[ Doctrine in Detail ]

Topic: II. The Bible

Lesson: A. Origin and Canon

"The Holy Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, are the inspired, infallible Word of God, a divine revelation, the original writings of which were verbally inspired by the Holy Spirit. They are the supreme and final authority of faith and conduct." (BFC Article of Faith I.1)

Our fellowship, along with most 'Bible-believing' churches, holds the Bible in very high regard. Since we accept them as the FINAL AUTHORITY, it is very important to know what books are included, and whether 'other' writing of ancient and modern times could also be considered Holy Scripture. This is not an academic question - there are books in the Roman Catholic Bible that are not accepted by most Protestants, and groups such as the Mormons would include later revelations as Holy Scripture. Of course, religions such as Hinduism and Buddism also have writings that they consider 'sacred'. Can we be sure that the Bible, and only the Bible, is God's Word?

The BFC Article of Faith states that that the Old and New Testaments are inspired, infallible, divine, and absolutely correct in every case. "Original writings of which" refers to the original copy of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. The next lesson will cover how we received an English Bible. "Verbally inspired" means that the actual words are inspired. Jesus referred to jots and titles. More on this in two lessons. "Supreme and Final Authority of Faith and Conduct." What other authorities might be rivals? The last lesson covered this. How does this play with Leading of Holy Spirit? In a later lesson we will cover the Holy Spirit, but for now let us say that the Holy Spirit would never lead us in a way that contradicts Scripture.

Objective: To understand the distinguishing characteristics of inspired Scripture and how the Canon was determined.

1. Origin of Scripture

a. Methods.God used various methods to speak to the Hebrews, and the Old Testament was written over a period of over 1000 years. BUT the fullest revelation has come through Jesus Christ. Various ways of revelation include God writing the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone and appearing to Moses from a burning bush. At other times he sent angels or appeared in visions. Usually, the Lord spoke through a prophet. In the New Testament, Jesus spoke directly, and his actions and nature also revealed God. Luke did research, (see Luke 1:1-4) and Paul wrote to give advice on current situations. "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son ..." (Hebrews 1:1-2a)

b. Inspiration. In all cases, although different methods were used, God 'inspired' the original writing of Scripture. God used the personalities and abilities of the writers of Scripture, so that the Word says exactly what God wanted it to say. Sometimes they spoke specific words for him (some prophets) other times they wrote what they thought best - but in every case God superintended through the Holy Spirit. Inspiration means God-breathed, breathed into."All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. " (2nd Timimothy 3:16-17) ALL Scripture is inspired.

"Inspiration is a special act of the Holy Spirit by which He guided the writers of the Scriptures so that their words would convey the thoughts He wished conveyed, would bear a proper relationship to the thoughts of the other inspired books, and would be kept free from error of fact, doctrine, and judgment. " (BFC Article1-2 ) In the inspiration of Scripture we see the Holy Spirit at work.

c. Use and Purpose. Does this mean all Scripture is equally easy to understand or useful? Obviously not. The book of Leviticus is God breathed. How about the pages of geneologies in I Chronicles, or the book of Revelation? It is ALL useful and God Breathed, although some may be more useful or easier to understand. One suggestions is to read the whole Bible as well as do more in depth study of particular books. 4 purposes are mentioned in the verse - teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness. Man (or woman) of God includes every Christian, not just full time ministers and missionaries. The stated purpose is that we all might be thoroughly equipped for every good work. While we need other things, ie. I needed Sax lessons to be able to do Special music, the Bible is our primary and necessary tool.

d. Interpretation.There is meaning to language, and the very words of Scripture give God's thoughts. We cannot / should not twist them to "make them say" whatever we want. Relation to other books of Scripture - all the books are consistent and teach the same things. Apparent contradictions such as Paul's FAITH and Jame's WORKS are actually in harmony. No errors of Fact Doctrine or Judgment. For example, the Scripture says Jesus rose physically from the dead, and he did. Again, Jesus said, "No one comes to the Father but by me" and he meant it. As much as our society wants to accept every answer to the question of how do we relate to God, Jesus said there is only one way. Finally, in Romans 1:27, homosexual acts are referred to as indecent and a perversion. These judgments of right and wrong are from God, whether our society accepts them or not.

2. History of Canon

a. Command from God. "Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you. " (Deuteronomy 4:2) The word 'canon' comes from the Greek 'kanon'. It meant a reed or rod, and because these were used for measuring, it came to mean a measuring-rod a rule or standard." The canon is the rule for which books are to be included as meeting the standards of Scripture. From the earliest times, God's people understood what was Scripture and what was not. We may deal with the canon or rule (a list) of what is Scripture by a quick overview of history.

b. Old Testament History. During the time of the Exodus, Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible. They are called the Pentateuch (five books) or the Torah (Hebrew for the Law). Moses held a special position in the history of God's people, and the book of Deuteronomy is written as a contract between God and Israel. These five books were acknowledged immediately as having the full authority of God. The historical books of the English Old Testament are referred to as Prophets by the Hebrews. This shows the regard, which the Jews had for the authors of those books. The OT consists of the Torah, or Law of Moses, the Nahvim or Prophets, and the Chatuvim or Writings, including Wisdom books and Chronicles. The Hebrew Letters for T (Torah), N (Nahvim), and CH (Chatuvim) make the Hebrew name for the Hebrew Scriptures, TeNaCH. When witnessing to Jews, it is better to refer to our Old Testament as the TENACH.

c. New Testament History. By Jesus time, the current Hebrew Bible was established. Jesus quoted the Old Testament as being the word of God. We accept the Hebrew Bible as the Old Testament because Jesus and the early church did. There were some books included in the Greek Septuagint, an early translation for Greek speaking Jews, which were not part of the Hebrew Bible. While they were Jewish writings, the Jews did not accept them as Scripture. They are now part of the Roman Catholic Bible, but are rejected by most Protestants. The were NEVER considered part of the TENACH. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would guide the early church. The Apostles and others associated with them, such as Luke, wrote the New Testament. At a very early time, certain books were widely acknowledged as Scripture, while others were rejected.

3. Tests to Determine Canon

a. Consistent with Totality of Scripture. Free from historical, factual, doctrinal error - we went over this point previously. Acceptance by Apostolic Church - those living, such as the Apostle John, and their immediate disciples were in a position to judge the historical authenticity of what was recorded in New Testament Scripture much better than us. They were the eyewitnesses and disciples of eyewitnesses.

b. Authentication by Holy Spirit. Today as well as in apostolic times, the Holy Spirit bears witness. Of course, only believers have the Holy Spirit indwelling, and are able to spiritually discern Scripture, yet the Holy Spirit does convict the world of Sin and has a witness to any who honestly seek the truth by reading the Bible.

4. Also Rans

a. Apocropha/Deuterocanonical. Books originally written in Greek or Latin and included in the Roman Catholic Bible, although rejected by Protestants. Protestants call them Apocrypha or 'doubtful', and did Jerome when he translated the Latin Vulgate. Catholics call them Deuterocanonical or a Second Canon, acknowledging that they were not a part of the Hebrew Canon.

b. Gospel of Thomas. A gospel similar to the Synoptic Gospels, but of poorer quality and with some clear doctrinal and historical errors. It is perhaps a Gnostic work. It is accepted by some today who do not hold to a high view of Scripture, and put at a level with the Synoptics. It was clearly rejected by the early church for good reasons, but is often advertised today as "The Lost Gospel of Jesus".

c. Book of Mormon. A collection of books supposedly found by Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons). He claims to have translated it from some copper plates shown to him by an angel. Mormons claim that this collection has the same quality as other Scripture, and may challenge you to read the book to find out. After reading it, I am not convinced.

d. Science and Healing with Key to the Scriptures. Intended as an interpretation of the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, this book has in effect become a Scripture itself for the Church of Christian Science.

e. Koran. Written by a 'prophet' and founder of the Moslem faith several centuries after the New Testament was completed. Many Moslems claim that the Koran is pure, given directly to the prophet from Allah, while the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures have been degraded and defiled with error.

5. Westminster Confession of Faith

"The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture; unto which nothing at any time is to be added whether by new revelations of the Spirit or traditions of men." (Westminster Confession of Faith)

a. All Things Necessary. The Bible contains the whole "Necessary" counsel of God for his Glory, salvation, faith and life. It does not tell us everything we want to know about God, but does tell us everything we need to know.

b. Personal Illumination. This does not eliminate personal leading or illumination by the Holy Spirit, but it does eliminate the revelation of new doctrines. For instance, we do not HAVE to believe visions such as appearances of Mary or claims of modern day prophets.

c. Deductions."May be deduced from Scripture" means logical deduction, or the work of Theology to put the various pieces and facts of the Bible together to determine doctrines.

d. Complete.Neither the Spirit nor Traditions add to Scripture, nor are these binding apart from Scripture. Of course some traditions, such as Sunday School, can be beneficial. Scripture does not require others, such as prescribed clothing or restrictions on electricity, and while some follow them, God does not require it of us.


Written Assignment:

Are you convinced that the 66 books of the Protestant Bible, and only those books, are sanctioned by God as being Holy Scripture? Why or why not?

Reading Assignment:

Ryrie: Chapters 9-11, 15; BFC: Article 1


Key Verses:

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2nd Timothy 3:16-17)

"In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son ... " (Hebrews 1:1-2a)

"Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you." (Deuteronomy 4:2)

Additional References:

"The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture; unto which nothing at any time is to be added whether by new revelations of the Spirit or traditions of men." ( Westminster Confession of Faith )


All Bible quotations are from the New International Version (NIV), (C)Copyright 1984 by the International Bible Society, used by permission.
Doctrine in Detail (C)Copyright 2002 by Ronald Miller, All Rights Reserved

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