This message is part 4 in Pastor Neal’s series on “How to Read the Bible for Yourself,” from Sunday, February 23, 2014.
Central Question: Are the 66 books in the Bible really the books we are supposed to have? This is central to trusting the Bible.
“canon” – from the Greek word for “rule” or “measuring rod.” The canon refers to the set of books that we view as authoritative.
The Christian canon refers to those writings recognized by the children of God. We don’t make the books inspired. We simply recognizing something that already is inspired.
Principles of Canonization
- authority – Is it authoritative? Does it claim to be from God?
- prophetic authorship – Was it written by a prophet or an apostle, or was it endorsed by a prophet or apostle?
- authenticity – Is it authentic? Does it agree with the rest of Scripture? Does it fit with the other books?
- dynamic nature – Hebrews 4:12 – It cuts deep, convicts, transforms. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 – It equips, teaches, changes our lives, our purposes, our directiosn.
- acceptance – Do the people of God recognize them, accept them as authoritative?
The Old Testament Canon
- fixed between 400 BC and 100 AD – Both the Talmud and Josephus say that after Malachi, the prophetic word ceased.
- Jesus and Luke 11:49-51 – Jesus accepted the Old Testament books. We know this because he bookends two characters, Able and Zechariah. In the Hebrew Bible, which Jesus would have used, the books are in a different order than in our Bibles. So he would have been speaking of the same books that are Genesis through Malachi in our Bibles.
- The Catholic church accepts the Apocrypha. “Apocrypha” means only understood by the initiated. These books were never widely accepted as authoritative. They were not endorsed by Jesus. And they were not found in the original Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament. It’s not wrong to read the Apocryphal books, but they don’t carry any of the authority that the other 39 books of the Old Testament do.
The New Testament Canon
- written between 48 and 95 AD. 48 AD was just 18 years after Jesus died and rose again. The last book, Revelation, was written in 95 AD.
- By 100 AD, the Gospels, Acts and Paul’s letters were viewed as inspired–very early in the church.
- Lists of the books appeared around 200 AD.
- 367 AD – Athanasius
- 397 AD – the Council of Carthage – The 27 books of the New Testament were recognized as authoritative and inspired. The gospels tell the story of Jesus. Acts gives us the history of the church. The letters tell us how to live out our faith, and Revelation tells about the end.
- The New Testament books give us everything we need to know.
The Gnostic Gospels
- reflect the teachings of a later movement called Gnosticism and include the books: Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Mary Magdalene, Gospel of Judas
- These books were written years after Jesus and the apostles lived–200-400 AD, almost 200 years after the gospels.
- They were never accepted by the vast majority of Christians.
For more information about the New Testament canon read an authority on the New Testament — N. T. Wright in his book, Jesus and the Gospel of Judas.
Trust what’s in God’s Word. It was written before other texts. It is more authoritative than any other text.by