Skip to comments.HOW WE GOT OUR BIBLE And WHY WE BELIEVE IT IS GOD'S WORD
Posted on 07/27/2012 2:27:56 PM PDT by wmfights
STRUCTURE AND HISTORY OF THE BIBLE
OUR English version, and probably most of the translations of the Bible, consists of sixty-six Books, thirty-nine in the Old Testament and twenty-seven in the New, and is regarded with special consideration by all Christians because it is held to be the record of the divine religion of Redemption.
The Old Testament shows how this religion was prepared through many centuries; the New tells how it was at length provided and proclaimed.
The keynote of the former is, therefore, Preparation, and this is twofold:
- The preparation of the Redeemer for the people;
- The preparation of the people for the Redeemer.
The keynote of the latter is Manifestation, and this is also twofold:
- The manifestation of the Redeemer in Person,
- The consequent manifestation of his grace in the redeemed, both individually in believers and corporately in the community of Christians, which we call the church.
Thus both Testaments together form a complete record of human sin and divine salvation, the former making the latter necessary.
- Sin is seen in its nature and consequences,
- Salvation in its character and effects.
The Books of the Old Testament are the product of at least thirty authors and cover a period of at least a thousand years.
They are made up of: - History,
The Jewish Old Testament, following the classification of the Hebrew text, is in three parts;
- The law,
- The prophets,
- The psalms.
The law consists of the first five books of the Bible and on this account is called the Pentateuch (five rolls).
Note - It may be said in passing that there is no trace in the historical tradition of the Jews of a Hexateuch (six rolls, including Joshua).
The second division of the Hebrew Bible, called the prophets, includes the historical books of Judges, Samuel and Kings, and the prophetic books proper with the exception of Daniel, which because it is apocalyptic rather than, as the other prophetic books, strictly predictive, is in the third section.
The historical books are called "the former prophets" because they are written from a religious standpoint and are not mere historical annals. They were pretty certainly the work of prophets or prophetic men.
The third part of the Hebrew Bible is so called from the first book in it, and the rest of it consists of those Books which are not found in the other two parts. Our English Old Testament has a different order and comes from the Greek Version of the Old Testament (the Septuagint).
It consists of four parts: - Pentateuch,
The New Testament numbers twenty-seven Books, and is the work of eight authors, covering only about fifty years. Of the eight authors, five were apostles of CHRIST and three were associates of the apostles.
The New Testament has three main parts:
- History, contained in the Gospels and Acts;
- Doctrine, in the Epistles;
- Prophecy, in the Revelation.
These three provide respectively the commencement, the course, and the culmination of the Christian religion.
There is a striking connection between the Old Testament and the New beyond the general unity mentioned above. The Old Testament emphasizes the three aspects of the divine Saviour: the prophet, the priest, and the king. These answer to the three deepest necessities of man.
- He requires a prophet to reveal GOD;
- He requires a priest to redeem from sin;
- He requires a king to rule his life for GOD.
Each of these is emphasized in the Old Testament, and in general can be associated with sections of its Books.
The New Testament fitly shows how this threefold need is met in CHRIST as Prophet, Priest, and King; revealing, redeeming, and ruling. The full title "Jesus Christ our Lord" suggests this:
- JESUS the Prophet,
- CHRIST the Priest,
- The Lord the King.
Such is the Bible as we have it today. But how did it come to be what it now is? There has been a gradual growth, and the steps of this we must note.
At first and for a long time the revelation of GOD was oral. "The word of the Lord came to Abram" (Genesis 15:1).
This was sufficient for ages. But the time came when it was necessary to put the divine revelation in a written form. It would seem as though a book were essential for the maintenance and continuance of religion, and it is at least interesting and perhaps also significant that all the great religious systems of the world have their sacred books.
Literature is the nearest possible approach to reliability. This is a point which will need fuller consideration at a later stage.
There are traces in the Old Testament of a gradual growth by accretion. The Jewish tradition associates Moses with the commencement of the Scripture, and there is no doubt of the essential truth of this position. Certainly there is no other tradition attaching to the books; and in view of the tenacity with which the Jews kept their national traditions, this belief about Moses calls for adequate explanation.
A careful study of passages found throughout the Old Testament shows this development, indications being found at almost every period, of growth and additions to the existing writings.
Among others the following passages should be noted:
And the LORD said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven (Exodus 17:14).
And Moses wrote their goings out according to their journeys by the commandment of the LORD: and these [are] their journeys according to their goings out (Numbers 33:2).
And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of [that which is] before the priests the Levites (Deuteronomy 17:18).
This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success . . . And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God, and took a great stone, and set it up there under an oak, that was by the sanctuary of the LORD (Joshua 1:8; 24:26).
Then Samuel told the people the manner of the kingdom, and wrote it in a book, and laid it up before the LORD. And Samuel sent all the people away, every man to his house (I Samuel 10:25).
Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples . . . To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them (Isaiah 8:16, 20).
Take thee a roll of a book, and write therein all the words that I have spoken unto thee against Israel, and against Judah, and against all the nations, from the day I spake unto thee, from the days of Josiah, even unto this day (Jeremiah 36:2).
In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem (Daniel 9:2).
And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded to Israel (Nehemiah 8:1).
These references, taken from each period of the history, indicate a gradual growth of the Jewish Scriptures.
The complete volume is associated by tradition with Ezra, and there are no valid reasons for doubting this, especially as it harmonizes with the testimony of the wellinformed and representative Jew, Josephus, who, writing in the first century of the Christian Era, said that no book was added to the Jewish Scripture after the time of Malachi.
As to the preservation of the gradually growing volume through the ages from Moses to Ezra, it has been pointed out by that eminent Egyptologist, Professor Naville, that it was the custom among Eastern nations to deposit their books in their sanctuaries, and there is every likelihood that the Jews did the same. The copy found by Hilkiah was probably this temple copy (II Kings 22:8).
The New Testament was also marked by. a gradual growth.
At first came the oral accounts of the life of CHRIST and the presentation of the Christian message.
Then followed the apostolic letters, confirming and elaborating their oral teaching.
These letters were read in the assemblies of the Christians (I Thessalonians 5:27; II Thessalonians 3:14).
The next stage was the interchange of these letters among the churches (Colossians 4:16).
Not long after the need of a record of the life of the founder was felt, and as a result came our Gospels (Luke 1:l-4; John 20:31). The story of the early church naturally followed (Acts), and the Apocalypse fitly crowned the whole with its outlook on the future.
As the primitive churches had the Old Testament volume in their hands, it was a constant reminder of the need of an analogous volume of the New Testament, though everything was so very gradual and natural that it is only when the process is complete that it is realized to have been also manifestly supernatural.
At this point the important question arises how we can be sure that our Bible today really represents the books which have been thus naturally and simply collected into a volume.
The answer is that it is quite easy to prove that our Bible is the same as the church has had through the centuries.
We start with the printed Bibles of today and it is obviously easy to show that they correspond with the printed Bibles of the sixteenth century, or the time when printing was invented.
From these we can go back through the English and Latin versions until we reach to the great manuscripts of the fourth century as represented by the three outstanding codices known as:
- The Codex Sinaiticus (in Petrograd),
- The Codex Vaticanus (in Rome)
- The Codex Alexandrinus (in the British Museum).
Then we can go back still farther and compare the use of Scripture in the writings of the Fathers of the third century, and from these work back to the second century when versions in several languages are found.
From this it is but a short step to the time of the apostles and the actual composition of the New Testament writings.
There is no reasonable doubt that we possess today what has always been regarded as the Scriptures of the Christian Church.
The proof as to the Old Testament can be shown along similar lines.
Our Old Testament is identical with the Bible of the Jews at the present time. This is the translation of Hebrew manuscripts dating from several centuries past, and the fact of the Jews always having used the same Bible as they do today is a proof that all through the ages the Christian Church has not been mistaken in its inclusion of the Old Testament in its Bible.
An additional evidence of great value is the fact that the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek about two centuries before CHRIST, and this translation is essentially the same as the Hebrew text from which we get our Old Testament.
The additional books which are found in the Greek Old Testament, called the Apocrypha, were never part of the Jewish Scriptures, and were never regarded as Scripture by those who knew the Hebrew language. These books were not written in Hebrew, and were not included in Scripture by any body of Christians until the Church of Rome arbitrarily decided to include them at the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century. In addition to other points which could be mentioned, these books contain inaccuracies in history and doctrine, which make it impossible for them to be regarded as part of the Word of GOD for man.
These are some of the facts which are connected with our Bible as we now have it, and from them we can proceed to consider the various points which are involved in our belief that the Bible is for us the Word of GOD, and as such, the rule of our faith and practice
Bring It, Brother!
“and were not included in Scripture by any body of Christians until the Church of Rome arbitrarily decided to include them at the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century.”
i realize not many Baptists have a clue about Church History before the 16th century, ( when they appear on the world stage for the first time ), but the above statement is down right IGNORANT.
The Greek Orthodox split from the Latin Church in 1054, and therefore do not accept Trent as a Church Council.
what is the OT canon of the Greek Orthodox?
what books of the OT were in the Latin Vulgate in the 4th century?
what OT books were declared canonical in the 397ad council of carthage?
the oriental orthodox split from the Catholic Church in the 5th century, how many books are there in their OT canon?
this post is embarrassing in its ignorance of Church history.
Thanks for this.
If scripture is considered good for correction and reproof, then many in the Roman Catholic church held that the Apocrypha was not scripture.
Writing prior to the canon decision at the Council of Trent, Cajetan wrote:
“Here we close our commentaries on the historical books of the Old Testament. For the rest (that is, Judith, Tobit, and the books of Maccabees) are counted by St Jerome out of the canonical books, and are placed amongst the Apocrypha, along with Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus, as is plain from the Prologus Galeatus. Nor be thou disturbed, like a raw scholar, if thou shouldest find anywhere, either in the sacred councils or the sacred doctors, these books reckoned as canonical. For the words as well of councils as of doctors are to be reduced to the correction of Jerome. Now, according to his judgment, in the epistle to the bishops Chromatius and Heliodorus, these books (and any other like books in the canon of the bible) are not canonical, that is, not in the nature of a rule for confirming matters of faith. Yet, they may be called canonical, that is, in the nature of a rule for the edification of the faithful, as being received and authorised in the canon of the bible for that purpose. By the help of this distinction thou mayest see thy way clearly through that which Augustine says, and what is written in the provincial council of Carthage.”
-Cardinal Cajetan (16th century)
However, the author of the posted article would have done well to point that out, rather than just assert that the Apocrypha was “not included in Scripture by any body of Christians until the Church of Rome arbitrarily decided to include them at the Council of Trent”.
great post, thanks!
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They were considered important works on various subjects such as history, and that is why the KJB had them between the testaments as being non-Canonical.
The Cardinal is simply broadening the word 'Canonical' to make it mean something it doesn't mean.
The Canon refers to those books that define Christian doctrine and are directly given by God.
The Apocrypha books are not part of the Canon.
Luther was wrong about many things.
Not this one.
Sirach is preserved in a Greek translation but was originally written in Hebrew. It came to be called Ecclesiasticus because excerpts from it were so frequently used in the Mass.
A very interesting study but very time consuming and worth the effort...
**one Lord one faith one baptism**
Your name is in this next Sunday’s second reading — Ephesians!
Luther was wrong on many things, but that particular quote is not too far off - particularly in context. It came in a sermon where he said, in essence, that the Catholic Church had gone astray.
Today the pope and his crowd cry out against us that they are the church, since they have received Baptism, the Sacrament, and Holy Writ from the apostles and are their successors. They say: Where else should Gods people be than where His name is praised, and where the successors and heirs of His apostles are to be found? Surely the Turks, the Tartars, and the heathen cannot be His people. Therefore we must be His people; otherwise it will be altogether impossible to find a people of God on earth. Consequently, he who rebels against us resists the Christian Church and Christ Himself. [LW 24:303].
Yes, we ourselves find it difficult to refute it, especially since we concedeas we mustthat so much of what they say is true: that the papacy has Gods Word and the office of the apostles, and that we have received Holy Scripture, Baptism, the Sacrament, and the pulpit from them. What would we know of these if it were not for them? Therefore faith, the Christian Church, Christ, and the Holy Spirit must also be found among them. What business have I, then, to preach against them as a pupil preaching against his teachers? Then there come rushing into my heart thoughts like these: Now I see that I am in error. Oh, if only I had never started this and had never preached a word! For who dares oppose the church, of which we confess in the Creed: I believe in a holy Christian Church, etc.? Now I find this church in the papacy too. It follows, therefore, that if I condemn this church, I am excommunicated, rejected, and damned by God and all the saints. [LW 24:304].
and he goes on:
Thus we are also compelled to say: I believe and am sure that the Christian Church has remained even in the papacy. On the other hand, I know that most of the papists are not the Christian Church, even though they give everyone the impression that they are. Today our popes, cardinals, and bishops are not Gods apostles and bishops; they are the devils. And their people are not Gods people; they are the devils. And yet some of the papists are true Christians, even though they, too, have been led astray, as Christ foretold in Matt. 24:24 [Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)] . But by the grace of God and with His help they have been preserved in a wonderful manner. [LW 24:305].
In the meantime we adhere to the distinction made here by Christ and do not regard as Christendom those who do not hold truly and absolutely to what Christ taught, gave, and ordained, no matter how great, holy, and learned they may be. We tell them that they are the devils church. On the other hand, we want to acknowledge and honor as the true bride of Christ those who remain faithful to His pure Word and have no other comfort for their hearts than this Savior, whom they have received and confessed in Baptism and in whose name they have partaken of the Sacrament. These are the true church. It is not found in only one place, as, for example, under the pope; but it exists over the entire earth wherever Christians are found. Outwardly they may be scattered here and there, but they meet in the words of the Creed: I believe in God the Father Almighty, and in Jesus Christ, our Lord, who was born, suffered, and died for us on the cross. In like manner, they pray: Our Father who art in heaven. They share the same Spirit, Word, and Sacrament. They all lead the same holy and blessed life, each one according to his calling, whether father, mother, master, servant, etc. Thus whatever we preach, believe, and live, this they all preach, believe, and live. Physically separated and scattered here and there throughout the wide world, we are nevertheless gathered and united in Christ.[LW 24:309].
The true church has never disappeared from the earth. Luther didn’t suddenly become the first Christian in a thousand years.
And the Catholic Church had access to something of great value - God’s Word.
And yes, Israel also had access to God’s word and the prophets, and yet Israel did not recognize God Incarnate. In like manner, the Catholic Church hid God’s Word and condemned to death those who sought to distribute English translations (and later other vernacular translations) because they knew that what they taught did not line up with scripture.
The Pope of Luther’s day had full access to scripture - yet he ignored it, and hid it. The Catholic Church fought to prevent commoners from reading scripture, saying it was to high for normal men to understand. But God’s Word wasn’t meant to be hidden, concealed, ignored and despised. It was meant to be read and followed - according to the Apostle Peter:
13 I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, 14 because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.
16 We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. 18 We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.
19 And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophets own interpretation. 21 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.
And what happens if God’s Word is not paid attention to?
Peter goes on:
2 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.
Thanks for the input.
I think one point of misunderstanding (misunderstood by some Catholics, too, as well as by some others) arises when people don't distinguish between "Traditional" and "Defined Dogmatic". Much of the certain Tradition of the Church is not formulated as a dogmatic definiton until some challenge or crisis requires precise argument and formal restatement.
A formal, painstaking recapitulation of what the Church holds, does not mean the Church has just invented or imposed it on the spot. It means that the ancient truths have been (again) iterated in a clear pronouncement.
Examples abound. For instance, the Church always had an Incarnational and Trinitarian understanding of Christ; but one wouldn't find those exact, precise words used much before the early Ecumenical Councils. This doesn't indicate that the Church "didn't believe" in the Incarnation or the Trinity before the 4th century; it just indiates that the explanations became sharper and clearer: often in response to the goad of controversy.
This issue arises when we speak of the canon of Scripture. Some claim that the Church did not authoritatively define the canon of Scripture until the Council of Trent and, since that Council was a reaction to the Reformation, the deuterocanon can be considered an addition to the original Christian canon. This is not correct.
Regional councils of the early Church had enumerated the books of the Bible time and again prior to the Reformation, always upholding the current Catholic canon. Examples include the Council of Rome (382), the Council of Hippo (393), and the Third and Fourth Councils of Carthage (397, 418). All of these affirmed the Catholic canon as we know it today, while none affirmed the Protestant canon.
If you can find one Christian Council that lists only a short, 39-book O.T. Canon in the 4th or 5th centuries, I would be interested in hearing of it. It would be news to me.
Yes, it could be argued that the "short list" comes to us from a council --- but not a Christian one! It comes from the ca. 100 AD Jewish scholars of Jamnia (Yavne), who were reacting against the successful Christian use of the Septuagint in gaining Jewish converts to the Gospel of Christ.
So either way (39-book or 46-book) you have to depend on a council: but why a Christian would want to revert to the authority of an anti-Christian rabbinical council, puzzles me.
To be sure, there was plenty of discussion and some dissent on such things, even among churchmen. But the Christian Councils were unanimous. Even a thousand years later, while seeking reunion with the Copts, the Church affirmed the same canon at the ecumenical Council of Florence in 1442.
True, it was when the canon became a serious issue following the Protestant schism in the early 1500s, that the Council of Trent "dogmatically defined" the full, 46 book O.T. Canon. But it was same Canon that the Church had traditionally and consistently taught for more than 1,000 years.
Thanks for the ping!
The same Christians that the Catholic church persecuted.