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Lesson 42 of 50 - Bibliology...Theology (part two of ten)


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Theology (part two): Bibliology, the study of the Bible

Bibliology - The Study of Scripture

Information about God’s character, God’s plans, God’s activities, God’s interaction in history, God’s knowledge, God’s ways and God’s wisdom that is not known by man through his natural life must come to man through some supernatural means of revelation. Revelation literally means to take a covering off so what was covered and unknown may be seen and known. In order to communicate this information God would need to communicate to man through a means that man would understand. There are several methods that God has used to communicate special revelation to man.  In the past he used dreams, visions, theophanies, angels, even the urim and thummim kept in the breastplate of Israel’s high priest.  God also spoke directly to and through men called prophets and apostles.God’s activity in history itself has provided revelation of himself and of his plans. These were all forms of communication used by God to bring about his revelation.

The greatest and most direct method of revelation God used was the incarnation of Jesus Christ. While Jesus lived on the earth his words and deeds revealed the Father (John 1:14), the nature of God (14:9; 17:26), the power of God (3:2), the wisdom of God (7:46), the glory of God (1:14), the life of God (1 John 1:1-3), the love of God (Romans 5:8) and the word of God (17:17).

The information that God revealed through all these means of special revelation were recorded in writing, one of the most basic forms of communication given to men.   In the Old Testament God inspired men to record in written form historical events which included not just human events but God’s activity as well as the words he spoke.  The prophets who received words from God to speak often wrote them down.

“Men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Second Peter 1:20-21 

“Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.  For the revelation   awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false.' Habakkuk 2:2

God’s revelation in scripture is progressive.  This means that information or revelation that comes later often builds on information or revelation that he gave earlier.   The Old Testament revelation gave clear, accurate information concerning the big picture, but in the New Testament revelation that is given gives clear, accurate information concerning the details of the picture.  Through out the process of progressive revelation the information is trustworthy and useful but is moving toward a more complete form.

“So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.” Galatians 3:24

“The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming – not the realities themselves.' Hebrews 10:1

'For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John.'' Matthew 11:13

Some false contemporary views of revelation include:

  • Reducing the meaning of the historical events of scripture to the imagination or opinion of the man (Moses, Joshua, David, etc) recording the event. This view would say, for example, that it was only in Joshua’s understanding that  the walls of Jericho fell for Israel because they were the chosen people of God when in reality the walls may have fell for some other unknown reason of God’s or it may have simply been a random earthquake. The correct understanding of revelation is to understand the what and the why of what happen in light of the scriptural account.
  • Reducing the moment of the revelation to the modern readers encounter with “God”. This would allow the modern reader to make application of the events in Jericho to their own current situations disconnected from the actual historical event and purpose revealed in scripture.  In this case the reader is trying to gain revelation from God apart from the truth of scripture and from their own personal encounter with God through reading their own meaning into the story. Within a very short time the modern reader is not even using their Bible to receive revelation about God. They move quickly to understanding “God” by interpreting their own thoughts and experiences.

The revelation of Scripture from God includes the necessity that the writers and the words that they wrote were inspired. This leads us to one of the most crucial teachings of Christianity: the inspiration of Scriptures.

The doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture means there was a divine influence by the Holy Spirit on the process of writing the Scriptures in the past.  The fact that Holy Spirit inspired the recording of the revelation of the infinite God in written words means these words remain inspired and continue to communicate the revelation that God intended for all time. As Jesus said:

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away." Mark 13:31

“I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” Matthew 5:18

The Bible claims that even the writers of the scriptures where moved by God in their understanding of the words and events of revelation.  Two key verses capture the biblical claim for the written revelation: Second Timothy 3:16 and Second Peter 3:16.

All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Second Timothy 3:16

All scripture” refers to the entire Bible which is the revelation from God. The word “Scripture”, or grafh in the Greek, is used to refer to:

  • The whole Old Testament as the writings of the prophets or the prophetic writings (Mt. 21:42; 22:29; John 5:39; Acts 17:11; Romans 1:2)
  • Individual passages of the Old Testament (Mark 12:10; Luke 4:21; John 2:22; Acts 1:16; Romans 4:3; 9:17; Galatians 3:8)
  • New Testament letters (2 Peter 3:16; 1 Timothy 5:18)

The scriptures speak with divine authority:

“These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled” John 19:36

The scripture speak with divine foresight:

“The scriptures foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith.” Galatians 3:8 “

God-breathed” is the Greek word qeopneustoV which captured the thought of the rabbinical teaching that held to the understanding that the words of the prophets did not come from the prophets themselves but instead were the result of the Spirit of God resting on the prophets and speaking through them.  Thus, the Rabbis and the apostles agreed that the words coming through the mouths of the prophets were breathed through them from the mouth of God himself.

Paul goes on to say no only that all scripture is God-breathed but he states the reason God revealed the truth through the Scripture. Scripture is “useful” or “profitable” for preparing men for effective lives before God. Scripture will itself teach, rebuke, correct and train a man to be righteous and equipped to fulfill God’s will on earth. In other words, God’s revelation to man through scripture is necessary for man to become all that the creator has planned for him.

Peter writes concerning the source and authority of Scripture when he writes:

“Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Second Peter 1:20-21

Peter, like Paul, draws attention to the Scriptures in his dying words, as they both are writing their final letters. Peter says that Scripture did not come from the prophet’s understanding of events or his interpretation of what he felt God was saying. In fact, Peter is emphatically denying the human origin of Scripture. Instead Peter says, the prophets were “carried along” by the Holy Spirit.  “Carried along” is the word ferw which was used to describe a ship carried along by the wind.  It is used this way in Acts 27:15, 17:

“The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along . . . Fearing that they would run aground on the sandbars of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and let the ship be driven along.”

The word ferw, or driven along, means “to be carried, to be borne along.”  The prophets will and insight was carried along by the Spirit of God to see, understand and communicate what the Spirit of God intended.  They went where the Spirit carried them just like the ship went where the wind drove it.  An example of a man’s will being overcome and carried along by the Spirit of God may be seen in the opening lines of Jude’s letter:

“Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” Jude 3

Jude was personally eager to write about salvation but something beyond him caused him to feel the urgency to communicate to the people concerning holding to the faith and resisting apostasy.

One more important point concerning the doctrine of inspiration: the inspiration of the Holy Spirit upon the writers of Scripture did not end with giving them insight and thoughts; inspiration of the Holy Spirit in scripture extends to the very words that were written.  Paul writes:

“This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.” First Corinthians 2:13

Peter tells us that Paul speaks to us in his letters:

“Just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him.  He writes the same way in all his letters,speaking in them of these matters.” Second Peter 3:15, 16

It is important to accept that the written words are inspired, or breathed from God, because if you simply accept that God’s inspiration reached only to the thoughts of the writers you can then assume that it was possible for them to fail to properly communicate those thoughts in words they spoke or wrote. If this concept is accepted, which regretfully so it is, then we really do not know if we have an accurate recording of the revelation of God. We could believe that he inspired Paul, Peter, Isaiah, David, etc. in the past but the revelation they received could then be rejected based on the fact that they failed to accurately record it. The Bible teaches that God inspired the very words the prophets spoke and the very words the apostles recorded.  Inspiration of Scripture extends to the words of Scripture. 

Points of Doctrine Concerning Inspiration

  • All Scripture is inspired (2 Tim. 3:16)
  • Scripture comes from the mouth of God (2 Tim. 3:16)
  • Scripture reveals God’s plan and God’s ways to man (2 Tim. 3:16)
  • Scripture did not originate in the thoughts of man (2 Peter 1:20)
  • Scripture came through men who were carried along by the Holy Ghost in their thinking, speaking and writing (2 Peter 1:20)
  • The Words of Scripture were written through inspiration (1 Cor. 2:13)
  • The Words of Scripture continue to be inspired throughout all time (Mark 13:31


Doctrinal Errors Concerning Inspiration
  • Natural Inspiration – erroneously understands the writers of the Bible as very great men who were geniuses.  They came up with their own thoughts and wrote them down.  Since there have been many men like this in time the inspired books are many and are surely still being written.
  • Mystical Inspiration - this incorrect perspective accepts the Bible to be the result of men who were assisted by the Holy Spirit to write good material that was “inspired” by God.  This view would consider many of today’s sermons, songs, books, conversations and actions as equally “inspired” by God.
  • Dynamic Inspiration – an errant opinion that presents biblical authors as having had a revelatory experience with God.  Then they wrote down in their own words and abilities what happened.  In this case the message from God passes through the human heart and mind and comes out in written form similar to fresh water passing through a garden hose.  The water starts out fresh but by the time it is drank it tastes like the garden hose.
  • Degree Inspiration – this view accepts the Bible as inspired but considers some parts to be more inspired than others.
  • Limited Inspiration – in this position some parts of the Bible are inspired and others are not inspired.  In the case of doctrinal teaching inspiration is accepted but concerning some of the historical accounts (creation, flood, Abraham, Job, even miracles) there are fables, stories, inaccurate recordings or simply men who wrote history with out inspiration.  Of course, the problem with this is if the history is not inspired, even in error, how the words or doctrine from that history can be accurate or useful.
  • Concept Inspiration – an illogical proposal that believes that the ideas of scripture are inspired but the words themselves are not.  This is like saying I understood the novel but I couldn’t understand any of the words.
  • Barthian Inspiration – Karl Barth introduced a liberal view of inspiration in the 1900’s.  He held that Jesus was the Word and that the Bible revealed and testified about Jesus.  In this view Jesus is revealed in the Bible but the Bible is not inspired, and worse, it contains errors.  The problem is clear:  If Jesus is unknowable except by revelation from God, how can we truly know Jesus if the revelation we have is in error or not a worthy revelation.
  • Neo-orthodox Inspiration – this false doctrine teaches the Bible is the word of God but not the words of God.  The individual words are not inspired but when you read the Bible it becomes the Word of God, or inspired, for the reader.  This developed from Barthian Inspiration.
  • Mechanical or Dictation – this undeveloped position teaches that the writers of the Bible were used by God as human typewriters (or, word processors).  God would have dictated word for word and the writer would have simply recorded it.  For example, Moses would have been told, “Write ‘In the beginning . . . God created . . .’ ”  In this case the personality, experience, vocabulary, etc. of the author is set aside.  The Bible does not teach this nor does it reflect this form of inspiration.  The books of the Bible reflect the personalities, vocabulary, experience and even the writing style of the author and the one’s who did the writing. (Rom. 16:22;


Scriptural Proof of Inspiration

  • Concerning Moses, God said,

“God spoke all these words.” Exodus 20:1

  • David said:

“The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me; his word was on my tongue.” Second Samuel 23:2

  • Concerning the book of Isaiah:

“The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw . . . Hear, O heavens!  Listen O earth!  For the Lord has spoken . . .” Isaiah 1:1

  • Zechariah testifies concerning the earlier prophets:

“They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets.” Zechariah 7:12

  • “Thus says the Lord” or “God said” is used repeatedly in the Bible to verify the recording of words spoken by God:
    • “Thus says the Lord” – Isaiah 1:11, 18; Jeremiah 2:3, 5, and more
    • “God said” – Genesis 1:3, 6, and more.
    • “The Word of the Lord came to me” – Jeremiah 34:1; Ezekiel 30:1, and more.
    • “The Lord called to Moses and spoke to him” or “The Lord said to Moses” is found more than sixty times in Leviticus – 1:1; 4:1; 5:14, and more.
  • Paul recognizes the gospel of Luke as being inspired:

“For the Scripture says . . . ‘The worker deserves his wages (from Luke 10:7).’ ”                 
First Timothy 5:18

  • Peter recognizes Paul’s letters to be Scripture:

“(Paul’s) letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as the do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.”              Second Peter 3:16

  • Paul claims to be inspired by the Holy Spirit and to have received revelation from God:

“This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.”                                                   First Corinthians 2:13
“God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.”                                                         First Corinthians 2:19
“I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up.  I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.”
Galatians 1:11, 12

  • John claims to be inspired and to have received revelation and words from God:

“The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants . . . He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw – that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.”                                                                     Revelation 1:1-2
“Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now, and what will take place later.”
Revelation 1:19

The Extent of the Authority of Inspiration
The words of scripture have divine authority.  Jesus said “the Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35) and that the words would never pass away (Matthew 5:17-18).  The details of scriptural authority extend to:

  • All written Scripture (Second Timothy 3:16)
  • All the words in Scripture (Matthew 22:43; 1 Corinthians 2:13)
  • Even the verb tenses or noun forms are maintained as part of inspired Scripture (Matthew 22:32; Galatians 3:16)
  • Even the smallest parts of the letters that make up the words are God-breathed Scripture (Matthew 5:17-18)

Who Did the Actual Writing of These New Testament Books?

Romans was written down by Tertius (Romans 16:22)
First Peter was written down by Silas (First Peter 5:12)

Paul simply signed his name at the end of these letters after they had been written by a scribe:
First Corinthians 16:21
Galatians 6:11
Colossians 4:18
Second Thessalonians 3:17

These men are listed as joining Paul in sending the letters:

  • Sosthenes - First Corinthians 1:1
  • Timothy - Second Corinthians 1:1; Philippians 1:1; 
    Colossians 1:1; First and Second Thessalonians 1:1
  • “All the brothers with me” - Galatians 1:1
  • Silas - First and Second Thessalonians 1:1

The Doctrine of Inerrancy
The definition of the doctrine of inerrancy says that the original writings of scripture (or, the autographs) are entirely true and never false when properly interpreted concerning doctrine, ethics, social life, physical life, history, geography, science, etc.  Simply put, the doctrine of inerrancy teaches that the Bible is without error.  The Bible teaches its own inerrancy.  Part of the test of divine origin of Scripture is its accuracy and its truthfulness (Deuteronomy 13:1-5; 18:20-22).  Jesus himself taught that Scripture could not be in error (John 10:34-35).  Scripture depends on its own inerrancy when it quotes other Scripture as a text proof of a truth or a concept (John 10:34-35; Matthew 22:32; Galatians 3:16).  Scripture teaches that God cannot lie (Numbers 23:19; First Samuel 15:29; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18) and then repeatedly quotes God.  If Scripture is God’s word then it also must be accurate.

Augustine (354-430) supports the Biblical view of inerrancy when he says, For it seems to me that most disastrous consequences must follow upon our believing that anything false is found in the sacred books.  That is to say that the men by whom the Scripture has been given to us and committed to writing put down in these books anything false.  If you once admit into such a high sanctuary of authority one false statement, there will not be left a single sentence of those books, which, if appearing to anyone difficult in practice or hard to believe, may not be the same fatal rule be explained away as a statement, in which intentionally, the author declared what was not true” (Epistle from Augustine to Jerome around 394; Letter 28, chapter 3)

When it is said the Bible is inerrant or that it is always true this includes all normal means of communication including:

  • rounding off of numbers
  • approximations
  • witness of an event by different people
  • general and accepted language of appearance
  • free quotations

For example, some have criticized the Bible for not knowing the value of pi.  In Second Chronicles we read the dimensions of the circular bronze basin made by Solomon:

                “He made the sea of cast metal, circular in shape, measuring ten cubits from rim to rim and five cubits high.                              It took a line of thirty cubits to measure around it.”                                          Second Chronicles 4:2

The critics would say that this is an error because C = p x D, or circumference equals p times the diameter.  A high school math book tells us that the value of p is 3.14 but the writer of Second Chronicles 4:2 apparently didn’t know that and instead used the value of 3 for p instead of 3.14.  So, our Old Testament verse figures the equation this way:  
C = p x D
C = 3 x 10 cubits
C = 30 cubits

A high school student would figure the equation this way: 

C = p x D
C = 3.14 x 10 cubits
C = 31.4 cubits

But, of course, outside a high school class room 3.14 might be as “erroneous” as 3 when being used for space travel or technical equipment.  In this case p would equal 3.14159.  Even this value is a rounded off number from the unending value of p which is 3.14159265358979323846…  The Bible maintains its inerrancy even though it rounds off some numbers since it is a normal and acceptable means of communication.

If two people witness a sporting event, an accident, or a political speech they will later give a similar account but most likely they will also record different details of the event.  Both testimonies are true and accurate, but yet they would be different.  For example, I could return home from having watched my son’s baseball game.  When my wife asked about the game I replied that our son had scored two runs and we won the game.  Later at the grocery store she may talk with another parent and find out the final score was 7-1.  When I reported the results of the game to my wife I may have been focused on my son, but I was not in error but omitting the fact that 5 other runs were also scored.   The fact that two different accounts of a single event recorded in scripture does not constitute an error.  This also is a normal and acceptable way of communication.

If I read in the newspaper, “Sunrise 6:37 A.M.”, I do write a letter to the editor criticizing the paper for their scientific error.  I understand that the newspaper is communicating a fact from the perspective of the appearance of that event.  The newspaper is not trying to state a law concerning planetary rotation.  The newspaper is communicating what time the sun will start to appear.  The Bible also communicates at times from the perspective of men.

If at work I receive my yearly evaluation from my supervisor in the form of a document that includes ratings on different competencies, recordings of observed performances and some personal comments that include the following comment, “The employee has demonstrated an understanding of the assigned tasks and consistently performs at a high level of competency.”  If someone asks me in the break room what my boss said at my evaluation I could reply, “I am doing a good job.”  Even though my supervisor never literally said this or used the terms “good job” it is an acceptable and truthful reply.  My summary of my evaluation was not verbatim but it was accurate. There are places in the scripture where free quotations like this are used while maintaining accuracy.

Jesus’ Views of Scripture
Jesus accepted the Old Testament Scriptures as historically accurate.  This is particularly interesting when you understand that Jesus was the second member of the trinity in the flesh, and so, he would have been part of all of these stories.   Jesus considered these people and events as historical and he agreed with the biblical description of each of them.  Jesus challenged and corrected many individuals including the scribes, the priests, the traditions and more, but he never criticized or corrected the Jewish Scriptures.  Jesus demonstrated that he believed he had in the Jewish Old Testament the true and accurate word of God:

  • Adam and Eve (Mt. 19:3-5; Mark 10:6-8)
  • Noah and the Flood (Mt. 24:38-39; Luke 17:26-27)
  • Sodom and Lot (Mt. 10:15; Luke 17:28-29)
  • Jonah (Mt. 12:40)
  • Isaiah, Jesus quotes from both the first and second halves of Isaiah’s book, assigning the full book to Isaiah (Mt. 12:17; 13:13-15
  • Elijah (Mt. 17:11-12)
  • Daniel (Mt. 24:15)
  • Abel (Mt. 23:35)
  • Zechariah (Mt. 23:35)
  • Abiathar (Mark 2:26)
  • David (Mt. 22:45)
  • Moses and the books of Moses (Mt. 8:4; John 5:46)
  • Abraham (Mt. 8:11; John 8:39)
  • Isaac (Mt. 8:11)
  • Jacob (Mt. 8:11)

The Jot and Tittle
“I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter (jot, yod, ’ ), 
not the least stroke of a pen 
(tittle, a small line on a letter that changes the letter like Q and O), 
will be any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”

- Jesus, Mt.5:18

jot, hebrew letter, Matthew 5:18, Mt. 5:18

  • Smallest of all Hebrew letters called a yod
  • It is a letter but it is similar in size and appearance as a English apostrophe  ’
  • Adding or subtracting this, or any letter, can change the word, which would change the entire meaning of the sentence.
  • Removing a jot from a passage of scripture could change the meaning of that scripture.  This was impossible to do according to Jesus.
  • It is similar to the rough breathing mark in Greek that adds the letter “h” to the beginning of a word. 

beth, Hebrew Letter, Matthew 5:18, Mt. 5:18 
kaph, Hebrew Letter, Matthew 5:18, Mt. 5:18 

  • A tittle is not a letter but a little line on the letter
  • To the left is the Hebrew letter beth with a tittle, which is a little extension of the bottom bar on the right side at the base of the letter.
  • To the left, at the bottom, is the Hebrew letter kaph with out the tittle at the base of the letter.  It is missing in the lower right corner of the letter
  • This can be compared the little line in the English letter Q and missing in the letter O
  • The absence of the tittle can change the letter from a beth to a kaph in Hebrew
  • The adding of a little line to one letter in English can easily change the word.  Consider the following changes from adding a line as small as a dash (-):
    FUN becomes PUN becomes RUN becomes BUN


Defending True Inspiration of the Bible

We would say:

Then they would say:

“We believe in the inspiration of the Bible”

“The thoughts are inspired but not the words.”

“We believe in the verbal inspiration of the Bible”

“The Bible contains some information and parts that are inspired, but not all.”

“We believe in the verbal, plenary inspiration of the Bible” (“plenary” means “full, entire, complete”)

“The Bible has errors”

“We believe in the verbal, plenary, infallible inspiration of the Bible”

“The Bible does not error in matters of doctrine but some of the historical details are mistaken”

“We believe in the verbal, plenary, infallible, inerrant inspiration of the Bible”

“The Bible communicates concepts truthfully concerning faith, but has certain errors that must be corrected.”

“We believe in the verbal, plenary, infallible, unlimited inerrancy of the inspiration of the Bible”

“It doesn’t really matter, we still think the Bible means what we want it to mean!”

Scripture Supporting Inspiration, Inerrancy and Authority of Scripture

“The words of the Lord are flawless like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times.”    
Psalm 12:6

                “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.  The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.  The commands of the Lord are radiant,           giving light to the eyes.  The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever.  The ordinances of the Lord are sure,   and altogether righteous.  They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than      honey, than honey from the comb.  By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.”                                                                                                                                                                 Psalm 19:7-11

“How can a young man keep his way pure?  By living according to your word.”     Psalm 119:9

“Your word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.”                                   Psalm 119:89

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”                                             Psalm 119:105

“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth:  It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”                                                                                             Isaiah 55:9-11

“ ’Let the prophet who has a dream tell his dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully.  For what has straw to do with grain?’ declares the Lord.  ‘Is not my word like fire,’ declares the Lord, ‘and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?’ ”                                                                                Jeremiah 23:28

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Stand in the courtyard of th eLord’s house and speak to all the people of the towns of Judah . . . Tell them everything I command you; do not omit a word.’ ”              Jeremiah 26:2-3

“I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth (literally: “Writing of Truth”).         Daniel 10:21

“You are in error because you don not know the Scriptures or the power of God.”                Matthew 22:29

“Scripture can not be broken.”                                                                                          John 10:35

“Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”                                                              John 17:17

“Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul wais was true.”                                                                                                                                                                           Acts 17:11

”I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness – the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints.”
Colossians 1:25

“And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in your who believe.”                                                                                                                                      First Thessalonians 2:13

“For the word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
Hebrews 4:12

“For you have been born again, not of perishable see, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God . . .  Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”                                                First Peter 1:23-2:3

“I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.”          
Revelation 1:9

The Canon of Scripture: Canonicity

The word “canon” comes from the Greek word kanon kanon which referred to measuring instruments such as rulers, tape measures, plulmblines and levels.  The term was first applied to scripture by Irenaeus when he referred to it as the “canon of truth” when he recognized the written scripture as the objective standard by which claims of truth would be measured.  When Irenaeus compared the teaching of the Gnostics to the standard of scripture he could prove they were clearly lacking in truth.

We should understand that the early church did not make the canon of scripture or select some books to be the canon for Christianity.  Instead, the early church simply recognized what God had already given through the apostles and prophets as the canon.  The early church discovered or identified what books already had canonicity and acknowledged what was already true.

The Old Testament books are considered to have canonicity by Jews, Catholics and Protestants. The Catholics and Protestants also accept the New Testament books as part of the canon of scripture.  At the Council of Trent in 1546 the Catholic leadership voted to additionally accept the Apocrypha.

Different Groups and What They Consider to be Canon


Old Testament

Protestant Christians

Old Testament, New Testament

Catholic Christians

Old Testament, New Testament, Apocrypha

Cults and other groups

Maybe parts of the above mixed with a variety of other books and 
sources including writings of men and personal thoughts or emotions

Old Testament canonicity is based on the following:

  1. Jesus’ Recognition – For Christians, the fact that Jesus recognized the authority of the Old Testament and quoted from it attests to its canonicity.
  2. Authority – The book had to be written by a recognized prophet or leader who had proven to be anointed by God through a historical event or the prophetic worthiness of the writing.
  3. Prophetic Accuracy – The book could not show errors in fulfilled prophecy.
  4. Internal Evidence – The books bore witness to themselves or to other books of the Old Testament
  5. Cause and Effect – People living at the time of the book’s author may have accepted or rejected the prophet or the writer (Moses, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah), but the results of history proved the book to be inspired.  Those who believed preserved the book.  Later generations could evaluate the book on its merit of content and accuracy.

Around 85 AD Josephus lists the accepted books of the Jewish canon.  His list, which names the accepted Jewish scripture of his day, is the same as our Old Testament.

New Testament canonicity is based on these tests:

  1. Apostleship – To be included in the canon the book had to have the authority of an apostle by having been written by an apostle or had an apostle supporting the book.
  2. Apostolic Teaching – The book also had to agree with what the apostles had taught.  Churches like Jerusalem, Antioch, Ephesus, Rome, etc. had been established and oversaw by the apostles and had men placed in authority by the apostles.  These churches collected the writings of the apostles and taught their doctrine.  These churches recognized apostolic teaching and deviant teaching.  They could come together and universally agree on the books.  If these apostolic churches rejected the books they would never had been accepted at a church council.
  3. Internal Evidence – Each book had to show its own internal evidence of canonicity with uniqueness and some claim of authority or inspiration.  Books that were not unique or did not claim authority were never preserved by the church for canonical reasons.

For the first 350 years of the church (30-397 AD) the church recognized its books of the canon without a church council.  There was no official list made.  There were no committees voting.  It was simply a matter of which books met the above criteria on a practical basis.  The church of the second century still had the disciples of the apostles leading them.  As the years passed through the second century into the third century the weight and authority of the God-breathed canon eliminated and exposed rival books.  There were no church authorities stamping out the false writings, although church leadership did expose the imitators.  The genuineness of the true New Testament scripture prevailed. 

This was especially true during the persecution of Diocletian beginning in 303 AD.  The Roman emperor, Diocletian, knew enough about the Christians and their “canon” of scripture to call for the destruction of all Christian scripture.  Apparently, even the pagans had some recognition of the authority held by some of the Christian books.  This persecution forced Christianity to shift even further through their writings and decide which books were they willing to die for and which books, in good conscience, could hand over to be destroyed.  When Constantine became emperor he financed the reproduction 50 copies of the Christian scriptures for use in Constantinople.  It is interesting that the persecutors knew which books to burn and Constantine knew which books to have copied.

In 397 the Council of Carthage agreed on the list we now have of twenty-seven books of the New Testament Canon.
During the years before the Council of Carthage a few lists or collections of books of the canon that have been preserved are:

  1. The Muratorian Fragment  - Written around 170 AD this torn fragment lists the books that its anonymous author believed to be authoritative.  The list omits Hebrews, James, First Peter and Second Peter, but no additional books are recorded. 
  2. Syriac Version of Scriptures – A translation of the scripture for the Churches in Syria is recorded as being used as early as 170 AD.  This old version of the Bible includes four gospels, acts, all of Paul’s Epistles, Hebrews, First John, First Peter and James.  It does not include Second Peter, Second John, Third John, Jude or Revelation.   Again, no other books were included.
  3. Latin Version of Scripture – From around 200 AD Latin translations of the scriptures included our New Testament without Second Peter, James and Hebrews.  No other books were included.

The Apocrypha

The Apocrypha comes from the Greek word apokryphos which is built on the Greek word krypto which means “the secret or hidden”.  They are called this by Jerome around 400 AD because they are the books that are rarely seen.  They were written between 400-200 BC after the inspired Old Testament was closed.  Old Testament revelation can be traced through a series of prophets who form a prophetic chain through the Old Testament beginning with Moses (1440 BC) and ending with Nehemiah who compiled the final books after Malachi closed Old Testament Revelation around 432 BC.  Scripture identifies these prophets as Moses, Joshua, Samuel, Nathan, Ahijah, Iddo, Jehu, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Ezra and Nehemiah.

The Chain of Prophetic Continuity Through The Complete Old Testament Revelation
”Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets
he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”    Luke 24:27


Genesis, Exodus, Revelation, Leviticus, Deuteronomy

Nehemiah 9:14
Luke 24:27


End of Deuteronomy, book of Joshua



Samuel wrote early history of Samuel and David

1 Chron. 29:29


Nathan and Gad recorded the events in the reign of David

1 Chron. 29:29
2 Chron. 12:15


Nathan, Ahijah and Iddo wrote of the events in the reign of Solomon

2 Chron. 9:29-31


Shemaiah and Iddo wrote of the events in the reign of Rehoboam

2 Chron. 12:15


Iddo wrote of the events of the reign of Abijah

2 Chron. 13:22


Jehu wrote of the events of the reign of Jehoshaphat

2 Chron. 20:34


Isaiah wrote of the events of the reign of Hezekiah

2 Chron. 32:32


An unknown prophet (possibly Hozai) wrote of Manasseh’s reign

2 Chron. 33:19


Jeremiah prophesied and recorded the final days of Judah.
During the reigns of Josiah through Jehoiakim through Zedekiah

Jeremiah 1:1-3


Ezekiel prophecies and recorded events from July 5, 593 until 
April 28, 573 BC during the Babylonian captivity

Ezek. 1:2; 40:1


Daniel prophesied  and recorded events from until 605-536 B.C.  This included the time of Jehoiakim of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon until Cyrus and Darius of the Medo-Persians.

Daniel 1:1; 10:1


Ezra returns to Jerusalem with the exiles with the written revelation and teaches the people.  Ezra taught the word of God and recorded events.

Ezra 6:18; 7:11; 9:4


Zechariah prophesied to the Jews who returned and recorded 
events in 520 BC

Zechariah 1:1


Malachi closes the time of Revelation around the year 432 BC until the coming of “the prophet Elijah” (John the Baptist)

Malachi 4:5


Nehemiah was governor in Jerusalem for two terms (445 -432 and a second term somewhere between the years 430-407).  Nehemiah compiled the final prophetic books with all the previous revelation in an organized collection of written revelation known to Christians today as the Old Testament. 

Nehemiah 1:1; 5:14;13:6

A General list of the Apocrypha are these books:

  1. First Esdras
  2. Second Esdras
  3. Tobit
  4. Judith
  5. Additions to the Book of Esther
  6. The Wisdom of Solomon
  7. Ecclesiasticus (Wisdom of Jesus, Son of Sirach)
  8. Baruch
  9. Letter of Jeremiah
  10. The Song of the Three
  11. Daniel and Susanna
  12. Daniel, Bel, and the Dragon
  13. Prayer of Manasseh
  14. First Maccabees
  15. Second Maccabees

The Apocrypha was accepted into the Catholic canon in 1546 at the Council of Trent.  This decision was an error on the part of this church council for these reason:

  1. Jesus, the apostles and the New Testament never quote from the Apocrypha.
  2. The Apocrypha itself never claims to be authoritative, inspired or the word of God.
  3. The internal evidence within the books themselves even says there were no prophets that could speak or write under the inspiration of the spirit during the years these books were written (1 Maccabees 4:46; 9:27; 14:41)
  4. Some books have major historical errors.  For example in the book of Judith Nebuchadnezzar is said to be the king of Assyria and in the books of First and Second Maccabees, Antiochus Epiphanies is recorded to die three different ways in three different places.
  5. Some books promote doctrinal error. For example, prayer for the dead (2 Maccabees 12:45-46), attainment of complete sanctification or sinlessness,
  6. Some of the books accept practices that the Bible condemns such as suicide, assassination and magical incantation.
  7. Josephus rejected the Apocrypha and books outside of the Jewish scriptures says, “From Artaxerxes  to our own time the complete history has been written but has not been deemed worthy of equal credit with the earlier records because of the failure of the exact succession of the prophets.” (Against Apion 1:8)
  8. The Dead Sea Scrolls do not consider the Apocrypha as inspired.
  9. Jerome rejected the apocrypha as inspired and refused to translate them as part of his Latin Vulgate but did included them at the request of the Roman bishop.  He said do not “apply them to establish any doctrine” concerning “these portions which exhibit no authority as Holy Scripture.”
  10. The apocrypha lacks any prophetic authorship, content and so, there is no possible prophetic fulfillment to confirm their authority.
  11. In 1546 the Council of Trent broke with the traditional views of the Jews, the early church and major church councils in the past.
  12. The Council of Trent was making a decision in a reactionary mood against Martin Luther’s criticism of their doctrine of praying and collecting indulgences for the dead.
  13. The Council of Trent accepted only 11 of the Apocrypha books.  They accepted 2 Maccabees because it supported their belief in prayer for the dead but rejected 2 Esdras because it opposed prayers for the dead.


The New Testament Apocryphal Books
There are books from the first and second century that can be compiled as so-called New Testament Apocryphal books.  These books can be broken down into two groups: books written by known authors that are not considered scripture and pseudo-writings which are books written by unknown authors claiming to be someone else (for example: if an author wrote a book with his own ideas and doctrine but to help it gain acceptance he would sign Peter’s name to it).

Some books written by known authors from the early church that are authentic but not considered scripture are Clement’s letter to the Corinthians, Ignatius’ seven letters written on his way to martyrdom in Rome, etc.  Some books written by unknown authors who ascribed them to apostles or other famous Christians would be the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Peter, the Apocalypse of Peter, etc.

These books are rejected because they do not meet the requirements of canonicity listed above.  In addition to this:

  1. They were never recognized by a major church council
  2. If they were ever listed with the canon books they were always on a separate list
  3. None of these books ever experienced universal acceptance by the churches.  At best they experience local acceptance, or consideration, and then only for a limited time.  Once they were tested and considered they were universally removed from acceptance in the canon
  4. Some of these books are clearly fables, deception or products of some early unorthodox group trying to gain acceptance into Christendom

What's in Your Bible? Find out at Click on the image of the "Canon Camparison Chart" for the full chart to see what religous groups accept as Scripture.

Process of God Revealing His Word to Men of Every Generation

Diagram showing the process of revelation, canonicity, illumination of inspired Scripture


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