Tuesday, February 13, 2007

authority continued (part 2 of 3)

[part 2 of 3 , see previous post]

“The Book”

What we refer to, as “the Bible” are the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments. Those books are:

Old Testament:
Genesis Exodus Leviticus Numbers Deuteronomy Joshua Judges
Ruth 1 Samuel 2 Samuel 1 Kings2 Kings1 Chronicles2 Chronicles Ezra Nehemiah Esther Job Psalms Proverbs Ecclesiastes
Song of Solomon Isaiah Jeremiah Lamentations Ezekiel Daniel
Hosea Joel Amos Obadiah Jonah Micah Nahum Habakkuk Zephaniah
Haggai Zechariah Malachi

New Testament:
Matthew Mark Luke John Acts Romans 1 Corinthians 2Corinthians Galatians Ephesians Philippians Colossians 1 Thessalonians 2 Thessalonians
1 Timothy 2 Timothy Titus Philemon Hebrews James 1 Peter 2 Peter
1 John 2 John 3 John Jude Revelation

The Bible is divided into two sections known as The Old Testament
and The New Testament. “Testament” is just another word for “Covenant”.
Thus, the Old Testament is the account and record of God and His people
during the Time of the Old Covenant (Adam and Eve to Abraham up until
approximately 400 years before the birth of Christ), and the New
Testament covers the life, death, and ressurection of Christ, through
the ministry of the Apostles.

The Old Testament

The Old Testament (“tanak”, formed by taking the first letter of each section; “torah”, “neviim”, and “kethuvim”) was originally written in Hebrew, with some sections in Aramaic. The “torah” or books of the law were written by Moses around 1400 B.C. The law is made up of the first five books of the Old Testament, Genesis through Deuteronomy. The books of the prophets or “neviim, were finished around 430 B.C., with Malachi. The “writings”, the poetry and wisdom literature known as the “kethuvim”, round out the Old Testament.

In the New Testament, the Old Testament is often referred to by Jesus and the apostles as “the law and the prophets”, “the writings”, or “as Moses said” (the law).
(Matt 23:1-3; Luke 16:28-31; Luke 24:25, 44 for just a small sample)

The Old Testament as we have it has been recognized as complete and authoritative from as early as 170 A.D. John Piper, in his Bethlehem Institute seminar Why We Believe in the Bible, quotes Melito, Bishop of Sardis:

When I came to the east and reached the place where
these things were preached and done, and learnt
accurately the books of the Old Testament, I set
down the facts and sent them to you. These are
their names: five books of Moses, Genesis, Exodus,
Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Joshua the son of
Nun, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kingdoms, two books
of Chronicles, the Psalms of David, the Proverbs of
Solomon and his Wisdom, Ecclesiastes, the Song of
Songs, Job, the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, the
Twelve in a single book, Daniel, Ezekiel, Ezra.
(Cited in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 4.26.14)[i]

The order that Christians follow in our Old Testament is the order of the early Greek translation called the Septuagint (“LXX”), translated about 250 B.C.

So what were the criteria for counting certain writings Scripture and not others? In summary, the following were essentials:
· Anything revealed by God and recorded by Moses
· Books written by true Prophets (as defined by Deuteronomy 18)
· Writings that were consistent with the character of God
· Books received and used by the congregation of the people of Israel.

These sacred writings were carefully copied and preserved by Jewish scribes. In 1947, fragments of every Old Testament book but Esther were found in caves in Qumran dating as far back as the 3rd century B.C.


Originally written in Greek, with some Aramaic, the books of the New Testament are:
1 Corinthians
2 Corinthians
1 Thessalonians
2 Thessalonians
1 Timothy
2 Timothy
1 Peter
2 Peter
1 John
2 John
3 John

Why these books? F.F. Bruce puts it best when he writes:

What is particularly important to notice is that the New Testament
canon was not demarcated by the arbitrary decree of any Church
Council. When at last a Church Council – the Synod of Hippo in
AD 393 – listed the 27 books of the New Testament, it did
not confer upon them any authority which they did not already
possess, but simply recorded their previously established
(The Books and the Parchments, pp. 112-113.)[ii]

This is an important point to make and so bears repeating. The Church did not arbitrarily decide what was scripture and what was not. Rather, they took the collections of writings that they had and simply recognized what already possessed authority. Authority was derived from:
· having been written by an Apostle or a close associate of an apostle
(Luke with Paul and mark with Peter)
· having been in continuous use by the Church
· having unity/agreement with the rest of Scripture

While there are no original copies of these documents, consider this:

There are 5, 300 known copies and fragments in the original Greek,
nearly 800 of which were copied before 1000A.D. Homer’s Iliad, one
of the most famous literary works of Western civilization has 643 copies
of manuscript support. Within those, there are 764 lines of text that are
disputed as to the accuracy, whereas there are only 40 lines in all of the
New Testament that are disputed, none of which would compromise a
major doctrine of Scripture.[iii]
In fact, many people are unaware that each of William Shakespeare’s
37 plays (written in the 1600’s) have gaps in the surviving manuscripts,
forcing scholars to “fill in the blanks”. This pales in textual comparison
with the over 5,300 copies and fragments of the New Testament that,
together, assure us that nothing is lost. In fact, all of the New Testament
except eleven verses can be reconstructed from the writings of the early
church fathers in the second and third centuries.[iv]

With these things in mind, not to mention the wealth of internal
testimony of Scripture, we can be sure that the Scriptures we have have
been kept from dilution or error.
It is important to note that these 66 books are the only ones
recognized by the Early Church as authoritative. Some other
religions or denominations may include other books collected
under the title “Apocrypha”, or have additional authoritative
books or manuals such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter
Day Saints’ (the cult known as the Mormons) Book of Mormon,
Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price. Also made
popular by the recent Davinci Code book and movie of the same name,
the Gnostic gospels have been getting a lot of attention. These books
are not Scripture and are not binding as the word of God. To explore
these other writings and discuss why they are not Scripture is a worthy
task, but beyond the scope of this present article.

(final installment next...)

vi Why We Believe the Bible: The Inspiration, Inerrancy, and Authority of the Bible A Seminar for The Bethlehem Institute, John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: www.desiringGod.org. Email: mail@desiringGod.org. Toll Free: 1.888.346.4700. p.11
[ii] Ibid, 16
[iii] Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible, Moody, Chicago, 1986, p.367.
[iv] Ibid, Ch.24

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