The Canon of Scripture, No. 2
We are depending upon the fact that we
have in our Bible today the written revelation from God.
After all the decisions that determine which books
are included in our Bible and which books were excluded almost 2,000 years ago. It is necessary for you to understand that
Christianity is housed within a structure of history.
Christianity took place on the historical
scene. There actually was a person who
was a God-man named Jesus Christ. He
came into this world through a miraculous birth. There
actually was a moment when He hung on the cross and died for us, both spiritually and physically, in behalf
of our sin, and was raised as the demonstration that God has been satisfied,
and salvation is available. All this took
place in history. All that we have takes
place in history, including the book upon which we base all of this. All of this came about in certain historical
sequences. What I’m trying to do is
inform you of this historical background so that you understand
that we have a book indeed produced by men but in such a way that God
was in it
directing, superintending, and protecting, and that you do indeed have
of God in this revelation.
So we’re studying the canon of
Scripture. The word “canon”
you will remember “a
standard” or “a measuring rule.”
used in a technical sense to refer to the standard which determined
writings qualified as Scripture. That
is, which writings were inspired and thus a revelation from God. Now when we use the term “the canon of
Scripture,” we are referring to the 66 books which we have in our
forms God’s Word. We have looked at
Old Testament canon and we found that the Jews recognized the same 39
we have in our Bible today in the Old Testament. They
had some of the books combined so that
they arranged them differently and they amounted to 24 books. They were so arranged that the Jewish Bible
with Genesis and it ends with 2 Chronicles.
But in between those books are all the 39 books that
we have in our Old
The Old Testament
The Jews divided the Old Testament
into the Law (which
consisted of the first five books—the writing of Moses), the
Prophets, and the
Writings. The liberals claim that this
three-fold division indicates to us that the Old Testament books were
received at first a s being the Word of God, but that over a period of
began to so venerate their Hebrew writings that the canon of Scripture
gradually developed, and these three divisions indicate the three
developments, the stages of development that brought about this
division, and it took place between 444 B. C. through 90 A. D. However, the truth of the matter is that the
three-fold division rather reflects the status of the writers. Moses was in a class by himself, so his books
are classified alone as in the Law. Then
there were some men that had the gift of prophecy, and they also held
official position of a prophet among the Jewish people.
Their books were placed in a second segment
called the Prophets.
Then there were those who had the gift
of prophecy, like
David and Daniel, but who were not in the official position of the
prophets. Their books have been placed
in the category called the Writings.
These books did not evolve into a canonized form. They were accepted and recognized as the Word
of God immediately shortly after they were written.
Divine inspiration is what makes a
book canonical. It was recognized by the
Jews as such,
gathered into one unit which we now have as the Old Testament Scripture. We reported to you that the historian
Josephus, in the 1st century, A. D., that no books were
added to the
Old Testament Scripture after 424 B. C., that is after the writing of
of Malachi. After that there was no
prophet in Israel in the 400 years between the Old and New Testament,
therefore no further Scriptures could have been written.
There is a class of writing however
that has come from this
period in history called the Apocrypha.
The Apocrypha are not accepted as canonical
scriptures by the Jews and
they are not accepted in our Bible today.
The word “Apocrypha” is a plural word.
So you must speak of “the Apocrypha
were” such and such, not “the
Apocrypha was.” We often slip into
that. It’s hard not to do that but
a plural word. It’s a neuter
adjective. It means “hidden”
or “secret.” The word simply
means “non-canonical” or “unrecognized,”
lacking the authority of the classification of Scripture.
Since the Reformation, this word has
been used of 14
religious writings from the Old Testament era specifically. They were written after the Old Testament
canon was closed in 424 B. C. The
Apocrypha are included in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the
Testament, and in the Latin Vulgate version, the Latin translation of
upon which the Roman Catholic Church has based its Scriptures and from
its translations have been made.
So here are the apocryphal books. When a Roman Catholic speaks to you and
challenges what you have to say to him on the basis that you have your
Bible and it’s different from his, this is what he’s
talking about. He means that of these 14
books, 11 of these
books are included in his Bible as being the official authoritative
God, and they’re not simply put at the end.
When our King James Bible was translated, the
Apocrypha were recognized
as being books of certain value, as some of them are very valuable as
historical books, but they were not recognized as Scripture. However, because they were recognized as
valuable books giving us information about Bible times, when our King
Version was translated they were put between the two testaments, or at
end. They were never included in the
body of Scripture. But in the Roman
Catholic Bible you’ll be reading along and these books are
interspersed, within the 39 canonical books of the Old Testament. You’ll simply be reading along and all
sudden you’ll be slipping off into some of the apocryphal
writings. So it is necessary that we have
a little bit
of insight as to what these books are really like.
Now if you want to get the full picture,
have to get a copy of an English translation, which is available, and
through for yourself. I think you’ll
that they have a totally distinct flavor and climate than the canonical
Number one is 1 Esdras.
This is largely a compilation of 2 Chronicles, Ezra,
and Nehemiah from
our Old Testament. It has some
historical value. Sometimes the name
Esdras” in scriptures that include the Apocrypha is actually used
for our book
of Ezra, and then 1 Esdras is called “3 Esdras.”
So if you see 3 Esdras, you
know that it’s
this one, and 1 Esdras is our book of Ezra but not called that.
2 Esdras is the next book.
It has a series of seven visions.
It’s called the Apocalyptic Esdras because
it’s similar in style to our
book of the Revelation. Sometimes 2
Esdras is the name given to the book of Nehemiah. Instead
of Nehemiah being called “Nehemiah,”
it’s called 2 Esdras, and then this 2 Esdras is called “4
Number three is a book called Tobit. This is a religious romance which took place
in the Babylonian captivity. It’s
pure history but it does give a good picture of Jewish life. It reports miracles and it has a pretty good
Number 4 is Judith.
is a romance story in the time of King Nebuchadnezzar.
It seeks to show Jewish bravery and devotion
to the Law. It has little historical
basis and it has a pretty low tone. This
book will, for example, justify the concept that the end justifies the
means. This is one of the problems why
we reject the Apocryphal books, because they teach things that
is taught in the canonical books. This
one teaches that the end will justify the means. No
matter what you do, it’s alright as long
as it’s going to be for a good purpose.
So if you want to charge fifty cents for the people
who come to the
Wheaton concert here tomorrow night to park on the parking lot, just
book of Judith and it will salve your conscience because you’re
going to give
all that money to the Lord.
Rest of Esther
Number five is the rest of the book of
Esther. This is written in Greek and is
the remainder of our canonical Esther.
It’s a series of visions, letters, and
prayers, explaining difficulties
and enlarging on the books of Esther.
This book contains several contradictions within
The Wisdom of Solomon
Number six is The Wisdom of Solomon. This is an ethical book commending wisdom and
righteousness and condemning iniquity and idolatry.
It is a book that impersonates the writings
of King Solomon. It imitates his style
of wisdom writing.
Number seven is Ecclesiasticus, and
notice the “cus” at the
end. This is not our Ecclesiastes, the
canonical book. This is
Ecclesiasticus. It’s also called
of Jesus, Son of Sirach. It is a
valuable book of instruction on conduct.
It has Proverbs and wise sayings from many sources. It is quite a long book, and again it’s
patterned after the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job in our
Number eight is Baruch.
This is a weak imitation of our book of Jeremiah. Baruch, the author, is called a scribe. It consists of prayers and confessions of the
Jews while they were in Babylonian exile, and of promises of their
restoration. The Epistle of Jeremiah is
segment which is attached to Baruch, and it contains warnings to the
captives against idolatry.
The Song of the Three
Number nine is The Song of the Three
Holy Children. As you can probably guess,
this has to do
with the friends of Daniel. It is one of
three apocryphal additions to the book of Daniel. There
was something about the book of Daniel
that made people want to add to that book.
Three of these apocryphal writings were deliberately
written to be added
to the book of Daniel and this is one of them.
In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old
Testament, this is
inserted after Daniel 3:23. It contains
a prayer of Azariah, one of the three who were cast into the furnace by
Nebuchadnezzar. It tells about their
miraculous deliverance, and then it records their song of praise.
The History of
Number ten is the History of Susanna. It is a religious romance of the delivery of
a pure woman from the schemes of two immoral men. She
escapes their designs through listening
to the advice of Daniel. This therefore
again is added to the book of Daniel. It’s
actually placed at the beginning of the book of Daniel in the
it’s placed at the very end in the Latin translation, the Latin
Bel and the Dragon
Number eleven is Bel and the Dragon. Bel is an idol worshipped along with the
Dragon by the Babylonians. This is a
rather thrilling story about the destruction of Bel and the Dragon, and
hero is Daniel. This records
deliverance also from the lion’s den.
This is the third apocryphal segment which is added
to the book of
Daniel. So if you were to read the book
of Daniel in the Roman Catholic Bible, you would have not only our
you would also have these additions of the Song of the Three Holy
History of Susanna, and Bel and the Dragon.
The Prayer of Manasses
Number twelve is the Prayer of
Manasses. This is a deeply penitential
purportedly by Manasseh the King of Judah while he was in prison. It’s usually placed after Psalms and
supposed to be a supplement after 2 Chronicles 33:18-19.
Number thirteen is one of the more
valuable books of the
Apocrypha and well worth reading—1 Maccabees.
It is valuable as a historical narrative covering
the 40 years from the
coming to reign of Antiochus Epiphanes to the death of Simon Maccabeus
lived from 175 to 135 B. C. In 171 B.
C., the Syrian King Antiochus Epiphanes who is referred to in the book
Daniel (Daniel 8:9 as the little horn) plundered Jerusalem, he profaned
temple, and he killed many of the Jewish inhabitants.
In 168 B. C., Antiochus offered a sow on the
altar of the temple, and he erected an altar to Jupiter in the Jewish
temple. This is referred to in Daniel
8:13 as the desolation. Antiochus forbad
the temple worship and he forced the Jews to eat pig’s meat which
was a very
hideous and offensive thing to them.
This raised such furor against the
tyranny of Antiochus
Epiphanes. Remember that Antiochus is a
type of the antichrist who is coming on the historical scene after the
has been removed in the rapture. The
antichrist will be in the form of the tyranny and have the loathsome
toward that Antiochus Epiphanes had.
Well he raised such a furor that it caused the Jews
to rise up in
revolt. They did this under the
leadership of Mattathias Maccabeus who was a godly priest.
He was followed in this by his sons.
In 165 B. C., one of his sons, Judas
Maccabeus, regained possession of Jerusalem, and purified and
temple. Judas was later slain in battle
and he was followed by his brothers Jonathan and Simon, and his nephew
John Hyrcanus. This established what was
called the Hasmonean
line of priest rulers by treaty with Rome.
Out of this eventually came the Herodian line of
rulers which were in
existence in Palestine when Jesus was born.
It was through marriage, a family relationship.
Now 1 Maccabees gives a complete and
account of this great Maccabean War. It
was one of the more brilliant eras of Jewish history, and was an era
had gone back to God, had gone back to doctrine, and God was blessing
efforts of the Jews toward freedom at this time. It
is a record here in 1 Maccabees of the
fierce struggles for Jewish independence from Greek paganism, and it is
with heroics and martyrdom. It is an
important book on what took place between the Old and New Testaments.
Then the last book in the apocryphal
group is 2
Maccabees. This supplements 15 years of
history of 1 Maccabees, 176 – 161 B. C.
It is prefaced by two fake letters to Jews in Egypt. It contains a lot of fanciful and
supernatural features. It stresses moral
and religious lessons, resurrection, and future life.
It is not as trustworthy as history as is 1
Now the Roman Catholic Church accepts
eleven of these books
as canonical. It eliminates 1 Esdras, 2
Esdras, and The Prayer of Manasses. The
rest are included, and they’re interspersed throughout the Hebrew
canon as we have it. The writers of
these apocryphal books are unknown. None
of them claim to have been inspired or to be a prophet.
All the apocryphal books exist in Greek though
some are thought to have been written in Hebrew originally. They were written from about 200 B. C. to 100
A. D. They have a value and importance
as part of Jewish literature. They do
fill the gap between the testaments after prophecy had ceased and
was closed. But because they are not
inspired Scriptures, as you might expect, and purely human writings,
what they are, they contain certain inaccuracies. They
have contradictions. They have absurdities. They have conflicts in doctrine with the
canonical books, but their value about information concerning Jewish
Jewish feelings is very great. They do
throw light upon conditions which existed in New Testament times. They describe for us how it is that certain
things that existed when Jesus was here gradually came about in the
For example, the Jews had finally
weaned themselves off of
their habit of turning to idols. These
books give us the picture of their progression of how the moved finally
rejecting the practice of idolatry. They
tell us how strong Messianic hope developed.
When Antiochus Epiphanes came on with his tyranny,
it bestirred the old
hopes that God was going to send the Jews a Messiah, which was very
Jesus was born.
The doctrines of the resurrection and
of future rewards and
punishment developed strong devotion during this time.
There was extensive study of the Word of God
and it enlightened the Jews.
The Roman Catholic
Now in the western and the eastern
portions of the Roman
Empire, the almost universal verdict of both individuals, churches, and
councils, and of what we call the church fathers, the religious leaders
church who followed the apostles—the almost universal verdict is
against the Apocrypha
as being Scripture. The Reformation
which came on the scene in the 16th century shook Europe to
core. The Roman Catholic Church at that
time took a beating. Luther had
translated the Bible into German, and he declared only the Hebrew canon
Scripture. He did include the Apocrypha
between the testaments as non-canonical books, but useful information. The Roman Catholic Church was back to the
wall. People were deserting by the
scores and the hundreds and hundreds.
They were deserting Roman Catholicism.
They were delighted with the refreshing introduction
to Bible doctrine
which had been overlaid by superstition, ignorance, and neglect for
during the Dark Ages. Now the Word of
God was in print. It was made available
to people. It was in the language of the
people, and doctrine was again being instructed. The
people were responding. The Roman Catholic
Church knew it had to do
something very quickly or it would not survive.
The Council of Trent
So it called a Council at Trent in
1546 to take steps to
resist the Lutherans, and in the process of this, to settle the
question of the
canon. The Reformers were turning back
the Scriptures, and they were saying that it is what the Word of God
is what God says—not what the pope says, and not what tradition
says. Only the Word of God has authority
speak. So this forced the debate as to
what was the Word of God. After one
stormy session of this Council at Trent, there were only 53 of the
the delegates present. None of these who
were present were scholars of canonical history. But
at this stormy session, they ended the
session by declaring and passing the decree under papal authority that
were canonical and were to be accepted as Scripture, along with the
traditions of the church. With that one
blow, eleven of these books were placed as authoritative Scripture as
all of the traditions that have come down, unwritten, as being equal
the Word of God says.
That’s why you have trouble
sometimes speaking to Roman
Catholic people because they will quote their traditions or they may
something like purgatory for example, the books here of the Apocrypha. This was necessary for the Roman Catholic
Church to do in order to preserve certain doctrines.
Purgatory, incidentally, was one of them. It is these books that teach the custom of
praying for people who are dead which is the idea from which purgatory
Now the Roman Catholic Church has
prided itself on the fact
that it does not change, and all of a sudden here they were being
the reformers with the authoritative Word of God, and they had no place
canonical books to prove much of what was done as authoritative
doctrine in the
Roman Catholic Church. It had come out
of the Apocrypha. For this reason, the
Roman Catholic Church, in order to save face, had to declare these
being canonical if they were to salvage the doctrines that the
bringing under attack. The Protestant
churches all along rejected the Apocrypha, and though they were
included in our
excellent King James Version for a while, by the year 1827 they were
The Rejection of the
Now there are certain reasons, and we
will summarize them,
therefore that we reject these books which are held in such high esteem
millions and millions of people who are in the Roman Catholic tradition. They esteem these books, but here’s why
reject them as non-canonical:
1) It is universally acknowledged that
they never had a
place in the Hebrew canon.
2) They are never quoted in the New
Testament by Christ or
the apostles or any New Testament writers, nor do they themselves claim
inspired. Jesus quoted very frequently
from Scriptures, but He never quoted from the Apocrypha.
The apostles also quoted from Scriptures but
they never quoted from the Apocrypha, and the apocryphal writers
not claim that they were inspired in their writings.
3) Josephus, the Jewish historian,
limits the Old Testament
books to the 22 of the Hebrew Bible and our 39 books.
The Apocrypha thus are excluded.
He excludes the Apocrypha completely.
4) Philo was a great Jewish
philosopher of Alexandria. He lived in
about 20 B. C. through about 50
A. D. He wrote extensively and he
frequently quoted from the Old Testament, but he never even mentions
5) There is no list of the Old
Testament canon which was
made during the first four centuries, A. D., which included the
Apocrypha. Periodically, Christian writers
would make a
list and say, “These books constitute Scripture.” They would make lists of Old Testament books
that were Scripture. Always our 39 books
were in there, and the Apocrypha was never included.
6) Jerome, who translated the Bible
into Latin, held to the
Hebrew canon. He emphatically rejected
the authority of the Apocrypha.
7) No writer of the Apocrypha claims
divine inspiration and
authority. Some even disclaim it.
8) No line of prophets existed at the
time that the
Apocrypha were written between the testaments.
9) The Apocrypha contains many
historical, geographical, and
chronology errors and distortions of Old Testament stories. These contradict themselves.
The contradict Bible and secular
10) These teach doctrines and
practices contrary to the
canonical Scriptures. This is one of the
strongest points against the Apocrypha.
For example, one of the apocryphal books sanctions
lying under certain
situations. Another place in the
Apocrypha sanctions suicide and assassination.
Another verse teaches salvation by works through
3:30, if you give to the poor). 2
Maccabees 12:40-45 teach prayers for the dead from which the concept of
purgatory comes. The Apocrypha teach
that the Samaritans should be hated. The
Apocrypha teach in Ecclesiasticus 33:26 that if you have slaves, you
treat them cruelly. The Wisdom of
Solomon 8:19-20 teach the concept of the preexistence of souls, and
can meet in the world before they’re born.
So if some of you think you’ve known each
other someplace else in
another life, you got that from the Wisdom of Solomon, which is dumb.
11) The style of the writings of the
apocryphal books is
often imitating the canonical books of Scripture. It
is just an artificial attempt to sound
like the canonical books.
12) Much of the Apocrypha are
legendary with stories
containing many absurdities.
13) Miracles—Descriptions of
persons and deeds of
supernatural beings contain much that is fantastic, grotesque, and
14) The spiritual and the moral level
as a whole is far
below the canonical books. You think
in another world when you read these.
15) The apocryphal books were written
long after the New
Testament closed, so they are later than the Old Testament books.
16) The Apocrypha has value as
background information, but
it is not considered authoritative for doctrine, and it never was
authoritative for doctrine until the Roman Catholic Church passed the
the Council of Trent in 1546.
17) The New Testament church accepted
only the Old Testament
18) Jesus referred to the Scriptures
in ways that imply that
it was a well-defined collection. In
Matthew 23:35, Jesus referred to two incidents, one of which was in the
Genesis, and one of which was in 2 Chronicles, and thus He covered the
gamut of the Old Testament Scriptures which included the regular canon.
The New Testament
Now, we want to look also this morning
at the formation of
the New Testament canon. This is
vital. This is the section with which we
deal primarily. 2,000 years ago somebody
made some decisions. Have we a ground to
thinking that they made right decisions that we can depend upon? Here’s the growth of Christian
For about 20 years after the ascension
of Jesus Christ, from
30 to about 50 A. D., the gospel narratives were preserved only in oral
form. They were repeated and repeated
and cast in a certain stereotype form, and people simply memorized the
of the gospels—His birth, His life, His death, His resurrection,
on. Some fragmentary writings were
made. These were not inspired writings,
but attempts by people to put into writing some of this oral record. After the year 50 A. D., the need arose for
this oral record of the gospels to be put into written form. One of the reasons was that the people who
could speak about Jesus from personal experience were dying off. It was evident that in time there
anybody left who was actually on the scene when these things took place.
Christianity was spreading throughout
the Roman Empire, far
beyond contact with the group of apostles who were leading the New
church. Therefore, it was necessary to
have something safer than memory to transmit the Word of God,
especially in the
hustle and bustle of the Greco-Roman world as it lay beyond Palestine.
So the four gospels of our New
Testament were produced to
preserve in permanent form the oral tradition handed down.
God the Holy Spirit led these four writers to
produce a gospel from a different slant, each from a different slant,
a distinct purpose. The gospel of John
is the one that is distinctively designed for our use as believers in
The New Testament epistles were
written to meet various
needs, to answer practical questions, to comfort those in persecution,
present doctrinal statements of truth.
The book of the Revelation was written
by the apostle John
about 96 A. D. He was the last of the
apostles, and as far as we know died a natural death.
The Basis for the New
So, in other words, by the year 100 A.
D., all of the 27
books of our New Testament were written and on the scene.
Now, what was the decision to decide what
should be included and what should be excluded as Scripture? Here’s the basis of New Testament
The first requirement was apostolicity. For a New Testament book to be canonical, it
had to possess apostolic authority. The
books had to be either written by an apostle or by men who were closely
associated with those apostles in their ministry, such as Mark was with
and Luke was with Paul.
The second basis of being accepted
into the New Testament
canon was whether these books were received by the churches. The phrase “read in the churches”
repeated in the writings of the church fathers—the religious
leaders after the
time of the apostles. When it says this,
“read in the churches,” it means that these books were read
in the churches as
a whole, not just some scattered churches.
Christians thus demonstrated the recognition of
these books as being
inspired. Some were read for a while and
then they were dropped and they were no longer read in the churches
only that which could qualify as God’s Word was to be read in the
churches. Now there was existing in the
New Testament times the temporary spiritual gift of discernment. This gift was brought to bear at this time to
recognize what was indeed God’s written revelation and what was
The next requirement was the use of
the book by the church
fathers in their writing. In other
words: confirmation by pastor-teachers
in their teaching ministry, recognizing these books as having the stamp
inspiration upon them.
Number four was consistency with
doctrine received orally
from the apostles. This doctrine was
called the rule of faith, and no book would be accepted which
the apostles had taught. Today the
question for you and me is that we want to look at a doctrine that we
about, and we go back to Scripture and say, “Do we find this
doctrine in the
Scriptures?” If it is there, then we
confirm the doctrine.
Number five was the internal
conviction and guidance of God
the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit
superintended the writings of the New Testament Scripture and He guided
selection of the 27 books which we have in our New Testament today.
So today there’s agreement among
Roman Catholics, Greek
Orthodox, and among Protestants on these 27 books.
There is no debate. There
is no question. No segment of Christendom
uses any other
books than these 27. Now there is
challenge to these books, but they only come from liberals who doubt
that any book
is inspired from God.
The development of the Canon is again
history. This evolved on the historical
scene. It went something like this: By the end of the first century all 27 books
were finished. They had spread over a
wide area of the Roman Empire. The
to whom they had been sent treasured these as indeed the Word of God. They were treated as comparable to the Old
Testament Scripture. The New Testament
canon thus was gradually brought together so that by the end of the 4th
century it was firmly established that 27 book made up the New
In the first century, the writings of
the New Testament
leaders were immediately recognized as bearing spiritual authority on
with the Old Testament. These writers
claimed to be speaking the mind of God, as His witnesses and as His
representatives. The epistles of the New
Testament were interchanged among the various churches of the New
times and they were viewed as being by all the Word of God. The New Testament Scriptures testify to each
other’s authority. For example,
calls the epistles of Paul “Scripture” in 2 Peter 3:15-16. Paul quotes Luke’s gospel as Scripture
Timothy 5:18, quoting Luke 10:7. Jude 18
quotes 2 Peter 3:3 as authoritative.
The New Testament itself claims
special authority. In 2 Thessalonians 3:14
and 2:15, Paul’s
writings are said to be obeyed, meaning that God has spoken through him. In Colossians 4:16 we have the command for
public reading of this book which means it is canonical.
If it’s to be read in church, it’s
God’s Word. 1 Corinthians 14:37 says
that Paul’s writings are the commandments of the Lord. And one of the outstanding verses of the New
Testament about itself is Revelation 22:18-19 that warns anybody who
to change whatever is written in that book.
And what is said about the book of the Revelation
applies to all of the
Clement of Rome
Now parts of the New Testament were
quoted by the apostolic
fathers here in the first century. One
man was a man named Clement of Rome. In
96 A. D., he quoted from Matthew and Luke and several epistles. He says that Paul wrote the Corinthian
epistles under the inspiration of the spirit.
Now in 96 A. D., John, the last of the apostles, was
still alive, and
here was Clement of Rome declaring these writings of the apostles equal
Old Testament Scriptures.
Another writing that we have from this
time is called the
Epistle of Barnabas. It quotes from the
Old and New Testaments and calls both of them Scriptures.
Then we come to the second century and
we have a book called
The Teaching of the Twelve, or the “Didache.”
It quotes 23 times from Matthew and Luke. We have this from about the year 100 A.
D. We have a man named Polycarp who was
a student and disciple of the apostle John, so we have someone who was
generation believer here. Polycarp lived
from 69 to 155 A. D. He was martyred. He quotes freely from the New Testament books
in his writings and he treats them as Scripture. Justin
Martyr, 100 to 165 A. D., quotes from
New Testament books more than anyone before him. Now
this is in the second century. He says
that in his day the memoirs of the
apostles were called “gospels,” and that they were read on
Sundays in church
along with the Old Testament, meaning that the New Testament Scriptures
accepted on an equal plane with the Old Testament.
He refers to the book of the Revelation as
being written by John. This is a rather
important testimony because the book of the Revelation was first
it was one of those books in the “antilegomena,” that is
the questioned books,
because of the authorship. Someone
questioned that John wrote it, and finally it was established that he
it, and it was again received. Justin
Martyr was one of the strong testimonies to that fact that John did
Another man named Irenaeus, about 125
to 192 A. D. He wrote very extensively and
much of his
work has been preserved. The chief work
is a five volume treatise called Against Heresies, mostly against the
Gnosticism. He uses quotes from all of
the New Testament books except Philemon and 3 John.
He treats all of these quotations from all of
these 25 books from which he quotes as being Scripture.
He has a very scholarly use of the New
Testament books, and he implies that they are authoritative, and he
from the way he uses them that they were recognized as Scripture for
Clement of Alexandria
Another man was Clement of Alexandria,
150 – 217 A. D. He speaks often of
the Old and New Covenants,
that is, the Old and New Testaments. He
calls the New Testament books “the divine Scriptures and the holy
books. Tertullian, 150 – 220 A. D.
was a North
African writer and a teacher. He quotes
hundreds of times from 23 of our New Testament books.
Even the heretical teachers in the 2nd
us a strong confirmation of what was accepted as God’s Word in
Testament books. The heretics were
brilliant. There were a great number of
them and they were very strong. If you
read church history in the 2nd century period, you’ll
be amazed at
how many heretical teachers there were on the scene.
You’ll have a little better feeling and
understanding of a book like Jude warning against apostasy, and of all
Paul has to say as to how you treat a person who is false relative to
doctrines of the Word. John is very
strong, as you know. He says that if
some guy comes in and he denies the basic truth of the Scriptures, you
even sit down and eat with him.
Now we have come a long way today from
that kind of a
separation from heresy. But the heretics
of the 2nd century were powerful, numerous, and brilliant. And they dealt with the believers that they
were attacking, and trying to promote false doctrine, they dealt with
what? On the same 27 books that we have
in our New Testament. Why?
Because they recognized too that here was a
ground of authority. Some of these other
books that were floating around were downright silly.
Nobody was going to take them seriously on
that ground. So they warped these
books. They twisted them.
They mutilated them. They
did everything they could in order to
talk to Christians on the basis of the books that a Christian would
them—namely, these 27. So they give
testimony as to what was authoritative.
Then we have a fragment called the
Muratorian fragment. This is a copy
written in 170 A. D. listing
books that were accepted in the New Testament Scriptures.
This thing was mutilated at both ends.
Both ends were chopped off, but it starts
with a reference to Luke as the third gospel, so we know that Matthew
are implied as coming before that. The
same at the end: It has all of the New
Testament books in it except Hebrews, James, and 1 and 2 Peter. The scholars believe that the reason those
are omitted, because they are included in other records of the time,
were excluded in this little fragment which copied a list of
books because the scholars believe there was break in the manuscript
being copied, and these books therefore were missed, though they
in there. This fragment does exclude all
of the forgeries. It has a question on a
book called the Apocalypse of Peter that it is sympathetic toward, but
know today was not in the authoritative Scripture.
By the time after the 2nd
century, all over the
New Testament world, our 27 books were in operation, they were being
they were in use, and they were recognized.
The 3rd century and the 4th
crystalize the study of the canon.
Dr. John E. Danish, 1971
to the Basic Bible Doctrine index
the Bible Questions index