Stories You Didn’t Learn In Sunday School
Many of the New Testament texts familiar to Christians today were being used authoritatively already in the second century, but different congregations preferred some texts over others and included some texts that don’t appear in the New Testament. Here are a few:
The Gospel of Peter: Only a fragment of this text was recovered in 1886 in Egypt, but it includes the only narrative account of the resurrected Jesus leaving his tomb. According to Peter’s version, two giant angels descended to the tomb and escorted the resurrected Jesus out, who was also suddenly gigantic. But the oddest note was that the three figures were followed by a floating cross that could talk.
“And they heard a voice from the heavens, saying, ‘Thou hast preached to them that sleep.’ And a response was heard from the cross, ‘Yea.'”
The Gospel of Mary: Combs says that some apocryphal texts reflected theological and doctrinal debates going on within the early church, such as the role of women. In the Gospel of Mary , is not only referred to as one of Jesus’s disciples, but perhaps his favorite one. In this text, after Jesus is resurrected, he relays esoteric teachings to Mary, who then tells the other disciples. Peter asks why they should listen to a woman, to which another disciple Levi responds:
“If the Savior made her worthy, who are you then, for your part, to cast her aside? Surely the Savior knows her full well. That is why he has loved her more than us.”
The New Testament Canon
The early Christian church followed the practice of Jesus and regarded the Old Testament as authoritative . Along with the Old Testament, the church revered the words of Jesus with equal authority . It could not have been otherwise since Jesus was perceived not only as a prophet but also as the Messiah, the Son of God. Following the death and resurrection of Jesus, the apostles came to occupy a unique position in spreading and bearing witness to the words of Jesus. Indeed, Christ had said of them that because they had been with Him from the beginning they would be His witnesses . As the church grew, and the apostles became conscious of the prospect of their own deaths, the need arose for the words of Jesus to be recorded . None were keener to preserve and communicate authoritatively what had happened than the apostles who were witnesses of the salvation of God in Jesus Christ. Thus, the stage was set for the development of books that, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, would in time become the New Testament canon.
For about two decades after the Cross, the message of Jesus was proclaimed orally. Then, from the midfirst century on, Pauls letters began to appear. Somewhat later, the three synoptic Gospels and the book of Acts were written by the end of the first century, when John wrote the book of Revelation, all the books of the New Testament were completed. Throughout the New Testament, the focus is on what God had done in Christ .
Who Wrote The Bible: The New Testament
Wikimedia CommonsA depiction of Jesus delivering the Sermon on the Mount.
Finally, the question of who wrote the Bible turns to the texts dealing with Jesus and beyond.
In the second century B.C. with the Greeks still in power, Jerusalem was run by fully Hellenized kings who considered it their mission to erase Jewish identity with full assimilation.
To that end, King Antiochus Epiphanes had a Greek gymnasium built across the street from the Second Temple and made it a legal requirement for Jerusalems men to visit it at least once. The thought of stripping nude in a public place blew the minds of Jerusalems faithful Jews, and they rose in bloody revolt to stop it.
In time, Hellenistic rule fell apart in the area and was replaced by the Romans. It was during this time, early in the first century A.D., that one of the Jews from Nazareth inspired a new religion, one that saw itself as a continuation of Jewish tradition, but with scriptures of its own:
Wikimedia CommonsPaul the Apostle
While the writings attributed to John actually do show some congruity between who wrote the Bible according to tradition and who wrote the Bible according to historical evidence, the question of Biblical authorship remains thorny, complex, and contested.
Canonicity: A Theological Issue
The canon debate is primarily a theological issue, not a historical one. What should, and should not, be in the Bible is a matter of inspiration and revelation, not church councils and magisterium.
The question of the canon begins with understanding the nature of Scripture. We cannot understand what should be in the Bible until we understand what the Bible is. The canon of Scripture depends on the attributes of Scripture.
A document must have certain attributes before it can be considered as canon. Its the same way, for example, in professional baseball. Who gets to play major league baseball is determined by who possesses certain attributes necessary to the sport. So it is with what is, and is not, in the Bible. Thats why our discussion of canon began with a study of revelation and inspiration.
Completion Of The Task Of Writing Revelation
All the truth that God is going to reveal has been revealed. This means God will not add to the truth about himself that he revealed in the Bible. The task of revealing truth is completed. God began by revealing himself and ends with the doctrine of eschatology .
Everything that man needs on every subject has been revealed, but this does not include everything that man wants to know. Since this revelation is complete in content, there came a time when Jude could say, the faith which was once delivered unto the saints . We do not need additional revelations from God, therefore the canon is closed.
Don’t Miss: What Is The Feast Of Booths In The Bible
Who Chose The Books Of The Bible
The Bible is considered the inspired word of God by the faithful. So you have to wonder: where did it come from?
With all the writings floating around the ancient world, who decided which of them rated as sacred enough to be scripture?
This question is technically one of canonicity. Canon means norm or standard. The term was first applied by St. Athanasius to a collection of Jewish and Christian writings around the year 350. A fourth-century bishop of Alexandria, Egypt, Athanasius was a powerhouse.
He would later be named Doctor of Orthodoxy for his strong defense against heresies of his time. Athanasius attended the all-important Council of Nicaea, from which we get our Nicene Creed. He was a zealous advocate for the divinity of Jesus in an age before the nature of Jesus was uniformly accepted. For all of these reasons, Athanasius was invested in settling the canon of scripture: which books might be counted as the Word of Godand which, at best, were just good words.
What hastened the need to settle the biblical canon was simple practicality. As the Christian community gradually separated from its Jewish roots, it was vital to determine which of the many instructive texts scattered around the Mediterranean region would be binding for each group. The rabbis of Judaism fought their own canon skirmishes around the year 100, but some books written before the time of Jesus that didnt make their final list had already proven useful to Jewish Christians.
How Were The Books Of The Bible Selected And Compiled And How Were The Decisions Made As To What Would Be Distributed As The Word Of God
Even though we think of the Bible as being one book, its actually a collection of sixty-six books, and we realize that there was a historical process by which those particular books were gathered together and placed in one volume that we now know as the Bible. In fact, we call the Bible the canon of sacred Scripture. Canon is taken from the Greek word canon, which means measuring rod. That means it is the standard of truth by which all other truth is to be judged in the Christian life.
There have been many different theories set forth over the history of the church as to exactly how Gods hand was involved in this selection process. Skeptics have pointed out that over three thousand books were candidates for inclusion in the New Testament canon alone, and only a handful were selected. Doesnt that raise some serious questions? Isnt it possible that certain books that are in the Bible should not be there and others that were excluded by human evaluation and human judgment should have been included? We need to keep in mind, however, that of those not included in the last analysis, there were at the most three or four that were given serious consideration. So to speak in terms of two or three thousand being boiled down to twenty-seven or something like that is a distortion of historical reality.
Do you have a question about the Bible or theology? Get a live response from one of our well-trained agents when youask Ligonier.
Read Also: How Many Manuscripts Of The Bible
Stories You Didnt Learn In Sunday School
Many of the New Testament texts we know today were used authoritatively in the second Century. However, different congregations preferred certain texts and included texts that arent found in the New Testament. Here are some:
And they heard a voice in the heavens saying, Thou hast preached unto them that sleep.And they heard a voice from the heavens, saying, Thou hast preached to them that sleep.â
The Gospel of Mary: Combs claims that some Apocryphal texts reflect theological and doctrinal discussions in the early church. The Gospel of Mary, which was discovered in the late 19th Century, refers to Mary Magdalene as one of Jesuss followers and his favorite disciple. After Jesuss resurrection, he gives esoteric teachings and then shares them with Mary. Mary then tells his other disciples. Peter questions why they should listen. Levi replies:
If she was worthy of the Savior, then who would you be to make her go? The Savior surely knows her well. He loves her more than we do.
The Apocrypha And The Septuagint
There is a cluster of about 14 books, known as the Apocrypha, which werewritten some time between the close of the Old Testament andthe beginning of the New. They were never considered as part of the HebrewScriptures, and the Jews themselves clearly ruled them out by the confessionthat there was, throughout that period, no voice of the prophets in the land.They looked forward to a day when a faithful prophet should appear.
The Old Testament had been translated into Greek during the third centuryB.C., and this translation is known as the Septuagint, a word meaning 70, after the supposedly 70 men involved in the translation. It was the Greek Septuagintthat the disciples of Jesus frequently used since Greek was the commonlanguage of the day.
Whether or not the Septuagint also contained the Apocrypha is impossibleto say for certain, since although the earliest copies of the Septuagint availabletoday do include the Apocryphaplaced at the endthese are dated in thefifth century and therefore cannot be relied upon to tell us what was commonhalf a millennium earlier. Significantly, neither Jesus nor any of the apostles everquoted from the Apocrypha, even though they were obviously using the GreekSeptuagint. Josephus was familiar with the Septuagint and made use of it, buthe never considered the Apocrypha part of the Scriptures.
Recommended Reading: When The Trumpet Sounds Bible Verse
Which Bible Is The Most Accurate
To pick just one version of the Bible is a difficult task. Think of it like picking a favorite breakfast cereal. They all have similarities, differences, pros, and cons so its not easy to say that one is better than the other or more accurate.
It depends on what youre looking to gain. If youre looking for applicable information that you can apply to your life, you might benefit from a New American Standard Bible because the translations correspond more with modern life.
If youre looking for something that more closely represents an older direct translation, the King James or New King James Version might suit you best.
The New Living Translation is considered one of the most dynamic translations because it communicates the information in a language that is easy for everyone to understand.
You May Like: What Does The Bible Say About Vaccine
Who Wrote The Bible
Until the 17th century, received opinion had it that the first five books of the Bible Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy were the work of one author: Moses. That theory has since been seriously challenged.
Scholars now believe that the stories that would become the Bible were disseminated by word of mouth across the centuries, in the form of oral tales and poetry perhaps as a means of forging a collective identity among the tribes of Israel. Eventually, these stories were collated and written down. The question is by whom, and when?
A clue may lie in a limestone boulder discovered embedded in a stone wall in the town of Tel Zayit, 35 miles southwest of Jerusalem, in 2005. The boulder, now known as the Zayit Stone, contains what many historians believe to be the earliest full Hebrew alphabet ever discovered, dating to around 1000 BC. What was found was not a random scratching of two or three letters, it was the full alphabet, Kyle McCarter of Johns Hopkins University in Maryland has said of the stone. Everything about it says this is the ancestor of the Hebrew script.
Ask the expert: John Barton
A History of the Bible: The Books and Its Faiths.
Q:Just how reliable is the Old Testament as an historical document?
Q:Does it matter if its not historically accurate? Are we guilty of placing too much emphasis on this question?
Q: Did the Old Testament anticipate the figure of Jesus Christ?
Recommended Reading: The Latter Day Saints Church
Did Constantine Create The Bible
It is important to note that the Catholic Bible includes all 73 books of the old testament and new testament that are acknowledged by the Catholic Church, whereas the Christian Bible is a sacred book for Christians and does not include any of the 73 books. In accordance with catholic canon law, a Catholic Bible is produced.
Also Check: Emotional Abuse Bible
The Old Testament Was Already Put Together By The Time Of Jesus
- M.A., Christian Studies, Union University
- B.A., English Literature, Wheaton College
Determining when the Bible was written poses challenges because it isnât a single book. Itâs a collection of 66 books written by more than 40 authors over more than 2,000 years.
So there are two ways to answer the question, âWhen was the Bible written?â The first is to identify the original dates for each of the Bibleâs 66 books. The second, the focus here is to describe how and when all 66 books were collected in a single volume.
Read Also: What Does The Bible Say About Being Lukewarm
The Canon Of Scripture Was Set Kind Of
While the main editing of the bible ended in Augustine’s day, the debate about which books legitimately belonged in scripture remained. This debate lasted into the 16th century. Along with Luther’s Ninety-five Theses, this was part of what caused the largest church split in the history of the church. This split was known as the Protestant Reformation. The Protestant movement sought to return to more biblical beliefs, which caused scripture to once again be translated. This time the translations were into the modern languages of Europe . These translations were directed by serious regard for Hebrew and Greek, because they were the original languages scripture was written in. Because of this, the Vulgate was ignored, and only the original manuscripts were used.
During the translation process, it was noticed that the Apocryphal books were not in the original Hebrew manuscripts. The translators found that the Jews never accepted them as scripture, it never claimed to be inspired. In fact, the book of Maccabees chapter 9 verse 27 actually denies being inspired. Jesus even implies in Matthew 23:35 that the historical scripture of the old testament was concluded when Zechariah died which was around 400 B.C. Due to these findings, the translators and theologians decided to reject the Apocrypha, and the decision was made that it would be included in the appendix or be left out altogether. This made the new bible which includes the 66 books of the Protestant Bible we have today.
Who Decided Which Books To Include In The Bible
In his best-selling novel, “The Da Vinci Code,” Dan Brown wrote that the Bible was assembled during the famous Council of Nicea in 325 C.E., when Emperor Constantine and church authorities purportedly banned problematic books that didn’t conform to their secret agenda.
Except that’s not how it really went. “The Da Vinci Code” was fiction, but Brown wasn’t the first to credit the Council of Nicea with deciding which books to include in the Bible. Voltaire, writing in the 18th century, repeated a centuries-old myth that the Bible was canonized in Nicea by placing all of the known books on a table, saying a prayer and seeing which illegitimate texts fell to the floor.
In truth, there was no single church authority or council that convened to rubber stamp the biblical canon , not at Nicea or anywhere else in antiquity, explains Jason Combs, an assistant professor at Brigham Young University specializing in ancient Christianity.
“Dan Brown did us all a disservice,” says Combs. “We don’t have evidence that any group of Christians got together and said, ‘Let’s hash this out once and for all.'”
What evidence scholars do have in the form of theological treatises, letters and church histories that have survived for millennia points to a much longer process of canonization. From the first through the fourth centuries and beyond, different church leaders and theologians made arguments about which books belonged in the canon, often casting their opponents as heretics.
Read Also: What Does Jesus Say About Love In The Bible