Wednesday, January 16, 2013

January 16, 2013 - Why is Our Bible the Way It Is? Part 1

One question that was posed to me recently was about the "creation" of the Bible. There are lots of questions that can be raised, such as how do we know the Bible is the true writings of God, since it was put together by men, and why were some books left out of the final Bible? A friend at church, Jim, who I trust implicitly, gave me an awesome book to look at to try to answer some of these questions. It is really interesting to know this history and it may come in handy for you one day, as it has for me!

This is me paraphrasing this awesome book, Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem.

This is part 1 - The Old Testament 

The canon of Scripture is the list of all the books that belong in the Bible. This is serious for us to try to get right, because adding to or subtracting from God's words would either prevent God's people from fully obeying him, or it would require people to do things which God had not commanded.

So, in the Bible, we see times where God wanted his word written down (such as the ten commandments). You can also see in Deuteronomy 4:2 that God said, "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you." So Grudem asserts that God himself was authorizing the writings that were added on after this time, which would include Joshua's writings and many others such as the prophets. You can even see in Jeremiah 30:2 that God explicitly tells Jeremiah write down the things he tells him.

Grudem shows by historical dates that after about 435 B.C. there were no more additions to the Old Testament. There are other historical writings during this time period, but not scripture. The Maccabees (a Jewish rebel army) kept historical writings and one thing they write is that that prophets had stopped appearing among the people, and they were waiting for someone else to show up with that gift. Josephus, another historian, also wrote that there were no more words of God added to scripture after 435 B.C., and he also stated there had not been a prophet since then. Even rabbinic literature makes a similar statement, saying that after Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi had died (the last prophets), the Holy Spirit departed from Israel, which I would take to mean God was not speaking to any particular person as a prophet during that time period. The Qumran community (a Jewish sect) agreed in their writings that any writings after 435 B.C. were not equal to the writings in scripture that had been recorded thus far.

As for the New Testament writings, there is not any record of dispute between Jesus and the Jews over the canon. Jesus and the authors of the New Testament quote the Old Testament scriptures as divinely authoritative over 295 times, but not once do they quote any other historical writings as having authority.

So then you have the Apocrypha. This is the collection of books included in the canon by the Roman Catholic church but not by Protestants. These books were never accepted by the Jews either. In A.D. 404, Jerome completed a Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible, and did add these books but noted that they were not books of the canon,just books of the church that were helpful for believers. There are many early writings where people actually listed the scriptures, and never were the books of Apocrypha added to that list, and sometimes they were explicitly said to be outside of the canon.

One historian, E.J. Young, states that Judith and Tobit (part of the Apocrypha) contain historical, chronological and geographical errors. Several of the books, including those and Ecclesiasticus and the Wisdom of Solomon repeat over and over a faith based on works. Wisdom of Solomon teaches the creation of the world out of a pre-existent matter. Ecclesiasticus teaches that the giving of alms makes atonement for sin. Baruch says that God hears prayers of dead men and in the Maccabees there are historical and geographical errors.

In 1546, at the Council of Trent, the Roman Catholic church officially declared the Apocrypha to be part of the canon (well... MOST of the Apocrypha). The books of Apocrypha that were added contain support for the Catholic teaching of prayers for the dead and justification by faith PLUS WORKS (not by faith alone). Roman Catholics also hold that the church has the authority to constitute any literary works as "scripture", while Protestants hold that the church cannot make something to be scripture, but can only recognize what God has already caused to be written as his own words. 

Here is the final say about the Apocrypha - these books do not claim for themselves the same authority as the Old Testament writings, they weren't regarded as God's words by the Jewish people from whom they originated, they weren't considered to be scripture by Jesus or the New Testament authors, and they contain teachings inconsistent with the rest of the Bible. They are human words, not God-breathed words. They are valuable for their content but they should have no authority over the lives of Christians today.

1 comment:

Ken Loyd said...

An excellent summary. This is a subject well worth people investigating, whether through the internet or some of the good books on the subject.