. To lay claim for inerrancy to the copy opens the argument that an infallible God allowed a copy error therefore God Himself must be fallible. There is a huge difference between a document, which was wrong from the beginning, and a document, which was correct and perfect from the beginning but was miscopied. Some copyist error should be expected. I doubt anyone alive—or dead could copy an entire book from start to finish without making a single mistake.
The doctrine held by most is that the English translations are substantially accurate rendering of the scriptures given. Lets face it; there are over 30 English Translations on the market today. Some versions are better than others. Some I would go as far as to say could cause differing opinions on sound doctrine depending on how a translator translated a particular passage. This doesn’t show error, it shows accuracy. Some English translations are more accurate than others. Yet the Original Manuscripts are Divinely Inspired and with out any error!
The whole thought behind inspiration is certainly contained in the word supernatural. One would rightly think that a book of the magnitude of Divine Authorship and Divine Revelation would most assuredly contain elements of the supernatural. The bible lays claim to supernatural events occurring such as the “10 plagues of Egypt”, “Jonah and the Whale” just to list a couple. When evaluating an Historical Event, we can’t prove or disprove history scientifically, but rather we use a method called “the Legal Historical Method.” This method is the protocol used in our own court system today.
Legal Historical Method
The Historical Method is a systematic body of principles and rules designed to aid effectively in gathering the source materials of history. Appraising them critically and presenting synthesis of the results achieved. This is a system of right procedures for attaining historical truth. The presumption of the Legal Historical Method is that the person testifying or giving an account is telling an accurate accounting of the events. The testimony itself is only questioned when other facts can contradict that testimony is unreliable. When testimony is given in a document, the reader must use other methods to ascertain the reliability of the document and its author. This is called Historiography.
This method is based on three tests: Bibliographical Test, Internal Evidence Test and External Evidence Test. Although not science, this method is also described as methodology of scientific study.
Bibliographical – is the document an original or a copy? If it is a copy how much time passed from the original to first generation of a copy? This test answers how accurate is the copy compared to the original.
Internal Evidence Test- this test is based on Aristotle’s dictum, which states, “the benefit of the doubt goes to the document and not to the critic” The bottom line, the document must prove itself contradictory or false.
External Evidence Test- Using other historical documents to support or contradict the document’s content or testimony.
According to Garragham in his book titled A Guide to Historical Method, the critic must ask and answer six (who, what, when, where, why and how) questions:
- Who wrote the document (authorship)
- What is the evidential value of its contents (credibility)
- When was the source written (date)
- Where was it written (localization)
- What are the pre-existing materials from its bases (analysis)
- What was its original form (integrity)
Using our newly gained knowledge on Historiography and the three tests, lets begin critiquing the Bible along with a few other documents from antiquity.
|Number of Copies
Other Honorable Mentions
- History of Tacitus, two copies, 1000 yrs later
- Peloponnesian War, eight copies
- Livy’s History of Rome, twenty partial copies
There are at least 4000 known manuscripts of the Bible made between 2nd and 15th centuries. Historians know there are more known manuscripts for the Bible than any other ancient document!
Holy Spirit worked diligently to insure us that the text He inspired reached us in tack and virtually unchanged. Even notable literary critics who claim no faith or belief in the Bible attest to it as being the most reliable book from antiquity in terms of being unchanged and reliable when compared to the earliest copies.
Internal Evidence Test
Many Bible critics would have you believe that the Bible contradicts itself. But what one must remember is that our Bible is a translation of 3 different languages written several millennia ago. When investigating these so-called contradictions we must look at the document in its original form or language. This process is called exegesis, which means to lead out.
Secondly, we must realize that Yahweh gave his revelation to men. When Holy Spirit wrote through them, they were fully aware of their surroundings. Holy Spirit is a gentleman and doesn’t operate in a way that smothers out humanity but rather He works in partnership with humanity. Holy Spirit can only work through a willing vessel. Keeping this in mind, one will quickly realize that language; metaphors and illustrations used by the writers would be those that the writer was most confident and familiar with using. It follows, as a critic we must evaluate the text in its historical setting and not impose a modern mind set on the text.
R.A. Torry describes the alleged errors and contradictions as “Difficulties in the Bible”. Torrey tells his readers he is not at all surprised that there are difficulties and would actually be surprised if there were not any difficulties in the Bible. Torrey explains this in terms of finite and infinite. We are finite beings who are imperfect in intelligence and ultimately in knowledge, which also leads to us also being imperfect in character and spiritual discernment. His illustration on finite and infinite is to picture someone attempting to put the ocean in a pint cup. It just doesn’t fit! When we the finite try to understand the infinite mind of Yahweh, there is bound to be some difficulties. Torrey’s conclusion is if the revelation is too easy to grasp and understand, how could it be the perfect revelation of infinite wisdom?
With this in mind, the Divinely Inspired Revelation is the authoritative self-discloser of Yahweh, and any difficulty or contradiction must be dealt with only as an apparent error. Here is an example of what I mean. I love my wife and I trust her very much. I believe my wife to be whole-heartedly faithful to me. Now, If someone comes and tells me they’ve seen my wife out with another man, I have two choices. A) Disregard my trust and faith in my wife because of appearances or B) I lean on my trust and knowledge of who my wife is and take this only as a seemingly discrepancy of infidelity.
Dealing with Difficulties
1) Believe whole-heartedly that an explanation or a reconciliation exists
2) Trust in the inerrancy of Scriptures
3) Carefully study context to discover the author’s original intent
4) Practice careful exegesis
5) Harmonize parallel passages
6) Consult external books such as dictionaries, lexicons and encyclopedias
7) Check for translation error in original text
8) Remember that the historical accuracy of the bible is unsurpassed, that the text of scripture is supported by thousands of ancient manuscripts.
12 Common Manuscript Errors
Haplography- Singular entry of a letter, which should have been written twice
Dittography- writing twice a letter that should appear once
Metathesis- transposing of letters of words
Fusion- combing all or part of two words into a single word
Fission- Division of a single word into two words
Homophony- Substitution of one homonym for another
Misreading Similar Letters- confusing one letter for another
Homoeoteleuton- Omission of an intervening passage due to similar endings
Homoeoarkton- Omission of a passage due to similar beginnings
Accidental Omission- Loss of a word or letter
Vowel Misreading- misreading a vowel for a consonant
Vowel Point Variations- adding or subtracting vowel points leads to a change in word meanings.
Finally, it is interesting to note the scriptures critics point out as contradictory or in error are not important in their content and even if they were omitted would not negatively impact the doctrinal integrity or the theology of the bible. The bible would still stand on Christ and His purpose in man’s salvation.
External Evidence Test
- The renowned archaeologist William F. Albright said, “There can be no doubt that archaeology has confirmed the substantial historicity of the Old Testament tradition.”
- Nelson Glueck adds, “It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverter a Biblical reference. Scores of archaeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or exact detail historical statements in the Bible.”
- Millar Burrows notes that “more than one archaeologist has found his respect for the Bible increased by the experience of excavation in Palestine.”
- Clifford A. Wilson has added still more support to the historical reliability of the Bible. No historical discovery is a direct evidence of any spiritual claim in the Bible, such as the claim to be divinely inspired; nevertheless the historicity of the Bible does provide indirect verification of the claim of inspiration. Confirmation of the Bible’s accuracy in factual matters lends credibility to its claims when speaking on other subjects.
[LETTERS FROM A SKEPTIC]
At the least, I have no good arguments against your arguments [for the Resurrection and the Divinity of Yeshua]. But to be honest, in some ways the force of your arguments aggravate me. Nothing seems to fit. I mean, I can’t begin to refute your arguments but they still leave me in a position where I’d have to stretch myself beyond what I am capable of believing them. Why is this?
So, if I want to avoid hell, I presumably have to believe that a snake talked to Eve, that a virgin got pregnant from God, that a whale swallowed a prophet, that the Red Sea was parted and all sorts of other crazy things…. Why does God make believing in Him so … impossible? He gives evidence here, evidence there - enough to get us wondering - but then He throws in these other bizarre things which we can’t possibly be expected to take seriously…. Its most aggravating!
Jonah’s whale of a tale: Jonah 1:17 & Matt 12:40
Jonah 1:17 Then the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the fish three days and three nights. [Holman Christian standard version]
Matthew 12:40 For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. [Holman Christian standard version]
A great fish and a whale…
The Hebrew word for Great Fish is “dag”. From this word comes the Canninite god “dagon”. In Hebrew the word dag simply means fish of the sea and does not imply size, shape, or type.
The Greek word for whale is “ketos” and simply means a large fish or sea creature.
So far with a simple word study we have shown what appeared to be a contradiction only to be a translator’s choice of words. The original intent in Jonah and in Matthew is a fish. What is implied by the Greek text and common sense, a large fish and one that could swallow a man yet not kill him.
- Whale Shark- This creature is rather large weighing in at nearly 20 tons. This fish looks similar to a catfish. There are some unconfirmed stories that in recent times a whale shark has unknowingly swallowed divers.
- Goliath Grouper- This is a fresh water fish and obviously by its name in the grouper family. The largest one found by man weighed in at 800lbs. To date there are confirmed reports of divers who have had their legs sucked into the fishes mouth; however, no record of anyone actually being swallowed.
- Sperm Whale- This is a rather large “fish” measuring up to 67ft in length. There are confirmed accounts of Sperm Whales swallowing 15ft sharks whole. Interesting note, there are several confirmed accounts during the whaling days of some unfortunate sailors being swallowed by a sperm whale. The one story that has most acclaim is James Bartley
- James Bartley (1891) was swallowed whole during a hunt. After the whale was killed and gutted, the crew found Bartley in the whale’s stomach. His skin was bleached deathly white and looked as if par-boiled. Besides from being bleached white he had no other medical maladies associated with the incident. This story was picked up and ran in a local English paper at the close of 19th century.
The word bible comes from the Greek word biblos- this was the cellular substance of the paprus stem. In Egypt it was used as the word for paper made from papyrus and then made into a scroll. By the 2nd Century AD Christians were using biblia to describe the book, which contained their writings. Today, we use the anglicized word Bible.
The Bible is one book with two parts called testaments. The Hebrew word for testament is berith which means covenant. The Greek word diatheke is often translated testament in the KJV. The LXX or the Greek Old Testament translated berith as diatheke demonstrating the connection across languages and testaments or the Old and New Covenants. St. Augustine sums up the relationship between the two covenants as stating, “The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed.” As stated earlier Yeshua is the theme through out both the Old and New.
|Christ in the Old Testament
|Christ in the New Testament
How do we know that the bible we use today is complete and not missing any other books or has some books that don’t belong? Each testament or covenant underwent its own process to become part of the canon. The word canon is derived from ancient words meaning measuring stick. Webster defines canon as the authoritative list of works by an author. Although men penned the Bible, Yahweh is credited as it author by Divine Inspiration. (See 2 Tim 3:16 & 2 Pet 1:21)
Our earliest church fathers from the late 2nd century give insight to the fundamental question of authorship. Irenaeus and Teurtullian both asserted that Yeshua was the ultimate source of Christian doctrine. They believed and acknowledged Yahweh was the “Ultimate author of Revelation” and He committed His Divine Revelation to prophets and scribes but above them to the apostles who were eyewitnesses of the incarnated word and that these alone communicated the revelation in written and oral form to the church.
Can we trust oral traditions? Garragham illustrates that The Historical Method accepts oral traditions if the Oral Tradition satisfies either two broad conditions or six particular conditions.
- The tradition should be supported by an unbroken series of witnesses, reaching from the immediate and first reporter of the fact to the living mediate witness from whom we take it up, or to the one who was the first to commit it to writing.
- There should be several parallel and independent series of witnesses testifying to the fact in question.
- The tradition must report a public event of importance, such as would necessarily be known directly to a great number of persons.
- The tradition must have been generally believed, at least for a definite period of time.
- During that definite period it must have gone without protest, even from persons interested in denying it.
- The tradition must be one of relatively limited duration.
- The critical spirit must have been sufficiently developed while the tradition lasted and the necessary means of critical investigation must have been at hand.
- Critical-minded persons who would surely have challenged the tradition - had they considered it false - must have made no such challenge.
The Old Covenant Canon
The process for determining the exact works to include in the Old Testament took centuries to congeal. However, during this formative time the scribes began to bind their scrolls into codices. The codices would look similar to a book. At first the scrolls contained in the codices were not ordered but over time a standard table of contents, if you will, developed. This standard table of contents is what ultimately got chosen as the Jewish Scriptures or as we call it the Old Testament. Sometime between 180 and 165 BC Jewish scholars began to translate the Jewish Scriptures into Greek and this translation was called the Septuagint also called LXX.
Codices or Codex
The Codex Sinaiticus
- It was found in 1884 by a German scholar named L.F.K. Von Tischendorf in the monastery of St. Catherine which was located at the foot of Mount Sinai.
- It is now part of it is in the University Library at Leipzig and another part in the British Museum.
The Codex Vaticanus
- It was made in the 4th century and been in the Vatican library since 1481.
The Codex Alexandrinus
- It was made in the 5th century in Alexandria Egypt. It has been in the British Museum since 1627.
The scriptures themselves can give evidence to the time of canonization. Deut 31:24-26 gives a witness to Moses taking the Law and telling the priest to keep it with the arc of the covenant, “to be a witness”. Later, Joshua 24:26 states, “Joshua wrote in the ‘Book of the Law of God’”. Statements like these are also recorded in Samuel and the books of the prophets like Jeremiah. Daniel gives reference to searching the writings and discovered the time of their captivity.
From a timeline, we can see that the Law or the Torah was recognized by the time of Ezra around 444 BC. Upon the captives return, Ezra reads from the Law. The prophets or the Nevi’im were accepted around 200 BC. The writings- poetry or the Kethuvim were considered canon around 100 BC.
It is said that the only true test of canonicity is the testimony of God the Holy Spirit to the authority of His own Word. What this is trying to say can e illustrated like this. A small child is in a crowded mall and cries out “mommy! Mommy!”. There are lots of mommies, but only one true mommy to the child. The true mommy is not made more of a mom because her child recognizes her. All that is happens, is a genuine relationship between the mother and her child was authenticated as real. This is exactly what happened to the canon of scriptures. No man or council made the scripture canon—men and councils have only recognized the relationship between the author and the documents as genuine Divine Revelation.
The apocrypha, which means hidden or secret, are books that are works, which have recognition by some today as being part of the canon. Since these documents in question are pre-new testament era, we must look at what was established by the Jews prior to Yeshua and His fulfillment of the Jewish Scriptures. Once we take this into account, the early Jewish community of scribes never considered the works of the apocrypha canon. At best, they were viewed as ecclesiastical meaning that they contained some truth but were never used by the Jewish Rabbi’s to build theology or doctrine. The best evidence for not considering these documents canon comes from Yeshua. The 63 times He quotes the Jewish Scriptures He never quotes from the apocrypha. This suggests that He did not build His doctrine or His revelation of Yahweh or Himself from the apocrypha.
The Jewish Scriptures and our Old Testament are identical in terms of what is considered canon. There are some minor differences between the two. One difference is the order of the books. Another difference, in the Jewish Scriptures there are 24 books where as we have 39. The explanation of how we can have the same canon yet a different number of books is quite simple, in the Jewish Scriptures they pair up 1st and 2nd books like Samuel, Kings and Chronicles and they also combine all twelve Minor Prophets into one book. The illustration demonstrates the parallel best.
The Jewish Scriptures gives us an idea of the order in which the Old Testament writings were canonized because they appear not so much in order of when written but when considered canon by the Jews. Notice how the Jewish Scriptures are divided by three distinct categories: Torah the Law, Nevi’im the Prophets and Kethuvim the Writings. Today, the Jewish Scripture is referred to as the Tanak. The Tanak, however is ordered and organized identical to our Old Testament.
We can say with much assurance that we have the completed Old Testament canon just by realizing Yeshua’s understanding of the Tanak.
Luke 24:44 Then He told them, “These are My words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses [Torah], the Prophets [Nevi’im], and the Psalms [Kethuvim] must be fulfilled.” [Holman Christian standard version]
Yeshua undoubtedly recognized the authority and Divine Revelation of the Old Testament.
- John 10:35 Yeshua answers the Pharisees by clearly stating “the Scripture cannot be broken”.
- Matt 22:29 he addresses the Sadducees by telling them “you are deceived because you don’t know the Scriptures or the power of God”
- Matt 5:18 Nothing will pass away until the last “I is dotted and T is crossed”
Yeshua by means of quoting from the Old Testament lays claim to its historical authenticity.
- Matt 19:4 Adam & Eve created by Yahweh
- Matt 22:35 Abel killed by Cain
- Luke 17:27 The Noah’s Flood
- Luke 20:37 Yahweh spoke to Moses through a burning bush
- Luke 4:25 Elijah performed miracles
- Matt 24:15 Daniel made accurate predictions
These verses put us in a position where we must choose between the bible critics and Christ along the lines of Divine Revelation—Inspiration—and Authority of the Old Testament. Every major issue critics hold up as erroneous in the Old Testament Christ in His teachings affirms as TRUTH. Our dilemma, as Geisler puts it “is we can either accept the authenticity and authority of the Old Testament or impugn the integrity of Christ. In plain language, either the Old Testament is the Word of God or Christ is not the Son of God.”
Symmetry of Old Testament
As stated earlier, the original order of Jewish Scriptures illustrates a time line for when each book officially was accepted as canon. On the other hand, today’s order of the Old Testament scripture demonstrates Yahweh’s fingerprint on the canon. Did you realize that there is symmetry in the Old Testament?
There are a total of 39 books
The first 17 are historical. The next 5 are books of wisdom and poetry. The last 17 are prophetical.
The 17 books of history can further be categorized as the first 5 books of law (torah) followed by 12 books of Jewish History. These 12 books can be broken down by 9 pre-exilic histories and 3 post-exilic histories.
The 17 books of prophecy is categorized much in the same way. The first 5 books of prophets are the Major Prophets. The next 12 are the Minor Prophets, which are sub-divided by 9 pre-exilic and 3 post-exilic.
Attacks on the New Testament Canon
The majority of scholarly critics starting from the 19th century through today attack the New Testament on the grounds of the Historical Source for the gospels. Their aim is to cast a shadow on the reliability of the biblical documents of the New Testament Gospels. One of the first attacks during the 19th century was surrounding the accuracy and reliability of Luke’s writing—the Gospel of Luke and Acts. These critics sited that the writing dates for Luke and Acts had to be later than the first century and generally they concluded these books to be a product of the 2nd century. They site Luke as an unreliable source. Sir William Ramsey, a highly recognized archeologist from the Historical School led this attack but through his own research came to realize that Luke as a historian could be trusted and his works were indeed mid-first century. He now regards Luke as an astute historian whose integrity and sense of inquiry was matched by no other historian of his time. It is now believed, Luke’s style and method of historical research to be on par with modern historians. Ramsey is quoted as saying, “Luke is a historian of the first rank this author should be placed along the very greatest historians.”
Archaeological discoveries during the 20th century have further confirmed the reliability of these first century documents. Many of these discoveries have unearthed early manuscripts and papyri documents that confirm early dates for these writings. Establishing an early date for these writings silences critics who claim that the New Testament is folklore and legions which get embellished from generation to generation. Dr. John A.T. Robinson author of Re-Dating the New Testament concludes, “the whole of the New Testament was written prior to AD 70, the fall of Jerusalem.” He bases his findings on the archaeological discoveries of early manuscripts, These manuscripts help establish an early time for the New Testament writings.
- 130 AD The John Ryland MS
- 155 AD Chester Beatty Papyri
- 200 AD Bodmer Papyri
Because of these discovers and many more like them, we can conclude with certainty that the New Testament was written between 49 AD with Paul’s epistle to the Galatians and 90 AD with John’s Revelation of Yeshua.
When one looks at the evidence while applying the bibliographical test to the New Testament we realize there is no other piece of antiquity literature that has more manuscript authority than the New Testament. Furthermore, the New Testament has withstood over 100 years of intense textual criticism. As stated earlier, acclaimed literary critics cannot argue against the bibliographical test. There is no other book from antiquity, which can come close and compare to neither the number of manuscripts nor the level of accuracy between them.
New Testament Canon
The process for establishing the New Testament canon was quite different from the Old Testament. First, 5 criteria must be meet in order to consider the work for canonization.
- Apostolicity- the author or the authority behind the document must be recognized as an apostle. This of course would be a limited number of individuals. This became important when recognizing Mark, Luke, Acts, and Hebrews.
- Spiritual Content- was the church at large using the writings and did the content help develop spiritual edification.
- Doctrinal Soundness- were the writings lining up with the original revelation or were they containing heresy. Any New Testament writing that did not line up with any of the already canonized works was rejected.
- Indispensable Stamp- was this work universally recognized by the churches and quoted by the early church fathers.
- Divine Inspiration- This became the ultimate test. Did the writings show and give evidence of Divine Inspiration.
As early as 180 AD both the New Testament was considered on par with the Old Testament in terms of Divine Revelation and authority– Milito of Sardis writes “of the books of the Old Covenant and of the books of the New Covenant”
Quick Time Line
0 AD – Yeshua born
33 AD – Yeshua Crucified
49 AD – Paul writes Galatians
63 AD – Luke writes Acts
64 AD – Peter writes 2 Peter
90 AD – John writes Revelation
It is evident that even without an official list; the early church recognized many of these works as scripture – Divine Revelation.
(63 AD) Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ doctrine, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayers. [Holman Christian standard version]
(64 AD) 2 Peter 3:15-16 Also, regard the patience of our Lord as an opportunity for salvation, just as our dear brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you. 16 He speaks about these things in all his letters, in which there are some matters that are hard to understand. The untaught and unstable twist them to their own destruction, as they also do with the rest of the Scriptures. [Holman Christian standard version]
By the time of Peter’s writings, Paul’s letters or epistles were written and being accepted by the church on par with the Old Testament scriptures.
Early Church Father Timeline
95 AD Clement of Rome
In his epistle to the Corinthians quotes from or refers to Mathew, Luke, Romans, Corinthians, Hebrews, 1 Timothy, 1 Peter.
110 AD Polycarp
In his letter to the Philippians quotes from Philippians and paraphrases from nine other Pauline epistles.
110 AD Ignatius
Quotes from Matthew, 1 Peter, 1 John and cites nine of the Pauline epistles.
70-155 AD Papias
A pupil of Apostle John, quotes from John and records the origin of Matthew and Mark.
80-120 AD The Didache
Quotes from Matthew, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, Thessalonians, and 1 Peter.
New Testament Conclusion
The canon or what is accepted as scripture becomes essential when people as Peter calls it “twist the scripture to their own destruction”. The canon process is gradual, but in the case of the New Testament, there were books counted as canon as early as 63 AD when 2 Peter was written just 30 years after Yeshua’s death-burial-resurrection. This suggests an unofficial list of New Testament canon existed long before any council met to make an official statement towards New Testament canon.
History and archeology has shown how painstaking process for manually copying the manuscripts and how methodical the Jewish scribes were in holding their standards. As attested by literary critics, there is no other document from antiquity that has as many copies attesting to the accuracy of the content as our modern bible. No other religious document that claims Divine Revelation contains prophecy and fulfilled prophecy, as does our Bible. One unfulfilled prophecy would cast doubt on the Divine nature of the Bible. But above all else, no other book has changed more lives than the Bible.
Archer, G. L. A survey of Old Testament introduction (3rd. ed.].). Chicago: Moody Press, 1994
Bond, Dr. Ian Developing Sound Hermeneutics Columbus: Christian Life Publications, 1998
Boyd, Dr Gregory, and Boyd, Edward Letters from a Skeptic Colorado Springs: Life Journey, 2004
Garragham, Gilbert A Guide to Historical Method Fordham: University Press, 1946
Geisler, Norman L. A Popular Survey of the Old Testament Grand Rapids: Prince Press, 2005
Geisler, N. L., & Nix, W. E. A general introduction to the Bible (Rev. and expanded.). Chicago: Moody Press, 1986
Halley, Henry H. Deluxe Edition Halley’s Bible Handbook Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007
Kelly, J. N. D. Early Christian Doctrines New York: Harper, 1960
Myers, Allen C. (ed.) The Eerdman’s Bible Dictionary Grand Rapids: Eerdman, 1987
Ryrie, C. C. A survey of Bible doctrine. Chicago: Moody Press, 1972
Tenney, Merrill C. New Testament Times Peabody: Hendrickson, 2001
Torrey, R. Difficulties in the Bible : Alleged errors and contradictions. Willow Grove: Woodlawn Electronic Publishing, 1996