What belongs in the Bible and what does not belong?
Explanation and Scriptural Basis (54)
The canon of Scripture is the list of all the books that belong in the Bible. We must not underestimate the importance of determining which books belong in the Bible because:
(1) The words of Scripture are the words by which we nourish our spiritual lives.Deut. 32:47: For it is no empty word for you, but your very life, and bythis word you shall live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.
(2) To add to or subtract from God's words would be to prevent God's people from obeying him fully.Deut. 4:2: You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you.
A) The Old Testament Canon (54-59)
1) The Bible itself testifies to the historical development of the canon.
a) The earliest collection of written words was the Ten Commandments, which God himself wrote on two stone tablets.Ex. 32:16: The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was thewriting of God, engraved on the tablets.
b) The collection of authoritative words from God grew in size throughout thetime of Israel's history.
i) Moses wrote additional works: the first 5 books of the Bible
Ex. 24:4: And Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord. He rose earlyin the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel.
Ex. 34:27: And the Lord said to Moses, "Write these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel."
Num. 33:2: Moses wrote down their starting places, stage by stage, by command of the Lord, and these are their stages according to their starting places.
Deut. 31:22, 24-26: So Moses wrote this song the same day and taught itto the people of Israel...When Moses had finished writing the words ofthis law in a book to the very end, Moses commanded the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, "Take this Book of the Law and put it by the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there for a witness against you.
ii) Joshua added to the words "in the book of the law of God."
Josh. 24:26: And Joshua wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God. And he took a large stone and set it up there under the terebinth that was by the sanctuary of the Lord.
(a) In view of the command that the Lord gave through Moses not to add to the law, Joshua must have been convinced that God authorized theadditional writing
Deut. 4:2: You shall not add to the word that I command you, nortake from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you.
Deut. 12:32: Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.
iii) Others in Israel, usually those who filled the office of prophet, wrote additional words from God.
1 Sam. 10:25: Then Samuel told the people the rights and duties of thekingship, and he wrote them in a book and laid it up before the Lord. Then Samuel sent all the people away, each one to his home.
1 Chron. 29:29: Now the acts of King David, from first to last, are writtenin the Chronicles of Samuel the seer, and in the Chronicles of Nathan theprophet, and in the Chronicles of Gad the seer,
2 Chron 20:34 [cf. 1 Kings 16:7]: Now the rest of the acts ofJehoshaphat, from first to last, are written in the chronicles of Jehu the son of Hanani, which are recorded in the Book of the Kings of Israel.
2 Chron. 26:22: Now the rest of the acts of Uzziah, from first to last,Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz wrote.
2 Chron. 32:32: Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah and his good deeds,behold, they are written in the vision of Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz, in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel.
Jer. 30:2: Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Write in a book all thewords that I have spoken to you.
c) The content of the Old Testament canon continued to grow until approximately 435 BC with the completion of Malachi.
i) The subsequent history of the Jewish people was recorded in other writings, but they were not considered worthy to be included with the Scriptures.
1 Macc. 4:45-46 (164 BC): And they thought it best to tear it down, so that it would not be a lasting shame to them that theGentiles had defiled it. So they tore down the altar, and stored thestones in a convenient place on the temple hill until a prophetshould come to tell what to do with them.
1 Macc. 9:27 (about 160 BC): So there was great distress inIsrael, such as had not been since the time that prophets ceased toappear among them.
1 Macc. 14:41: The Jews and their priests decided that Simonshould be their leader and high priest forever, until a trustworthyprophet should arise,
Josephus (39-100 AD) Against Apion 1.38-42 (written 95 AD):We do not possess myriads of inconsistent books, conflicting with each other. Our books, those which are justly accredited, are buttwo and twenty, and contain the record of all time.
Of these, five are the books of Moses, comprising the lawsand the traditional history from the birth of man down to the death of the lawgiver. This period falls only a little short of three thousand years. From the death of Moses until Artaxerxes, who succeeded Xerxes as king of Persia, the prophets subsequent to Moses wrote the history of the events of their own times in thirteen books. The remaining four books contain hymns to God andprecepts for the conduct of human life.
From Artaxerxes to our own time the complete history hasbeen written, but has not been deemed worthy of equal credit withthe earlier records, because of the failure of the exact succession ofthe prophets.
We have given practical proof of our reverence for our own Scriptures. For, although such long ages have now passed, no onehas ventured either to add, or to remove, or to alter a syllable; and it is an instinct with every Jew, from the day of his birth, to regardthem as the decrees of God, to abide by them, and, if need be,cheerfully to die for them.
Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 11a: Our Rabbis taught: Since the death of the last prophets, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachai, theHoly Spirit [of prophetic inspiration] departed from Israel; yet theywere still able to avail themselves of the Bath-kol. [literally,"daughter of a voice"; that is, an echo or a voice from heaven].Once when the Rabbis were met in the upper chamber of Gurya's house in Jericho, a Bath-kol was heard from Heaven, saying:'There is one amongst you who is worthy that the Shechinahshould rest on him as it did on Moses, but his generation does notmerit it.' The Sages present set their eyes on Hillel the Elder[active 30 BC - 10 AD]. And when he died they lamented andsaid: 'Alas, the pious man, the humble man, the disciple of Ezra [isno more].
Tosefta, Sotah 13:3, sections A-D:
A. When the latter prophets died, that is, Haggai, Zechariah, andMalachi, then the Holy Spirit came to an end in Israel
B. But even so, they made them hear [Heavenly messages]through an echo.
C. M 'ŚH Š: Sages gathered together in the upper room of thehouse of Guria in Jericho, and a heavenly echo came forth and said to them, "There is a man among you who is worthy to receive the Holy Spirit, but this generation is unworthy of such an honor."They all set their eyes upon Hillel the elder.
D. And when he died, they said about him, "Woe for the humbleman, woe for the pious man, the disciple of Ezra."[Similar story: b.Yoma 9b; SongR 3.9.3]Prayer of Azariah and the Prophet, Song of the Three Young Men 15 (1-2 century BC): And at this time there is no prince, orprophet, or leader."Dead Sea Scrolls, The Scroll of the Rule 11 (before 70 AD):Until the coming of the Prophet and the Anointed of Aaron and Israel.Sirach 49.10 (180 BC): May the bones of the twelve prophets revive from where they lie, for they comforted the people of Jacob and delivered them with confident hope.Babylonian Talmud, Baba Bathra 14b-15a: Who wrote theScriptures?-Moses wrote his own book and the portion of Balaamand Job. Joshua wrote the book which bears his name and [thelast] eight verses of the Pentateuch. Samuel wrote the book whichbears his name and the Book of Judges and Ruth. David wrote theBook of Psalms, including in it the work of the elders, namely,Adam, Melchizedek, Abraham, Moses, Heman, Yeduthun, Asaph,[15a] and the three sons of Korah. Jeremiah wrote the book which bears his name, the Book of Kings, and Lamentations. Hezekiahand his colleagues wrote (Mnemonic YMSHK) Isaiah, Proverbs,the Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes. The Men of the Great Assembly wrote (Mnemonic KNDG) Ezekiel, the Twelve Minor Prophets, Daniel and the Scroll of Ester. Ezra wrote the book that bears his name* and the genealogies of the Book of Chronicles upto his own time. This confirms the opinion of Rab, since Rab Judah has said in the name of Rab: Ezra did not leave Babylon to go up to Eretz Yisrael until he had written his own genealogy. Who then finished it [the Book of Chronicles]?-Nehemiah the son ofHachaliah.*
This includes Nehemiah.The Books of the Apocrypha
1. The First Book of Esdras
2. The Second Book of Esdras
5. The Additions to the Book of Esther
6. The Wisdom of Solomon
7. Ecclesiasticus, or the Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach
9. The Letter of Jeremiah
10. The Prayer of Azariah and the song of the Three YoungMen
12. Bel and the Dragon
13. The Prayer of Manasseh
14. The First Book of the Maccabees
15. The Second Book of the Maccabeesii) Additionally there is no record of any dispute between Jesus and the Jewsover the extent of the canon, a fact not only confirmed by the testimony ofother contemporary Jewish literature, but also by the New Testamentauthors' use of the Old Testament. Neither Jesus nor his apostles cite anyof the books of the Apocrypha or any other writings as having divine authority.
iii) What about the Apocrypha?
(a) These books were never accepted by the Jews as Scripture.
(b) The early church was of a mixed opinion on the issue, although mostof the evidence is decidedly against viewing the Apocrypha asScripture.
(i) The earliest Christian list of Old Testament books (AD 170) byMelito of Sardis does not include the Apocrypha.
(ii) Eusebius and Athanasius both rejected the Apocrypha as being partof the canon.
(iii)The Roman Catholic Church did not officially declare theApocrypha to be part of the canon (with the exception of 1 and 2 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasseh) until 1546 at the Council ofTrent.
(c) Thus the writings of the Apocrypha should not be regarded as part ofScripture:
(1) they do not claim for themselves the same authority;
(2)they were not regarded as canonical by the Jews;
(3) they were notconsidered Scripture by Jesus and the apostles; and
(4) they containteachings inconsistent with the rest of the Bible.
9) The canon of Scripture today is exactly what God wanted it to be, and it will stay that way until Christ returns.
A link to the mp3 audio file is below.