Bible Believers' Newsletter #206"We focus on the PRESENT Truth – what Jesus is doing NOW . . ."
We greet you in the wonderful Name of our Lord Jesus Christ and wish you a healthy, happy New Year in the Lord.
On the eve of our fifth year of publication, we thank our contributors, and you who have submitted items of interest, correction and criticism, our subscribers and other regular readers of Bible Believers' Newsletter for who have grown God's blessings by sharing their faith with others. Please continue to uphold the work in prayer that God may keep His hand upon our tiny Church, our Website and this Newsletter unto the end.
Remember always to confirm in your own Bible every doctrine we present so that God may bless you with the understanding of His Truth . . . Your brother-in-Christ, Anthony
Despite Cover-up, Israel Caught Spying Again
Israel has been caught spying in Washington again, this time on the White House and other sensitive telephone systems. But Americans have to look and listen very hard to learn the details. The damage could be as great as that sustained during spy-for-pay Jonathan Jay Pollard's blatant military codes, plans and secret-stealing rampage of the 1980s. And probably greater than Israel's stealing not only of US nuclear secrets in the 1960s, but even of American enriched uranium via an Israel-controlled contracting firm in Apollo, Pennsylvania.
Because of the Israeli involvement, "no government official would speak for the record."
Full story: washington-report.org
FBI now Believe Israeli Intelligence may be Involved
Newsman Jim Galloway, in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (reprinted in The Austin American-Statesman, November 25, 2001, p. A-11), reported that of the 1,100 foreigners arrested by the FBI for suspicion of involvement in the September 11 incidents, 100 are Israeli Jews. . .
A war is brewing inside the FBI between the agents conducting the investigation and their higher-up, politically-connected superiors. The higher-ups warn that the Israeli thing is "too hot" an "explosive political volcano." But the lower-level agents aren't buying it. They maintain that the arrested Israeli Jews might just hold the key to the whole September 11th debacle. Full story: texemarrs.com
9/11 The Road to Tyranny
Alex Jones' documentary claims the US government had prior knowledge of the terrorist attacks of 9-11 and allowed them to happen, that the national security dictatorship publicly funded, trained and shepherded the terrorists into the United Statesand went so far as to protect them from the FBI and Defense Intelligence. Full story: infowars.com
Whose Chosen People?
I have seen a man with his hands and feet blown off, skin boiled red, thrashing about like a seal. I have seen men picking up little bits of people stuck to asphalt, walls, and trees in Jerusalem. I have seen Israeli soldiers in Hebron beckon settlers to come over and spit on terrified young men they have detained at a checkpoint. I have seen the huge grin on the face of a man holding me up by the hair with his left hand as he drew the other hand back to punch me in the ear. From the ground I watched him run away with my camera held over his head like a football, surrounded by other settlers in white shirts and black pants. They laughed and cheered as though he had made a touch down. I have been called "Nazi"; I have been spit at times too numerous to mention. I have on many occasions had Miriam Levinger cackle at me, "Don't say I didn't warn you." Full story: mideastfacts.com
'Jewish' Tail Wags US Dog
The Indo-Israeli alliance doubles the chances of World War III starting in the Middle East. If Ariel Sharon doesn't succeed in provoking it on his end, then the worshippers of Shiva the Destroyer have their chance in the East. After all, Lord Shiva is often depicted wearing a necklace of human skulls around his neck. ["We Jews, we are the destroyers and will remain the destroyers. Nothing you can do will meet our demands and needs. We will forever destroy because we want a world of our own" Maurice Samuels, You Gentiles, p. 155] warroom.com
Suicidal Hindus say India will win nuclear war. thetimes.co.uk. See Newsletter #197. America specifically requested Germany to contribute units for detecting nuclear, chemical and biological contamination (NBC) and for decontaminating personnel and equipment affected by NBC contamination. Both components only make sense. . . in a theatre of war where large-scale combat operations are expected "against an enemy that would possess nuclear, chemical or biological weapons," . . .
Newsletter #202 warned, "Watch your back, Pakistan!" George W. Bush knows he has less than four years in which to to conquer the world and enforce a New World Order. And remember, World War III will be between the political Zionists (of Judeo-Christians) and Islam; "Jews"; control the Empire of the City of London which includes India and the US. They also control Judaeo-Masonic China and Judaeo-Communist Russia.
India and Israel have a lot in common: not only a mutual hatred of Islam, but also an expressed willingness to use nuclear weapons. At the height of the present crisis Israel admitted it has nuclear weapons. Was this a warning that they won't hesitate to use them? markazdawa.org
Indian Police share Israeli policing methods and exhibit the faults of an ideal ally for the US. sikhmuseum.org interlog.com khalistan.net
Religious Right Finds Its Center in Oval Office
Washington December 24, 2001 Pat Robertson's resignation this month as president of the Christian Coalition confirmed the ascendancy of a new leader of the religious right in America: George W. Bush.
For the first time since religious conservatives became a modern political movement, the president of the United States has become the movement's de facto leadera status even Ronald Reagan, though admired by religious conservatives, never earned. Christian publications, radio and television shower Bush with praise, while preachers from the pulpit treat his leadership as an act of providence. A procession of religious leaders who have met with him testify to his faith, while Web sites encourage people. Full story: washingtonpost.com
Euro Bank Notes to Embed RFID Chips by 2005
San Mateo, Calif. The European Central Bank is working with technology partners on a hush-hush project to embed radio frequency identification tags into the very fibers of euro bank notes by 2005 . . .
The euro will become "the most common currency in the world" at midnight on January 1, when 12 nations embrace it. . . Although euro bank notes already include such security features as holograms, foil stripes, special threads, microprinting, special inks and watermarks, the ECB believes it must add further protection to keep the euro from becoming the currency of choice in the criminal underworld, where the US dollar is now the world's most counterfeited currency.
"The RFID allows money to carry its own history" by recording information about where it has been, said Paul Saffo, director of Institute for the Future (Menlo Park, Calif.).
Full story: eetimes.com What the new currency looks like.
The 'Lost' Books of the New Testament
Sceptics often ask, "The Bible has been tampered with. Even the Bible itself proves that whole books have been lost, because it talks about "the book of the Wars of the Lord" and a number of other books. Why do we no longer have Scriptures like "the book of Jasher," "the Records of Gad the Seer," Paul's "Epistle to the Laodiceans," etc.? And if the Bible quotes from other sources, like in Acts 17:28 or Titus 1:12, who was the inspired writer?"
This is quite an indictmentand several questions rolled into one! Let's break the questions down and tackle them one at a time:
1. "The Bible has been tampered with." This portion of our question is loaded with a presupposition that needs to be illuminated before the real issues can be addressed: can we demonstrate "Bible tampering" based on lost books?
If we say the absence of certain books "proves" antecedent tampering, then we are assuming the missing books belonged in the Bible in the first place. We will deal with that issue later. In this first section, we will examine the question of the lost books themselves.
Appending this article is a list of all extra biblical material referred to in the Bible (Appendix). The list includes:
a. Extra biblical source material (e.g., The Book of Jasher)
b. Letters by or to Biblical characters which are quoted or referenced (e.g., the Decree of Cyrus)
c. Lost or spurious New Testament epistles (e.g., Paul's Epistle to the Laodiceans or the false Epistle to the Thessalonians)
d. Quotes from Greek philosophers or poets (e.g., Epimenides' de Oraculis)
Let's look at each of these categories:
a. Extra biblical source material: The Bible is a book of prophecy, but also a book of history, and a very selective one at that. We can say that it is the history of God's interaction with man, but we have to qualify that with the fact that it focuses mostly upon the land of Palestine, with some attention given to Egypt and certain areas of ancient Mesopotamia.
We could narrow our definition more and say it is a history of God's interaction with His chosen people (Israel and the Church), but we are forced to qualify our statement even further by the existence of large gaps in the record. These gaps are not due to missing books or information. For instance, an entire 400-year block of Israel's history, just prior to the Exodus from Egypt, is not included in the Bible. This period of history, which is longer than the entire history of the United States, has not been ignored and is not missing; it is mentioned, but described in just a few sentences (Exodus 1:1-20).
The Bible's writers apparently felt that only certain portions of Israel's history needed to be recorded in Scripture (John 20:30). We must remember, however, that the Bible was by no means the only literature possessed by Israel (Ecclesiastes 12:12). Like any literate culture, Israel had its poets, historians, and other writers.
The 'lost' books referenced in the Old Testament seem to have served as source material for the Bible's writers. For instance, the Book of Jasher, which is referenced twice (Joshua 10:13; II Samuel 1:18), was probably a book of odes or poetry regaling some of Israel's epic battles and heroes (Unger 652-653). The visions of Iddo the Seer (II Chronicles 9:29) were probably used as source material to help assemble the Books of Chronicles (Unger 601).
A writer needs to verify dates, names, the chronology of events, and other facts, and the writers of the Old Testament were no exception. Today's writer might employ a professional clipping service, an encyclopedia or dictionary, a "Who's Who," a telephone book, or any number of other reference materials to ensure accuracy.
In the same way, "the Words of Gad the Seer," "The Vision of Iddo the Seer,"and books by other prophets were referenced by the Old Testament's writers to ensure they were accurately recording the prophets' actions and prophecies. The Book of Jasher, the Book of the Wars of the Lord, and other historical records were referenced to check the details of battles or other historical events.
These books are usually mentioned in a formula: "The other events of Jeroboam's reign, his wars and how he ruled, are written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel" (I Kings 14:19). This formula appears dozens of times in the books of Kings and Chronicles (see I Kings 11:41; 14:19, 29; 15:7, 23, 31; 16:5, 14, 20, 27; 22:39, 45; II Kings 1:18; 8:23; 10:34, et al).
The formula appears to serve two purposes: First, to inform the reader that he is reading a selective, not exhaustive, historical account. Second, the writer seems to be inviting the reader to check into the referenced books for himself, either for more information or to verify the accuracy of the Biblical record.
What are we to make of the fact that today's reader does not have access to these books? After all, to the best of our knowledge, none of the Old Testament reference books listed in the appendix has survived, although many fakes have been written and distributed (Baskette 11).
The question to consider here is whether or not the Bible's historical accuracy or reliability depends on these lost works. It is outside the scope of this work to discuss the archaeological and historical evidence supporting the Bible's historicity and accuracy. Suffice to say that the Bible's historicity has been confirmed many times over by archaeological and historical evidence (McDowell 42-55).
Does the absence of these books prove that the Bible has suffered tampering? The real issue to consider here is the presupposition inherent in the question. If we say the absence of the Book of Jasher, et al., proves the Bible has been tampered with, we are assuming these books belong in the Bible in the first place, and that someone lost or even removed them? We will deal with this question later.
b. Letters by or to Biblical characters that are quoted or referenced: Many letters and official government communiques written by or to Bible characters are referenced, or in some cases actually quoted, in the text of the Bible.
The majority of these letters, such as the letter King David sent with Uriah to Joab (II Samuel 11:14), are simply part of the narrative. We can't attach a greater significance than that to letters such as these. Indeed, we should expect their presence as a common element of human experience. People have written letters and notes to each other ever since writing was developed. The Bible was not written in a vacuum; extra biblical history constantly swirls and eddies about the characters and events in the Bible, often spilling over into it.
But a few of these letters and documents are quite crucial to the Bible's narrative and to Israel's history. For instance, the Decree of Cyrus freed the exiled Jews to return to Palestine and begin rebuilding the Temple (II Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-4). A written edict by King Xerxes rescued the entire nation of Israel from extermination and gave them permission to avenge themselves on their enemies (Esther 8:9-11).
Documents such as these played extremely important and pivotal roles in historynot only in Israel's history, but in world history. It is not surprising, therefore, that the Bible's writers carefully recorded them. For instance, the text of Ezra 4:8-6:18, in which the reconstruction of the Temple was halted by a letter from King Artaxerxes, and later renewed by a letter from King Cyrus, is written in Aramaic rather than Hebrew. Ezra apparently felt the importance of this passage, most of which is copied from Persian government letters and other court documents, necessitated the letters being quoted in full and in their original language (Walvoord and Zuck 660-664).
We have only the Bible's rendition of these important documents today; as far as we know, none of the actual letters have survived. Is the lack of an extra biblical witness to these documents a problem?
To answer this, we must ask if the Bible's historical testimony can stand on its own. As mentioned earlier, it's beyond the scope of this article to examine the archaeological and historical evidence supporting the Bible's historicity. The weight of testimony from these disciplines, however, combined with the scrupulous care with which the Bible's writers handled the letters, lends credence to the Bible's claims of historicity. We can be confident that when the Bible quotes from extra biblical documents, it does so reliably and accurately.
c. Lost or spurious New Testament epistles: Only three epistles fit this category. Let's look at each of them individually:
The spurious "Epistle to the Thessalonians": In II Thessalonians 2:1-2, Paul reassures the Thessalonians that a letter they had just received, which claimed to be a Pauline epistle, was a fake. This counterfeit epistle contained false eschatological teaching, which threw the Church at Thessalonica into a panic. Paul spends the rest of the chapter straightening out their understanding on these end-times issues (Walvoord and Zuck 717).
Because this epistle was spurious, its absence from the Bible is to be expected. Furthermore, the fact that it does not survive should be of no concern to us today. (We can, however, be grateful that God used the situation to provide grace and truth to the Thessaloniansand us!).
Paul's lost Epistle to the Corinthians:"I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral peoplenot at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In which case you would have to leave this world".
"But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat" (I Corinthians 5:9-11).
This passage clearly indicates that Paul wrote at least one letter to the Corinthians before I Corinthians. Not only is this letter not included in the Bible, it has been lost altogether. Some have suggested that II Corinthians 6:14-7:1 is a fragment of the missing letter, but this is pure conjecture (Grayston 478). We in fact possess no solid data concerning this missing epistle, save the information in the above passage.
Does this indicate that a piece of our Bible is missing, or that someone tampered with it by removing an epistle? To answer, we must examine the history of the Church at Corinth and the epistles Paul wrote to it: Paul came to Corinth, probably in the spring of 51AD, to establish a church there (Acts 18:1-18). (Walvoord and Zuck 505). After working in Corinth for 18 months, Paul left and headed back to Jerusalem, sending Apollos to minister in his stead (Acts 18:18-28).
In 53 AD, Paul went to Ephesus and stayed there for about two and a half years (Acts 19). During this time he stayed in contact with the Corinthian church and its problems, through correspondence with the household of Chloe, and later through a delegation sent from Corinth (I Corinthians 1:11; 16:17). I Corinthians was written in about 54 or 55AD to address the problems brought to Paul's attention by this delegation, and perhaps by a visit from Apollos as well (Walvoord and Zuck 506; Hayes 201).
Later Paul received word, possibly through Timothy, that the Church at Corinth was still having problems (I Corinthians 4:17; 16:10; Walvoord and Zuck 506). This necessitated a disciplinary visit on Paul's part (II Corinthians 1:15; 2:1). Paul also refers to a disciplinary letter sent to Corinth with Titus (II Corinthians 2:24; 7:8-9). This may refer to I Corinthians, or even to yet another lost epistle between I and II Corinthians.
Sometime later, Paul met Titus in Macedonia and learned that the Church in Corinth was finally resolving its problems (II Corinthians 2:12-13; 7:5), although they were still troubled by a group opposed to Paul. From Macedonia, Paul wrote II Corinthians, and followed it with a third visit, probably in the winter of 56-57 AD (Acts 20:1-4; Walvoord and Zuck 506).
It is clear that the Church in Corinth was very problematic, requiring a great deal of extra attention and care to keep it alive and healthy. Paul probably had to reroute a missionary trip at least once to personally avert crises there (Darby 219). He also wrote at least three letters dealing with the Corinthians' sin, and possibly four. It is quite possible, if not likely, that even more unrecorded letters were sent between Paul and the Corinthians during the two and a half year period he spent in Corinth (Darby 219-221).
The question remains, though: What shall we make of the loss of at least one, and perhaps two or more, of Paul's epistles to the Corinthians?
Once again, the Bible is a selective, not an exhaustive, book of history. Like other sections of Biblical history, Paul's account also contains gaps. He appears suddenly and without introduction (Acts 7:57); very little is known about his Pharisaical career prior to the years he spent persecuting the Church. Soon after his conversion another gap appears in his narrative: He spent three years in Arabia, about which we know nothing at all (Galatians 1:17).
Paul's story ends as abruptly as it began (Acts 28:30-31). He had long expressed a desire to visit Spain (Romans 15:24, 28) but it is not conclusively determined if he ever did (Unger 976). We know little of his second imprisonment and trial save hints in the Pastoral Epistles; except for traditional accounts, we know nothing beyond that point except that he was probably martyred by Nero in 68 or 69AD (Unger 976-977).
We must not make the mistake of assuming the Bible contains all of Paul's writings (Hayes 71-73), any more than it contains a full account of his life. Even if we don't count any writing Paul may have done before his conversion, we really have no basis upon to which to treat the New Testament as an exhaustive Pauline bibliography. Once again, the absence of a certain epistle or epistles does not prove that epistle ever belonged in the Bible. And again, we will look at that issue later.
Paul's Epistle to the Laodiceans: Is it lost? "Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nymphas and the church that is in his house. After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea" (Colossians 4:15-16).
What is this "letter from Laodicea"? Did Paul write an Epistle to the Laodiceans, which has since been lost? If so, its absence is of a more serious nature than the absence of his Epistle to the Corinthiansin this passage, Paul seems to say that the letter from Laodicea is on a par with the Epistle to the Colossians.
However, the Epistle to the Laodiceans is probably not lost at all. Many scholars, most prominently Lightfoot, Conybeare and Howson, believe the mysterious "letter from Laodicea" referred to in Colossians is actually Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians (Hayes 379-388; Rutherfurd 2; Unger 757; Walvoord and Zuck 613).
These scholars use several main lines of reasoning to support their claim:
a. In his epistles to the Corinthians, the Galatians, the Philippians, and the Thessalonians, Paul includes many personal comments and greetings and references to his work among the people in that church. Even in epistles to cities he had never visited, he mentions the names of people he knew: His epistle to the Colossians mentions several people; Romans mentions 26 (Rutherfurd 3).
Ephesians, on the other hand, contains no personal greetings or comments at all (Hayes 398; Rutherfurd 3). This omission is very strange, unless we consider Ephesians a "circular" or "general" epistleone that was meant to be circulated among several churches, rather than addressed to one church in particular.
b. In Ephesians 1:15f, Paul says he has given thanks "ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints." This remark makes little sense if it is addressed to people with whom he lived for three years. Once again, if Ephesians is considered a circular epistle, the problem is resolved.
c. Scholars also cite numerous similarities shared by Ephesians and Colossians: they are both prison epistles (Colossians 4:10; Ephesians 6:20), and Tychicus delivered both of them (Colossians 4:7-9; Ephesians 6:21-22)a coincidence that makes more sense if we conclude both were written in the same place and time frame.
Both epistles also have similar salutations, the same general construction, and deal with the same general themes. One scholar calculated that over half of the verses in Ephesians could be matched to congruent expressions and thoughts in Colossians (Hayes 385). These similarities are easily explained if both epistles were written at one sitting.
d. In Ephesians 2:11-12, Paul addresses "you who are Gentiles by birth and called 'uncircumcised' by those who call themselves 'the circumcision'." This salutation does not make much sense if it is addressed only to the Church at Ephesus, which consisted primarily of Jewish Christians (Acts 18-19; Rutherfurd 3, 4).
e. The Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus, considered two of the most important New Testament manuscripts, do not include the words "at Ephesus" in the epistle's inscription (Ephesians 1:1; Hayes 399; Rutherfurd 2). A blank space is inserted in the same place these words appear in other manuscripts.
f. Finally, several ancient witnesses, including Tertullian, Origen, Basil, and Jerome, all attested to the absence of the words "at Ephesus" in the earliest manuscripts (Hayes 399-400; Rutherfurd 1, 4).
The other manuscripts, scholars say, have the words "at Ephesus" included because Ephesus was the largest church in the district through which the epistle circulated, not because it was the church primarily addressed, or the first church to receive the letter (Hayes 400; Rutherfurd 4), and that it carries its title because copies were left with a blank space for the individual churches to insert their names (Hayes 401; Walvoord and Zuck 613). It seems best to conclude that the "letter from Laodicea" is really Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians, which in turn is actually an "Epistle General" for all the churches of Asia (Hayes 400; Walvoord and Zuck 613). This solves many puzzling aspects of Ephesians, and eliminates the fear that an important epistle may have been lost.
d. Quotes from extra biblical philosophers or poets: Paul quotes from at least two extra biblical poets in his epistles and sermons (Acts 17:28; Titus 1:12): namely, Epimenides, a Cretan poet, and Aratus, a Sicilian poet (Goodrick 77; Walvoord and Zuck 403). He is almost certainly quoting from Greek literature in two other places (Galatians 5:23; I Corinthians 15:33). In these cases, he cites the famous Greek philosopher Aristotle and the Greek poet Menander (Goodrick 82-83).
Why in the world would a Jewish Christian, an apostle in the Church, the author of 13 or 14 books of the Bible, use citations from pagan poets and philosophers? In each of these four cases, Paul inserts the quotation to reinforce points he has made already:
"We are His offspring" (Acts 17:28)
"For in Him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28)
"Bad company corrupts good character" (I Corinthians 15:33)
"Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons" (Titus 1:12).
In each of these instances, Paul uses the extra biblical quotation to bring his teaching to life, to connect it with a popular everyday saying (see also Matthew 16:2-3; John 4:35).
A contemporary preacher, for instance, might present a teaching on James 4:17: "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins." He could then punctuate his sermon by making a joke based on Nike's popular slogan: "Just do it." In so doing, he is not necessarily trying to teach his flock to get their theology from Madison Avenue!
In the same way, Paul often connected the truth of his teaching and preaching to familiar, everyday images (Acts 17:23), without inappropriately exalting them.
This may help us understand why Paul would use such a convention in his writing. It doesn't help us with the second half of our question, though. Having discussed the extra biblical reference material and other lost books, we'll now turn to that portion of the question:
2. What do we mean when we say the Bible is "inspired"? "If the Bible quotes from other sources, like in Acts 17:28 or Titus 1:12, who was the inspired writer"?
This question can be broken into two parts: first, who decided which books to include in the Bible? Second, how can an "inspired" writer use the words of an "uninspired" writer?
Who decided which books to include in the Bible? A book that belongs in the Bible is said to be "canonical," or part of the "canon" of Scripture. The term canon comes from the Greek word kanon, which means "that which measures"the idea being that a canonical book carries God's authority, against which we should measure our lives and conduct (Unger 205).
As pointed out before, though, the books in today's Bible were by no means the only books of their day; they weren't even the only religious books of their day. Who decided which books should be included in the Bible and which should not?
The Old Testament Canon: The short answer to the formation of the Old Testament canon is that it was ratified by the Council of Jamnia in about 70AD (Bruce 97, 113). However, the above terms do not really describe the process adequately, and have confused many people.
An oft-repeated misconception about the canonisation of Scripture goes something like this: "We have the Bible we have today because a bunch of church leaders got together, decided which books were most advantageous to them in maintaining their power, then forced everyone else to accept them as the authoritative Word of God."
In reality, this is far from the truth. The Council of Jamnia was actually a rabbinic school founded by a Pharisee named Yochanan ben Zakkai just prior to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70AD, about 500 years after Malachi, the last Old Testament book, was completed (McDowell 37).
Besides the imminent destruction of the Temple, one problem facing the Jewish leaders at that time was the proliferation of extra biblical writings (which in their minds included the Christian Gospels and Epistles, which were just beginning to circulate). Although "the Old Testament canon was settled in the Jewish mind long before" (McDowell 35), they felt a definitive ratification of the canon was needed to combat the decentralization of the Jewish people and the confusion caused by all the extra biblical writings in circulation. The Council therefore issued a canon consisting of the same Old Testament books recognized as the Hebrew Scriptures all along. The Christian Church recognized the same canon for the Old Testament, although they arranged the books differently (McDowell 35).
Witnesses to the Old Testament Canon: From the first through the 10th century AD, an amazingly diverse collection of scholars and religious groups agreed on only one thing: the canon of the Old Testament (Halley 404-406; McDowell 36-37; Unger 204-205, 208):
a. The Masoretes, two groups of Jewish scribes who reproduced a distorted version of the Old Testament from about 500 to 900AD.
b. Josephus, a Romanized Jewish historian who wrote Jewish history for the Roman Empire.
c. The Qumran sect (not the Essenes), a separatist group of Jews who lived in a commune near the Dead Sea, and who left the Dead Sea Scrolls. (The self-styled Jews of today: those in the West, and especially in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, would not release the old Dead Sea Scrolls to Christians for fear that they might reveal the Masorete corruption of the Old Testament, even the Torah).
d. The Samaritans, a small group of mixed Jewish ethnicity who lived north of Jerusalem (although they only recognized the Pentateuch).
e. Jerome, a Christian who translated the Bible into Latin.
f. Origen, a Greek Christian who wrote the Hexapla, a six-version parallel Bible.
g. Aramaicized Jews, who wrote the Targums, a collection of Bible commentary.
h. Three different Hellenized Jews: Aquila, Symmachus and Theodotian, each of whom translated the Old Testament into Greek. If these groups were brought together they would agree on nothingtheir theology, doctrine, lifestyles, philosophies and even religions all differed radically. Yet taken as a whole, they agreed on one and only one issue: the books and text that belonged in the Old Testament.
The New Testament Canon: The ratification of the New Testament canon was conducted in a surprisingly similar fashion to the Old Testament. In 303AD, about 200 years after the last New Testament book was completed, the Roman Emperor Diocletian began a 10-year persecution of the Church, demanding that Christians relinquish their sacred writings to be destroyed (Unger 204).
The leaders of the Church therefore began centralizing and collecting the Gospels and Epistles of the Apostles and other early Church Fathers and discussing their suitability for the canon of Scripture. In 397AD, the Third Council of Carthage formally ratified the 27 books of the New Testament that we recognize today.
But how can we trust the opinions and decisions of these councils? Who or what gave them the authority to decide which books were right for everyone else?
Most scholars maintain that the process of canonisation was a matter of recognition, not pronouncement. In other words, rather than apply a canon to Judaism by fiat, the Council at Jamnia instead merely formally recognized those writings which had been recognized as canonical and authoritative all along. The Council of Carthage did much the same: the ratification of the New Testament canon (and therefore the entire canon of Scripture) was a matter of applying an imprimatur to the books almost everyone else had already recognized.
If this is true, the process by which the canon was recognized was startlingly different than any other governmental decision ever made. Yet witness after witness attests to the uniqueness of this process:
Holy Scripture was defined by the Elizabethan articles as "the canonical books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church" (Unger 204).
When the Third Council of Carthage 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 canonicity" (Bruce 113).
"Canonicity is determined or fixed authoritatively by God; it is merely discovered by man" (Geisler and Nix 221).
"The content of the canon was determined by general usage, not authoritarian pronouncement" (Guthrie).
"Because the writings of the prophets, as soon as they were issued, had tremendous authority as inspired Scripture, no formal declaration of their canonicity was needed to give them sanction. The divine author who inspired these writings, we may reasonably believe, acted providentially on behalf of their acceptance by the faithful. However, their inspiration and consequent divine authority were inherent and not dependent on human reception or lapse of time to give them prestige or until there were no more living prophets, or any other factor. Canonical authority is not derived from the sanction of Jewish priests and leaders of the Christian church. That authority is in itself" (Unger 208).
"It is, indeed, doubtful how far it is correct to speak of the Council of Jamnia. We know of discussions that took place there amongst the Rabbis, but we know of no formal or binding decisions that were made, and it is probable that the discussions were informal, though nonetheless helping to crystallise and to fix more firmly the Jewish tradition" (Rowley 170).
If canonical writings are immediately canonical, needing no authority conveyed to them by church officials, why the long period of time between the completion of the canon and its ratification? What happened during the 200 years between the completion of Revelation and the Council of Carthage? (Unger 1077-1078).
During this time, Christians all over the civilized world, especially local church elders, were constantly collecting and evaluating letters from church authorities. Which of the letters they received, some of which even claimed to be authoritative Scripture (Colossians 4:16; II Peter 3:15-16), were to be judged the living Word of God?
Geisler and Nix have formulated five possible criteria for canonical books (Geisler and Nix 141):
a. Was it authoritative? Did it carry a clearly recognizable "thus saith the Lord"?
b. Was it prophetic? Did the gift, if not the office, of prophecy demonstrate itself through the writer? (Hebrews 1:1).
c. Was it authentic? Did it come from who or where it claimed to? (see II Thessalonians 2:1-2).
d. Was it dynamic? Did it transform lives?
e. Perhaps most important: Was it received, collected, read and used? Did God's people accept and follow it?
Although this formula has gained some acceptance, some dispute its validity (Unger 208). The process of evaluating canonicity cannot be repeated, so it is perhaps best to say that we can't fully reproduce or understand the process the early Church employed. We can be confident, though, that all the books in the New Testament received lengthy and meticulous scrutiny before being fully received (McDowell 37).
Over the years, those writings which were most universally considered canonical gradually distinguished themselves from other writings; at the same time, spurious and apocryphal writings were sifted out, fell by the wayside, and were rejected as inadequate (McDowell 37-38).
By the time Diocletian's persecution began (AD302), the New Testament consisted of four regional canons, none of which yet contained all 27 books of our New Testament (Unger 204; Halley 742):
a. The Canon of the Western Churches, which in 1740 was found described on an ancient document called "The Muratorian Fragment of the Canon." As its name implies, the document was incomplete, and so the books of Matthew, Hebrews, James, 3 John and I Peter are not found on it, although they may have been included in this canon.
b. The Peshito, or the Bible of the Syrian Christians, which listed all of our New Testament books except II Peter, II and III John, Jude, and Revelation.
c. The Old Italian Version, or the Bible of the North African Churches, which had all of our books except Hebrews, II Peter, and James.
As mentioned before, the Council of Carthage did not "choose" the canon from among these works. Rather, it collected and assembled the already-recognized canon from the incomplete regional canons. After its official ratification, the full canon was copied and distributed as quickly as possible (Halley 741-745).
The Council of Jamnia's work was much the same: the full canon of the Old Testament had been agreed upon for hundreds of years by the time they convened. Spurious, apocryphal, and inadequate works had long since been separated from those books widely recognized as canonical.
It is clear, therefore, that the formulation of the Bible's canon was far from an arbitrary, political process. It was dynamic, natural, and involved a large percentage of the Body of Christ. A small group of leaders did not force their preferences on everyone else.
Let us return to the books relating to the question at handJasher, the Wars of the Lord, and so on. These books are not "missing" from the Bible; these books never belonged in the Bible in the first place. They have indeed been lost, but they have not been lost from the canon of Scripture. Although these books had value as reference material, they were never recognized as canonical. It is therefore incorrect to refer to them as "missing Scripture"; or as books that have been "removed from the Bible."
How can an "inspired" writer quote the words of an "uninspired" writer?
A full treatment of the doctrine of inspiration is far beyond the scope of this article. Nevertheless, a brief look at the issue is necessary to answer this question.
It is important to note, first of all, that the concept of an "inspired writer" is alien to the Bible. Nowhere in Scripture is a contributor to the Bible said to have been inspired. What the Bible actually says is that its writing, not its writers, is inspired; literally "God-breathed" (II Timothy 3:16). The power and life of God has been "breathed into" the Bible itself, not the people who wrote it.
This realization only helps a little, though. We can realize that it's inaccurate to say Paul was "inspired," but the poets he quoted weren't. But we still don't know how an inspired book can quote a book that is not inspired!
Goodrick offers a helpful clarification: To say 'every word in the Bible is inspired' is both ambiguous and inadequate. It is ambiguous because it sounds too much like saying that every word that appears in the Bible is inspired and neglects to qualify the statement with the critical qualification that this is true of the word only when it appears in the Bible. [The Greek word] kai appears in the Bible. It is also in 'The Golden Ass.' In fact, about 90 percent of the words appearing in 'The Golden Ass' also appear in the Bible. Therefore, 90 percent of 'The Golden Ass' is inspired! This idea looks especially ridiculous when we learn that 'The Golden Ass' survives as a piece of ancient pornography.
"It is inadequate because we really mean 'the wording in the Bible is inspired.' By this we mean not only the actual words but also their forms and their arrangement. But we do not put a halo around each word. We put a halo around the whole book. Therefore, the statement "Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons" can be either inspired or uninspired depending on whether we find the statement in Epimenides' de Oraculis or in Paul's Epistle to Titus (1:12)" (Goodrick 77).
If Goodrick is right, our problem is solved. Inspiration is carried neither by the writer nor the words he uses; it is transmitted by the meaning of the words, as expressed by their arrangement into the sentences that make up the Bible itself (Goodrick 78-79).
This principle, in fact, is why we can still call a translation of the Bible inspired. If only the words themselves were inspired, the inspiration would vanish with translation. But if the meaning of the words holds the inspiration, the inspiration will still be there when the Bible is rendered into another language.
Therefore, God can take even the words of a pagan poet or philosopher and use them to communicate His Life and Truth to the believer. If God can "breathe into" the words of the Bible, he can do it no matter who originally wrote any given sentence.
Bibliography:"Apocryphal Epistles." International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia. Seattle, WA: Biblesoft, 1996.
Baskette, John. "The Book of Jasher." Costa Mesa, CA: Answers In Action, 1994. Online. Internet.
The Bible. New International Version.
Bruce, F. F. The Books And The Parchments, rev. ed. Westwood, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1963.
Darby, J. N. Synopsis Of The Books Of The Bible, Volume IV: Acts-Philippians. New York, NY: Loizeaux Brothers, 1942.
Geisler, Norman L. and Nix, William E. A General Introduction To The Bible. Chicago, IL: Moody, 1968.
Goodrick, Edward W. Is My Bible The Inspired Word of God? Portland, OR: Multnomah Press, 1988.
Goodspeed, Edgar J. Modern Apocrypha: Famous "Biblical" Hoaxes. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1956.
Grayston, Kenneth. Twentieth Century Bible Commentary. Ed. G. Henton Davies. New York, NY: Harper & Brothers, 1955.
Guthrie, Donald. "Canon of Scripture." The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, rev. ed. Ed. J. D. Douglas. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1974.
Halley, Henry H. Halley's Bible Handbook. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 24th ed. 1965.
Hayes, D. A. Paul And His Epistles. New York, NY: The Methodist Book Concern, 1915.
McDowell, Josh. A Ready Defense. San Bernadino, CA: Here's Life Publishers, 1990.
Rowley, H. H. The Growth of the Old Testament. London: Hutchinson's University Library, 1950.
Rutherfurd, John. "Epistle to the Laodiceans." International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia. Seattle, WA: Biblesoft, 1996.
Unger, Merrill C. The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. R. K. Harrison, Ed. Chicago, IL: Moody, 1957, 1985.
Walvoord, John F. and Zuck, Roy B. The Bible Knowledge Commentary. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983.
Appendix: Extra biblical Material Quoted or Referenced in the BibleBook of the Wars of the LordNumbers 21:14
Book of Yashar [or Jasher] (the Upright)Joshua 10:13; II Samuel 1:18
David's letter to JoabII Samuel 11:14
Solomon's lost proverbs and songsI Kings 4:32
Jezebel's letters to the officials of Naboth's cityI Kings 21:8-11
Aram's letter to the king of IsraelII Kings 5:5-6
Jehu's letters to SamariaII Kings 10:1-2; 6-7
Book of the annals of SolomonI Kings 11:41
Books of the annals of the kings of Israel and JudahI Kings 14:19; 14:29
Sennacherib's letter to HezekiahII Kings 19:9-13; II Chronicles 32:17; Isaiah 37:9-13
Merodach-baladan's letters to HezekiahII Kings 20:12; Isaiah 39:1
The Book of the Kings of Judah and IsraelI Chronicles 9:1; II Chronicles 20:34
The Records of the Chronicles of King DavidI Chronicles 27:24
The Words of Samuel the SeerI Chronicles 29:29
The Word of Nathan the ProphetI Chronicles 29:29; II Chronicles 9:29
The Words of Gad the SeerI Chronicles 29:29
Hiram's letter to SolomonII Chronicles 2:11-16
The Prophecy of Ahijah the ShiloniteII Chronicles 9:29
The Visions of Iddo the SeerII Chronicles 9:29
The Visions of Shemaiah the ProphetII Chronicles 12:15
The Words of Jehu the Son of HananiII Chronicles 20:34
Elijah's Letter to JehoramII Chronicles 21:12
The Commentary on the Book of KingsII Chronicles 24:27
The Deeds of Uzziah by Isaiah the ProphetII Chronicles 26:22; 32:32
The Book of the Kings of Israel and JudahII Chronicles 27:7; 35:27; 36:8
Hezekiah's Passover Invitations to Manasseh and EphraimII Chronicles 30:1,6
The Word of the Kings of IsraelII Chronicles 33:18
The Chronicles of Hozai (Seers)II Chronicles 33:19
The Decree of David the King of Israel and the Decree of Solomon His SonII Chronicles 35:4
Proclamation of CyrusII Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-4
Letter of Bishlam, Mithredath, and Tabeel to ArtaxerxesEzra 4:7-16
Letter of ArtaxerxesEzra 4:17-22
Letter of Tattenai and Shethar-bozenai to King DariusEzra 5:6- 17
Decree of CyrusEzra 6:1-12
Ezra's letter of authorization from ArtaxerxesEzra 7:11-26
Nehemiah's letters of authorization from Artaxerxes Nehemiah 2:7-9
Sanballat's letter to NehemiahNehemiah 6:5-7
Letters between Tobiah and the nobles of JudahNehemiah 6:17
Priests' and Levites' contractNehemiah 9:38-10:27
The Book of the Annals (genealogies?)Nehemiah 12:23
The Book of the Annals (of Xerxes)Esther 2:23
First Edict of XerxesEsther 3:12
Chronicle of XerxesEsther 6:1
Second Edict of XerxesEsther 8:9-11
Mordecai's Purim announcementEsther 9:20
Esther's confirmation of PurimEsther 9:29-30
The book of the annals of the kings of Media and PersiaEsther 10:2
Jeremiah's letter to the exilesJeremiah 29:1
Shemaiah's letter to the priestsJeremiah 29:25
Decree of DariusDaniel 6:7-9
High priest's letter to DamascusActs 9:1; 22:5
Apostles' letter to AntiochActs 15:23-29
Aratus' PhainomenaActs 17:28
Epimenides' de OraculisActs 17:28
Aristotle's PoliticsGalatians 5:23
Epimenides' de Oraculis (may also be Callimachus' hymn to Zeus)Titus 1:12
Claudius' letter to FelixActs 23:26-30
Forged letter to the ThessaloniansII Thessalonians 2:1-2
Paul's first letter to the Corinthians (before I Corinthians)I Corinthians 5:9
Menander's ThaisI Corinthians 15:33
Paul's Epistle to the LaodiceansColossians 4:16 nl206.htm
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Brother Anthony Grigor-Scott is a non-denominational minister. He has ministered full-time since 1981, primarily to other ministers and their congregations in various countries. He pastors Bible Believers' tiny congregation, and is available to minister in your church.
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