The Canonization Of Scripture

by | Jan 12, 2017

Joseph Herrin (01-12-2017)

We cannot have an accurate version of the Bible today unless we can have some assurance that the book written by forty different men is truly the word of Yahweh to His people. There are many men making claims about the Bible today that are not historically sound. This is especially true of the New Testament. Men make many claims about different books being singled out as irrelevant or lacking some key trait like being written by an apostle. They suggest that men like Emperor Constantine chose which books to include in the Bible. The truth is much easier to tell.

The Old Testament books were the sacred charge of the Israelites. They were given the task of keeping them and determining which ones were Scripture. These books were written between 1400 B.C. and 450 B.C.. There has never been a book recorded that took a thousand years to write. The reason for it is that Yahweh is an active God. He interacts with His people, and others that are known. His words and actions need to continually be added to in order for His people to learn.

In adding to these words the people needed a scribe to keep the words updated due to their language changing over such a span of time. This wasn’t one man. There were large numbers of scribes in existence. One need only look at the Gospels to tell that there were many scribes. In the pages of the text there are mentioned many scribes. We know this went back as far as King Solomon who wrote the book of Ecclesiastes.

Ecclesiastes 12:12
But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body.

The New Testament books were all written in a brief period of about fifty years. The latter half of the first century A.D. was the time of its emergence. Many people claim that books were erased by folks that sat on committees, such as in the case of The Da Vinci Code. It should be noted that this book is fiction. We should keep its claims in the realm of make believe. Let us look at the way things actually happened.

As the books of the New Testament were written the members of the churches began to seek the anointed writings out. Keep in mind that Yahshua said, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth.” The Spirit of Yahshua made known to the churches which books were from Him. Some of this instruction even made it into the Bible. In I Timothy we have the following.

I Timothy 5:18
For the Scripture says, “YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”

Where is this found in Scripture?

Luke 10:7
“Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house.”

It also says.

II Peter 3:15-16
Just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.

In these verses we find that the apostles considered Luke and the epistles of Paul to be Scripture. As we look further we can find other testimonies among the early church leaders. Polycarp wrote one letter that exists to this day. It is his letter to the church at Philippi. In that letter he states that the letter by Paul to the Ephesians is Scripture. This letter by Polycarp was written in 125 A.D.. Polycarp was considered a disciple of John, and likely was.

There were a few differences in the lists of books that appeared in the 4th century. Another church father was Eusebius. In between the years 320-330 A.D. Eusebius wrote that the churches regarded 22 of the 27 books to belong to the New Testament. The ones that were considered doubtful were James, Jude, 2 Peter, II and III John. These books are still questionable to some people today.

In 350 A.D. Cyril of Jerusalem considered 27 books to belong to the New Testament. He differed in one book. Cyril included The Gospel of Thomas and he rejected Revelation. Of all the church fathers, Cyril was the only one known to have accepted The Gospel of Thomas.

Athanasius in 367 A.D. was the first to come along and say that the church recognized the same 27 books that are included in the New Testament today. Gregory of Nazianus in 390 A.D. recognized the same 27 books. The African Canons of 393 to 419 A.D. recognized the same. Jerome, also called Eusebius Hieronymus, in 394 A.D. recognized the 27 also. Augustine in 395 to 400 A.D. further recognized the 27 books of the New Testament.

Some books that were not included in the canon of Scripture, though they were at times passed along by members of the church were The Shepherd of Hermes, The Letter of Polycarp to the Church at Philippi, The Didache, I Clement, The Gospel of Thomas, Ignatius Letters, and the Letter of Barnabas. Of The Letter of Barnabas, be aware that there are certain pseudepigrapha that have come forth in later centuries that bear his name. The Gospel of Barnabas is one of them. These should be excluded by the serious reader.

Why were not any of these other writings included with Scripture? The Holy Spirit was certainly present to keep these books from being granted Scripture authority. There are certain books that are good, but don’t deserve to be numbered among the Scriptures. I believe that a saint aided by the Spirit can tell which books are Scripture.

We have seen then that it took 1500 years to write the whole Bible. From the books of Moses to the book of Revelation, the entirety of the book of the Bible took 1-1/2 millennia. It is more properly described as the library of Yahweh than a single book. There are 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 books in the New Testament for a total of 66 books.

One thing that would be helpful in creating an accurate translation of the Old Testament would be an old copy in Hebrew. Such things are not available today. What happened to them? Neil R. Lightfoot gives the following answer.

The Jewish scribes looked upon their copies of the Scriptures with an almost superstitious respect. This led them to give ceremonial burial to any of the texts that were damaged or defective. Their motive was to prevent the improper use of the material on which the sacred name of God had been inscribed. Before burial, however, faulty manuscripts were hidden away in a “ginizah” (from Aramaic genaz, to hide), a kind of storeroom for manuscripts that were unusable. But however noble the intentions, the replacement of older copies with newer ones, and the burial of those discarded, have deprived us of early Hebrew manuscripts.
[Source: How We Got the Bible, Neil R. Lightfoot]

As far as we know, the Masoretic texts from the tenth century A.D. are some of the oldest and most accurate Hebrew texts. The Masoretes had exceptional error checking and would not let anything inferior serve as a Hebrew text. Unfortunately, they only go back about one thousand years. The first 2,400 years of Hebrew text are missing.

One of the most common foreign language copies of the Old Testament known of today is called the Septuagint. It was written in the 2nd century B.C.. Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament was written a little more than 400 years B.C.. The Septuagint does a good job of translating the Hebrew into Koine Greek, but it does contain some added portions that are not in Hebrew, as well as missing others. Where the Greek text and the Masorete text are compared nearly 1,200 years apart, they are virtually the same. We must assume, therefore, that the Spirit has kept a fairly accurate account of the Old Testament Scriptures and that translation of words and phrases is lacking. As we have mentioned before, the inclusion of divine names, and other matters, are clearly absent.

So this is the state that things are in today. We have fairly accurate Bible translations, but they are in ancient languages that require translation. That it was not men who were without bias in translating the Scriptures into English is fairly certain, in most cases.

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  1. Albert Swearengen

    Brother Joseph,

    It's good to see you getting fully back into the mix of things. Surely you must be recovering nicely from your illness.

    A brief thought, re this posting of yours on "The Canonization Of Scripture"…

    Indeed an even stronger argument can be made, with respect to the accuracy of Scripture over the millennia, when we reference evidence provided for us among the Dead Sea Scrolls. Here is an excerpt from a conversation I had with a Catholic a few days ago on a similar subject. I wrote:

    "Re Qumran (DSS) — you may be aware that wholly intact examples of Deuteronomy and Isaiah were recovered there. When compared with the Masoretic Text (MT), the differences in the case of Isaiah are two words: in one instance a spelling discrepancy and in the other, the name 'Emmanuel' from Isaiah 7:4 is rendered differently. In the latter instance, the MT has it עמנו אל and the Great Isaiah Scroll (GIS) has it עמנואל. You will note the difference is a matter of spacing. Apart from that, the MT and the GIS Isaiah Manuscripts are textually identical. Deuteronomy is only slightly less so, owing to a very minor scribal gloss."

    Both of the above referenced Old Testament documents recovered at Qumran are circa 350 B.C. So the comparison with Masoretic Text against Deuteronomy and Isaiah from the DSS yields a veritable exactness which, in my opinion, can only be explained by divine providence.

    He truly has made good on His promise to protect His Word.

    God Speed your way, brother.

  2. ByWaterAndBlood

    I often wonder if the "Word" or "word" is meant to be taken as the literal Bible itself or the truth contained within which was inspired by the Word, who is Christ Yahshua, who speaks to us by the indwelling Holy Spirit. There are many translations of The Bible. Some of the differences of, for example the NIV, subtract important power and meaning from verses and passages. I've found that with the NKJV, NASB as well as the YLT and a good Greek-English interlinear as well as and Google for word research it is not difficult to arrive at a consensus of truth. This fact makes me wonder why it IS so difficult for a consensus to be reached. Alas, I do know why. The reason is because of long-held traditions of men and their stubborn, blind commitment to untested beliefs. I find that most professing Christians today do not have the Berean spirit (They "searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were true". They girded up the loins of their minds and received the love of the Spirit of truth to prove the perfect and acceptable will of God.). I don't believe God wants us to have blind faith in Him, for the heavens declare His glory so that none are without excuse.

    My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge. Hosea 4:6

    I found that many doctrines taught by churches do not edify. They are steeped in blind faith, compromise, acts of kindness and community which are no foundation for truth. I walked away from Christianity for decades because I found it to be shallow, empty, foolish and hypocritical. I felt like I was following the herd, and not in the good way. Herd mentality is dangerous. Once I found the narrow way it became clear that I would not find what I was looking for in any church, even though I long for sincere fellowship. And even though I hold The Bible in very high regard, I realize now that it is only the beginning of a true walk of faith. The words in the good book only became alive when Yahweh decided it was time for me to be led to the truth. Each day since then, I search the Scriptures to confirm and confirm again the understanding given to me and to add new understanding, as well as to test the spirits that come to me to be sure they are from God. But the wisdom I seek is not wisdom that is found in books, even the "living testament," but rather comes from a trust built upon through prayer as well as listening and looking for the voice and hand of God moving in my life and the lives of those around me, guiding me along the path to the promised land, like a pillar of smoke and fire in the wilderness. It is there that I've found the true Word resides. And once one knows God in such an intimate way they can be sure they are following His commandments to the "letter" ie; the message He puts in your heart. It is like one has returned back spiritually to the Garden of Eden where man walks and talks with God. Nothing can compare with knowing the One True God is reaching out to you and that you can reach out to Him. Words cannot describe…


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