We decided that in these studies, since we will be referring to the Bible often, it would be important for the reader to know HOW the Bible came to be, and why it is considered God's Word. So this discussion is about the History of the Bible and where it derives its authority. In this lesson, we each wrote our own little section, though in future topics, we hope to present a more unified JE. glh has been under the weather and has not yet submitted material. The first section is mine, and the second is Eugene's. As always comments are welcome by Christians and Non-Christians alike. Please refrain from name calling or foul language. -TL
The English word "Bible" is derived from the Greek 'biblion,' meaning "roll" or "book." A biblion was a typically a roll of the dried inner bark of papyrus, and was widely used in the ancient world. In earlier usage, 'biblion' was not only used for God's word, it could be used to reference books of magic or a writ of divorcement, as well as sacred books. Today, however, the word "Bible" refers to the Book of excellence, the recognized record of divine revelation. In Dan. 9:2 'ta biblia' refers to the prophetic writings. Around the turn of the fifth century was it extended to include the entire body of canonical writings as we now have them. The expression 'ta biblia' passed into the vocabulary of the Western church and in the thirteenth century the neuter plural came to be regarded as a feminine singular. This change from plural to singular echoed the belief that the Bible is one voice from God rather than a multitude of voices speaking for Him. The process by which the various books in the Bible were brought together and their value as sacred Scripture recognized is referred to as the history of the canon. Jesus regarded the Old Testament as an inspired record of God's self-revelation in history. He repeatedly appealed to the Scriptures as authoritative (Matt. 19:4; 22:29). The early church shared this sentiment, but while the Old Testament canon had been formally closed, the coming of Christ created the need for more records. God was once again speaking to us. Since the Old Testament was the Law, and the way things were done under the old covenant (promise, or testament) and Jesus brought a new covenant, the New Testament was born. Viewed as a historical process, the formation of the NT canon occupied some 350 years. In the first century, the various books were written and began to be circulated through the churches. In the second century, heretics such as Marcion created the need for the formation of a definite canon by trying to pass false scripture as God's Word. Valid Scripture was separated from Christian literature on the basis of such criteria as apostolic authorship and consistency of doctrine with what the church already possessed. The canon was ultimately certified at the Council of Carthage. Almost as soon as it was canonized, it had been translated into Latin, Egyptian, and Syriac. Today, the Bible has been translated into every known tongue in the civilized world, and even Klingon.
TechnoLust's Personal note: I have often asked how I can be a man of science, knowing the Scientific Method so intimately, and still believe in God. The scientific method tells us that when it comes to things we can not quantify and qualify, we can never really prove a theory. We can prove it wrong, but we can never really prove it correct. Think of the general theory of relativity. It has been tested and tried since Einstein published it in 1920. So far it has held up, and it is generally accepted as law. Now think of the Bible. It has been tried and tested for millennia, and no one can prove the Bible wrong. No one can prove that God doesn't exist, or that the Bible isn't His Word. They have tried, oh, how they have tried. So by that very scientific method that is cited when rejecting the Bible, I defend it. However, this is not the only thing that drives my faith. By the very definition of faith, that isn't it. I have always believed that the Bible is the Word of God, and that is my faith. The fact that I can not disprove it scientifically is just an indicator that I am correct in my hypothesis.
Who Chose What Would be in the Old Testament Canon?
Although there was no official person(s) who determined what was the canon and what was in the canon, believers have received their canon through tradition. In earlier times before the Reformation, people, for the most part, just accepted what the Church believed regarding the canon. This is different from believing that the Church determined what was in the canon. It is noteworthy to understand that without a canon, there is no standard, and thus no Bible.
In the following sections, I will either summarize or interact with D. Wayne Stiles, II, Th.M. On his essay "The Content and Extent of the Old Testament Canon". For a free copy of this essay, please go to http://www.bible.org/docs/theology/biblio/otcanon.htm
The Concept of the Old Testament Canon
According to Stiles, it was well recognized in the past, that there was a distinction between a standard of written text, and non-authoritative text. Deuteronomy 31:24-26 gives an example of authoritative text. Other believers would often refer to a standard, saying "as it is written", or "according to Scripture", or "it is written". Although, tradition doesn't prove something to be correct, it should not be discounted either. Except Ruth, Song of Songs and Esther, the canonicity has been attested by so many diverse beliefs [Semitic, Hellenistic, Pharisaic, Essene, Christian]. In short, the concept of a canon existed well before Christianity.
The Construct of the Old Testament Canon
Luke 11:51a KJV "From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias,"; 2 Chronicles 24:21 gives the account of the stoning of Zechariah.
Often times, people disputed the canonicity of certain books. For many people, this would imply that the canon was still open. According to Stiles, this implies that they were widely considered canonical. People won't waste time disputing about uninspired texts.
The following paragraphs are quotes from J.P. Holding from www.tektonics.org/tekton_05_01_01.html
The idea of a "canon" did not originate with the Israelites. They had a model to go on, one which was in circulation in Egyptian and Mesopotamian society. Vasholz [Vash.OTOT, 3-4], using the example of the Poem of Erra and other documents from the 12th to 8th centuries BC, notes these four core (commonsense!) steps:
- The deity speaks, and his words are recorded.
- The material is faithfully transmitted.
- Authenticity is establised by means of blessings for honor, and curses for dishonor, in transcription.
- Materials are preserved in a sacred place.
These essential "canon concepts," then, were "there for the taking" at the time when the OT was being put together and involves no radical innovation or supposition of historical invention. The ancient "canonical" concept appears in its earliest form in the OT in Exodus 17:14 and Deuteronomy 31:24-6, where emphasis is made upon preservation of material as a memorial and as a witness. This is the seed from which an OT canon, or set of established books, grew. [Comf.OrB, 53]
The next piece of data comes from Josephus' description of the Jewish holy books in Contra Apion 1.8, dated c. 93-95 AD. After clearly identifying the Pentateuch as the work of Moses [Rost.JOHC, 24; Leim.CHS, 32], Josephus writes: From the death of Moses until Artaxerxes...the prophets who followed after Moses recorded their deeds in thirteen books. The remaining four comprise hymns to God and rules of ethical conduct for men.
With that in mind, let us count together to reach a plausible assessment of Josephus' 22 books:
- Genesis - 1
- Exodus - 1
- Leviticus - 1
- Numbers - 1
- Deuteronomy - 1 (the 5 books of Moses)
- Joshua - 1
- Judges and Ruth, folded together on one scroll as they were in Josephus' time - 1
- 1 and 2 Samuel - also considered one book in Josephus' time - 1
- 1 and 2 Kings - Ditto. - 1
- 1 and 2 Chronicles - Ditto again. - 1
- Jeremiah and Lamentations - also considered as one book at the time - 1
- Isaiah - 1
- Amos, Zephaniah, Zechariah, Malachi, Jonah, Haggai, Habakkuk, Nahum, Micah, Hosea, Joel, Obadiah - all folded together, as noted above - 1
- Daniel - 1
- Ezekiel - 1
- Ezra and Nehemiah, folded together - 1
- Esther - 1
- Job - 1 (the 13 prophetic books)
- Proverbs - 1
- Psalms - 1
- Song of Songs - 1
- And my personal OT fave, Ecclesiastes - 1. (the 4 instructional books)
The following paragraphs were summarized from "The Institution of The Christian Religion", by John Calvin. For a free copy of his writtings go to http://www.bible.org/docs/history/calvin/institut/httoc.htm
The Authority of Scripture
The Bible does not need human or Church authority to approve what is scripture. It is something that is recognized automatically. Calvin asks, "As to the question, How shall we be persuaded that it came from God without recurring to a decree of the Church? it is just the same as if it were asked, How shall we learn to distinguish light from darkness, white from black, sweet from bitter? Scripture bears upon the face of it as clear evidence of its truth, as white and black do of their colour, sweet and bitter of their taste."
Influencing Thoughts in the Bible
Moses claims to be from the tribe of Levi. Yet, he freely shares the details of Levi's sin in Gen. 49:5,6 which gives the entire tribe a bad name. A good name is important in any time period, yet this would have been more important that time period.
The following is from Eugene T.S. Wong. Yes, that's me!
A Philosophical Approach
When should we just accept what others tell us?
"You can't prove to a blind man, that light comes from the sun, despite all the science & technology that we have available." -- Eugene T.S. Wong
Many skeptics will challenge us to prove that the scriptures are from God. Proving it is pretty much impossible, let alone easy. Even if it were provable, what makes the skeptics think that they can see the proof? It is one thing to prove that light comes from the sun, and another to prove it to a blind man. We have all the scientific equipment that we need to confirm that sun gives light, yet the blind man will always be able to come up with challenges to us regarding our beliefs about light and the sun.
Likewise, it is the same with the Bible. Some people see that it is the truth, by accepting what they see in the Church, and thus accepting what the Church claims. This would be true for almost any organization that isn't spiritually related. Those who don't like what they see in the Church are less likely to accept the Bible.
This should really encourage us to take to heart Titus 2:10. "...that they may adorn the doctrine of God our saviour in all things". Let us, therefore, adorn sound doctrine.