Sunday, July 6, 2014

Session: 4 Canonization of Scripture (OT)

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength  ~Mark 12:30
Writing about Session: 4 Canonization of Scripture (OT), Andy Johnson shares his thoughts on the canonization of the Old Testament.

Have you ever wondered: how exactly did the Bible come to be? Was it put together by committee? Did one man write the entire thing? How do we know we have everything that is supposed to be in there? Are we missing anything?

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

The word “canon” literally means “rule or measuring rod by which something is measured;” A scientific standard that is accepted universally as a constant truth. We have lots of these even today: such as a thermometer for temperature or an inch for length. Christianity also has a standard by which those who call themselves Christians measure themselves, and compare their lives to – the Scriptures.

A lot of people, Christians even, might think that the books contained within the Bible were selected for their age, what language it was written in, or the author who penned them. However, this could not be further from the truth. Yes, it is true that these are traits that help validate historical documents, but Christians believe that one thing alone determines the acceptance of a book into the biblical canon – God alone.

You see, unbelievers and skeptics might point at various works that were left out of the canon, and even seem to make compelling arguments for their inclusion. However, when the councils of early Church fathers met to decide what writings were acceptable to include, most if not all of the writings we have today were already universally accepted by believers as Scripture, and the councils simply rubber stamped their acceptance and bound copies of Scripture together in works called codices (codex).

The Old Testament was effectively the easiest to agree upon. It is the Jewish holy works. That is fitting since the law and religious doctrine in Jesus’ day were that of the original testament, or covenant, between God and his children, the Israelites. Those works include the Laws of Moses, works by the Prophets of Old, and the Psalms and Poems. When Jesus came, he established a new covenant between God and his children. This time, and still to this day, God’s children are those who believe that they are lost in sin, that Jesus died in their place and defeated death to sit at the right hand of the Father.

There were five important tests to determine if the writings of the Jewish works were able to remain in the Christian Scriptures:
  1. Does the New Testament attest to its authority? (Did recognized experts in the Law of the day reference the writings to validate the writings’ credibility?)
  2. Do established secular Jewish writers of the period affirm them?
  3. Is the book consistent with other revelation?
  4. Was it written by a Prophet (who spoke with authority from God) or someone of divine authority (someone told by God to record what they did)?
  5. Did Christ himself attest to its authority? (Jesus often quoted and always followed the Law of the Old Testament as the customs of his day demanded)
The Roman Catholic Church decided to supplement the Old Testament Scriptures at the Council of Trent in 1546. These additions are referred to as the deuterocanonical books; more commonly known as the Apocrypha by Protestants today. These selected texts fail to meet the criteria established by the previous Church fathers centuries before and often were only used for their references to cultural events and lifestyles at the time of their writings. They were not universally accepted, even by the Catholic Church, until Martin Luther vocally spoke out against including these texts. Once that happened, the Catholic Church took the opposing stance, naturally, to such a protestant reformer.

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” – John 20:30-31

Andy Johnson

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