Parts 5,6,7 HERE
I. WHY DO WE BELIEVE IN THE CHRISTIAN FAITH - IN GOD & JESUS CHRIST?
A. We are Christians because we have accepted the Christian belief in God and Jesus Christ on faith, without having personally seen God and Jesus (Hebrews 11:1-6; John 20:24-29).
B. We are Christians because we see in the creation the hand of God (Romans 1:18-20; Job 12:7-10; Psalms 19:1-6; Isaiah 40:25-26).
C. We are Christians because we believe that the Bible is the Word of God and it contains overwhelming evidence of the existence of God and His Son, Jesus Christ (John 20:30-31; Acts 17:11 & 18:27-28; Romans 10:17 & 16:25-27; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 3:14-17; Hebrews 4:12; James 1:18; 2 Peter 1:19-21).
II. IS OUR BIBLE RELIABLE? - AN OVERVIEW OF MANUSCRIPT ACCURACY
A. Our Bible is the Word of God ONLY if our translations contain the SAME MESSAGE as was contained in the original Greek and Hebrew words penned by God's inspired servants in the original books of Holy Scripture.
1. If anyone has changed the message contained in Scripture, then that portion of it which has changed is no longer God's Word. Thus, it is imperative that no one changes it (Deuteronomy 4:1-2; 2 Corinthians 4:1-2; 2 Peter 3:15-17; Mark 7:1-13; Revelation 22:18-19).
2. It is, therefore, important that we have convincing evidence that the messages of the Bible's books have been handed down to us accurately, with the original messages contained in them intact. If that has not happened, then one of the most important pillars of our faith is shaken. See The Bible... Then and Now
B. Critics say that since we don't possess the original documents (the "autographs") as written by Moses, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, Paul, etc., we can't be sure the Bible we have today is accurate. They say the evidence we have is only circumstantial.
1. Response: Circumstantial evidence can provide a powerful case in a court of law if it is strong enough. If police arrive at the scene of a disturbance and find a man standing over a body, holding a smoking gun, though no one actually saw him murder the victim, the circumstantial evidence points strongly in that direction. It is very likely that he will be convicted. The manuscript evidence for the Bible is just this kind of "smoking gun" evidence.
C. When was the Bible written and in what languages?
1. Old Testament - The Old Testament books were written in the Hebrew and Aramaic languages between about 1400 BC and 400 BC - a period of 1000 years! (Aramaic, related to Hebrew, was used in portions of Daniel and Ezra.)
2. New Testament - It is believed that all the New Testament books were written in Greek between about 50 A.D. and 95 A.D. - a period of only 45 years. A few scholars have suggested that one or more books, such as Matthew, were written in Aramaic or Hebrew and later translated into Greek. But no convincing evidence supporting this theory exists.
D. The span of time over which the Old Testament was written and the large number of human authors involved in writing it are strong evidence for its validity.
1. At least 30 (and probably many more) authors wrote the Old Testament over a period of about 1000 years. Were these writers not guided by the Holy Spirit, it would have been impossible for them to produce a work the size of the Old Testament with a single common theme which did not contradict itself and which did not contain provable historical or other factual errors.
2. The fact that no provable contradictions or factual errors are contained in the Old Testament is powerful evidence that, though written by human beings, its content was controlled by the power of the Holy Spirit and represents exactly what God wanted to communicate to us! Bible critics over the centuries have attempted to point out supposed inaccuracies in the Old Testament. But in every case, these claimed inaccuracies have been shown to be invalid.
a. One example: I Kings 22:39 speaks of "the ivory house which (King Ahab) made" (KJV). Critics attacked this verse as a fraud, since no building could have been made of ivory! But in the 1930s archaeologists excavating the city of Samaria found an incredible amount of ivory splinters at one location. It was Ahab's palace and it became clear that the walls of the palace's rooms had been completely covered in carved ivory reliefs and that it was filled with ivory furniture!
E. How has the Bible been transmitted down to us over thousands of years?
1. The books of the Old Testament and (probably) the earliest copies of the New Testament books were laboriously copied by hand from one papyrus or leather scroll to another by scribes who were carefully trained in copying methods to ensure that there were no additions or omissions. About the 2nd century A.D., they began folding sheets of papyrus (made from a plant) or vellum (made from animal skins) in half and stitching them into a book called a codex.
2. So zealous for accuracy were the Jewish scribes that any scroll that contained errors was destroyed, rather than just corrected. Also, any scroll that became heavily worn or damaged from use was destroyed and replaced with a new copy. As a result, very few really old copies of Old Testament books have survived to the present day. Until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 in caves near Qumran, Palestine, no copies of Old Testament books produced prior to the time of Christ were known to exist.
3. We know that the Jewish copyists were extremely good at their job, because of the following:
a. The Dead Sea Scrolls included scrolls of every book of the Old Testament except Esther, all copied prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., many of them dating from the first and second centuries B.C. The most important of these scrolls was a leather scroll of the complete book of Isaiah which has been dated 100 to 200 B.C., hundreds of years older than any copy of Isaiah previously found! It had rested in the cave undisturbed for more than 2000 years. This copy varied from the generally accepted text of Isaiah only insignificantly. In other words. the book of Isaiah remains essentially unchanged after more than 2000 years!!
b. As the Hebrew people (and later the Christians) became scattered throughout the Middle East and Mediterranean basin, families of manuscript copies developed. The text of particular books would be copied for hundreds of years by people who had little or no contact with one another. Comparison of manuscripts produced over many centuries from different geographical areas shows that the manuscripts are remarkably identical, with only very minor variations.
c. Scholars have pinpointed the copyist errors in the New Testament and have found them to be insignificant, not affecting a single important fact, doctrine, or rule of faith. Eminent Greek scholar F. J. A. Hort wrote, "Apart from insignificant variations of grammar or spelling, not more than one thousandth part of the whole New Testament is affected by differences of reading."
F. How much Bible manuscript evidence is there? - The manuscript evidence supporting the Bible's accuracy is overwhelming.
There are: .
1. Over 5,500 Greek manuscripts of all or part of the New Testament.
2. Over 10,000 Latin manuscripts of all or part of the New Testament.
3. Over 9,300 early versions (manuscripts in other languages).
4. Thus, there is a total of about 25,000 manuscript copies of all or part of the New Testament available to us today.
G. How old are these Bible manuscripts and versions?
1. Old Testament- - -The oldest known Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament were among the Dead Sea Scrolls and dated 100 to 200 B.C. The oldest Greek version of the Old Testament is the Septuagint, translated into Greek by Jewish scholars in Alexandria, Egypt about 250 B.C. The oldest nearly complete copies of the Old Testament in Greek are:
a. Codex Vaticanus (325 A.D.) - This manuscript has been in the Vatican Library since it was established in 1448.
b. Codex Sinaiticus (350 A.D.) - This manuscript was discovered in 1844 in a monastery at the foot of Mt. Sinai and is now in the British Museum.
c. Codex Alexandrinus (400 A.D.) - This manuscript was given to England's King Charles I in 1628 by the Patriarch of Constantinople who had obtained it from Alexandria, Egypt. It is now in the British Museum.
2. New Testament - The earliest known manuscript fragment of the New Testament (from the Gospel of John) dates from about 120 A.D. - no more than 25 years after the death of the Apostle John. About 50 other fragments are dated less than 200 years from the date of their original writing.
3. The oldest nearly complete version of the Bible in Latin is the Latin Vulgate(400 A.D.) - The scholar Jerome translated the Bible into Latin about 400 A.D. and it became the Bible of the Roman Catholic Church for more than 1000 years.
H. How does the age and quantity of Bible manuscripts compare to other ancient writings?
1. Compared to the amount of other ancient writings in existence, the Bible has more manuscript evidence supporting its reliability and accuracy of translation than all other classical writings combined. In particular, the New Testament manuscripts also stand apart from other ancient literature in regard to their close proximity to the time of original composition.
a. Caesar's Gallic War (written 58 to 50 B.C.) - There are only ten good copies, and the oldest was made 900 years later than the original!
b. The Roman History by Livy (59 B.C.-17 A.D.) - Only 35 of the 142 volumes in this history still exist, in a total of 20 manuscripts. The oldest is from the 4th century A.D.
c. The Histories of Tacitus (100 A.D.) - Of the 14 volumes, only four and ahalf have survived. Of the 16 volumes of his Annals, only 10 survive. These come down to us in only one manuscript each, one from the 9th century A.D. and the other from the 11th century A.D. - 700 to 900 vears after they were written!
d. The History of Thucydides (460-400 B.C.) - Only eight manuscripts survive, the oldest about 900 A.D., except for a few papyrus scraps from the 1st century A.D. The complete manuscripts are from 1300 years after they were written!
e. The Plays of William Shakespeare - In every one of Shakespeare's 37 plays, there are probably a hundred passages still in dispute as to their original text, a large portion of which materially affect the meaning of the passages in which they occur. (Not so, the New Testament, written 1500 years before Shakespeare was born!)
2. Eminent scholar F. F. Bruce wrote, "If we compare the present state of the New Testament text with that of any other ancient writing, we must . . . declare it to be marvelously correct. Such has been the care with which the New Testament has been copied - a care which has doubtless grown out of a true reverence for its holy words - such has been the providence of God in preserving for His Church in each and every age a competently exact text of the Scriptures, that . . . the New Testament (is) unrivaled among ancient writings in the purity of its text as actually transmitted and kept in use. . . . The evidence for our New Testament writings is ever so much greater than the evidence for many classical authors, the authenticity of which no one dreams of questioning. And if the New Testament were a collection of secular writings their authenticity would generally be regarded as beyond all doubt."
The New Testament is, by far, the best authenticated ancient document.. in terms of the number of manuscript copies in our possession, the length of time between the original Biblical documents and the earliest copies, the thousands of copies and fragments in various other languages, the copious quotes by early church authors, etc. See The Bible, Then and Now
I. What light do the writings of early church leaders shed on the Bible's accuracy?
1. Manuscripts of the writings of church leaders who lived in the early centuries of the church (often referred to incorrectly as the Apostolic Fathers) contain numerous quotations from the New Testament. So numerous are their scriptural references that if all the New Testament was lost, we could reassemble it in almost its entirety from just their quotations!
2. Some of the earliest of these writings were from Clement of Rome (about 96 AD.);Ignatius (died 107 AD.), Polycarp (a disciple of John the Apostle, died 155 AD.), Justin Martyr (died 165 AD.), Irenaeus (a disciple of Polycarp, died 200 AD.), Clement of Alexandria (died 220 A.D.), Tertullian (died 220 A.D.), Origen (died 254 A.D.) and Eusebius (died 339 A.D.).
3. The New Testament quotations from just seven of these early church leaders actually total more than 36.000 quotations!!
THE-ORIGIN & HISTORY OF THE BIBLE - PART TWO
III. The Old Testament Canon - How Was it Developed?
A. What is meant by the terms canon and "testament?"
1. The term canon refers to a list of books recognized as worthy to be included in the sacred writings of a religious community. In a Christian context, canon can be defined as the listing of writings acknowledged by the Church as documents of divine revelation. The word "canon" has come into English (via Latin) from the Greek word "kanon, which originally meant "a straight rod used as a ruler," and later came to mean a "series" or "list."
2. The term testament comes to us from the Latin word "testamentum," which commonly refers to a will. But "testamentum" was also used to translate the Greek word "diatheke," which usually meant an agreement between a superior person, who confers certain privileges on an inferior person, while the inferior undertakes certain obligations towards the superior. A better translation in English is covenant, because that word refers to an agreement between God (the superior) and human beings (the inferior). The earliest evidence we have that Christians referred to the Holy Scriptures as consisting of an Old and a New Testament comes from Tertullian of Carthage and Clement of Alexandria near the end of the 2nd century.
B. How did the books of the Old Testament come into existence?
1. A century ago many non-believing scholars and liberal theologians insisted that Moses could not have written the five books of the law (Genesis to Deuteronomy) because (they alleged) the peoples of Palestine and Syria hadn't developed writing. They claimed, therefore, that the books of the law were actually written hundreds of years later and were merely a compilation of Jewish folklore handed down orally over many generations. But thanks to a hundred years of archaeological discoveries, we now know that written languages existed in that area even before Abraham's time (20th or 19th century B.C.), hundreds of years before Moses was born.
a. Scholars now tell us that the Phoenicians developed the modern alphabet, where a set of letters are the building blocks of words - a vast improvement over the "picture writing" of Egyptian hieroglyphics. The Phoenicians were a seafaring race who came originally from the Mediterranean coastal area of what is today called Palestine, Lebanon and Syria. The Phoenicians were also called Sidonians and they are the people of the cities of Tyre and Sidon that are referred to frequently in the Bible.
b. We now know that a hieroglyphic-type script was used in Palestine as far back as the 22nd to 23rd century B.C. - 700 years before Moses - and that linear alphabet writing (the ancestor of the alphabet Americans use) was used in Palestine (Canaan) at least as early as 1500 B.C., 200 years before Moses! Also See The Veracity of the Old Testament: A Scientific Validation
2. The Bible provides us information on how the Old Testament was created:
a. Exodus 17:14 - "Then the Lord said to Moses, "Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely erase the memory of the Amalekites from under heaven."
b. Exodus 24:3-4 - "When Moses went and told the people all the words and laws, they responded with one voice, 'Everything the Lord has said we will do.' Moses then wrote down everything the Lord had said."
c. Exodus 31:18 - "When the Lord finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the Testimony, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God.”
d. Other passages on this subject are Exod. 34:1-2, 27-28, Num.33:2, Deut.31:9-12, 19-26. Josh. 8:30-35, 24:25-26, l Sam. 10:25, 1 Chron. 29:29-30, 2 Chron. 9:29, 26:22, 32:32, Isaiah 30:8, Jer. 25:13, Ezek. 43:10-11, Dan. 7:1, Hab.2:2.
3. Who decided which books belong in the Old Testament?
a. From a date not many years after the last book, Malachi, was written, the Hebrews accepted the 39 books we have in our Old Testament as genuinely inspired by God. They counted them as 24 books, because a number of books were combined (I & II Samuel, I & II Kings, I & II Chronicles, Ezra & Nehemiah, and the 12 minor prophets). There was little controversy about the books because their inspiration and authoritative character were recognized by almost everyone. See Section The Canon of Scripture and The Apocrypha
b. From the writings of Moses, the Scriptures were safeguarded by successive generations of priests, Levites and scribes who took great care in copying and preserving these books. When a scroll was complete, scribes checked its accuracy by reading it to one another. If a single error was made in copying, the entire scroll was destroyed, rather than merely correcting the error. When a scroll became worn or damaged, it was destroyed - the primary reason even older copies aren't available today. Since each book was a separate scroll, there was no specific order to the books, as would be true in a modern collection of writings bound into a single book. See The Masoretic Text
c. But in time, the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) came to be thought of as belonging to three divisions: (1) the Torah (meaning "the Law"), consisting of the five books of Moses; (2) the Prophets, consisting of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the 12 minor prophets; and (3) the Writings, consisting of Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah and Chronicles. The earliest reference to this threefold division outside the Bible was from a manuscript written about 132 B.C. (But Jesus may refer to this division in Luke 24:44.) It is possible, but not certain, that the Writings were recognized as Scripture at a later date than the Prophets.
d. Finally, the Jews adopted a definite order for the Scriptures, which is different than the one Christians use today. For example, the last book in the Hebrew Scriptures is Chronicles, which follows Ezra-Nehemiah, a book that covers a later historical period. It appears the Scriptures Jesus knew placed Chronicles last. In Luke 11:50-51 Jesus says, "Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah. . ." Abel is the first martyr in the Bible (Gen. 4:8) and Zechariah is the last martyr mentioned in Chronicles (2 Chron. 24:20-22), about 800 B.C. However, Jeremiah records the death of the prophet Uriah (Jer. 26:20-23), two centuries later. So Zechariah was canonically (not chronologically) the last prophet to die as a martyr, because his death was recorded in Chronicles, the last book in the Hebrew Scriptures.
e. The canon of the Hebrew Scriptures developed in stages, since they were written over a period of about 1000 years. The five books of the Law (the Pentateuch), which were written first, were recognized first. (The Samaritans never accepted anything else as Scripture. They had their own edition of Joshua and some other books, but did not recognize them as Scripture.) The Prophets and the Writings were accepted later since the last book, Malachi, wasn't written until about 425 B.C.
f. The 1st century A.D. Jewish historian, Josephus, wrote this about the Scriptures: "From Artaxerxes (Persian king when Malachi was written) until our time everything has been recorded but has not been deemed worthy of like credit with what preceded. But what faith we have placed in our own writing is evident by our conduct; for though so long a time has now passed, no one has dared to add anything to them, or to take anything from them, or to alter anything in them."
g. After the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple by the Romans in 70 A.D., there was no longer a Jewish ruling body there to provide leadership for the Jewish faith. So a rabbinical school and a Sanhedrin were established at Jamnia, a city 12 miles south of Joppa on the Mediterranean coast. One of the subjects they discussed over the years was the status of certain books, such as Ecclesiastes, Esther, Ezekiel and the Song of Songs - whether they should continue to be regarded as Scripture. The Jamnia Sanhedrin about 90 A.D. endorsed the 24 books (our 39) as sacred Scripture, settling this issue among the Jews for good.
h. The Babylonian Talmud (completed about 500 A.D.) confirms the fact that, with the writing of the book of Malachi around 425 B.C., the canon was closed on the Old Testament: "After the latter Prophets Haggai Zechariah and Malachi, the Holy Spirit departed from Israel." (The Talmud consisted of the Mishnah, the collection of Jewish oral laws completed about 200 A.D., and a commentary called the Gemara.)
i. It can no longer be effectively argued that some of the Old Testament books were actually written hundreds of years after they were supposed to have been written. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 settled this question forever. More than 500 Old Testament manuscripts, many of them nearly complete and all copied before 70 A.D., were found at Qumran or other nearby caves. In fact, all of the Old Testament books except Esther have been found in these caves which were abandoned over 1900 years ago. The oldest of these scrolls can be dated reliably to 200 B.C. This is a strong argument for the authenticity of 38 of the 39 Old Testament books. See The Bible... Then and Now
j. The Old Testament Scriptures were repeatedly endorsed by Jesus Christ, as recorded in the Gospels. Though Jesus challenged the Jewish leaders for their man-made interpretations and traditions which they added to the Scriptures, He and the scribes and Pharisees were in complete agreement about the accuracy and authority of the Old Testament. Jesus personally verified the following passages:
(1) The Genesis account of creation (Mark 10:6-9).
(2) The existence of Adam and Eve (Matthew 19:4-5).
(3) Abel's murder by Cain (Matt. 23:35).
(4) Noah and the flood (Luke 17:26-27, Matt 24:37-39).
(5) The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the turning of Lot's wife into a pillar of salt (Luke 17:28-32).
(6) The existence of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Matt. 8:11).
(7) The existence of Moses and the burning bush (Luke 20:37).
(8) The miraculous manna in the wilderness (John 6:49).
(9) The lifting up of the brazen serpent by Moses (John 3:14).
(10) The existence of David, Solomon, Elijah and Elisha (Matt. 12:3 &12:42; Luke 4:25-27).
(11) The reality of Jonah's deliverance from the whale (Matt. 12:40).
It is clear from the above that Jesus didn't consider these events to be folklore or myths!!
C. What about the Apocrypha - the mysterious "hidden" books?
1. The existence of the apocryphal books are cited by some critics as calling into question the Old Testament books. The word Apocrypha means "hidden or concealed." It is applied to a group of religious writings, which are secret or mysterious in nature, unknown in origin, spurious, forged or rejected as uncanonical.
2. These 15 books are I and II Esdras (additions to the books of Ezra and Nehemiah),Tobit, Judith, Additions to the book of Esther, The Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus (or the Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach), Baruch, The Epistle of Jeremiah, The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men, Susanna, Bel and the Dragon (addition to Daniel), The Prayer of Mannasseh, and I and II Maccabees. These books were included in Jerome's Latin Vulgate Version (against his recommendation), which became the Roman Catholic Bible. [See The Apocrypha]
3. While some of these books contain some material of literary merit and historical value, they must be rejected as inspired Scripture for these reasons:
a. They were written long after the Old Testament books were completed about 425 B.C.
b. They lack the prophetic character which qualifies them as the word of God. None of the apocryphal writers claim divine inspiration and some openly disclaim it (Ecclesiasticus and I and II Maccabees).
c. They were never recognized by the Jews. No Hebrew canons included them (the Jamnia Sanhedrin, Talmudists, Massoretes, etc.). The Jewish historian Josephus did not include these books in his list of canonical books.
d. Though he was talked into translating the apocryphal books by two bishop friends, Jerome flatly rejected them as part of the canon and stated that the apocryphal books were in no sense a portion of God's. After his death, they were added to his translation of the Bible, the Latin Vulgate Version.
e. These books contain numerous historical and geographical inaccuracies, as well as blatant myths, folklore and fictitious accounts. Judith 1:1-7 calls Nebuchadnezzar the King of Assyria instead of Babylon. Baruch claims to have been written by the secretary to Jeremiah, but quotes from Daniel which was written much later than Jeremiah.
f. These books teach false doctrines, promote questionable ethics and foster un-biblical standards (deception and suicide are justified, the end justifies the means morality is promoted, almsgiving is said to save you, etc.).
g. Jesus and the New Testament writers never quoted from the Apocrypha and no canon or council of the Christian church for the first 350 years of the church recognized or endorsed these books as inspired.
THE ORIGIN & HISTORY OF THE BIBLE - PART THREE
THE OLD TESTAMENT CANON - HOW WAS IT DEVELOPED?
D. What is the origin of the Greek Old Testament - the Septuagint?
1. When Alexander the Great conquered the lands of the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East in the 330s B.C., that part of the world was given a new language - Greek. It became the international language of politics and commerce, just like English is in the 20th century world. Almost from the founding of Alexandria, Egypt in 331 B.C, there was a Jewish community there and communities of Jews were established in most other major cities of the Greek-speaking world
2. In time, many of these dispersed Jews lost the ability to read and speak Hebrew and Aramaic. In order for synagogue worship to be effective, it was necessary to translate the Scriptures into Greek. At first the Scriptures were read By the rabbis in Hebrew and then translated orally into Greek. Eventually, the five books of Moses were translated into Greek, probably between 250 and 150 B.C.. According to legend, 72 Jewish elders were brought to Alexandria to do the translation, which they were supposed to have completed in 72 days. Later, Christian writers broadened the legend to say that the entire Old Testament was translated in 72 days by these men.
3. The complete Greek Old Testament that was produced came to be known in later centuries as the Septuagint because "septuaginta" is Latin for seventy. Only a few fragments of early Jewish copies of the Septuagint come down to us today, the oldest (two fragments of Deuteronomy) from the 2nd century B.C. The earliest Christian-produced copies of the Septuagint which we have today (found among the Chester Beatty Papyri in 1931) are only fragments. They have been dated in the mid-2nd century A.D. Each of them is in codex form (similar to a modern book) rather than scrolls.
4. The order of books in the Jewish Septuagint was different than in the Hebrew Bible and closer to the order used in our Christian Old Testament today. The Pentateuch was followed by historical books, then poetical/wisdom books, and finally prophetical books, just like our Bible. It included a book called 1 Esdras, consisting of 2 Chron. 35:1 to Neh. 8:13, and 2 Esdras, which included Ezra and the rest of Nehemiah. Also, Psalms had one extra psalm and Esther and Daniel contained additional material. Several additional books that are not in the Hebrew Bible or modern Protestant Bibles were included - Judith, Tobit, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus (not Ecclesiates), Baruch, Letter of Jeremiah, and 1 and 2 Maccabees. These extra books are part of what we call the Apocrypha today and, though not in modern Protestant Bibles, are included in Catholic Bibles. We don't know which book order - that of the Hebrew Bible or the Septuagint - represents the older Jewish tradition.
5. Although the scrolls that comprised the Hebrew Bible were undoubtedly the ones used by Jesus during His ministry on earth (Luke 4:17, etc.), it is very likely that Greek-speaking Jews in Palestine used the Septuagint at the same time. The Synagogue of the Freedmen where Stephen debated the Scriptures (Acts 6:9) would have been a place where it would have been used. Many scholars believe that the quotations Stephen used in the speech preceding his death (Acts 7), were from the Septuagint.
6. When Paul and others carried the Gospel into the Greek-speaking world, the Septuagint became the Bible for the newly-established Christian churches. Since it was used in all the Jewish synagogues of the Greek world, it was the natural choice for Paul and other evangelists. It thus became the Old Testament used by Christians in nearly all parts of the Roman world during the first three centuries of the church.
7. As a result of the adoption of the Septuagint by Christians, Jews who did not accept Christianity became increasingly disenchanted with it and new Greek versions of the Hebrew scriptures were made by the Jews to replace it in the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D. In Theodotion's translation, the translation of Daniel was so much superior to the one in the Septuagint that Christians began using his Daniel in the Septuagint.
8. The three most important copies of the Septuagint which we have today are the Codex Sinaiticus, the Codex Vaticanus and the Codex Alexandrinus. (These codices contain both Old Testament and New Testament books).
a. The Codex Vaticanus (325 A.D.) - This codex contains all the Old Testament books found in modern Protestant Bibles (with some pairs of books combined into single books), plus the following apocryphal books: Wisdom, Sirach, Judith, Tobit, Baruch, and Letter of Jeremiah.
b. The Codex Sinaiticus (350 A.D.) - This codex is incomplete because of damage, with Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Ezekiel and part of Samuel, Kings and the Minor Prophets missing. It also contains these apocryphal books: Tobit, Judith, Maccabees, Wisdom, and Sirach.
c. The Codex Alexandrinus (400 A.D.) - This codex contains all the Old Testament books found in modern Protestant Bibles (with some pairs of books combined into single books), plus these apocryphal books: Baruch, Letter of Jeremiah, Tobit, Judith, Maccabees, Wisdom, and Sirach.
9. The earliest Christian writer to provide a list of the Old Testament books was Melito of Sardis, about 170 A.D. His list of Old Testament books is contained in a letter to a friend named Onesimus, which is quoted by the Christian historian Eusebius. The list probably includes all the books of our Old Testament except Esther. He lists Esdras (which would be Ezra-Nehemiah) and Wisdom (which is an alternative name for Proverbs), and, although not specifically named, Lamentations is probably considered as an appendix to Jeremiah. None of the Septuagint's apocryphal books are included. Melito is the first known writer to refer to this collection of books as "the books of the old covenant” (or Old Testament).
10. The next surviving Christian list of Old Testament books was drawn up by Origen (185-254 AD.), one of the greatest scholars of the early church. Eusebius preserved Origen's list, quoting him as saying "there are 22 books of the Old Testament, according to the tradition of the Hebrews." He combines Judges & Ruth, 1 & 2 Kingdoms (which includes 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 & 2 Kings), 1 & 2 Chronicles, 1 & 2 Esdras (Ezra & Nehemiah), Jeremiah & Lamentations, and the 12 minor prophets into single books. This includes all 39 books found in modern Protestant Bibles. The only addition is the apocryphal Letter of Jeremiah, included as part of Jeremiah. (IPS NOTE: At this point I strongly suggest you read footnote I about Origen.)
11. The first Christian who we can be certain used the word canon to refer to the books belonging in the Bible was Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria from 323 to 373 A.D. In 367 A.D. he issued a list of "the books which are included in the canon and have been delivered to us with accreditation that they are divine. His 22-book list is the same as Origen's, except that Athanasius separates Judges and Ruth, and omits Esther. Athanasius then adds the comment that there are other books which are read for instructional purposes but are not part of the canon: Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom of Sirach, Esther, Judith and Tobit.
12. The Council of Laodicea (363 A.D.) issued a series of "canons" or rules for the guidance of the church. Canon 59 said that "no psalms composed by private individuals or any uncanonical books may be read in church, but only the canonical books of the New and Old Testament." Canon 60 (the last one) then lists the canonical books. It is the same as Athanasius' list, except that Ruth and Judges are combined and Esther is added, thus including all the books of our modern Protestant Bibles.
13. It is clear that the majority opinion of the early church by the 300s was that the Old Testament consisted of the same books as those in our modern Protestant Bibles, except Esther was rejected by some.
E. What is the origin of the Latin Old Testament?
1. While Jews in Rome and the earliest Roman Christians spoke Greek in the church's earliest centuries, and thus used the Septuagint, the citizens of Carthage in the Roman province of Africa spoke primarily Latin. As a result, the earliest translations of the Old Testament in Latin were made in that province in the second half of the 2nd century A.D. This Latin Old Testament was translated from the Greek Septuagint and not from the original Hebrew. It thus included the apocryphal books that were part of the Septuagint
2. The greatest Bible scholar in the early centuries of the church was Jerome (346-420 A.D.). In 382 A.D. he was sent by Damasus, Bishop-of Rome, to revise the Latin version of the Bible because of questions about its quality. He first translated the Psalms and Gospels from the Greek, but decided the accurate way to translate the Bible was to work from the Hebrew. He completed his Latin translation of the Old Testament in 405 A.D. It had 22 books, which correspond to the 39 books of the modern Protestant Old Testament, including Esther. Jerome’s translation of the Bible (Old and New Testament) came to be known as the Latin Vulgate, since it was written in the vulgar (common) form of Latin.
3. Jerome clearly rejected inclusion of the apocryphal books which were included in the Septuagint (and in today's Catholic Bibles). He wrote, "Whatever falls outside these (22 books) must be set apart among the Apocrypha. Therefore, Wisdom, which is commonly entitled Solomon's, with the book of Jesus the son of Sirach, Judith, Tobias, and the Shepherd (of Hermes) are not in the canon." Jerome also rejected the Septuagint's addition to Jeremiah (Baruch) and included a note with Daniel that the Septuagint's additions to that book have been included reluctantly. Jerome did translate Tobit and Judith into Latin from Aramaic because they had ethical value, but grouped them with the Apocrypha and said they could not be used to establish doctrine. [See The Apocrypha]
4. But other important church leaders favored the apocryphal books, including Augustine (354-430 AD.), Bishop of Hippo in North Africa. He said that the Septuagint, a product of 72 divinely-inspired wise men, had to be superior to the translation of one man, even if that one man was the learned Jerome. In 393 A.D. the Council of Hippo was hosted by Augustine. The records of the proceedings of that council have been lost, but they were summarized in the proceedings of the Third Council of Carthage (397 AD.), which makes clear that Augustine's list of Old Testament books (including the apocryphal books of the Septuagint) was endorsed. IPS NOTE: At this point you may want to read The Sins of Augustine.
5. In 405 A.D. Innocent, Bishop of Rome, sent a list of canonical books to Exsuperious, Bishop of Toulouse. It included the apocryphal books in the Old Testament.
6. The Sixth Council of Carthage (419 A.D.) re-enacted the ruling of the Third Council, again including the apocryphal books. All church councils that addressed the question in the following centuries also endorsed these books as canonical.
7. As the years passed, other books, never even included in the Septuagint, were added to the Latin Vulgate Bible. These included the Prayer of Manasseh and 4th Ezra (the 2nd Esdras of the English Apocrypha).
8. Throughout the following centuries, most users of the Latin Vulgate Bible made no distinction between the apocryphal books and the others. It was not until the Middle Ages that a revival of serious biblical study brought up the issue of canonicity again. Hugh of St. Victor served as the prior of the Abbey of St. Victor in Paris, France from 1133 to 1141 A.D. He published a list of the books included in the original Hebrew Bible and said, "There are also in the Old Testament (Latin Vulgate) certain other books which are indeed read (in church) but are not inscribed in the body of the (Hebrew) text or in the canon of authority: such are the books of Tobit, Judith and the Maccabees, the so-called Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiasticus." It is clear that Hugh of St. Victor's research had led him to Jerome!
F. What was the impact of the Protestant Reformation on the Old Testament Canon?
1. When the l6th century reformer Martin Luther took the position that the authority in the church resided in Scripture alone and not in the Pope, it raised up again the issue of what is Holy Scripture. Luther bitterly opposed the Catholic Church's indulgence system, which was tied to belief in purgatory and the practice of masses for the dead. His enemies pointed out that 2 Maccabees 12:45 authorized praying for the dead to save them from sin. Luther replied by quoting Jerome's statement that 2 Maccabees was not part of the canon and not to be used "for establishing the authority of ecclesiastical dogmas." Luther had no use for the Apocrypha. In both Old and New Testaments, "what preaches Christ" was for him the dominant principle and the Apocrypha didn't preach Christ as did Genesis, Psalms, Isaiah, etc.
IPS Note: Historical accuracy that is invariably quite complex has, all too often, given place to popular legend and over simplification that most Christians unquestioningly and uncritically accept. What seems to be little known is that Luther's 95 Theses were not statements of fact, nor a final statement of belief but tentative opinions some of which he had doubts about. And as far as the popular door-posting story goes - It is far more likely that popular legend has dramatized the entire incident. DETAILS
2. When Luther published his German Bible in 1534, he gathered the apocryphal books together as an appendix to the Old Testament to show they had different status. This appendix was entitled, "The Apocrypha: Books which are not to be held equal to holy scripture, but useful and good to read." Even earlier, Ulrich Zwingli's Zurich Bible (1524-29) was published with the Apocrypha separated from the Old Testament. [See The Apocrypha]
3. In 1546 the Roman Catholic Church finally took up the issue of the apocryphal book sat the Council of Trent to answer the attacks of the Protestants on the status of these books. It was decreed that it was to the "ancient and vulgate editions" (the Latin Vulgate Bible) that ultimate appeal should be made. Since that edition made no distinction between these two groups of books, it was decided that the Catholic Church should make no distinction. Thus Jerome's distinction between the books found in the Hebrew Bible and the books which were to be read only "for the edification of the people" was rejected by the Roman Catholic Church. It should be noted, however, that many Roman Catholic scholars today do recognize a difference between the two groups of books, even if the church officially does not.
4. The 39 Articles of Religion have been authoritative for the doctrine of the discipline of the Church of England (Episcopal Church) since 1562. Article VI includes a list of those Old and New Testament books that are canonical.
a. The introduction to this list of canonical books says, "Holy Scripture contain all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an Article of Faith or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of the holy Scripture we do understand those Canonical Books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church " The Old Testament list that follows includes 38 books compared to the 39 of modern Protestant Bibles, since Lamentations is included as an appendix to Jeremiah. The order of books is exactly the same as in today's Bibles, but Ezra and Nehemiah are called 1 and 2 Esdras.
b. Immediately following the Old Testament list are these words, "And the other Books (as Jerome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine; such are these following: . . " The list that follows is a list of the apocryphal books
5. In 1644 the English Long Parliament, controlled by Puritans, ordained that the Apocrypha should cease to be read in services of the Church of England. In 1647 the Church of England issued its famous Westminster Confession of Faith, which included a list of 39 Old Testament books and 27 New Testament books as the only books of Holy Scripture. A following paragraph states, "The Books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the canon of the scripture; and therefore are of no authority in the Church of God, nor to be any otherwise approved, or made use of, than other human writings. Thus a mistake made by the translators of the Greek Septuagint (including the apocryphal books with the canonical books) was finally corrected (at least for English-speaking Protestants) after more than 1800 years! [See The Problem With Creeds]
6. When the Puritan government was overthrown in 1660, the readings from the Apocrypha reappeared in Church of England services, but these books were less favored as time passed.
THE ORIGIN & HISTORY OF THE BIBLE - PART FOUR
IV. THE NEW TESTAMENT CANON - HOW WAS IT DEVELOPED?
A. How did the books of the New Testament come into existence?
1. During the 1st Century A.D., the books of the New Testament were written over a period of approximately 45 years (50-95 A.D.), copied by hand, and circulated among churches (Colossians 4:16) throughout the Roman Empire, which extended from England and Spain to the Middle East. In the early years, not all churches had equal access to these 27 books. They would slowly be copied and circulated among the churches and it would have taken many years for them to have saturated the empire. Then during certain periods of persecution, copies of these books were seized by the government and burned. So each book became known by a specific church one at a time or, at most, a few at a time as copies arrived at that church over a period of many years or even many decades. [See Dating The New Testament]
2. The best information we have on the origins of these books is:
a. Matthew - Early church leaders almost unanimously agreed that this book was written by the Apostle Matthew. It was the most frequently quoted Gospel. It was written sometime prior to 70 A.D., since there is no reference to the destruction of Jerusalem's temple which took place that year and that event is prophesied in Matt. 24:15-22. Irenaeus, who became Bishop of Lyons in 178 A.D., wrote, "Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome and laying the foundations of the church. Since tradition says Peter arrived in Rome in 63 or 64 A.D. and that he and Paul were martyred there in about 67 or 68 A.D., the best estimate for the writing of the book is 64 to 67 A.D.
b. Mark - Early church tradition said Mark was written by John Mark, a companion of Peter and Paul. Since prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple is contained in Mark 13:14, the book must have been written before 70 A.D. Irenaeus and others wrote that Mark wrote the gospel after Peter's death. So a good estimate would be 68-69 A.D. F.F. Bruce dates it 64-65 A.D. Liberal scholars claim Matthew and Luke "borrowed" from Mark when they wrote. These three books are called the "synoptic" gospels because they contain parallel material.
c. Luke - Early church leaders held that this book was written by Luke, a close companion of Paul. It was the first part of a two-part document, the second part of which was Acts (Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1-2). Since the account in Acts ends about 62 A.D. and includes nothing of the last five years of Paul's life, it is reasonable to date Luke prior to 62 A.D. Some have suggested Luke wrote his gospel about 58 A.D. while Paul was imprisoned in Palestine before being taken to Rome.
d. John - Irenaeus and most early church leaders accepted John the Apostle as the author. In John 21:20-24 the author identifies himself as "the disciple whom Jesus loved" and "the one who had leaned back against Jesus at supper and had said, Lord, who is going to betray you?’" This is clearly John the Apostle. Most scholars date the book 80 to 90 A.D., but scholar J. A. T. Robinson argues for 65 A.D.
e. Acts - The early church was virtually unanimous in accepting Luke as the author. Since its account ends about 62 A.D. and includes nothing of the rest of Paul's life, it must have been written about 62 A.D.
f. Romans - There is almost universal agreement that Paul wrote this epistle. It was written on his third missionary journey. Since he spent three months in Greece (Acts 20:3) and he recommends Phoebe (Romans 16:1), the servant of the church at Cenchrea (seaport of Corinth), the letter was probably written from Corinth. The probable date of writing would be 55 to 57 A.D.
g. 1 Corinthians - Paul has always been accepted as the writer of this letter. Clement of Rome said about 95 A.D., in his own letter to the Corinthians, that Paul wrote this letter - the earliest identification of a New Testament writer by name outside the New Testament itself. It was written from Ephesus (1 Cor. 16:8) during the latter part of Paul's three-year stay there (Acts 19:1-20:1), about 54 to 56 AD.
h. 2 Corinthians - The early church accepted Paul as the author. It was written on Paul's 3rd-missionary journey, some months or even a year or more after 1 Corinthians, in about 55 to 57 A.D. It was probably written from Macedonia.
i. Galatians - The early church accepted Paul as the author and this could be the earliest of his letters. Some scholars date it as early as 48 or 49 A D., suggesting it was written from Antioch after his 1st missionary journey to that area. Others date it about 53 A.D., early in his ministry at Ephesus. Finally, some date it as late as 56 A.D. during the 3rd missionary journey, because of the similarity of some of its content to Romans, which was written about then, and suggest it was written from Ephesus or Macedonia.
j. Ephesians - The early church accepted Paul as the author. This is one of the "epistles from prison," written during Paul's first Roman imprisonment, probably in 62 A.D. - -but certainly between 60 and 62 A.D. A few scholars over the centuries have doubted it was addressed to the Ephesians, since the words "at Ephesus" are not included in Eph. 1:1 in two of the oldest manuscripts, Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus. These scholars suggest it was actually intended for the church at Laodicea, since such a letter is mentioned in Colossians 4:16, and that the phrase "at Ephesus" was added in another copy of the letter someone sent to Ephesus to make it more "personal." But early church tradition clearly said the original letter was to the Ephesians. It may well be that "at Ephesus" was removed from some copies of the letter that were sent on to other churches so the letter would seem more applicable to them and that the Ephesus text in Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus was descended from those copies!
k. Philippians - Paul is without doubt the author. This letter was written from prison (Phil. 1:12-14). The vast majority of scholars have held that it was written from Rome in 60 to 62 A D. A few have argued for an Ephesian imprisonment (1 Cor. 15:30-32 & 2 Cor. 1:8-10) and therefore place this letter earlier, about 54 A.D.
l. Colossians - Only a few question Paul's authorship. It was written from prison (Col. 4:3. 10. 18) and delivered along with Philemon by Tychicus and Onesimus (Col. 4:7-9). The dominant view is that it was written from Rome in 60 to 62 A.D. A few say the imprisonment was in Caesarea (58-60 A.D.) or Ephesus (55-56 AD.).
m. 1 Thessalonians - Paul is clearly the author and he wrote it in Corinth. This is also a candidate for Paul's earliest letter. Acts 18:12 says Gallio was proconsul of Achaia when Corinthian Jews accused him before Gallio. An inscription at Delphi says Gallio's pro-consulship began in 51 A.D. Acts 18:11 suggests Paul was in Corinth 18 months before this incident, giving us a date of 50 A.D. for this book.
n. 2 Thessalonians - Paul is the accepted author and it was probably written in late 50 A.D., a few months after 1 Thessalonians.
o. 1 Timothy - Paul is the author, but a few have questioned it. It was written after Acts closes and between Paul's two Roman imprisonment's, about 63 or 64 A.D., during missionary travel, possibly from Macedonia (1 Tim. 1:3).
p. 2 Timothy - A few question Paul's authorship. It was written about 65 or 66 A.D. and shortly before his martyrdom (2 Tim. 4:6-18). This is the last of Paul's letters included in the New Testament.
q. Titus - A few question Paul's authorship. It was written about the same time as 1 Timothy, 63 or 64 A.D. They contain similar lists of elder qualifications.
r. Philemon - Paul is clearly the author. It was written from prison (probably Rome) at the same time as Colossians, 61 or 62 A.D.
s. Hebrews - Authorship of this letter has been debated from the early years of the church. Hebrews does not name its author and the early church was divided on whether it was Paul. Hebrews 13:23 mentions Timothy, Paul's companion, suggesting Pauline authorship. The style is compatible with Paul's but some scholars disagree. Other suggested authors were Apollos, Barnabus, Luke, Aquila and Priscilla, Silas, and Phillip the deacon. Since it was written to Jews and no mention is made of the Jewish-Roman War and the destruction of the Jewish temple (68-70 AD.), it must have been written before 68 AD. This date would work for Paul as author. Hebrews 13:24 implies it was written from Italy.
t. James - Early church tradition says the author was a brother of Jesus and a leader in the Jerusalem Church (Acts 15:13-21). Similarity of the language in the letter to the quote from James in Acts 15 has been cited as evidence. However, some liberal theologians have argued for an unknown James writing as late as 150 A.D. Martin Luther questioned the book because of its emphasis on good deeds as a demonstration of true faith, which he saw as opposing salvation by faith. The book has been dated by scholars between the late 40s and early 60s A.D. James, Jesus' brother, was martyred in the late 60s A.D. James, the brother of John and son of Zebedee, was martyred in 44 A.D., too early for him to have been the author.
u. 1 Peter - There is no doubt Peter is the. author. In 1 Peter 5:13 the author refers to Mark as "my son," which fits Peter's relationship with him depicted in church tradition. The same verse suggests the letter was written from Babylon. But this is probably a reference to Rome as a sinful city. Rome is the probable place of writing. Church tradition suggests Peter arrived in Rome in 63 or 64 A.D. and best estimate for date of writing is about 64 A.D., just before Nero's persecution of the Christians began.
v. 2 Peter - 2 Peter 1:1 says Peter wrote it., but some of the early church leaders disputed his authorship for several generations, as do some liberal modern scholars, based on unconvincing evidence. The letter warns against false teachers. That may explain some of the opposition to the book since many of the critics of the book have held unorthodox doctrinal views. Martin Luther also opposed the book because its doctrine did not fit well with doctrine he held. The book was probably written from Rome toward the end of Nero's reign and shortly before Peter's martyrdom, possibly 66 A.D. The fact that Peter died soon after writing it may have been a factor in its slow acceptance by some. If he had lived another 20 years, everyone would likely have known whether or not he wrote it.
w. 1, 2 & 3 John - Writings outside the Bible refer to a presbyter (elder) named John in Ephesus in early church times. Tradition has John the Apostle living in Ephesus in his later years. This has led to confusion. Some scholars believe these two Johns are the same person, others say they are different. A minority of scholars have argued that John the Apostle wrote the Gospel of John, while John the Elder wrote at least 2 & 3 John. Comparing the gospel to the letters, however, makes it clear to most people that John the Apostle wrote all of them (John 1:1-5 & 15:9-14; 1 John 1:1-4 & 3:21-24; 2 John 1:4-6). That John would be both an apostle and an elder is not unusual. Peter calls himself an elder (1 Peter 5:1). The best estimate on date of writing of 1 John is about 90 A.D., with the others following soon after.
x. Jude - In Jude 1:1, the author says he is the brother of James. Matt. 13:55 and Mark 6:3 name Judas and James as brothers of Jesus. Since the author of Jude doesn't identify James, it must be a James that most readers would know. Only James, Jesus' brother, and James, the Apostle, would fit that picture, and James, the Apostle, had no brother named Jude or Judas that we know about. A number of scholars have questioned the authorship of this book, but their arguments are inconclusive. The date of writing cannot be estimated closer than the last half of the 1st century. The legitimacy of Jude has also been questioned because it quotes from the non-canonical books of Enoch (Jude 1:14-15) and the Assumption of Moses (Jude 1:9). But Jude was accepted as part of the New Testament by most church leaders by 350 A.D.
y. Revelation - This book was accepted by the church in the West by the early2nd century, with John the Apostle as the author. However, many church leaders in the East opposed the book for several centuries and doubted that John the Apostle wrote it. Since it was a book of prophecy containing exotic and hard-to-interpret visions, it was used to prove all kinds of strange doctrines by heretical groups in the Greek-speaking East that we would describe today as cults. So, many orthodox church leaders in the East came to dislike the book. However. there is much common language between Revelation and the Gospel of John. And the tradition of the early church was that John the Apostle was exiled to the island of Patmos by Domitian (emperor from 81-96 A.D.) and the John of Revelation says he was on Patmos when he had the vision (Rev.1:9-10). Some early church sources said the vision came to John in the 14th year of Domitian's reign, which would date the book to 95A.D.
3. It is generally agreed that the crucifixion of Christ took place in 30 A.D. Three of the four Gospels, Acts, and all of the letters of Paul, Peter and James were written between about 50 and 70 A.D., only 20 to 40 years after Christ's resurrection and at a time when most of the Apostles were still living, and John's Gospel and letters, and Revelation, though written 50 to 65 years after Christ's resurrection, were written at a time when many of the early disciples of the Apostles were still living. It is clear that a fraudulent book would not have been accepted by the Church at such an early date. Thus, we have reason for high confidence in the validity of the New Testament books!
a. Bible scholar F.F. Bruce writes, "The time elapsing between the evangelic events and the writing of most of the New Testament books was, from the standpoint of historical research, satisfactorily short. For in assessing the trustworthiness of ancient historical writings, one of the most important questions is: How soon after the events took place were they recorded?"
b. Eminent scholar Sir Frederic Kenyon writes, "The interval then between the dates of original composition and the earliest extant evidence becomes so small as to be in fact negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed." [See Dating The New Testament]
Continue on to Part 5,6 and 7