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SWORD

An Overview of the Transmission, Canonization, Contents,


Doctrines, Textual Reliability, and Christs View of the Bible

Created and Revised by

GDI (2015; Revised Edition)

About GDI
The Gospel Discipleship Initiative
(GDI) produces & provides Christian
resources which empower Disciples to

know, live, & teach the Gospel


of Jesus Christ as found in Canonical
Scripture (Ezra 7:10).

[A]nd take the

helmet of that which is

salvation

and the sword of the Spirit,

that which is the special revelation of God.


Paul, Ephesians 6:17, Direct Translation of the NA28

(Gospel Discipleship Initiative (GDI) Symbol)

Explanation of the Gospel


Discipleship Initiative (GDI) Symbol
1. IH Christogram
: The first two letters of Jesus name in Greek
(IHCOUC), implying that the Christian message centered on Christ and
what He did for us.
2. Alpha-Omega
: The first and last letters of the Greek
alphabet, symbolizing Christ, who is the First and the Last (Rev. 1:17-18).
3. Staurogram
: An early abbreviation for cross (pre-Constantine;
found in early manuscripts like 45, 66, & 75) made by superimposing
a rho (P) upon a tau (T) so as to depict a man hanging on a cross with
arms outstretched; to Christians, it means the cross saves.
4. IX Christogram
: The first letters of Jesus Greek name & title
(IHCOUC XRICTOC), which were used on early (first-century)
Christian ossuaries (bone boxes); in contrast to death, it symbolizes our
hope of eternal life through Jesus Christ and has been placed opposite
the Staurogram since it is through the cross that we have eternal life.
5. The Letters : These letters are the first proper letters of the
words in the phrase ho Theos agap estin, which means He who is
God is Love (I John 4:8), implying that the Christian message is only
possible because of Gods love for us.

Table of Contents
1.

An Introduction to the Bible (1)


1.1. Why Use the Term Canon? (1)
1.2. Isnt the Primacy of the Canon a
Recently Created Doctrine? (7)
1.3. What is the Definition of the Canon? (12)

2.

The Transmission of the Canon, Part I:


The Pre-Christian Period (19)
2.1. Generation/Modernization (19)
2.2. Compilation/Consolidation/Finalization (22)
2.3. Intermission/Diversification/Extrapolation (26)

3.

The Transmission of the Canon, Part II:


The Early Christian Period (31)
3.1. The New Testament Era (31)
3.2. The Pre-Toleration Era (36)
3.3. The Post-Toleration to Early Islamic Era (40)

4.

The Transmission of the Canon, Part III:


The Protestant Period (47)
4.1. Previous Schisms, Heresies, and Statements of Faith (47)
4.2. Vulgar Translations, the Masoretic Text,
and the Textus Receptus (51)
4.3. The Rise of NT Eclecticism (53)

5.

How We Got the Canon, Part I:


The Old Testament (63)
5.1. Authority and Agreement (64)
5.2. Authenticity (69)
5.3. Really Bad Arguments (75)

6.

How We Got the Canon, Part II:


The New Testament (83)
6.1. The Major Historical Factors (84)
6.2. Authority, Agreement, & Authenticity (96)

7.

Overview of Canonical Scripture, Part I:


The Old Testament (103)
7.1. Timeline of Major OT Events (103)
7.2. The Major Divisions Within the OT (113)
7.3. Authors of the OT (114)

8.

Overview of Canonical Scripture, Part II:


The New Testament (119)
8.1. Timeline of Major NT Events (119)
8.2. The Major Divisions Within the NT (126)
8.3. Authors of the NT (128)

9.

Approaching Scripture (139)


9.1. Specific Scriptural Doctrines (139)
9.2. The Biblical-Historical View of Scripture (146)
9.3. The Versional Accuracy Spectrum (153)

10. The Textual Reliability of Scripture (161)


10.1. Can Scripture be Reconstructed? (162)
10.2. Have Any Canonical Scriptures Been Forged? (176)
10.3. What are the Notable Variants? (181)

Historical Christian Statements of Faith (SF1)


Historical Lists of the Books of the Canon (CL1)
The Council of Trents View of Scripture and
Views Condemned by Pope Clement XI (16)
The Trinity (17)
Trinitarian Heresies: Arianism (30)
Overview of the Trinitarian Heresies (46)
The Seven West-East Ecumenical Councils (60)
The Ancient Baptismal Rite (61)
Trinitarian Heresies: Sabellianism (102)
Priesthood Authority and the Power to Baptize (159)
Traditional Churches Misuses of Scripture (SF9)
Apostles, Prophets, & Teachers: Understanding I Corinthians 12:28 (CL27)

An Introduction to the Bible / 1

1. An Introduction to the Bible


1.1. Why Use the Term Canon?
Before we get too far into our discussion of the Bible, it will be
helpful to distinguish between some terms which are often
associated with the Bibleincluding scripture, Orthodox scripture,
ecclesiastical scripture (which constituted the bible in times past),
Canonical Scripture, and apocryphal scripture. Each one of these
terms has a different meaning and, as you will soon see, what
modern Biblical-Historical Christians mean by Bible is actually a
highly specific body of writings more accurately called the Canon.
That is, when modern Biblical-Historical Christians refer to the
Bible, we are actually referring to Canonical Scripture rather than
any of the other categories. The definitions of the various Biblerelated terms are as follows:
Scripture: This term derives from the Greek word graphe
(pronounced graf; Greek: ) and is a general term
referring to something that has been written. In the Bible and in
other Christian writings, scripture is generally used as a shorthand
for one of the more specific terms which will follow in this list of
definitions (especially Canonical Scripture). Strictly speaking,
however, scripture could refer to all the writings from all the
peoples in all the world, hence it is the least descriptive term in
this list.
Orthodox Scripture: Orthodox is a term deriving from the Greek
words orthos (Greek: ), meaning right or correct, and doxa
(Greek: ), meaning glory or worship, hence Orthodox
scripture is writing that does NOT conflict with a right or correct
glory or worship of God. More specifically, this category of
writings can include fictitious works, commentaries on other
works, analogies/parables, historical works, instructional books,

2 / SWORD

etc, so long as those works do not teach anything contrary to an


essentially correct view of the God of Christianity.
Interestingly, most of the so-called lost books of the New
Testament belong to this category in that many of them are
Orthodox (they dont teach anything outside of the set of accepted
historical Christian beliefs). Some of these so-called lost books
include many of the various infancy Gospels, the Acts of Paul and
Thecla, the Vision of Paul, the Apocalypse of Peter, the Shepherd
of Hermas, etc. These Orthodox scriptures are not included in the
New Testament because they are extrapolations and/or were
composed after the New Testament time period; it is NOT the
case that these particular books are excluded because they teach
things which Christians necessarily oppose. In fact, some of the
Traditional churches still use some of the Orthodox scriptures
from time to time (such as the Greek Orthodox Churchs use of
the Proto-Evangelion of James).
As far as specificity is concerned, Orthodox scripture is the
most general term a person can use to refer to writings which
would be classified as Christian in some way, shape, or form.
Ecclesiastical Scripture: Ecclesiastical derives from the Greek
word ekklesia (pronounced ekklza; Greek: ), which
means assembly. Accordingly, ecclesiastical scripture is that body
of writing that is used by a particular assembly (or
church/congregation) and may be referred to or taught during the
services thereof. That is, ecclesiastical scripture is any writing
that you may hear mentioned in a church setting as a means of
learning more about the Christian life or Christianity in general.
(All of the books generally referred to as The Apocrypha by
Evangelicals are within the classification of ecclesiastical
scriptureincluding Sirach, the Psalms of Solomon, the Odes,
Tobit, etc.)
Since this category is defined by what a particular group uses,
it can vary considerably from one group to another. For example,
a modern church might regularly make use of C.S. Lewis works
and those of Charles Spurgeon while another church could use the
works of Ravi Zacharias and Dr. James White. These two groups

An Introduction to the Bible / 3

are not at odds with one another (necessarily)they just use


different books to teach their congregations the same
fundamentals (hopefully). Similarly, many of the ancient codices
(compilations of church books) vary from one another as to which
books they include or do not include. For instance, while Codex
Sinaiticus and Codex Alexandrinus contain the same books of the
New Testament, Sinaiticus appends the Epistle of Barnabas and
the Shepherd of Hermas while Alexandrinus appends I&II
Clementthe essential doctrines of each set of appended works
are the same, but their presentation and emphases are different.
Further, it is from ecclesiastical scripture that the term bible
originated in that bible (from the Greek biblos or biblion)
basically means written record (or record of records)the record
of what is used in an assembly. Subsequently, the term bible, as it
was used historically, did not refer to those writings which guide
the Faith but instead referred to those writings which are used in
the meetings of the Faith. Most modern Biblical-Historical
Christians, however, do NOT use Bible to refer to ecclesiastical
scripture. Instead, modern Biblical-Historical Christians use the
term Bible to refer to Canonical Scripture.
Canonical Scripture: Canonical derives from the Greek word
canon (pronounced cann; Greek: ), which meant
measuring rule or standard1. Resultantly, Canonical Scripture is
the body of writing which prescribes the Faith in that it acts as a
standard of comparison as to what is within the Faith and what is
not. As may be surmised, Canonical Scripture is the most
restrictive collection of scripture in that it has the most limiting
definitionthat of special revelation.
What we mean by special revelation we will discuss soon (in
section 1.3), but for now it suffices to say that Canonical
Scripture is that body of writings which is required for a Christian
group to assess their doctrines. Put another way, you do not have
1

The term later also came to mean what has been decided to be
allowable/ authoritative. It is this later definition that is used for the
canons of the ecumenical councils.

4 / SWORD

to possess the Canonical Scriptures to be a Biblical-Historical


Christian, but they are required if you want to evaluate your
beliefs. That is, if a group is going to align, or realign, itself to
reflect authentic Christianity, it must do so with the guidance of
Canonical Scripture.
On a historical note, it is because of the fact that Canonical
Scripture is required for evaluation (not Salvation, but evaluation)
that Cyril of Jerusalem said, For concerning the Divine and
holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a casual statement can be
delivered without the Holy Scriptures (Catechetical Lectures,
Lecture IV, 17, 4th Cen.). Likewise, regarding the correctness of
Scriptural doctrines relative to those deriving from sources outside
of Scripture, Basil of Caesarea said, everything that is outside
Inspired Scripture, being not of Faith, is sin (The Morals, 4th
Cen.). Similarly, modern Biblical-Historical Christians emphasize
Canonical Scripture because we affirm that the ancients were
right in saying that
we possess an exact balance, and square, and rule for
all thingsthe declaration of the Divine laws [(i.e.,
Canonical Scripture)]. Wherefore [we] exhort and
entreat you all, disregard what this man and that man
thinks about these things, and [instead] inquire from
the Scriptures all these things. (John Chrysostom, Homilies
on II Corinthians, Homily XIII, 4th Cen.)

Apocryphal Scripture: Another description which can be applied


to scripture is that it is apocryphal, a word deriving from the
Greek word apokryphos (pronounced apawcrewfaws; Greek
). Early on, apocryphal referred to something that had
been kept secret or hidden, which was a concept that was most
strongly associated with the Gnostics, a heretical group which
believed that they possessed a secret knowledge which had
either been passed down to them alone or had been revealed to
them alone. Early Christians, however, rejected Gnosticism by
affirming (1) that what the 12 Apostles had been preaching they
had codified in the written records the Christians now possessed,
and (2) that the result of the 12 Apostles preaching (the tradition

An Introduction to the Bible / 5

which resulted from their instruction) was not at odds with nor
necessary for understanding the substantial message of Scripture:
(1) We have learned from none others the plan of our
salvation than from those through whom the Gospel
has come down to us, which they did at one time
proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of
God, handed down to us in the Scriptures to be the
ground and pillar of our Faith. (Irenaeus, Against Heresies,
3.1.1, 2nd Cen.)

(2) When, however, they are confuted from the


Scriptures, they turn round and accuse these same
Scriptures, as if they were not correct, nor of
authority, and [assert] that they are ambiguous, and
that the truth cannot be extracted by those who are
ignorant of tradition. For [they allege] that the truth
was not delivered by means of written documents but
viva voce [(literally, with living voice)]... (Irenaeus, Against
Heresies, 3.2.1, 2nd Cen.)

The association of hidden things with Gnosticism seems to


have had the effect of making Christians fairly suspicious of laterrevealed, idiosyncratic teachings. This being the case, it is not
surprising that, by the fourth century, apocryphal had become a
pejorative term within Christianity which came to signify that
something was untrue or unreliable. In particular, Jerome (4/5th
Cen.)1 applied the term apocryphal to many books which had
theretofore been accepted as ecclesiastical scriptureincluding
the Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, Judith, and Tobitsince he
could not find sufficient evidence for them in the Hebrew. Later,
at the time of the Protestant Reformation, Jeromes assessment of
those books and his terminology (calling them apocryphal)
became a critical aspect of the Protestant affirmation that these
works are NOT Canonical Scripture:
And, generally, of all the books called Apocrypha, he
[(Jerome)] says that men may read them to the
1

Cyril of Jerusalem did likewise

6 / SWORD

edifying of the people1, but not to confirm and


strengthen the doctrine of the Church. (Matthews Bible,
Prologue to the Apocrypha, 1537 AD)

Nonetheless, even though we agree with Jerome (and a host of the


early church fathers) in saying that such works are not Canonical
Scripture, it should be noted that using the term The Apocrypha to
describe them is somewhat imprecise and idiosyncratic. That is,
most other early church fathers did not call these non-Canonical
books apocryphal but instead would employ some other
terminologyrejected yet used by ecclesiastical authors (Eusebius,
4th Cen.), instructive (Athanasius, 4th Cen.), ecclesiastical (Rufinus, 4/5th
Cen.), not placed in the ark (John of Damascus, 8th Cen.)and thus
Jerome2 used terminology that was out of place in his time. This
being the case, the Protestant who uses the term The Apocrypha
must understand that such phrasing is vague and perhaps overly
derogatorywhat we are actually referring to is probably best
referred to as ecclesiastical scripture.
To summarize what we have discussed here, when BiblicalHistorical Christians refer to the Bible, we are referring to
Canonical Scripture because it is Canonical Scripture that allows us
to evaluate the Faith and which guides the Faith as a whole.
Consequently, most of SWORD will be spent dealing with various
issues related to the Canon rather than to the bible in the historical
sense of the word (note that the section headings from here on out
do not use the term bible).

Classifications of Christian Scripture


Canonical (Authoritative)
Ecclesiastical (Used in the
Assembly--Illustrative/Informative)
Orthodox (Simply NOT Contrary to
the Fundamentals)

1
2

insomuch as they edify the people


and Cyril of Jerusalem

An Introduction to the Bible / 7

1.2. Isnt the Primacy of the Canon a Recently


Created Doctrine?
In recent years, a number of groups have attacked the Biblicalhistorical doctrine of the primacy of the Canon by alleging that this
doctrine is a recent invention. That is, Biblical-Historical Christians
have always believed that the Canon is the primary and most
authoritative standard as to what the Faith is and what it is not, but
many groups have recently claimed that our doctrinewhich is
often called Sola Scripturais not a part of the historical Faith but
is instead a recent invention (they usually propose that Martin
Luther devised the doctrine). The simple response that we BiblicalHistorical Christians put forward is the historical statements of the
early church fathers such as the following quotation from the works
of Athanasius: ...for the tokens of truth are more exact as
drawn from Scripture than from other sources (De Decretis,
VII.32, 4th Cen.).
At the same time, it is not wrong to note that early Christians
wouldnt make for good Protestants. That is, the most important
doctrine of Biblical-Historical Christianity isnt that historical
Christians were always correct (we wouldnt agree with them
regarding a number of issues). Instead, we believe what Augustin
believed:
Wherefore, my brother, refrain from gathering together
against
Divine
Testimonies
[(i.e.,
Canonical
Scripture)]so many, so perspicuous, and so
unchallengedthe calumnies which may be found in the
writings of bishops either of our communion, as Hilary,
or of the undivided Church itself in the age preceding
the schism of Donatus, as Cyprian or Agrippinus;
because, in the first place, this class of writings must be,
so far as authority is concerned, distinguished from the
Canon of Scripture. For they are not read by us as if a
testimony brought forward from them was such that it
would be unlawful to hold any different opinion, for it
may be that the opinions which they held were different

8 / SWORD

from those to which truth demands our assent. (Letters of


Augustin, Letter 93, 10.35, 354-430 AD)

In other words, Biblical-Historical Christians, while recognizing the


importance of learning from history and of using history to establish
the historicity of various beliefs, do NOT assume that anyone
outside of the authors of Scripture have the right to speak above
anyone else. Put another way, humans erred in the past, they err in
the present, and, if the Lord continues in patience (II Pet. 3:9), they
will err in the future (cr Ecc. 7:20). Consequently, it always behooves
us to submit to what was initially said by those having the first
measures of authority rather than to force upon their words
something which may be untrue, regardless of how ardently it was
affirmed by later generations.
Nonetheless, the question still stands: Is the primacy of
Canonical Scripture a recently-created doctrine? Well, it is unlikely
that many Christians before the Protestant Reformation would have
used the exact phrase Sola Scriptura1 or would use the same
descriptions of Scriptural authority that the Reformers used for
Scriptural authoritythe early Christians existed within a different
context than that of the Reformation. However, some of the basic
tenets of the doctrine of the primacy of Canonical Scripture can be
found scattered throughout the writings of the early church fathers:
Canonical Scripture is Sufficient
Relative to the Faith:
A sound mind, and one which does not expose its possessor
to danger, and is devoted to piety and the love of truth, will
eagerly meditate upon those things which God has placed
within the power of mankind, and has subjected to our
knowledge, and will make advancement in [acquaintance
with] them, rendering the knowledge of them easy to him by
means of daily study. These things are such as fall [plainly]
under our observation, and are clearly and unambiguously in

However, Theodoret of Cyrrhus (6th Cen.) does use the phrase Scripture
alone (see the quote on page 10).

An Introduction to the Bible / 9

express terms set forth in the Sacred Scriptures. (Irenaeus,


Against Heresies, 2.27.1, 2nd Cen.)

If you wish to know what you must believe, you have Holy
Scripture. The perfect explanation is to hold with what you
read. (Salvian, The Governance of God, III.I, 5th Cen.)
It is best not to love to be moved by the bold assertions of
others, since they carry us away to incorrect views, but to
make the words of the inspired writers the correct and exact
rule of faith. (Cyril of Alexandria, De SS, Trinitate, Dialogus IV, Translation
by William Goode, 5th Cen.)

The perfect Christian ought not therefore to depend upon


books that are doubtful, seeing that those [(books)] which
have been admitted into the Canon, and which are commonly
acknowledged, suffice to declare everything concerning both
the heavens and the earth and the elements and the whole
scheme of Christian doctrine. (Cosmas of Indicopleustes, The Christian
Topography of Cosmas, An Egyptian Monk, p. 292, 6th Cen.)

Canonical Scripture is the Preeminent


Means of Settling Disputes About the Faith:
But those who are ready to toil in the most excellent
pursuits, will not desist from the search after truth till they get
the demonstration from the Scriptures themselves. (Clement of
Alexandria, The Stromata, VII.XVI, 3rd Cen.)

Nor did we evade objections, but we endeavored as far as


possible to hold to and confirm the things which lay before us,
and if the reason given satisfied us, we were not ashamed to
change our opinions and agree with others; but, on the
contrary, conscientiously and sincerely, and with hearts laid
open before God, we accepted whatever was established by the
proofs and teachings of the Holy Scriptures. (Dionysius of
Alexandria, 3rd Cen., quoted in Eusebius Hist. Eccl., 7.24, 4th Cen.)

These are the books [(i.e., the New Testament)] which the
Fathers [(Originators of the Faith; the 12 Apostles and those
under their authority)] have comprised within the Canon and
from which they would have us deduce the proofs of our
Faith. (Rufinus, A Commentary on the Apostles Creed, 37, 4/5th Cen.)

10 / SWORD

OrthodoxosDo not, I beg you, bring in human reason [to


the dialogue]. I shall yield to Scripture alone. (Theodoret of
Cyrrhus, Dialogue I.The Immutable, Orthodoxos and Eranistes, 5th Cen.)

Canonical Scripture is the Means by Which


We Understand Who and What God Is:
There is, brethren, one God, the knowledge of whom we
gain from the Holy Scriptures, and from no other source.
...[A]ll of us who wish to practice piety will be unable to learn
its practice from any other quarter than the oracles of God
[(i.e., Scripture)]. (Hippolytus, Against...Noetus, Verse 9, 3rd Cen.)
We must believe God's Word concerning Himself, and
humbly accept such insight as He vouchsafes to give. We must
make our choice between rejecting His Witness, as the
heathen do, or else believing in Him as He is, and this in the
only possible way, by thinking of Him in the aspect in which
He presents Himself to us. Therefore let private judgment
cease; let human reason refrain from passing barriers divinely
set. In this spirit we eschew all blasphemous and reckless
assertion concerning God, and cleave to the very letter of
revelation. (Hilary of Poitiers, De Trinitate, IV.14, 4th Cen.)
Seeing, then, that we were too weak by unaided reason to
find out the truth, and for this cause needed the authority of
the Holy Writings, I had now begun to believe [that You, Lord
God, would] by no means have given such excellency of
authority to those Scriptures throughout all lands had it not
been Thy will thereby to be believed in, and thereby sought.
(Augustin, Confessions, VI.V.8, 5th Cen.)

Nevertheless, most of these items arent really debated all that


muchmost Christian groups actually believe in at least the
primacy of Scripture as a minimal statement of immediate
deference. The real point of contention isnt so much the
preeminence of Scripture as it is the relationship between Canonical
Scripture and Tradition. In particular, Christians historically
believed that Scripture was a part of Tradition and, therefore, that
Tradition and Scripture were not at odds with one another.

An Introduction to the Bible / 11

The Protestants, however, in observing that Scripture is deemed


sufficient to refute errors coming from outside the Church, applied
the same standard within the Church and found that certain
Traditional practices and understandings seem to be at odds with
Canonical Scripture. So, if Scripture and Tradition are demonstrably
at odds with one another, then the question becomes that of
determining which one is to be relied upon between the two.
Relative to this question, it is important to note that at least some
early Christians did NOT believe that Tradition was necessary to a
proper understanding of Scripture (as demonstrated in the quotes
from Irenaeus previously given on page five of SWORD). Second,
many traditions had acquired their place of preeminence rather than
having been authoritative from the beginning:
For many other observances of the Churches, which are
due to tradition, have acquired the authority of written
law,...and there are many other unwritten practices
which have won their place through reason and custom.
(Jerome, Against the Luciferians, 8, 4/5th Cen.)

Lastly, we have historical evidence that Tradition was NOT


unanimous throughout the early Church and that Scripture was used
at such points of disagreement (which doesnt mean that those
church fathers always defaulted to Scripture over Traditionthey,
being human, often inconsistently used Scripture to evaluate other
perspectives but seldom applied it to their own perspective):
I do not consider it fair that the custom which obtains
among them should be regarded as a law and rule of
orthodoxy. If custom is to be taken in proof of what is
right, then it is certainly competent for me to put
forward on my side the custom which obtains here. If
they reject this, we are clearly not bound to follow them.
Therefore, let God-inspired Scripture decide between
us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in
harmony with the Word of God, in favor of that side will
be cast the vote of truth. (Basil of Caesarea, Letter 189, 3, 4th
Cen.)

12 / SWORD

Therefore, given the historical fact that Scripture has been


affirmed to be sufficient, that Scripture has been affirmed to be the
preeminent means of settling disputes, that Scripture has been
affirmed to be independent of other forms of Tradition, that
Tradition was admitted to have developed (and thus changed
through time), and that Tradition was admitted to have differed from
place to place, the only conclusion left for the Protestant is that, if
Scripture and other forms of Tradition should be found to differ,
then Scripture is to be trusted over the competing traditions.
Subsequently, the doctrine of Sola Scriptura is most certainly
historical in that it is the only consistent response to the
historical facts available to us.
It should be noted, though, that giving primacy to the Canon
does NOT mean that examining indirect sources is to be
discouraged; indirect sources (traditions, customs, and moredistantly-related documents) can indeed shed light on the more
direct sources, but indirect sources are still treated as indirect and
thus are not given final authority in definitively establishing what
happened in the beginning. Consequently, and contrary to what
seems to be the popular opinion in some groups, Sola Scriptura is
NOT equivalent to personal interpretationthe Canon is a part
of real history and therefore has a definite and limited range of
meaning determined by its historical context. That is, the doctrine
of the primacy of the Canon does not negate a study of history or
an awareness of context or the need to study as a part of a local
congregation.

1.3. What is the Definition of the Canon?


As mentioned previously, the quick definition of the Canon is
that it constitutes special revelation, but that definition is not quite
as descriptive as it could be. To be more precise, the term special
revelation refers to the fact that the Canon is revealed by God and
that it is done in a special way. That is, God reveals Himself in a
general sense through His creation (Rom. 1:19-20), but specific

An Introduction to the Bible / 13

knowledge as to who He is and what He has done for us comes from


the more definitive source of the Canon (cr Psalm C19).
As to what this special source is composed of, it is sufficient to
point out the archetypical definition of the Canon given by the early
church fathers: The Canon is composed of the written record
deriving from the Prophets and the Lords Apostles (cr Justin
Martyr, First Apology, LXVII, 2nd Cen.; Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, XVI,
3rd Cen.; John Chrysostom, Homilies on Colossians, Homily IX, 4th Cen.;
Augustin of Hippo, The City of God, Book XI, III, 5th Cen.).

The earliest
record which uses this formula of referring to that which derives
from the Prophets and Apostles is actually found in Scripture:
Now this, Loved Ones, is the second letter I am writing
to you all in which I am stirring up your clear thinking
by way of a reminder to be purposely mindful of both
the things already given by the holy Prophets and of
your Apostles commandment from the Lord and
Savior. (II Peter 3:1-2, Direct Translation of the NA28)
As to how this basic description came to define the Canon, the
Apostle Peter again provides us with the answer in that he gave the
previous description in the context of what would need to be
remembered after the Fathers died (II Peter 3:4, 1599 Geneva Bible).
This being the case, later Christians used what the Fathers
(Apostles) had left behind as the primary source and standard of the
Faith (cr Rufinus, A Commentary on the Apostles Creed, 37, 4th/5th Cen.).
Now, the basic definition of coming from the Prophets and
Apostles has been interpreted in various ways throughout
Christendom, but most of the early Christianslike the author of
the Muratorian Fragment (2nd Cen.), Athenagoras (A Plea for the
Christians, 24, 2nd Cen.), Tertullian (Tertullian Against Marcion, IV.II, 3rd
Cen.), and Eusebius (Hist. Eccl., III.39, 4th Cen.)emphasized the legal
veracity of the Canon1 and/or the historical veracity of the Canon2,
1

As in most courts of law, the writings which were considered most


reliable were those which came from (via direct composition or via
compilation and consolidation) people who saw the critical events (eyewitnesses) or who were told by someone who saw them (ear-witnesses).
NOT inauthentic, a forgery, or coming from the wrong time period, etc

14 / SWORD

hence modern Biblical-Historical Christians use those works which


are most assuredly representative of what was laid down from the
first. Our more detailed definition is as follows:
The Definition of the Canon
Old Testament
(OT)

1) Authority: It is
from the
Prophets and
the Apostles.
(II Peter 3:1-2 cr
Eph. 2:19-20;
Deu. 13:1-5 &
18:9-22 cr
Luke 6:13,
John 15:26-27, &
Acts 1:21-26)

2) Agreement: It
is in keeping
with
previously
established
Canonical
Scripture.
(Isa. 8:20; Mal.
4:4; Luke 24:44;
John 10:35)

New Testament (NT)

It was written by a
Prophet,
compiled/
consolidated from
the writings of a
Prophet (or
Prophets), and/or
composed under
the implicit
authority of a
Prophet.

It was authored by eye(1st) or ear- (2nd) witnesses


of Christ with the implicit
approval of at least one of
Christs Legal
Representatives (one of the
12 Apostles).
Eye: Matthew, John, Peter,
James, & Jude
Ear: Luke1, Paul2, the
Author of Hebrews3, [&
Mark, the Interpreter of
Peter4]

It does not teach


anything
obviously false or
contrary to the
Torah (the first
five books of the
OT, which are
accepted by all
Hebrew and
Christian groups).

It does not teach anything


obviously false or contrary
to the OT Canon (the 39
OT books accepted by
Evangelicals).

Luke, the later companion of Paul, was indirectly privy to the Gospel
and thus often had to rely on eyewitness material (Luke 1:1-4).
Paul was not with Christ during His earthly ministry (cr Luke 6:13; John
15:27; Acts 1:21-26) and thus doesnt count as one of the viable eyewitnesses.
Even if Hebrews was not written by Paul, it was written by close
companions of the eyewitnesses (cr Hebrews 13:22-25).
Mark is not always counted as an author of the New Testament
insomuch as he simply recorded Peters preaching but did not generate
it, hence Peter was the source and Mark merely the chronicler.

An Introduction to the Bible / 15

3) Authenticity:
It is
historically
authentic.
(Pro. 14:15 cr
Pro. 30:5-6)

It cannot be historically proven to be untruthful


or spurious and is well-supported in the
historical record.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
1. What are the three types of Christian scripture and what is
meant by each type? Which type of scripture are BiblicalHistorical Christians referring to when they use the term Bible?
Why is the distinction between the historical meaning of the
term bible and modern Biblical-Historical Christians use of
Bible important?

_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
2. Is Sola Scriptura a recently-devised doctrine? Where does Sola
Scriptura come from? Why do Biblical-Historical Christians
accept the doctrine of the primacy of the Canon?

_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________

16 / SWORD

3. What are the three parts of the detailed definition of the Canon?
What is the basic definition of the Canon? Where does this basic
definition come from? Why do we refer to the Bible as special
revelation?

_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
4. Pick one of the following works and discuss why it is not
included in the Canon: the Song of God, the Book of Mormon,
the Quran, the Gospel of Thomas, the Apocalypse of Peter, or
First Maccabees.

_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
The Council of
Trents (c. 1550)
View of Scripture

Views Condemned by
Pope Clement
XI (c. 1700)

Those, however, who presume


to read or possess [Scriptures]
without such permission may
not receive absolution from
their sins till they have handed
[them] over to the ordinary.
Book-dealers who sell or in any
way supply Bibles written in

It is useful and necessary at all


times, in all places and for every
kind of person, to study and to
know the spirit, the piety, and the
mysteries of Sacred Scripture.
The reading of Sacred Scripture is
for all.
The sacred obscurity of the Word

An Introduction to the Bible / 17

the vernacular to anyone who


has not this permission shall
lose the price of the books,
which is to be applied by the
bishop to pious purposes, and
in keeping with the nature of
the crime they shall be subject
to other penalties which are left
to the judgment of the same
bishop. Regulars who have not
the
permission
of
their
superiors may not read or
purchase them.
(Translated by H. J. Schroeder, The
Canons and Decrees of the Council of
Trent: Original Text with English
Translation, pp. 274-5, 1955)

of God is no reason for the laity to


dispense themselves from reading
it.
The Lords Day [(Sunday)] ought
to be sanctified by Christians with
readings of pious works and above
all of the Holy Scriptures. It is
harmful for a Christian to withdraw
from this reading.
To forbid Christians to read Sacred
Scripture, especially the Gospels, is
to forbid the use of light to the sons
of light, and to cause them to suffer
a kind of excommunication.
(Henry Denzinger, Enchiridion Symbolorum,
The Sources of Catholic Dogma, p. 352, 1954)

The Trinity
The position of Biblical-Historical Christianity is that any group
which denies the Trinity cannot be Christian in any meaningful,
historical sense of the word. Accordingly, Biblical-historical churches
are very adamant that their congregants know and be able to
Scripturally defend the doctrine of the Trinity. Consequently, the
accompanying material has been provided so as to identify and support
the tenets which comprise the essential aspects of the doctrine of the
Trinity.
Short Version: There is only one true being of God in whom subsist
three distinct (but inseparable) fully Divine, co-eternal, and coexistent
persons.
Semi-Appropriate Analogy: You are made in Gods image (Gen. 1:26):
You are unique and you have existence (Father/Originator), life
(Spirit/Breath), and rational thought (Word/Son; capacity to conceive of
something beyond yourselfGod). Your existence, life, and rational
thought are fully you but are not interchangeable nor are they mere
manifestations of youtheyre distinct and have nothing to do with
interactions with others. Further, while your life and rational thought are
grounded in your existence, they are not created by your existence.
Further, all of them are present so long as your mature self is present.
Lastly, you cannot be divided into parts that are just your existence, just
your life, and just your rational thought; instead, all are distinct but
inseparable. (However, this analogy fails insomuch as you are not
eternal and your existence, life, and rational thought are not personal.)

18 / SWORD

There is ONLY ONE true


being of Goda in whom subsist
three distinctb (but
inseparable), fully Divinec, coeternald, coexistente persons
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
and He created all thingsf by
His Wordg:
o The Father is a spiritual
being1 unseen in His
fullness2 but revealed to us
through the unique
emanation3 of the Word
(Jesus Christ)h4 and through
the procession5 of the Holy
Spiriti6.
o The Word, the Son Jesus
Christj1, was, is, and always
shall be fully Godk2, and He
took on flesh3 through the
Holy Spiritl4 such that He
was virgin-bornm5, died as a
propitiation6 in place of the
retribution due usn7 and for
our restorationo8, and was
bodily resurrected9 on the
third dayp10all because our
nature is unable to attain to
Lifeq11and He will come
againr12 to judge the living
and the deads13, the Savior
of those now being savedt14
and sending the unrighteous
into eternal fireu15.
o The Holy Spirit is our nowpresent Divine Advocate
who guides us into all truthv1
and empowers us to be
about our Fathers business
as fully-functioning
Disciplesw2.
(The number subscripts refer to
specific points of doctrine.)

(a) Deu. 6:4; Isa. 43:10 & 44:6-8&24; Jer.


10:10; Hos. 13:4; John 5:44 & 17:3; Jude
1:24-25
(b) Matt. 12:32 & 26:39; John 1:1 (pros),
14:28, 16:13, & 17:5; I John 5:6; Rev. 1:6 &
14:1 (Crit. Txt)
(c) All are Yahweh, the LORD (Exo. 3:14):
Acts 13:32-33 cr Psa. 2:7 (Deu. 14:1-2);
Rev. 1:17-18 cr Isa. 44:6 (John 8:25&58 cr
Exo. 3:14-15); Heb. 3:7-11 cr Psa. 95:1-11
(Matt. 1:20 cr Psa. 2:7)
(d) Gen. 21:33; Psa. 29:10; Isa. 9:6 & 40:28;
Jer. 10:10; John 17:5; Phili. 2:5-7; Heb.
9:14
(e) Gen. 1:26 & 3:22; Matt. 26:39; Luke 3:2122; John 1:1; Rev. 14:1 (Crit. Txt)
(f) Gen. 1:1-3; Jer. 10:11-12
(g) Psa. 33:6; John 1:1,3,&10; I Cor. 8:6; Col.
1:16-17; Heb. 1:2
(h) Gen. 18:1 & 32:30; Exo. 30:20-23; Josh.
5:13-15 (Exo. 3:5 cr Rev. 22:8-9 cr Luke
4:8 & 24:52worship); Dan. 3:25; John
1:14&18 & 14:8-9; Col. 1:15; I Tim. 1:17;
Heb. 11:27; Rev. 19:13
(i) Luke 11:13; John 14:26 & 15:26; I Thess.
4:8
(j) John 1:1,14,&17; Heb. 1:5 & 5:12-13
(k) John 1:1, 12:41 (Isa. C6LXX), & 20:28-29;
Rom. 9:5; Phili. 2:5-11; Tit. 2:13; Heb. 1:812 (Psa. 45:6-7 & 102:21&25-27); II Pet.
1:1
(l) Matt. 1:18; Luke 1:35; I John 4:2; II John
1:7
(m) Matt. 1:25; Luke 1:34
(n) John 3:36; Rom. 3:21-26&5:6-9; I Cor.
1:18; Heb. 2:17; I Peter 2:24; I John 2:2 &
4:10
(o) Rom. 5:11; II Cor. 5:16-21; I Pet. 5:10
(p) Matt. 27:62-66; Acts 10:34-43; I Cor. 15:34
(q) Job C25; Psa. 49:6-9; Prov. 20:9; Ecc. 7:20;
Isa. 57:12 & 64:6; Rom. 4:5; II Cor. 3:4-6;
Eph. 2:1&8-10; Tit. 3:5
(r) Matt. 24:3-14; John 14:3; I Thess. 4:13-18
(s) Dan. 12:2; Matt. 25:31-46; John 5:22-29;
I Cor. C15; II Cor. 5:10; II Tim. 4:1
(t) Acts 2:47; I Cor. 1:18; II Cor. 2:15
(u) Deu. 4:24; II Sam. 22:8-16; Isa. 33:14; Dan.
12:2; Matt. C5, 10:28, & 25:41-46; Luke
16:22-24; II Thess. 1:5-10; Jude 1:6-7; Rev.
20:11-15
(v) John 16:12-15; Heb. 3:7-11 (Psa. 95:1-11);
I John 5:6
(w) John 14:25-26, 15:26-27, & 16:7-15; I Cor.
12:4-11

The Transmission of the Canon, Part I / 19

2. The Transmission of the Canon, Part I:


The Pre-Christian Period
The pre-Christian period of the Canons transmissionlasting,
in a basic sense, from Creation until the end of the first century
BCis the period in which the Old Testament (OT) Canon was
written, compiled, and consolidated. Further, much of the OT
Apocrypha was generated during this general time period and it was
during this time period that some of the oldest textual bases of the
OT were started (namely the Greek and the proto-Masoretic text
bases). To analyze this period in more detail, we will subdivide it
into the following intervals:
Generation/Modernization (Creation to about 451 BC),
Compilation/Consolidation/Finalization (from roughly 450
BC to around 424 BC), &
Intermission/Diversification/Extrapolation (from about 423
BC to about 7 BC).

While these intervals can be a little fuzzy, they are useful in


establishing some of the major steps that the non-New-Testament
books went through before the beginning of the Christian era.

2.1. Generation/Modernization
To understand the preservation and authority of the OT works,
one first needs to understand some things about Moses as it is
generally acknowledged that the written record of the OT began in
earnest with Moses. Until this time, it seems that much of the
history was transmitted orally or through various scattered records.
In particular, both Genesis and Job were probably maintained via
oral tradition or independent records before the time of Moses.
More to the point, however, Moses provided the Israelites with (1)

20 / SWORD

the Law and (2) the Prophetic1 ministry that would typify the
remainder of the period of the OT Canon. These two items are
inextricably linked to one another in that Spokesmanship (Prophetic
office) validates the writing (such as the Law) and the writing is
preserved because it comes from Gods Spokesmen and, hence, is
law.
As to why Spokesmen were used to provide the OT works, it is
from Moses that the most direct answer is derived:
The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like
me from among youfrom your fellow Israelites; you
must listen to him. This accords with what happened at
Horeb in the day of the assembly. You asked the LORD
your God: Please do not make us hear the voice of the
LORD our God anymore or see this great fire anymore
lest we die. (Deu. 18:15-16, NET; cr Acts 3:22-23 & 7:37; & Heb.
12:18-29)

In other words, God used the OT Prophets because such is what the
people had asked for. In fact, Gods people did not have Prophets
until the time of Moses. 2 Instead, God revealed Himself in very
personal ways to the Patriarchs.3 Consequently, it is not surprising
that God choose to return to a more personal (but no less judicial)
source of revelation after the Atonementafter people were made

MEANING of or pertaining to Gods Spokesmen; when prophet is


lowercase, it refers to an expositorI reserve the capitalized form
(Prophets) for Spokesmen.
It should be noted that Genesis 20:7 is the only Canonical passage that
refers to a Patriarch (Abraham) as a prophet (spokesman), but only in the
context of God working through him on Abimelechs behalf. This is
distinct from the later Prophetic ministry which followed after Moses in
that the later ministry served as a source of mediation between God and
His people while Abraham served as a intermediary between God and
someone who was not of God (Abimelech).
Such as His direct communion with Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:8), His
messenger sent to Jacob (Gen. 32:24-28), and the dreams He gave to Joseph
(Gen. 37:5-11).

The Transmission of the Canon, Part I / 21

acutely aware of the grace of God through Christs death which


provided the ultimate sacrifice for sins (cr Heb. C9 & 12:18-29).1
Another important consideration is how it was that the Israelites
knew which Prophets were true. That is, if one allows that God can
choose to speak through men, then there is the possibility that men
of ill intentions might have taken advantage of the Israelites
gullibility. Fortunately, God inspired Moses to leave very specific
ways of determining which Prophets were authentic. Some of the
principal requirements of the Prophets were as follows: he/she2 must
have been Israeli by birth,
have had obvious supernatural power,
NOT practice nor lead people to practice pagan forms of
spirituality (including child sacrifice, divination3, omenreading, fortune-telling, sorcery, necromancy, use of
mediums, etc.),
have always made correct predictions, &
have taught things which were consistent with what was
first taught about God and His nature. (Deu. 13:1-5 & 18:9-22)
Of these requirements, the one that is the strongest is the last one
that true Prophets taught in accord with what was first taughtin
that it is the only requirement listed here that ensures consistency
across any considerable span of time. Indeed, this same requirement
is repeated in the OT Canon several times (including Isa. 8:20MT and Mal.
4:4) due to its profound importance in maintaining the original Faith.
While it is important to note that Spokesmen produced the OT
works and that there were specific limits placed on the acceptance
of men as Prophets, it is also important to note that the OT works
were regularly modernized to account for changes in the names of
1

FURTHER READING: Jer. 31:31-34; Dan. 9:24; Joel 2:28-29; Amos


8:11-12; John 4:23; Acts 1:8 & 2:14-41
Female Prophets are present in the following OT passages: Exo. 15:20,
Judges 4:4, II Kin. 22:14 (II Chr. 34:22), & Isa. 8:3.
Interestingly, the Mormons have actively condoned divination and have
called it a divine gift, which, among other things, disqualifies them from
producing Canonically-correct Prophets (Jeffrey G. Cannon, Oliver Cowderys
Gift, 15 December 2012, Retrieved 19 December 2014, <http://history.lds.org/article/
doctrine-and-covenants-oliver-cowdery? lang=eng>).

22 / SWORD

various localities (e.g., Jos. 15:15) or changes in terminology/language


(e.g., I Sam. 9:9). It is because of this modernization that we (1) can
still locate many of the OT localities and (2) can understand what is
written in the OT Canon texts.1
In the cases of texts that were not regularly modernized
principally the book of Jobthe result is that translation is often
extremely difficult. (However, this problem is very rare, mostly just
affecting the book of Job.) Nonetheless, even though an occasional
lack of modernization produces difficulties for translators, this lack
of modernization also guarantees that the OT works are indeed
based on truly ancient sources.

2.2. Compilation/Consolidation/Finalization
One of the things that is often most disturbing to those
uninitiated in more detailed studies of the OT is the simple fact that
many of the books of the Pentateuch, Israeli History, and Poetic
Prophets2 are not in the same form today as they were originally
(and perhaps the same is true of the Wisdom Books). That is, what
we have available to us now are compiled/consolidated versions of
the material which was originally written. Indeed, many of the
original sources are even mentioned in the OT as we have it today:
The Book of the Covenant
The Book of the Wars of the Lord
1

The Book of Gad


The Prophecy of Ahijah

There are a few, very few, places were the Hebrew text of the OT Canon
is uncertain. Fortunately, however, the Hebrew is not the only ancient
form of the textthe Septuagint and other early translations allow us to
reconstruct notable uncertainties and compare various
readings/interpretations.
The OT as it occurs in the Evangelical Canon (the standard BiblicalHistorical Canon) can be divided into four sections: Law (or
Pentateuch), Israeli History, Wisdom Books, & Poetic Prophets, which
are the same basic divisions found in the Septuagint texts (though
sometimes with different orderse.g., Codex Sinaiticus places the
Wisdom Books after the Poetic Prophets). (The phrase Poetic Prophets is
used since the books of the Law and Israeli History (and even the Wisdom
Books in their own way) are also technically Prophetic in origin, hence poetic
is used to differentiate between them.)

The Transmission of the Canon, Part I / 23

The Book of Jashar1


The Book of the Acts of Solomon
The Book of the Chronicles of the
Kings of Israel
The Book of the
Annals of King David
The Book of Samuel
The Book of Nathan

The Visions of Iddo


The Book of Shemaiah
The Book of the Kings of
Israel and Judah
The Book of Jehu
The Chronicles of the Seers
The Book of the Genealogy

(SOURCE PASSAGES: Exo. 24:7; Num. 21:14; Jos. 10:13; I Kin. 11:41; I Kin.
14:19; I Chr. 27:24; I Chr. 29:29; II Chr. 12:15; II Chr. 16:11; II Chr. 20:34; II Chr.
33:19; Neh. 7:5)

These sources are referred to by some as lost books of the


Bible,2 but such is not a truly accurate portrayal of the situation.
That is, the OT, as to its fundamental nature, is a set of historical
accountsyes, it was composed with theological and doctrinal
intent (and there are even different genres within the OT Canon),
but it still claims to be fundamentally historical and has been
affirmed to be historical by Hebrews and Christians for millennia
and, like almost every other historical record of that era which was
maintained throughout the centuries (including the Greek and
1

It is worthwhile mentioning that the true Book of Jashar, like the rest of
the works in the above table, is no longer extant. Nonetheless, there are
several texts that are even sometimes available on Amazon.com, etc,
which go by the same name. These later texts which purport to be the
Book of Jashar are actually forgeries. The two most famous forgeries are
one done in 18th century (<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book _of_Jasher_%28
Pseudo-Jasher%29>) and one done no earlier than the third century
(<http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/15067-yashar-sefer-ha>;
<http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/3056-bereshit-rabbah>).

The Mormons are especially forceful about this claim and even say that
such is proof that the Bible is incomplete (<https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bd/
lost-books>). Ironically, however, they also admit that, even from their
own perspective, the Book of Mormon is incomplete in that it does not
contain all that was said/done by the supposed prophets and Hebrews of
the New World. Instead, they claim that it is a sufficient abridgment of
what was originally said and done (Introduction of the Book of Mormon by Joseph
Smith; I Nephi 1:17; Words of Mormon 1:3; Mormon 5:9). This is essentially the
same claim made by Biblical-Historical Christians regarding the OT
Canon, yet somehow some Mormons say that such an argument is valid
only when it pertains to the Book of Mormon and not when it is applied
to the OT Canonthis is what one would call a double standard.

24 / SWORD

Roman histories we possess today as well as our current history


textbooks), was made through a process of compilation and
consolidation.
Put another way, history textbooks (modern or otherwise) are
often made by historians who have first brought together the various
sources available to them (compilation) who then make a relatively
succinct record of their own which incorporates information from
the aforementioned sources (consolidation). Subsequently, even
though these textbooks are not primary sources themselves, the fact
that they are meticulously made from primary sources makes them
viable sources of knowledge for the public. After all, we are not
going to start making high school students learn all of their history
through the use of photocopies of original documentssuch would
take much more time (and a lot more photocopied paper) than is
realistically feasible (we would also have to teach the students all of
the languages in which the original documents were composed).
Instead, the textbook is a realistic and accepted way of transmitting
essential historical information. The OT Canon is basically no
different in that it too, in those places in which the Prophets do not
speak in the first person, is a record compiled from primary sources
(like the Book of the Wars of the Lord and the Book of Shemaiah)
which have been consolidated into a form that is much more
manageable than dealing with every possible source document.
Since the OT Canon is functionally comparable to a history
textbook, referring to its sources (like the Book of the Acts of
Solomon) as lost books of the Bible is as woefully inaccurate as
referring to the works mentioned in the bibliography of a textbook
as lost chapters of the textbook. In other words, the OT Canon
cannot be said to have lost books any more than a textbook can be
said to have lost chapters; just as a textbooks bibliography does
NOT make the textbook incomplete, the OT Canons references to
books outside itself do NOT make the OT Canon incomplete.
As to when the OT Canon was terminatedwhen it was agreed
that revelation through the Prophets had ceased, thus delineating
which compiled and consolidated works would be authoritative

The Transmission of the Canon, Part I / 25

the general consensus among early Jews1 and some of the early
Christian sources is that the time of the OT prophets was generally
completed somewhere between 4502 and 4243 BC with minor
editing and even rearrangement and modernization occurring
thereafter. This finalization was most likely overseen by such
Prophets as Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi and by such princes (or
leaders) as Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. That is, later works
would freely admit that, after this period, the Prophets ceased to
be seen in their [(the Israelites)] midst (I Maccabees 9:27b, Orthodox
Study Bible)meaning that Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi were the
last of the OT Prophets (the last ones who would have authority
regarding the OT Canon)and that it was Ezra who was told to
Make public the twenty-four4 books [of the Hebrew Canon]
(II Esdras 14:45b, NRSV)implying that the Canon was essentially
unchanged after the time of Ezra (and Zerubbabel and Nehemiah)
(400 BC at the very latest).
All of the above material being considered, we can say that the
form of the OT Canon that we now possess is essentially the form
published by the final Prophets for mass consumption. Granted, it is
not a reproduction of the original documents in every detail, but it
was and is still seen as being sufficient to its task of conveying the
historical, doctrinal, and theological truths necessary for
understanding the God who chose the Hebrew people to be the
1

We are not making this claim for all persons of Hebrew origin (such as
the Samaritans or Sadducees), but for those entrusted with the oracles
of God (Rom. 3:2, ESV; cr John 4:22).
The finalization of the Hebrew Canon is a subject of much debate, but
Hebrew sources record that at least the substantial proportion of the
Canon had been compiled by the Great Assembly as early as 450 BC
(Bava Batra, 14b-15a; Rashi to Megillah, 3a, 14a).
See Eusebius use of Josephus in the Canon lists found at the end of
SWORD. There you will find that early Christians (at least Eusebius)
recognized that the Jews did NOT consider the books written after the
death of Artaxerxes (~ 424 BC) on down to Josephus day (37 100
AD) to be Canonical (authoritative).
Despite that the Evangelical Canon lists 39 books of the OT, the
Hebrews use a different arrangement by which the same books are
counted as being 24 in number (or, in some cases, 22).

26 / SWORD

means of bringing a blessing to the whole world which would make


possible our redemption from the Fall (Gen. 12:1-3 cr 3:14-15).
Consequently, given its sufficiency, the OT Canon also provides us
with the historical, doctrinal, and theological framework necessary
for understanding what would take place in the New Testament era.

2.3. Intermission/Diversification/Extrapolation
Even so, even though the Hebrews were waiting for the
promised blessing, such did not take place immediately. Instead
there was a period of famine, a time that had been predicted in
which the word of the Lord would not be heard (cr Amos 8:11-12).
During this period of intermission, the OT Canon text was
diversified in that it was translated into other languages (namely
Greek), and it was also during this period that men extrapolated
from the OT Canon to produce several apocryphal works which
would sometimes be erroneously placed alongside Canonical
works1.
As to the diversification of the OT Canon, it seems that, while
the listing of which works were considered Canonical was relatively
consistent (at least among the Jews if not in all the Hebrew groups),
the specific arrangement and specific content of each book could
vary (just as the arrangement and content of a textbook can vary
from one edition to the next). More specifically, scholars are at least
certain of three main text-types which flourished alongside each
other during this time period: the proto-Masoretic text2, the Old

Some such extrapolative works have enjoyed such an elevated status


among some groups for a very long time (like those used by the Roman
Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox) while other extrapolative works
were never considered legitimate (except, perhaps, by a few groups
such as the Essenesfor very brief periods of timenormally only one
to three centuries).
The Masoretic text, which developed around the sixth century AD, had
several very ancient foregoing textual forms which are usually
characterized as proto-Masoretic.

The Transmission of the Canon, Part I / 27


1

Greek , and the Samaritan Pentateuch (the Samaritans rejected the


Canonicity of the other genres and instead had a peculiar version of
the Law). 2 These text-forms probably coexisted from the third
century BC onward and sometimes different text-forms were used
by the same group. 3
Nonetheless, such diversity was generally not seen to be
especially problematic as it enabled greater access to the Canon
(especially in the case of the Greek). That is, whatever deficits were
created by NOT having a fixed text were offset by the fact that a
freely transmitted and translated text ensured the best possible
availability and overall preservation. Consequently, even though it
is unlikely that any single line of transmission is original in every
detail, the odds are very good that the original readings are indeed
found somewhere in at least one of the lines of transmission.
As to the extrapolation that occurred between the Testaments,
several works were produced that were made to fill in details
omitted in the Canonical texts. For example, several passages in
Genesis are somewhat vague as to what exactly is being referred to
(such as the sons of God who took wives in 6:2 or the exact cause
of the murder of Abel in 4:1-8), hence later writers decided to
supply books which sought to explain these details (such as,
respectively, the Book of Enoch (of which there are at least four)
and the Book of Jashar (falsely called by the name of a work that is
no longer extant)). Other works were also written that were either
historical (such as I&II Maccabees), philosophical (IV Maccabees),
or instructive (such as Sirach). All of these various works
(extrapolative fictions, histories, philosophical treatises, and
instructional guides) shed much light on the time period between the
Testaments, but they are, nevertheless, non-Canonical as they were
1

The Septuagint as we know it today did not exist back then, but there
were early translations of the Hebrew into Greek.
It should be noted that the Syriac version of the OT was soon to follow
and has been used to augment the Masoretic text in several translations
of the Bible.
For example, the Dead Sea Scrolls (containing roughly 200 Canonical
manuscripts) have both proto-Masoretic and Septuagint-type readings in
them (and also some unique readings specific to the Essenes).

28 / SWORD

either (a) NOT actually derived from a Prophetic source1, or (b) did
NOT claim to be Canonical in the first place2, or (c) were obvious
forgeries3.
Thus ends our discourse on the Pre-Christian Period of the
transmission of the Canon.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
1. What makes a book a part of the OT Canon? From whom are
such books derived? What requirements must such sourcepersons fulfill?

_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________

One of the biggest problems regarding such a claim is the simple fact
that the Prophets who supposedly wrote these works had died well
before these books appear in the historical record. That is, the forgers
often picked from the former Prophets or even from those who werent
even Prophets (like Enoch) rather than the latter Prophets whose eras
were near enough their own to pull off a convincing forgery. This may
have been intentional so that people would be able to distinguish
between the true Canonical works and their own fictitious musings.
A good many of the works of this time period never claim to be Inspired.
In fact, some are fairly clear in denying any supposed Inspiration (cr II
Maccabees 15:37-39; Prologue of Sirach; Psalm 151:1 (which describes itself as outside
the number); I Maccabees 9:26-27).

For example, the Book of Judith wrongly asserts that Nebuchadnezzar


reigned from the city of Nineveh. Such a statement is a sign of
fabrication in that we know Nineveh had been destroyed by
Nebuchadnezzars father in roughly 607 BC (cr footnote to Judith 1:1 in The
Orthodox Study Bible).

The Transmission of the Canon, Part I / 29

_______________________________
_______________________________
2. What kind of educational book does this chapter claim the OT
Canon be likened to? Why is or why isnt such a comparison
valid? In what ways are they similar/dissimilar? Are those
books which are talked about by the OT Canon yet NOT found
in the OT Canon lost books of the Bible? Why or why not?

_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
3. When was the general end of the OT Canon period? Why might
this detail be important?

_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
4. What happened in the Inter-Testamental period regarding the
Canon? What things happened that might produce problems
later on? What happened that might prove beneficial later on?

_______________________________
_______________________________

30 / SWORD

_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
Trinitarian Heresies: Arianism
(JW Theology)

John 1:1
One view that runs counter to the doctrine of the Trinity is a belief
called Arianism, the belief that the Son is not God but is instead a
creation (generally the first creation) of God. Like Sabellianism (the
other major Trinitarian heresy), Arianism can be refuted using John 1:1.
In particular, the first clause of John 1:1En arch n ho logos (In the
beginning was the Expression)clearly states that the Expression was
just as much present at the moment of Creation as God was present at
the moment of Creation (cr Gen. 1:1). Now, if the Expression was already
in existence at the moment of Creation, then He could not have been
createdyou dont create before you decide to create. That is, Arians
have to posit, like many heretical groups, a creation/existence before the
beginning, which is to imply time before its existence (time is part of
the space-time continuum, part of Creation) and to argue from the
silence of Canonical Scriptures as Scripture never talks about a creation
before the beginning. (Colossians 1:15-16 comes closest to speaking of a prior
creation in that it describes Christ as the firstborn of creation by whom all things were
made, but the word used there for firstborndoes not imply prior creation
but headship (as the firstborn of a family receives the blessing to lead the family; cr verse
18). Further, the word used for alldoes indeed mean all, meaning that all
created things were created via Christ and would be a contradiction requiring a caveat if
Christ Himself was created, but Colossians gives no caveat to that effect.) Likewise,

the third clause of John 1:1kai Theos n ho logos (and Great was the
Expression)very clearly applies the same quality of the Father,
namely Divinity (Greatness), to the Expression: The Expression was of
the same substance as the Father, not of a lesser substance. (Incidentally,
the Jehovahs Witnesses believe that Jesus Christ is the archangel Michael (<http://
www.jw.org/ en/ publications/ books/ bible-teach/ who-is-michael-the-archangel-jesus/>),
but such an assertion ignores Hebrews Chapter One (which the JWs mistranslate,
especially Hebrews 1:8) and Daniel 10:13.)

The Transmission of the Canon, Part II / 31

3. The Transmission of the Canon, Part II:


The Early Christian Period
The early Christian period of the transmission of the Canon
lasting from roughly 6 BC until 800 ADis the period in which the
New Testament (NT) was written and proliferated in order to
communicate the significance of Christs first coming, the NT was
gathered and reacted to, and the Christian Canon took on a character
which would be significant to the Protestant Reformation. As one
may anticipate, there are a number of significant events which occur
in this period of the transmission of the Canon. Fortunately, the
significant eras within the early Christian period are fairly welldefined:
The New Testament Era (roughly 6 BC to 95 AD),
The Pre-Toleration Era (roughly 96 AD to 310 AD), &
The Post-Toleration to Early Islamic Era (roughly 311 AD
to 800 AD).
These eras are extremely significant in that they determined both the
shape of the Christianity known to the Reformers and the forms of
Scripture that would be available to the Reformers.

3.1. The New Testament Era


In roughly 6 BC (maybe a little later) a very important event
occurred: Jesus of Nazareth, called Christ (Greek equivalent of
Messiah, meaning Anointed One), the God-man, was born. This
event would eventually affect the entire globeafter all, God had
condescended to step into human history so as to live sinlessly and
then die for usbut this worldwide impact may have only been
possible because the events were recorded and then transmitted.1
1

In particular, the Gospels and Acts were written to provide authoritative


accounts of early Christian history while the epistles (letters, [Next Page]

32 / SWORD

The persons most directly responsible for producing the New


Testament (NT), the body of writings which most authoritatively
records the teachings of Christ and His early followers, were a
group of men known as the 12 Apostles. These men had been handpicked by Christ to publish the Gospel (Luke 6:13; cr Tertullian, Against
Marcion, IV.II, 2nd/3rd Cen.). In particular, their authority was and is
contingent upon the fact that they had been with Christ during
His earthly ministry (John 15:27; Acts 1:15-26), and, consequently, no
writings produced after the time of the 12 Apostles are
considered authoritative (cr the Muratorian Fragment regarding the
Shepherd of Hermas, 2nd Cen.). Nonetheless, just because a work isnt
the direct product of one of the 12 Apostles doesnt make it
automatically non-Canonical.
Why not? Well, the ancient (and sometimes the modern)
standard of authority was two-tiered. That is, it was accepted that
someone who had witnessed the event in question (an eye-witness)
would have a legally-viable testimony, but it was also accepted that
someone who had heard directly from an eye-witness (an earwitness) would also possess a legally-viable testimony. Indeed, this
two-tiered authority shows up in early Christian writings in which
writers distinguish between authoritative and merely informative
sources:
Moreover, Papias himself, in the introduction to his
books, makes it manifest that he was not himself a
hearer and eye-witness of the holy Apostles; but he tells
us that he received the truths of our religion from those
who were acquainted with them. (Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., 3.39,
3rd/4th Cen.)

In the above excerpt, Eusebius explains why the writings of Papias


(a very early church father) are considered informative despite not
being Scripturalthe reason given is that Papias was very close to
the time of the teachings of Christ though he himself was not a
direct hearer of the Apostles. In fact, early Christians were quite

including Revelation) were written to authoritatively communicate with


distant congregations of Christians.

The Transmission of the Canon, Part II / 33

adamant that their authoritative witnesses were viable (Athenagoras, A


Plea for the Christians, 24, 2nd Cen.), which runs counter to the idea that
the Canon was the arbitrary result of later council decisions.
Therefore, the NT Canon is the product of the 12 Apostles by
either their approved eye-witnesses of Christ or by the testimony of
those who were the direct and approved hearers of their teachings
(as ear-witnesses):

Eye-Witness Authors

Ear-Witness Authors

Apostles

Brothers of Christ

Missionaries

John
Matthew
Peter1

James
Jude

Paul
Luke
[Mark2]

When the NT works are read in the modern era, many people
focus on the miracles of Jesus and His ability to rise from the grave
as proof that He was who He claimed to be: God, the only one who
can forgive sins (Matt. 9:1-8). However, Christ Himself did not point
to miracles or the resurrection as the ultimate proof of His
Messiahship. Instead, [H]e interpreted to them the things
written about [H]imself in all the [S]criptures (Luke 24:27, NET)
as the definitive evidence that He was the ChristHe fulfilled what
the Christ was to do as per the OT. Likewise, the NT authors also
proclaim Jesus as the fulfillment of the OT: The NT quotes the OT
318 times, citing some 260 OT passages (thats one OT passage per
NT chapter). More bluntly, a miracle-worker who rose from the
dead wouldnt have been all that convincing to people who already
believed in the supernatural (cr Acts 23:9)3; one who could fulfill
1
2
3

whose Gospel account was recorded via Mark


who recorded Peters Gospel account
Many critics have tried to discredit Jesus of Nazareths claim to be
Christ by pointing out similarities between Himself and other ancient
persons reputed to have supernatural powers, such as Apollonius of
Tyana, Krishna, either of the Mithras (one Persian and the other GrecoRoman), or Attis. While most of the similarities between such persons
and Jesus of Nazareth are fairly superficial, the real problem is that such
comparisons are empty since Jesus claim of Messiahship did not rest on
His miracles and resurrection but rather on His fulfillment of the OT
Scriptures, something that none of these proposed Christ-like figures
could even come close to doing or ever claimed to do.

34 / SWORD

thousands of years of history, however, would have been, and


remains, noteworthy. Some of the key OT Scriptures which are
fulfilled through Jesus Christ are as follows:
Genesis 2:17, 3:19-20, & 4:1-7The consequence of sin is
death and only the death of a blood-possessing sacrifice
can remit sin. (Mark 10:45; Rom. 5:6-11; Heb. 9:22)
Genesis 3:15An offspring of woman would defeat the
serpent. (Luke 1:26-33&76-79; Rev. 20:10)
Genesis 12:3 (Isa. 49:6)All the families of the earth
would be blessed through the line of Abraham. (Matt. 1:117; Luke 3:23-38)

Isaiah 52:13-53:12The coming servant of the Lord


would be someone rejected by his fellowmen; someone
on whom our iniquity would be laid; one having no
natural children; one who would be cut off from the
land of the living; one assigned the wicked grave of a
rich man; one who, having offered His soul as an
offering for our guilt, would thereby receive spiritual
offspring and would then prolong His days; and one who
would continue to intercede for them before the Lord.
(Matt. C27-C28; Heb. 7:23-25)

Given that the NT is predicated on the premise that Christ


fulfilled the OT, it is interesting to note that the NT authors were not
as picky about the version of the OT that they used as some people
would like to believe they were. That is, the NT authors, when
quoting OT Scripture, used multiple versions of the OT, namely the
proto-Masoretic Text (P-MT) and the Greek Septuagint1 (usually
abbreviated LXXRoman numerals for 70, roughly its supposed
number of translators (72, actually)). In fact, even Jesus Himself cites

Well, not technically: The Septuagint we have today was not the form
available to the Apostles (especially as far as number of books is
concerned). Instead, the modern Septuagint isnt a single translation but
represents an entire corpus of material dating from before the time of
Christ to well into the age of the church. For purposes of simplicity, I
have elected to call this corpus the Septuagint, but it should be
understood that this is a somewhat fluidic term.

The Transmission of the Canon, Part II / 35

the P-MT in certain places (e.g., Luke 9:27b cr Mal. 3:1) while citing the
LXX in other places (e.g., Luke 20:42b-43 cr Psa. 110(109LXX):1)even
within the same book! Thus, given early Christianitys multiversional approach to Scripture, it is not surprising that most
modern Biblical-Historical Christians also use multiple versions
of Scripture so as to receive the most possible from Scripture.
The last key issue to discuss regarding the New Testament Era
is that of how the NT books were proliferated. Specifically, the NT
books were originally circulated individuallyit wasnt until later
that NT books were co-bound into single volumes. Further, the
Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John), Acts, and most of the
Pauline epistles (letters written by Paul) were the most widespread
early on. Now the Gospels and Acts were widely circulated simply
because people wanted to know how Christianity began, but the
reason for the initial popularity of the Pauline epistles, however, is
more easily overlooked: Paul usually sent his letters to various
congregations with specific instructions to pass them on to the next
congregation (cr Col. 4:16), hence many congregations had access to
at least some of Pauls epistles even though he hadnt specifically
written to them yet. Consequently, Paul sometimes mentions other
writings in his epistles that, at first, do not appear to be extant (e.g.,
First Cor. 5:9-10; Eph. 3:1-3; Col. 4:16). Nonetheless, as Pauls epistles
were distributed as circulars, the so-called lost Pauline epistles
arent really lost but are instead likely to be known epistles which
were already in circulation.1
Next in order of popularity were the catholic epistles (James,
I&II Peter, I,II,&III John, and Jude), Hebrews, and Revelation.
These works did not circulate widely at first because (1) they did
not have the implicit appeal of the Gospels & Acts and (2) they
1

The first supposedly lost letter to the Corinthians was actually First
Thessalonians (I Cor. 5:9-10 cr I Thess. 4:3-8), the supposedly lost Severe
Letter of II Corinthians 2:4 & 7:8-9 was probably appended as II
Corinthians 10:1-13:10, the supposedly lost letter to the Ephesians is
either Ephesians itself (the statement could be self-referent) or Galatians
(Eph. 3:1-3 cr Eph. 1:9 & Gal. 1:11-2:10), and the supposedly lost letter to the
Laodiceans is probably either Ephesians (via Hippolytus) or Galatians
(via geographical likelihood).

36 / SWORD

were generally written for a specific audience rather than being


intended to be circulars (unlike most of the Pauline epistles). 1
Further, some of these works (like Hebrews) may have been written
in a Hebrew dialect and thus did not begin to circulate widely until
they had been translated into Greek.2

3.2. The Pre-Toleration Era


The period following the New Testament Era was a very
difficult time for the early Christians, a time chiefly marked by
repeated persecutions enacted under the Roman emperors until such
was formally put to an end between 311 & 313 AD via the various
Edicts of Toleration under Constantine, Licinius, and Galerius:
Among the other things which we have ordained for the
public advantage and profit, we formerly wished to
restore...Christians...to a good disposition. For, in some
way, such arrogance had seized them and such stupidity
had overtaken them that they did not follow the ancient
institutions which possibly their own ancestors had
formerly established... When we had issued this decree
that they should return to the institutions established by
the ancients, a great many submitted under [threat of]
danger, but a great many, being harassed, endured all
kinds of death. And since many [other groups] continue
in the same folly and [since] we perceive that [those
other groups] neither offer to the heavenly gods the
worship which is due, nor [even] pay regard to the God
of the Christians, in consideration of our philanthropy
and our invariable custom by which we are wont to
1

Revelation was one of the last books to be written and thus did not have
much time to circulate before the end of the New Testament period.
Clement of Alexandra stated that the epistle to the Hebrews had been
composed in the Hebrew dialect (2nd/3rd Cen., quoted in Eusebius Hist. Eccl.,
6.14.2, 4th Cen.). Also, it is possible that II Peter was originally written in a
Hebrew dialect. (Part of the textual tradition of II Peter maintains Peters Hebraic name
transliterated into Greek (Simeon) rather than Peters proper Greek name (Simon)a
possible indicator of translational idiosyncrasy.)

The Transmission of the Canon, Part II / 37

extend pardon to all, we have determined that we ought


most cheerfully to extend our indulgence in this matter
also; that they may again be Christians, and may
rebuild the [gathering places] in which they were
accustomed to assemble... Wherefore, on account of this
indulgence of ours, they ought to supplicate their
God...that the public welfare may be preserved in every
place and that they may live securely in their several
homes. (quoted in Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., 8.17.6-10)
During this time of persecution, the early Christians were not
generally able to interact on a worldwide (Roman) scale. Instead,
the Christian world was divided into regions, called Sees1, which
acted fairly autonomously. Consequently, it was not until the third
century that the early Christians finally produced a list of Canonical
NT Scripture which coincides with our modern NT Canon (cr Origen,
Homilies on Joshua, 7.1). That is, it wasnt until late in the Ante-Nicene
period that there had been enough contact between the different
regions that the entire NT Canon could be compiled.2
Nonetheless, even though the NT Canon was not known in its
entirety by every early congregation, the Scriptures played a crucial
role in the life of the Assembly (the name given to Christians in
assemblage), along with exhortation, prayer, the thanksgiving of the
Eucharist, and generosity:

The initial Sees of Christianity were those seated in Alexandria, Rome,


Jerusalem, & Antioch (Constantinople was added in 330 AD). However,
the See which tended to impact early Christianity the most was
Alexandria, which was a major center of learning and cultural exchange.
It was the Alexandrian See which was associated with the best and most
successful catechetical schools and the Alexandrian See would later be
responsible for publishing the Festal letters for the entire Roman world.
However, books in all of the major sections of the NT (the Gospels,
Acts, Pauline Epistles, Catholic Epistles, & Revelation) were known to
exist in the first century (via I Clement) and external evidence can be
found to substantiate every book of the NT Canon before the end of the
second century (via I Clement, Irenaeus, and the Muratorian Fragment)
with the possible exception of III John (which depends on how one reads
the Muratorian Fragment).

38 / SWORD

And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in


the country gather together to one place, and the
memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets
are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader
has ceased, the president verbally instructs and exhorts
to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise
together and pray, and, as we before said, when our
prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought
[to perform the Eucharist], and the president in like
manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to
his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and
there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that
over which thanks have been given, and to those who are
absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who
are well to do [(wealthy)], and willing, give what each
thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the
president, who succors the orphans and widows and
those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in
want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers
sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all
who are in need. (Justin Martyr, First Apology, C67, 2nd Cen.)
Further, though many of the early Christians didnt necessarily
know every book of the Canon, they were nonetheless willing to die
instead of surrendering their Scriptures or the teachings thereof:
Barsamya said, Those above [(i.e., the angels)] have
themselves preached, and have taught those below
concerning the living worship of the King Christ, seeing
that they worship Him and His Father together with His
Divine Spirit1.
The judge said, Give up these things which your
writings teach you, and which you teach also to others,
and obey those things which the emperors have
1

This is one of the earliest statements outside of Scripture affirming the


worship of all three members of the Godhead, indicating that the
doctrine of the Trinity (at least in a basic form) was present in
Christianity from its earliest days.

The Transmission of the Canon, Part II / 39

commanded, and spurn not their lawslest you be


spurned by means of the sword from the light of this
venerable sun.
...Barsamya said, But if those who rebel against the
emperors, even when they justly rebel, are deserving of
death, as you say, then for those who rebel against God,
the King of kings, even the punishment of death by the
sword is too little. (Zenophilus, The Acts of Sharbil, The [Near]
Martyrdom of Barsamya, c. 105 AD)

In the account of the martyrdom of Agap, Iren,


and Chion, at successive hearings, the three women
were interrogated by the prefect Dulcitius of
Thessalonica, who inquired, Do you have in your
possession any writings, parchments, or books of the
impious Christians? Chion replied, We do not, Sir.
Our present emperors have taken these from us. On
the next day when Iren was once again brought before
the court, the prefect asked, Who was it that advised
you to retain these parchments and writings up to the
present time? It was Almighty God, Iren replied,
who bade us love Him unto death. For this reason we
did not dare to be traitors, but we chose to be burned
alive or suffer anything else that might happen to us
rather than betray them [(the writings)]. (B. M. Metzger
(1987, reprinted 2009), The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin,
Development, and Significance, p. 108, describing the events of 304 AD)

Even though this era was one of faith in and devotion to


Canonical Scripture, it was also a period in which several nonCanonical works were written. Some of these works were
instructive (like the Shepherd of Hermas or I Clement), some were
extrapolative (like the Proto-Evangelion of James), and others were
outright heretical (like the Gospel of Thomas)some were even
considered Canonical by certain church fathers and congregations
for a time (for example, Irenaeus thought the Shepherd to be
authoritative)but they generally have one thing in common: They
all were written after the time of the closure of the OT and most

40 / SWORD

were written after the time of the 12 Apostles. Subsequently, these


latter works are rejected since they do not meet the criteria of
Canonicity (they arent authoritative nor authenticthey were often
written later and thus not under the supervision of the 12 Apostles).1
Finally, it should be noted that the text bases of Canonical
Scripture became more diverse during this era. In particular,
maintenance of the Hebrew version of the OT was left to the
Hebrews, and thus the Hebrew version of the OT developed outside
Christian oversight. Further, the version of the OT preferred by the
Christians, the Septuagint, also began to diversify and vary from
region to region (though substantially consistent in its core
components), with the versions associated with the Alexandrian See
typically being more similar to the early Hebrew versions than some
of the other versions. Likewise, the NT Scriptures came to be
represented in two general categories: the so-called Western texttype and the so-called Alexandrian text-type. The Western text-type
is marked by paraphrase while the Alexandrian tends to be much
more strict and controlled, but both types coexisted within early
Christianity and had their own purposes. Likewise, modern versions
of Scripture can be quite strict in their rendering, very paraphrastic,
or anywhere in-betweensome are more useful/accurate than
others, but they all generally have the same purpose:
communicating the message of redemption by and reconciliation
with God that is found solely, but abundantly, in Christ (John 10:10 &
14:6; Acts 4:12; II Cor. 5:17-21).

3.3. The Post-Toleration to Early Islamic Era


In many ways, the period following the period of persecution
represents a very sad turning point in the history of Christianity. In
less than 70 years Christianity had gone from being a religion
1

Some works, like I Clement and the Epistle of Barnabas, may have been
written during the New Testament Era, but they either fail the criterion
of Agreement (as with the Epistle of Barnabas) or of Authority (First
Clement distinguishes itself from the Scriptures (chapters 5 & 45)).

The Transmission of the Canon, Part II / 41

actively persecuted by the Romans to being the religion of Rome


(which declaration was made in the Edict of Thessalonica, 380 AD,
by Theodosius I, Gratian, and Valentinian II), at which point
Christianity was wed with the Roman system and took on a more
Roman view of things. In particular, Christians began to more
zealously deal with other worldviews through warfare and physical
conflict. As an example, Ambrose of Milan, the esteemed Latinate
Doctor of the church, ardently persecuted the Jews and, in one such
instance, even said, I declare that I set fire to the synagogue, or
at least that I ordered those who did it, that there might not be a
place where Christ is denied (Letter 40, c. 374-397 AD), and this
despite Pauls admonition that if your enemy is hungry, feed
him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing this you will
be heaping burning coals on his head (Rom. 12:20, NET; cr Prov.
25:21-22). This militant attitude was inherited by many later
generations of Christians (Western & Eastern1), and even some
Protestant groupsfor all possess sin and fall short of the glory of
God (cr Rom. 3:23 & Ecc. 7:20).
Nonetheless, the Scriptures continued their journey through
history. In particular, the Eastern and Western branches of
Christianity came to use different language versions of Scripture
Latin being the version in the West and Greek being the version in
the East. Whats more, not only were the languages different, but
the textual bases of the versions were different: The West had
decided (via Jerome) to translate the OT mostly out of an early
Hebrew version and their NT version sometimes had several
portions which were unique to the West (like I John 5:7b-8a).
Likewise, the East continued to use the Greek versions of the OT
and NT. However, despite being separated by distance, language,
and even theological differences, the West and East had relatively
consistent understandings of the Canon (at least early on) in that
1

In many Eastern Orthodox countries, the Orthodox have made


Protestants second- (or sometimes third- or fourth-) class citizens.
Further, many Eastern Orthodox leaders have been known to put out hits
on Protestant clerics (I know because my sister is a Protestant missionary
in an Orthodox nation).

42 / SWORD

their OT Canon usually consisted of 22 books (roughly equivalent


to our modern 39 books) and their NT Canon usually consisted of
27 books (though the East, for a time, had rejected Revelation).
Further, the NT Canon went through a process of interpolation
during this era. That is, whereas the previous era was marked by the
creation of non-Canonical writings, this era was marked by
additions and alterations to the Canonical texts. Many of these
additions and alterations were based on earlier traditions, writings,
and even variants which could be found in older manuscripts, but it
was in this period that those particular additions and alterations
came to be incorporated into the mainstream versions of the text.
This interpolation process resulted in a text which was nearly 2,900
words longer than the previously-existing text-forms. As to core
doctrine and theology, the previous and latter forms are essentially
identical, but the problem that most modern Biblical-Historical
Christians have with that latter text-type, called the Byzantine texttype, is that it incorporates traditional elements which were not a
part of what the NT authors actually wrote.
This latter Byzantine text-type came to be the dominant NT
text-type in part because of the Traditional churches love of various
traditions and conservative transcription process1, but another
significant factor was the appearance of another religion which
would compete with and go to war with Christianity: Islam. The
Islamic expansion in the East (which was very militant by all early
accounts) resulted in a reduction of the power and influence of the
Eastern churches. Specifically, the only major region of Eastern
Christianity in which there remained any considerable vibrancy was
the area around Byzantium (Constantinople), hence the text-type
prevalent in that region came to be the dominate form since the
other regions, because of the inhibitive influence of Islam, did not
produce as many Christian artifacts as they once did.

That is, they typically conserved all the variant readings, sometimes
combining the variant readings into one conflated reading (as with John
5:3b-4).

The Transmission of the Canon, Part II / 43

These developments represent the status of Scripture moving


through the Middle Ages and, thus, into the Protestant Reformation.
It should be especially noted that the Reformers, who were mostly
Western-influenced, had received a tradition of translating the OT
from the Hebrew and would receive a Greek version of the NT
which contained several non-original portions and alterations.
Nonetheless, despite the differences between what was available to
the Reformers and what we modern Biblical-Historical Christians
have available to us today, because of the substantial similarity
between the various versions of Scripture (versions of both the OT
and NT), the basic tenets of the historical Protestant Faith have
remained unchanged:
Sola Scriptura (By Scripture Alone): We continue to
maintain that Canonical Scripture is the preeminent
standard of the Faith (Deu. 31:9-13; II Kin. 22:8-20(II Chr. 34:8-28); Neh.
8:13-18; Matt. 4:4; John 10:35; II Tim. 3:14-17; II Pet. 3:1-2).
Sola Fide (By Faith Alone): We continue to maintain
that we cannot earn Salvation by works (Matt. 7:21-23; Rom.
4:1-8; Eph. 2:8-10) but that good works are the result of faith
(Matt. 12:35; Rom. 6:15-23; James 2:26).
Sola Gratia (By Grace Alone): We continue to
maintain that Salvation is the free gift of God of which
mankind has no claim to worthiness nor ability to assist
(Rom. 3:21-31 & 5:10; Eph. 2:8).
Solo Christo (Through Christ Alone): We continue to
maintain that there is only one mediator between God and
mankind: the man Jesus Christ (I Tim. 2:5-6; Heb. 4:14-16 &
7:23-25).
Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone): We continue to
maintain that no creature is worthy of our worship, glory,
adoration, or veneration but that such is only to be given to
God (Deu. 4:15-31; Col 2:18; Rev. 19:9-16).
Thus ends our discourse on the Early Christian Period of the
transmission of the Canon.

44 / SWORD

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
1. What is the name of the group of men who were primarily
responsible for the books of the NT? Is the NT solely composed
of books written by these persons? How is the NT Canon
determined/defined?

_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
2. What fairly unique feature of Pauls writings resulted in
situations in which he appears to be referencing lost epistles?
Do we have indications of lost epistles from any other NT
author? Why or why not? What was special about Pauls
writings?

_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________

The Transmission of the Canon, Part II / 45

3. How long did it take for the entirety of the NT Canon to be


recognized in a single list? What is the earliest century in which
we can confirm the existence of all 27 books of the NT? What is
the earliest century in which we can confirm the existence of
books in all the major sections of the NT? (The NT sections are
the Gospels, Acts, Pauline Epistles, Catholic Epistles, &
Revelation)

_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
4. What are the three major text-types of the NT? Which one is
usually the most reliable? Why?

_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
5. Why is it that the Protestant Reformers would translate their OT
from the Hebrew? Why is it that the Reformers would use a
form of the Byzantine text for their NT which included
Western-specific readings?

_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
6. Are any of the main assertions of Protestantism affected by
using different language versions of the OT (MT or LXX) or by
using the different Greek text-types of the NT (Alexandrian,

46 / SWORD

Western, or Byzantine)? If so, which assertions? If not, then


why do Protestants often endeavor to possess more and more
accurate versions of the Scriptures?

_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
Overview of the Trinitarian Heresies
The doctrine of the Trinitythe affirmation that There is only one
true being of God in whom subsist three distinct (but inseparable)
persons[Father, Son, & Holy Spirit]who are fully Divine, coeternal, and coexistent (see page 17 of SWORD)has been perverted
several times throughout Christian history. The primary Trinitarian
heresies (beliefs contrary to the doctrine of the Trinity) are as follows:
AdoptionismThe belief that the Son was a normal human upon
whom a Divine essence descended after His birth (cr John 17:5; II John
1:7).
Arianism (Indicative of the Jehovahs Witnesses)The belief that
the Son was created by the Father (John 1:1).
DocetismThe belief that the Son appeared to be human but was
really only Divine (I John 4:2-3; II John 1:7).
EbionitismThe belief that the Son was an ordinary human given
special power by God but never imbued with true/full Divinity
(Hebrews 1:8).
MacedonianismThe belief that the Holy Spirit was created (usually
by the Son) (Heb. 3:7-11 cr Psa. 95:1-11; Heb. 9:14).
PartialismThe belief that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are
components of God rather than being individually fully God (Deu. 6:4).
Sabellianism (Modalism, Oneness)The belief that the Father, Son,
and Holy Spirit are modes or manifestations of the one being and one
person of God (John 1:1 & 17:24).
TritheismThe belief that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are
different gods (Deu. 6:4).

The Transmission of the Canon, Part III / 47

4. The Transmission of the Canon, Part III:


The Protestant Period
We would be rather remiss in the course of discussing the
transmission of the Canon, which is a chief concern for Protestants
(since the fundamental tenet of Reformational Protestantism is the
doctrine of Sola Scriptura), if we decided to bypass the Protestant
Period of the transmission of the Canon. Instead, we will indeed
discuss the Protestant Period, which persists to the present, as there
are still some controversies which occur within Protestantism that
are at least partially the result of our own time period. The
controversies of which I speak are those relating to the text-bases
and translations of Scripture that are now available to us.

4.1. Previous Schisms, Heresies, and


Statements of Faith
Now, before I talk about the Canon issues in the Protestant
Period, I would like to talk about the backdrop of the Protestant
Reformation. Specifically, the Reformation began in earnest in the
early 1500s1 mainly as a studied2 reaction to the position of the
Roman Catholic Church on various second-level3 theological,
1

The Lollards were active in the late 1300s but their effect was,
unfortunately, somewhat minimal (except, perhaps, in the case of their
influence on Tyndale).
Whereas the early Reformers knew church history and were often wellversed in the thoughts and issues of their day, many modern Protestants
sadly dont know their history and have not really studied the germane
issues (II Tim. 2:15).
That is, Protestants, Catholics, & the Orthodox agree on some matters
like the doctrine of the Trinity (though there is the debate over the
filioque clause), the virgin birth of Christ, God as Creator, the second
advent of Christ, etcwhich, for purposes of simplicity (arbitrarily), I
am calling first-level issues, hence, by (arbitrary) definition, all other
issues are second-level.

48 / SWORD

doctrinal, and practical matters. Further, most of the early


Reformers had no initial intentions of leaving their Church roots,
but, as was the historical precedent, they also recognized that, since
resolution was not to be had, schism (a break in fellowship
between dissenting groups) was the only alternative.
As to the historical precedent, Western Europe had just
undergone a period of schism known as the Western or Papal
Schism (1378 to 1417 AD) in which three different lines of papal
succession had occurred (each with their own, simultaneouslyelected popes). Likewise, Eastern Orthodoxy had also recently gone
through a period of schism (though on a much smaller scale and
roughly a century earlier)the one known as the Arsenite Schism
(1265 to 1310 AD)which was the result of a refusal on the part of
Patriarch Arsenius to remove the sentence of excommunication
which had been given to Michael VIII Palaiologos (Michael had
ordered that a potential rival to the throne of Constantinople be
blinded). In short, schism was, and always has been, a real part of
the Christian religion, and thus Protestants are not ashamed of
leaving Traditional Christianity since we value Truth above unity
(Truth unites those dedicated to Truth, but unity for its own sake is
worthless and is no guarantor of Truth).
In fact, the Reformers had inherited a religion which, in many
ways, was and is populated by schismatics (see above) and heretics
(those who choose to believe something which isnt believed by
another group), including (but not limited to) the Judaizers, ProtoGnostics (both during the NT Era), Gnostics, Docetists, Montanists,
Sabellians (all in the Pre-Toleration Era), Donatists, Arians, the
members of the Assyrian Church, the members of the Oriental
Orthodox Church, the members of the Roman Catholic Church, the
members of the Eastern Orthodox Church (all occurring in the PostToleration Era), and, of course, the Protestants and Post-Protestants.
As the previous list shows, there has never been an era in which all
the self-declared followers of Jesus of Nazareth actually agreed on
what it meant to follow Him, hence choosing to follow Christ in any
meaningful way implies that one will be called a heretic or
schismatic by at least one of the Christian groups that are out there.

The Transmission of the Canon, Part III / 49

Consequently, as meaningful belief always produces condemnation


of one form or another for the Christian, the accusation of schism or
heresy does not affect Protestants very muchits not enough to
say we left the true church (whichever of the four main
Traditional Christian Churches one may invoke) or to simply say
that we are heretics. What matters is whether or not a given doctrine
was (past-tense) actually taught by the Lords Prophets and Apostles
in the most historically viable witness: Canonical Scripture.
Nonetheless, while accusations of schism and heresy are not
inhibitive for most Protestants, Protestants ought to be concerned
with believing what the founders of the Faith believed (not what
merely historical Christians believed, but that which the 12 Apostles
taught should be believed and acted upon). With regard to this point
of believing authentic initial Christian beliefs, it is interesting to
note that Protestant statements of faith are generally more similar to
the Regula Fidei (the Rule of the Faith) of the Pre-Toleration Era1
than with the later creeds of the Post-Toleration Era2:
Attributes of the Historical Statements of Faith3
Doctrines Found in
Pre-Toleration
Statements of Faith
the
substitutionary
sacrifice of
Christ upon the
cross for our sins
the total
depravity of
mankind
the existence of
hell as a real,
distinct place of
eternal
1
2

Doctrines Common to
Both Pre- and PostToleration Statements of
Faith
the Trinity (there is just
one Being of God in
whom subsist three
Divine Persons: Father,
Son, & Holy Spirit)
God is the Creator of all
Christ came for our
Salvation
Jesus crucifixion and
bodily resurrection were
historical events
Christ will come again

Doctrines Found in
Post-Toleration
Statements of Faith
Baptismal
regeneration by
which sins are
remitted
the existence of
one universally
authoritative
Church institution

as per Clement I of Rome, Mathts, Irenaeus, and Tertullian


as per that of Nicaea I, Constantinople I, and the so-called Apostles
Creed
Consult the appendix of SWORD: Historical Christian Statements of
Faith, SF1.

50 / SWORD

punishment by
God

to judge the world


the virgin birth
the bodily resurrection
of the dead

Now, while the latter inclusions in the statements of faith


baptismal regeneration and the one universally authoritative
Church institutionmay have been believed by Christians in the
Pre-Toleration Era, what is interesting is that they were not included
in their statements of faith. Whats more, Biblical-Historical
Christianity (rooted, rather than nominal, Protestantism) has been
very adamant about the substitutionary atonement of Christ, the
total depravity of mankind, and hell as a real, distinct place of
eternal punishment by God1, and it turns out that all of these
doctrines are at least prefigured in the statements of faith given by
the Pre-Toleration-Era Christians. Subsequently, Biblical-Historical
Christianity, despite being schismatic and heretical according to
Traditional Christianity, is actually still in keeping with the essential
beliefs of Christianity as put forward in the earliest Christian
statements of faith, and thus we have outside support (in addition to
the testimony of Canonical Scripture) indicating that we do actually
believe what the 12 Apostles believed.
1

The Eastern Orthodox are very much opposed to the conception of hell
as a real, distinct place of eternal punishment by God. They also esteem
John Chrysostom as one of the co-equal Three Holy Hierarchs.
Ironically, John Chrysostom believed that hell was a real, distinct place
of eternal punishment by God:
For if, when we enter a prison and see its inmates, some squalid,
some chained and famishing, some again shut up in darkness,
we are moved with compassion, we shudder, we use all diligence
that we may never be cast into that place; how will it be with us,
when we are led and dragged away into the torture-dungeons
themselves of hell? For not of iron are those chains, but of fire
that is never quenched; nor are they that are set over us our
fellows whom it is often possible even to mollify; but [they will
be] angels whom one may not so much as look in the face,
exceedingly enraged at our insults to their Master. (Homilies on II
Corinthians, Homily 10, 4th Cen.)

The simple historical fact is that the current Eastern Orthodox view of
hell is a later development (cr Apocalypse of Peter, 20, 2nd Cen.).

The Transmission of the Canon, Part III / 51

4.2. Vulgar Translations, the Masoretic Text,


and the Textus Receptus
At the time of the Reformation, the various Churches were
thoroughly dedicated to traditional language. That is, in the West,
the unquestioned language of the Catholics was Latin and, in the
East, traditional language also prevailed (Koin Greek, Old
Slavonic, etc). The Reformers, however, believed that Scripture
should be known to everyone in their own vernacular (or their own
vulgar languages):
Master Tyndall [(William Tyndale, the translator
and martyr)] happened to be in [the] company of a
learned man, and, in communing and disputing with
him, drove him to that issue [(of relying on Gods law)],
[such] that the learned man said: We were better [to]
be without Gods law than the Popes. Master Tyndall,
[on] hearing that [statement], answered him, I defy the
Pope and all his laws; and said: If God spare my life
ere many years, I will cause [that] a boy that drives the
plough shall know more of the Scripture than you do.
(John Foxe, Book of Martyrs, C12, printed 1563 AD)

Translation it is that opens the window, to let in the


light; that breaks the shell, that we may eat the kernel;
that puts aside the curtain, that we may look into the
most Holy place; that removes the cover of the well, that
we may come by the water, even as Jacob rolled away
the stone from the mouth of the well, by which means
the flocks of Laban were watered. (KJV Translators, The
Translators to the Reader, 1611 AD)

Consequently, an immediate concern of the Reformers was to


translate Scripture into the vulgar languages (especially German and
English).
This desire to translate Scripture presented a very immediate
question: What base text(s) should be used to translate the
Scriptures? The most immediate choice, especially for those in the
West, would have been Jeromes Vulgate, but the Vulgate, being the

52 / SWORD

version of the Roman Catholics, was not going to be the preferred


basis for the Protestants (who were protesting Roman Catholicism
specifically and Traditional Christianity implicitly). Whats more,
when Erasmus revised the Vulgate (c. 1516 AD), he remarked
regarding the New Testament that the Greek had been wrongly
rendered (Epistle 337 in the Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. 3, 134). So,
the Protestants werent going to translate from the Vulgate because
(1) it was a product of Roman Catholicism, and (2) it, when
compared to earlier versions, was known to contain bad renderings.
The early Protestant solutions to the problems of the Vulgate,
though, were somewhat odd. That is, the early Reformers decided to
translate Scripture out of its original languages as much as possible,
which was a practice in keeping with Christian custom (cr Augustin,
Contra Faustum, 11.2, c. 400 AD), but they chose very late versions of the
texts. Specifically, the Reformers translated the Old Testament (OT)
from the Hebrew (as Jerome and others had done nearly a
millennium earlier), but the primary Hebrew text they had available
to them, the Leningrad Codex, was an eleventh-century manuscript
which was the product of the Masoretes (sixth- to tenth-century
Jewish scribes). (Since this form of the OT came from the
Masoretes, it is known as the Masoretic Text (MT).) Likewise,
the majority of the manuscripts that the Reformers used to translate
the New Testament (NT) (which were generally Eastern in origin)
were quite late in their composition, with 14 out of the 16 primary
manuscripts underlying the Textus Receptus (TR) (the
Reformation-era basis of the NT) dating from the eleventh to the
fifteenth centuries.
Therefore, the early Protestant translations, though generally
viewed as being sufficient regarding the Faith, have three basic
problems: First, and perhaps most obvious, is the fact that most
early translations were based on manuscripts that came from
roughly a full millennium after the time of Christ. This late origin
casts doubt on the veracity of certain readings found in these texts
which are either (a) not found in earlier versions or (b) found in
different forms in earlier versions. Second is the fact that the early
Protestants decided to use the work of heretics in that the Hebrew

The Transmission of the Canon, Part III / 53

Masoretes had decided not to believe in Jesus as the Christ, and thus
it is difficult to trust that their text was maintained faithfully, that
they never altered passages or selected readings so as to steer people
away from Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah. 1 Third is the fact that
early Protestants, in selecting single versions of the Scriptures to the
exclusion of all others (just the MT for the OT and just the TR for
the NT), had departed from the example of Christ who Himself used
multiple versions of Scripture (Luke 9:27b cr Mal.MT 3:1; Luke 20:42b-43 cr
Psa.LXX 110(109LXX):1).
These problems, to one degree or another, persist in modern
Protestantism, but some are being dealt with. For example, many
modern Protestant versions of the Bible do include footnotes on
textual variants and have made main-text choices that reflect some
of the probable readings of the earliest available forms of certain
passages (particularly in the NT). However, many modern
Protestants still give an undue level of authority to Hebrew sources
and some have even tried to realign Biblical-historical doctrines to
coincide with modern Hebrew understandings. At this point it
should be noted that many of the Hebrew understandings now
current in Orthodox/Messianic Judaism developed after the time of
Christ (some as late as the Middle Ages) and thus must be
considered historically secondary to earlier sources (just as a sixth/seventh-century church fathers understanding of Christ (like that
of Maximus the Confessor) ought not be taken over a first-century
apostles understanding of Christ (like that of Paul)).

4.3. The Rise of NT Eclecticism


As early Protestant translations were very Masoretic-centric in
their Old Testaments, eclecticism has not thoroughly permeated the
Protestant OT. That said, eclecticism is the de facto norm of
Protestant New Testament reconstructions. This being the case, I am
providing a brief history (originally intended for another work, in
1

The reverse could be said for Christian-derived OT texts in that


Christians may have tried to Christianize certain OT passages.

54 / SWORD

which it may yet appear) of how eclecticism came to dominate the


Protestant view of the NT:
The First NT Critical Edition
Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536), though a dedicated Roman
Catholic throughout his life, believed in a Renaissance Humanist
view of learning and knowledgethat antiquity was to be studied
so as to determine historical truths. Erasmus views ran somewhat
counter to the then-current view of Scholasticism, which posited
that, in many cases, truth could be determined through rational
(rather than emotional) discourse and inference (rather than through
fact-finding & investigation). His view that historical truth rested in
historical inquiry led him to create a new Latin translation of
Scripture to replace Jeromes Vulgate.
To give credence to his Latin translationwhich differed from
the accepted normhe included an edition of the Greek New
Testament (GNT):
But one thing the facts cry out, and it can be clear, as
they say, even to a blind man, that often, through the
translators clumsiness or inattention, the Greek has
been wrongly rendered [into the Latin]. (Epistle 337 in
the Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. 3, 134)

Erasmus published five editions of his GNT. The last six verses of
the book of Revelation were translated into the Greek from the
Latin, and the first two editions did NOT include I John 5:7b-8a, the
Comma Johanneum. Consequently, Martin Luthers German
translation, which used Erasmus second edition, does NOT include
the Comma Johanneum. Further, Erasmus third edition was used by
William Tyndale, who included the Comma Johanneum in
parentheses to indicate its dubious nature (see the 1537 Matthews Bible).
Erasmus critical editions had two significant effects:
First, Erasmus critical editions enabled the New Testament
to be translated into the common languages, the effect being
that people were then able to investigate the chief historical
text of Christianity for themselves.

The Transmission of the Canon, Part III / 55

Second, Erasmus reason for producing a new Latin


translation and accompanying Greek textthe fact that
scribes had erredmeant that the determination of truth
rested on investigation rather than on acceptance of what
had been handed down through the traditional institutions.
The Textus Receptus
Erasmus critical editions of the GNT led to the creation of
other critical editions. The earliest of these critical texts are known
by the general term Textus Receptus (or TR) and, since Erasmus
text is their basis, they are generally similar to each other, but there
are some differences, although those differences are relatively
minor. These minor differences arose because, as the different
editors compiled their texts, they made alterations based on new
material from manuscripts that had NOT yet been used, they made
alterations based on new appraisals of textual variants, and they
occasionally made conjectural emendations to the text.
The primary editors of the TR (other than Erasmus) were Robert
Estienne, Theodore Beza, & the Elzevir partners. In particular,
Robert Estienne (Stephanus) published the text of Erasmus 1527 &
1535 editions in 1550 with marginal readings taken from the
Complutensian Polyglot (a Catholic text), and he created the current
verse divisions used in the GNT in 1551. As to Theodore Beza, he
made a fairly famous emendation to the text in Rev. 16:5 for which
manuscript evidence has never been found (1598 edition). Lastly,
the Elzevirs, via their 1633 edition, gave this text-type its name
the text which had been received, hence Textus Receptus.
The TR went through one last major revision in 1894 when F.
H. A. Scrivener edited it to align with the Authorized Version (KJV)
(previously, no edition of the TR matched the KJV exactly). It is
usually a form of Scriveners revision that is now, in the modern,
called the TR. Thus, the TR, as an end-product, is based on only
about 16 primary manuscripts: those being manuscripts D(4th Cen.),
L(8th Cen.), 1(12th Cen.), 2(11th Cen.), 3(12th Cen.), 4(13th Cen.), 5(13th Cen.), 6(13th Cen.),
7(12th Cen.), 8(11th Cen.), 9(12th Cen.), 817(15th Cen.), 2814(12th Cen.), 2815(12th
Cen.), 2816(15th Cen.), and 2817(12th Cen.) (the ones in bold underline are

56 / SWORD

the manuscripts used by Erasmus, the man who began the TR


textual tradition).
The Rise of NT Textual Criticism as a Protestant Discipline
Despite the popularity of the TR, many Protestants had already
learned that the TR suffered from the same problem that had
plagued the Vulgate prior to Erasmus revision: The errors of
scribes had affected the Greek text just as they had the Latin. Even
as early as 1550, it was already well-known that the GNT textual
tradition included textual variants (Robert Estienne had included
some in his edition of the TR).
Whats more, the examination of more manuscripts revealed
that the problem was significant in its extent: John Mill, a Protestant
(Church of England) theologian, examined 82 extant manuscripts
and published a critical edition of the GNT in 1707 that included the
30,000 variants which had been found to exist in them (it should be
noted, though, that his main text was still based on the TR). Mills
work was met with disapproval by men like Daniel Whitby (a
controversial Christian with Unitarian tendencies), but some
orthodox Protestants, like Richard Bentley, defended the fact that
Mill had remained true to the principles which had led to the result
of Erasmus work:
rejection of tradition as the de facto standard of truth &
evaluation of historical sources to establish historical truths.
Shortly after Mills critical edition of the GNT was published,
Christians turned their attention to the question of how to decide
between variants. One of the concepts that resulted from this
question was that of text-types. In particular, Protestants like Johann
Albrecht Bengel (1687-1752) and Johann Jakob Griesbach (17451812) laid the groundwork for the establishment of the three core
GNT text-types (Byzantine, Western, and Alexandrian).
Additionally, following principles set forward as early as 400 AD
(by Augustin in Contra Faustum, 11.2), Protestants began to reconstruct
the GNT using text-critical criteria. Principal criteria which had
been well-established in Christianity included using original
language manuscripts; using the reading of the majority of

The Transmission of the Canon, Part III / 57

manuscripts if other information is lacking; and, when dates are


known, using the reading of the earliest manuscripts. Protestants
(like Bengel) had also devised criteria based on internal evidence
(i.e., what the authors were likely to write versus the mistakes that
scribes were likely to make).
The awareness of text-types and use of critical criteria led to
new critical texts which left the TR tradition. In 1831, Karl
Lachmann published a non-TR critical text which sought to restore
the original New Testament text using earlier and more varied
manuscripts than those that were available to Erasmus. Other nonTR critical editions followed, including those of Constantin von
Tischendorf (1849), Westcott-Hort (1881), and Richard Francis
Weymouth (a Baptist; ca. 1900). All of these critical editions tended
toward eclecticism, choosing a reading after examining all the
evidence from all the available sources rather than deferring to
one text-type or tradition.
The NA28 and UBS5
The primary critical text of the GNT used by most Bible
translators today is the Nestle-Aland-28th-edition(NA28)/UnitedBible-Scocieties-5th-edition(UBS5) textual platformwhich cites
100s of manuscripts, including many of the most recently
discovered textsand is a distant descendant of Tischendorfs,
Westcott & Horts, and Weymouths critical editions. In particular,
the NA28 includes more variants than the UBS5, but it discusses
them in less detail and does NOT give any indication as to the
surety of each choice. The UBS5, on the other hand, includes only
those variants that affect translation and are necessary for
establishing the text, and it DOES indicate the surety of each choice.
When the NA28/UBS5 platform was first being established, the
Traditional churches rejected it:
From the Catholic Perspective:
It is, therefore, all the more to be regretted that
Nestles text cannot be recommended to the general
Catholic reader. Not to mention other shortcomings,
it places John 5:4 and 7:53-8:11 among the footnotes

58 / SWORD

and represents Mark 16:9-20, together with an


alternative ending of the Second Gospel, as a
Western non-interpolation, suggesting that it is an
ancient Eastern interpolation of the sacred text.
[Now,] [t]he rules of the new Index [of the Catholics]
enumerate with precision those classes of Catholics
who may read texts like that of Nestle; others must
content themselves with one or another of the
following editions... (Maas, A. (1909). Editions of the Bible.
The critical text. 9)

From the Eastern Orthodox Perspective:


Amazinglyindeed,
even
unbelievablymost
modern translators work from an eclectic or
critical text, which draws very heavily from the
older Codices. This eclectic text is a patchwork of
readings from the various manuscripts which differ
from each other and from [our] Byzantine text.
(Isaiah of Proikonisou (ca 2000). Can You Tell Me Which
Translation the Eastern Orthodox Church Uses and Why?. There is
Another, Bogus, Greek Text of the Bible.)

Of the two most prominent Traditional Christian groups, Roman


Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, only the Roman Catholics have
admitted that the NA28/UBS5 textual platform has some validity.
The Eastern Orthodox still oppose the NA28/UBS5 text. In
particular, Carlo Maria Martini, a Jesuit Cardinal, participated in the
NA28/UBS5 editorial work from 1975 until his death in 2012, but
he remains the only Traditional Christian to have been on the
Committee. Nonetheless, the Roman Catholic Church still refuses to
recognize some of the variant choices made in the NA28/UBS5 text
(especially regarding the long ending of Mark).
As to how accurate the NA28/UBS5 textual platform is, the
UBS5s assessment of each of the textual variants can be used to
derive a concrete percentage of confidence (see my article Is the New
Testament Text Reliable?). The overall confidence associated with the
NA28/UBS5 textual platform is 99.42% 0.04%, meaning that
99.42% of the words in the main text are probably correct while the
remaining 0.58% are debatable. That said, with the textual

The Transmission of the Canon, Part III / 59

variants listed in the apparatus, the NA28/UBS5 does represent


100% (essentially) of the original NT material, meaning that it
(in its totality) lacks nothing indispensable of what was
originally said by the NT authors. The versions of the Traditional
Christian groups, on the other hand, usually cannot make such a
claim as they often exclude significant variant readings and thus
may inadvertently reject some of the original statements made by
the NT authors.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
1. If one is a Christian, then is that one either a schismatic or a
heretic or both? Why or why not? What is the relationship
between Protestantism and the charges of either schism or
heresy by Traditional Churches?

_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
2. What are three doctrines found in Pre-Toleration Christian
statements of faith that are not found in Post-Toleration
statements of faith? Why or why arent these doctrines
important?

_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________

60 / SWORD

3. What were the text bases used to make early Protestant


translations of the Scriptures? Where did they come from?
When were they made? Who made them?

_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
4. What principles led Protestants toward eclecticism with regard
to the New Testament?

_______________________________
_______________________________
5. How did the Traditional Churches react to the NA28/UBS5
textual platform when it first came out? Why? How much of the
original NT textual tradition is represented by the NA28/UBS5
textual platform, to include the textual notes? Is this something
that can generally be claimed by traditional NT textual
platforms?

_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
The Seven West-East Ecumenical Councils
The ecumenical councils were held to make decisions for all of
Christendom. There were seven councils which were held and
universally recognized before the West-East Schism of 1054 AD and
are as follows:
Nicaea I (325 AD)Produced the first version of the Nicene creed,
affirmed that the Son was of the same substance as the Father against

The Transmission of the Canon, Part III / 61

the Arians (who believed the contrary), addressed the date of Easter,
and recognized the beyond-provincial jurisdiction of the See of
Alexandria.
Constantinople I (381 AD)Largely finalized the Nicene creed
(though it occurs with additions in the Latin and more substantial
additions in the Armenian), condemned Appollinarism (the belief
that Jesus had no human mind/soul), and granted honorary
precedence over the other Sees (except the Roman See) to the See of
Constantinople.
Ephesus (431 AD)Condemned Nestorianism (the belief that there is
disunion between the human and Divine natures of Jesus), declared it
unlawful to compose a faith different than that of Nicaea I (which
may be taken to declare the revision of the creed at Constantinople I
illegitimate), and resulted in the schism of the Assyrian Church.
Chalcedon (451 AD)Declared, against monophysitism (the belief that
Christ is one in nature), that the incarnate Jesus had two natures
(human and Divine) in one hypostasis (individual existence), rejected
Ephesus II as authoritative (calling it the Robber Council), and
resulted in the schism of the Oriental Orthodox Church.
Constantinople II (553 AD)Condemned Nestorian (see above)
writings and, indirectly, Pope Vigilius, and it resulted in temporary
schisms in the West.
Constantinople III (680 AD)Repudiated monothelitism (the belief
that Jesus had only one will despite His two natures) by affirming
that Jesus had both human and Divine wills.
Nicaea II (787 AD)Rejected the Synod of Hiera, which had declared
the use of icons to be idolatrous, and declared that icons were instead
to be venerated but not worshiped.

The Ancient Baptismal Rite


(Justin Martyr, First Apology, C61, 2nd Cen.; Didach, C7, 1st-3rd Cen.;
Tertullian, On Baptism, C7-C8, 2nd/3rd Cen.; Apostolic Constitutions, 7.2.22, 4th Cen.)

The ancients practiced baptism in a manner different from that


practiced by most modern Protestant groups. The reason why we
practice a different rite is that ceremonial [or] ritualistic practices
are only maintained in Biblical-Historical Christianity insomuch as
they do not detract from but instead foster ones proper
relationship with the Creator (Rom. 14:13) (p. 125 of SWORD). That is,
Protestants had observed that the longer rite had become so associated
with Salvation itself that an undue level of importance had been
associated with it. Also, the rite was not always practiced, yet there
seemed to be no doubt as to the individuals Salvation (Luke 23:39-43).1
1

The criminal on the cross who asked that Christ remember him was told
today you will be with [M]e in paradise (Luke 23:43, [Next Page]

62 / SWORD

Further, insomuch as all of the below components were not always


present (cr Acts 8:26-39), they are not deemed essential by Protestants.
Nonetheless, understanding the different parts of the ancient rite helps
one understand the Scriptures and the conversion process. In particular,
baptism is a ceremony which symbolizes spiritual rebirth and the
ancient rite was separated into three components which represent the
stages of spiritual rebirth.

The Rebirth (John 3:5-6; cr Eze. 16:9 & Rom. 6:1-4)


Component

Description
o Fasting: Baptizees, baptizers, and congregants

1. Un-Holiness
is Declared
(Death is
Recognized)

would fast one to two days prior to the baptism as


a sign of self-abasement before God. (Exo. 34:28;
Neh. 9:1; Matt. 4:1-2)

o Confession: Baptizees would declare their sin and

renounce their rebellion against the Lord. (Lev. 5:5,


16:21, & 26:40-42; Neh. 9:2; Matt. 3:6; Acts 19:18; Rom. 10:9;
Eph. 2:1; James 5:16)

o Purification in Water: Having renounced the way

2. Water
Baptism
(Life is Sought)

of sin, the baptizees would then be purified with


water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy
Spirit as a pledge of a good conscience before God
and Mankind. (Exo. 29:4 & 30:20; Eze. 16:9; Matt. 28:19;
Mark 1:4; Acts 2:38; I Pet. 3:21)

3. Reception of
the Holy
Spirit/
Breath/
Life
(Having Been
Bought by
Christs Death,
One Lives
Sacrificially)

o Chrism: Baptizees would be consecrated by

anointment with (olive) oil as priests, for they offer


themselves as living sacrifices unto Gods
ministry, having been bought at a price. (Exo. C29 &
30:30; Lev. 8:12; Eze. 16:9; Rom. 12:1; I Cor. 6:20; II Cor.
5:18; James 5:14; I Pet. 2:4-5; Rev. 1:5b-6)

o Laying on of Hands: Hands would be laid upon the

baptizees by current priests (prests, short for


presbyteroi, meaning elders) to confirm their status
as living sacrifices and ministers of the Lord. (Lev.
16:21; Acts 8:14-17 & 9:17-19a; Rom. 12:1; James 5:14)

The word paradise is a transliteration of the Greek word


paradeisos (), which means orchard or garden and refers to
the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:8LXX), the place in which Mankind existed in
perfect relationship with God prior to the Fall. Thus, contrary to the
belief that the criminal went to some holding place, Jesus said that the
man would, that day, be in closest relationship with the Father, hence
receiving Salvation in full. Therefore, according to the Canonical
Scriptures, baptism is NOT required for Salvation (union with God).
Nonetheless, baptism has always been treated with the utmost
seriousness and is thus expected of all those with understanding (Isa. 7:16)
who have opportunity to perform the rite (Acts 10:47-48).
NET).

How We Got the Canon, Part I / 63

5. How We Got the Canon, Part I:


The Old Testament
We have been using the term Canon up to this point without
either (a) acknowledging the fact that the Canon, as a technical
term, did not come into use until the Post-Toleration Era or (b)
giving consideration to the controversy concerning the Canon. As to
the technical use of the term Canon being a latter construct, it
should be noted that our definition of the Canon is independent of
the latter theological specification insomuch as our definition
(Authority, Agreement, & Authenticity) was available from the very
beginning (at least implicitly), hence we use the term Canon out of
convenience as a marker of special authority (which is broadly
consistent with usage in the church fathers). As to having heretofore
avoided controversy regarding the Canon, we will now delve into
such hullabaloo.
In particular, we will begin with the Old Testament (OT)
Canon. Now, while both Canons can differ between Christian
groups, the OT tends to always be different between major Christian
classifications. That is, while many branches of Christianity have
the same NT (with the exception of two notable groups), almost
every major branch has a different OT. Consequently, while the
secular world tends to focus on the New Testament (NT), the real
area of debate within Christianity is the OT.
From a Biblical-historical point of view, the contested books of
the OT Canon can be classified as either Additions or Extra Books:
Significant Possible
Additions
151st Psalm
Prayer of Manasseh
Additions to Esther
1

Significant Possible
Extra Books1
I Esdras (EO) (150 BC-100 AD)
II/IV Esdras (Protestant/RC) (81-218 AD)
Esther (~450 BC)

Dates were taken from Christian sources where possible (as the OT Canon is
mostly an in-house debate). Chief sources included the Orthodox Study Bible
(2008) & The Catholic Encyclopedia (Apocrypha, 1907).

64 / SWORD

Baruch
Epistle of Jeremiah
Additions to Daniel
o Susanna
o Song of the Three
Children
o Bel & the Dragon

Tobit (400-100 BC)


Judith (135-105 BC)
Wisdom of Solomon (30-10 BC)
Sirach (~180 BC)
Psalms of Solomon (100-1 BC, NETS)
12 Minor Prophets (790-400 BC)
I Maccabees (~104 BC)
II Maccabees (124 BC or later)
III Maccabees (100-50 BC)
IV Maccabees (100 BC-100 AD)

Books in bold may be early enough to possibly be Canonical.

Now, as the names Additions & Extra Books suggest, BiblicalHistorical Christianity has the smallest OT Canon of all the
Christian groups, and thus our proofs will usually be negative rather
than positive. That is, as the only other option is to have more OT
books, Biblical-Historical Christians dont have to prove that the
books that we do have are Canonical (since all Christians agree on
the books which we hold in common) but rather that the Additions
& Extra Books that the other groups have are non-Canonical.

5.1. Authority and Agreement


We will first examine the OT Canon in light of the standards of
Authority and Agreement. That is, in Biblical-Historical
Christianity, a book belongs to the OT only if it was derived from
one or more of the Prophets (Authority) and is in keeping with
previously established Canonical Scripture (Agreement).
Consequently, we will test the Additions & Extra Books to see
whether or not they are of Prophetic origin and in agreement with
the uncontested Scriptures.
Now, Biblical-Historical Christians, unlike some groups,
believe that the time of the Prophets did come to an end and that
there was a considerable period of time in which no one acted as the
Spokesman of the Lord (Amos 8:11-12). Why do we believe this?
Well, for starters, the author of Hebrews said that God spoke long

How We Got the Canon, Part I / 65


1

ago through the [P]rophets (Heb. 1:1, NET) rather than saying
that God had recently been speaking through the Prophets. Further,
Jews of the first century likewise believed that the more recent
writings were NOT authoritative:
From the time of Artaxerxes [(died c. 424 BC)] to our own
day all the events have been recorded, but the accounts
are not worthy of the same confidence that we repose in
those which preceded them, because there has not been
during this time an exact succession of [P]rophets.
(Josephus,1st Cen., quoted in Hist. Eccl., 3.10.4, 4th Cen.)

Lastly, the Additions & Extra Books themselves indicate that the
time of the Prophets was over before the events found in them were
recorded:
NRSV-CE (Catholic Edition)
They made inquiry and
searched for the friends of
Judas, and brought them to
Bacchides, who took
vengeance on them and made
sport of them. So there was
great distress in Israel, such
as had not been since the time
that prophets ceased to
appear among them.
(I Maccabees 9:26-27)

Orthodox Study Bible


These men sought out and
searched for the allies of
Judas, bringing them to
Bacchides. He took
vengeance on them and
mocked them. There was
great perplexity in Israel,
such as had not been since
the days when the prophets
ceased to be seen in their
midst. (I Maccabees 9:26-27)

The above passage from I Maccabees is especially interesting in


that it is datable2: The described events took place during the reign
of Demetrius I Soter, who reigned from 161 to 150 BC. Further, the
above quote very clearly indicates that the Prophets ceased prior to
the time of the events in the account. Consequently, if I Maccabees
is to be taken as reliable in any meaningful sense, then it gives us a
concrete date for the furthest possible extent of the time of the OT
1

The Greek word translated long ago is , which, according to both


Mounces and Fribergs lexicons, implies a large period of time in
Hebrews 1:1.
Josephus discussion of Artaxerxes is also datable, but critics point out
that Josephus did not actually say that the Prophets ceased but that the
exact succession of Prophets is what came to an end. Therefore, we
will turn our attention to a more definitive statement.

66 / SWORD

Prophets: The time of the Prophets probably ended sometime before


161 BC (as early as 424 BC if we trust Josephus assessment as to
what we can be confident about). On this basis, we can say that
most of the Extra Books simply cannot be Canonicalthey are not
of Prophetic originincluding all of the Maccabees, the Psalms of
Solomon, Wisdom of Solomon, Judith, and First (EO) & Fourth
(RC) Esdras (see the previous table on pages 63-64).
As to the remaining works, we will deal with them individually:
The Extra Books
EstherEven though it is not significantly debated today, the
book of Esther is disputed in some of the early Christian literature.
As to whether or not it is of Authority and in Agreement, it is
sufficient to observe that Esther never claims a Prophetic origin.
Instead, Esther claims to coincide with the Book of the
Chronicles of the Kings of Media and Persia (Est. 10:2, NET),
possibly being recorded therein by Mordecai (as per the Greek
Alpha-text), who has never been acknowledged as a Prophet.1
TobitThis book, like Esther, does not claim to be of Prophetic
origin. Further, Tobit fails the standard of Agreement:
Tobit 4:10
For almsgiving delivers us
from death and prevents us
from entering into the
darkness. (Orthodox Study Bible)

Psalm 49:8
[T]he ransom price for a
human life is too high, and
people go to their final
destiny. (NET)

That is, if one accepts Psalm 49, one of the uncontested Psalms,
then one understands that we need someone to pay the ransom price
for us. Indeed, the one who came to pay our ransom, the price we
could never pay, was Jesus Christ: For even the Son of Man did
not come to be served but to serve, and to give [H]is life as a
ransom [(literally, freedom-price/substitute)] for many (Mark
10:45, NET). After all, it is for a reason that It says for you were
bought at a price (I Cor. 6:20, NET) and to the one who is thirsty I
[(Jesus Christ, the Alpha and Omega)] will give water free of
1

Incidentally, it is unlikely as the Mordecai of Ezra 2:2 and Neh. 7:7 is


the same as this Mordecai as the chronologies separate them by roughly
a half-century.

How We Got the Canon, Part I / 67

charge from the spring of the water of life (Rev. 22:6, NET). In
short, almsgiving is good, but it doesnt deliver from death. No,
freedom from death, eternal life, is not something one can do for
oneselfyou are dead in sin (Eph. 2:1; Ecc. 7:20)but is instead the
free gift of God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 6:23 cr Rom. 4:5).
SirachIt is one of the most beautiful books for instructing
those new to the way of God (except 3:3 and similar passages).
However, it also very clearly distinguishes itself from the Canonical
works in its prologue:
Of the many great things given to us through the law
and the prophets and through the others who followed
them, we should praise Israel for instruction and
wisdom. Not only should those who read gain
understanding, but also those who love learning should
be able to help outsiders understand both through
speaking and writing. Thus my grandfather Jesus [(the
Greek form of Joshua)] especially devoted himself to reading
the Law and the Prophets and other books of the
fathers....and [was] himself led to write something fitting
for instruction and wisdom... (Prologue to Sirach, Orthodox
Study Bible)

That is, Sirach was not written as one of those preceding books (not
as a Canonical book) but was written by one who love[d]
learning so as to help outsiders understand the way of God.
In other words, it was one of the first introductory books for the
people of God, but it is not, nor was it intended to be, a part of the
normative standard of the Faith, especially given that it was
originally only intended for use by outsiders.
12 Minor ProphetsThough the 12 Minor prophets are
technically disputed in that one early church father (Origen) omits
them from his list of OT books, his omission is truly unique.
Moreover, as the name implies, this collection is most assuredly of
Prophetic origin and thus Biblical-Historical Christians wholeheartedly accept the 12 Minor Prophets as being Canonical.

68 / SWORD

The Additions
151st Psalm1Evaluating the Canonicity of this addition is
easy: It describes itself as being outside the number (Psa. 151:1,
NETS). This being the case, well take it at its word and leave it
outside the number of Canonical psalms.
Prayer of ManassehThis one is really easy: Manasseh wasnt
one of the Prophets nor was he ever referred to as one of the
Prophets or as being commissioned by a Prophet or as using the
Prophets for his source material, hence the prayer that bears his
name, even if authentic, simply couldnt be Canonical.
Additions to EstherWell, if Esther isnt Canonical, then the
additions cant be Canonical either.
BaruchBaruch is very clearly an Inter-Testamental midrash
(extrapolative fiction) in that it plays off of I Enoch (ca. 300 BC) by
saying that the giants were born in heaven, Gods dwelling place,
but were rejected by God while humankind was accepted (Baruch
3:24-28). It was probably written in response to Jeremiah 45:1-5(51:312
35 LXX) as an imagining of where Baruch went and what he did.
Further, Baruch, if not fictional, was nonetheless written by
Baruch, the son of Neriah, the son of Mahseiah, the son of
Zedekiah, the son of Hilkiah, while in Babylon (Baruch 1:1,
Orthodox Study Bible), and thus it was written by a man who is not
among the Prophets (though being the scribe of Jeremiah).
Additionally, as it was supposedly written in Babylon, it could not
have been written under Jeremiahs authority as Jeremiah remained
in Israel (Jer. 51:59-64(28:59-64 LXX)).
Epistle of JeremiahWe will reserve our sentence until we
have examined the third criterion of Canonicity (Authenticity).

It is with great lamentation for the state of American Christianity and


country music in general that I add this point of clarification: Psalm 151
is not Wynonna Judds country song by the same name (also known as
Testify to [Gods] Love)the real Psalm 151 was written centuries
upon centuries before Judd was even a twinkle in her daddys eye.
Also, such midrashes served as part of the basis for the recent movie
Noah, which was one of the most non-biblical of biblical movies ever
produced.

How We Got the Canon, Part I / 69

Additions to DanielAs with the Epistle of Jeremiah, we will


have to examine their authenticity before coming to a final verdict.

5.2. Authenticity
To examine the historical authenticity of something is to (1)
examine the item itself to determine whether or not it is consistent
with its historical claims and (2) to investigate the historical record
of the item so as to determine what has been thought about it and
why those views were held about it. As to the latter aspect,
investigating the historical record, I believe that a lot of Protestants
overemphasize the Jewish record and testimony concerning the OT
Canon. That is, were Christians, not Jews, hence we should not
suppose that the standards of one group are necessarily those of the
other. This being the case, I would like to focus on the Christian
history of the OT Canon.
At the same time, while being Christian rather than Jewish,
Biblical-Historical Christianity is not merely concerned with
believing what certain Christians had come to believe. Contrarily,
we wish to believe what is most consistent with the earliest beliefs.
To this end of believing what was initially believed, I will limit the
investigation to the biblical lists of the first five Christian centuries
(through the fifth century AD). I am picking this cut-off point for
the following reasons:
1. It is a point after the Pre-Toleration Era (thus giving
Christians some time to communicate freely across the
Roman Empire),
2. it is prior to the Great Schism of 1054 AD (after which the
West and East effectively ceased to communicate),
3. there is a natural break between lists composed in the fifth
century and later centuries (there is an approximately 140year gap between the early and late lists), and
4. the late lists tend to be repetitions of earlier lists (e.g., John
of Damascus essentially reproduces the list of Epiphanius).

70 / SWORD

Now the early 221 Christian lists that I have access to (or even
those contained in Christian records, like those of Josephus) can be
put into three general categories:
Council Lists (2/32 Lists): Christians would occasionally
gather together and decide what they were going to do with
respect to various issues. The issues brought up in council
sometimes included the question of what books could be
read in the churches, hence some council proceedings do
include lists of biblical books. The problem with council
lists, however, is that they define canonical in terms of
what is allowed to be read in the churches rather than what
has authority regarding the Faiththey dont distinguish
between ecclesiastical and Canonical Scripture. Further,
many early councils were local and were not meant to
represent other Christian regions.
Freestanding Lists (2 Lists): Occasionally we find lists of
biblical books that are simply no more than thattheyre
just lists. These free-standing lists are sometimes found in
biblical manuscripts and they often seem to have been used
by scribes to determine the amount of work involved in
transcribing various biblical books. As with council lists,
freestanding lists dont usually differentiate between what is
merely used and what is considered authoritative.
Authors Lists (17/18 Lists): The most useful category (and
most common category) of lists are those produced by a
specific author who wished to communicate the extent of
Scripture to his audience. The authors lists are most useful
because the authors dont just list books but also
differentiate classes of books where they deem it necessary.
When the data from these lists are compiled, the percentages of
uncontested support for the potential Extra Books (the Additions
dont tend to show up consistently in the lists) are as follows:
1

However, only 20 of them mention OT books. See the appendix:


Historical Lists of the Books of the Canon at the end of SWORD (pp.
CL1-3) for the specific contents of each of the lists as well as some full
quotations.
The difference is due to how one classifies the Apostolic Canons.

How We Got the Canon, Part I / 71

Potentially Extra Book


12 Minor Prophets
Esther
Wisdom of Solomon
III Maccabees
IV Maccabees
Tobit
Judith
Sirach
I Maccabees
II Maccabees

All of the Lists % of


Uncontested Support
97.1
68.6
17.1
5.7
5.7
14.3
20
11.4
11.4
11.4

Just the Authors % of


Uncontested Support
96
56
8
0
0
-4
-4
-4
-8
-8

Shaded cells. indicate a majority of uncontested support in favor of the book.1

On looking at this table, one should immediately recognize that it is


consistent with the OT Canon of most Protestant groups. That is,
there is a majority of uncontested support for Esther and the 12
Minor Prophets but not for any of the other potential Extra Books.
Nonetheless, a summary table does not provide one with a historical
understanding of the works in question. This being the case, we will
return to some of the Additions & Extra Books to highlight different
aspects of their history and their claims to authenticity:
Additions & Extra Books Revisited
Esther, Tobit, & JudithThese books seem to be somewhat
linked in that, if a list excluded or expressed doubts about Esther,
then it always excluded Tobit and Judith. More specifically, there
1

Values were assigned according to the following schema:


Lists
Corresponding
Lists
Corresponding
Appraisal
Value
Appraisal
Value
inclusion
+1
hedged
+0.5
inclusion
unqualified
0
hedged
0.5
omission
exclusion
clear exclusion
1
In the case of the proto-lists (OT: Josephus; NT: I Clement & Irenaeus), the
support offered by them was limited to half-values. The subsequent
percentages were derived by tallying the values for each book and
comparing the sums to the OT books with the highest total. For example,
if two lists rejected a work and five lists accepted a work and those lists
were all in favor of another work, then the percentage of the work in
(
)
question would be 42.9%
100 .

72 / SWORD

seems to have been a tradition originating in Palestine as early as


the second century (as per Melito) which viewed these three books as
simply the accounts of Hebrew heroes and heroines rather than as
authoritative Scripture. 1 This view of Esther, Tobit, and Judith as
being just heroic accounts seems to have held sway among certain
Christians even into the mid-fourth century (with Athanasius, Gregory of
Nazianzus, and Amphilocius2 of Iconium). At the same time, Christians as
early as the third century (as per Origen) knew that the Jews included
Esther in their Canon but that the Jews didnt include Tobit or
Judith. This view that Esther was independent of Tobit and Judith
was likewise present in some portions of Christianity until at least
the early fifth century (with Cyril of Jerusalem, the Council of Laodicea,
Epiphanius, Jerome, and Rufinus). Further, at some earlier point (no later
than the early third century), the text of the Greek version of Esther
had been altered to include the Additions to Esther.3 The Additions
to Esther are distinctly more religious than the main text, which is
essentially historical. This added religiosity probably made Esther
seem more appropriate for inclusion in the Canon of Scripture.
Consequently, given (a) that Esther was accepted by the Hebrews,
(b) that Esther had previously been associated with Judith & Tobit,
and (c) that Esther had become more distinctly religious, the natural
result was that all three books would become Canonical among
some groups, but not until the mid-fourth century (as per Hilary of
Poitiers). In total, some 15 out of 20 OT, pre-sixth-century lists
present Esther in a somewhat positive light, but only 7 of them
present Judith and/or Tobit in a somewhat positive light. Therefore,
if Protestants are going to accept any of these three books as
Canonical Scripture, they would certainly be in better company if
they only accepted Esther. Nonetheless, it is also probable that these
1

2
3

The Dead Sea Scrolls, despite containing the other OT Canonical books
(and many non-Canonical books), also omit Esther.
BTW, if I ever had a son I didnt like, Id name him Amphilocius. (JK)
The Greek form of Esther survives in two distinct forms, but the sections
called Additions to Esther are nearly identical despite that the
surrounding text is different in each form. What this indicates is that the
Additions to Esther were indeed added at a later time and are thus
inauthentic (see the NETS for more information).

How We Got the Canon, Part I / 73

Extra Books are just the accounts of heroic Hebrews which never
claim Prophetic origin.
Wisdom of Solomon & SirachThis is another set of Extra
Books that often appear together (generally, Sirach always, except
in the Apostolic Canons, implies the Wisdom of Solomon).
Specifically, the Wisdom of Solomon shows up earliest in the lists
and then it is later paired with Sirach (in 367 AD as per Athanasius). As
to the original reason for both the pairing and use of these two
books, it is Athanasius who seems to give the clearest explanation:
[These are] appointed by the Fathers to be read by those
who newly join us and who wish for instruction in the
word of godliness: the Wisdom of Solomon, and the
Wisdom of Sirach, and Esther, and Judith, and Tobit,
and that which is called the Teaching of the Apostles,
and the Shepherd. But the former [(the ones enumerated
before these)], my brethren, are included in the Canon,
[these] latter being [merely] read [(i.e., ecclesiastical)].
(39th Festal Letter, 2-7, 367 AD)

Further, there was an understanding among some of the early


Christians that the Wisdom of Solomon was not written by
Solomon:
For two books, one called Wisdom and the other
Ecclesiasticus, are ascribed to Solomon from a certain
resemblance of style, but the most likely opinion is that
they were written by Jesus the son of Sirach. (Augustin, On
Christian Doctrine, 2.8, 4th Cen.)

These two things being the case (that these works are instructive
rather than authoritative and that Wisdom was not written in the
Prophetic era), Protestants would be well-grounded in rejecting
them as Canonical. In particular, 8 of the lists support Wisdom and
only 5 lists support Sirach (compared to 20 total).
The MaccabeesOf the four books which go by this name,
only the first two appear to any significant degree in the early lists
(III & IV Maccabees occur in just one list each, and not even in the
same list). Further, I&II Maccabees were initially more authoritative
among the Western Christians than with the Eastern Christians,
which is not to say that that the Maccabees were unknown to the

74 / SWORD

Eastern Christians, just that the Eastern Christians seem to have


been more reserved about using books like the Maccabees as a basis
for doctrine:
But it should be known that there are also other books
which our fathers call not Canonical but ecclesiastical:
that is to say... [(Rufinus then lists several Extra
Books)]... and the Books of the Maccabees. In the New
Testament... [(he then lists several ecclesiastical NT
works)]; all of which they would have read in the
Churches, but not appealed to for the confirmation of
doctrine. The other writings they have named apocrypha
[(unreliable/untrue)]these they would not have read in
the churches. (Rufinus, Commentary on the Apostles Creed, 36-38,
~ 400 AD)

As a final count, 5 of the lists mention I&II Maccabees favorably.


Epistle of JeremiahAlso known as the sixth chapter of
Baruch, the Epistle (or Letter) has been put in various books within
the OT, implying its later inclusion. Further, the nature of the Greek
text is unlike anything else found in the Septuagint (the distinction
has to do with Greek particles), implying a later date of translation.
If the Epistle was genuine and originally included with Jeremiah
from the beginning, then there would have been no reason to
translate it later than (and very differently from) the remaining text.
Additions to DanielDifferent manuscripts of Daniel place the
additions in different places, indicating that their relationship to the
main text had not yet been agreed upon. Further, the Additions to
Daniel show Daniel as being haughty and disrespectful (Bel. v19)
out of character for the Daniel of the main text. That said, the Song
of the Three Children does not tend to move through the
manuscripts like Susanna and Bel1 & the Dragon do, hence it is
possible that the Song of the Three Children is indeed authentic, or
at least the most ancient of the three additions. Then again, its not
like there are too many places where the Song of the Three Children
could be inserted that would make sense, hence its perceived
1

No, this Bel is not like the heroine of Beauty and the BeastBel was a
Babylonian deity.

How We Got the Canon, Part I / 75

stability might be an effect of its unique relevance to the third


chapter of Daniel.
As to the takeaway message of what has been discussed thus far
in the chapter, consider the following:
Many of the Extra Books fail the standard of Authority due
to being late writings.
Further, some of the Extra Books teach things which are at
odds with those OT Scriptures that are accepted by all.
Both the 12 Minor Prophets and Esther are substantially
supported in the early lists whereas the other potential Extra
Books are not, but it is possible that Esther should be
treated as non-Canonical.
Lastly, many of the Additions possess certain demonstrable
hallmarks of indeed being added to the works in which they
are now contained, yet it should be noted that the Song of
the Three Children is a variant that does not vary as much
as the other Additions to Daniel.

5.3. Really Bad Arguments


Before I end the chapter I would like to point out that
Traditional Christians often use some really bad, easily-refuted
arguments when contending for a longer OT Canon:
1) A work is Canonical if it is inspired. Since early
Christians believed the Additions & Extra Books to
be inspired, they believed them to be Canonical.
Further, the Additions & Extra Books themselves
claim to be inspired, hence they are Canonical.
Um, no. This is an argument based on a very bad
reading of II Timothy 3:16, which actually says that all
Scripture is inspired, not that all inspired works are
Scripture. Therefore, inspiration does not make a work
Canonical. Instead, as previously stated, a work is
Canonical if and only if it satisfies the criteria of Authority,
Agreement, and Authenticity (see page 14 of SWORD).

76 / SWORD

2) The NT authors quoted from the Septuagint, the


Septuagint contains the Additions & Extra Books,
so these other parts/works must be Canonical.
The NT authors also quote/reference I Enoch (Jude 1:1415), the Assumption of Moses (Jude 1:9), and Aratus material
(Acts 17:28), but most Traditional Christians wouldnt accept
these works. Moreover, quotation and use do not imply that
something comes from a proper source of Authority, just
that they contained an inspired truth or a detail that was
significant to the topic at hand. Further, according to the
Letter of Aristeas, it was only the books of the Law (the five
books of Moses) that were translated by the 72 translators.
That is, the Septuagint did not originally contain all of the
books that it currently does, hence, even if use did imply
authority (which it doesnt), one still couldnt say that the
NT authors considered all of the books that are currently in
the Septuagint to be authoritative as there is no extant list of
the books that were in the first-century version of the
Septuagint.
3) The NT authors reference the Additions & Extra
Books, so they must be Canonical.
Again, use does not imply authority. The NT authors
gave us the standards of authority we are to use (Eph. 2:20; II
Pet. 3:1-2), and those standards are the recorded statements of
the Lords Prophets and Apostles themselves, not the works
that they happened to use. For example, if a newspaper
says, We can know only that we know nothingand
that is the highest degree of human wisdom, does it then
follow that War & Peace, the source of the preceding quote,
must be a part of the newspaper? No, of course not, and just
as a newspapers references/quotes do not require the
readers to append entire books to the newspaper, the
Prophets and Apostles references/quotes do not require us
to treat the extraneous material as Canonical Scripture.

How We Got the Canon, Part I / 77

4) The Jews removed the Additions & Extra Books at


the Council of Jamnia (c. 70-100 AD), and thus
later Jewish lists are too short.
The so-called Council of Jamnia never happened. It was
concocted by Heinrich Graetz in 1871 in response to the
fact that scholars at the school of Jamnia had questions
concerning Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, the Chronicles, and
Esther. In particular, the Jewish scholars asked whether or
not some books were Holy like the five books of the Law,
which rendered the hands unclean if touched, and they also
discussed the canonicity of the Chronicles and the Song of
Songs. However, there isnt a shred of evidence that a
council was convened that decided the Canonicity of any
Addition or Extra Book. The fact is that the Christian and
Jewish Canons developed relatively independently of one
another, with the Christians more often reacting to the Jews
than the other way around.
5) The Septuagint had strongly Christian messages
(e.g., the Greek version of Isa. 7:14, which predicts
the virgin birth), so the Jews changed or cut out
those parts that were clearly Christian, including
the Additions & Extra Books.
This is a merely speculative supposition which could
easily be reversed by the Jews. As to Isaiah 7:14 predicting
the virgin birth, it should be noted that the early Hellenic
Jews used parthenos (the Greek word at issue here) to reference a
young woman who was of marriageable age and used it
interchangeably with neanis (which has no connotation of sexual
purity; cr Gen. 24:43 & Exo. 2:8, both of which use the same Hebrew
word, almah, but are translated with two different Greek words).

Put
another way, the Hebrews and Gentiles used the word
parthenos in different ways. For the Hebrews, parthenos
had no specific sexual connotation, hence, even if parthenos
was the word being used in the text, they would add phrases
like and did not know a man if they wanted to indicate

78 / SWORD

sexual purity (cr Judges 21:12). Consequently, the Jews did not
change their version of Isaiah to exclude the prediction of
the virgin birth; from their point of view, Isaiah 7:14 was
always about a young woman of marriageable age, a
maiden. It is interesting to note that William Tyndale
correctly translated Matthew 1:23 to reflect the proper
historical-cultural understandinghe translated parthenos
there as maiden. For some reason, modern translators
havent yet caught up.
6) The early Protestants revered the Additions &
Extra Books as inspired (at least to some degree)
and included them in their bibles, but modern
Protestants have left this precedent by removing
the Additions & Extra Books from their modern
Bibles.
What the early Protestants actually said in many of
those early bibles that contained the Additions & Extra
Books was usually something like
[W]e have separated themand set them
asidethat they may the better be known, to the
intent that men may know of which books
witness ought to be received, and of which not
(Matthews Bible, Prologue to the Apocrypha, 1537 AD), or
[These] were not received by a common consent
to be read and expounded publicly in the
Church, neither yet served to prove any point of
Christian religion (Geneva Bible, Apocrypha: The
Argument, 1560 AD).
In other words, Protestants have historically, from the
beginning, denied the authority of the Additions & Extra
Books, regardless of whether or not we included them in
our bibles. The only major Protestant translation to forgo
the usual preface to these works which served to label them
for what they are (non-Canonical) was the King James
Version, which was made with the intention of being a sort

How We Got the Canon, Part I / 79

of compromise translation that could be used by Traditional


and non-Traditional groups (see the Translators to the Reader,
1611 KJV).
7) The references of the early church fathers to 22 or
24 OT books were for mystical purposes and were
NOT meant to provide an exact enumeration of
the books of the OT.
No, the early church fathers who used the number 22 in
reference to the OT books did so as a mnemonic device to
help their fellow Christians (a) know the extent of Scripture,
(b) thereby obtain a greater understanding and measure of
righteousness, and (c) thus be able to identify false books:
The divine oracles should always on the tongue
and in the mind
be rehearsed. For God will indeed give a reward
for this labor,
so that you may obtain light from anything
hidden, or, what is far better,
that you may be spurred by God to greater
purity,
and thirdly, be called away from the cares of the
world by such study.
But let not extraneous books seduce your mind,
for many malignant writings have been
disseminated.
Accept, o friend, this my approved number...
...I count therefore, twenty-two of the ancient
books,
corresponding to the number of the Hebrew
letters.
(Gregory of Nazianzus, Carmina Dogmatica, 1.1.12, ~380 AD)

That is, Gregorys list, and those like it, were explicitly
made to keep people from being seduced by extraneous
books, hence the enumeration had to be meaningful
mystical enumerations that may not cover the whole

80 / SWORD

extent of Scripture would be useless in helping Christians


identify extraneous books.
8) Jerome was odd in his rejection of the Extra Books
and thus did not represent the consensus of the
early Christians.
Of the 16 pre-sixth-century authors who list the books
of the OT, 8 of them (including Jerome) completely omit the
Extra Books. I dont know about you, but I wouldnt say
that a position which represents half of the population is
odd. Whats more, the Glossa Ordinaria, the preeminent
bible commentary of pre-fourteenth-century (pre-Reformation)
Western Europe, clearly stated that each of the Extra Books
were not in the Canon.
9) Several church fathers, though giving short lists of
the books of the OT, frequently quoted from the
Additions & Extra books as inspired scripture.
As mentioned in the discussion of the first bad
argument, inspiration does NOT imply Canonicity. In fact,
the late Dr. Bruce M. Metzger observed that,
[W]hile the fathers certainly agreed that the
Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were
inspired, they did not seem to have regarded
inspiration as the ground of the Bibles
uniqueness. That is, the inspiration they ascribe
to the Scriptures was only one facet of the
inspiring activity of the Holy Spirit in many
aspects of the Churchs life... While the Fathers
again and again use the concept of inspiration in
reference to the Scriptures, they seldom describe
non-Scriptural writings as non-inspired...
[Instead, the NT Scriptures, in particular,] are
authoritative, and hence Canonical, because they
are the extant literary deposit of the direct [(eyewitness)] and indirect [(ear-witness)] Apostolic
witness on which the later witness of the Church
depends. (The Canon of the New Testament: Its origin,
Development, and Significance, 1987 (rep. 2009), pp. 255-6)

How We Got the Canon, Part I / 81

10) The pope/church said so.


Yes, yes he/they/it probably did, but people, even the
righteous, are fallible (Ecc. 7:20), hence it always behooves
us to ask where the old, reliable paths are (Jer. 6:16,
NET). Further, one of the most telling questions about
ourselves is whether or not we love Truth more than we
love whatever system we are a part of: Jesus replied,...
Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice
(John 18:37, NET); again, all of them who have not believed
the truth but have delighted in evil will be condemned
(II Thess. 2:12, NET).

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
1. Why is it that Biblical-Historical Christians do, in fact, believe
that the time of the OT Prophets came to an end?

_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
2. Which one of the Additions or Extra Books is most interesting
to you? Why?

_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________

82 / SWORD

_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
3. How did Esther, Tobit, and Judith come to be accepted as
Canonical by some early Christians? Is Esther Canonical?

_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
4. Why did many early church fathers say there are 22 OT books?

_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________

How We Got the Canon, Part II / 83

6. How We Got the Canon, Part II:


The New Testament
The New Testament (NT) Canon, unlike the Old Testament
(OT) Canon, is not just a topic of debate within Christianity.
Instead, it is one that is undertaken by the secular world as well.
This being the case, we will approach the NT Canon somewhat
differently than we did the OT Canon. In particular, we will first
discuss the major historical factors that had a bearing on the NT
Canon and then examine the Authority, Agreement, and
Authenticity of the NT Canonical works in light of those historical
factors. We are approaching the topic from a historical point of view
so as to show the secular world why we have the confidence in the
NT Canon that we do.
Further, in order to spend greater space on the pertinent issues, I
will now introduce the data from the 221 historical lists that I have
available to me regarding the contested books of the NT. These lists
are the same as those cited in the previous chapter (p. 69 of SWORD)
and appendix (p. CL1-3), and the computation of uncontested support
is the same as that of the previous chapter (footnote on p. 71).

Potential NT
Book

All
Lists
% of
Uncontested
Support

Authors
% of
Uncontested
Support

Potential NT
Book

All
Lists
% of
Uncontested
Support

Authors
% of
Uncontested
Support

91.4

92

94.3
88.6
51.4
5.7

92
88
64
0

Philemon

97.1

96

III John
(85.7% v 84%
If Mur. Frag.
Doesnt
Mention)

II John
James
Jude
Hebrews

94.3
91.4
88.6
82.9

96
96
92
92

I Peter
II Peter
Revelation
I Clement

but only 19 of those lists discuss the NT books

84 / SWORD

II Clement

5.7

Laodiceans

-5.7

-8

Alexandrians

-5.7

-8

Psalms of
Marcion

-5.7

-8

Acts of Paul

-8

-5.7

-8

-5.7
-5.7

Gospel
According to
the Hebrews
Gospel of
Peter
Acts of
Andrew and
John
[Some
Gospel/ Acts/
Teaching]
...of James

-5.7

...of Peter and


John
...of Andrew
Apocalypse of
Peter
Epistle of
Barnabas
Teachings/
Constitutions/
Canons of the
Apostles

-5.7

-8

-5.7

-8

-2.9

-12

-5.7

-16

-5.7

-16

Gospel of
Matthias

-11.4

-16

-8

Gospel of
Thomas

-17.1

-24

-8

Shepherd of
Hermas

-20.0

-36

-8

.Shaded cells. indicate books with a


majority of uncontested support.

6.1. The Major Historical Factors


When it comes to the subject of the NT Canon, I often find it
helpful to talk about why the books of the NT were debated by the
early Christians. That is, the process by which the early Christians
came to recognize the books of the NT often sheds light on why
certain books were accepted over others and how it was determined
which books were Canonical and which ones werent. Now, I have
already discussed some of the factors that had a bearing on the
acceptance of the NT booksnamely the early distribution patterns
of the NT books and the effect of Roman persecution upon
Christians ability to communicate across the Empire (pp. 27-36)but
there are some other issues which I would also like to address.
These other factors are not only important because of their impact
on the NT Canon but also because they allow us to understand the
early Christian conception of the NT works.

How We Got the Canon, Part II / 85

Early Jewish Christians


Early Christianity was originally seen as being another group
within first-century Judaism. In fact, the earliest sect to be labeled as
distinct within Christianity were the Judaizers, the Circumcision
Party (Acts 11:2, Gal. 2:12, & Titus 1:10), whose insistence on
circumcision and observance of other Hebrew practices was
addressed at the so-called Jerusalem Council as presented in the
fifteenth chapter of Acts. Now, given that early Christians record
such differences, it is clear that early Christianity was not
monolithic. However, the early Judeo-Christian distinctions never
seemed to divide the authors of the NT insomuch as Paul, though
having opposed Peters later acquiescence of the Judaizers, had
formerly checked the Gospel that he preached against that of
Jerusalem to make sure that [he] [(Paul)] was not runningor
had not runin vain (Gal. 2:2, NET) and insomuch as Peter refers
to Pauls letters as authoritative Scripture (II Pet. 3:15-16).
Now, the controversy with the Judaizers didnt have a bearing
on the historical recognition of the NT Canon. Instead, I mention it
because many modern skeptics state that Paul corrupted the original
Judaic version of Christianity. 1 The reality, of course, is that this
suspected corruption is nothing more than a modern, typically
circular conjecture2 without any real historical support. Further,
1

This idea that Pauline Christianity isnt original Christianity seems to


have started with or have been made popular by F. C. Baur in the
nineteenth century.
For example: A number of skeptics have claimed that many NT books
(like Acts and II Peter) were later forgeries, some (like Baur) using logic
such as the following to identify the true writings:

Skeptics know which


writings are true because
the true writings present
the NT authors as
disunified (as perceived
by the skeptics).

Skeptics say that the


NT authors were
disunified since their
true writings aren't
unified (as perceived
by the skeptics).

86 / SWORD

Paul, Peter, & James are portrayed in the NT (as a whole) as being
in agreement with each other. Further, all of the Gospels (not just
the later Gospels of Luke and John) ascribe claims to Jesus that
the people recognized as only being proper to God (Matt. 9:1-8; Mark
2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26; John 8:58-59, 10:22-39, & 19:7), hence no book of the
Gospel testimony inconsistently presents Jesus a mere messiah but
all present Him as the Messiah who is fully God.
Gnosticism
Now, a belief system that really did have a historically
significant impact on the NT Canon was Gnosticism, which arose in
the early second century and can be classified in one of two primary
categories: Persian (the earliest form) and Egyptian (the form
most often interacting with early mainstream Christianity). Like
early Christianity, Gnosticism was not a monolithic system but was
instead made up of a multitude of groups. They generally believed
that the material world is the result of a pre-cosmic,
unintentional catastrophe enacted by a lesser god, the
demiurge,
that elect persons (like Christ) could escape the
imprisonment of the material world and return to the
highest god via a special knowledge (gnosis)1,
that the OT was to be distrusted as written because it came
from the demiurge rather than the highest god, &
that the NT had been tainted by those who misunderstood
Christ and thus one had to read the NT with special
knowledge in order to see its true meaning.
The Christian response to Gnosticism was swift and strong: The
Christians rebutted that Gnostic teachings were not to be found in
any of their publically acknowledged Scriptures or teachings. The
Gnostics agreed that such teachings were not apparent nor common
but that they had been transmitted secretly. To substantiate this
claim of secret knowledge, the Gnostics would often produce
books supposedly written by one of the 12 Apostles (like that of,
say, Thomas) which had been unknown to a broader audience.
1

a belief which parallels, imperfectly, the Eastern Orthodox teaching of


theosis

How We Got the Canon, Part II / 87

These books were often based on oral traditions within the Gnostic
groups (p. 4-5 of SWORD) and all of them date to the second century
or later1, hence none have a viable claim to being the direct product
of an eye- or ear-witness of Christ written with the approval of one
of the 12 Apostles. Whats more, it is now generally accepted that
Gnosticism arose after Christianity.2
What is more interesting, perhaps, is that some early Gnostics,
while having special interpretations of most of the NT passages,
seemed to have had a special affinity for Lukes and Pauls writings
since Paul (with Luke following), in opposing the Judaizers, seemed
to be the least in favor of the supposed lesser god of the OT. The
response of the Christians to this singular focus upon Paul was to
reiterate that Paul was not, by himself, an authoritative author:
Paul himself, the single author of the document [used by
the Gnostic Marcion], destitute of all support from
preceding authorities, would not be a sufficient basis for
our Faith. There would still be wanted that Gospel
which Paul found in existence, to which he yielded his
belief... (Tertullian, Against Marcion, 4.2, 160-220 AD)
That is, early Christians both (a) affirmed that the NT authors were
in agreement with each other and (b) pointed out that Paul was a
secondary author of the NT whose authority rested on that of the 12
Apostles. That is, the idea of separating out Paul as the true
source of mainstream Christianity was deemed heretical and
even nonsensical by the mainstream Christians.
Incidentally, it is of interest to note that the Gnostics were the
first group associated with Christianity to use icons, which practice
was condemned by Irenaeus (Against Heresies, 1.25.6, 130-202 AD)3,
1
2
3

see the work of James M. Robinson


see the work of E.M. Yamauchi, W. E. Helleman, & Karen L. King
Irenaeus specifically stated of the Gnostics that
They also possess images, some of them painted and others
formed from different kinds of material... They crown these
images, and set them up along with the images of the
philosophers of the world; that is to say, with the images of
Pythagoras, and Plato, and Aristotle, and the rest.
It is interesting, then, that all early depictions of the four Evangelists
(Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John) were based on eight [Next Page]

88 / SWORD

excluded by Clement of Alexandria (The Stromata, 5.6, 150-215 AD),


denied by Minucius (The Octavius of Minucius Felix, 10, ~210 AD), and
even rendered impossible by later Christians like Jerome:
I came to a villa called Anablatha and, as I was passing,
saw a lamp burning there. Asking what place it was and
learning it to be a church, I went in to pray and found
there a curtain hanging on the doors of the said church,
dyed and embroidered. It bore an image either of Christ
or of one of the saints; I do not rightly remember whose
the image was. Seeing this, and being loath that an
image of a man should be hung up in Christs church
contrary to the teaching of the Scriptures [(Deu. 4:1519)], I tore it asunder and advised the custodians of the
place to use it as a winding sheet [(i.e., burial cloth or
death shroud)] for some poor person. (Letter 51, 9, 394 AD)
Interesting details aside, the overall effect of Gnosticism upon
the Christian Canon was (1) the vehement affirmation of the OT as
Scripture1, (2) a distrust of secret or hidden books or teachings,
and (3) the continued fervent use of all of the NT authors. Of these,
the second and third effects of Gnosticism produced the most
tension in that the Christians wished to use all that the NT authors
had provided but were skeptical of books that they had not yet come
across since the unknown books might be Gnostic in origin.
Consequently, the recognition of the NT Canon was prolonged as
the early Christians had the task of overcoming their own suspicion
of books coming from other regions of the Roman Empirethey
didnt just blindly accept whatever came their way.

common portraits of philosophers and playwrights: portraits of Plato,


Aristotle, Zeno, Epicurus, Euripides, Sophocles, Aristophanes, and
Menander (A. M. Friend, Jr., The Portraits of the Evangelists in Greek and Latin
Manuscripts, Art Studies, v.115-46 & vii.3-29).
Perhaps this affirmation was too vehement: An overzealous desire to
affirm OT works as Scripture may have led to the general increase in the
number of OT books listed by Christians as time progressed (see Chapter
Five of SWORD).

How We Got the Canon, Part II / 89

Montanism
This movement originated in the late second century in Phrygia
with a fellow by the name of Montanus. As the story goes,
Montanus
fell into a trance soon after his conversion [to
Christianity] and began to speak in tongues. He
announced that he was the inspired instrument of a new
outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete promised
in Johns Gospel (14:15-17 & 17:7-15). Associated with
Montanus were two women, Prisca (or Priscilla) and
Maximilla, who, being struck by the prophetic afflatus,
left their husbands... (Bruce M. Metzger, The Canon of the New
Testament, 1987 (reprinted 2009), p.100)

While Montanism is significant to the discussion of the NT


Canon insomuch as mainstream Christians reacted to it by doubting
certain previously-accepted books, what is perhaps more interesting
is that Montanism parallels multiple later groups which would either
come to the verge of heresy (such as many Pentecostal groups) or
leave historical Christianity altogether (like Islam and Mormonism):
Modern Groups Similarities to Montanism
Montanism
1. strong emphasis on and
particular beliefs about endtime events
2. belief in a highly miraculous,
assumedly permanent
restoration of the true faith
some time after the time of
Christ
3. belief in a Prophet who would
come after Christ
4. belief in a Prophets ability to
compose/translate/recite
heretofore unknown scripture
5. belief in a Prophet as the
promised Paraclete or as
otherwise predicted in existing
Scripture
1

Islam

Mormonism

Pentecostalism

X1

It should be noted that Pentecostal groups define restoration differently


than either Muslims or Mormons: Pentecostal believe in the alwaysavailable return of each lost person to the Gospel, not the revelation of the
lost message to a particular person to be mediated to the whole.

90 / SWORD

6. emphasis on the ability of God


to overpower the individual
receiving revelation/utterance
7. belief in speaking in tongues
8. belief in a final Prophet
9. acceptance of Prophets who
come after the initial restoration
10. acceptance of women in high
places of leadership

X
X1

X
X
X

Ironically, despite the similarities between these later groups and


Montanism (especially Islam and Mormonism), none of them accept
Montanism as valid. For some reason, each group believes itself to
be the true religion despite that its basis of belief is effectively
identical with something it would unhesitatingly call false.
Nevertheless, as far as the recognition of the Canon is
concerned, the legacy of Montanism is that it caused the mainstream
Christians to doubt books which they had previously accepted. That
is, the Montanists used particular mainstream books in very
unorthodox ways, the result being that some mainstream Christians
came to view those particular books as being heterodox.
Specifically, the book of Hebrews came to be doubted in the West,
such doubts often being manifested in misgivings as to its
authorship (mainly via Origen2). Likewise, the East came to distrust
apocalyptic literature, especially Revelation (the Apocalypse recorded by
John). Lastly, at least some mainstream Christians came to doubt the
Gospel of John because of its association with Revelation. (Some
later church fathersDionysius of Alexandria3, Origen4, and
Eusebius5distinguished between the author of the Gospel of John
& First John and the author of Revelation and Second & Third John
by proposing that there was a presbyter John who wrote the latter
works attributed to John, but, as the earliest sources attribute all of

2
3
4
5

However, Mormons believe in speaking in tongues as speaking known


languages while the Montanists and Pentecostals believe in speaking in
tongues as speaking divine utterances.
Hist. Eccl., 6.25
Hist. Eccl., 7.25
Hist. Eccl., 6.25
Hist. Eccl., 3.25&39

How We Got the Canon, Part II / 91

the Johannine works to the same author1, this hypothesized


presbyter John remains a mere conjecture.)
Extrapolation
Another major historical factor which influenced the recognition
of the NT Canon was that of extrapolation, the human tendency
to add to what we have. Now, one main reason for extrapolation is
that we often feel the need to give explanations of various things
(this book, for example, is being written to explain the Bible). That
is, just as modern Christians see a need to explain our Faith in the
present age, ancient Christians likewise sought to explain the
Christian Faith through some of their writings. Sometimes the
explanations were quite general, but they often were meant to
address a specific issue. Some examples of explanatory works
associated with the NT include the Shepherd of Hermas, I&II
Clement, and the Epistle of Barnabas. Most, if not all, of the
explanatory works have the following key features in common: (a)
they are of a later date, (b) they are generally fairly lengthy (as most
detailed explanations must be), (c) they are secondary insomuch as
they explain something which is already established in some sense,
and (d) they sometimes include bad information2. Given these key
features of explanatory works, they are generally pretty easy to
distinguish from the other books associated with the NT. Thus,
while some of the explanatory works were accepted in some regions
for a time, they generally fell out of use as more of the primary

Such as Justin Martyr (Dialogue with Trypho, 81, 100-165 AD), the Muratorian
Fragment (c. 170 AD), Irenaeus (Against Heresies, 4.20.11, 130-202 AD), and
Hippolytus of Rome (Treatise on Christ and Anti-Christ, 36, 170-236 AD).
For example, the Epistle of Barnabas contains a false prediction that the
Romans would rebuild the Jewish Temple (16:3-4) and also reinterprets
many of the OT mandates such that they no longer have their clear and
obvious meanings (hence this epistle would fail the criterion of
Agreement; cr C9-C10). Likewise, First Clement argues for a literal bodily
resurrection (in which Christians DO generally believe), but it does so on
the basis of the cyclical resurrection of the phoenix (C25), which is, of
course, a mythical animal.

92 / SWORD

works were admitted into the local biblical collection and as the
issues requiring explanation changed. 1
The other main reason for extrapolation, and the one I believe to
be more interesting, is that of conjecture. That is, we dont like the
unknown, so we make up stuff to answer questions which have
heretofore been left unanswered. As to unanswered questions in the
NT, the NT is somewhat vague about the particulars of heaven and
hell, it skips most of Jesus childhood, it seems to be missing some
epistles (namely one to the Laodiceans and one to the Corinthians; see page 35 of
SWORD for more on the supposedly lost epistles of the NT), it does not tell us
much about the specific ministries of many of the 12 Apostles, and
it omits the contents of Pauls vision (II Cor. 12:1-4). This being the
case, early Christians came up with stories that would supply
information regarding these potential unknowns: In response to the
unknown particulars of heaven and hell, someone wrote the
Apocalypse of Peter; to fill-in details of Jesus childhood, multiple
Infancy Gospels were written, including the Proto-Evangelion of
James, the Infancy Gospel of Thomas (not to be confused with the
Gnostic Gospel of Thomas), and Pseudo-Matthew; so as to recover
the supposedly lost epistles of Paul, some people wrote epistles in
his name2; to provide further information on the ministries of the
Twelve Apostles and other central early Christian figures, several
Acts/Teachings were written; and finally, that we might not go
without Pauls blessed vision, someone was kind enough to discover
the Vision of Paul.
The Vision of Paul, though it does not appear in any biblical list
that I am aware of, is nonetheless of special interest to me. In
particular, the story behind the Vision of Paul parallels that of the
Book of Mormon very closely, eerily closely:
1

For instance, the distinction between Judaism and Christianity was a


concern early on, but later concerns hardly ever required that this topic
be revisited, hence secondary works like the Epistle of Barnabas fell out
of use because their principle topics were no longer relevant and, being
secondary, there was no other reason to keep them.
These were sometimes made by piecemeal concatenation of his other
epistles, as was the case with one of the forged letters to the Laodiceans.

How We Got the Canon, Part II / 93

Story Behind the


Vision of Paul (~ 388 AD)
1. The coming forth of the Vision
of Paul took place centuries
after the life of Paul.
2. A nobleman just happened to
be living in the house where
Paul had at one time lived and
had deposited his vision.
3. The nobleman was sleeping
when the messenger of God
appeared to him to tell him
about the Vision of Paul.
4. The messenger is revealed to
be Paul in exalted form.
5. The messenger appears to the
nobleman three times.
6. The Vision of Paul had been
put in a marble box.
7. The marble box had been
sealed.
8. The Vision of Paul is found
alongside the shoes which Paul
himself had used.
9. The Vision of Paul is
authenticated by sending the
sealed marble box to the great
Christian Emperor Theodosius.
10. The original was kept by
Theodosius.

Story Behind the


Book of Mormon1 (1829 AD)
1. The coming forth of the Book of
Mormon took place centuries after
the supposed life of Moroni.
2. Joseph Smith just happened to live in
the region of New York where the
Book of Mormon had been deposited.
3. Joseph Smith was sleeping when the
messenger of God first appeared to
him to tell him about the Book of
Mormon.
4. The messenger is revealed to be
Moroni in exalted form.
5. That night, the messenger appears to
Joseph Smith three times.
6. The Book of Mormon had been put in
a stone box, itself being composed
upon golden plates.
7. Some of the golden plates had been
sealed.
8. The Book of Mormon is found
alongside the Urim and Thummim2
which had been used by the brother
of Jared.
9. The translation of the Book of
Mormon is authenticated by sending
some of the original characters and a
translation of those characters to the
esteemed Professor Charles Anthon.
10. The original was returned to the
messenger (Moroni).

Upon reading the above comparison, one may very rightly wonder if
Joseph Smith had imitated the Vision of Paul, but such is unlikely as
practically no one in nineteenth-century America had access to the
Vision of Paul. Therefore, I offer this comparison not to accuse
1

LDS information was taken from the quad. copyrighted in 1978 (1999)
as published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Salt
Lake City, Utah, U.S.A. Information on the Vision of Paul comes from
ANF, 9.151-66.
The LDS believe the Urim and Thummim to be seer stones which can be
used to translate languages. The Biblical record shows that they were
actually lots that were cast so as to come to a decision (I Sam. 14:41 (ESV,
NIV 2011, NETthe KJV base text omits the middle part of the verse); Pro. 16:33; Acts
1:24-26).

94 / SWORD

Joseph Smith of plagiarism but to demonstrate that history often


repeats itselfhumans dont tend to be very original when they
fabricate their lies. Whats more, Mormons would be quick to deny
the authenticity of the Vision of Paul since its teachings run counter
to their own teachings1, yet its genesis is essentially no different
than that of the Book of Mormon: Both were taken from the ground
at the behest of an exalted being and supposedly validated by an
authority of the day, such validation being impossible to confirm as
the originals are no longer extant. For Biblical-Historical Christians,
however, there is no tension here in that any document making its
appearance so far after the NT Era simply does not satisfy the
criterion of Authenticity (the Book of Mormon also fails the criterion of
Agreementsee II Nephi 2:25 cr Gen. C3).
To get back to the point, the conjectural works, though they
certainly influenced Christian thought for centuries, were not
typically included as Canonical in the biblical lists (only three of the
conjectural works even show up positively in the early liststhe
Apocalypse of Peter, the Apostolic Constitutions, & the Acts of
Paul). Of those that were included in the biblical lists, most did not
tend to remain there for very long as the early Christians were very
adamant that the NT had to come from reliable sources (eye- or earwitnesses of Christ with the implicit approval of one of the 12
Apostles). That is, if the early Christians discovered that a book had
been lately written (e.g., the Muratorian Fragment (c. 170 AD) regarding the
Shepherd of Hermas or the fact that the Vision of Paul never makes it into even one
of the early lists), or if they discovered that a document had been

forged (e.g., Tertullian regarding the Acts of Paul and Thecla, On Baptism, 17,
160-220 AD), then they immediately removed it from the local list of
biblical books. Consequently, since early Christians didnt accept
non-apostolic works or forgeries, the conjectural works were
basically doomed to be non-Canonical from the beginning.

The Vision of Paul is clear about the fact that people will have no
opportunity for salvation/exaltation once they have died (sections 43-44),
but the LDS do believe in opportunities for exaltation even after death.

How We Got the Canon, Part II / 95

The Founder Effect


The last major historical factor that has a bearing on our
assessment of the NT Canon is the founder effect, the tendency of
progenitors to unduly influence the groups they establish. That
is, in some regions that accepted Christianity later, the journey of
their acceptance of NT books tended to take strange, unique turns,
presumably due to the effects of the individuals who founded those
Christian communities. For example, Syriac Christianity, which was
largely instigated by Tatian (120-180 AD), did not commonly use
the four Gospels during its early history. Instead, they used Tatians
Diatesseron, a harmony of the four Gospels, into the fourth and fifth
centuries. Likewise, the Syrian Christians also excluded five NT
books which are sometimes called the Western Five: Second
Peter, Second John, Third John, Jude, & Revelation.1 Why these
five books were the specific ones excluded by the Syrian Christians
is a matter of debate, but it is worth noting that some early Syrian
Christians like Aphraat (who died ~340 AD) and Ephraem (who died 373
2
AD) considered Third Corinthians to be authoritative despite that
the remainder of Christendom had known that Third Corinthians
was spurious for some time3. Therefore, much of the Syrians
oddities mostly seem to be the result of poor communication with
the remainder of Christendom insomuch as they clung to whatever
they had first received rather than actively comparing with and
investigating the claims of other Christians. Moreover, they
developed after other Christian groups, hence their list is not of
much use in determining what was in Christianity from the
beginning.
Another group which would wind up with a unique NT Canon
were the Ethiopic Christians, whose NT contains the standard 27
1

2
3

These are the same five NT books mentioned by Amphilocius of


Iconium as being doubted by some.
B. M. Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament, 1987 (reprinted 2009), p. 219

...[L]et it be known that, in Asia, the presbyter who composed that


writing [(The Acts of Paul and Thecla, including III Corinthians)],... after being
convicted, and confessing that he had done it from love of Paul, was
removed from his office. (Tertullian, On Baptism, 17, 160-220 AD)

96 / SWORD

books plus the Ethiopic Eight: four books of the Sinodos,


Clement, two books of the Covenant, & Didascalia. As was the case
with the Syrian Christians, the peculiarities of the Ethiopic
Christians seem to have been the result of poor communication and
dogged adherence to the teachings of those who founded the Faith
in their region. What is more, since the Ethiopic NT list is
secondary (as is the Syrian list), it does not help one establish the
true NT books.

6.2. Authority, Agreement, & Authenticity


So, why do Biblical-Historical Christians believe that the 27
books of our NT Canon satisfy the criteria of Authority, Agreement,
& Authenticity? Well, as we ourselves were not there when the
original NT documents were penned, we have to rely on the records
of the early Christians regarding those documents. When these early
records are examined, we find three general classes of NT works:
those eventually rejected, those eventually accepted despite dispute,
and those generally accepted from the beginning. We will look at
each classification in more detail with an eye toward the standards
of Canonicity.
Those Eventually Rejected
The books that were rejected were either those that were
deemed heretical (like those coming from the Gnostics) or those that
were of an extrapolative nature (i.e., explanatory or conjectural).
Now the heretical books, though they often claim to have been
derived from Apostles, were all, without exception, written in the
second century or later, meaning that they could not possibly be
authentic.1 Further, the heretical works often fail the criterion of
Agreement in that many of them altogether fail to mention the OT
works (whereas the NT Canon quotes a new OT passage about once
per chapter), drastically reinterpret them (e.g., The Secret Book of John,
Pigeradamas and Seth, 8.28-9.24), contradict them (e.g., On the Origin of the
1

see the work of James M. Robinson

How We Got the Canon, Part II / 97


1

, or present them as being unnecessary


to the validation of Jesus ministry:
[Jesus] disciples said to Him, Twenty-four prophets
have spoken in Israel2, and they all spoke of you.
He said to them, You have disregarded the living one
who is in your presence and have [instead] spoken of
the dead. (The Gospel of Thomas, Logion 52)
As to the extrapolative books (including the Ethiopic Eight), their
obvious secondary nature (being either explanations of preexisting
items or conjectures about heretofore unanswered questions)
unquestionably marks them as inauthentic. Further, some of them
contain bad information (like First Clement), which would not be
expected of an authoritatively inspired work, and some of them
reinterpret the OT (e.g., the Epistle of Barnabas), which violates the
standard of Agreement. The net result of these categorical failures
regarding the standards of Authority, Agreement, & Authenticity is
that it is NOT reasonable to doubt that the eventually rejected works
were rightly rejected.
World, Prologue: In the Beginning)

Those Eventually Accepted Despite Dispute


The disputed books that were eventually accepted can be
separated into three semi-permeable categories: those disputed due
to awareness, those disputed due to use by heretics, and those
disputed due to the founder effect. As far as awareness is concerned,
some of the NT books simply didnt circulate as quickly as the
others did (see Chapter Three of SWORD), hence some regions did not
become aware of them until later. Therefore, in light of the false
books that had also begun to circulate, it is understandable that the
acceptance of those late-arriving books took some time. Notable
books that seem to have been late arrivals in some areas include
1

This work is similar to Joseph Smiths King Follett funeral sermon in


that his sermon teaches that there was existence before the creation of
our world (see the section Meaning of the Word Create) which echoes
On the Origin of the Worlds initial statement that something did exist
before chaos (creation).
cr II/IV Esdras 14:44-45, which says that there were 24 public OT books
restored by Ezra

98 / SWORD

Hebrews, James, Jude, and II Peter. Despite the fact that these were
unknown in some areas, they were well-known and thoroughly
accepted in other areas from the earliest of times: Hebrews, James,
and II Peter are brought together in I Clement (~96 AD) and Jude is
cited in the Muratorian Fragment (~170 AD).
With regard to those books that were disputed due to heresy, the
chief culprit seems to have been Montanism. Montanism caused
many of the books to be doubted, including Hebrews (again) and, in
some places, seemingly the entire Johannine corpus. Nevertheless,
these books are, again, among the earliest attested NT books (all
being attested before the end of the second century). Further, the
Johannine corpus seems to have been well-known practically
everywhere in the Roman Empire; regardless of whether or not it
was always accepted, the Johannine corpus was never completely
omitted in any of the early lists of the Roman Empire (except in the
singular case of the partial omission by the Syrian Christians).
Last of all, the books that were disputed due to the founder
effect are just that: Certain groups tended to be more interested in
maintaining a tradition than gathering facts, hence they arrived at
unique NT Canons. However, as those unique Canons are only
found in later-established groups, there is no sensible reason to take
them into account, defend them, or bow to them.
Overall, the disputed books were disputed for good reason
heresy was a big deal in Christianity, hence books were not just
accepted willy-nilly. Nonetheless, as Biblical-Historical Christians,
we have no sensible reason to doubt these bookswe know the
reasons why they were doubted, and none of the reasons are valid:
(a) Just because a book was not universally known (i.e., not
catholic) doesnt make it inauthentic. As long as it has a
sufficiently early provenance and accompanying testimony
of Authority, we can rest assured that there is a sufficient
probability that the book is indeed what it claims to be.
(However, it should be noted that skeptics are generally
going to be skeptical regardless of how something is
presented to them. For them, critical possibility tends to
outweigh historical probability.)

How We Got the Canon, Part II / 99

(b) Just because a book is used by heretics doesnt make the


book itself heretical. For example, the Jehovahs Witnesses
use a version of the Greek NT that is very similar to the
Greek NT used by many modern Protestant translations, but
such heretical use isnt going to keep Protestants from using
the Greek NT as a basis for their translations. Why?,
because truth is truth regardless of whose hands are on it
what matters is whether or not you are faithful to it.
(c) Finally, just because some groups decided to do their own
thing, and that after Christianity was already established
elsewhere, doesnt mean that we have to accept their
peculiarities: A local tradition, regardless of its strength,
does not negate the truthfulness of external evidence.
Those Generally Accepted from the Beginning
This last group requires little attention in that their situation is
very clear:
Authority: The early Christians time and time again affirmed
that these books were written by eye- or ear-witnesses of
Christ with the implicit approval of at least one of the 12
Apostles.
Agreement: These books very obviously seek to establish
themselves upon the testimony of the OT Canon in that
they quote or reference the OT more than once per
chapter.
Authenticity: These books are attested at a very early point,
well-known in a plethora of diverse regions, and even
have certain internal hallmarks of authenticity (see Peter
Williams lectures on the NT works).
To sum up, Biblical-Historical Christians accept the NT Canon
that we do because there isnt sufficient evidence to deny that the
standards of Authority, Agreement, and Authenticity apply to the 27
books which we have in our current Canon. Yes, some books were
disputed, some erroneously added, and some were even
occasionally rejected, but all of these things occurred within

100 / SWORD

historically knowable contexts which offer perfectly reasonable


explanations both as to why these things happened and as to why
such occurrences did not negate the legitimacy of the books now
considered Canonical. Therefore, even though it is technically
possible that our current NT Canon could be incorrect1, BiblicalHistorical Christians have confidence in these 27 books because the
internal evidence and the historical record demonstrates that such
confidence is reasonable2.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
1. How many NT books were listed as being disputed at the
beginning of the chapter? How does this number compare with
that of the OT (previous chapter)? What is the reason for the
difference? Is the difference significant? Why or why not?

_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
1

Many things are possible (its possible that we are living in an artificial
reality on an alien spaceship right now) but most are not reasonable
(living your life as if it were synthetic is not a reasonable approach to
life). All too often skeptics of Christianity confuse what is possible for
what is reasonable: Is it possible that the entire NT and entire historical
record could have been lost and another text and history substituted in
their place?yes, but such isnt reasonable. Again, while almost
anything is possible, very few things are probable.
Moreover, we Christians should be somewhat glad that such
controversies did occur as controversy tends to produce a record of why
the things were believed that led to where we are now. Subsequently,
though such controversies require us to slow down and explain their real
significance to people who would seek to use them against us, they also
give us the means by which to answer the skeptical questions of our
agewhen you understand Christian history, then you will be able to
more adequately defend the Christian position (regardless of which
branch you belong to).

How We Got the Canon, Part II / 101

2. Historically speaking, did the Judaizers have any impact on the


NT Canon? Why or why not?

_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
3. With regard to the early heresies, what was most significant
about Gnosticism? What was most significant about
Montanism? How do these ancient heresies relate to modern
skepticism of the NT? How do these ancient heresies relate to
modern heresies?

_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
4. So, why do Biblical-Historical Christians accept the 27 books of
the NT Canon?

_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________

102 / SWORD

5. What did you find in this chapter that had the greatest impact on
you? Why? What are you going to do as a result of coming
across this information?

_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
Trinitarian Heresies: Sabellianism
(Modalism, Oneness Theology, Patripassianism)

John 1:1
One view that runs counter to the doctrine of the Trinity is a belief
called Sabellianism, the belief that there are no distinct persons in
the one being of God. Like Arianism (the other major Trinitarian
heresy), Sabellianism can be refuted using John 1:1. In particular, the
second clause of John 1:1kai ho logos n pros ton Theon (and the
Expression was in relationship with the Great One)says that the
Expression (the Word) was pros the Great One. The Greek word pros
properly means to or toward or with when in the accusative case (the
case used above) and is used to imply a face-to-face (person-to-person)
relationship between people. For example, Jacob describes his
encounter with God (Gen. 32:30(31LXX)) as a prospon pros prospon
encounter, a face to face or face toward face or face with face
encounter. The Apostle John borrowed this familiar terminology and
applied it to the relationship between the Father and Son to demonstrate
that the two are indeed distinct persons who are in relationship with one
anotherOne even having the other as His God (cr Rev. 1:6).
Consequently, for those who read the Scriptural texts carefully, it is
readily apparent that the text does NOT say that the Expression was the
same as the Great One or that the Expression was with the Great One
as a Divine plan or anything of that sort. Instead, the text is remarkably
clear: The Expression and the Great One are in relationship with one
another, hence implying their distinct personal natures. Because of the
clarity of the Greek text, Sabellianism was historically neither longlasting nor widespread. Accordingly, its resurgence (in groups like the
UPC) seems to be the result of arguments that are NOT primarily
founded in accurate/informed use of the originating languages.

Overview of Canonical Scripture, Part I / 103

7. Overview of Canonical Scripture, Part I:


The Old Testament
This chapter seeks to provide the reader with a basic
understanding of key Old Testament (OT) events, an awareness of
the arrangement of the Biblical-Historical Christian OT Canon, and
an appreciation of the contributions of the various OT authors. Since
the subject matter of this chapter is somewhat encyclopedic, the
information will be presented as a series of entries rather than in my
typical expository format. As to the order of the entries, major
events will be listed chronologically, divisions of Scripture will be
listed in Canonical order, and authors will be listed in alphabetic
order.

7.1. Timeline of Major OT Events


Creation & Fall (5025 BC; 5600-3600 BC): The Creation and Fall
set the scene for the rest of Canonical Scripture in that they reveal
that the cosmos was originally perfectvery good (Gen. 1:31,
NET)but has been subjected to imperfection (death, disease, and
decay) because of (a) our lack of faithfulness to Gods Word and
(b) our desire to become like God (our desire to become
independentto be powerful & become our own standard and
authorityrather than being subject to the Creator of the
universe). Consequently, Canonical Scripture begins by revealing
that Mankind is as innately broken and rebellious, a marred
creation in need of (a) pardon and (b) restoration. (Gen. C1-C3; Rom.
5:6-11&19 & 8:19-22; II Cor. 5:17-21)

As to the date of Creation, many modern commentators,


because of secular considerations, have argued for a date billions
of years in the past. However, such a view is neither consistent
with the Scriptures themselves nor the early Christian history.

104 / SWORD

That is, a straightforward reading of the text of Genesis requires


that the Creation days be typical, 24-hour days:
The exegetical evidence suggests the word day in
this chapter refers to a literal twenty-four day. It is
true that the word can refer to a longer period of
time... But this chapter uses day, night,
morning, evening, years, and seasons.
Consistency would require sorting out how all these
terms could be used to express ages. Also, when the
Hebrew word [yom] is used with a numerical
adjective, it refers to a literal day. Furthermore, the
commandment to keep the Sabbath clearly favors this
interpretation [(Exo. 20:8-11)]. One is to work for six
days and then rest on the seventh, just as God did
when He worked at Creation. (R. E. Averbeck (Dropsie
College), R. B. Chisholm (Dallas Theological Seminary), D. CooverCox (Dallas Theological Seminary), E. H. Merrill (Columbia
University), & A. P. Ross (Cambridge University), NET Bible, Genesis
1:5.11 footnote, 2005)

Likewise, a straightforward reading of Scripture requires that the


patriarchs actually existed rather than being simply metaphorical
or allegorical (Matt. 23:34-35), that there are no substantial gaps in
the genealogies of Genesis (cr Jude 1:141), and that the ages at
procreation given for the patriarchs are literally accurate (cr Rom.
4:19). Consequently, because of the plain testimony of Scripture,
the early Christians believed that Creation dated to a point only a
few thousand years in the past as determined via the genealogies
found in Genesis (and some dates given in other books of
Scripture) (e.g., Clement of Alexandria, The Stromata, 1.21, 150-215 AD,
gives a date of 5592 BC; Julius Africanus, Fragments of Julius Chronology, in
Georgius Syncellus Chron., p. 17, ca. 160-240 AD, gives a date of 5501 BC).

While the dates vary depending on how the Biblical & secular
dates are harmonized and on which base text is used (MT or LXX),
what is true is that the founders of the Faithincluding Jesus, the
1

When Jude says that Enoch is the seventh from Adam, he includes Adam
in the count. That is, the Greek word , translated as from, is an
inclusive marker, just as the little boys killed by Herod were from two
years in age (including those two years old) and younger (Matt. 2:16).

Overview of Canonical Scripture, Part I / 105

Apostles (Jesus chosen eyewitness representatives), and the apostolic


men (the eye/ear-witnesses of Christ who wrote under the implicit approval of
the Apostles)believed that Genesis gives an accurate, literal
history, a real history upon which the doctrine of our real
Salvation can be based and anchored (cr Rom. 5:12-21).
Flood (2763 BC; 3200-2100 BC): The Flood was the result of
Mankinds widespread and continual wickedness. God destroyed
the world that then existed (Luke 17:26-27; II Pet. 3:5-7) but saved
Noah and his family (I Peter 3:18-22). (Gen. C6-C8)
Interestingly, multiple cultures from all around the world
including the Greco-Roman, Egyptian, Sumerian, Babylonian,
Chinese, and Mayan culturesbelieved in a worldwide deluge or
latter creation1 event, the dates of which are within the window
of the Biblical chronology.
Confusion of Languages (ca. 2300 BC; 2700-1700 BC): God
had intended for Mankind to spread out over the surface of the
earth (Gen. 1:28), but Mankind, in the days of Peleg (Gen. 10:25), had
decided to gather together rather than spread throughout the earth
(Gen. 11:4). Consequently, God confused their language so that they
could no longer understand one another. The result was the spread
of humanity across the planet. (Gen. 11:1-9)
Call & Test of Abraham (1746 BC; 2040-1740 BC): God called
Abraham to be the instrument through which, eventually, the
Salvation of mankind would be made possible (Gen. 12:1-3).
Further, God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac (Gen. 22:1-2).
Abraham told Isaac that the Lord would provide the sacrifice (Gen.
22:8). Sure enough, God stopped Abraham and provided a ram as a
substitute to sacrifice instead of Isaac (Gen. 22:10-14). This account
prefigures the ministry of Christ in that Jesus was provided to die
in the stead of many members of humanity (Mark 10:45). (Gen. 12:1-9
& C22)

These latter creation events were ones in which ordinary history


beginsthe preceding eras being those of the gods, demigods, or great
heroes.

106 / SWORD

The Exodus (1391 BC; 1446-1260 BC): Just as Abraham was


called out of his former residence (Gen. 12:1&4), Abrahams
descendants were called out of Egypt and rescued from their
slavery to serve the living God (Deu. 5:6-7). This prefigures the
ministry of Christ in that Christ does not free us to do whatever
we wish but to likewise serve the living God (Matt. 6:24; Rom. 6:1523; II Cor. 3:3). (Exo. C1-C14)
As to the date of the Exodus, it probably coincided with the
death of Tuthmosis IV as it was at that time that Egypt fell into
general disarray, which one would expect to be the natural result
of the plagues. 1
The Command to Read the Law (ca. 1350 BC; 1445-1220
BC): God commanded His people to continually go back to that
which He first established for them as recorded in Scripture. This
continual return to the first standard is what was set forth to
ensure that the institutionwith its priests, prophets, and
leaderswould remain true to the God who instituted it. (Deu. 31:913 cr 16:13-17)

Conquest of Canaan (1351 BC; 1406-1220 BC): After a time of


wandering (Deu. C1), the Israelites (the descendants of Abraham)
went into the land that God had promised to them (Canaan). In
particular, God used the Israelites to eradicate or reduce nations
which God had condemned (cr Gen. 15:16 & Deu. 9:4-7), just as God
later used other nations to destroy and diminish the Israelites
when they rebelled against Him (cr I Kings 17:6-23 & II Kings 24:1-4).
As to whether or not God has the right to condemn and destroy
nations, even His own people, the answer is simple: Hes God,
your Makeryou dont get to tell Him what He should do or
should have done (Isa. 29:16; Rom. 9:19-24). Following God means
submitting to Him, to His understanding of what can/will happen,
and to His definition of what is truly good. (Deu. 31:1-8 cr the book of
Joshua)

The Kingdom Begins (1037 BC; 1050-1030 BC): After the


Israelites entered and took possession of Canaan, they were led by
1

see Steve Collins work regarding the date of the Exodus

Overview of Canonical Scripture, Part I / 107

various judges (alternatively, leaders) who tended to arise in times


of military need (cr the book of Judges). However, during the time of
the last judge, the Prophet Samuel (I Sam. 7:3-17), the Israelites
decided that they wanted a king to lead them into war, a king like
the other nations had to ensure the stability of their nations (I Sam.
8:19-20). This request for a human king was a rejection of God as
their king (I Sam. 8:4-9) in imitation of the surrounding nations
which God had specifically told them not to imitate (Deu. 18:9-14).
Nonetheless, God allowed them to have a king, as had been
foretold through Moses. The type of king God had permitted
through Moses was one who was (1) a dedicated Israeli (rather
than foreign), (2) not a husband of many wives, (3) not an amasser
of wealth, and (4) one who would obtain a copy of the written
Word of God and continually read it so as to remain faithful to the
Lord and his brothers (Deu. 17:14-20). Samuel warned the people
that the coming king(s) would not adhere to these God-ordained
standards, yet the Israelites still demanded a king (I Sam. 8:10-22).
So, a man named Saul was anointed as king (I Sam. 9:27-10:27), and
thus Israel became a kingdom in imitation of the surrounding
peoples.
These events are consistent with the ministry of Christ in our
lives in that He does not force us to acknowledge that He is Lord,
that He is King (Rom. 10:9-10; Eph. 1:15-23)for He is the One
standing at the door and knocking, the One who sups only
with the one who opens the door to Him (Rev. 3:20, NET)and He
likewise calls us not to imitate evil (what is of the world) but what
is good (what is of God) (Matt. 5:13-16; III John 1:11). (I Sam. C8-C10)
First Temple Completed (ca. 960 BC): God has always been
seeking the restoration and redemption of Mankind and, from the
time of Moses until that of King Solomon, had chosen to represent
His dedication to our restoration and redemption via the
tabernacle, a tent that could be moved with the people and about
which the people could offer sacrifices and worship the Lord (cr
Exo. 25:8-9 & 38:1-7; Lev. C1-C7). This tabernacle, this tent, was later
replaced with a more permanent structure, the Temple which was
erected during the reign of King Solomon (I Kings 6:37-38). Now

108 / SWORD

these structures were important in that, while they symbolized


Gods desire to dwell among His people, to be with us, they also
demarcated a separation between God and Mankind, a separation
whose removal had not been made manifest yet. One of the chief
demarcations of the separation between God and Mankind (in
addition to the sacrifices which continually reminded the people
of their Fallen state) was the Veil which separated the Holy Place
from the Most Holy Place, the place where Mankind could not go
but once a year and with special preparation and with the blood of
a sacrifice (cr Heb. 9:6-7). It was in Christ that this separation would
ultimately be dealt with in that He entered the true Most Holy
Place not by the blood of another but by His own blood which
was shed for us, the righteous for the unrighteous, that we might
be brought to God (cr Heb. 9:11-14; I Peter 2:24 & 3:18).
Further, it should be noted that the Temple was not seen as
being the literal dwelling place of God, for even Solomon
declared, God does not really live with humankind on the
earth!, but instead said that even the highest heaven cannot
contain [Him]! (II Chr. 6:18(cr I Kings 8:27), NET; cr Deu. 10:14(cr II Cor. 12:2);
Isa. 66:1-2a; Acts 7:48-50 & 17:24-25). That is, the Judeo-Christian view
of God has always been that Gods existence exceeds our own,
that our existence, in a manner of speaking, is within His.
Consequently, though God has manifested Himself to several
people throughout Biblical history, none of those manifestations
represented the whole of the Father (insomuch as He is the source
of existence). Rightly, then, does the Apostle John say that No
one has ever seen God (John 1:18, NET). Consequently, when the
NT speaks of Christ taking on flesh (John 1:1&14), it refers to Him
as the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15, NET) rather than as
being the whole of what God is. Likewise, the Holy Spirit,
literally translated, is the Breath of God, but not the totality of His
existence in our existence. 1 This is important insomuch as Gods
inability to be contained in our existence goes hand-in-hand with
His CreatorshipHes not a part of Creation nor did He come
1

Please do not take this as a complete discussion of the Godhead.

Overview of Canonical Scripture, Part I / 109

into existence but is indeed the only eternal God (Isa. 43:10 &
44:6&8). (I Kings 6:37-C8; II Chr. C3-7:10)

The Kingdom Splits (ca. 930 BC): Solomon, the same king
responsible for building the first Temple, eventually engaged in
the worship of other gods in addition to the Lord. God condemned
this double-mindedness and decided to tear away a portion of the
Israeli nation from the line of Solomon. Subsequently, the
Prophet1 Ahijah anointed Jeroboam to be king over ten tribes (of
the 12/13 tribes2). This split occurred during the time of
Solomons son Rehoboam as a result of Rehoboams refusal to
attend to Gods instructions for the Israeli kings (see The
Kingdom Begins), especially that the king would not be an
amasser of wealth but would rather love [his] neighbor as
[himself] (Lev. 19:18, NET). (I Kings C11-12:24)
Exile of Israel (722 BC): When Israel (the northern kingdom) first
separated from Judah (the southern kingdom), they immediately
departed from the Lord (I Kings 12:25-13:10). However, God, true to
His word (Exo. 34:4-8; II Pet. 3:9), was patient with them and waited
before executing a fuller measure of His judgment. Despite the
patience of the Lord, though, Israel continued in their departures
(sins) and thus God eventually took away their nation and sent
them into exile in Assyria. (II Kings 17:6-41)
Josiah Reads the Law (ca. 625 BC): The account of King
Josiah of Judah (which had not yet been sent into exile) is
especially important for Biblical-Historical Christians in that it
demonstrates the authority of the written Word of God relative to
other standards. That is, the book of the Law had been ignored for
a time in Judah and was brought to light by Hilkiah the high priest
who shared it with Shaphan the secretary who in turn shared it
with King Josiah who then asked that the Prophetess Huldah be
1

The capitalized form (Prophets) refers to Gods Spokesmen while I


reserve the lowercase form (prophets) for expositors.
There were 12 tribes which received an inheritance (including the halftribes of Ephraim and Manasseh), but the 13th tribe of Levi received no
portion of the land but were to receive their due from service to the Lord
(Deu. 10:8-9 & 18:1-8).

110 / SWORD

consulted regarding it. What is amazing is that every one of these


groupspriests, kings, and Prophetsall bowed to the authority
of the written word of God. None claimed that the institution
(with its priests, scribes, & Prophets) was able to preserve the
truth independent of the written Word nor that the written word
had been hopelessly corrupted at any essential point of theology
or doctrine (thereof requiring restoration by the institution).
Contrarily, they understood that they were under a curse because
they had not done as God had authoritatively, in writing, asked of
them. Consequently, Josiah set out to reform the institution that
then existed: He called the elders of Judah and Jerusalem, the
priests, the Levites, and the men of the nation and read the Law to
them. Next, he took the first steps in helping the nation repent by
making a covenant with the Lord to do as Scripture required with
all of his heart and all of his soul. Further, he made all who were
present join in his covenant with the Lord. Whats more, he had
already removed the places of false worship in Judah and
immediately began to practice the Law by keeping the Passover
feast. Consequently, God postponed the wrath which Judah was
justly due. This account of King Josiah mirrors the Protestant
Reformation in that the Reformers (a) likewise realized that the
institution that then existed had not remained faithful to God in
every respect (i.e., the institution is fallible), (b) understood that
Scripture is the higher authority and is reliable, and (c) committed
themselves to living in accordance with the Scriptures with all of
their hearts and all of their souls. (II Kings 22:8-23:30; II Chr. C34-C35)
Exile of Judah (586 BC): Like Israel, Judah eventually departed
from the way of the Lord and was thus punished with destruction
(including that of the Temple) and dislocation. Specifically, Judah
was conquered by the Babylonians, those who had succeeded the
Assyrians. (II Kings C25; II Chr. C36)
The Return (538-432 BC): After a time, the Israeli exiles were
allowed to return to their homeland. This occurred over roughly a
century in at least three major exoduses: one under Sheshbazzar
(Ezra 1:11), one under Ezra (Ezra 7:1-10 & 8:1-14), and one under
Nehemiah (book of Nehemiah). This return had been foretold by the

Overview of Canonical Scripture, Part I / 111

Prophets as something which would occur before the advent of the


Anointed One (Messiah/Christ) (Jer. 23:5, C30, & 50:4-10; Eze. 37:1528). (I Chr. 9:1-34 and books of Ezra & Nehemiah)
Now, one myth that is often associated with the exile and
return of Israel & Judah is that of the Ten Lost Tribes. That is,
certain groups have proposed that all of the ten northern tribes
were carried away into exile and have not been heard from again,
hence there are people who are looking for these supposedly lost
tribes. Nonetheless, Canonical Scripture doesnt record that any of
the tribes were lost.1 Instead, what Scripture records is that the
exilic events did not involve all of the people of Canaan. Instead,
remnants were left behind, usually consisting of the poor and less
influential (cr II Kings 24:14; II Chr. 30:6; Neh. 1:2). In fact, the OT
specifically records that the northern tribes2 of Simeon (I Chr. 4:43),
Ephraim, Manasseh (both in I Chr. 9:2-3), Asher, Zebulun (both in II
Chr. 30:11), and Naphtali (II Chr. 34:6) were all present in Canaan
after the time of the Assyrian exile. Further, when the Temple was
later rebuilt, 12 male goats were sacrificed at its dedication (in
addition to other sacrifices) in accordance with the number of the
tribes of Israel without any reference to or indication of tribes
having been lost (Ezra 6:17). Whats more, the New Testament
authors talk of all 12 tribes as a then-present reality (Acts 26:6-7;
James 1:1), even specifically referring to someone from the northern
tribe of Asher (Luke 2:36). That is, it was accepted in the first
century that all of the tribes were present in Palestine. Given this
preponderance of evidence, Biblical-Historical Christians (at least
those who know the Scriptures) do not accept the myth of the
Ten Lost Tribes.
Second Temple Completed (516 BC): Roughly 70 years after
Judah had gone into exile (cr Jer. 25:11-12 & 29:10), the Temple was
1

Some members of certain tribes might not have returned from their exile
and thus may have established Hebrew communities elsewhere, but
Scripture gives no indication that these tribes altogether ceased to exist
in Canaan.
By contrast, the southern tribes (which were also present in post-exilic
Canaan) were Judah, Benjamin, & Levi (I Chr. 9:2-3).

112 / SWORD

rebuilt. Sadly, though, this second temple did not lastthe one in
place at the time of Christ had been erected by Herod the Great
(ca. 18/17 BC). (Ezra C3-C6)
Ezra Reads the Law (ca. 445 BC): Now that the exiles had
returned from their punishment, the Hebrews recommitted
themselves to the Lord. This rededication coincided with the
reading of the Law by Ezra. As might be expected due to its
emphasis on Canonical Scripture, this is a portion of the Bible
which has special significance for Biblical-Historical Christians.
As with other instances in the OT (see, especially, Josiah Reads the
Law), this passage reinforces the Biblical-historical doctrine that
the institution is fallible in that the institution had, from the time
of Joshua and apparently unknowingly, failed to observe the Feast
of Booths as required by the Law (Neh. 8:13-17). That is, it was
Scripture which revealed to the institution what it was supposed to
do and that the institution had failed to do as instructed. Further,
this account set a pattern of assemblage that was practiced by
many early Christian congregations (cr Justin Martyr, First Apology,
C67, 2nd Cen.; found on p. 38 of SWORD) and by some modern
congregations. In particular, the practice of standing when
Scripture is read can be derived from this passage (Neh. 8:5).
Also, this passage provides a basis for bowing during acts of
worship as a sign of humility and reverence (Neh. 8:6).
Additionally, this passage sets the precedent for what would later
become the expository homily (sermon) in that not only was the
Law read, but, as it was read, it was also explained to the people
by those who had spent their lives studying it (Neh. 8:7-8 cr Ezra
7:10). Further, this passage is one of the earliest mentions of the
principle of catholic (universal) participation (Neh. 8:9-12).1
1

Catholic participation is the principle that whenever the congregation


partakes of sacrificial, ceremonial, or symbolic food, it is to be
distributed to everyone in the congregation as a sign of community and
unity. Since the Eucharist (the thanksgiving of the bread and the cup, or
the Lords Supper) is such a food which has a special sacrificial
significance for Disciples, it should not surprise anyone that Paul
references the principle of catholic participation when he [Next Page]

Overview of Canonical Scripture, Part I / 113

Whats more, this passage also makes it clear that confession is a


part of the activity of the assembly (Neh. 9:2). That is, Disciples
are to share their sins (departures) with one another (1) so that
they can be helped in their struggle against sin (Heb. 3:13; James 5:1416) and (2) so that they are held accountable before God and their
fellow Disciples (Matt. 3:5-6; Acts 19:18; James 5:16; I John 1:8-10).
Lastly, but importantly, another interesting precedent of this
passage is that of Scripture-reading as the initial activity of the
assemblys serviceScripture came first, then the other aspects
of worship (Neh. 9:3).1 (Neh. C8-C10)

7.2. The Major Divisions Within the OT


Pentateuch (Torah): These five booksGenesis, Exodus,
Leviticus, Numbers, & Deuteronomyare the so-called books
of the Law. They discuss the origin of the universe & the Israeli

instructs the Corinthians concerning its proper practice (I Cor. 11:33-34).


Consequently, catholic participation was practiced in the early
Christians observance of the Eucharist in that they would even bring
portions of the bread and the cup to those who had been absent (cr p. 38 of
SWORD). Unfortunately, many congregations no longer practice the
Eucharist in this manner; they practice it moreso as a personal act and
thus deemphasize its value as a sign of community and unity.
Personally, given the historical precedent, I find it extremely
offensive when an individual or subset of the local congregation
intentionally practices the Eucharist in such a way that it cannot be
reasonably expected that the other members of the congregation
would participate with them (i.e., at home, during a small Bible
study, or other venue/event in which catholic participation is not the
norm). Such is an implicit denial of the community and unity that is
supposed to typify the local congregation (John 13:35; I John 4:7).
It only makes sense that, if the group claims to hold Scripture as the
preeminent standard of their Faith, the group ought to set the tone by
first pointing everyone to that standard. Incidentally, some Traditional
Christians, upon seeing this high regard given to Scripture, have accused
Protestants of being idolaters. However, if they would but read their own
bibles, then they would find that Scripture is the only likeness of God
(other than Christ) found therein which may be consulted as one would
consult an idol (I Maccabees 3:48 cr 12:9-10).

114 / SWORD

nation, and they also delineate the terms of the covenant


between the nation of Israel (an earthly kingdom) and God.
These were the first books to be Canonized.
Israeli History: These eleven books (twelve if one includes
Esther)Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I&II Samuel (I&II Reigns), I&II
Kings (III&IV Reigns), I&II Chronicles (I&II Supplements), &
Ezra-Nehemiah (II Esdras)are books which record the history
of Israel through the end of the time of the Prophets. Further,
many of the so-called Former Prophets writings were used to
produce the books of Israeli history.
Wisdom Books: These five booksJob, Psalms, Proverbs,
Ecclesiastes, & Song of Solomon (Song of Songs, Canticles)
are called wisdom books because they offer insight into a wide
variety of topics, including the problem of suffering (Job), what
genuine worship looks like (Psalms), how one ought to live
(Proverbs), the meaning of life (Ecclesiastes), and even romance
(Song of Songs).
Poetic Prophets: These seventeen booksIsaiah, JeremiahLamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, & the Twelve Minor Prophets
(Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum,
Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, & Malachi)are
books which are composed of the statements of various postsplit-kingdom Prophets. These books are called poetic since
they are often arranged in verse. Many of the Latter Prophets
were responsible for material found in these books.

7.3. Authors of the OT


The following list indicates which OT authors were responsible
for which OT books. If an asterisks* appears next to the name of an
author, then that authors work went through a process of
compilation and consolidation before we received it (cr Chapter Two of

Overview of Canonical Scripture, Part I / 115

All told, there are about 371 OT authors mentioned in the


OT Canon.
SWORD).

Agur the Son of Jakeh: part of Proverbs


Ahijah, the Prophet*: parts of I Kings & II Chronicles
Amos*: book of Amos
Asaph: Psalms 50 & 73-83
Daniel*: book of Daniel (known to Ezekiel (14:14&20 & 28:3))
David: many Psalms (possibly, indirectly, parts of I Chronicles (27:24))
Ethan the Ezrahite: Psalm 89 (also mentioned in I Kings 4:31)
Ezekiel*: book of Ezekiel
Ezra*: parts of Ezra & Nehemiah, possibly edited other OT books
Gad, the Prophet*: parts of I&II Samuel & I Chronicles
Habakkuk*: book of Habakkuk
Haggai*: co-author with Zechariah of Psalms 146, 147, & 1482;
book of Haggai
Heman the Ezrahite: co-author with the Sons of Korah of Psalm
88 (also mentioned in I Kings 4:31)
Hosea*: book of Hosea
Iddo, the Prophet*: parts of II Chronicles (probable grandfather of
Zechariah (1:1 cr Ezra 5:1))

Isaiah*: possibly parts of II Kings & II Chronicles; book of Isaiah


Jashar*: probably parts of Joshua 3
Jehu, the Prophet*: parts of I Kings & II Chronicles
Jeremiah*: possibly parts of II Chronicles & Ezra; books of
Jeremiah & Lamentations
Joel*: book of Joel
Jonah*: possibly parts of II Kings; book of Jonah
Joshua*: possibly parts of Deuteronomy & Judges; book of Joshua
1

38 if Mordecai (traditional author of Esther) is counted, or 36 if Uriah is


omitted
The attribution of these Psalms to Haggai and Zechariah is found in the
LXX.
The record mentioned in II Samuel 1:18 is the Book of the Upright
(LXX)it was mis-transcribed as Jashar in the Masoretic Text (MT).

116 / SWORD

Lemuel, King: part of Proverbs


Malachi*: book of Malachi
Micah*: part of Jeremiah (26:18); book of Micah
[Mordecai*]1: possibly the book of Esther (Greek Alpha-text)
Moses*: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy,
Job2, Psalm 90
Nahum*: book of Nahum
Nathan*: parts of II Samuel, I Kings, & I&II Chronicles
Nehemiah*: book of Nehemiah (cr Ezra)
Obadiah*: possibly parts of I Kings; book of Obadiah
Samuel*: parts of I Samuel & I Chronicles
Shemaiah, the Prophet*: parts of I Kings & II Chronicles
Solomon: most of Proverbs; Ecclesiastes & Song of Solomon
(possibly, indirectly, parts of I Kings)
Sons of Korah: Psalm 42, 44-49, 84, 85, 87, & 88 (with Heman)
[Uriah Son of Shemaiah*]3: possibly parts of II Kings &
II Chronicles (mentioned in Jer. 26:20)
Zechariah Son of Barachiah*: co-author with Haggai of Psalms
146, 147, & 1484; book of Zechariah (mentioned by Christ as having
been murdered between the sanctuary and altar (Matt. 23:35))5

Zephaniah*: book of Zephaniah

1
2

Esther could be non-Canonical (see Chapter Five of SWORD).


Hebrew tradition lists Job as being recorded by Moses. Given that Moses
is also credited with Genesis, which has some overlap with Job as far as
timeframe is concerned, and that Job has been found in forms which
predate the exilic events, there is no reason to doubt this tradition (or at
least the ancient origin of Job).
It is unclear if Uriah actually left a written record, but such is possible as
many of the OT Prophets prophecies were recorded.
The attribution of these Psalms to Haggai and Zechariah is found in the
LXX.
This is probably not the Zechariah Son of Jehoiada who is mentioned in
II Chr. 24:20-22 as having been stoned to death in the Temple court.

Overview of Canonical Scripture, Part I / 117

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
1. Which of the major OT events seemed most significant to you?
Why? What OT events are especially important for BiblicalHistorical Christians? Why?

_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
2. What do Biblical-Historical Christians mean when they say that
the institution is fallible? Why do they believe this?

_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
3. What is the principle of catholic participation? Why is it or why
isnt it important?

_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________

118 / SWORD

_______________________________
_______________________________
4. What are the four major divisions found in the Protestant OT
Canon? What is the character of the books found in each
division?

_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
5. Did you discover anything new about the authors of the OT that
you didnt know before? If so, what was it and what is its
significance? If not, which of the OT authors is most interesting
to you? Why?

_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________

Overview of Canonical Scripture, Part II / 119

8. Overview of Canonical Scripture, Part II:


The New Testament
This chapter seeks to provide the reader with a basic
understanding of key New Testament (NT) events, an awareness of
the arrangement of the Biblical-Historical Christian NT Canon, and
an appreciation of the various NT authors. Since the subject matter
of this chapter is somewhat encyclopedic, the information will be
presented as a series of entries rather than in my typical expository
format. As to the order of the entries, major events will be listed
chronologically, divisions of Scripture will be listed in Canonical
order, and authors will be listed in alphabetic order.

8.1. Timeline of Major NT Events


Jesus Birth (~6-1 BC): Jesus of Nazareth was born in Bethlehem
of Nazarene parents (Matt. 2:1&23; Luke 2:1-7) in accordance with
OT prophecy (Micah 5:2-4; Isa. 11:1 & 53:21). Further, Jesus was a
descendant of King David (Matt. 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-38), and that
descent had also been foretold (Isa. 9:6-7 & 11:1; Jer. 23:5).
Additionally, Biblical-Historical Christians also hold it essential
to believe that Mary, Jesus mother, was a virgin both at the time
of conception and at the time of birth (Matt. 1:20&25; Luke 1:34-35).2
1

There is a play on words here in that the word for Nazareth sounds like
the Hebrew word for branch (netser). Further, the OT clearly portrays the
coming Anointed One as being despised (cr Isa. 53:3) and, accordingly,
Nazareth was likewise a place held in low esteem (cr John 1:45-46). It
should be noted that Christ being a Nazarene had nothing to do with the
Nazirite vow (Num. 6:2 & Judges 13:5).
The Traditional Christians also believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary
(that she remained a virgin even after Jesus birth), but such was not
always considered an essential belief: Basil of Caesarea (330-379 AD),
for example, believed that
[The opinion that Mary bore several children after Christ] does not
run counter to faith; for virginity was imposed on Mary [Next Page]

120 / SWORD

Why? Well, the virgin birth reveals that Jesus was not a mere man
who was later chosen by God. Instead, Jesus was God wrapped in
flesh; God condescended into His creation (Phili. 2:5-11). (Matt. C1C2; Luke C1-C2 & 3:23-38)

Jesus Earthly Ministry (28/29-30/33 AD): Jesus earthly


ministry began with a simple call to repentance (Matt. 4:17).
Accordingly, the fundamental message of Christianity remains
that of repentance. What is repentance? Repentance is the
common translation of the Greek term metanoia (Greek:
), which means to, having been corrected, regret what
one has done/been and consequently turn from ones former ways.
Therefore, in the context of Christianity, repentance is about
turning from a state of being Gods enemy (cr Rom. 5:10; James 4:4)
to accepting Him as Lord (Master/Owner) (Rom. 10:9-11);
Christians call people to turn away from a former life lived in a
manner which does not please God and to a new life which is
marked by reconciliation with the Creator (II Cor. 5:17-21 cr John 1:113). This acceptance of God as Lord is accompanied by faith, by a
lived-out trust in and submission to God which affects our
choices and actions (cr James 2:18) so as to reflect the One to whom
we have turned (Eph. 5:1-2).
Further, Christs ministry was also marked by forgiveness
of sins (e.g., Matt. 9:1-8), and both of these terms merit some
attention: First, sin is a translation of hamartia (Greek:
), which can either mean a departure from or forfeiture
of something or it can refer to the specific thing which leads one
away from something else. Thus sin can refer either to a state of
being (a state of having departed or forfeited the Lord) or to a
particular thought/action (one that represents a specific departure
from the way of the Lord). This dual definition being the case, we
Christians, while having repented and therefore turned from our
departed state (our rebellious state), do occasionally do things
as a necessity only up to the time that she served as an instrument for
the Incarnation, while, on the other hand, her subsequent virginity
had no great importance with regard to the mystery of the
Incarnation. (Homilia in sanctam Christi generationem, PG 31:1468)

Overview of Canonical Scripture, Part II / 121

which are not in keeping with the way of the Lord (we sometimes
commit specific sins since we are still subject to the sinful nature)
(Rom. 7:13-20). Thus Christians are sinners, just like everyone else,
but the difference is that we (1) admit our guilt, (2) accept Gods
correction and discipline, and (3) receive His forgiveness (cr Heb.
12:3-11; I John 1:5-10).
Second, forgive is a translation of aphimi (Greek: ),
which can either mean to put something aside or to pardon a
crime (or cancel a debt). As was the case with sin, the dual
definition of forgive has special significance for Christians: In
particular, while we can seek to put aside our former sinful lives
(though not perfectly), and even engage in water baptism to that
effect1, we cannot do anything that would pardon or cancel our
sin (let alone fundamentally deliver ourselves from our sinful
nature (Job C25; Ecc. 7:20)). That is, there is no amount that Mankind
can offer in exchange for his condemned soul (cr Psa. 49:7-9) nor
can he do any righteous deed which would compare to the
standard which he has violated (cr Isa. 64:6). Therefore, since the
pardon of sins must be Divine rather than human (Mark 2:5-7; Luke
5:20-21) and since we will remain in sin without Divine
intervention (Eph. 2:1-3), we, even the best of us, need a Divine
Savior, someone to bear the Divine wrath that is our just sentence
(cr John 3:36; Rom. 1:18), someone to whom we are drawn by the
Lord (John 6:65; II Cor. 5:14-15). (see the Gospels)
Jesus Death & Resurrection (30/33 AD): Jesus declared that
His purpose was to die: For even the Son of Man [(Christ)] did
not come to be served but to serve, and to give [H]is life as a
ransom for many (Mark 10:45, NET). Likewise, He prophesied
that He would be raised on the third day: They will mock [H]im
[(the Christ)], spit on [H]im, flog [H]im severely, and kill
[H]im. Yet after three days, [H]e will rise again (Mark 10:34,

Water baptism is a baptism of repentance [(turning away)] for the


forgiveness [(putting aside or renunciation)] of sins (Mark 1:4. NET; cr
Matt. 3:5-6).

122 / SWORD

NET).

That is, Jesus primary purpose in coming into our existence


was to die bodily and to be bodily resurrected.
Why did He do this? Christ died in order to become what we
call a propitiatory sacrifice (Rom. 3:21-26; Heb. 2:17; I John 2:2 & 4:10).
Now propitiation is used to translate cognates of the Greek word
hilasmos (), which refers to a sacrifice that is offered to
placate the wrath of an angry god.1 In the context of Christianity,
then, Christs propitiatory sacrifice refers to the fact that Christ
died in our stead (Rom. 5:6-11), that He died in order to cancel the
record of debt that stood against us, nailing that record to the cross
(Col. 2:13-14). That is, Jesus, God in flesh, became the sought-for
arbiter (Job 9:25-35), the only mediator between God and Mankind
(I Tim. 2:5-6). Since Christs death atoned for sin once for all (Heb.
10:10-14), it is solely in Christ that peace with God is to be had (Acts
4:12), hence the Temple veil, which symbolized the separation that
fundamentally exists between God and Mankind, was torn in two
at Christs death (Matt. 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45). Because of
Christs sacrifice and because of the significance thereof,
Christians commemorate it by partaking of the Eucharist, the
giving of thanks, which is more generally known as the Lords
Supper (I Cor. 11:23-34; cr Matt. 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:17-20).
Lastly, it should be noted that, while Jesus resurrection is a
sign of sorts (Matt. 12:38-41; I Cor. 15:20), it does not authenticate
Jesus as the Divine Messiah (at least not directly; cr pp. 33-4 of
SWORD). Instead, Jesus Divine Messiahship ultimately rests on
His fulfillment of the OT, to include the prediction of His
resurrection (Acts 2:22-41 cr Psa. 16:8-11 & Isa. 53:10). It is because of
the necessity of first establishing Himself as the Messiah of the
OT that Christ first taught the Disciples who were on the road to
Emmaus what was said about Him in the OT before He revealed
that He had been resurrected (Luke 24:25-31)the proof of Himself
lay in Scriptures validation and predictions, not in the
resurrection itself. Likewise, modern Biblical-Historical
1

See the revised and expanded form of Alexander Souters A Pocket Lexicon to the Greek
New Testament, 1916 (revised 2007), and also Maurice A. Robinson & Mark A. Houses
Analytical Lexicon of New Testament Greek, 2012 (second printing in 2014).

Overview of Canonical Scripture, Part II / 123

Christians also preach Christ first and foremost as the Christ of


Scripture (I Cor. 15:3-4). (Matt. C26-C28; Mark C14-16:8; Luke C22-C24;
John C13-C21)

Northeastern Judaizing Controversy (Jerusalem Council)


(~48-49 AD): After Christ ascended (Acts 1:1-11), Christianity
began to spread outside the borders of Palestine. This spread of
the Faith meant that Christianity was now going into different
cultures and the subsequent question that was raised was whether
or not outsiders (Gentiles) had to adopt Israeli culture/laws before
becoming Christians. That is, some people in early Christianity,
the Judaizers (who were basically Pharisaical converts), believed
that proselytes (converts) should be circumcised and keep the
national/ceremonial/sacrificial aspects of Hebrew Law (Acts
15:1&5). In particular, somewhere between 48 & 49 AD, both
Judean and Northeastern Christians (from Antioch, Syria, and
Cilicia)1 sent delegates to Jerusalem to decide how they would
deal with the issue. The result of the deliberation was that such
things (the national/ceremonial/sacrificial aspects of Judaism)
were not considered binding for Christians.
One of the principle arguments used to reach this conclusion
was the OT prediction that the Christs Kingdom would be one
that wasnt restricted by the limitations of an earthly kingdom but
would instead apply to all Mankind (Acts 15:13-20; cr Amos 9:1112LXX; Gen. 12:3LXX). Christ reinforced this view in His own teaching
in that He preached the Kingdom of Heaven rather than an
earthly kingdom (Matt. 4:17 cr 3:2; John 18:36). Further, the early
Christians understood that Christs sacrificial death ushered in a
new covenant (or contract) (Luke 22:20; Heb. 9:15), for Christ had
said, The [L]aw and the [P]rophets were in force until John
[the Baptist]; since then, the good news of the [K]ingdom of
1

It is important to note that the Northeastern Judaizing Controversy was


not an ecumenical council. That is, the delegates didnt include
representatives from every then-existent Christian region (including
Cyprus, Lycia, & Galatia; cr Acts C13-C14). Instead, the Northeastern
Judaizing Controversy was a local controversy that, in accordance with
Matthew C18, was dealt with locally.

124 / SWORD

God has been proclaimed, and everyone is urged to enter it


(Luke 16:16, NET). Consequently, given the OT precedent and
Christs own words about the matter, it isnt surprising that the
national/ceremonial/sacrificial aspects of Judaism were not
considered binding within Christianity. Likewise, modern
Biblical-Historical Christians do not consider these aspects of the
Hebrew Law to be binding.
Nonetheless, many Christians (and non-Christians) seem to
believe that Christians should treat the Law as something that has
been abolished, but such belief is not justified. Instead, BiblicalHistorical Christians understand that Christ came not to abolish
the Law or the Prophets but to fulfill them (Matt. 5:17). How so?
First, the moral law levels a debt of Divine wrath against all of us
since our intentions are sinful even from our youth (Gen. 8:21; Ecc.
7:20; Rom. 3:23) and Divine wrath is the consequence of sin (Lev.
26:27-28; Psa. 90:1-8; Rom. 1:18 & 2:8). Christ fulfilled the demand of
Divine wrath required by the moral law by becoming the ultimate
object of Gods wrath (Isa. 53:4-12; I Thess. 1:9-10; II Peter 2:24).
Second, in offering His sinless life, Christ satisfied the sacrificial
law which required pure life to be given in exchange for sin (Gen.
4:3-5 & 8:20; Mal. 1:14; II Cor. 5:21; Heb. 9:15-28). Third, since Christ
fulfilled the sacrificial law, those who are in Him are pure, are
righteous before God, hence in Him the ceremonial law is also
fulfilled (Lev. 16:29-30; Isa. 53:11; Phili. 3:8-11; Heb. 10:14).1 Lastly, as
those who come to God are counted as righteous because of faith
(Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:3), they are members of Gods Kingdom
regardless of whether they are natural branches (the Hebrew
Believers) or engrafted branches (the Gentile Believers) (Rom. C11)
so long as they adhere to the laws of the nations in which God has
placed them (Rom. 13:1-7)2, hence the Israeli national law (including
1

It should be noted that the fulfillment of the moral, sacrificial, and


ceremonial law that is found in Christ, in addition to the rending of the
Temple veil (discussed previously, p. 122 of SWORD), has removed the need for
an earthly temple (Acts 7:48-50 & 17:24-25), hence true Christians have no
temples (cr The Octavius of Minucius Felix, 10, 210 AD).
insomuch as those laws do not violate Gods moral law (cr Acts 4:19)

Overview of Canonical Scripture, Part II / 125

circumcision; cr Gen. 17:1-14) does not apply to all Gods people


insomuch as all Gods people are under a national law of one form
or another.
Nonetheless, in all of these things the first covenant is not
abolished but is rather fulfilled by a third party (the mediator
Christ; cr I Tim. 2:5-6), by another covenant designed to perfectly
satisfy the first covenant (Heb 10:1-18), hence the importance of the
first covenant is not removed but is maintained. Accordingly,
Christians still submit to the standard of the Decalogue (the Ten
Words or the Ten Commandments; cr Exo. C20; Deu. C5) and other
aspects of the moral law to the best of their ability and
understanding (e.g., Matt. 19:16-19 & 22:34-40; Gal. 5:16-26). However,
in keeping with the precedent of the OT, we emphasize the value
of a consecrated heart over that of ceremonial correctness/
showiness (e.g., I Sam. 21:1-6 (cr Matt. 12:1-8); II Chr. 30:15-20; Isa. 1:10-17
(cr James 1:27) & 58:1-12 (cr Matt. 6:16-18 & 25:31-46)). This is not to say
that the ceremonial law is bad but simply that Mankind tends to
turn ceremony and ritual into opportunities for self-glorification/
false-appeasement rather than genuine worship of the Master
(Matt. 6:1-18), hence ceremonial/ritualistic practices are only
maintained in Biblical-Historical Christianity insomuch as they do
not detract from but instead foster ones proper relationship with
the Creator (Rom. 14:13). (Acts 15:1-35)
Death of John the Apostle (~98-117 AD): John was probably
the longest-lived of the 12 Apostles, but he did eventually die:
John, again, in Asia [Minor], was banished by
Domitian the king [(who reigned 81-96 AD)] to the isle of
Patmos, in which also he wrote his Gospel and saw the
apocalyptic vision [(cr Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 5.30.3, 2nd
Cen.)]; and in Trajans time [(who reigned 98-117 AD)] he
fell asleep1 at Ephesus... (Pseudo-Hippolytus, On the Twelve
Apostles, 3, 2nd/3rd Cen.; cr Origen, 3rd Cen., as quoted in Eusebius,
Hist. Eccl., 3.1.1, 4th Cen.)

an early Christian euphemism for death (cr Acts 7:60)

126 / SWORD

The death of John is an important event because it represents the


end of the period of enscripturationno more Canonical Scripture
would be written from that point onward.
Why? For starters, the time of the OT Spokesmen (Prophets;
cr Deu. 18:15-22 (cr Exo. 20:18-21)) came to an end prior to the time of
Jesus of Nazareth (Heb. 1:1-2; II Pet. 1:19-20), hence there are no more
Spokesmen. As to Legal Representatives of Christ (Apostles; cr
Luke 6:13; John 15:27), they were understood to be restricted to those
who had been with the early Disciples beginning from [Jesus]
baptism by John [the Baptist] until the day [H]e was taken up
from [them] (Acts 1:22, NET), hence, with the death of John the
Apostle, there are no longer Legal Representatives of Christ as no
one living thereafter (or even now) had been with Jesus from His
baptism to His ascension. Consequently, the foundation of the
family of God, the Apostles and Prophets (Eph. 2:19-20 cr II Pet. 3:12), is complete. Therefore, it is accurate to say that we have all that
is essential to life and godliness (II Pet. 1:3), that the Faith has once
for all been delivered sufficiently to the saints (Jude 1:3).

8.2. The Major Divisions Within the NT


Gospels: These four booksMatthew, Mark, Luke, & Johnare
called Gospels, which literally means Good News, because they
record the life and sacrifice of Jesus of Nazareth, which is the
source of Salvation in Christian theology and doctrine. Now, two
of the Gospels were written by Apostles (Matthew & John), and
the other two Gospels were written by apostolic men (Mark &
Luke). Further, the first three Gospels, because of their
similarities, are called the Synoptic Gospels. 1
Acts: This single book is called Acts (or Acts of the Apostles) as a
translation of the word Praxs (Greek: ), which refers to
the Activities or Deeds of the early Disciples. Specifically, it
1

It is interesting to note that the apostolic men (writing before John wrote
his Gospel) produced Gospels which were in keeping with the Apostle
Matthews Gospel.

Overview of Canonical Scripture, Part II / 127

covers the time from the ascension of the risen Christ to the
period shortly before the martyrdom of Paul (and Peter) (~64-67
AD), specifically ending with Pauls residence in Rome (possibly
prior to his departure to Spain).
Pauline Epistles: These fourteen epistles (letters)Romans, I&II
Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I&II
Thessalonians, I&II Timothy, Titus, Philemon, and Hebrews 1
were authored by the early Christian missionary called Paul.
Because these books were written in response to issues that were
raised in very early congregations and written with the implicit
oversight of the Legal Representatives, they are very useful in
establishing the nature of early Christianity with regards to
theology, doctrine, practice, and ministry.
Catholic (General/Universal) Epistles: These seven eyewitness2 epistles (letters)James, I&II Peter, I,II,&III John, and
Judeare called catholic because they were not written to a
specific addressee, hence they were general/universal in their
address (but were still probably meant for a specific recipient). As
is the case with the Pauline Epistles, these epistles are also used to
establish early Christian theology, doctrine, practice, and ministry.
Revelation: This last book of the Bible, written by the Apostle
John at the behest of Christ (Rev. 1:1-2), is an epistle (letter) in that
it is addressed to the seven churches of Asia Minor (Rev. 1:4).
Nonetheless, it is not counted among the Catholic Epistles
because (1) it is addressed to a specific set of recipients and (2) its
contents are markedly different than those of the Catholic
Epistles. As to its contents, Revelation is largely apocalyptic, a
revelation of what was yet to take place (Rev. 4:1). Now
1

Some Biblical-Historical Christians, following Origen (3rd Cen., quoted in


Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., 6.25.11-13, 4th Cen.), believe that Hebrews was not written
by Paul. Further, among those who in times past did not consider
Hebrews to be Pauline in origin, they would sometimes attribute 10 sets
of works to Paul: He wrote to seven churches (twice to Corinth and
Thessalonica) and to three individuals (twice to Timothy) (cr Muratorian
Fragment; Sopocani Fresco).

That is, all of the authors of these epistles knew Jesus of Nazareth, either
as His Apostles (i.e., Peter & John) or as His family members (i.e.,
James & Jude).

128 / SWORD

Revelation, of all the books of Canonical Scripture, tends to be the


most controversial as it, and all apocalyptic literature in general,
tends to speak rather figuratively. Consequently, Revelation is to
be approached with caution and an awareness of its figurative
nature, for it is not wise to dogmatize upon those details which,
even in the judgment of the judicious, are unclear (cr The Translators
[of the KJV] to the Reader, 1611 AD).

8.3. Authors of the NT


The following listing gives information on the seven primary
authors of the NT Canon. Additionally, percentages are provided
which represent the approximate proportion of the NT that was
generated by that author (as per word count estimates of the Greek
New Testament (NA28/UBS5)). Also, those authors whose names are
in Copperplate Gothic were eye-witnesses of Christ while
those in italics were members of the 12 Apostles.
James (1.2%): James the brother of the Lord (Gal. 1:19 cr Matt.
13:55), also called James the Just, is well-known as the author of
the Epistle of James. However, it is often less-known that James
was martyred at the hands of the Jews:
The aforesaid Scribes and Pharisees therefore placed
James upon the pinnacle of the temple... [and] they
went up and threw down the just man, and said to
each other, Let us stone James the Just. And they
began to stone him, for he was not killed by the fall;
but he turned and knelt down and said, I entreat
thee, Lord God our Father, forgive them, for they
know not what they do [(cr Acts 7:60)]... And one of
them, who was a fuller, took the club with which he
beat out clothes and struck the just man on the head.
And thus he suffered martyrdom... And immediately
Vespasian [(who reigned 69-79 AD)] besieged them.
(Hegesippus, 2nd Cen., quoted in Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., 2.23.12-18)

The death of James the Just was part of the general Pharisaical
persecution of Christianity recorded throughout the Book of Acts

Overview of Canonical Scripture, Part II / 129

(and Paul was formerly one of those persecutors (Acts 8:1-3 cr 13:9)).
This bloody antagonism is partially responsible for the rigid
separation that now exists between Judaism and Christianity.1
John (20.8%): John the Apostle, brother of James the son of
Zebedee (Matt. 10:2), authored one Gospel, three of the Catholic
Epistles, and Revelation. Also, John seems to have done most of
this work while in Asia Minor, particularly in Ephesus (Irenaeus,
Against Heresies, 3.1.1, 2nd Cen.).
Now, of all of Johns works, the one that tends to be the most
significant to the defense of the Faith is his Gospel. Unfortunately,
many Christians do not know some of the background of this
Gospel and thus are at a disadvantage when they attempt to
defend it. For example, many skeptics point out that the Gospel of
Johns prologue and epilogue do not seem to match the style of
the remainder of the book, hence skeptics claim that those
portions are inauthentic. However, those same skeptics are
generally either ignorant of or discount the fact that Johns Gospel
was not historically understood to be composed by John alone.
Instead, it was the result of a collaborative effort which John was
responsible for recording:
The fourth Gospel is that of John, one of the disciples.
When his fellow-disciples and [overseers] entreated
him, he said, Fast ye now with me for the space of
three days, and let us recount to each other whatever
may be revealed to each of us. On the same night it
was revealed to Andrew, one of the apostles, that John
1

Another cause of divide between early Christianity and Judaism was the
fact that the early Christians, who considered themselves members of
Gods Heavenly Kingdom (John 18:36), refused to fight alongside the Jews
to preserve the earthly nation of Israel during the various Jewish wars of
the late first and early second centuries. That is, very early Christians
were generally pacifistic with regard to their response to Roman rule as
they believed that Christianity could exist within any nation or system (cr
Rom. 13:1-7). Sadly, however, Christians became less pacifistic and more
militant as time went on. In the Post-Toleration Era, Christians began to
violently persecute the Jews (see pp. 40-1 of SWORD)the persecuted
became the persecutors (ultimate power corrupts ultimately).

130 / SWORD

should narrate all things in his own name as they


called them to mind. (Muratorian Fragment, V.C. Antiq. Ital.
Med. Aev., Vol. iii., Col. 854, 2nd Cen.; cr Clement of Alexandria,
2nd/3rd Cen., quoted in Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., 6.14.7)

Consequently, because of the multiple authors involved in the


undertaking, one would expect that some parts (especially the
beginning and end) of the fourth Gospel would not be like the
remainder of the book. Whats more, the Gospel itself does not
claim to originate with a single author but instead gives John a
plural validation: This is the disciple who testifies about these
things and has written these things, and we know that his
testimony is true (John 21:24, NET). That is, the other co-authors
put their seal of approval on Johns writing by confirming that
they knew for themselves that what he said was true. (Thus the
Gospel of John would probably be more accurately described as
the Gospel of John, Andrew, et al (and others).)
Another point that skeptics like to raise is the fact that the
Gospel of John is quite dissimilar from the other Gospels. The
reason for this, as was the case with the internal stylistic
differences, is quite straightforward:
One who understands this can no longer think that the
Gospels are at variance with one another, inasmuch as
the Gospel according to John [emphasizes] the first
acts of Christ while the others give an account of the
latter part of His life. (Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., 3.24.13, 4th Cen.)
That is, the Gospel of John was intended to be different so as to
preserve previously unrecorded information that would be
pertinent for latter generations. Therefore, the Gospel of John
wasnt meant to contradict the other Gospels but was instead
intended as a supplement to them.
Jude (0.4%): Jude, the brother of the Lord (Matt. 13:55), authored
the Epistle of Jude and is known for his humility despite being a
member of Jesus family:
Jude, who wrote the catholic epistle, the brother of the
sons of Joseph, and very religious, whilst knowing the
near relationship of the Lord, yet did not say [in his

Overview of Canonical Scripture, Part II / 131

epistle] that he himself was His brother. (Clement of


Alexandria, 2nd/3rd Cen., quoted in the Fragments of Cassiodorus, II)

Incidentally, this humility associated with Jesus household is the


probable reason as to why Mary, Jesus mother, is not explicitly
mentioned as being present at the cross in the accounts of
Matthew (27:55-56), Mark (15:40), and Luke (24:10). That is, out of
deference to Christs Divinity and Gods lack of dependence on
humanity, some of the early Christians described Mary not as
Jesus mother but as the mother of James (and Judas/Joseph/Joses).
Luke (26.0%): Luke, the physician and companion of Paul (Col.
4:14; II Tim. 4:11; Phile. 1:24), authored one Gospel and the Book of
Acts. As to his Gospel, he wrote it as a response to inadequate
accounts which were then circulating:
He [(Luke)] states that since many others had more
rashly undertaken to compose a narrative of the
events of which he had acquired perfect knowledge, he
himself, feeling the necessity of freeing us from their
uncertain opinions, delivered in his own Gospel an
accurate account of those events in regard to which he
had learned the full truth, being aided by his intimacy
with Paul [(e.g., I Tim. 5:18 cr Luke 10:7)] and by his
acquaintance with the rest of the apostles [(Luke 1:1-4)].
(Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., 3.24.15, 4th Cen.)

That is, the 12 Apostles did not first write their Gospels together
and then take them out into the world. Instead, the Apostles and
apostolic men first went out into the world speaking the Gospel,
and then, when congregants started to make their own versions of
the Gospel account, the Apostles and apostolic men responded by
composing their own Gospels for their particular contexts.
Subsequently, Matthew, who ministered to the Hebrews,
composed a Gospel made to address Hebrew concerns; Luke,
being a missionary to the Gentiles with Paul, wrote a detailed
account for Gentile converts; Mark, in response to the request of
Roman Christians, wrote a brief account of what he had
remembered of Peters teaching; and John, working with other
early Christian leaders, wrote a final Gospel to supply information
not found in the other Gospels. As to those earlier accounts, all

132 / SWORD

of the evidence that we have suggests that they were entirely


Orthodox1, probably much like the Didach (meaning
Teaching2). The reason why such early accounts are not included
in the Canon is simply that they were not composed by the eyeand ear-witnesses of Christthey simply dont have the proper
authority. Nonetheless, those early accounts (like the Didach) are
of benefit in revealing the character of early Christianity (at least
as it was practiced in some locations).
As to the Book of Acts, Luke only recorded that for which he
had eye- or ear-witness testimony:
Moreover, the Acts of all the Apostles are comprised
by Luke in one book, and addressed to the most
excellent Theophilus [(Luke 1:3; Acts 1:1)], because these
different events took place when he was present
himself; and he shows this clearlyi.e., that the
principle on which he wrote was to give only what fell
under his own noticeby the omission of the passion
of Peter, and also of the journey of Paul, when he went
from the cityRometo Spain. (Muratorian Fragment, V.C.
Antiq. Ital. Med. Aev., Vol. iii., Col. 854, 2nd Cen.)

This acknowledgement that Luke only wrote what fell under his
own notice is important insomuch as it establishes Acts as an
early writing. That is, if Acts had been a later concoction by
Christians who were trying to harmonize so-called Petrine
Christianity with so-called Pauline Christianity as proposed by F.
C. Baur (19th Cen.), then they certainly would have included the
martyrdom of Peter and Paul in the account as such became a
popular topic just a few decades later (cr I Clement, C5, 96 AD).
Contrarily, Acts has an unnatural stopping point, one that
coincides with a genuine historical account written by one who
was concerned about never extending his material beyond that

As discussed in Chapter Six of SWORD, heretical writings have never


been found which predate the second century.
This Teaching of the Apostles was known to the early church fathers and
is discussed in some of the Canon lists found in the appendix of
SWORD.

Overview of Canonical Scripture, Part II / 133

provided by eye- or ear-witnesses (i.e., Luke sometimes wrote as


a member of the action of Acts (e.g., Acts 16:16) and sometimes as a
hearer of the action (e.g., Acts 16:25), but he never wrote material
which violated the confines of eye- or ear-witness testimony).
Matthew (13.6%): The Apostle Matthew was a former tax
collector (Matthew 9:9 & 10:3) who wrote one of the Gospels. His
Gospel is interesting for two reasons: (1) it was originally written
in a Hebrew dialect (probably Aramaic) and (2) it was the first of
the Gospels to be written:
Matthew put together the oracles [of the Lord] in
the Hebrew language, and each one interpreted them
as best he could. (Papias, 1st/2nd Cen., quoted in Eusebius, Hist.
Eccl., 3.39.16)

Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the


Hebrews in their own dialect while Peter and Paul
were [still] preaching at Rome and laying the
foundations of the church. (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.1.1,
2nd Cen.)

He [(i.e., Clement)] says that the Gospels


containing the genealogies were written first. (Clement of
Alexandria, 2nd/3rd Cen., quoted in Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., 6.14.5-6)

Among the four Gospels, which are the only


indisputable ones in the Church of God under heaven,
I have learned by tradition that the first was written
by Matthew...and it was prepared for the converts
from Judaism, and published in the Hebrew language.
(Origen, 3rd Cen., quoted in Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., 6.25.4)

The fact that Matthew was originally written in a Hebrew


dialect explains why the genealogy of Jesus given in Matthew
uses 14-generation sets: In Hebrew, King Davids name sums to
14 ( = + + = 4 + 6 + 4 = 14), hence Matthew was emphasizing
Jesus connection to David. Further, Matthew being the first of the
Synoptic Gospels to be written explains why it was both the mostread of the Synoptics and the one that tended to dominate others

134 / SWORD

in issues of harmonization1: It was available first and therefore


had the most time to circulate, ergo it was the best-known and
most-preferred of the Synoptic Gospels.
Now it should be noted that the historical claim that Matthew
wrote first is in direct opposition to the position of most modern
scholars insomuch as most modern scholars believe that Mark
wrote first and that the other Synoptics borrowed from Marks
writing. Their position (that Mark wrote first), however, is not
supported by even a shred of historical evidence. On the contrary,
their position is entirely presuppositional: They presume that ideas
about Jesus, especially His Divinity, must have gone through an
evolution to reach the positions found in Matthew and Luke,
hence Matthew and Luke must be latter-written. As no substantial
historical evidence has been found to support this hypothesis of
so-called Marcan Priority, it is to be rejected. Contrarily, the
historical evidence clearly indicates that Matthews Gospel was
the first Gospel written, then those of Luke & Mark (both after
Pauls and Peters time in Rome), and finally Johns.
Paul (28.6%): Paul, formerly called Saul, was a Pharisaical
persecutor of the early Christians but later converted to
Christianity following a tremendous experience while on the road
to Damascus (Acts 8:1-3, 9:1-30, & 13:9; Phili. 3:2-6) and he is credited
with the 14 Pauline Epistles. However, there is some historical
(rather than presuppositional) debate concerned a few of his
epistles, namely Hebrews (via Origen) and the Pastorals (via
Marcion, the heretic).
As to Hebrews, Origen (3rd Cen.), upon noting stylistic
differences between Hebrews and the other Pauline Epistles,
stated that he had doubts as to its Pauline authorship (though there
is no indication that he doubted its Canonicity) (see p. CL10-1 of
SWORD). However, the issue of the stylistic differences between
Hebrews and the other Pauline Epistles is rendered
inconsequential by the fact that Hebrews as we have it today is a
1

Adam G. Messer, 2011, in Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament: Manuscript,
Patristic, and Apocryphal Evidence edited by Daniel B. Wallace, p. 135 (para. 1) & p. 147
(para. 2).

Overview of Canonical Scripture, Part II / 135

translation, hence the translation process was responsible for the


stylistic differences:
And he [(Clement)] says that the epistle to the
Hebrews is Pauls, and was written to the Hebrews in
the Hebrew language; but that Luke, having carefully
translated it, gave it to the Greeks, and hence the same
coloring in the expression is discoverable in this
Epistle and the Acts; and that the name Paul an
apostle was very properly not prefixed, for he says
that, [in] writing to the Hebrews who were prejudiced
against him and suspected [him], he, with great
wisdom, did not repel them in the beginning by
putting down his name. (Clement of Alexandria, 2nd/3rd Cen.,
quoted in Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., 6.14.2-5)

As to the Pastorals (I&II Timothy and Titus), Marcion (ca. 144


AD) omitted them because they did not adhere to his doctrine and
theology:
I wonder, however, when he received (into his
Apostolicon) this letter [(Philemon)] which was written
but to one man, that he rejected the two epistles to
Timothy and the one to Titus, which all treat of
ecclesiastical discipline. His aim, was, I suppose, to carry
out his interpolating process even to the number of
[Pauls] epistles. (Tertullian, Against Marcion, 5.21, 2nd/3rd Cen.)
Nevertheless, the Pastorals were known before Marcions time
Among other New Testament writings to which
Polycarp [(who wrote no later than 135 AD)] alludes, we find
that he is acquainted with Romans, I Corinthians,
Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, II Thessalonians,
I Timothy, and II Timothy. (B. M. Metzger, The Canon of the
New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance, 1987
(reprinted 2009), p. 61 (cr p. 60))

and thus Marcions removal of the Pastorals does not prove


their unoriginality but rather only proves his own distaste for true,
historical Christianity.
Peter (& Mark) (9.4% (7.4% via Mark)): Peter the Apostle and
brother of Andrew (Matt. 10:2) is the primary author behind two
of the Catholic Epistles and one of the Gospels. However, despite

136 / SWORD

being the source for these works, it seems that he didnt write
most of them himself. Instead, his material was recorded either
through dictation to an amanuensis (a scribe) (as with I Peter 1 and
possibly with II Peter2) or through the latter recollections of Mark,
his son who had assisted him in his ministry by acting as his
translator (cr I Peter 5:13).
Now, since Marks writing is a latter recollection of Peters
preaching, it has never been called Peters Gospel:
Mark, having become the interpreter of Peter,
wrote down accurately, though not indeed in order,
whatsoever he remembered of the things said or done
by Christ. (Papias, 1st/2nd Cen., quoted in Eusebius, Hist. Eccl.,
3.39.15)

After their [(Paul & Peters)] departure [from


Rome], Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter,
did also hand down to us in writing what had been
preached by Peter. (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.1.1, 2nd Cen.)
[The Romans] were not content with the unwritten
teaching of the Divine Gospel, but with all sorts of
entreaties they besought Mark, a follower of Peter...
that he would leave them a written monument of the
doctrine which had been orally communicated to
them. (Clement of Alexandria, 2nd/3rd Cen., quoted in Eusebius,
Hist. Eccl., 2.15)

Instead, it has always been reckoned as something akin to the


Gospel According to Mark, the Interpreter of Peter. This
distinction is maintained so as to remind the reader that it is the
product of an ear-witness of Christ rather than the work of an eyewitness of Christ.

1
2

the scribe being Silvanus (cr I Peter 5:12)


The use of Simeon in II Peter 1:1 rather than Simon indicates that the
epistle may have originally been composed in a Hebrew dialect, in which
case an amanuensis might not have been required as Peter could have
been writing in his first language. Further, though doubted by Origen, II
Peter is among the earliest-attested NT works (see p. 98 of SWORD).

Overview of Canonical Scripture, Part II / 137

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
1. What is a propitiatory sacrifice? Why is this topic relevant to an
overview of the NT?

_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
2. Do Christians keep the OT Law? Why or why not?

_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
3. What is the significance of the death of John the Apostle for the
Biblical-Historical Christian?

_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________

138 / SWORD

_______________________________
_______________________________
4. Which of the major divisions within the NT must be dealt with
the most cautiously? Why?

_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
5. Did you learn anything about the NT authors that you didnt
know before? If so, what? If not, which bit of information about
the NT authors is most significant to the reliability of the NT?
Why?

_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________

Approaching Scripture / 139

9. Approaching Scripture
Canonical Scripture is the essential element of BiblicalHistorical Christianity insomuch as we adhere to the doctrine of
Sola Scriptura. That is, Scripture is the preeminent authority of our
Faith, hence it is essential that we study, observe, and teach
Scripture: Now Ezra had dedicated himself to the study of the
law of the LORD, to its observance, and to teaching its statutes
and judgments in Israel (Ezra 7:10, NET). To the end of assisting
Biblical-Historical Christians in living the Scriptural life, this
chapter discusses a number of the doctrines pertaining to Scripture,
the Biblical-historical view of Scripture, and the spectrum of the
versions of Scripture which are available to the student of Scripture.

9.1. Specific Scriptural Doctrines


Inerrancy/Infallibility: The doctrines of the inerrancy and the
infallibility of Canonical Scripture figure prominently in many
Protestant discourses. Of these two terms, the second (infallibility)
is the oldest, being derived from the Latin prefix in- and the Latin
word fallere, which respectively mean not and deceive, hence
something that is infallible is something that is not deceptive.
Therefore, to say that Scripture is infallible is to say that
Scripture is not deceptive, that it is a trustworthy witness
regarding the Faith. This, of course, doesnt mean that everyone
who reads Scripture will come to the same conclusion regarding
its meaning and message, but it instead implies that the
responsibility for any misapprehension lies with the reader rather
than the text; the text is NOT trying to deceive anyone, yet people
may be deceived because of their own misinterpretations of or
misapprehensions regarding the text.
The Scriptural situation may be contrasted with that of a
magician: A magician DOES try to deceive his audience such that

140 / SWORD

everyone watching the performance perceives the same illusion


whereas Scripture is the product of faithful witnesses who were
trying to communicate a specific meaning and message that might
only be accurately understood by some people. The reason for the
difference in the scope of reception is that magicians control how
their illusions are viewed (usually from one direction, often
looking at a stage, under very controlled conditions) while the
authors of Scripture cannot control the circumstances under which
their works are read.
Nonetheless, the fault for misunderstanding rests with the
reader insomuch as it is the role of a witness (Scripture) to
faithfully convey the events under consideration but not
necessarily to ensure one particular interpretation of those events.
The interpretation rests with the juror (the reader, the one
receiving the testimony) and thus the juror is ultimately
responsible for the sentence that is pronounced regarding a
particular set of testimonies (especially if the testimonies are
trustworthy). This means that those who do not adhere to the Faith
after exposure to the Scriptures will justly be condemned for their
forfeiture of the way of God (Luke 16:29-31).
Inerrancy, on the other hand, is the younger term in that it did
not become popular until the turn of the 20th century. Inerrancy is
derived from the Latin prefix in- and the Latin word errans, which
respectively mean not and wandering/deviating. Resultantly,
Scriptural inerrancy means that Scripture does not wander/
deviate from the truth and is thus completely truthful.
Moreover, the inerrancy (truthfulness) of Scripture is generally
taken to imply that Scripture is not only trustworthy regarding the
Faith but that it is accurate (truthful) regarding every topic it
touches upon inasmuch as its message hasnt been misunderstood.
In many cases, the inerrancy of Scripture has been confirmed by
external sources1, but, in other places, the inerrancy of Scripture
1

For example, people once believed that Isaiahs mention of the Assyrian
king Sargon (Isa. 20:1) must have been an error as no extra-Biblical record
existed which spoke of the existence of such a king. However, between
1842 and 1844, Sargon IIs palace was discovered and thus [Next Page]

Approaching Scripture / 141

requires that one accept a view that runs counter to the science
and scholarship that is predominantly accepted1. Since Scripture
teaches some things that non-Biblical-Historical Christians do not
accept, inerrancy is then lived out in the Disciples life via a
commitment to not reinterpret Scripture to align with whatever the
external views of the day may be. Rather, the Disciple ought to
interpret Scripture in light of its original wording, the original
meaning of those words, the context (textual and historical) of that
original meaning, and its interpretation of itself (Scripture often
talks about the same topics in multiple places and thus
qualifies/explains itself).
Now both the doctrines of infallibility and inerrancy can be
derived from Scripture (i.e., Luke 16:19-31; John 10:35), and are
especially evident in passages such as II Timothy 3:14-15 and
Isaiah 8:20 which necessitate the trustworthiness and truthfulness
of Scripture. Likewise, some of the ancients affirmed the singular
infallibility and inerrancy of Canonical Scripture:
For I confess to your Charity that I have learned to
yield this respect and honor only to the Canonical
books of Scriptureof these alone do I most firmly
believe that the authors were completely free from
error. (Augustin, Letter 82, 1.3, 4th/5th Cen.)
Inspiration: Christians believe that all of the Canonical Scriptures
are breathed out by God (inspired by God), that
No prophecy of [S]cripture ever comes about by the
prophets own imagination, for no prophecy was ever
borne of human impulse; rather, men carried along by
the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (II Pet. 1:20-21, NET)
it was found that the Scriptures had spoken correctly regarding
something outside the context of the Faith itself (<www.britishmuseum.org/
explore/highlights/ highlight_objects/me/c/colossal_winged_bull.aspx>).
1

For instance, the Scriptures teach that Jesus was bodily resurrected (cr
John 20:24-29; Acts 4:10), an ostensible impossibility. Likewise, the
Scriptures teach that God created everything in six roughly 24-hour days
somewhere between six and eight thousand years ago (Gen. C1-C11) and
that the Flood was a worldwide event (cr II Peter 3:6), both of which are
rejected by most modern scientists.

142 / SWORD

This doctrine is important in that it states that the Scriptures arent


merely human products, not mere human testimonies. Instead,
the Scriptures were written at the prompting of God and thus,
as the Word of God, accomplish the will of God (Isa. 55:11).
That said, inspiration does not imply Canonization but is only
a property coincident therewith. That is, as mentioned on page 80
of SWORD, the early Christians considered many works to be
inspired in addition to Canonical Scripture, hence inspiration is
not a sufficient criterion of Canonicity. For example, Christians
believe that all rule and reign is instituted by God (Rom. 13:1),
hence all leaders are, in some sense, prompted to write what they
write as a result of the prompting of God, whether for wrath or for
blessing, and thus produce inspired works that accomplish the will
of God. At the same time, these inspired works would obviously
not be incorporated into Canonical Scripture since they are not
intended to be the standard and guide of the Faith.
Perspicuity & Sufficiency: The perspicuity of Scripture refers to
the clarity of Scripture, to the fact that the message of Canonical
Scripture can be comprehended by practically anyone
provided that one chooses to take the study thereof seriously
(Deu. 30:11-14 & 31:24-29; Ezra 7:10). The sufficiency of Scripture, on
the other hand, is a reference to the fact that everything which is
essential for the Faith is found in ScriptureScripture is an
adequate compendium (collection) of that which is necessary
for right Faith (Luke 16:29-31; II Tim. 3:15). These two concepts of
perspicuity and sufficiency are often paired in the historical
discussions of Scripture in that Scripture is only useful if it is both
comprehensible to the common person and comprehensive with
regard to all the vital aspects of the Faith:
A sound mind, and one which does not expose its
possessor to danger, and is devoted to piety and the
love of truth, will eagerly meditate upon those things
which God has placed within the power of mankind,
and has subjected to our knowledge, and will make
advancement in [acquaintance with] them, rendering
the knowledge of them easy to him by means of daily

Approaching Scripture / 143

study. [(This first sentence affirms perspicuity, that those who take
the study of Scripture seriously will be able understand it.)] These
things are such as fall [plainly] under our observation,
and are clearly and unambiguously in express terms
set forth in the Sacred Scriptures. [(This second sentence, in
addition to again affirming perspicuity by saying that Scripture is clear
and unambiguous, also affirms sufficiency, that Scripture contains all
those things that God wishes for us to understand.)] (Irenaeus, Against
Heresies, 2.27.1, 2nd Cen.)

Scriptura: For our purposes, we will say that a scriptura is a


particular statement meant to describe how an individual or group
relates its body of scripture to its faith. In particular, most of the
positions that various people or groups hold relative to their
scriptures can be identified as being within one of the four
positions listed below. It should also be noted that BiblicalHistorical Christians adhere to Sola Scriptura and thus the others
will be discussed in contrast to Sola Scriptura.
Sola Scriptura states that Canonical Scripture (as that which
most excellently commends itself as the original text) is
(1) the only rule of the Faith which is incontrovertible and
unsurpassable in all matters of theology, doctrine,
practice, creeds (statements of faith), morality, etc;
(2) the sole standard of the Faith which is completely
trustworthy (infallible) and truthful (inerrant);
(3) the exclusive source of dogmas (the beliefs which have to
be held for right faith)1;
(4) used to regulate the Faith by what is either expressly
stated therein or is a necessary implication thereof; and
(5) interpreted and taught by Men who have an appreciation
of the history of the Faith and who have been discipled
within the Church Universal (it is expected that
interpreters/teachers will have submitted themselves to
1

This tenet is dependent on the sufficiency of Scripture in that, if


Scripture contains all of the things that are essential to the Faith, then
Scripture can rightly be used as the source of all dogmatic
proclamations, provided they do not extend into mere matters of opinion
(Rom. 14:1).

144 / SWORD

appropriate masters and will have been commended by


those instructors before presenting Scripture to the laity)1.
The careful observer will note that Sola Scriptura is NOT
(a) a denial of the need for church oversight and top-down
instruction/leadership;
(b) a means of escaping orderly training and discipleship;
(c) a license for the free interpretation of the Scriptures by
everyone and anyone in every and any manner;
(d) a rejection of the instructive capacity of the church
fathers, ancient creeds, and early controversies (merely a
rejection of them as being binding authorities); or
(e) a denunciation of secondary sources of authority (e.g.,
overseers/elders/deacons derive their positions and their
implicit authority from Canonical Scripture and thus may
legitimately enact whatever policies or make any
decisions they deem fit insomuch as they do not violate
the precepts or unquestionable principles of Scripture).
Prima Scriptura is a rejection of Sola Scriptura in that it
allows for the existence of other infallible standards of the
Faith, though they are still seen as less important than or
correctable by Scripture. Prima Scriptura is the view held by
groups such as the Anglicans and Methodists in that they
incorporate elements of tradition, reason, and sometimes
ones experience into their understanding of the Faith.
Further, one could arguably propose that Pentecostals also
adhere to Prima Scriptura in that some Pentecostal groups
place a high degree of emphasis on the reception of personal
revelations which come by way of the Holy Spirit. However,
only some Pentecostal groups consider such revelations to be
infallible while others accept that such revelations could be
untrustworthy or untruthful and thus believe them to be
completely subject to the oversight afforded by Scripture (in
1

This tenet coincides with perspicuity in that the clarity of Scripture is


dependent on the dedication of the reader to comprehending the
parameters of the Faith and to understanding Scripture in light of its
historical context.

Approaching Scripture / 145

which case they could adhere to Sola Scriptura). Groups


which have this view of Scripture (Prima Scriptura) usually
reject items 2, 3, or 5 of the definition of Sola Scriptura.
Simul Scriptura is not a term generally employed but it was
instead coined for use in lists such as this one. Simul Scriptura
is meant to represent the view found in Traditional
Christianity which states that their scriptures are simultaneous
with one or more other infallible standards of authority, such
as the Magisterium, Holy Tradition, the church institution, the
record of papal decrees, ecumenical decisions, etc. This view
is opposed to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura in that it rejects
items 1, 2, 3, & 4 of that definition. The rejection of item 1 is
especially important from the Biblical-historical perspective
in that rejection of Canonical Scripture as the one formal
source of authority implicitly leads to the church being the
entity which decides how the traditions, scriptures, edicts, etc,
are to be selected and interpreted. Consequently, Simul
Scriptura is more commonly known in Protestant circles as
Sola Ecclsia1, the situation in which the church institution
itself functionally becomes the preeminent standard of the
Faith. The problem, of course, is that the various church
institutions change with time, hence violating a
straightforward interpretation of Jude 1:3 and II Peter 1:3,
both of which imply that everything essential to the Faith had
already been established in the first century by the ministry of
the 12 Apostles and the preceding ministry of the Prophets.
Therefore, later alterations or new dogmas would be
equivalent to calling Jude and Peter liars.2

1
2

MEANING by church alone


Here it should be noted that Roman Catholicism has dogmatized the
perpetual virginity of Mary whereas such was not always considered a
dogma of the Faith (footnote 2 on pp. 119-20 of SWORD). Likewise, the Eastern
Orthodox dogmatically teach that paradise and hell are not two
different places (George Metallinos, Paradise and Hell According to Orthodox
Tradition, para. 5, 2009, emphasis added) even though their own church fathers
taught that they are (footnote on p. 50 of SWORD). Thus, if one is [Next Page]

146 / SWORD

Solo Scriptura is a pejorative term used to describe the belief


that all you need is a Bible. This view is often confused
with Sola Scriptura by some Protestants (mostly Evangelicals
& Pentecostals) but is distinct in that Solo Scriptura rejects
item 5 of the definition of the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. That
is, proponents of Solo Scriptura are generally not properly
vetted nor trained in the history of Christianity and thus have
little regard for or understanding of the significance of the
creeds, treatises, and forerunners which led to their modern
faith.1 The result of this lack of proper training and
discipleship is relativistic chaos (Judges 21:25).

9.2. The Biblical-Historical View of Scripture


Describing how a religion views its scripture(s) is no simple
task, and perhaps it is a task aided by comparison. That is, one finds
considerable differences among the three primary Abrahamic
religions (Judaism, Christianity, & (nominally) Islam) as to how
they view their scripture(s), differences which can be very
instructive. For example, Judaism views their written commands,
called the Tanakh, as having differing levels of authority: The
Torah (Lawwhat Christians call the Pentateuch) has the highest
authority, the Neviim (Prophets) is second in rank, and the Ketuvim
(WritingsPsalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations,
Ecclesiastes, & Esther) is the least authoritative. In addition to these

three classes of written commands within the Tanakh, there are also
the oral commands (better known as the Talmud, consisting of the
Mishnah (the oral commands themselves) and Gemara (commentaries on the
Mishnah)) and the (usually later-written) answers (consisting of the
midrashes (extrapolations; midrashim) and the responsa (responses of

looking for consistency, well, you wont find it in Traditional


Christianity (e.g., Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy).
It wouldnt be a bad thing for a pastor to be able to name 10 AnteNicene and 10 Post-Nicene church fathers. It also wouldnt hurt for him
to able to list the major results of the seven East-West ecumenical
councils.

Approaching Scripture / 147

experts to current situations)).

Despite the multiplicity of classifications,


however, all of them are bound together by the concept that they, in
one form or another, communicate and help one live out the
commands (law) of God. In particular, later scriptures serve to
clarify earlier scriptures and apply them to modern contexts, and
thus what comes later must, in some sense, be in agreement with
what was first revealed.
In a manner somewhat similar to the different authority levels of
scripture found in Judaism, Islam holds the Quran as the perfect
scripture while interpreting it first with the aid of the hadith (the
sources that claim to quote the statements of Muhammad) and then
with more general tafsir (literature meant as commentary on and
explication of the Quran). Nonetheless, whereas the Judaic view of
scripture allows it to accumulate in proportion to its perceived
agreement with previous scripture, Muslims believe that the
previously-given scripturesthe Torah (the original, now lost, Law
given to Moses), the Injeel (the original, now lost, Gospel given to
the purely human prophet Jesus), the Zaboor (the original, now lost,
Psalms of David), and the Suhuf (the original, now lost, Scrolls of
Moses and Abraham)1are only correct insomuch as they have
neither been altered nor deliberately misconstrued as determined by
comparison with the Quran (cr Imam Kamil Mufti, IslamReligion.com:
Belief in Scriptures, modified 2015). That is, Islam teaches that the
previously-given scriptures were allowed by their god to suffer
corruption since they were not meant to be universal in application
(as to time and place) and are therefore unreliable in the modern era.
The only scripture accepted to be universal in application in Islam is
1

These probably refer to the Revelation of Moses (1st Cen.) and the
Testament of Abraham (1st/2nd Cen.), respectively. Both of these works are
still extant, but neither mainstream Judaism nor mainstream Christianity
would go so far as to call them scripture in any authoritative sense. Islam
and Mormonism, on the other hand, both being later-arriving religions
which did not witness the extrapolative origin of these works, consider
them to be scriptural, the former considering them to be lost and the
latter claiming to have restored them. Generally, the Islamic and
Mormon interpretations/restorations of these works bear no semblance to
the historical versions that are actually extant.

148 / SWORD

the Quran, hence it must not suffer corruption and it must


continually be verbally perfect and inimitable (supposedly nothing
human can match the Quran as to either content or form).
Jesus view of Scripture, however, is not like that of either
Judaism or Islam. In contrast to Judaism, Jesus of Nazareth taught
that the oral commands were not binding. For example, when a
Jewish person performs their hand washing ritual, he/she is
supposed to say, Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the
universe, who has sanctified us with Thy commandments and
has commanded us concerning the washing of the hands (Rabbi
Louis Jacobs, Hand washing: Jewish custom now normally associated with meals
started with Temple purity, n.d.),

which clearly attributes the oral


command to God (even if by way of those leading Gods
institution), but Jesus clearly referred to this ritual as being a
tradition of Men in contrast to the written commandment of God
(Mark 7:1-8). This does not mean that Christ rejected oral tradition
altogether (cr Matt. 23:1-3), just that He did not accept oral tradition as
binding. Put another way, Jesus implicitly taught that oral tradition
is correct insomuch as it accords with the written Word.
Consequently, the early Christians likewise taught that the only
valid oral tradition is that which coincides with Scripturethey
viewed the authentic written tradition as independent of the
authentic oral tradition and viewed both, inasmuch as they were
indeed authentic, as containing the same principal teachings1 (II
Thess. 2:15; cr Irenaeus quotes on page 5 of SWORD). Biblical-Historical
Christians maintain this ancient Faith by allowing the oral/
secondary traditions to speak and by even, as situations necessitate,
creating traditions of our own2, but, in imitation of Christ, we
understand that all oral/secondary/later-created traditions are invalid
if they are found to contradict Canonical Scripture.
1

i.e., oral/later tradition isnt required (though it may be expedient) for


understanding an essential doctrine of Scripture nor are any essential
doctrines found only in authentic oral/later traditions
e.g., it was/is a tradition in American Protestantism to conduct church
services on Wednesday evenings, but no precedent for such is found in
Scripture or preexisting tradition

Approaching Scripture / 149

Now, Jesus statement that the Jews were practicing commands


of Men rather than those of God should not be taken to imply that
He was restoring some lost message, which is what the Islamic (and
Mormon) view may posit. Contrarily, while He distinguished
between the level of authority associated with the oral and written
traditions, He in no way indicated that the original message had
been completely lost or corrupted. In fact, He implied that the
written tradition had been so sufficiently preserved that He could
prove the doctrine of the resurrection1 on the basis of the particular
tense of a verb found in Exodus 3:6 (cr Luke 20:27-40; Paul did similarly
in Gal. 3:16). Whats more, and contrary to what seems to be a
popular opinion, He never stated that He came to establish some
new revelation. Contrarily, He said that He came not to abolish the
preexisting revelations but to fulfill them (Matt. 5:17). Accordingly,
Jesus actively taught that the Scriptures, as they were, pointed to
Him rather than claiming that they had suffered corruption (John 5:39;
Luke 24:13-53). Likewise, He even taught that the preexisting
revelation was to be taken as a greater testimony than that afforded
by resurrection and that the preexisting revelation was sufficient
unto Salvation (Luke 16:19-31). This continuity of revelation was
affirmed by early Christians in that they also stated that Gods mode
and method of Salvation had not changed with Christ (cr Rom. 4:1-3):
And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are
not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or
understanding, or godliness, or works which we have
wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through
which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified
all men; to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
(I Clement, 32, 1st Cen.)

Modern Biblical-Historical Christians also affirm that, since there


was nothing for Christ to restore materially, His primary ministry
was instead that of fulfillment; the previous revelations had been

and implicitly non-annihilationism (cr Mark 9:47-48)

150 / SWORD

ignored by some, but they hadnt been lost or hopelessly corrupted,


hence Christ didnt need to restore any lost or corrupted message. 1
So, to recap, the Biblical-historical view of Scripture, as
given by the example of Christ, differentiates between the oral
and written traditions, specifically with the tradition of Sacred
Scripture taking precedence over all other traditions.
Additionally, Biblical-Historical Christians do NOT emphasize
the verbal perfection of Scripture since we believe that
Scripture has been sufficiently preservedverbal perfection
isnt required in Christianity, just substantial preservation. (For
example, if your boss dictates an email and the secretary leaves a
typo in itt but you can still understand the overall message, then
your boss would rightly expect you to do whatever the email
requests of you even thought the email isnt verbally perfect.
Similarly, a boss may choose to allow multiple emails to be sent
outsome describing in brief what he expects, others which
explain things in detail, some being concise, and others
exhaustivebut no wise employee would refuse to pay heed to
them on the basis that they are not uniform and therefore not
verbally perfect.) Moreover, Biblical-Historical Christians actually
deny verbal perfection because it would violate another component
of our view of Scripture which has historically been held to be
essential to the Faith: transmissibility.
Transmissibility is the belief that Scripture can be granted to
any people by any reasonably correct and complete translation
which accounts for time and place. This view is somewhat similar
to that found in early Judaism in that the early Jews translated much
of their scriptures into Greek so that far-flung congregations of Jews
would have access to their scriptures. However, whereas the Jewish
1

This example is important for Biblical-Historical Christians in that, just


as the scribes and Pharisees of the Incarnate Sons day had perverted the
true message, so too can any church institution or church leader(s)
pervert the true message. This would be quite terrible if not for the
remainder of the example: Just as the true message had been sufficiently
preserved at that time and was available to those who chose to read it
and study it, so too is the true message available today to those willing to
read it and study it.

Approaching Scripture / 151

basis for transmissibility is pragmatic, the Biblical-historical basis is


essential: Christ told His followers to be His witnesses in
Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest
parts of the earth (Acts 1:8, NET) and to [teach] them [(the
converts)] to obey everything [He had] commanded (Matt. 28:20,
NET), which could only be meaningfully done if the testimony of the
original eye- and ear-witnesses of Christ, and that of the Prophets
who spoke of Him, could also be taken into every possible venue.
Therefore, Christians have been translating their Scriptures from the
beginning (some early translations being those done in Latin,
Georgian, Coptic, Sahidic, Armenian, & Slavonic).
If one accepts that scripture can be translated, that it is
transmissible, then one must, in contradistinction to Islam, reject
that it only exists in one verbally perfect form. That is, if scripture
were verbally perfect, then translation would substantially diminish
it, but Biblical-Historical Christians dont believe that those who
read in another language are in any inherently critical way
diminished when compared to their Christian brethren. Further,
aside from the use of a photocopier, transmitting any writing also
necessitates some level of alteration (even the supposedly verbally perfect
Quran and most correct Book of Mormon have been irrecoverably altered from
1

in that there will be both the errors of scribes and


adjustments required by changes to the language itself (e.g.,
Hebrew, Aramaic, & Arabic were originally written without vowel
points while Greek was originally written without breathing marks).
Consequently, as we accept that Canonical Scripture can effectually
exist even when translated or transmitted, Biblical-Historical
Christians view every collection of Scripture that is out there as a
version, none being verbally perfect. This versional view of
Scripture requires that it also be viewed in its entirety and according
to its accuracy.
Now we view Scripture in its entirety because the individual
components will necessarily be altered with translation and
transmission. That is, entirety means that even though we do
their original forms)

Keith Small, Textual Criticism and Qurn Manuscripts, p. 168; Royal Skousen, Editors
Preface, The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text, p. XXXIV, p. XXXV, & p. XLV.

152 / SWORD

sometimes, in imitation of Christ, make points based upon one


particular word in the text, those individual points are always
made in light of the broader context of Canonical Scripture.1
For example, someone may quote my previous statement that
individual components will necessarily be altered with
translation and transmission so as to imply that I believe that
Scripture is fundamentally unreliable, but such a quote can only be
taken to prove such a thing if divorced of the broader context of this
book. Likewise, we as Biblical-Historical Christians, though making
particular points about particular words from time to time, are
always to ground the points we make in the whole of what Scripture
says. Put another way, the principle of entirety states that the overall
message of a work ought to be used to anchor the interpretation
thereof rather than individual components as individual components
will vary from version to version.
Nonetheless, when a version fails to communicate the original
message, it ceases to be a version of that original message and thus
becomes a perversion. In other words, viewing Scripture in its
entirety is only helpful if that version is reasonably accurate.
Consequently, Biblical-Historical Christians are sensitive to the task
of obtaining translations and transmissions of Canonical Scripture
that are indeed reasonably accurate. Now the standard of accuracy is
not some golden tablet hidden in some dark recess, nor is it that
which is used by the majority, nor is it simply what is traditional.
No, Biblical-Historical Christians are subject to the standard of
history in that they engage in historical inquiries to establish
historical truths.
Given our commitment to historical truth, we define an accurate
version of Scripture as a version which communicates the messages
of the original texts reasonably well when compared to the best
available reconstructions of the Scriptural texts as originally
composed. Subsequently, one should note that accuracy is a

Incidentally, the entirety of scripture coincides with a doctrine called


Tote Scriptura, the affirmation that the entirety of Canonical
Scripture should be taught to the entirety of the congregation.

Approaching Scripture / 153

commitment to originalitywe do want to know what the


Prophets and Apostles actually said rather than what others say they
said. This being the case, Biblical-Historical Christians spend a
considerable amount of time and effort in studying the historical
record which is available to usthe original language manuscripts,
the early translations, and the early church fathers quotations
thereofso as to determine the most historically authentic text
possible. No, such does not guarantee that our best versions are
verbally perfect, but such does guarantee that we do have historical
evidence which overwhelmingly demonstrates that our best versions
are reasonably accurate. Further, it is this claim as to historical
reasonability that sets Biblical-Historical Christianity apart from
that of some other religions: We are evidential rather than simply
declarative; we continually seek truth and a better understanding
rather than presupposing that we have them (cr Jer. 5:1).

9.3. The Versional Accuracy Spectrum


As previously mentioned, Biblical-Historical Christians do not
believe that all versions of Canonical Scripture are equal in
accuracy. In fact, Biblical-Historical Christians often rate the
various versions according to their accuracy. The spectrum itself
ranges between the completely inaccurate to the completely
accurate, but no actual version of Canonical Scripture really exists
at either of these extremes. That is, a version which is completely
inaccuratewhich at every point teaches something contrary to the
best reconstruction of the original textshas never been observed
(the text wouldnt be coherent nor recognizable as Canonical
Scripture). Likewise, insomuch as the best reconstruction of the
original texts are subject to revision given new information, no
version can claim to be 100% accurate in every respect. This being
the case, versions of Scripture are simply closer to one extreme or
the other. Those that are closer to the extreme of inaccuracy may be
thought of as perversions.

154 / SWORD

Perversions, in some usually systematic way, lead people away


from the historical Faith. That is, they (often intentionally) deviate
from what the historical-textual evidence suggests was believed
by the earliest Christians. They often include renderings that have
never been observed before and have no basis in the manuscript
record. Perversions also include reasonably accurate main texts
that have been paired with commentary (marginal notes,
footnotes, appendixes, etc) which contradict a sound exegesis 1 of
the text. Fairly famous perversions in English (in addition to most
of the modern European translations) include the
Douay-Rheims (it mistranslates (metanoia) as do penance
instead of repentance),
Joseph Smith Translation (JST; among other alterations to the text,
Joseph Smith added a prediction of himself as a seer to Gen. C50, an
emendation for which NO historical support has ever been found),

Knox Bible (KNOX; it also mistranslates ),


New World Translation (NWT; it mistranslates passages which
relate to the full Deity of Christ, including John 1:1, Rom. 9:5, Phili. 2:511, Tit. 2:13, Heb. 1:8-12 (Psa. 45:6-7 & 102:21&25-27), & II Pet. 1:1),

Orthodox Study Bible (OSB; it misconstrues I Tim. 3:15 (p. XXI)


and divorces it from such passages as I Cor. C3 & II Tim. 2:19),
Sacred Scriptures (Bethel Edition) (SSBE; it is a sacred-name
version that tries to restore the supposedly appropriate names of God and
is used to mandate observance of the Sabbath, contrary to Col. 2:16-17),

and
Wycliffe Bible (WYC; it also mistranslates ).
Versions do not systematically lead one away from the historical
Faith, but that doesnt mean that that they always represent it
particularly well either. Generally speaking, versions fall into one
of two main categories: those that simply do not contradict the
fundamentals of the Faith (see page 17 of SWORD) and those that
accurately reflect the textual evidence so as to support the
fundamentals of the Faith.

To exegete a text means to interpret it by drawing things out from the


text itself rather than interpreting it on the basis of the presuppositions or
dictates of an institution or individual (which is called eisegesis).

Approaching Scripture / 155

Non-Contradictory versions are commonly referred to as


paraphrases because they are often stylistically very different
from the text found in the best historical manuscripts. That is,
these versions are usually designed to be impactful for a
modern audience and thus often deviate from the best
historical text. Further, in seeking to impact modern
audiences, non-contradictory versions are usually written at a
very low reading level. Since these versions deviate from
the best historical text and simplify that text to obtain a
low reading level, they are useless when it comes to
actually proving any key element of the Faith. Nonetheless,
insomuch as they do not contradict the Faith, they are
acceptable for use in the local congregation provided they are
not being used to prove any point of Christian doctrine. Noncontradictory versions found in English include the
Contemporary English Version (CEV),
Good News Translation (GNT),
Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS),
The Message (MSG),
New Century Version (NCV),
New International Readers Version (NIRV/ICB),
New Life Version (NLV),
New Living Translation (NLT), and
The Voice (VOICE).
Supportive versions are intentionally made so as to be used to
prove Christian doctrine. That being said, even supportive
versions may be distinguished from one another as to their
accuracy. In particular, Christian doctrine may be separated
into primary, secondary, and tertiary categories, and
supportive versions can be rated according to their ability to
support those various categories.
Primary versions can be used to prove the fundamental
tenets of the Faith, but they do not reflect the most
accurate version of the text with regard to significant
portions of their text. These versions are generally older
and thus have texts which are based on less textual

156 / SWORD

information. Further, these versions may be borderline


paraphrases which occasionally, but sometimes
unnecessarily, deviate from the best historical text in
order to appeal to modern audiences. Some primary
versions that are found in English include the
21st Century King James Version (KJ21),
American Standard Version (ASV),
Brentons Translation of the Septuagint,
Darby Translation (DARBY),
Geneva Bible (GNV),
King James Version (Authorized Version) (KJV/AV),
Matthews Bible,
New English Translation (NET),
New International Version (NIV) 1,
New King James Version (NKJV),
Revised Standard Version (RSV), and
Youngs Literal Translation (YLT).
Secondary versions are those that reflect the best available
information regarding the historical text of the Faith.
They seldom deviate from the manuscript evidence and
can be used to prove all of those doctrines which
Christians must dogmatically believe (not just the
fundamental beliefs). Secondary versions found in
English include the
English Standard Version (ESV),
Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB),
New American Standard Bible (NASB),
New English Translation of the Septuagint (NETS),
and
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).
Tertiary versions would be those which so accurately
coincide with the original text that one could be dogmatic
regarding every detail found within them. The problem,
1

Some would give the NIV 2011 more regard than this, but it is certainly
inferior when compared to the versions which will follow.

Approaching Scripture / 157

however, is that no such version exists. That is, even the


best versions will differ slightly from one another. Put
another way, there are some textual details that even the
best scholars of the Faith do not agree on. When it comes
to those variations that are not clear, one is rightly
admonished by the Translators of the King James Version
to not dogmatize disputable matters (cr Rom. 14:1):
Yet, for all that it cannot be dissembled, that [(1)]
partly to exercise and whet our wits; [(2)] partly to
wean the curious from loathing of them [(the
Scriptures)] for their everywhere-plainness; [(3)]
partly also to stir up our devotion to crave the
assistance of Gods spirit by prayer; and, lastly,
[(4)] that we might be forward to seek aid of our
brethren by conference and never scorn those that
be not in all respects so complete as they should be
(being [needful] to seek in many things ourselves),
it hath pleased God in his Divine providence, here
and there to scatter words and sentences of that
difficulty and doubtfulness, not in doctrinal points
that concern Salvation (for in such it hath been
vouched that the Scriptures are plain), but in
matters of less moment, that fearfulness would
better beseem us than confidence, and if we will
resolve, to resolve upon modesty with Augustin
(though not in this same case altogether, yet upon
the same ground),... it is better to make doubt of
those things which are secret, than to strive about
those things that are uncertain... For as it is a
fault of incredulity to doubt of those things that
are evident, so to determine of such things as the
Spirit of God hath lefteven in the judgment of
the judiciousquestionable can be no less than
presumption. (The Translators [of the King James Version] to
the Reader, 1611 edition of the KJV)

158 / SWORD

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
1. What does it means for a text to be inspired? Is inspiration the
guarantee that a work is Canonical? Why or why not?

_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
2. What is the doctrine of Sola Scriptura? How does it compare
with the other scripturas? Why is Solo Scriptura particularly
problematic?

_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
3. How does Jesus of Nazareths view of Scripture compare with
the Judaic and Islamic views of scripture? How are they
similar? In what ways do they differ?

_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________

Approaching Scripture / 159

_______________________________
_______________________________
4. Are all versions of Canonical Scripture equal in accuracy? Why
or why not might this be a significant issue?

_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
_______________________________
Priesthood Authority and the Power to Baptize
In Biblical-Historical Christianity, there are two groups to which the
term priest may be applied. The first and most ancient group to which
the term priest can be applied are those consecrated to God (Exo. 19:5-6 &
28:41; Lev. 8:12) and particularly to those who offer sacrifices and perform
ministry before God on behalf of others (or themselves; Heb. 7:27) (Gen.
14:18-20; Exo. 30:30). Under the first covenant, such a priest had to be a
descendant of Aaron (the brother of Moses; Exo. 6:20, 29:9, & 40:14-15) and
they had to have been ordained through sacrifice (e.g., Exo. C29).
However, under the second covenant, Christ fulfilled all the sacrificial
requirements of the first covenant, and thus everyone who is in Him has
been consecrated by His sacrificial death (Heb. 10:5-14). Whats more,
those who are in Christ, having been bought at a price (I Cor. 6:20), offer
themselves as living sacrifices unto God (Rom. 12:1). Consequently,
given the Church-wide application of Christs sacrifice unto our
consecration and ministry before God, Biblical-Historical
Christians accept that all Disciples are priests in this sense (Rom. 12:1;
I Peter 2:4-5; Rev. 1:5b-6).

The second type of person, aside from the common Disciple, who
may be called a priest is an elder of the Body of Christ. That is, in
Koin Greek, the word for elder is presbyteros (), which
early Christians shortened to prest and was eventually transliterated into
English as priest. Now the significance of elders as priests is that, while
early Christians accepted that all Disciples are priests in the sense that
they are consecrated by and ministers of the Lord, they also understood
that the Disciples are not alike in function or role within the Body of
Christ to the end that the Body may operate in an orderly way (I Cor. C12

160 / SWORD

Specifically, elder-priests are to be selected so as to oversee


the Faithmanaging the business of the congregation, representing it
well, and defending sound doctrine (I Tim. 3:1-7; Tit. 1:5-9). Therefore, if
the Order (leadership) of the congregation is present, Biblical-Historical
Christians believe that it is appropriate to submit to its specific
priesthood (Heb. 13:17).
One arena in which submission to the elder-priests sometimes
becomes a point of contention is baptism. That is, people sometimes
wonder if an elder has to be present for a baptism to occur; people
wonder who has authority to baptize. The answer that we have
consistently given is that it is preferred that baptism be overseen but
such oversight is not absolutely essential as all Disciples are indeed
authoritative priests in the sense of being able to minister before the
Lord (cr Heb. 4:15-16; I Pet. 2:4-5; Rev. 1:5b-6):
It is the authority of the assembly and the honor which has
acquired [distinction] through the joint session of the Order
which has established the difference between the Order and
the Laity. Accordingly, where there is no joint session of the
assemblys Order, you offer, and baptize, and are priest,
alone for yourself. But where three are, an assembly is, albeit
they be Laics. For each individual lives by his own faith, nor
is there exception of persons with God [(Rom. 2:11)]... (Tertullian,
& 14:26-33).

On Exhortation to Chastity, 7, 2nd/3rd Cen.)

Another point of contention is where the power to baptize comes


from. Some have held that the power comes by way of a proper
succession originating with Christ and the 12 Apostles, but BiblicalHistorical Christians (1) do not hold baptism itself to be an absolute
requirement (see the footnote on pages 61-62 of SWORD) and therefore (2) hold
that the power of conversion rests solely with Christ, He who baptizes
by the Holy Spirit and fire (Matt. 3:11)two things which cannot be held
and thus possessed by the baptizer:
[T]he power from the Lord [goes] to no one, [but] the
ministration [goes] both to good and bad. Let not the Dove
shrink from the ministration of the bad, but have regard to
the power of the Lord. What injury does a bad servant do to
you where the Lord is good?... John learned this by means of
the Dove. What is it that he learned? Let him repeat it
himself: The same said unto me, says he, ...He
[(Jesus)]...baptizes with the Holy Ghost. Let not those
seducers deceive you, O Dove, who say, We baptize.
(Augustin, On the Gospel of John, 5.11, 5th Cen.)

In other words, the person performing (administering) the baptism rite


has no powerthe power of conversion always rests with God, that
none may boast (Rom. 3:27; Eph. 2:8-10).

The Textual Reliability of Scripture / 161

10. The Textual Reliability of Scripture


It is somewhat interesting that a chapter such as this would be
included in an overview of the Bible. Why? Well, though textual
variation existed in the Christian Scriptures from the beginning,
practically no one claimed that the Faith was inherently false
because of that textual variation.1 The reason why such wasnt a
major concern is that Christianity, being an outgrowth of the
Hebrew root, views Canonical Scripture as an icon, or
representation, of God (cr I Maccabees 3:48). That is, in Christianity it
is accepted that no representation (icon) of the Divine is perfect or
complete in its representation since God alone is perfect (Mark 10:18)
and since He, being infinite, cannot be represented in the finite with
completeness (Deu. 4:15-19; I Kings 8:27; Isa. 66:1; Acts 17:24-25).
Consequently, Christians did not start out with a belief that the
Scriptural record had to be perfect, just reasonably coincident with
the originals and earnest in conveying truth.
Now discussing all the reasons to believe that the Canonical
Scriptures are truthful is outside the purview of this book, but one
may find the work of Dr. Peter J. Williams to be expedient to that
effect. That said, it is within the scope of this book to discuss the
text itself. To this end, this chapter has been appended to discuss the
specific controversies which relate to the textual reliability of the
Bible. Specifically, this chapter will discuss how well the Scriptural
text can be reconstructed, whether or not some of the books are
forgeries, and some of the textual variants themselves. (Consider

Though, to be fair, it should be noted that the Jews took issue with
Christians use of some versions of the Septuagint and stated that the
Christians had drawn bad conclusions from it based on places where it
differed from the Hebrew texts (see Justin Martyrs Dialogue with Trypho).
While such bad use of variants did occur (and sadly continues to occasionally
occur in the modern era, especially with regard to Isa. 7:14), Christians did
eventually adopt more accurate versions of the Septuagint and thus the
use of such variants declined in response to a commitment to accuracy.

162 / SWORD

yourself warned: This is a long, involved chapterread it carefully


and dont rush yourself.)

10.1. Can Scripture be Reconstructed?


No. In fact, no text for which the original is no longer extant can
be reconstructed with absolute certaintyyou dont have the
original with which to compare the reconstruction and thus there is
no way to validate the supposed perfection. A group may claim that
their text is a completely accurate representation of the original, but
such is a belief rather than a fact if they cant also produce some
unquestionable standard of comparison (i.e., the original).
Consequently, the Holy Bible, Quran, Book of Mormon, and classics
have rightly been declared to be irrecoverable (in the absolute sense)
by skeptics and conservatives alike (all 20th/21st century, emphasis added):
The New Testament (Part of the Holy Bible): For the
New Testament, the fact that you have so much material
poses problems [when it comes to producing a perfect
reconstruct-tion]... (Edward Hobbs, Prologue, 2, in The Critical
Study of Sacred Texts)

Quran: Instead of seeking to recover or restore its


original Autographic text-forms or even its earliest
Authoritative text-forms, what has been sought instead
[in Qurnic textual criticism as practiced within Islam]
has been to create, from the flexible consonantal
orthography, a form that satisfied as many of the
dogmatic and practical liturgical conditions as possible.
It is a revisionist exercise that in becoming established
as the authoritative and traditional text has led to the
irreparable loss of the most original forms of its early
text. (Keith Small, Textual Criticism and Qurn Manuscripts, p. 168)
Book of Mormon: The appendix [of my (Skousens)
work] provides a list of 719 important changes in the
history of the Book of Mormon, including 95 of the more
significant conjectural emendations I have incorporated

The Textual Reliability of Scripture / 163

into The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text. [(p. xxxiv)]...


In summary, the text in this Yale edition is a
consolidation of the decisions made in the six parts of
volume 4 of the Critical Text Project. Over the course of
the six parts, I analyzed 5,280 [specific] cases of
variation (or potential variation) [out of the total of
approximately 105,000 points of variation1]. [(p. xxxv)]...
In the beginning I did not expect to find the large
number of textual errors that resulted when the text was
copied from the original manuscript into the printers
manuscript. Over time, I have come to realize that,
because only 28 percent of the original [English]
manuscript is extant2, we will never be able to fully
recover the original text of the Book of Mormon by
human means. [(p. xlv)] (Royal Skousen of Brigham Young
University, Editors Preface, The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text)

The Classics: In beginning with classical textual


criticism, I quickly learned that the big problem was
that we have so little material... [I]n most of the classics
you have so little material that it is difficult to
reconstruct the history of the text [let alone the text
itself]. (Edward Hobbs, Prologue, 2, in The Critical Study of Sacred
Texts)

Given that perfect reconstruction is an epistemological


impossibility without the aid of the autographs (originals) or

Royal Skousen, Changes in the Book of Mormon, 2002, paras. 51-2 <www.fairmormon
.org/perspectives/fair-conferences/2002-fair-conference/2002-changes-in-the-book-ofmormon>

Skousen is here referring to the original English manuscript. The original


book written in so-called Reformed Egyptian on golden plates from
which Joseph Smith supposedly translated was said to have been given
back to Moroni on May 2, 1838 (JSH 1:60). Thus, while we might be able
to perform a reasonable reconstruction of the English translation, there is
no way to determine how accurate that English translation is as no
original-language manuscripts are currently available for investigation
(nor will there ever be).

164 / SWORD

textually exact reproductions thereof (e.g., photocopies)1, the


question becomes whether or not Canonical Scripture can be
reconstructed with reasonable (rather than absolute) surety. That is,
we turn to the question of whether or not it is reasonable to believe
that a particular reconstruction is essentially (instead of exactly) the
same as the original Scriptures. In order to ensure a reasonable
reconstruction, two conditions have to be suitably well-satisfied:
Survival: In order for one to have confidence that a
reconstruction is reasonably accurate, one has to have good
reason to believe that the original readings have
substantially survived in the extant material.
Selectability: Likewise, one has to have good reason to
believe that the original readings can be correctly selected
from a lineup of alternative readings if a reconstruction is to
be viewed as being reasonably accurate.
Now another way to phrase the condition of survival is to ask
whether or not conjectural emendation is needed. If one has to
produce conjectures to overcome either impossibilities 2 or lacunae3,
then it is obvious that not all of the original readings have survived.
By contrast, if there is no need for conjectural emendation, then
there IS sufficient reason to believe that the original readings have
survived somewhere in the corpus of available material. Therefore,
to establish that the criterion of survival applies to Canonical
Scripture, we will examine the need for conjectural emendation
1

Meaning that there is no way to give an adequate account of ones


knowledge of the perfect accuracy of a textual reconstruction without a
perfect exemplar.
For example, every variant of a statement may be grammatically
impossiblelike he accidentally cut herself versus she accidentally cut
himselfand thus require one to guess the correct reading if the context
does not clarify the problem (e.g., if the context only spoke of a woman,
then the correct reading would be clear (she...herself), but, if the context
spoke of a man and a woman, then one would have to make a guess
(conjecture) as to the correct reading).
A lacuna is a gap for which no material is extantlike and he opened
the box to reveal...(gap)...which was a surprising discoveryand must
be either left blank or filled by the scholars speculation (conjecture) as
to the missing material.

The Textual Reliability of Scripture / 165

relative to Scripture and do so by examining four key attributes of


any text: attestation, diversity, consistency, and vibrancy.
The first attribute, attestation, is the proximity to the origin
and abundance of the manuscripts (abbreviated mss) which
support a given text. In particular, manuscripts which are close in
chronological proximity to the point of origin serve to validate the
early existence of the text being considered. 1 Early manuscripts also
demonstrate that the later manuscripts are basically reliable (i.e., the
earlier, usually fragmentary, manuscripts couldnt be identified as
being manuscripts of a given text unless they were sufficiently
similar to the later manuscripts of that text). However, since early
manuscripts are often incomplete (fragmentary or partial), they
cannot be used exclusively to reconstruct a text. Instead, one must
turn to the question of abundance, to the question of whether or not
there is an ample number of manuscripts on which to base a
reconstruction. Now, when Canonical Scripture is compared to
other ancient texts as to their attestation, Scripture is found to be
both among the earliest attested and most abundantly attested texts:

Author
or Text &
Century
Written

Number of Extant
Manuscripts
(Mss) & Number
of Centuries
Removed From
Origin

Book of
Mormon 2
(5th AD)

2 mss / 14 cen.

Author or
Text &
Century
Written
Thucydides
(5th BC)

Number of Extant
Manuscripts (Mss) &
Number of Centuries
Removed From
Origin
20 mss / 5+ cen.

For example, if a text were supposedly completed in the 5th century AD


but no manuscript could be found for it which dated any earlier than the
19th century AD, then one would have good reason to doubt that the
original was composed in the 5th century, especially if there were no
external sources corroborating the early date of composition (such is the
case of the Book of Mormon).
Book of Mormon: Im not putting forward the Book of Mormon as a true
ancient work. Instead, Im simply pointing out that the Mormons only
manuscripts, which are written in English, date to the 19th century AD
whereas they say that the Book of Mormon was completed [Next Page]

166 / SWORD

Homer
(8th BC)
Tacitus
(2nd AD)
Suetonius
(2nd AD)
Old
Testament
(5th BC3)

~2,000 mss total /


8+ cen.
3 mss / 7+ cen.

Herodotus
(5th BC)
Livy
(1st AD)

75 mss / 5+ cen.
27 mss / 3+ cen.

200+ mss / 7+ cen.

Quran
(7th AD)

~2,940 mss total 1 / 0+


cen.2 (more than 60 mss
within 2 cen. of origin)

~12,500 mss total /


0+ cen.4 (no more
than 200 mss within
3 cen. of origin)

New
Testament
(1st AD)

~20,000 mss total / 0+


cen.5 (about 50 mss
within 2 cen. of origin)

The second attribute we will consider, diversity, is the


number of variants 6 and distinct textual traditions 1 Next Page which

in the 5th century AD in Reformed Egyptian. They claim that the


original lay untouched in a stone box for those 14 intervening centuries.
Quran I: Obtaining hard numbers for Quranic manuscripts is difficult.
Some sources have claimed that there are as many as 25,000 Quranic
manuscripts, but those counts usually do not differentiate between
independent fragments and fragments which are parts of the same
manuscript. To keep the numbers consistent, I have used the numbers
which seemed to best coincide with the practice followed with Biblical
manuscripts, which is to count fragments of the same manuscript as a
single manuscript rather than counting each of the fragments as different
manuscripts.
Quran II: The Quran isnt an ancient documentits medievaland
hence this isnt exactly a fair comparison. Nonetheless, the Quran was
first recited in the 7th century and there are extant partial Quranic
manuscripts which also date to the 7th century.
Old Testament I: See pp. 22-26 of SWORD regarding the compilation
and consolidation of the OT which was largely executed during the 5th
century BC.
Old Testament II: There are fragmentary silver OT manuscripts which
date to the period before the completion of the OT itself (John N. Wilford,
The New York Times, Solving a Riddle Written in Silver, 2004).

New Testament: The NT manuscript 52, a fragmentary manuscript of


the Gospel of John, dates to around 125 AD while the original Gospel
was probably composed around 90 AD, hence there is less than a century
between an autograph of the NT and the first extant manuscript thereof.
A variant is any difference in spelling, word order, word choice, etc,
between extant manuscripts (or within an extant manuscript).
Estimates of the number of variants do not include how many times each
variant occurs, just the number of differences that exist in [Next Page]

The Textual Reliability of Scripture / 167

are associated with a text. The idea here is that the more options
that are available to us, the more likely it is that the original
readings will be among the options. This logic may sound a bit
strange in that having multiple readings in a textual corpus
necessarily creates difficulty in knowing which reading is original,
but the advantage of variation is that it demonstrates that a given
text was not systematically altered on a universal scale. That is, the
more distinction in the manuscript (abbreviated ms) record, the more it
is demonstrated that there was no overarching force which decided
to select particular readings at the expense of other readings. Thus,
if a textual corpus is quite diverse, then it is likely that (1) the
original readings were not removed by one universal agenda and (2)
the non-original variants that do exist started out as the
idiosyncrasies of individual scribes/groups rather than being the
product of one universal agenda.
When it comes to Canonical Scripture, there is more than
enough variation to determine that the attribute of diversity is
sufficiently present, that it is unlikely (if not impossible) that any
one group ever controlled the entire textual corpus so as to make
systematic changes to the whole of the text: As to the Greek New
Testament (GNT), which consists of about 138,000 words, its
textual corpus contains somewhere between 400,000 and 750,000 2
variants. Likewise, the GNT corpus consists of at least three distinct
the textual corpus (e.g., if 3 manuscripts say and while 3 other manuscripts say but,
then such would only be counted as one variant because there is only one difference: and
versus but). The vast majority of differences in the Greek New Testament,

for example, are spelling differences and regional/dialectal differences


(e.g., use of different word orders, synonyms, and helping words). Very few variants
of Scripture (usually less than 2 percent) actually legitimately and
significantly affect the overall meaning of the passages in which they
occur; none affect core doctrines.
A textual tradition is a body of manuscripts which share particular
tendencies (especially in the variants they include/exclude). For
example, the Alexandrian tradition of the Greek New Testament tends to
be quite conservative and terse while the Western tradition tends to be
somewhat loose and more prone to adding auxiliary material.
Bart Ehrman and Daniel Wallace cite 400,000 GNT variants while Eldon
J. Epp cites 750,000 GNT variants.

168 / SWORD

textual traditions (Alexandrian, Western, and Byzantine). This information


does not include variants and traditions found in the other language
versions of the NT. As to the Hebrew Old Testament, which
consists of roughly 305,000 words, its textual corpus contains some
111,000 variants (this does not include variants found in other languages).
Further, the Old Testament is extant in distinct forms found in the
Masoretic Text, the Septuagint, the various traditions found in the
Dead Sea Scrolls, the Vulgate, and other versions. All of this
diversity demonstrates that very little, if any, universally systematic
control influenced the text of Canonical Scripture.
The third attribute, consistency, is the number of variants
introduced per distinct 1 version of a given text. If the distinct
versions of a text introduce relatively few variants on average, then
we have greater confidence than otherwise in our ability to use them
to reasonably reconstruct the original text (though it should be
stated that most variants usually come from the earlier rather than
later versions of a given text). When Canonical Scripture is
compared to other religious works, its consistency is remarkable:
Number of
Variants Per
Number of
Religious
Variants in
Distinct
Extant Distinct
Work
Extant
Version
Versions
(to 3 sig. fig.)
Corpus

Hebrew Old
Testament

~111,000

Greek New
Testament

~750,000

~3,000
distinct
manuscripts
~5,790
distinct
manuscripts

37.0
var./ms
130
var./ms

Distinct versions are used here since identical versions, by definition, do


not have any variations between them. Were asking how consistent the
different versions are, not how consistent all the versions are.

The Textual Reliability of Scripture / 169

Quran 1

~4,000

English
Book of
Mormon 2

~105,000

10
distinct readings
22
distinct editions &
mss

400
var./reading
~ 4,770
var./edition or
ms

Finally, the last attribute, vibrancy, is the likelihood of


discovering new significant 3 variants to add to a texts corpus
and the plausibility that some of a texts extant manuscripts
could have been based on its autograph(s). Now, the reason why
we would want to know how likely it is that we would discover new
significant variants is that one cannot claim to have composed a
reasonable reconstruction of a text without having all the
noteworthy information. That is, if we have good reason to believe
that previously unknown but nonetheless nontrivial variants are
waiting to be discovered, then any attempt at critical reconstruction
would be premature.
As to computing the likelihood of having all of the significant
variants, one should note that it is generally the case that as more
manuscripts are discovered, more variants are also discovered.
However, as more manuscripts are discovered, fewer new variants
will be discovered as some of the variants will have occurred in
previously known manuscripts. Therefore, at some point, one would
expect that new significant variants would cease to be found. This
point is easy to calculate if one uses the critical history of the Greek
New Testament.

Quran: There is no official estimate of the number of variants found


in the Quranic corpus. This being the case, I have used Muhammad Fahd
Khaaruuns Making Easy the Readings of What Has Been Sent Down
(Daar al-Beirut) collection of the ten readings from al-Shaatebeiah and alDorraah and al-Taiabah as a means of approximating the variants per
distinct version statistic which applies to the Quran.
Book of Mormon: Royal Skousens work on the Book of Mormon (see
quote on pp. 162-3 of SWORD) was based on 2 manuscripts and 20 printed
editions (cr Skousens The Book of Mormon: The Earliest [English] Text, p. 739).
i.e., meaningful (affects the meaning of a passage) and viable (has a legitimate
chance of going back to the original)

170 / SWORD

In 1707, John Mill discovered roughly 3661 variants per Greek


manuscript in the material that was available to him. Presently there
are between 63.9 and 124 2 new variants per manuscript in the Greek
material now available to us. A simple projection of this data
indicates that new significant variants cease to be discovered once
one has between 7,000 and 9,000 distinct manuscripts3 of a text. As
there are over 20,000 total manuscripts which support the NT and
over 12,500 total manuscripts which support the OT (well over the
7,000 to 9,000 manuscript minimum), we can safely say that there are
probably no new significant variants of Canonical Scripture waiting
to be discovered. (Yes, it is possible that significant new variants of Canonical
Scripture might be discovered one day, but this information indicates that such is
very unlikely.)

The second component of vibrancythe plausibility that some


of a texts extant manuscripts could have been based on its
autograph(s)is one that is actually easily satisfied for many
ancient works insomuch as the ancient manuscripts could actually
last quite a long time. For example, if one uses the mid-twentieth
century as a cut-off point4, then one finds that the average age of our
extant Greek New Testament manuscripts is 798 years (with a
standard deviation of 247 years)5. Whats more, even if one decides
1
2

3
4

John Mill discovered 30,000 variants in 82 GNT manuscripts.


The current estimate of GNT variants is between 400,000 and 750,000
variants scattered throughout about 5,790 Greek manuscripts, meaning
that 370,000 to 720,000 of the variants are new relative to those known
to John Mill.
specifically, between 6,998 and 8,729 distinct manuscripts
The mid-20th century is used since very special preservation techniques
have been developed from the mid-20th century onward which will
enable manuscripts to last an unnaturally long time. Consequently, I
have calculated the corresponding ages of the manuscripts as that time
between the middle of the century in which they were composed to the
middle of the 20th century.
These statistics are based on the following data set (with 2 mss in the
20th cen.; and see Next Page):
Century
of Origin
2nd
3rd

Number
of MSS
4
49

Century
of Origin
8th
9th

Number
of MSS
100
241

Century
of Origin
14th
15th

# of MSS
989
350

The Textual Reliability of Scripture / 171

to use the mid-sixteenth century as the cut-off point and restricts the
data to those manuscripts which originate in the ninth to sixteenth
centuries1, then the average age of a GNT manuscript still comes out
surprisingly high: 356 years (with an estimated standard deviation
of 235 years).
Subsequently, given that the average preserved ancient
manuscript probably lasted somewhere between 3.6 and 8.0
centuries, it is possible that some (or all) of the 200+ OT
manuscripts found in the Dead Sea Scrolls (dated from the second century
BC to the first century AD) were written within the timeframe of the
original OT manuscripts that were composed in the fifth century BC
under the final Prophets. Likewise, it is possible that somewhere
between 101 and 671 of the extant GNT manuscripts were written
during the timeframe of the NT autographs. Whats more, multiple
church fathers mentioned the NT originals as being present at the
time of their writing:
Tertullian (~180 AD): Come now, you who would indulge
a better curiosity, if you would apply it to the business of
your salvation, run over [to] the apostolic churches in
which the very thrones of the apostles are still
preeminent in their places, in which their own authentic
writings [(literally original documents as per the Oxford Latin
Dictionary)] are read, uttering the voice and representing
the face of each of them severally. (On Prescriptions Against
Heretics, 36)

4th
5th
6th
7th
1

48
59
101
69

10th
11th
12th
13th

435
843
1174
1080

16th
17th
18th
19th

169
60
12
5

The sixteenth century may be used as a cut-off point if one supposes that
people started to take unnatural care in preserving manuscripts of the
GNT once printed texts began to be produced (which assumes that
people were not intentionally preserving GNT manuscripts before that
time). As to limiting the data to that which is derived from the
manuscripts surviving from the 9th to 16th centuries, the idea is that
such a range (the middle 90% (91.1%) of the data) excludes outliers and
thus gives a more accurate picture of the actual manuscript situation.

172 / SWORD

Augustin (~400 AD): Accordingly, should there be a


question about the text of some passage, as there are a
few passages with various readings well known to
students of the Sacred Scriptures, we should first consult
the manuscripts of the country where the religion was
first taught; and if these still varied, we should take the
text of the greater number, or of the more ancient. And
if any uncertainty remained, we should consult the
original text. This is the method employed by those who,
in any question about the Scriptures, do not lose sight of
the regard due to their authority, and inquire with the
view of gaining information, not of raising disputes.
(Contra Faustum, 11.2)

Nonetheless, it should be noted that the fact that extant manuscripts


of Canonical Scripture may have been written in the timeframe of
the originals does not guarantee that the original autographs were
used as their exemplars or correctors. However, such possible
continuity does lend vibrancy to the reconstruction of Scripture.
So, what does the examination of all of these textual attributes
tell us about the substantial survival of the original readings of
Scripture? In particular, does the one reconstructing Canonical
Scripture need to engage in conjectural emendation? Well, Ill let
the experts answer that question in regard to the NT (the case with
the OT being similar, but less forceful):
One must admit the theoretical legitimacy of applying to
the New Testament a process [(the process of conjectural
emendation)] that has so often been found essential in
the restoration of the right text in classical authors. But
the amount of evidence for the text of the New
Testament, whether derived from manuscripts, early
versions, or patristic quotations, is so much greater than
that available for any ancient classical author that the
necessity of resorting to emendation is reduced to the

The Textual Reliability of Scripture / 173

smallest dimensions. (Bruce M. Metzger & Bart D. Ehrman1 (Eds.),


The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and
Restoration, 2005, p. 230, emphasis added)

In other words, even the scholars agree that the original readings of
Canonical Scripture have substantially survived.
Nevertheless, survival is not enough to guarantee that a
reconstruction is reasonably accuratethe other condition is that of
selectability. To ensure that selectability is reasonably wellsatisfied, textual scholars have developed a set of text-critical
criteria which they use to evaluate variant readings2:
I. External Evidence
A. Date of Witnesses: Readings from early witnesses are
preferred over ones that come from later witnesses.
B. Geographical Distribution of Witnesses: Readings which
are supported in geographically independent witnesses are
preferred over those that are unique to a particular region
or which come from a single geographical source.
C. Lineage of Manuscripts: Readings derived from texts
which are genealogically sound are preferred over those
that are not. That is, the care and scrupulousness of the
scribe(s) in researching their text so as to produce the most
accurate manuscript possible ought to be considered when
evaluating readings. (Readings from careless scribes are
less likely to be correct.)
II. Internal Evidence
A. Transcriptional Probabilities: Readings which are likely
to have derived from scribal errors/alterations are to be
rejected. (However, one has to be careful of ascribing
motives to the scribes since (1) they generally lived
hundreds of years ago and thus can no longer be consulted,
and (2) they generally never overtly stated their opinions
regarding the textual variants for which they were
responsible.)

Interestingly, Bart Ehrman, though an apostate (someone who once


professed the Faith but has since renounced it as untrue), has
obviously agreed that the above quote is true.

This has been adapted from Bruce Metzger & Bart Ehrmans (Eds.) The Text of the New
Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration (pp. 302-4).

174 / SWORD

B. Intrinsic Probabilities: The readings which are most


consistent with what the original author is most likely to
have written are to be preferred. In particular, the original
reading is likely to be the one that best explains the
emergence of any other variant readings.
Even though the above criteria are well-accepted and quite
powerful, they do not ensure that textual variants will be selected
with absolute surety. Instead, the variants which are most probably
correct are the ones selected by the person(s) reconstructing the text,
and the probability varies from variant to variant. A good example
of this would be John 4:51, which the UBS5 apparatus lists as a Blevel variant (one for which we are roughly 85% confident). I am
selecting this particular variant because it is quintessentially typical
of over 78% of the NT variants that are actually notable1: it is a Blevel variant2, its longest form is five words long, and no more than
three of its variant words are found in the apparatus that do not exist
in the main text. The textual situation is as follows (the non-variant
portion was taken from the HCSB):
While he [(a man whose son had been healed by Jesus)]
was still going down, his slaves met him saying that[,]
[][the]
1. boy1 [of] him2 [(3rd cen. reading)]
2. boy1 [of] you3 [(8th cen. reading, MAJORITY)]
3. son4 [of] you3 [(3rd cen. correction)]
4. boy1 [of] you3 (the5 son4 [of] him2)
[(11th cen. reading)]
[][is/was] alive.[]
As one can see, the two readings which go back the furthest are
Readings 1 & 3 whereas Reading 4 is an obvious late conflation of
1

The UBS5, the apparatus of which is restricted for the most part to
variant readings significant for translators or necessary for the
establishing of the text (p. X) (i.e., just the notable variants), lists 1,406 points
of variation (not counting variants within larger variants, in which case the number
would be closer to 1,430 points of variation), the maximal impact of which is a
difference of 6,341 words (95.4% of the NT text is free of significant variants),
with 4,210 words being found in the apparatus that do not occur in the
main text (3.05% of the significant extant textual corpus is the result of additions).
The weighted confidence level of the UBS5 variants is 87.4%, with over
78% of the variant words being categorized as A- or B-level.

The Textual Reliability of Scripture / 175

the other readings. Further, only Reading 1 is early, broadly


supported, found in reliable manuscripts, and original to those early
reliable manuscripts in which it occurs. This being the case, the
UBS5 Committee selected Reading 1 as the most likely reading.
That said, Reading 2 is supported by the majority of manuscripts
and is thus noteworthy. Therefore, as there are other readings which
have a chance of being original (though minimal by comparison),
the UBS5 Committee could not list this variant as being absolutely
sure but instead rated its confidence level as that of a B. At the
same time, one should also note that this variant arose as a result of
how one reads the latter part of the verse (i.e., as a summary
statement of fact or as a quote of what the slaves said) and thus
realize that it was probably not motivated by a particular doctrinal
paradigm on the part of the scribe(s). Most of the notable Scriptural
variants are like the one found in John 4:51 in that they usually (1)
are easily explained on the basis of non-doctrinal causes1, (2) affect
no core doctrines of Christianity, and (3) can be selected with
reasonably high degrees of confidence.
Finally, now that we have established that the textual corpus of
Canonical Scripture satisfies both the conditions of survival and
selectability suitably well, we can say that Scripture can indeed be
reasonably reconstructed. Whats more, we can give a specific level
of confidence to those reconstructions: Our best primary-text (i.e.,
not including marginal notes or footnotes) NT reconstruction
probably reproduces essentially original NT material about
99.4%2 of the time; similarly, our best primary-text OT
1

It is generally recognized that early Christianity was largely a religion of


the poor and less-educated. This being the case, it is not surprising that
most of the variants which occur in the Scriptural corpus arose within the
first 3 Christian centuries largely because of the ineptitude of those early
non-professional Christian transcribers. In other words, most variants in
Canonical Scripture are the natural result of unintentional errors made by
non-professionals whose primary desire was simply to possess or
transmit the Word of God.
This statistic is based on the UBS5 data which indicate that 95.41% of
the NT is essentially unaffected by variants and that the remaining
portion can, on average, be determined with 87.39% confidence.

176 / SWORD

reconstruction probably reproduces essentially original OT


material about 97.5%1 of the time. Nonetheless, insomuch as our
best reconstructions are paired with footnotes or marginal notes
which list the extant readings at the notable points of variation,
our best reconstructions do present one with 100% (essentially)
of the original Scriptures.2

10.2. Have Any Canonical Scriptures Been Forged?


I dont know, at least not in the absolute sense, and neither does
anybody else. As was the case with producing perfect
reconstructions of ancient texts for which the originals are no longer
extant, it is also the case that proving ancient texts to be forgeries in
the absolute sense is impossible without a perfect understanding of
the conditions under which they were composed. Since we werent
there when the Canonical Scriptures were first composed (nor have
completely inerrant knowledge thereof), we cant definitively prove
whether or not any of them are forgeries. Further, given our inability
to know the situation of their origin perfectly, our examination of
them can only justifiably be conducted on the basis of the extant
text itself and on the basis of the extant histories which discuss it; as
these two means of inquirythe text and the historyare the only
sources which legitimately connect the original situation to our own,
they are the only means by which a work could rightly be accused
of being a forgery, but such an accusation, no matter how wellsupported, would not be an absolute proof insomuch as its sources
are imperfect.
Given that the text and history are the only viable means of
inquiry, some people who claim that certain Canonical works have
been forged choose to found their claims on internal grounds, on the
1

This statistic is calculated by noting that only about 80% of the OT


corpus is unaffected by notable variants and by applying the average NT
level of variant confidence (87.39%) to the remaining portion.
In other words, if you get a Bible that includes notes which discuss the
notable historical variants, then youll have all (or practically all) of the
original material.

The Textual Reliability of Scripture / 177

basis of the text itself. When someone is arguing that a work was
not authored by its purported author on the basis of an analysis of
the text itself, they are engaging in stylometry, the study of
linguistic style. That is, they are saying that the stylistic differences
between an authors true works and the work under consideration
are different enough to warrant the belief that the disputed work is
actually a forgery. The problem with applying such a methodology
to Scripture is that stylometric analysis requires the application of
certain assumptions which simply do not apply to Canonical
Scripture. In particular, all the stylometric assumptions which have
to be satisfied, as they apply to forgeries, are as follows:
(a) Authentic writing which is known to be from the
author(s) in question has to be available to the analyst;
(b) this indisputable writing has to be of sufficient length
(usually around 150,000 words)1 and breadth to
produce statistically significant results2;
(c) further, this indisputable writing has to be the direct,
unmediated product of the author(s) in question;
(d) the comparison must be done in the original language of
the author(s) in question (or one may wind up detecting
translational idiosyncrasies rather than differences due
to authorship); and
(e) the particular method being employed has to be able to
withstand a control test (preferably multiple times)3.
1

For example, the writer-invariant method breaks the text into 5,000-word
blocks, thereby requiring, since a sample size of at least 30 is preferred
by statisticians (being a math teacher, I can speak to this), that the analyst have at
least 150,000 words with which to work (5,000-word blocks 30 data points).
That is, the analyst needs a considerable amount of material from the
author(s) which discusses a wide range of topics. That is, authors change
their styles when they discuss different topics (especially as to their diction),
and thus the analyst needs a lot of material about lots of subjects in order
to have a good understanding of how the authors (or authors) style(s)
change(s) when he (or they) address(es) different topics.
This assumption is hardly ever satisfied for the stylometric methods
applied to Scripture. For example, a computer text-analytical method
was applied by Rev. Q. A. Morton to the Pauline corpus (all 14 epistles)
in the 1960s with the result being that the Pauline corpus [Next Page]

178 / SWORD

These assumptions do not apply to Scripture because the Canon


was produced and transmitted under 3CSTD conditions:
C.ompilation/.C.onsolidation/.C.ollaboration: The
OT, as discussed in the second chapter of SWORD, was
composed through a process of compilation & consolidation
(nullifying assumptions a & c). Whats more, some NT
works were composed through collaborative efforts (like
the Gospel of John) (also nullifying assumptions a & c).
S.ample Size Problems: Canonical Scriptural (OT and
NT) is actually pretty short when compared to the number
of authors who contributed to it (there are less than 11,000
words per author on average, well below the 150,000-word
minimum required to derive statistically reliable results)
and it does not include a wide breadth of material from each
of its authors (nullifying assumption b).1

was supposedly written by at least six different authors. The problem


was that his method was checked against the James Joyce corpus and it
failed miserably: The computer indicated that Ulysses was written by
five individuals, none of whom were involved in the writing of A
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
Sample size is a major issue when it comes to stylometric analysis. For
example, this chapter of SWORD uses at least 40 words which havent
been used in previous chapters of SWORD (i.e., agenda, autograph, average,
breadth, careless, classic, corroborate, dictionary, emerge, epistemology, exemplar,
grammar, guess, inept, intrinsic, invariant, lacuna, lineage, linguistic, loose, medieval,
nullify, official, outgrowth, overarch, overt, paradigm, plausible, prone, proximity,
purview, quintessential, scrupulous, silver, spell, statistic, stylometry, synonym, technique,
& terse), meaning that the 46,000-word sample offered by the nine

preceding chapters was not large enough to reveal that these words are
indeed within my stylistic range. The average Scriptural author usually
has far fewer words to his name (Paul is probably one of the authors with
the most material ascribed to him (roughly 39,000 words), but skeptics dont
consider all of those words to be authentic), meaning that we typically
have far less of an idea of what is actually within each Scriptural
authors stylistic range than you do of my stylistic range. Consequently,
if you are willing to accept that I have written all of SWORD (except the
quotes, of course) despite all of the apparent stylistic inconsistencies found
herein, then you ought to accept that no book of Canonical Scripture can
be proved to be a forgery on the basis of stylometric analysis since the
sample sizes are just too small to be statistically trustworthy.

The Textual Reliability of Scripture / 179

T.ranslation: Some NT texts that we have now were


probably translated from autographs written in another
language (like Matthew, Hebrews, and II Peter) (nullifying
assumption d).
D.ictation: Many of the NT works (and possibly some OT
works) were composed through the process of dictation
(through the use of amanuenses), possibly including the use
of multiple scribes per author (e.g., Paul probably had
multiple people write on his behalf; cr I Cor. 1:1 & II Cor. 1:1).
These scribes likely recorded the statements they heard in
ways unique to each of them (nullifying assumption c). 1
As to those who contend that some Scriptures are forgeries on
the basis of historical arguments, it should be noted that the early
histories (especially if taken individually) generally arent definitive
as to the authenticity of the Canonical works (but they are usually
very definitive about non-Canonical works; cr footnote 3 on p. 95 of
SWORD). That is, one may use one historical record to argue that a
Canonical work was forged while another person may use the same
historical record to argue that the work wasnt forged. A classic
example of this would be the record left by Tertullian (160-220 AD)
regarding Marcion. Skeptics point out that Tertullian recorded that
Marcion did not regard the Pastorals (I&II Timothy and Titus) as being
authentic (Against Marcion, 5.21), which implies that the Pastorals must
have been forged (but perhaps only so much as Marcions rejection of the
Gospels other than Luke implies that the other Gospels were forged; cr p. 87 of
SWORD). However, the problem is that Tertullian also records that

Marcion later repented of his heresy, which implies that the


Pastorals must not have been forged:
Afterward, it is true, Marcion professed repentance, and
agreed to the terms granted to himthat he should
receive reconciliation [back into the Church] if he [were
to restore] to the Church all the others whom he had

It is even possible that an author gave dictation in one language (e.g.,


Aramaic) while his scribe(s) recorded the message directly into another
language (e.g., Greek or Latin).

180 / SWORD

been training for perdition1: he was prevented, however,


by death. (On Prescription Against Heretics, 30)
Therefore, because of the fickle nature of those historical arguments
which purport to show that certain Canonical Scriptures were
forged, Biblical-Historical Christians do not give them much
credencethey dont exactly prove their case beyond the objection
offered by a reasonable doubt.
However, we must return to the starting point: We dont know,
in the absolute sense, whether or not any works of Canonical
Scripture were forged, but neither does anybody else. Further, the
only legitimate sources of inquiry regarding the forgery of
Scripturetextual analysis and historical analysisdo not yield
definitive results. These things being the case, people come to
different conclusions about this issue based on their presuppositions
rather than the evidence itself. That is, Biblical-Historical
Christians, according to the most noble jurisprudence of civilized
society, accept that a work ought not be assumed to be a forgery
unless proved otherwise by evidence which offers proof beyond that
which may be overcome by any reasonable doubt (innocent until
proven guilty). Skeptics, on the other hand, believe that if there is
any non-trivial basis for doubting the authenticity of a work,
especially a religious work (regardless of whether or not there is a
reasonable objection to their basis for doubt), then it ought to be
regarded as being a forgery (guilty until proven innocent).
Consequently, deriving an answer regarding the possibility of
Scriptures having been forged comes down to how you answer a
single question: What are your presuppositions?

This doesnt mean that the early Church was somehow withholding
Salvation from Marcion. Instead, the Biblical-historical position has
always been that sinners are to be punished/judged by the church
(First Cor. 5:12; II Cor. 2:6), even to include excommunication (I Cor. 5:2).
While such punishment preserves the good order and purity of the
church (I Cor. 5:13 & 14:33; Eph. 5:25-27), we ardently profess that Salvation
is by Gods grace through faith, a gift neither from nor through Man
(Rom. 3:21-26; Eph. 2:8-10; I Tim. 2:5-6).

The Textual Reliability of Scripture / 181

10.3. What are the Notable Variants?


While it would be really, really, really, really boring to talk
about every variant in Canonical Scripture since most variants just
arent particularly interesting (like differences in spelling and word order),
there are some variants that are important in Biblical-Historical
Christianity. The reason why they are important is because an
interest in them coincides with a dedication to accuracy and to using
Scripture appropriately. For the most part, we will restrict our
examination to just those variants which are of substantial
significance1, are of a considerable length, or are important in the
context of discussing the Faith with outsiders. Further, well present
these variants via six translations which characterize the range of
translations available to Protestants (i.e., new, old, formal, dynamic, etc):
the 1599 Geneva Bible (which represents a more traditional text), the NET
& NIV (which are relatively modern and easy to understanddynamic), the
HCSB & ESV (which are more formal, but still modern), & the NASB
(which is semi-traditional and very formal). (pt = primary text and ft = footnote)

Genesis 4:8
NASB (Geneva, ESVpt)
HCSB (ESVft, NET, NIV)
[LIT. said to]
Cain told
Abel his
Cain said to his brother Abel,
brother. And it came about
Lets go out to the field. And
when they were in the field, that while they were in the field,
Cain rose up against Abel his
Cain attacked his brother Abel
brother and killed him.
and killed him.
This is a case were the Masoretic Text obviously omits a clause in that it
doesnt tell us what Cain said to Abel. Fortunately, the original reading
is preserved in the Samaritan, Septuagint, Syriac, & Vulgate versions.
Most decent modern translations include this text (either in the primary text or in
a footnote), the notable exception being the NASB, which tends to favor the
traditional Hebrew text (i.e., the Masoretic Text) over the other versions.

so as to avoid tertiary concerns (cr pp. 156-7 of SWORD)

182 / SWORD

I Samuel 13:1
NASB (HCSB, NET, NIV)
ESV (Genevasimilar)
Saul was thirty years old when
Saul lived for one year and then
he began to reign, and he
became king, and when he had
reigned forty-two years over
reigned for two years over
Israel.
Israel,...
This is an interesting variant in that the Masoretic Text is most literally
identical to the form found in the ESV. In light of I Sam. 10:6, it was
probably meant to indicate that there was a one-year gap between the time
when Saul was anointed, thus becoming another man (being reborn, in a
sense), and his ascension to the throne. English translations, however,
usually follow a few late Septuagint manuscripts which are less enigmatic
(those late versions probably being based on Acts 13:21 as the early Septuagint tradition
actually completely omits this verse).

What I find fascinating about this variant


is that both forms are technically correct: Saul was, in a sense, reborn
when he was anointed and thus was one year old when he became king. At
the same time, it is likely that Sauls reign began at 30 (the age of full adulthood
in the ancient Hebrew custom) and lasted for about 40 years.
NASB (Geneva,
HCSBpt)
Therefore, Saul said to
the Lord, the God of
Israel, Give a perfect
lot [LIT. Thummim]. And
Jonathan and Saul
were taken, but the
people escaped.

I Samuel 14:41
ESV (HCSBft, NET, NIV)
Therefore Saul said, O Lord God of
Israel, why have you not answered your
servant this day? If this guilt is in me or
in Jonathan my son, O Lord, God of
Israel, give Urim. But if this guilt is in
your people Israel, give Thummim. And
Jonathan and Saul were taken, but the
people escaped.

As was the case with Genesis 4:8, the Masoretic Text here omits a section
which was preserved by another version (the Septuagint). Again, most
decent modern versions include the variant reading (either in their primary texts
or footnotes) except for the dogmatically Hebrew-centric NASB. This variant
is important because it (along with Exo. 28:30, Pro. 16:33, & Acts 1:26)
demonstrates that the Urim and Thummim (literally, lights (light/clear in color)
and perfections (dark in color)) were two different outcomes of a lot that was
cast to make decisions. Contrary to Mormon dogma, there is no
historical/textual evidence that the Urim and Thummim were seer stones
which the Prophets would look into or through (and there is absolutely no
evidence that the Urim and Thummim were ever used to translate books).

The Textual Reliability of Scripture / 183

NASB (Geneva, NETpt)


Your kingdom is an
everlasting kingdom,
and Your dominion
endures throughout all
generations.

Psalm 145:13b
ESV (HCSB, NETft, NIV)
Your kingdom is an everlasting
kingdom, and your dominion endures
throughout all generations. [The Lord is
faithful in all his words and kind in all
his works.]

Psalm 145 is an acrostic psalm (similar to Psalm 119), with every verse
beginning with a letter of the 22-letter Hebrew alphabet. A quick perusal of
Psalm 145, however, reveals that Psalm 145 is one verse shy of the full 22letter Hebrew alphabet. The missing portion is supplied by one late
Masoretic manuscript, one Dead Sea Scroll (from cave 11), the Septuagint,
and the Syriac version. That said, incomplete acrostics are not entirely
uncommon (ever try to make an acrostic poem for the English alphabet?
some people skip X for obvious reasons), hence the added portion may
be a later addition. Most modern versions, except the NASB, include this
variant (either in their primary texts or footnotes).
Isaiah 45:11 (KJV Error)
KJV (& Nearly All Literal
ESV (& Nearly All
Septuagint Translations)
Other Translations)
Thus saith the LORD, the Holy
Thus says the LORD, the Holy
One of Israel, and his Maker,
One of Israel, and the one who
Ask me of things to come
formed him: Ask me of things
concerning my sons, and
to come; will you command me
concerning the work of my
concerning my children and the
hands command ye me.
work of my hands?
Sarcasm is lost on certain peopleBrenton, the translators of the KJV, &
the NETS translators being among them. The original Hebrew construct
translated as ask me...command me is a rhetorical command and
question roughly equivalent to a situation in which someone might say
ask me, I dare ya...do ya think ya can command me?, but this nuance
of the Hebrew language was completely lost on the KJV translators, NETS
translators, and Sir Lancelot Brenton. Why? Well, the original translators
of the Septuagint were the ones who originally missed the nuance (or they
thought that their readers would see the sarcasm), hence everyone who has
either translated the Septuagint literally or used the Septuagint (or
Septuagint-derived translations) as the primary means of understanding
this passage has also missed the nuance.

184 / SWORD

Matthew 6:13b
NASB (Geneva, HCSBpt)
ESV (HCSBft, NET, NIV)
And do not lead us into temptation,
And lead us not into
but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is
temptation, but deliver
the kingdom and the power and the
us from [the] evil [one].
glory forever. Amen.]
The long ending of the Lords Prayer was borrowed from the Septuagint
(First Chr. 29:11-13) and transmitted into the NT in at least 9 different forms.
The longer ending is also not found in the earliest and best NT
manuscripts. Instead of being original, the longer ending was added for
liturgical use (for use in formulaic modes of worship), as was the case with many
other NT additions/alterations. That is, the liturgies of the early Church
often included quotes from Scripture (especially the NT), but the quotes
were often paraphrased and amended to meet the contextual needs of the
liturgies. Further, sections would be added to the quotes in order to teach
fundamental doctrines. In this case, the Lords Prayer was lengthened so as
to take time to honor God when praying to Him. Some forms of the long
ending also included an affirmation of the doctrine of the Trinity. As
Protestants are generally not liturgical (at least not in the sense that Traditional
Christians are), we generally do not deem it necessary to include liturgical
readings in the primary texts of our Bibles.
Matthew 24:36
Geneva (NET )
ESV (HCSB, NASB, NETft, NIV)
But of that day and hour
But concerning that day and hour
knoweth no man, no not the
no one knows, not even the angels
Angels of heaven, but my
of heaven, nor the Son, but the
father only.
Father only.
pt

This variant is one that skeptics of the Faith love to point out as being an
example of a variant that was theologically motivated. Specifically, they
claim that the phrase nor the Son was excised by some scribes who
were concerned about preserving the Deity of Christ, the idea being that
Jesus lack of knowledge about the specific time of His return would
somehow impugn His Divine status. Indeed, some scribes may have
thought this to be the case, but, if such was the case, then they didnt do a
very good job of saving Jesus Deity insomuch as the final phrasebut
the Father onlyalso implies the Sons lack of knowledge regarding His
return and was left in the text. Further, Mark 13:32 also includes the phrase
nor the Son, yet virtually nobody seemed to see a need to save Jesus

The Textual Reliability of Scripture / 185

Deity in that passage. Instead, a non-doctrinal reasonharmonization


can be offered to explain this variant. In particular, it was accepted among
early Christians that Matthews Gospel was written first, yet Marks later
Gospel included a phrase not found in Matthews text (probably included by
Peter through Mark to reinforce the point that only the Father knows the day and hour),
hence some scribes harmonized the two to restore the phrase that they
thought had been lost from Matthews earlier text. Nonetheless, it must be
pointed out that, if a person actually believes that Jesus lack of knowledge
concerning His Second Coming somehow calls His Deity into question,
then his/her understanding of Christian doctrine is very poor. That is, we
teach that each person of the one being of God is distinct and has a
particular set of roles within the context of their interactions with us, hence
Jesus self-distinction between His role and that of the Father in knowing
the time of the Second Coming isnt a problem for usit never has been
and it never will be. Only people who dont understand the doctrines of the
Trinity and Incarnation would think that this variant somehow challenges
the Divinity of Christ (enter: the skeptics).
Mark 16:9-20
Geneva
ESV, HCSB, NASB, NET, NIV
Contains this passage
These contain this passage with direct
without any implication as
indication (via brackets, footnotes, etc)
to doubts regarding its
that it is not original to the Gospel of
authenticity
Mark.
The so-called long ending of Mark occurs in at least 4 different forms and
is omitted in a number of manuscripts ranging in origin from the earliest
attestations of the ending of the Gospel of Mark clear into the 12th century
AD (including 3 Greek mss (2 from the 4th cen. and one from the 12th cen.), an Old
Latin ms, the Sinaitic Syriac ms, a Coptic ms, the 2 oldest Georgian mss
(9th & 10th cen.), and about 100 Armenian mss). Whats more, the long
ending of Mark was not originally included in the Eusebian canon tables
(4th cen.; an early indexing system used in the study of the Gospels). Further, this is one
of the few additions which was ever attributed to a specific person, that
person being Aristion (this attribution is found in one of the Armenian
mss). Now Aristion was a contemporary of Papias (70-163 AD, quoted in
Eusebius Hist. Eccl., 3.39.4, 4th Cen.) and was a second-generation Christian
leader (insomuch as Papias distinguishes between the early disciples of
Jesus and later leaders like Aristion). The accounts associated with that of
Aristion mirror the topics discussed in the long ending of Mark, even to
include drinking poison (seemingly unintentionally) without harmful

186 / SWORD

effects (cr Mark 16:18; cr Papias account in Hist. Eccl., 3.39.9), hence it is possible
that the long ending was in fact written by or at least derived from
Aristion. However, even though the long ending of Mark is most likely
rooted in a historical reality, it is not accepted as authoritative by BiblicalHistorical Christians because (1) it was not written by an eye- or earwitness of Christ with the implicit approval of at least one of the 12
Apostles (Aristion is one generation too late), (2) it was not deemed
essential/authentic by early Christians (being unknown in certain traditions
for over a millennium), and (3) it is probably based on oral/secondary
tradition (which isnt binding for Biblical-Historical Christians; cr p. 148 of
SWORD). Nonetheless, though the long ending is not to be treated as
Canonical (authoritative), the addition is retained in most Protestant
versions because of its historical value.
Luke 10:1&17
NASB (Geneva, HCSBpt)
ESV (HCSBft, NET, NIV)
Now after this the Lord
After this the Lord appointed
appointed seventy others, and
seventy-two others and sent them
sent them in pairs ahead of Him
on ahead of him, two by two, into
to every city and place where He
every town and place where he
Himself was going to come.
himself was about to go.
The earliest (2nd cen. AD via the Diatessaron) and most probable reading of this
passage is 72. This variant is similar in origin to how the Septuagint
(meaning seventy) came to be called the Septuagint: That is, as per the Letter
of Aristeas, 72 Hebrew scribes were selected to translate the Law (a.k.a., the
Pentateuch/Torah) into Greek. This number was eventually rounded to 70
(Latin: septuaginta) for ease of use, like when people say that there are 300
million people in the United States (the number is closer to 318.9 million).
Likewise, the number of people sent out by Christ was eventually rounded
to 70 and this rounded number eventually became the popular number.
This variant has absolutely no impact on Biblical-Historical Christian
doctrine or theology, but it is significant because the LDS (Mormons) claim
to have restored the true Gospel, to include the operation of quorums of up
to 70 (<www.lds.org/church/leaders/quorums-of-the-seventy?lang=eng>). However, the
historical evidence suggests that, if a quorum of 70 were truly a
legitimate designation, then its upper limit should actually be 72, not 70.

The Textual Reliability of Scripture / 187

Geneva, NASB
Contain this passage
without any implication as
to doubts regarding its
authenticity

Luke 22:43-44
ESV, HCSB, NET, NIV
These contain this passage with direct
indication (via brackets, footnotes, etc)
that it is not original to the Gospel of
Luke.

The account of Jesus being strengthened by an angel, being in anguish, and


having sweat as drops of blood is omitted in Greek mss ranging from the
early 3rd cen. to the 13th cen. and many versions also omit this account
(e.g., mss written in Old Latin, Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, & Georgian). Whats more,
some mss mark this account with asterisks or obeli (marks used to demarcate
spurious portions of a text) and other mss place this account after Matthew
26:39. This latter detail is important as portions which are sometimes
placed in completely different books are almost always inauthentic. The
case here is similar to that of the long ending of Mark in that this account
also probably started as a part of the oral/secondary tradition and was
eventually incorporated into the NT. As was the case with the long ending
of Mark, many Protestant versions include this account due to its possible
historicity. However, Biblical-Historical Christians, since it is not original
to Lukes Gospel, do not consider this account to be Canonical
(authoritative)it is not a text from which we are to draw any dogmas.
Geneva, NASB
Contain this passage
without any implication as
to doubts regarding its
authenticity

Luke 23:34a
ESV, HCSB, NET, NIV
These contain this passage with direct
indication (via brackets, footnotes, etc)
that it is not original to the Gospel of
Luke.

Jesus prayer to the Father for the forgiveness of His executioners is not
found in Greek mss ranging from the early 3rd to 13th centuries, nor is it
found in certain Old Latin, Syriac, and Coptic mss. Most people are in
agreement that the inclusion of this prayer has something to do with the
death prayers of Stephen (Acts 7:60) and James the Just (see p. 128 of
SWORD). In particular, either (1) Jesus death prayer was already known in
the oral/secondary tradition and was added to Luke so as to provide the
cause for Stephens & James prayers or (2) people presumed that
Stephens and James death prayers had an antecedent in Christ and thus
supplied the supposedly missing words. In either case, the words are not
original to Lukes Gospel and are thus not to be considered Canonical by

188 / SWORD

Biblical-Historical Christians. At the same time, the words may reflect a


historical reality and are thus usually included in the primary text of most
Protestant translations.
Geneva
These things were done in
Bethabara beyond Jordan,
where John did baptize.

John 1:28
ESV (HCSB, NASB, NET, NIV)
These things took place in
Bethany across the Jordan,
where John was baptizing.

The reading Bethany is found in Greek mss ranging in date from the 3rd
to 13th centuries and is well-supported by other language versions. Now
this variant is not included in this list because of its doctrinal import.
Instead, this variant has been included to address the claims of an aberrant
movement known as King James Onlyism (the counter-Biblical/historical belief
that the KJV ought to be used exclusively). Some KJV-Onlyists believe that the
modern versions (i.e., the ones based on an examination of more sources than have ever
before been available to Biblical scholars) have been corrupted by readings taken
from certain disreputable early Alexandrian church fathers, especially
Origen. The irony of this claim is that their text (the KJV), which follows
the Geneva Bible at John 1:28, can be shown to follow a reading which
coincides with a textual choice of Origen:
These things were done in Bethabara, beyond Jordan, where
John was baptizing. We are aware of the reading which is found
in almost all the copies: These things were done in Bethany.
This appears, moreover, to have been the reading at an earlier
time; and in Heracleon we read Bethany. We are convinced,
however, that we should not read Bethany, but Bethabara.
(Commentary on John, 6.24, 2nd/3rd Cen.)

As with most heretical groups, King James Onlyists simply dont pay
much attention to what the various histories actually have to say. Instead,
they try to retell the history to align with their own, relatively modern (and,
disappointingly, semi-Islamic), ideology.

The Textual Reliability of Scripture / 189

John 5:3b-4
NASBpt (Geneva, HCSBpt)
In these lay a multitude of those who were sick,
blind, lame, and withered, [waiting for the moving
of the waters; for an angel of the Lord went down
at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the
water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of
the water, stepped in was made well from whatever
disease with which he was afflicted.]

ESV (HCSBft,
NASBft, NET,
NIV)
In these lay a
multitude of
invalidsblind,
lame, and
paralyzed.

This variant started out as two separate variants (3b & 4) which existed in
several different forms. They were conflated in the 5th century and
eventually became the popular form of the text. That said, they are
completely absent in the earliest Greek mss (~200-350 AD), remained
absent in some traditions clear into the 12th cen., are also absent in some
Old Latin & Coptic mss, and are marked as being dubious in more than 20
Greek mss. These variants probably started out as glosses which had been
added in the margins of some mss as explanations of the primary text.
Some later scribes mistook the glosses for corrections and inserted them
into the primary text of the next generation of copies. Nonetheless, these
glosses, written centuries later by people who werent witnesses of the
events in question, have been proven to be in error. That is, archaeological
digs have been conducted on the pool of Bethesda and it was discovered
that the pool was part of a pagan temple dedicated to Asclepius (the Greek
god of medicine and healing, often associated with snakes) which was later expanded
under Hadrian to include devotion to Serapis (a Greco-Egyptian hybridized god
which served to unite the various cultures in the area). This being the case, an angel
of the Lord Almighty would not be expected to bless such an idolatrous
place. Later Christian scribes didnt known all of this, of course, and,
presuming the temple mentioned in John 5:14 to be the Jewish Temple,
came up with their own explanation for the events recorded in Johns
Gospel. As to the pool itself, the pool of Bethesda in the 1st cen. was a
small pool used for ceremonial bathing in preparation for healing by
Asclepius and it seems to have been separated from other water sources by
a dam or a series of dams (possibly used to create water flowa stirring of the waters;
cr John 5:7). The Gospel of John records that Jesus went into this place full
of people looking for healing from a pagan god (on the Sabbath of all days)
and healed only one of them (John 5:1-9). Jesus later found that this same
man had returned to the pagan temple and chastised him, saying, Dont
sin anymore, lest [something] worse happen to you (John 5:14, NET; cr Pro.

190 / SWORD
26:11).

Subsequently, in light of historical (archaeological) evidence, Johns


original account makes sense as it was written. The Eastern Orthodox,
though, ignore the historical information, reinterpret the pool of Bethesda
as a pool used for washing sacrificial animals (they dont explain why
people would expect to be healed at a pool normally used to wash
animals), and separate Jesus chastisement of the man who had been healed
from the context of the passage (Orthodox Study Bible, footnotes at John 5:2-4&14).
Such an explanation and treatment of the text is ridiculous, of course, but
such is what happens when a group is dedicated to tradition rather than
truth. Biblical-Historical Christians seek truth, even when it contradicts a
tradition or a traditional understandingevery aspect of our Faith is
falsifiable, and sometimes certain aspects are indeed falsified (core doctrines
have never been falsified, but that doesnt mean that they couldnt be proven false one day,
though such is highly unlikely).

Geneva
Contains this passage
without any implication as
to doubts regarding its
authenticity

John 7:53-8:11
ESV, HCSB, NASB, NET, NIV
These contain this passage with direct
indication (via brackets, footnotes, etc)
that it is not original to the Gospel of
John.

The story of the Woman Caught in Adultery (the Pericope Adulterae) is


not found in some Greek mss ranging from the 3rd cen. to the 12th cen., it
is not found in the majority of the Greek lectionaries, it occurs in at least 8
different forms, it is marked as dubious in 4 mss, it is omitted in mss of
several versions (including the Old Latin, Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, Georgian, &
Slavonic), and it has been transposed to a number of different locations
(including John 7:36, John 21:25, Luke 21:38, & Luke 24:53). This being the case, it
should be clear that Biblical-Historical Christians do not consider the
Pericope Adulterae to be authentic to the Gospel of John, hence we do not
consider it to be Canonical (i.e., its not a source of doctrine). As to the
origin of this story, there is a fair amount of speculation, but there are
traces of the story that go back pretty far, perhaps as far back as Papias
(1st/2nd Cen.; quoted in Eusebius Hist. Eccl., 3.39.16, 4th Cen.). This being the case,
there is a legitimate chance that the Pericope Adulterae is rooted in a
historical reality, hence Protestants do not generally remove the passage
entirelyit has some historical value despite not being Canonical.

The Textual Reliability of Scripture / 191

Acts 8:37
NASBpt (Geneva, HCSBpt)
[And Philip said, If you believe with all your
heart, you may. And he [(the Ethiopian)]
answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is
the Son of God.]

ESV (HCSBft,
NASBft, NET,
NIV)
OMITTED from
their primary texts

This is a Western reading that is not found in the majority of Greek mss. In
fact, there is no Greek ms attestation for this variant until the 6th cen.
(requiring that all of the 160 preceding extant mss to be wrong if the variant were actually
authentic).

Because of the poor attestation of this variant, Biblical-Historical


Christians do not consider it to be an authentic part of the Book of Acts
(i.e., not Canonical). That said, the account of the Ethiopians confession
of faith goes back at least to the late 2nd cen. (it was known to IrenaeusAgainst
Heresies, 3.12.8), and thus it is probably indicative of early Christian practice
regarding baptism in that baptism would usually coincide with a formal,
public profession of faith (see p. 61 of SWORD). Subsequently, though we
dont consider this variant to be Canonical, we do try to follow the practice
of the early Church insomuch as our baptism rituals usually include public
declarations of peoples faith in Christ.
Geneva
Contains this passage
without any implication
as to doubts regarding its
authenticity

I John 5:7b-8a
ESV, HCSB, NASB, NET, NIV
These do NOT contain this passage in their
primary text (but some versions do include
it with footnotes which demarcate it as
inauthentic/dubious).

This so-called Trinitarian verse is not found in any Greek manuscript


with the exception of 8 of them: mss 61 (16th cen.), 88 (added in 16th cen.), 221
(16th cen. addition), 429 (16th cen.), 636 (16th cen.), 918 (16th cen.) , & 2318 (18th
cen.). Further, it is completely absent from every version of the NT (i.e.,
Syriac, Slavonic, Coptic, Arabic, Ethiopic, Armenian, early Old Latin, etc) with the
exception of the later Latin tradition (ca. 4th cen. and later). Whats more, this
variant was well-known early in the rise of Protestantism insomuch as
William Tyndale set this text off as dubious in his English translation of
the NT (setting off variants is still common in English translations of the Bible). Given
that this text arose in the Latin and is unique to the Western Church,
Biblical-Historical Christians neither consider it Canonical nor do we
usually give it any degree of consideration (which is why it is omitted from most
modern versions).

192 / SWORD

Pretty much all versions


give 666 as the number
of the beast.

Revelation 13:18
The ESV, HCSB, NASB, & NET have
footnotes which give 616 as an alternate for
the number of the beast.

This variant is being discussed simply because it demonstrates the danger


of dogmatizing upon issues that are less than certain. That is, some people
have made very specific statements about the identity of the beast of
Revelation based on its number being 666, but some early Christians didnt
hold that the number of the beast was 666 (some evidently held that the
number was 616). No, an honest treatment of the text has to account for all
of the information and admit the uncertainties found therein. (Incidentally,
both 666 & 616 could be derived from the name of Caesar Nero depending on whether one
uses the Greek formNeron (666)or the Latin formNero (616). Now this doesnt
necessarily prove that the beast was Caesar Nero, just that some early Christians seemingly
made a connection between the beast of Revelation and Caesar Nero.)

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
1. In what way can Canonical Scripture be reconstructed?exactly or
essentially? Why is this distinction important? How accurate are
versions with decent footnotes?

_______________________________
_______________________________
2. Have any Scriptures been forged? How can we tell? What are the
sources of evidence by which one may prove that Scripture has
been forged? Are such sources reliable? Why or why not? Why do
we trust the books we have? (HINT: See C5 & C6 of SWORD.)

_______________________________
_______________________________
3. Why is it important to know something about the notable variants
found in Canonical Scripture? Which variant was most significant
to you and why? Which variant do you think the average person
would be concerned about? Why?

_______________________________
_______________________________

Statements of Faith / SF1

Historical Christian Statements of Faith


Following are delineations of the essential beliefs of Christians as found in
various writings which attempt to explain the Christian Faith. These
statements of faith are separated into two groups: (1) Pre-Toleration
statements (before 311 AD) and (2) Post-Toleration statements (after 311 AD).

Pre-Toleration Statements of Faith


From I Clement (ca. 96 AD):
Admonition by Irenaeus (130-202 AD) to Read I Clement: In the
time of this Clement, no small dissension having occurred among the
brethren at Corinth, the Church in Rome dispatched a most powerful
letter to the Corinthians, exhorting them to peace, renewing their faith,
and declaring the tradition which it had lately received from the
apostlesproclaiming the one God, omnipotent, the Maker of
heaven and earth, the Creator of man, who brought on the deluge,
and called Abraham, who led the people from the land of Egypt,
spoke with Moses, set forth the law, sent the prophets, and who has
prepared fire for the devil and his angels. From this document,
whosoever chooses to do so, may learn that He, the Father of our Lord
Jesus Christ, was preached by the Churches, and may also understand
the tradition of the Church, since this Epistle is of older date than these
men who are now propagating falsehood, and who conjure into existence
another god beyond the Creator and the Maker of all existing things.
(Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.3.3)

Excerpts from I Clement: For Christ is of those who are humbleminded, and not of those who exalt themselves over His flock. Our Lord
Jesus Christ, the Scepter of the majesty of God, did not come in the
pomp of pride or arrogance, although He might have done so, but in a
lowly condition, as the Holy Spirit had declared regarding Him. For He
says, Lord, who has believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the
Lord revealed? We have declared [our message] in His presence: He is,
as it were, a child, and like a root in thirsty ground; He has no form nor
glory, yea, we saw Him, and He had no form nor comeliness; but His
form was without eminence, yea, deficient in comparison with the
[ordinary] form of men. He is a man exposed to stripes and suffering,
and acquainted with the endurance of grief: for His countenance was
turned away; He was despised, and not esteemed. He bears our
iniquities, and is in sorrow for our sakes; yet we supposed that [on His
own account] He was exposed to labor, and stripes, and affliction. But
He was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our
iniquities. The chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His
stripes we were healed. All we, like sheep, have gone astray; [every]
man has wandered in his own way; and the Lord has delivered Him up

SF2 / Statements of Faith

for our sins, while He in the midst of His sufferings opens not His
mouth. He was brought as a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before
her shearer is dumb, so He opens not His mouth. In His humiliation His
judgment was taken away; who shall declare His generation? For His life
is taken from the earth. For the transgressions of my people He was
brought down to death. And I will give the wicked for His sepulcher,
and the rich for His death, because He did no iniquity, neither was guile
found in His mouth. And the Lord is pleased to purify him by stripes. If
you make an offering for sin, your soul shall see a long-lived seed. And
the Lord is pleased to relieve Him of the affliction of His soul, to show
Him light, and to form Him with understanding, to justify the Just One
who ministers well to many; and He Himself shall carry their sins. On
this account He shall inherit many, and shall divide the spoil of the
strong; because His soul was delivered to death, and He was reckoned
among the transgressors, and He bare the sins of many, and for their
sins was He delivered. And again He says, I am a worm, and no man;
a reproach of men, and despised of the people. All that see me have
derided me; they have spoken with their lips; they have wagged their
head, [saying] He hoped in God, let Him deliver Him, let Him save Him,
since He delights in Him. You see, beloved, what is the example which
has been given us; for if the Lord thus humbled Himself, what shall we
do who have through Him come under the yoke of His grace? (Chapter 16)
All these, therefore, were highly honored, and made great, not
for their own sake, or for their own works, or for the righteousness
which they wrought, but through the operation of His will. And we,
too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by
ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness,
or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that
faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified
all men; to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Chapter 32)
For the Creator and Lord of all Himself rejoices in His works.
For by His infinitely great power He established the heavens, and by His
incomprehensible wisdom He adorned them. He also divided the earth
from the water which surrounds it, and fixed it upon the immovable
foundation of His own will. The animals also which are upon it He
commanded by His own word into existence. So likewise, when He had
formed the sea, and the living creatures which are in it, He enclosed
them [within their proper bounds] by His own power. Above all, with
His holy and undefiled hands He formed man, the most excellent [of His
creatures], and truly great through the understanding given himthe
express likeness of His own image. (Chapter 33)
How blessed and wonderful, beloved, are the gifts of God! Life in
immortality, splendor in righteousness, truth in perfect confidence, faith
in assurance, self-control in holiness! And all these fall under the
cognizance of our understandings [now]; what then shall those things be

Statements of Faith / SF3

which are prepared for such as wait for Him? The Creator and Father
of all worlds, the Most Holy, alone knows their amount and their
beauty. Let us therefore earnestly strive to be found in the number of
those that wait for Him, in order that we may share in His promised gifts.
But how, beloved, shall this be done? If our understanding be fixed by
faith towards God; if we earnestly seek the things which are pleasing and
acceptable to Him; if we do the things which are in harmony with His
blameless will; and if we follow the way of truth, casting away from us
all unrighteousness and iniquity, along with all covetousness, strife, evil
practices, deceit, whispering, and evil-speaking, all hatred of God, pride
and haughtiness, vain glory and ambition. For they that do such things
are hateful to God; and not only they that do them, but also those that
take pleasure in them that do them. (Chapter 35)
Foolish and inconsiderate men, who have neither wisdom nor
instruction, mock and deride us, being eager to exalt themselves in their
own conceits. For what can a mortal man do, or what strength is
there in one made out of the dust? For it is written, There was no
shape before my eyes, only I heard a sound, and a voice [saying], What
then? Shall a man be pure before the Lord? Or shall such a one be
[counted] blameless in his deeds, seeing He does not confide in His
servants, and has charged even His angels with perversity? The heaven is
not clean in His sight: how much less they that dwell in houses of clay,
of which also we ourselves were made! He smote them as a moth; and
from morning even until evening they endure not. Because they could
furnish no assistance to themselves, they perished.... (Chapter 39)
Let him who has love in Christ keep the commandments of Christ
[(Matt. 28:18-20)]. Who can describe the [blessed] bond of the love of God?
What man is able to tell the excellence of its beauty, as it ought to be
told? The height to which love exalts is unspeakable. Love unites us to
God. Love covers a multitude of sins [(James 5:20; I Peter 4:8)]. Love bears
all things, is long-suffering in all things [(cr I Cor. 13:4)]. There is nothing
base, nothing arrogant in love. Love admits of no schisms: love gives
rise to no seditions: love does all things in harmony. By love have all
the elect of God been made perfect; without love nothing is wellpleasing to God. In love has the Lord taken us to Himself. On
account of the Love he bore [toward] us, Jesus Christ our Lord gave
His blood for us by the will of God; His flesh for our flesh, and His
soul for our souls. (Chapter 49)
From The Epistle to Diognetus (ca. 130 AD):
For, who of men at all understood before His coming what God is?
Do you accept of the vain and silly doctrines of those who are deemed
trustworthy philosophers? Of whom some said that fire was God, calling
that God to which they themselves were by and by to come; and some
water; and others some other of the elements formed by God. But if any
one of these theories be worthy of approbation, every one of the rest of

SF4 / Statements of Faith

created things might also be declared to be God. But such declarations


are simply the startling and erroneous utterances of deceivers; and no
man has either seen Him, or made Him known, but He has revealed
Himself. And He has manifested Himself through faith, to which alone it
is given to behold God. For God, the Lord and Fashioner of all things,
who made all things, and assigned them their several positions, proved
Himself not merely a friend of mankind, but also long-suffering [in His
dealings with them].
As long then as the former time endured, He permitted us to be
borne along by unruly impulses, being drawn away by the desire of
pleasure and various lusts. This was not that He at all delighted in our
sins, but that He simply endured them; nor that He approved the time of
working iniquity which then was, but that He sought to form a mind
conscious of righteousness, so that being convinced in that time of
our unworthiness of attaining life through our own works, it should
now, through the kindness of God, be vouchsafed to us; and having
made it manifest that in ourselves we were unable to enter into the
kingdom of God, we might through the power of God be made able.
But when our wickedness had reached its height, and it had been clearly
shown that its reward, punishment and death, was impending over us;
and when the time had come which God had before appointed for
manifesting His own kindness and power, how the one love of God,
through exceeding regard for men, did not regard us with hatred, nor
thrust us away, nor remember our iniquity against us, but showed great
long-suffering, and bore with us, He Himself took on Him the burden
of our iniquities, He gave His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy
One for transgressors, the blameless One for the wicked, the
righteous One for the unrighteous, the incorruptible One for the
corruptible, the immortal One for those who are mortal. For what
other thing was capable of covering our sins than His righteousness? By
what other one was it possible that we, the wicked and ungodly, could be
justified, than by the only Son of God? O sweet exchange! O
unsearchable operation! O benefits surpassing all expectation! That the
wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous One, and that the
righteousness of One should justify many transgressors! Having
therefore convinced us in the former time that our nature was
unable to attain to life, and having now revealed the Savior who is
able to save even those things which it was [formerly] impossible to
save, by both these facts He desired to lead us to trust in His
kindness, to esteem Him our Nourisher, Father, Teacher, Counselor,
Healer, our Wisdom, Light, Honor, Glory, Power, and Life, so that
we should not be anxious concerning clothing and food.
If you also desire [to possess] this faith, you likewise shall receive
first of all the knowledge of the Father. For God has loved mankind, on
whose account He made the world, to whom He rendered subject all the

Statements of Faith / SF5

things that are in it, to whom He gave reason and understanding, to


whom alone He imparted the privilege of looking upwards to Himself,
whom He formed after His own image, to whom He sent His onlybegotten Son, to whom He has promised a kingdom in heaven, and will
give it to those who have loved Him. And when you have attained this
knowledge, with what joy do you think you will be filled? Or, how
will you love Him who has first so loved you? And if you love Him,
you will be an imitator of His kindness. And do not wonder that a
man may become an imitator of God. He can, if he is willing. For it is
not by ruling over his neighbors, or by seeking to hold the supremacy
over those that are weaker, or by being rich, and showing violence
towards those that are inferior, that happiness is found; nor can anyone
by these things become an imitator of God. But these things do not at all
constitute His majesty. On the contrary he who takes upon himself
the burden of his neighbor; he who, in whatsoever respect he may be
superior, is ready to benefit another who is deficient; he who,
whatsoever things he has received from God, by distributing these to
the needy, becomes a god to those who receive [his benefits]: he is an
imitator of God. Then you shall see, while still on earth, that God in the
heavens rules over [the universe]; then you shall begin to speak the
mysteries of God; then shall you both love and admire those that suffer
punishment because they will not deny God; then shall you condemn
the deceit and error of the world when you shall know what it is to
live truly in heaven, when you shall despise that which is here
esteemed to be death, when you shall fear what is truly death, which
is reserved for those who shall be condemned to the eternal fire,
which shall afflict those even to the end that are committed to it.
Then shall you admire those who for righteousness' sake endure the
fire that is but for a moment, and shall count them happy when you
shall know [the nature of] that fire.
I do not speak of things strange to me, nor do I aim at anything
inconsistent with right reason; but having been a disciple of the Apostles,
I have become a teacher of the Gentiles. I minister the things delivered to
me to those that are disciples worthy of the truth. For who that is rightly
taught and begotten by the loving Word, would not seek to learn
accurately the things which have been clearly shown by the Word to His
disciples, to whom the Word being manifested has revealed them,
speaking plainly [to them], not understood indeed by the unbelieving,
but conversing with the disciples, who, being esteemed faithful by Him,
acquired a knowledge of the mysteries of the Father? For which reason
He sent the Word, that He might be manifested to the world; and He,
being despised by the people [of the Jews], was, when preached by the
Apostles, believed on by the Gentiles. This is He who was from the
beginning, who appeared as if new, and was found old, and yet who is
ever born afresh in the hearts of the saints. This is He who, being from

SF6 / Statements of Faith

everlasting, is today called the Son; through whom the Church is


enriched, and grace, widely spread, increases in the saints,
furnishing understanding, revealing mysteries, announcing times,
rejoicing over the faithful, giving to those that seek, by whom the
limits of faith are not broken through, nor the boundaries set by the
fathers passed over. Then the fear of the law is chanted, and the grace
of the prophets is known, and the faith of the gospels is established, and
the tradition of the Apostles is preserved, and the grace of the Church
exults; which grace if you grieve not, you shall know those things which
the Word teaches, by whom He wills, and when He pleases. For
whatever things we are moved to utter by the will of the Word
commanding us, we communicate to you with pains, and from a love of
the things that have been revealed to us. (Mathts, VIII-XI)
From Against Heresies (130-202 AD):
To which course many nations of those barbarians who believe
in Christ do assent, having salvation written in their hearts by the
Spirit, without paper or ink, and, carefully preserving the ancient
traditionbelieving in one God, the Creator of heaven and earth,
and all things therein, by means of Christ Jesus, the Son of God;
who, because of His surpassing love towards His creation,
condescended to be born of the virgin, He Himself uniting man
through Himself to God, and having suffered under Pontius Pilate,
and rising again, and having been received up in splendor, shall
come in glory, the Savior of those who are saved, and the Judge of
those who are judged, and sending into eternal fire those who
transform the truth, and despise His Father and His advent. Those
who, in the absence of written documents, have believed this faith, are
barbarians, so far as regards our language; but as regards doctrine,
manner, and tenor of life, they are, because of faith, very wise indeed;
and they do please God, ordering their conversation in all righteousness,
chastity, and wisdom. If any one were to preach to these men the
inventions of the heretics, speaking to them in their own language, they
would at once stop their ears, and flee as far off as possible, not enduring
even to listen to the blasphemous address. Thus, by means of that
ancient tradition of the apostles, they do not suffer their mind to
conceive anything of the [doctrines suggested by the] portentous
language of these teachers, among whom neither Church nor
doctrine has ever been established. (Irenaeus, 3.4.2)
And since the apostasy tyrannized us over us unjustly, and, though
we were by nature the property of the omnipotent God, alienated us
contrary to [our intended] nature, rendering us its own disciples, the
Word of God, powerful in all things, and not defective with regard to His
own justice, did righteously turn against that apostasy, and redeemed
from it His own property, not by violent means, as the [apostasy] had
obtained dominion over us at the beginning, when it insatiably snatched

Statements of Faith / SF7

away what was not its own, but by means of persuasion, as becomes a
God of counsel, who does not use violent means to obtain what He
desires; so that neither should justice be infringed upon, nor the ancient
handiwork of God go to destruction... [T]he Lord thus has redeemed
us through His own blood, giving His soul for our souls, and His
flesh for our flesh... (Irenaeus, 5.1.1)
Now this being is the Creator (Demiurgus), who is, in respect of
His love, the Father; but in respect of His power, He is Lord; and in
respect of His wisdom, our Maker and Fashioner; by transgressing
whose commandment we became His enemies. And therefore in the last
times the Lord has restored us into friendship through His incarnation,
having become the Mediator between God and men [(First Timothy 2:5-6)];
propitiating indeed for us the Father against whom we had sinned,
and cancelling our disobedience by His own obedience; conferring
also upon us the gift of communion with, and subjection to, our
Maker. For this reason also He has taught us to say in prayer, And
forgive us our debts [(Matthew 6:12)]; since indeed He is our Father,
whose debtors we were, having transgressed His commandments. But
who is this Being? Is He some unknown one, and a Father who gives no
commandment to any one? Or is He the God who is proclaimed in the
Scriptures, to whom we were debtors, having transgressed His
commandment? Now the commandment was given to man by the Word.
For Adam, it is said, heard the voice of the Lord God [(Genesis 3:8)].
Rightly then does His Word say to man, Your sins are forgiven you
[(Matthew 9:2; Luke 5:20)]; He, the same against whom we had sinned in
the beginning, grants forgiveness of sins in the end. But if indeed we
had disobeyed the command of any other, while it was a different being
who said, Your sins are forgiven you [(Matthew 9:2; Luke 5:20)], such a
one is neither good, nor true, nor just. For how can he be good, who does
not give from what belongs to himself? Or how can he be just, who
snatches away the goods of another? And in what way can sins be truly
remitted, unless that He against whom we have sinned has Himself
granted remission through the bowels of mercy of our God, in which He
has visited us [(Luke 1:78)] through His Son [(or Descended One)]? (Irenaeus,
5.17.1)

From On Prescriptions Against Heretics (160-220 AD):


Now, with regard to this Rule of Faiththat we may from this point
acknowledge what it is which we defendit is, you must know, that
which prescribes the belief that there is one only God, and that He is
none other than the Creator of the world, who produced all things out of
nothing through His own Word, first of all sent forth; that this Word is
called His Son, and, under the name of God, was seen in diverse
manners by the patriarchs, heard at all times in the prophets, at last
brought down by the Spirit and Power of the Father into the virgin Mary,
was made flesh in her womb, and, being born of her, went forth as Jesus

SF8 / Statements of Faith

Christ; thenceforth He preached the new law and the new promise of the
kingdom of heaven, worked miracles; having been crucified, He rose
again the third day; [then] having ascended into the heavens, He sat at
the right hand of the Father; sent instead of Himself the Power of the
Holy Spirit to lead such as believe; will come with glory to take the
saints to the enjoyment of everlasting life and of the heavenly promises,
and to condemn the wicked to everlasting fire, after the resurrection of
both these classes shall have happened, together with the restoration of
their flesh. This rule, as it will be proved, was taught by Christ, and
raises among ourselves no other questions than those which heresies
introduce, and which make men heretics. (Tertullian, XIII)

Post-Toleration Statements of Faith


Nicene Creed (325 AD):
We believe in ONE God: The Father Almighty, maker of all things
visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christthe Son of God, the
only-begotten [(uniquely-emanated)] of His Father, of the substance of
the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten
[(emanated)], not made, being of one substance with the Fatherby
whom all things were made (both that which is in heaven and that of the
earth), [and] who for us men and for our salvation came down [from
heaven] and was incarnate and was made man (He suffered and on the
third day, He rose again, and [He later] ascended into heaven), and He
shall come again to judge both the living and the dead; and in the Holy
Spirit. And whosoever shall say that there was a time when the Son of
God was NOT, or that before He was begotten [(emanated)] He was
NOT, or that He was made of things that were NOT, or that He is of a
different substance or essence [from the Father] or that He is a creature,
or subject to change or conversionall who say such [things], the
Catholic [(Universal)] and Apostolic [(deriving from the Apostles)]
Church anathematizes them [(calls for the condemnation of them or
curses them)]. (Acts of the Ecumenical Councils of Ephesus & Chalcedon, Creed)
Revision of Nicene Creed at Constantinople I (381 AD):
We believe in ONE God: the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and
earth and of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only-begotten [(uniquely-emanated)] Son of God, begotten
[(emanated)] of His Father before all worlds, Light of Light, very God of
very God, begotten [(emanated)] [but] NOT made, being of one
substance with the Father, by whom all things were made, who for us
men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by
the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was
crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, [and] He suffered and was
buried, and [on] the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures,
and ascended into heaven, and sits at the Right Hand of the Father, and

Statements of Faith / SF9

He shall come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead,
whose kingdom shall have no end; and we believe in the Holy Spirit, the
Lord and Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father, who with the
Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spoke by
the Prophets. And [we believe] in one, holy, Catholic [(Universal)] and
Apostolic Church. We acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of
sins, [and] we look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the
world to come. Amen. (Acts of the Council of Chalcedon, Creed)
The Apostles Creed (ca. 400 AD):
I believe in God the Father Almighty, invisible and impassible, and in
Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; who was born from the Holy Spirit
of the Virgin Mary; was crucified under Pontius Pilate and buried; He
descended to hell; on the third day He rose again from the dead. He
ascended to the heavens: He sits at the right hand of the Father; thence
He is to come to judge the quick and the dead. And in the Holy Spirit;
the Holy Church; the remission of sins; [and] the resurrection of this
flesh. (Rufinus, A Commentary on the Apostles Creed)

Traditional Churches Misuses of Scripture


Traditional Churches have adopted certain supposedly Biblical
arguments which they present to Protestants so as to win them over to
Traditional Christianity. Sadly, these arguments do not adequately
account for the Scriptures to which they appeal. Consequently, we will
address the two most common supposedly Biblical arguments used by
Traditional Christians in order to correct the errors thereof.
Eastern Orthodoxy (EO)
The doctrines taught by Christ and His disciples are to be
safeguarded by the Church, the pillar and support of the truth
(I Ti 3:15) and are not open for renegotiation. (Orthodox Study Bible,
2008, p. xxi)

It is obvious from the above quote that the EO believe that I Timothy
3:15 teaches that it is the Church institution which holds and upholds
genuine Christianity. The problem with using I Timothy 3:15 in this
way is that it cuts out the parallel construction that is actually found in
the text: ...I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct
yourself in the house[hold] of God, which is the church [(LIT.,
assembly)] of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth (I Tim.
3:15, the NKJV as found in the Orthodox Study Bible). Given the remainder of the
verse, it should be obvious to the casual reader that Paul is describing
the household as the Church and the pillar and ground while
also describing God as the living God and the truth. Stated
more bluntly, Paul is saying that God is the Truth and that we are the
pillar and ground which belongs to that Truth (an interpretation bolstered by

SF10 / Statements of Faith


the fact that the Greek genitive case generally implies possession or derivationof the
truth could just as easily be translated as the Truths or from the Truth). This
equivalence of God with the Truth is indeed a theme in the NT (e.g., II
Tim. 2:9 cr 2:15; I John 5:20), and even Jesus (God in the flesh) calls Himself
the Truth (John 14:6). Consequently, given that this passage equates God

with the Truth, to say that the Church institution holds and upholds the
Truth would be to imply that Mankind could hold and uphold God,
which is ridiculous.
Nonetheless, the phrase which describes the church as the pillar
[(stulos)] and ground sounds quite forceful with regard to the EO
interpretation of I Timothy 3:15. It becomes less impressive, though,
when one realizes that the NT uses such language to describe what God
has firmly established rather than to describe something which
establishes/supports something else:
For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is
laid, which is Jesus Christ. (I Cor. 3:11, ibid)
Nevertheless, the solid foundation of God stands, having this
seal: The Lord knows those who are His, and Let everyone
who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity. (II Tim. 2:19,
ibid)

He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar [(stulos)] in the


temple of My God, and he shall go out no more... (Rev. 3:12, ibid)

Roman Catholicism (RC)


And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my
church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. (Matt.
16:18, NRSVCE)

This verse has indeed been used by RC for a while to prove that they
are the true Church since they were founded by and keep the Apostolic
succession of Peter (though there is evidence that such wasnt common from the
beginning; cr ANF, 5.561). The problem with using this verse as it reads
above is that the above translation isnt very accurate. A more accurate
translation is as follows:
And I further express to you that you are Peter, and, in addition
to* this which is rock, I will embolden My assembly and the
gates of the place of the dead will not come down forcefully on
top of it. (Matt. 16:18, Translation of the NA28)
_______________________________________
* The above rendering of (epi) is supported by Souters revised and expanded A
Pocket Lexicon of the Greek New Testament; William Mounces Mounces Complete
Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words; Barclay M. Newmans A
Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament (revised 2010; corrected
2014); Maurice A. Robinson and Mark A. Houses revised and updated Analytical
Lexicon of New testament Greek; and J. Lust, E. Eynikel, and K. Hauspies GreekEnglish Lexicon of the Septuagint. It is further supported by the typical renderings of
the same dative construction which is found in Tobit 2:14, II Cor. 7:13, & Col. 3:14.

Canon Lists / CL1

Historical Lists of the Books of the Canon


The objective of this appendix is to provide the reader with an
awareness of the historical lists of the bible which were composed between
the New Testament (NT) Era and the end of the fifth century (a couple
later lists are also included for the sake of interest). The end of the fifth
century was selected as a termination point because (a) it is a point after
the Pre-Toleration Era (thus giving Christians time to communicate freely
across the Roman Empire), (b) it is prior to the East-West Schism (1054
AD), (c) there is a natural break between lists composed in the fifth century
and later centuries, and (d) the later lists tend to be repetitions of earlier
lists (e.g., John of Damascus essentially reproduces the list of Epiphanius).
Unfortunately, reproducing every list would be rather space-consumptive,
so I have only provided complete quotations for a select group of the lists.
All of the significant lists available to me, however, are nonetheless
represented in the following table:
Significantly Debated OT Books
1. Esther
2. Wisdom of Solomon
3. 12 Minor Prophets
4. Epistle of Jeremiah
5. I Maccabees
6. II Maccabees
7. Baruch
8. Tobit
9. Judith
10. 151st Psalm
11. Sirach
12. III Maccabees
13. IV Maccabees
-------------------------------------

Significantly Debated NT Books


A. James
B. II Peter
C. Hebrews
D. I Peter
E. Apocalypse of Peter
F. Shepherd of Hermas
G. Laodiceans
H. Alexandrians
I. Psalms of Marcion
J. III John
K. Philemon
L. Jude
M. Acts of Paul
N. Epistle of Barnabas
O. Teachings/Constitutions/Canons of the Apostles
P. Gospel According to the Hebrews
Q. Gospel of Peter
R. Gospel of Thomas
All lists have been
S. Gospel of Matthias
collated against the
T. Acts of Andrew & John
U. Revelation
standard 66-book
V. II John
Evangelical Canon.
W. I Clement
X. II Clement
Y. [Some Gospel/Acts/Teaching]...of James
Z. ...of Peter & John
AA. ...of Andrew
OT
NT
List Source
(Probably ~ /
(Probably ~ /
(Council Lists,
Quotes or
Quotes or
Source
Freestanding Lists,
Alludes to ! /
Alludes to ! /
or Authors Lists)
Adds + /
Adds + /
Omits <)
Omits <)
1) *Josephus (~90
quoted in Hist. Eccl., 3.10.1-5
--N/A
AD)

CL2 / Canon Lists


2) *Clement I of
Rome (~96 AD)
3) *Melito (~160
AD)

N/A

! A, B, C

I Clement

<1
~+2

N/A

quoted in Hist. Eccl., 4.26

~ < A, B, C, D
4) *Muratorian
Fragment (~170
AD)

~+2

(it is possible
that the author
rejects or omits
III John, but this
is unlikely)

Muratori, V.C. Antiq. Ital.


Med. aev., vol. iii. col. 854

< F, G, H, I
~+E
! NT less B, J,
K, L
~+F

B. M. Metzger, The Canon


of the New Testament: Its
Origin, Development, and
Significance, 1987 AD
(reprinted 2009), p. 154

5) *Irenaeus (~180
AD)

~+2

6) *Origen (~240
AD)

< 5, 6
~+3
+4

---

N/A

< E, F, M, N,
O, P, Q, R,
S, T

Hist. Eccl., 3.25.1-7

+ 4, 7

< R, U

Catechetical Lectures, 4.33-37

~ + 8, 9
+4

N/A

Expositions of the Psalms, 15

7) *Eusebius of
Caesarea (~324
AD)
8) *Cyril of
Jerusalem (~350
AD)
9) Hilary of Poitiers
(~360 AD)

10) Cheltenham
List (~360 AD)

11) Council of
Laodicea (~363
AD)
12) *Athanasius
(~367 AD)
13) Gregory of
Nazianzus
(~380 AD)
14) Amphilocius of
Iconium (~380
AD)
15) Apostolic
Canons (~380
AD)

quoted in Hist. Eccl. 6.25;


Homilies on Joshua, 7.1

Erwin Preuschen, Analecta:


Krzere texte zur Geschichte
der Alten Kirche und des
Kanons, zusammengestellt
von Erwin Preuschen
(Leipzig: Mohr, 1893), pp.
138-40
some manuscripts of the
decrees of the Council of
Laodicea

+ 5, 6, 8, 9, 10

< A, C, L
~ + B, J, V

+ 4, 7

<U

< 1, 2, 8, 9, 11
+ 4, 7

< F, O

Festal Letter 39

<1

<U

Carmina Dogmatica, 1.1.12

~+1

~ + B, J, L, U,
V

Iambics for Seleucus

< 10
~ + 11
+ 5, 6, 9, 12

<U
+ O, W, X

Canon 85

16) Epiphanius
(~385 AD)

~ + 2, 11
+ 4, 7

17) *Jerome (~3914 AD)

< 2, 5, 6, 8, 9,
11

---

<F

The Panarion of Epiphanius


of Salamis, 1.1-46;
Panarion, 76.5
Prefaces to the Books of the
Vulgate, Preface to the Books
of Samuel and Kings, ~ 391
AD; To Paulinus, Letter
LIII, 9-10, 394 AD

Canon Lists / CL3


18) *Council of
Hippo (~393
AD)

+ 2, 8, 9, 11

---

African Code, Canon 24

19) Augustin (~397


AD)
20) *Rufinus (~400
AD)
21) Claromontanus
List (~400 AD)
22) Pope Innocent I
(~405 AD)

+ 2, 5, 6, 8, 9,
--On Christian Doctrine, 2.8
11
< 2, 5, 6, 8, 9,
Exposition of the Apostles
< E, F, N
11
Creed, 36-38
+ 2, 5, 6, 8, 9,
+ E, F, M, N
Codex Claromontanus
11, 13
+ 2, 5, 6, 8, 9,
< R, S, Y, Z,
Letter to Exsuperius
11
AA
* These lists are fully cited below (most with commentary).
List sources in bold are generally considered unreliable for one reason or another.

Clement I of Rome (ca. 96 AD)


Far from us be that which is written, Wretched are they who are of a
double mind, and of a doubting heart; who say These things we have
heard even in the times of our fathers; but, behold, we have grown old,
and none of them has happened to us [(James 1:8 & II Peter 3:3-4)].
(Clement I, Chapter 23)

NOTE: The above excerpt demonstrates an early awareness of


both the epistle of James and II Peter. Moreover, the entirety
I Clement also makes it clear that every major section of the
New Testament existed in the first century: Gospels (C13),
Acts (C2), Pauline Epistles (C47 (including Hebrews (C36))),
Catholic Epistles (C23), & Revelation (C34).

Josephus (Jewish Historian) (37-100 AD)


We have not, therefore, a multitude of books disagreeing and
conflicting with one another; but we have only twenty-two, which
contain the record of all time and are justly held to be divine. Of these,
five are by Moses, and contain the laws and the tradition respecting the
origin of man, and continue the history down to his own death. This
period embraces nearly three thousand years.
From the death of Moses to the death of Artaxerxes, who succeeded
Xerxes as king of Persia, the prophets that followed Moses wrote the
history of their own times in thirteen books. The other four books
contain hymns to God, and precepts for the regulation of the life of men.
From the time of Artaxerxes to our own day all the events have been
recorded, but the accounts are not worthy of the same confidence that we
repose in those which preceded them, because there has not been during
this time an exact succession of prophets [(cr I Maccabees 9:26b-27,
which reveals that the voice of the Prophets had ceased)]. How much we
are attached to our own writings is shown plainly by our treatment
of them. For although so great a period has already passed by, no
one has ventured either to add to or to take from them, but it is

CL4 / Canon Lists

inbred in all Jews from their very birth to regard them as the teachings
of God [(cr. I Maccabees 3:48, which describes the books of the law as
something which may be consulted as one would consult an idol)], and
to abide by them, and, if necessary, cheerfully to die for them.
(quoted in Eusebius, Church History, Book III, X.1-5)

Likely Specific Composition of Josephus Canon:


Five Books of Moses: Gen., Exo., Lev., Num., Deu.
Thirteen Books of History: Jos., Judges & Ruth (together), the
Samuels, the Kings, the Chronicles, Ezra & Neh. (together),
Est., Isa., Jer. & Lam. (together), Eze., Dan., Twelve Minor
Prophets, & Job [(or perhaps Ruth was separate and
Esther was omitted, as in Melito and Athanasius)]
Four Books of Hymns & Precepts: Psa., Pro., Ecc., & Song of
Songs

Muratorian Fragment (170 AD)


. . . at which nevertheless he was present, and so he placed [them in
his narrative]. The third book of the Gospel is that according to Luke.
Luke, the well-known physician, after the ascension of Christ, when Paul
had taken with him as one zealous for the law, composed it in his own
name, according to [the general] belief. Yet he himself had not seen the
Lord in the flesh; and therefore, as he was able to ascertain events, so
indeed he begins to tell the story from the birth of John. The fourth of the
Gospels is that of John, [one] of the disciples. To his fellow disciples
and bishops, who had been urging him [to write], he said, Fast with me
from today to three days, and what will be revealed to each one let us tell
it to one another. In the same night it was revealed to Andrew, [one] of
the apostles, that John should write down all things in his own name
while all of them should review it. And so, though various elements may
be taught in the individual books of the Gospels, nevertheless this makes
no difference to the Faith of believers, since by the one sovereign Spirit
all things have been declared in all [the Gospels]: concerning the
nativity, concerning the passion, concerning the resurrection, concerning
life with His disciples, and concerning His twofold coming (the first in
lowliness when He was despised, which has taken place; the second
glorious in royal power, which is still in the future). What marvel is it
then, if John so consistently mentions these particular points also in
his epistles, saying about himself, What we have seen with our eyes
and heard with our ears and our hands have handled, these things we
have written to you? [(cr I John 1:1-3)] For in this way he professes
[himself] to be not only an eye-witness and hearer, but also a writer of
all the marvelous deeds of the Lord, in their order. Moreover, the acts of
all the apostles were written in one book. For the most excellent
Theophilus Luke compiled the individual events that took place in his
presenceas he plainly shows by omitting the martyrdom of Peter as

Canon Lists / CL5

well as the departure of Paul from the city [of Rome] when he journeyed
to Spain. As for the epistles of Paul, they themselves make clear to
those desiring to understand, which ones [they are], from what place, or
for what reason they were sent. First of all, to the Corinthians,
prohibiting their heretical schisms; next, to the Galatians, against
circumcision; then to the Romans he wrote at length, explaining the plan
of the Scriptures and also that Christ is their main theme. It is necessary
for us to discuss these one by one, since the blessed apostle Paul himself,
following the example of his predecessor John, writes by name to
only seven churches [(a reference to the seven churches of Revelation)]
in the following sequence: To the Corinthians first, to the Ephesians
second, to the Philippians third, to the Colossians fourth, to the Galatians
fifth, to the Thessalonians sixth, to the Romans seventh. It is true that he
writes once more to the Corinthians and to the Thessalonians for the sake
of admonition, yet it is clearly recognizable that there is one Church
spread throughout the whole extent of the earth. For John also in the
Apocalypse [(Revelation)], though he writes to seven churches,
nevertheless speaks to all. [Paul also wrote] out of affection and love one
to Philemon, one to Titus, and two to Timothy; and these are held sacred
in the esteem of the Universal Church for the regulation of ecclesiastical
discipline. There is current also [an epistle] to the Laodiceans, [and]
another to the Alexandrians, [both] forged in Pauls name to [further] the
heresy of Marcion, and several others which cannot be received into the
Universal Churchfor it is not fitting that gall be mixed with honey.
Moreover, the epistle of Jude and two of the above-mentioned John are
counted in [addition to] the universal [one] [(catholic one)]; and [the
book of] Wisdom, written by the friends of Solomon in his honor. We
receive only the apocalypses of John and Peter, though some of us are
not willing that the latter be read in church. But Hermas wrote the
Shepherd very recently, in our times, in the city of Rome, while
bishop Pius, his brother, was occupying the [episcopal] chair of the
church of the city of Rome. And therefore it ought indeed to be read;
but it cannot be read publicly to the people in church either among
the Prophets, whose number is complete, or among the Apostles, for
it is after [their] time. But we accept nothing whatever of Arsinous or
Valentinus or Miltiades, who also composed a new book of psalms for
Marcion, together with Basilides, the Asian founder of the
Cataphrygians . . .
(Muratori, V.C. Antiq. Ital. Med. aev., vol. iii. col. 854)

NOTE: The Muratorian Fragment fails to refer to Hebrews, James,


and I&II Peter (however, the fragment is incomplete, so it
may have originally included these books). (It also
technically omits Matthew and Mark, but these are implied
insomuch as the author lists Luke as the third Gospel.) Also, it
does not mention much of the Old Testament, except

CL6 / Canon Lists

perhaps to say that they do admit the book of Wisdom.


What the book called Wisdom refers to is unclear as both
Proverbs and the Wisdom of Solomon went by that name for
a time. If we follow Melito, then this Wisdom is Proverbs, but
most scholars think that the Wisdom being referred to in the
fragment is the Wisdom of Solomon rather than Proverbs. This
is significant because early sources attributed the Wisdom of
Solomon to Joshua the son of Ben Sirach (who lived c. 130
BC; cr Augustin, On Christian Doctrine, 2.8, 4th Cen.) or Philo
of Alexandria (c. 25 BC to 50 AD). Had the author known
that the Wisdom of Solomon was a later work, then the he
most certainly would have rejected the Wisdom of Solomon
for the same reason that he rejects the Shepherd of Hermas:
it was written in the wrong timeframe. To reinforce this point, I
would point out that some commentators have noted that
the text in question could be rendered and [not] Wisdom of
Solomon, written by [Philo] in his [(Solomons)] honor (the
Greek word for Philo, Philo or Philonos, being very similar to
the Greek word for friends, Philoi or Philous), in which case
the fragment does not attest to the authenticity of the
Wisdom of Solomon.
Further, the fragment mentions two other significant
books which are not considered Canonical at present: the
Shepherd and the Apocalypse of Peter. Neither the
Shepherd nor the Apocalypse of Peter remained in the
Canon because they were both found to be inauthentic. In
fact, the author of the fragment notes that, while the
Shepherd was used by the Church (ecclesiastical), it is not
an authentic part of the Canon as it came after the time of
the Apostles and since the Prophets (Old Testament books)
are closed (i.e., there cannot be any more books added to
the OT). Likewise, the author admits doubt as to the
authenticity of the Apocalypse of Peter by saying that
some of us are not willing that the latter be read in church.
It should be noted that the Apocalypse of Peter is not unOrthodoxthe problem is that it simply doesnt come from
Peter. That is, Peter actually preferred to write through
someone else (a scribe)his Gospel was written by Mark
and his letters were written through anothers hand (Silvanus
in the first case)hence supposedly self-written works by
Peter were easy to spot as being forgeries.
One particularly puzzling aspect of the Muratorian
Fragment is its treatment of the epistles of John. That is, it
mentions the epistles of John at an early point, specifically
quoting I John, and later talks about the two epistles of John.

Canon Lists / CL7

Further, the text in which the two epistles are mentioned is


somewhat ambiguous in that it could be read, with some
emendation, as two of the above-mentioned John are
counted in [addition to] the universal [one] [(catholic one)]
or, with less emendation, as two of the above-mentioned
John are counted in the Universal [Church] [(Catholic
Church)]. If the second reading is followed, which is the
more typical translation, then the author seems to be
omitting III John. However, such an omission would be
extremely odd as no other early list distinguishes I&II John
from III John. Instead, it is likely that the fragment was written
when II&III John were being recognized in the authors area,
hence he would have been more likely to contrast the first
epistle of John, the one already universally accepted in his
region (and therefore catholic in his region), with the two
which had just recently been recognized. This kind of
distinction would be typical in that other lists also distinguish
between I John and II&III John, including Origen, Eusebius, &
Amphilocius of Iconium (in Iambics for Seleucus). So, given
that the former translation is consistent with other lists and
given that it does not require an extra, non-implicit noun
(i.e., Church) to be added after universal, it is more likely that
the first reading is authentic, hence it has been rendered so
in the above excerpt.
In any case, the Muratorian fragment is clear evidence
that historical authenticity was a major criterion of
Canonicity in the early Church and also that the Old
Testament (the collection of the books of the Prophets) was
considered to be a closed/fixed collection (which stands in
contrast to the modern Eastern Orthodox refusal to fix their
Old Testament Canon).

Melito (died ca. 180 AD)


Melito to his brother Onesimus: Greetings!
As you have often, prompted by your regard for the Word of God,
expressed a wish to have some extracts made from the Law and the
Prophets concerning the Savior, and concerning our Faith in general, and
have desired, moreover, to obtain an accurate account of the Ancient
Books, as regards their number and their arrangement, I have striven to
the best of my ability to perform this taskwell-knowing your zeal for
the Faith and your eagerness to become acquainted with the Word and
especially because I am assured that, through your yearning after God,
you esteem these things beyond all things elseengaged as you are in a
struggle for eternal Salvation.

CL8 / Canon Lists

I accordingly proceeded to the East and went to the very spot where
the things in question were preached and took place, and, having made
myself accurately acquainted with the books of the Old Testament, I
have set them down below and herewith send you the list. Their names
are as follows:
The five of Moses (Genesis1, Exodus2, Leviticus3, Numbers4, &
Deuteronomy5); Joshua6, Judges7, Ruth8, the four of the Kings12
[(what we would call the Samuels and Kings)], the two of
Chronicles14, the Psalms of David15, the Proverbs of Solomon16
(also called Wisdom), Ecclesiastes17, the Song of Songs18, Job19;
the Prophets (Isaiah20, Jeremiah21 [(Lamentations was generally
implied if Jeremiah was mentioned as they were considered to be
parts of the same book)], of the Twelve in a single book22,
Daniel23, Ezekiel24, & Esdras25 [(Ezra-Nehemiah)]).
From these I have made my extracts, dividing them into six
[compilations].
(Melito, Fragments of Melito, IV)

NOTE: Melitos Canon of the Old Testament makes no mention


of Esther. This denial of the Canonicity of Esther is also found
in Athanasius & Gregory of Nazianzus and may also have
been the case with Josephus & Amphilocius of Iconium.
Further, in Codex Sinaiticus, Esther (and Job) seem to be set
aside in a secondary rank.
As to whether Melito is citing Wisdom of Solomon or
saying that Wisdom is the same as Proverbs, it should be
noted that Eusebius says that the whole company of the
ancients called the Proverbs of Solomon [by the title of] allvirtuous Wisdom (Hist. Eccl., 4.22.8). Therefore, it seems
probable that many of the early unqualified mentions of
Wisdom are, in fact, references to Proverbs.

Irenaeus (130-202 AD)


In his [(Irenaeus)] Adversus Haereses he quotes 1,075 passages from
almost all of the books of the New Testament: 626 from the Gospels, 54
from Acts, 280 from the Pauline Epistles (but not Philemon), 15 from the
Catholic Epistles (but not II Peter, III John, or Jude), and 29 from the
Book of Revelation.
(B. M. Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin,
Development, and Significance, 1987 AD (reprinted 2009), p. 154)

NOTE: One ought to notice that Irenaeus only omits some of the
smallest epistles (letters) found in the New Testament,
meaning that it is very probable that he omitted them only
because they did not offer much material to be quoted.
That said, he does clearly quote material that is essentially

Canon Lists / CL9

identical to II Peter 3:8 (Against Heresies, 5.23.2), but, as this


material is somewhat similar to Psalm 90:4, it is generally not
tallied as a NT quotation. It is also of interest to note that
Irenaeus seemed to accept the Shepherd of Hermas as
Scripture (Hist. Eccl., 5.8.7). Further, Irenaeus does quote the
Wisdom of Solomon, possibly as Scripture (quoted in Hist.
Eccl., 5.8.8). Aside from the Wisdom of Solomon, I am not
aware of any other Extra Books of the OT that Irenaeus
quotes.

Origen (184-254 AD)


So too our Lord Jesus Christ...sent His apostles as priests carrying
well-wrought trumpets. First Matthew sounded the priestly trumpet in
his Gospel. Mark also, and Luke, and John, each gave [forth] a strain on
their priestly trumpets. Peter, moreover, sounds with the two trumpets of
his epistles; James also and Jude. Still the number is incomplete, and
John gives forth the trumpet sound through his epistles [(the three
catholic letters and Revelation)]; and Luke while describing the deeds of
the apostles. Latest of all, moreover, that one comes who said, I think
that God has set us forth as the apostles last of all [(I Cor. 4:9)], and
thundering on the fourteen trumpets of his epistles He, [our Lord Jesus
Christ,] threw down, even to their very foundations, the walls of Jericho,
that is to say, all the instruments of idolatry and the dogmas of the
philosophers.
(Homilies on Joshua, 7.1)

When expounding the first Psalm, he gives a catalogue of


the sacred Scriptures of the Old Testament as follows: It should be
stated that the Canonical books, as the Hebrews have handed them
down, are twenty-two; corresponding with the number of their letters.
Farther on he says: The twenty-two books of the Hebrews are the
following: That which is called by us Genesis, but by the Hebrews, from
the beginning of the book, Bresith, which means, In the Beginning;
Exodus, Welesmoth, that is, These are the Names; Leviticus, Wikra,
And He called; Numbers, Ammesphekodeim; Deuteronomy,
Eleaddebareim, These are the Words; Jesus, the son of Nave, Josoue
ben Noun; Judges and Ruth, among them in one book, Saphateim; the
First and Second of Kings, among them one, Samouel, that is, The
Called of God; the Third and Fourth of Kings in one, Wammelch David,
that is, The Kingdom of David; of the Chronicles, the First and Second
in one, Dabreamein, that is, Records of Days; Esdras, First and
Second in one, Ezra, that is, An Assistant; the book of Psalms,
Spharthelleim; the Proverbs of Solomon, Meloth; Ecclesiastes, Koelth;
the Song of Songs (not, as some suppose, Songs of Songs), Sir Hassirim;
Isaiah, Jessia; Jeremiah, with Lamentations and the epistle [(I can find
no record of the Epistle of Jeremiah being in use before the time of

CL10 / Canon Lists

Origen)] in one, Jeremia; Daniel, Daniel; Ezekiel, Jezekiel; Job, Job;


Esther, Esther. [(Origen omits the 12 Minor Prophets but said there were
22 books, hence he probably meant to include the 12 Minor Prophets.)]
And outside of these [(that is, besides the 22 Canonical books)] there are
the Maccabees, which are entitled Sarbeth Sabanaiel. He gives these in
the above-mentioned work.
In his first book on Matthews Gospel, maintaining the Canon of
the Church, he testifies that he knows only four Gospels, writing as
follows: Among the four Gospels, which are the only indisputable ones
in the Church of God under heaven, I have learned by tradition that the
first was written by Matthew, who was once a publican, but afterwards
an apostle of Jesus Christ, and it was prepared for the converts from
Judaism, and published in the Hebrew language. The second is by
Mark, who composed it according to the instructions of Peter, who in
his Catholic epistle acknowledges him as a son, saying, The church that
is at Babylon elected together with you, salutes you, and so does Marcus,
my son [(1 Peter 5:13)]. And the third by Luke, the Gospel
commended by Paul [(I Timothy 5:18 cr Luke 10:7)], and composed for
Gentile converts. Last of all that by John.
In the fifth book of his Expositions of John's Gospel, he speaks thus
concerning the epistles of the apostles: But he who was made
sufficient to be a minister of the new testament, not of the letter, but of
the Spirit [(II Corinthians 3:6)], that is, Paul, who fully preached the
Gospel from Jerusalem and round about even unto Illyricum
[(Romans 15:19)], did not write to all the churches which he had
instructed and to those to which he wrote he sent but few lines. And
Peter, on whom the assembly of Christ is built, against which the gates
of hell shall not prevail [(cr Matthew 16:18)], has left one
acknowledged epistle; but there is also a second, indeed doubted [by
some]. Why need we speak of him who reclined upon the bosom of
Jesus, John, who has left us one Gospel, though he confessed that he
might write so many that the world could not contain them? And he
wrote also the Apocalypse, but was commanded to keep silence and not
to write the words of the seven thunders. He has left also an epistle of
very few lines; perhaps also a second and third; but not all consider
them genuine, and together they do not contain hundred lines.
In addition he makes the following statements in regard to
the Epistle to the Hebrews in his Homilies upon it: That the verbal style
of the epistle entitled To the Hebrews, is not rude like the language of
the apostle, who acknowledged himself rude in speech [(II Corinthians
11:6)] that is, in expression; but that its diction is purer Greek, anyone
who
has
the
power
to
discern
differences
of
phraseology will acknowledge. Moreover, that the thoughts of
the epistle are admirable, and not inferior to the acknowledged apostolic
writings, anyone who carefully examines the apostolic text will admit.

Canon Lists / CL11

Farther on he adds: If I gave my opinion, I should say that the


thoughts are those of the apostle, but the diction and phraseology are
those of someone who remembered the apostolic teachings, and wrote
down at his leisure what had been said by his teacher. Therefore if
any church holds that this epistle is by Paul, let it be commended for this.
For not without reason have the ancients handed it down as Pauls.
(quoted in Eusebius, Church History, Book VI, XXV.1-13, 4th Cen.)

NOTE: While Origen discusses several doubts as to the


authorship of various New Testament works, he never claims
that they are non-Canonical. That is, what the early
Christians were sure of is that even if the books of dubious
authorship do not represent the work of eye-witnesses, they
at least represent the work of ear-witnesses (those who had
heard directly from the eye-witnesses) and thus are
historically viable sources of information.

Eusebius (263-339 AD)


Since we are dealing with this subject it is proper to sum up the
writings of the New Testament which have been already mentioned.
First then must be put the holy quaternion of the Gospels; following
them the Acts of the Apostles. After this must be reckoned the epistles
of Paul; next in order the extant former epistle of John, and likewise
the epistle of Peter, must be maintained. After them is to be placed, if it
really seem proper, the Apocalypse of John, concerning which we shall
give the different opinions at the proper time. These then belong among
the credited writings [(the ones which we are absolutely certain of)].
Among the controversial writings [in the Canon], which are
nevertheless familiar to the majority [(meaning that a minority of the
churches had problems with these books that follow)], are extant the
epistle of James (as it is called), and that of Jude, and the second
epistle of Peter, and those that are called the Second and Third of
John (whether they belong to the evangelist or to another person of the
same name).
Among the rejected writings [(i.e., those we know are inauthentic but
have been read in the churches at one time or another)] must be reckoned
also the Acts of Paul, and the so-called Shepherd, and the Apocalypse of
Peter, and in addition to these the extant epistle of Barnabas, and the socalled Teachings of the Apostles; and besides, as I said, the Apocalypse
of John, if it seem proper, which some, as I said, reject, but which others
class with the credited books. And among these some have placed also
the Gospel according to the Hebrews, with which those of the Hebrews
that have accepted Christ are especially delighted.
And all these may be reckoned among the controversial books, but
we have nevertheless felt compelled to give a catalogue of these also
distinguishing those works which, according to ecclesiastical tradition,

CL12 / Canon Lists

are true and genuine and commonly accepted, from those others which,
being not entestamented [(i.e., not ever read as part of the Canon)] but
controversial, are yet at the same time known to most ecclesiastical
writers. We have felt compelled to give this catalogue in order that we
might be able to know both these works and those that are cited by the
heretics under the name of the apostles, including, for instance, such
books as the Gospels of Peter, of Thomas, of Matthias, or of any others
besides them, and the Acts of Andrew and John and the other apostles.
To none of these has any who belonged to the succession of
ecclesiastical writers ever thought it right to refer in his writings. And
further, the character of the style [of these latter works] is at variance
with apostolic usage, and both the thoughts and the purpose of the things
that are related in them are so completely out of accord with true
orthodoxy that they clearly show themselves to be the fictions of
heretics. Wherefore they are not to be placed even among the rejected
writings, but are all of them to be cast aside as absurd and impious.
(Church History, Book III, XXV.1-7)

NOTE: Eusebius, writing around AD 323 or 324 (before the


council of Nicea in AD 325), like Origen, puts forward the
New Testament Canon exactly as we have it today. This is an
important detail in that some people erroneously think that
the Canon was decided by ecumenical council(s). That is,
though later councils did declare which books would be
allowed to be read in their churches (such as the council of
Hippo), no council decided by conscientious selection
which books would be in the Canon. Instead, such
declarations were made on the basis of traditionon the
basis of what had been handed down to them versus what
had not been handed down to themrather than a
selection made in the moment based solely on what was
considered Orthodox at the time. The nice thing about
tradition, in this case, is it is not likely to omit anything of
substantial importance from the Canon and it will prevent
most external heresies from entering the Canon. Selection,
on the other hand, implicitly has the potential to eradicate
authentic alternatives.
That said, tradition, as a method of maintaining what was
first established, does have a disadvantage in that tradition
tends to be conservativeit tends to keep anything that has
been handed down, good or bad. Consequently, Canon
lists based on tradition tend to increase in size as time goes
on (for example, the Eastern Orthodox Churcha Traditional
church with one of the longest-running, uninterrupted
traditionshas one of the largest collections of potential Old
Testament books; the Catholic Church, which has a

Canon Lists / CL13

somewhat shorter tradition, has a somewhat smaller OT; and


the Evangelicals have the smallest OT since they are the
least dependent on tradition). This progressive increase
guarantees that the original material has not been lost (at
least to any substantial degree), but the problem that
progressive increase creates is that there will be extra
material that may not be authentic.
Biblical-Historical Christians, in contrast to the Traditional
churches, do not depend solely on tradition (what has come
down to us) but also analyze things from a historical
perspective (what one might call a trans-traditional
approachlooking at traditions over time rather than just
the final iteration) in order to determine what was originally
taught and what was a later addition. Consequently, even
though some councils have made pronouncements
regarding the Canon (declaring the current iteration of
tradition rather than selecting from current alternatives),
Biblical-Historical Christians are not bound by such councils
as some of the councils sometimes made historically-illinformed decisions. That is, people are fallible and will make
mistakes. Consequently, it behooves us to reevaluate the
information available to us from time to time in order to
make sure that our current understanding best reflects what
happened at the beginning.

Athanasius (296-373 AD)


But since we have made mention of heretics as dead, but of ourselves
as possessing the Divine Scriptures for salvation; and since I fear lest, as
Paul wrote to the Corinthians, some few of the simple should be
beguiled from their simplicity [(humility)] and purity, by the subtlety of
certain men, and should henceforth read other booksthose called
apocryphal [(not The Apocrypha, which consists of ecclesiastical books,
but apocryphal in the sense that they are unreliable or untrue)]led
astray by the similarity of their names with the true books; I beseech you
to bear patiently, if I also write, by way of remembrance, of matters with
which you are acquainted, influenced by the need and advantage of the
Church.
In proceeding to make mention of these things, I shall adopt, to
commend my undertaking, the pattern of Luke the Evangelist, saying on
my own account: Forasmuch as some have taken in hand [(Luke 1:1)]
to reduce into order for themselves the books termed apocryphal and to
[not] mix them up with the Divinely inspired Scriptureconcerning
which we have been fully persuaded [because] they who from the
beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word delivered
[them] to the fathersit seemed good to me also (having been urged

CL14 / Canon Lists

thereto by true brethren and having learned [what took place] from the
beginning) to set before you the books included in the Canon, and
handed down, and accredited as Divine[all] to the end that anyone
who has fallen into error may condemn those who have led him astray
and that he who has continued steadfast in purity may again rejoice [at]
having these things brought to his remembrance.
There are, then, of the Old Testament, twenty-two books in number
(for, as I have heard, it is handed down that this is the number of the
letters among the Hebrews), their respective order and names being as
follows: The first is Genesis, then Exodus, next Leviticus, after that
Numbers, and then Deuteronomy. Following these there is Joshua, the
son of Nun, then Judges, then Ruth. And again, after these four books of
Kings, the first and second being reckoned as one book [(the Samuels)],
and so likewise the third and fourth as one book [(the Kings)]. And
again, the first and second of the Chronicles are reckoned as one book.
Again Ezra, the first and second are similarly one book [(EzraNehemiah)]. After these there is the book of Psalms, then the Proverbs,
next Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs. Job follows, then the Prophets,
the twelve being reckoned as one book. Then Isaiah, one book, then
Jeremiah with Baruch, Lamentations, and the epistle, one book [(note
that Baruch has been added atop Origens Epistle of Jeremiah)];
afterwards, Ezekiel and Daniel, each one book. Thus far constitutes the
Old Testament.
Again it is not tedious to speak of the [books] of the New Testament.
These are, the four Gospels, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and
John. Afterwards, the Acts of the Apostles and [the] Epistles called
Catholic [(General/Universal)] (seven, viz. of James, one; of Peter, two;
of John, three; after these, one of Jude). In addition, there are fourteen
Epistles of Paul, written in this order. The first, to the Romans; then two
to the Corinthians; after these, to the Galatians; next, to the Ephesians;
then to the Philippians; then to the Colossians; after these, two to the
Thessalonians, and that to the Hebrews; and again, two to Timothy;
one to Titus; and lastly, that to Philemon. And besides, the Revelation of
John.
These are fountains of salvation, that they who thirst may be satisfied
with the living words they contain. In these alone is proclaimed the
doctrine of godliness. Let no man add to these, neither let him take
ought from these. For concerning these the Lord put to shame the
Sadducees, and said, You err, not knowing the Scriptures. And He
reproved the Jews, saying, Search the Scriptures, for these are they that
testify of Me [(Matthew 22:29; John 5:39)].
But for greater exactness I add this also, writing of necessity; that
there are other books besides these not indeed included in the Canon, but
appointed by the Fathers to be read by those who newly join us, and who
wish for instruction in the word of godliness: the Wisdom of Solomon,

Canon Lists / CL15

and the Wisdom of Sirach, and Esther, and Judith, and Tobit, and that
which is called the Teaching of the Apostles, and the Shepherd. But the
former, my brethren, are included in the Canon, [these] latter being
[merely] read [(i.e., ecclesiastical)]; nor is there in any place a mention
of apocryphal writings. But they are an invention of heretics who write
them when they choose, bestowing upon them their approval, and
assigning to them a date, that so, using them as ancient writings, they
may find occasion to lead astray the simple [(humble)].
(39th Festal Letter, 2-7, 367 AD)

NOTE: It is significant that Athanasius makes a very clear


distinction between Canonical and ecclesiastical Scripture
in that such a distinction would be lost in future generations
such that many of these works would eventually be
considered Biblical. (Like Melito, Athanasius rejects the
Canonicity of Esther, labeling it as ecclesiastical instead.)
What is more significant, however, is the fact that
Athanasius very clearly states that our confidence regarding
Canonical Scripture comes from the fact that it was handed
down from the beginning: Concerning [the Canon] we
have been fully persuaded [because] they who from the
beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word
delivered [them] to the fathers. This statement stands in
sharp contrast to the Traditional supposition that it is the
church institution which provides us with the Canon. Instead,
Athanasius rightly points out that the eyewitnesses and
ministers of the Word provided the church with the Canon
(rather than the other way around).
Another noteworthy tidbit found in Athanasius list is his
purpose: He says that he wrote this list to the end that
anyone who has fallen into error may condemn those who
have led him astray. This statement most immediately
applies to those led astray by following non-Canonical
books, but the deeper implication is that one possessing the
true Canon of Scripture is in a position to condemn heresy
since what the Canon-possessor has to say is founded on
what is authentic. This idea that Scripture is sufficient above
everything else is repeated elsewhere by Athanasius such
that he clearly viewed Scriptures as the paramount rule of
the Faith (cr De Decretis, VII, 32, 4th Cen.; Life of Antony, 16,
4th Cen.; The Bishops of Egypt, I.4, 4th Cen.; De Synodis, Part
I, 6, 4th Cen.). We modern Biblical-Historical Christians
believe likewise.

CL16 / Canon Lists

Cyril of Jerusalem (313-386 AD)


Now these the Divinely-inspired Scriptures of both the Old and the
New Testament teach us. For the God of the two Testaments is One,
Who in the Old Testament foretold the Christ Who appeared in the New;
Who by the Law and the Prophets led us to Christ's school. For before
Faith came, we were kept [as a] ward under the law, and, the law has
been our tutor to bring us unto Christ. And if ever thou hear any of the
heretics speaking evil of the Law or the Prophets, answer in the sound of
the Saviors voice, saying, Jesus came not to destroy the Law, but to
fulfill it [(Matthew 5:17)]. Learn also diligently, and from the Church, what
are the books of the Old Testament, and what those of the New. And,
pray, read none of the apocryphal writings. For why do you, who know
not those which are acknowledged among all, trouble yourself in vain
about those which are disputed? Read the Divine Scriptures, the twentytwo books of the Old Testament, these that have been translated by the
seventy-two interpreters. [(When Cyril mentions apocryphal writings, he
is not, like Athanasius, talking merely about unreliable/untrue writings
but is instead addressing certain books which have been erroneously
attached to the Old Testament.)]
...Of these [(i.e., the Greek OT works)] read the two and twenty
books, but have nothing to do with the apocryphal writings. Study
earnestly these only which we read openly in the Church. Far wiser and
more pious than yourself were the Apostles and the bishops of old
time (the presiders of the Church) who handed down these books.
Being therefore a child of the Assembly, trench thou not upon its
statutes. And of the Old Testament, as we have said, study the two and
twenty books, which, if you are desirous of learning, strive to remember
by name as I recite them. For of the Law the books of Moses are the first
five: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. And next,
Joshua the son of Nave , and the book of Judges (including Ruth)
counted as seventh. And of the other historical books, the first and
second books of the Kings are among the Hebrews one book [(the
Samuels)]; also the third and fourth one book [(the Kings)]. And in like
manner, the first and second of Chronicles are with them one book; and
the first and second of Esdras are counted one [(Ezra-Nehemiah)]. Esther
is the twelfth book; and these are the Historical writings. But those
which are written in verses are five: Job, and the book of Psalms, and
Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs, which is the
seventeenth book. And after these come the five Prophetic books: one
book of the Twelve Prophets, one of Isaiah, one of Jeremiah (including
Baruch and Lamentations and the Epistle), [and] then Ezekiel, and the
Book of Daniel, the twenty-second of the Old Testament.
Then of the New Testament there are the four Gospels only, for the
rest have false titles and are mischievous. The Manichans also wrote a
Gospel according to Thomas, which being tinctured with the fragrance

Canon Lists / CL17

of the evangelic title corrupts the souls of the simple sort. Receive also
the Acts of the Twelve Apostles; and in addition to these the seven
General [(catholic)] Epistles of James, Peter, John, and Jude; and as a
seal upon them all, and the last work of the disciples, the fourteen
Epistles of Paul. But let all the rest be put aside in a secondary rank. And
whatever books are not read in Churches, these read not even by
yourself, as you have heard me say. Thus much of these subjects. [(Note
that Cyril omits Revelation, which fell out of favor in the East as a result
of Montanism (Montanism also made Hebrews distasteful in the West).
Early writers, however, including Irenaeus, the author of the Muratorian
Fragment, and Clement I of Rome (author of I Clement), were all quite
consistent in listing Revelation among the Canonical works.)]
But shun thou every diabolical operation, and believe not the apostate
Serpent, whose transformation from a good nature was of his own free
choice, who can over-persuade the willing but can compel no one. Also
give heed neither to observations of the stars nor auguries, nor omens,
nor to the fabulous divinations of the Greeks. Witchcraft, and
enchantment, and the wicked practices of necromancy, admit not even to
a hearing. From every kind of intemperance stand aloof, giving yourself
neither to gluttony nor licentiousness, rising superior to all covetousness
and usury. Neither venture yourself at heathen assemblies for public
spectacles, nor ever use amulets in sicknesses; shun also all the vulgarity
of tavern-haunting. Fall not away either into the sect of the Samaritans,
or into Judaismfor Jesus Christ henceforth has ransomed you. Stand
aloof from all observance of Sabbaths, and from calling any indifferent
meats common or unclean. But especially abhor all the assemblies of
wicked heretics; and in every way make your own soul safe, by [times
of] fasting, prayers, almsgivings, and reading the oracles of God; that
having lived the rest of your life in the flesh in soberness and godly
doctrine, you may enjoy the one salvation which flows from Baptism
[(OR conversion)]; and thus enrolled in the armies of heaven by God and
the Father, may also be deemed worthy of the heavenly crowns, in Christ
Jesus our Lord, to Whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
(Catechetical Lectures, Lecture IV, 33-37)

NOTE: Cyril is interesting in that he raises concerns about books


that were being added to the Old Testament (Athanasius
also does this by distinguishing between Canonical and
ecclesiastical writings associated with the Old Testament).
This concern over a growing OT Canon is significant for the
modern Biblical-Historical Christian in that it reveals that the
tendency of tradition at the time was to add books to the
OT which had not been there from the first. As an example,
the very early lists never mentioned the Epistle of Jeremiah or
Baruch as being a part of Jeremiah; these do not show up in
the Canonical lists until the third century (fourth century for

CL18 / Canon Lists

Baruch). Likewise, books which were once considered


ecclesiastical (like Judith and Sirach in Athanasius) would
eventually be considered Canonical (as in Augustin).
As was the case with Athanasius, Cyril also proclaims that
the Canon derives from the Apostles rather than being a
thing later compiled by the church institution. That is, while
he does claim that to learn what comes from the Apostles
one must inquire from the Church, he does NOT claim that
the church institution decided what the Canon would be.
Further, Cyril clearly states that the process of
Sanctification involves the reading of Scripture: [I]n every
way make your own soul safe, by [times of] fasting, prayers,
almsgivings, and reading the oracles of God.

Council of Hippo (African Code) (393 AD)


That nothing be read in church besides the Canonical Scripture
Item: That, besides the Canonical Scriptures, nothing be read in
church under the name of Divine Scripture. [And] the Canonical
Scriptures are as follows:
[The Old Testament]
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua the
Son of Nun, The Judges, Ruth, The Kings (4 books), The
Chronicles (2 books), Job, The Psalter, The Five Books of
Solomon, The Twelve Books of the Prophets, Isaiah,
Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Tobit, Judith, Esther, Ezra (2
booksEzra-Nehemiah), [& The Maccabees (2 books)] [(It
should be noted that these two books are only mentioned in
one copy of the council proceedings, that by Dionysius
Exiguus; the other council proceedings omit these books.)].
The New Testament
The Gospels (4 books), The Acts of the Apostles (1 book), The
Epistles of Paul (14 books), The Epistles of Peter the Apostle
(2 books), The Epistles of John the Apostle (3 books), The
Epistles of James the Apostle (1 book), The Epistle of Jude
the Apostle (1 book), & The Revelation of John (1 book).
Let this be sent to our brother and fellow bishop, Boniface, and to the
other bishops of those parts, that they may confirm this canon, for these
are the things which we have received from our fathers to be read in
church.
(African Code, Canon 24)

NOTE: Hippo was a local council without any broad-ranging


authority, hence we will find later Christians who will disagree
with this Canon list (quite vehemently in some cases). As Cyril
seemed to foresee, the major difference between Hippo
and earlier lists is the books which have been added to the

Canon Lists / CL19

Old Testament. Otherwise (as to the New Testament), the lists


are nearly identical (except that Revelation was omitted by
Cyril).
Now, though the New Testament Canon was untouched
by Hippo, this council does represent the beginnings of a
shift in thought regarding how the Canon is to be viewed.
That is, where earlier (and some later) Christians claimed
that the Canon had authority over the Church and that the
Canon derived from the Apostles, Hippo asserts that the
Church has the power to decide what is allowable scripture
and how the admonitions of the Apostles ought to be
interpreted. This idea of Church definition and interpretation
would come to its full measure during the Quinisext Council
(Canon XIX, 692 AD). Since then, the Traditional churches
have staunchly maintained that the Canon is a tradition
subject to the Church rather than a tradition given to the
Church by the Apostles for the Churchs correction, and it is
this doctrine which chiefly divides Biblical-Historical Christians
from the merely Historical Christians. That is, Biblical-Historical
Christians begin and end with the Bible as the corrective gift
of the Prophets and Apostles while Traditional Christians
begin and end with the church institutions right to interpret
the Prophets and Apostles. (This is a bit of an
oversimplification of both groups as historical considerations
are made by each group, but it is essentially correct.)

Rufinus (340-410 AD)


This then is the Holy Ghost, who, in the Old Testament, inspired the
Law and the Prophets, [and,] in the New, the Gospels and the Epistles.
Whence also the Apostle says, All Scripture given by inspiration of
God is profitable for instruction [(cr II Timothy 3:16)]. And therefore it
seems proper in this place to enumerate, as we have learned from
the tradition of the Fathers, the books of the New and of the Old
Testament, which, according to the tradition of our forefathers, are
believed to have been inspired by the Holy Ghost, and have been
handed down to the Churches of Christ.
Of the Old Testament, therefore, first of all there have been handed
down five books of Moses, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers,
Deuteronomy; then Jesus Nave, (Joshua the son of Nun), The Book of
Judges together with Ruth; then four books of Kings (Reigns), which the
Hebrews reckon two; the Book of Omissions, which is entitled the Book
of Days (Chronicles), and two books of Ezra (Ezra and Nehemiah),
which the Hebrews reckon one, and Esther; of the Prophets, Isaiah,
Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel; moreover of the twelve (minor) Prophets,
one book; Job also and the Psalms of David, each one book. Solomon

CL20 / Canon Lists

gave three books to the Churches: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticles.


These comprise the books of the Old Testament.
Of the New there are four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John; the
Acts of the Apostles, written by Luke; fourteen Epistles of the Apostle
Paul, two of the Apostle Peter, one of James, brother of the Lord and
Apostle, one of Jude, three of John, the Revelation of John. These are
the books which the Fathers [(Apostles/ Originators)] have
comprised within the Canon, and from which they would have us
deduce the proofs of our faith.
But it should be known that there are also other books which our
fathers call not Canonical but ecclesiastical: that is to say, Wisdom,
called the Wisdom of Solomon, and another Wisdom, called the Wisdom
of the Son of Syrach, which [being] last-mentioned the Latins called by
the general title Ecclesiasticus, designating not the author of the book,
but the character of the writing. To the same class belong the Book of
Tobit, and the Book of Judith, and the Books of the Maccabees. In the
New Testament the little book which is called the Book of the Shepherd
of Hermas, [and that] which is called The Two Ways, or the Judgment of
Peter; all of which they would have read in the Churches, but not
appealed to for the confirmation of doctrine. [(This statement of
Rufinus regarding the ecclesiastical writings is very close to that found
in the Geneva Bible of 1560 concerning The Apocrypha.)] The other
writings they have named apocrypha [(unreliable/untrue)]these they
would not have read in the churches.
These are the traditions which the Fathers have handed down to us,
which, as I said, I have thought it opportune to set forth in this place for
the instruction of those who are being taught the first elements of the
Church and of the Faith, that they may know from what fountains of the
Word of God their draughts must be taken.
(Commentary on the Apostles Creed, 36-38, ~ 400 AD)

NOTE: Even though Rufinus was writing after the Council of


Hippo, he clearly did not view the Canon the way that
Hippo did. That is, he held to a short OT Canon and
differentiated between Canonical and ecclesiastical
scripture. Moreover, he maintained that the Canon was a
tradition given by the Apostles (or Originators) to the Church
rather than a tradition determined by the Church based on
the teachings of the Church. In these regards, Rufinus was
very much a Biblical-Historical Christian.

Jerome (347-420 AD)


That the Hebrews have twenty-two letters is testified also by the
Syrian and Chaldean languages, which for the most part correspond to
the Hebrew; for they have twenty-two elementary sounds which are
pronounced the same way, but are differently written. The Samaritans

Canon Lists / CL21

also write the Pentateuch of Moses with just the same number of letters,
differing only in the shape and points of the letters. And it is certain that
Esdras, the scribe and teacher of the law, after the capture of Jerusalem
and the restoration of the temple by Zerubbabel, invented other letters
which we now use, for up to that time the Samaritan and Hebrew
characters were the same. In the book of Numbers, moreover, where we
have the census of the Levites and priests [(Num. 3:39)], the same total
is presented mystically. And we find the four-lettered name of the Lord
[(Tetragrammaton)] in certain Greek books written to this day in the
ancient characters. The thirty-seventh Psalm, moreover, the one hundred
and eleventh, the one hundred and twelfth, the one hundred and
nineteenth, and the one hundred and forty-fifth, although they are written
in different meters, are all composed [as acrostics] according to an
alphabet of the same number of letters. The Lamentations of Jeremiah,
and his Prayer, the Proverbs of Solomon also, towards the end, from the
place where we read Who will find a steadfast woman? are instances
of the same number of letters forming the division into sections.
Furthermore, five are double letters, viz., Caph, Mem, Nun, Phe, Sade,
for at the beginning and in the middle of words they are written one way,
and at the end another way. Whence it happens that, by most people, five
of the books are reckoned as double, viz., Samuel, Kings, Chronicles,
Ezra, and Jeremiah with Kinoth, i.e., his Lamentations. As, then, there
are twenty-two elementary characters by means of which we write in
Hebrew all we say, and the human voice is comprehended within
their limits, so we reckon twenty-two books, by which, as by the
alphabet of the doctrine of God, a righteous man is instructed in
tender infancy, and, as it were, while still at the breast.
The first of these books is called Bresith, to which we give the name
Genesis. The second, Elle Smoth, which bears the name Exodus; the
third, Vaiecra, that is Leviticus; the fourth, Vaiedabber, which we call
Numbers; the fifth, Elle Addabarim, which is entitled Deuteronomy.
These are the five books of Moses, which they properly call Thorath,
that is, Law.
The second class is composed of the Prophets, and they begin with
Jesus the son of Nave, which among them is called Joshua ben Nun.
Next in the series is Sophtim, that is the book of Judges; and in the same
book they include Ruth, because the events narrated occurred in the days
of the Judges. Then comes Samuel, which we call First and Second
Kings. The fourth is Malachim, that is, Kings, which is contained in the
third and fourth volumes of Kings. And it is far better to say Malachim,
that is Kings, than Malachoth, that is Kingdoms. For the author does not
describe the Kingdoms of many nations, but that of one people, the
people of Israel, which is comprised in the twelve tribes. The fifth is
Isaiah; the sixth, Jeremiah; the seventh, Ezekiel; and the eighth is the
book of the Twelve Prophets, which is called among them Thare Asra.

CL22 / Canon Lists

To the third class belong the Hagiographa [(the Writings)], of which


the first book begins with Job; the second with David, whose writings
they divide into five parts and comprise in one volume of Psalms. The
third is Solomon, in three books: Proverbs, which they call Parables, that
is Masaloth; Ecclesiastes, that is Coeleth; and the Song of Songs, which
they denote by the title Sir Assirim. The sixth is Daniel; the seventh,
Dabre Aiamim, that is, Words of Days, which we may more
descriptively call a chronicle of the whole of the sacred history, the book
that amongst us is called First and Second Paralipomenon
[(Chronicles)]. The eighth is Ezra, which itself is likewise divided
amongst Greeks and Latins into two books [(Ezra-Nehemiah)]; the ninth
is Esther.
And so there are also twenty-two books of the Old Law; that is, five
of Moses, eight of the Prophets, nine of the Hagiographa, though some
include Ruth and Kinoth (Lamentations) amongst the Hagiographa, and
think that these books ought to be reckoned separately; we should thus
have twenty-four books of the ancient Law. And these the Apocalypse of
John represents by the twenty-four elders, who adore the Lamb and offer
their crowns with lowered visage, while in their presence stand the four
living creatures [(meant by Jerome to symbolize the four Gospels)] with
eyes before and behind, that is, looking to the past and the future, and
with unwearied voice crying, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty,
who was and is and will be.
This preface to the Scriptures may serve as a helmeted [(i.e.,
defensive/protective)] introduction to all the books which we turn
from Hebrew into Latin, so that we may be assured that what is
outside of them must be placed aside among the apocryphal
writings. Wisdom, therefore, which generally bears the name of
Solomon, and the book of Jesus the Son of Sirach, and Judith, and
Tobias, and the Shepherd [of Hermas] are not in the Canon. The
first book of Maccabees is found in Hebrew, but the second is Greek,
as can be proved from the very style.
(Prefaces to the Books of the Vulgate,
Preface to the Books of Samuel and Kings, ~ 391 AD)

The New Testament I will briefly deal with. Matthew, Mark, Luke
and John are the Lord's team of four, the true cherubim or store of
knowledge. With them the whole body is full of eyes, they glitter as
sparks, they run and return like lightning, their feet are straight feet, and
lifted up, their backs also are winged, ready to fly in all directions. They
hold together each by each and are interwoven one with another: like
wheels within wheels they roll along and go whithersoever the breath of
the Holy Spirit wafts them. [(Ezekiel 1:7-21)]
The apostle Paul writes to seven churches (for the eighth epistle
that to the Hebrewsis not generally counted in with the others [(i.e.,
those written to churches)]). He instructs Timothy and Titus; he

Canon Lists / CL23

intercedes with Philemon for his runaway slave. Of him I think it better
to say nothing than to write inadequately.
The Acts of the Apostles seem to relate a mere unvarnished narrative
descriptive of the infancy of the newly born church; but when once we
realize that their author is Luke the physician whose praise is in the
gospel, we shall see that all his words are medicine for the sick soul.
The apostles James, Peter, John, and Jude, have published seven
epistles at once spiritual and to the point, short and longshort, that is,
in words but lengthy in substance so that there are few indeed who do
not find themselves in the dark [(stirred toward the light)] when they
read them.
The apocalypse of John has as many mysteries as words. In saying
this I have said less than the book deserves. All praise of it is inadequate;
manifold meanings lie hid in its every word.
I beg of you, my dear brother, to live among these books, to
meditate upon them, to know nothing else, to seek nothing else.
(To Paulinus, Letter LIII, 9-10, 394 AD)

NOTE: Jerome is probably the church father that is best known


to Protestants in that he is basically the person who created
the modern phrase The Apocrypha by distinguishing
between authentic Hebrew books used by the Church and
inauthentic Hebrew books used by the Church. The latter
(the inauthentic ones) he placed among the apocryphal
writings (unreliable/untrue writings) and thus the ones he
separated out came to be known as The Apocrypha. It
should be noted, however, that while these works were not
considered Canonical by most of the early Christians, they
were considered to be ecclesiastical by many early
Christians (they were used in the churches for historical and
instructive purposes). In other words, many would say that
Jerome broke with tradition by trying to remove an entire
class of scripture (ecclesiastical scripture) from the Church.
Nonetheless, it should be remembered that some regions
did not have these Extra Books, hence Jerome was hardly
infringing on the catholic (universal) Faith.
Now, as might be expected, Jeromes denial of The
Apocrypha and his insistence on using Hebrew rather than
the Old Greek made him unpopular in certain circles.
Nonetheless, as one living in a time when the line between
ecclesiastical and Canonical scripture was being blurred,
we applaud him for maintaining that the Canon is distinct
when compared to the other scriptures. However, in
retrospect, it probably was not wise for him to call the
ecclesiastical writings apocryphal as that term has a very
negative connotation. Then again, Cyril used the same term

CL24 / Canon Lists

to refer to the works which had been added to the Greek


OT which were absent in the Hebrew OT.
For Biblical-Historical Christians, the distinction between
ecclesiastical and apocryphal scripture is negligible in that
neither class can be used as a rule and guide of the Faith.
However, in terms of showing respect for those who went
before us, who had the best of intentions for the Church,
calling apocryphal what they used for instruction and history
is tantamount to calling them heterodox (outside the Faith,
not Orthodox). On the contrary, it should be noted that the
person who learns from The Apocrypha is not necessarily an
inauthentic Christian. Instead, it is the person who uses The
Apocrypha as if it were Canonical who is outside the
historical Faith since the early Christians were careful to
distinguish between the different classes of scripture.

John of Damascus (676-749 AD)


Observe, further, that there are two and twenty books of the Old
Testament, one for each letter of the Hebrew tongue. For there are
twenty-two letters of which five are double, and so they come to be
twenty-seven. For the letters Caph, Mem, Nun, Pe, Sade are double. And
thus the number of the books in this way is twenty-two, but is found to
be twenty-seven because of the double character of five. For Ruth is
joined on to Judges, and the Hebrews count them one book: the first and
second books of Kings are counted one [(I&II Samuel)]: and so are the
third and fourth books of Kings [(I&II Kings)]: and also the first and
second of Paraleipomena [(I&II Chronicles)]: and the first and second of
Esdras [(Ezra-Nehemiah)]. In this way, then, the books are collected
together in four Pentateuchs [(collections of five)] and two others remain
over, to form thus the Canonical books. Five of them are of the Law, viz.
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. This which is the
code of the Law constitutes the first Pentateuch. Then comes another
Pentateuch, the so-called Grapheia , or as they are called by some, the
Hagiographa, which are the following: Jesus the Son of Nave , Judges
along with Ruth, first and second Kings, which are one book, third and
fourth Kings, which are one book, and the two books of the
Paraleipomena which are one book. This is the second Pentateuch. The
third Pentateuch is the books in verse, viz. Job, Psalms, Proverbs of
Solomon, Ecclesiastes of Solomon, and the Song of Songs of Solomon.
The fourth Pentateuch is the Prophetical books, viz the twelve prophets
constituting one book, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel. Then come the
two books of Esdras made into one, and Esther.
There are also the Panaretus, that is the Wisdom of Solomon, and the
Wisdom of Jesus, which was published in Hebrew by the father of
Sirach, and afterwards translated into Greek by his grandson, Jesus, the

Canon Lists / CL25

Son of Sirach. These are virtuous and noble, but are not counted nor
were they placed in the ark [(i.e., non-Canonical)].
The New Testament contains four gospels (that according to
Matthew, that according to Mark, that according to Luke, that according
to John), the Acts of the Holy Apostles by Luke the Evangelist, seven
catholic epistles (viz. one of James, two of Peter, three of John, one of
Jude), fourteen letters of the Apostle Paul, the Revelation of John the
Evangelist, [and] the Canons of the Holy Apostles by Clement.
(An Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, XVII, ~ 730 AD)

NOTE: While Biblical-Historical Christians would not agree


theologically or doctrinally with John of Damascus given his
approval of the use of images in worship, he is an important
witness to the Canon in that he insists on a short Old
Testament Canon. Additionally, John, with several of the
Syriac fathers, adds the Canons/Teaching/Constitutions of
the Holy Apostles to the New Testament, supposing them to
be Canonical (yet authors as early as Eusebius & Athanasius
knew them to be non-Canonical).

Hsian-fu, China, Monument Inscription (781 AD)


After His [(Jesus)] great works were completed, He ascended at
midday to His true home. Twenty-seven holy books were left behind
[concerning Him].
(quoted in Bruce Metzgers The Canon of the New Testament, 1987 (rep. 2009), p. 222)

CL26 / Canon Lists

Percentages of Uncontested Support for the 93 Distinct Writings


Mentioned in the 22 Pre-Sixth-Century Lists of Biblical Books

Name of the
Writing

All Lists
% of
Uncontested
Support

Old Testament Writings


Genesis
100
Exodus
100
Leviticus
100
Numbers
100
Deu.
100
Joshua
100
Judges
100
Ruth
100
I,II Samuel
100
I,II Kings
100
I,II Chron.
100
Esdras
100
(Ezra/Neh.)
Job
100
Psalms
100
Proverbs
100
Ecclesiastes
100
Song of Songs
100
Isaiah
100
Jeremiah
100
Lam.
100
Ezekiel
100
Daniel
100
12 Minor
97.1
Prophets
Esther
68.6
Wisdom of
17.1
Solomon
151st Psalm
0

Just
Authors
% of
Uncontested
Support
100
100
100
100
100
100
100
100
100
100
100

Just
Authors
Name of the
% of
Writing
Uncontested
Support
New Testament Writings (Cont.)
II Cor.
100
100
Galatians
100
100
Ephesians
100
100
Philippians
100
100
Colossians
100
100
I Thessalonians
100
100
II Thessalonians
100
100
I Timothy
100
100
II Timothy
100
100
Titus
100
100
I John
100
100

100

Philemon

97.1

96

100
100
100
100
100
100
100
100
100
100

II John
James
Jude
Hebrews
III John
I Peter
II Peter
Revelation
I Clement
II Clement

94.3
91.4
88.6
82.9
91.4
94.3
88.6
51.4
5.7
5.7

96
96
92
92
92
92
88
64
0
0

96

Laodiceans

-5.7

-8

56

Alexandrians
Psalms of
Marcion
Acts of Paul
Gospel According
to the Hebrews
Gospel of Peter
Acts of Andrew
and John
[something]...of
James
...of Peter and
John
...of Andrew
Apocalypse of
Peter
Epistle of
Barnabas
Teaching of the
Apostles
Gospel of
Matthias
Gospel of Thomas
Shepherd of
Hermas

-5.7

-8

-5.7

-8

8
0

III Maccabees

5.7

IV Maccabees

5.7

Tobit

14.3

-4

Judith

20

-4

Sirach

11.4

-4

I Maccabees

11.4

-8

II Maccabees

11.4

-8

New Testament Writings


Gospels

100

100

Acts

100

100

Romans

100

100

I Corinthians

100

100

All Lists
% of
Uncontested
Support

-8

-5.7

-8

-5.7

-8

-5.7

-8

-5.7

-8

-5.7

-8

-5.7

-8

-2.9

-12

-5.7

-16

-5.7

-16

-11.4

-16

-17.1

-24

-20

-36

Canon Lists / CL27

Apostles, Prophets, & Teachers:


Understanding I Corinthians 12:28
And God has placed in the church first apostles,
second prophets, third teachers...
(I Cor. 12:28, NET)

The above termsapostles, prophets, and teachersare some


of the most commonly misunderstood terms in Protestantism and
Post-Protestantism. The reason for the confusion is twofold: First,
like many words, two of the above words (apostles & prophets)
have multiple meanings. Second, those two words are usually
transliterated rather than translated (i.e., the Greek forms are
Anglicized rather than interpreted). Given, however, that Paul
says that these three types of individuals are placed by God in the
congregation for the good thereof (I Cor. C12-C14), it behooves us
to understand who and what they are.
Apostle (Greek Apostolos; cr Overseer/Bishop)
The Greek word transliterated as apostle generally has one of
three primary meanings:
1. One Sent: The most literal meaning of apostle is simply one
sent (e.g., Gal. 1:1).
2. Missionary: The most common use of apostle in the NT is to
designate a missionary sent by God to a particular place or
group. For example, Paul was an apostle in the sense that his
ministry was to the Gentileshe was a missionary to the
Gentiles (Gal. 1:15-17 cr I Cor. 15:3-11). This sense is also the one
used in the above quote from First Corinthians insomuch as a
region cannot be taught the Gospel unless someone has been
sent there to convey and oversee the handling of the Christian
message.
3. Legal Representative: The most restricted meaning of Apostle
(note the capitalization) is that of Legal Representative. In the
Bible, this sense is reserved for the OT Spokesmen of God
(Luke 11:49) and for the 12 Apostles that Christ chose to
represent Him (Luke 6:13; John 15:27). The time of the OT
human Spokesmen (commonly transliterated as Prophet) was
over by the time of Christ (Heb. 1:1). Further, the office of the
Legal Representatives of Christ was limited to those who had
been with Christs followers from the baptism of John the
Baptist to the ascension of Christ (Acts 1:21-22). Since the time

CL28 / Canon Lists

of the OT Spokesmen has long since been over and since no


one alive today was with Jesus from His baptism to His
ascension, the term Apostle (note the capital) may not be
applied to anyone in the modern Church. That is, we can all
consider ourselves to be people sent by God to be Light in the
Darkness (Matt. 5:14-16), some of us are called to a specific
group or place (I Cor. 12:28-29), but none of us can legitimately
claim to be a Legal Representative of Christ.
Prophet (Greek Prophts; cr Elder/Priest/Presbyter)
The Greek word transliterated as prophet also has three primary
definitions:
1. Foreteller: Sometimes the word prophet denotes people who
have the ability to see into the future, to foretell various
events. Agabus was such a prophet (Acts 21:10-11) and John the
Apostle was given such a prophetic vision (Rev. 1:1-3).
Biblical-Historical Christians accept that God still
occasionally allows people to see the future, but such is
neither common nor beyond the correction of Scripture (Deu.
18:22; II Tim. 3:16).

2. Expositor: The word prophet is most commonly used in the


NT for someone who is a Christian expositor, for someone
who explains the things of God publically. Further, this
public profession is supposed to be convicting (I Cor. 14:24-25).
It is this definition of prophet that is used in I Corinthians
12:28.
3. Spokesman: The final use of the word Prophet (note the
capitalization) is to demarcate an OT Spokesman requested
by the Israelites to speak on Gods behalf (Luke 11:49; Heb. 1:1).
The use of such Spokesmen was not Gods idea (Deu. 18:15-17)
and their office was removed once the Atonement of Christ
occurred (Jer. 31:33-34; Dan. 9:24; Luke 16:16; Heb. 1:1). As one
may guess, Biblical-Historical Christians do not allow their
congregants to call themselves Prophets (note the capital), for
we now have but one Mediator between God and Man (I Tim.
2:5-6).

Teacher (Greek Didaskalos; cr


Deacon/Minister/Servant/Pastor)
The word translated as teacher refers to a master or great one
who shepherds Gods people in a personal, intimate way (rather
than in the public office of the prophet; Eph. 4:11).