Friday, June 13, 2014

History of the Bible

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2Tim 3:14-17

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honour and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased," we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2Pet 1:16-21

And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 2Pet 3:15-16

So let us draw the reasons why we should appreciate the Scriptures as inspired: Unless the question of why is firmly addressed, you will expect all sorts of problems.
1)      The Scriptures claim to be from God – all Scripture is God-breathed
2)      Because Scriptures are profitable -  to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus, and to make you complete (or compete) and so equip you for every good work.
The Scriptures that Paul is talking about here are obviously the OT books.
The question that you would like me to address is how did we obtain the Scriptures? Apostle Peter provides us with the answer, when he says … no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation … men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Men who wrote Scriptures were not interpreters, they spoke as God required and instructed them. Neither were they copyists, or computers. Their personalities, era, and styles comes out, yet, they effectively communicated God’s Word. How exactly they did we have the books that we now call the OT? The following was the criteria used to acknowledge the inspired OT Scriptures: 
1)      Did the book indicate divine authorship?
2)      Did it reflect God speaking through a  mediator (e.g. Ex. 20:1; Joshua  1:1; Isa. 2:1)
3)      Was the human author a spokesman of God?
4)      Was he a prophet or did he have the prophetic gift? (.e.g. Deut. 31:24-26; 1 Sam. 10:25; Neh. 8:3)
5)      Was the book historically accurate? Did it reflect a record of actual facts?
6)      How was the book received by Jews?
The formation of the Old Testament canon was gradual, and was composed of the writings which spread into about 1500 years! Moses commanded that the books of the law be placed in the ark (with the addition of the book of Joshua) was done. They were kept during the wilderness journey, and later in Jerusalem. (Deuteronomy 31:9,26, cf. 2 Kings 22:8; Joshua 24:26; 1 Samuel 10:25.)
Then were gathered and placed in the temple the historical and prophetical books from Joshua to David's time. On the construction of the temple Solomon deposited in it the earlier books (2 Kings 22:8, Isaiah 34:16), and enriched the collection with inspired writings from his own pen, and also some prophetic writings. So we find Daniel (9:2, R.V.) referring to "the books," Isaiah to "the book of the Lord" (29:18, 34:16).
After Solomon's day a succession of prophets arose, Jonah, Amos, Isaiah, Hosea, Joel, Micah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Jeremiah, Obadiah, and Habakkuk. These all flourished before the destruction of the temple, and enlarged the collection of existing sacred books by valuable additions. After the Babylonian capture, when the temple was rebuilt and worship re-established, then doubtless were added the writings of Haggai and Zechariah.
About fifty years after the temple was rebuilt Ezra made a collection of the sacred writings (Neh. 8:2,3,14). To this collection were added the writings of Nehemiah, Malachi, and Ezra. It is a fact of history that Nehemiah gathered the "Acts of the Kings and the Prophets, and those of David," when founding a library for the second temple, 432 B.C. The canon of the Old Testament in the form we now have it, was the work of Ezra. This fact is borne witness to in the most ancient Jewish writings. There is no doubt but that such a collection of books existed in the time of our Lord and the apostles (Luke 24:27, 44).
The most important thing to highlight is that almost all the OT books are directly quoted in the NT or alluded to. A table below from Crossway would show the distribution of these quotations as distributed.
Book
Matt
Mar
Luke
Joh
Acts
Ro
1 Corr
2 Cor
Gal
Eph
1 Tim
Heb
Jas
1 Pet
Total
Gen
1
3


3
7
2

3
1

3
1

24
Ex
7
4
3
1
4
4
1
1

1

3
2

31
Lev
3
1
2


1

1
2



1
1
12
Num



1










1
Deut
8
2
5

4
6
1

2

1
3


32
Josh











1


1
1 Sam




1









1
2 Sam





1





1


2
1 Kgs





3








3
Neh



1










1
Job






1







1
Ps
7
3
5
6
8
14
3
2

1

18

2
69
Prov





3





1
1

5
Isa
8
3
5
4
5
13
5
2
1


1

4
51
Jer
1










3


4
Hos
3




2








5
Joel




1
1








2
Amos




2









2
Mic
1













1
Hab




1
1


1


1


4
Hag











1


1
Zech
3
1

2










6
Mal
1
1
1


1








4
Total
43
18
21
15
29
57
13
6
9
3
1
36
5
7
263


At the time when Peter was writing second letter, there was no question that Paul’s letters were being given equal treatment as the OT - Paul also wrote to you … in all his letters … are hard to u
nderstand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.
So how was the NT Letters collected to form the canon of Scripture we now possess? With the following consideration, 
1)      Spurious writings as well as attacks on genuine writings were a factor 
2)   The content of the NT writings testified to their authenticity and they naturally were collected, being recognized as canonical (canon means the standard).
3)      Apostolic writings were used in public worship, hence it was necessary to determine which of those writings were canonical
4)      Ultimately, the edict by Emperor Diocletian in AD 303, demanding that all sacred books be burned, resulted in the NT collection.


This took place in the 1st centuries of the Christian church. Paul for example recognized Luke’s writing as being at par with OT (1Tim. 5:18 quotes Deut. 25:4, and Luke 10:7 and refers to both  texts as “the scripture says”
But what evidence do we have of how the New Testament was formulated? Clement of Rome (c. AD.95) mentioned 8  NT letters in his correspondence. Ignitius of Antioch (c. A.D. 115) also acknowledged seven; Polycarp, a disciple of John (c.A.D. 108), acknowledged 15 letters. Irenaeus wrote (c. A.D. 185) acknowledged as 21 books; Hippolytus (AD170-235) acknowleged 22 and Athanasius recognized 27 in AD 327. In 363 the Council of Laodecia stated that only the OT and the 27 books of the NT were to be read in in the churches. The council of Hippo (AD 393) affirmed that only the those canonical books were to be read in churches.
 How did the church recognize which books were canonical? This was the test:
(a)    Apostlicity. Was the author an apostle or did he have a connection with an apostle? E.g. Mark wrote under Peter’s direction and authority and Luke under Paul
(b)   Acceptance. Was the book accepted by the church at large? The recognition given particular book by the church was important. By this canon false books were rejected (but it also delayed recognition of some legitimate books).
(c)    Content. Did the book reflect consistency of doctrine with what had been accepted as orthodox teaching? The spurious ‘gospel of Peter’ was rejected as a result of this principle.
(d)   Inspiration. Did the book reflect the quality of inspiration? The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha were rejected as a result of not meeting this test. The books should bear evidence of high moral and spiritual values that would reflect a work of the Holy Spirit. For a book to belong in the canon, it is absolutely necessary that the book have divine authorship.

Finally what implications does this leave us:
1.       We do not follow cleverly devised myths, we follow God inspired Word, that has divine power! If anyone brings to you any other gospel apart from the apostolic gospel, let him be accursed. But do you listen with your eyes open to the Scriptures
2.       Should we expect any more writings to be added to the Scripture canon? Hebrews 1:1-2 answers this question in the proper historical redemption perspective. The revelation by the Son (method) is exceptionally greatest and final to mankind in this period of redemption. The NT contain this final, authoritative and sufficient interpretation of Christ’s work of redemption. The Apostles and their close companions report Christ’s words and deeds and interpret them with absolute divine authority. Having finished, there is nothing more to be added. Revelation 22:18. I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. The severity threatened to those who add or subtract is unnerving- eternal judgment!
3.       The careful assembly & collection and the preservation of the canon of Scriptures for so many years, just tells you that the divine hand is it.  Just as God was at work in the preservation and assembling of the people of Israel, in the life, death and resurrection of Christ, and in the early work and writing of the Apostles, so God was at work in the preservation of and assembling together of the Bible.
4.       How do we become persuaded that the books we now have in the canon are the right ones? For anyone to be persuaded, (1) the Holy Spirit of God has to be work in him convincing us that what we read is God’s powerful Word. I began reading the Bible in its entirety years before I became a Christian, without any doubting that the Bible is God’s word. Why? Because the Spirit uses the Scriptures to convict people of sin, judgment and righteousness. And also revealing the Lord Jesus Christ as the Good News for our salvation. The Bible has spoken to all people who become Christians in a manner that no other book can, because Scriptures is living and active – sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb. 4:12). (2) Historical Data – a thorough investigation of the historical circumstances surrounding the assembling of the canon is helpful in confirming our conviction that the decisions made by the early church were correct decisions.
There are no books in our present canon that should not be there and there are no more that could be added!