The Five Points of Pagan Oneism
In Romans 1:25, the Apostle Paul says man worships either the creation or the Creator, which essentially means there are only two religions. Subsequently, this introductory worldview course presents the term “Oneism,” which is used for the worship of the creation and “Twoism,” which refers to the worship of the Divine Creator. Understanding this one small statement can help to equip Christians to uphold their biblical Christian faith in his or her cultural context. The course presents five principles that are present in all non-Christian thinking. Our goal is to help simplify your communication of the Gospel with “spiritual but not religious” individuals. Each lesson is followed by suggestions for further study.
It has been about a year and a 3 months since I took any Classes at the Blue Letter Bible Institute. I’m not sure why I stopped taking these classes as I really enjoyed them.
Previously I was very good at being motivated to take the classes, couldn’t get enough…
A lot happened in my life back then, I abruptly stopped taking one class that I was enrolled in and had it about 90% completed.
Today I have no motivation to pick up on that class to finish it, but I am motivated to start a different class. Go figure huh?
So today I enrolled in the Apologetics class titled “The Five Points of Pagan Oneism” That will finish the Apologetics and Cults Series of classes on blbi.org
So…with that said, I would appreciate any prayers you may be willing to offer in my behalf.
Here is the Course description:
In Romans 1:25, the Apostle Paul says man worships either the creation or the Creator, which essentially means there are only two religions. Subsequently, this introductory worldview course presents the term “Oneism,” which is used for the worship of the creation and “Twoism,” which refers to the worship of the Divine Creator.
Understanding this one small statement can help to equip Christians to uphold their biblical Christian faith in his or her cultural context. The course presents five principles that are present in all non-Christian thinking. The goal is to help simplify your communication of the Gospel with “spiritual but not religious” individuals.
The Conversion of Paul the Apostle, was, according to the New Testament, an event that took place in the life of Paul the Apostle which led him to cease persecuting early Christians and to become a follower of Jesus. It is normally dated by researchers to AD 33–36. The phrases Pauline conversion, Damascene conversion and Damascus Christophany, and road to Damascus allude to this event.
New Testament description
Within the New Testament, Paul’s conversion experience is discussed in both Paul’s own letters and in the book known by the title Acts of the Apostles. According to both sources, Paul was never a follower of Jesus and did not know Jesus before his crucifixion. Instead, he severely persecuted the early Christians. Although Paul refers to himself as an”Apostle” of Jesus, it is clear that Paul was not one of “The Twelve” apostles.[1 Cor. 9:1-2] Paul’s conversion occurred after Jesus’ crucifixion. The accounts of Paul’s conversion experience describe it as miraculous, supernatural, or otherwise revelatory in nature.
Paul’s life before conversion:
Before his conversion, Paul, then known as Saul, was a “zealous” Pharisee who “intensely persecuted” the followers of Jesus. Some scholars argue that Paul was a member of the “Zealot” party. Says Paul in his Epistle to the Galatians:
For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
— Galatians 1:13–14, NIV
Paul also discusses his pre-conversion life in his Epistle to the Philippians, and his participation in the stoning of Stephen is described in Acts 7:57-8:3.
The conversion in Paul’s letters
In his surviving letters, Paul’s own description of his conversion experience is brief. In his First Epistle to the Corinthians,[9:1] [15:3-8] he describes having seen the Risen Christ:
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles,and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
— 1 Cor. 15:3–8, NIV (emphasis added)
Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians also describes his conversion as a divine revelation, with God’s Son appearing in Paul.
I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being.
— Galatians 1:11-16, NIV (emphasis added)
The conversion in Acts of the Apostles
Acts of the Apostles discusses Paul’s conversion experience at three different points in the text, in far more detail than in the accounts in Paul’s letters. The book of Acts records that Paul was on his way from Jerusalem for Syrian Damascus to arrest followers of Jesus, with the intention of returning them to Jerusalem as prisoners for questioning and possible execution. The journey is interrupted when Paul sees a blinding light, and communicates directly with a divine voice.
Acts 9 tells the story of Paul’s conversion as a third-person narrative:
As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
— Acts 9:3–9, NIV
The account continues with a description of Ananias of Damascus receiving a divine revelation instructing him to visit Saul at the house of Judas on the Street Called Straight and there lay hands on him to restore his sight (the house of Judas is traditionally believed to have been near the west end of the street). Ananias is initially reluctant, having heard about Saul’s persecution, but obeys the divine command:
“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
— Acts 9:13–19, NIV
Acts’ second telling of Paul’s conversion occurs in a speech Paul gives when he is arrested in Jerusalem.[Acts 22:6-21] Paul addresses the crowd and tells them of his conversion, with a description essentially the same as that in Acts 9, but with slight differences. For example, Acts 9:7 notes that Paul’s companions did not see who he was speaking to, while Acts 22:9 indicates that they did share in seeing the light (see also Differences between the accounts, below). This speech was most likely originally in Aramaic, with the passage here being a Greek translation and summary. The speech is clearly tailored for its Jewish audience, with stress being placed in Acts 22:12 on Ananias’ good reputation among Jews in Damascus, rather than on his Christianity.
Acts’ third discussion of Paul’s conversion occurs when Paul addresses King Agrippa, defending himself against the accusations of antinomianism that have been made against him.[Acts 26:12-18] This account is more brief than the others. The speech here is again tailored for its audience, emphasizing what a Roman ruler would understand: the need to obey a heavenly vision,[Acts 26:19] and reassuring Agrippa that Christians were not a secret society. [Acts 26:26]
The Conversion of Paul, in spite of his attempts to completely eradicate Christianity, is seen as evidence of the power of Divine Grace, with “no fall so deep that grace cannot descend to it” and “no height so lofty that grace cannot lift the sinner to it.”It also demonstrates “God’s power to use everything, even the hostile persecutor, to achieve the divine purpose.”
The transforming effect of Paul’s conversion influenced the clear antithesis he saw “between righteousness based on the law,”which he had sought in his former life; and “righteousness based on the death of Christ,” which he describes, for example, in the Epistle to the Galatians.
Nature of the conversion experience
The Bible says that Paul’s conversion experience was an encounter with the resurrected Christ. Alternative explanations have been proposed, including sun stroke and seizure. In 1987, D. Landsborough published an article in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, in which he stated that Paul’s conversion experience, with the bright light, loss of normal bodily posture, a message of strong religious content, and his subsequent blindness, suggested “an attack of [temporal lobe epilepsy], perhaps ending in a convulsion … The blindness which followed may have been post-ictal.”
This conclusion was challenged in the same journal by James R. Brorson and Kathleen Brewer, who stated that this hypothesis failed to explain why Paul’s companions heard a voice (Acts 9:7), saw a light,[Acts 22:9] or fell to the ground.[Acts 26:14] Furthermore, no lack of awareness of blindness (a characteristic of cortical blindness) was reported in Acts, nor is there any indication of memory loss. Additionally, Paul’s blindness remitted in sudden fashion, rather than the gradual resolution typical of post-ictal states, and no mention is made of epileptic convulsions; indeed such convulsions may, in Paul’s time, have been interpreted as a sign of demonic influence, unlikely in someone accepted as a religious leader.
Differences between the accounts
An apparent contradiction in the details of the account of Paul’s revelatory vision given in Acts has been the subject of much debate. Specifically, the experience of Paul’s traveling companions as told in Acts 9:7 and Acts 22:9 has raised questions about the historical reliability of the Acts of the Apostles, and generated debate about the best translations of the relevant passages. The two passages each describe the experience of Paul’s traveling companions during the revelation, with Acts 9:7 (the author’s description of the event) stating that Paul’s traveling companions heard the voice that spoke to him; and Acts 22:9 (the author’s quotation of Paul’s own words) traditionally stating they did not.
Biblical translations of Acts 9:7 generally state that Paul’s companions did, indeed, hear the voice (or sound) that spoke to him:
And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.—Acts 9:7, King James Version (KJV)
The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, for they heard the voice but could see no one.—Acts 9:7, New American Bible (NAB)
The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone.—Acts 9:7, New International Version (NIV)
By contrast, Catholic translations and older Protestant translations preserve the apparent contradiction in Acts 22:9, while many modern Protestant translations such as the New International Version (NIV) do not:
And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.—Acts 22:9, King James Version (KJV)
My companions saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who spoke to me.—Acts 22:9, New American Bible (NAB)
My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.—Acts 22:9, New International Version (NIV)
“Hear” or “Understand”?
Critics of the NIV, New Living Translation, and similar versions contend that the translation used for Acts 22:9 is inaccurate. The verb used here — akouō (ἀκούω) — can be translated both “hear” and “understand” (both the KJV and NIV translate akouō as “understand” in 1 Cor. 14:2, for example). It often takes a noun in the genitive case for a person is being heard, with a noun in the accusative for the thing being heard. More classically, the use of the accusative indicates hearing with understanding. There is indeed a case difference here, with Acts 9:7 using the genitive tēs phōnēs (τῆς φωνῆς), and Acts 22:9 using the accusative tēn phōnēn (τὴν φωνὴν). However, there has been debate about which rule Luke was following here. On the second interpretation, Paul’s companions may indeed have heard the voice (as is unambiguously stated in Acts 9:7), yet not understood it, although New Testament scholar Daniel B. Wallace finds this argument based on case inconclusive.
“Voice” or “Sound”?
A similar debate arises with the NIV’s use of the word “sound” instead of “voice” in Acts 9:7. The noun used here — phōnē (φωνῆ) — can mean either. By translating 9:7 as “they heard the sound” instead of “they heard the voice,” the NIV allows for Paul’s companions to have heard an audible sound in Acts 9:7 without contradicting the statement in Acts 22:9 that they did not hear a comprehensible voice .
The New American Standard Bible, New Century Version, and English Standard Version maintain the “hear”/”understand” distinction while using “voice” in both passages. On the other hand, the Holman Christian Standard Bible has “sound”/”voice” with “hear” in both passages, and The Message adopts a similar translation, but with “sound”/”conversation.” The French La Bible du Semeur distinguishes between entendaient (“heard”) and compris (“understood”).
Although it is possible that there is a contradiction in these two passages unnoticed by their author, Richard Longenecker suggests that first-century readers probably understood the two passages to mean that everybody heard the sound of the voice, but “only Paul understood the articulated words.” Similar comments have been made by other scholars.
PAUL’S THORN IN THE FLESH
What was the “thorn in the flesh” to which Paul makes reference in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9?
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.—NIV After Paul had explained his visions and revelations to the Corinthians (2 Cor 12:1-6), he tells them about the thorn in the flesh that was given to him. The apparent purpose of this thorn was beneficiary. Its intent was to keep Paul from conceit on account of his visions and revelations which otherwise may have given him a reason to boast.
There have been many theories as to what exactly this thorn was—so many theories in fact, that it is impossible to diagnose Paul’s situation with complete assurance. Some have suggested that Paul’s thorn came in the form of Jewish persecution because of the surrounding context speaking of opponents. Even in Numbers 33:55 thorns are used as a metaphor for the enemies of the Israelites. Others have suggested that Paul’s own remembrance of his past was his thorn; Paul’s past included the persecution of the church (Acts 8:1-3; Gal 1:13; Phil 3:6) which may have continually haunted him and kept him humble. Some even propose that Paul dealt with either carnal temptation or depression.
A physical ailment, however, seems more likely here, though the lack of details forbid a proper diagnosis. Physical infirmities that seem to fit the situation are malaria, Malta fever, epilepsy, convulsive attacks, and chronic ophthalmia.
Many of these physical disabilities also affect the eyesight and it seems probable that even Paul himself experienced difficulty with his vision—this could very well be caused by his thorn in the flesh. Paul took advantage of various amanuenses to do the actual writing of at least some of his epistles. A mentioned amanuensis of Paul is Tertius who wrote down the book of Romans and added his own greeting to the church in Rome (Rom 16:22). Other times we see Paul adding a salutation with his own hands (1 Cor 16:21; 2 Thess 3:17) as opposed to physically writing the entire epistles. Paul even wrote in large print as noted in Gal 6:11. Other evidences of poor vision can be found earlier in the epistle to the Galatians. Paul says that because of physical infirmity he preached the gospel to the Galatians at the first (Gal 4:13). Some have speculated that the physical infirmity was a disease which affected his eyesight and the higher altitude in Galatia would have been better for him, especially if the disease was malaria. And only two verses later Paul states that the Galatian church would have plucked out their own eyes and given them to him if it were possible (Gal 4:15). Another example of Paul’s poor eyesight is found in Acts 23:3-5. Paul was in the Sanhedrin at this point and referred to the high priest as a “white-washed wall” and those who stood by him asked why he was insulting the high priest. Paul responded by telling them that he did not realize that the man was the high priest. Though Paul, previously being a Pharisee, would have been able to recognize the high priest quite easily. Yet at this point he seemed unable to identify the high priest, even though the high priest would have stood out because he wore special garments and accessories. For a former Pharisee to have not recognized him is likely explained through understanding that Paul was not able to see him properly—giving weight to theories of trouble with his vision.
Paul’s thorn came by way of a messenger of Satan in order to torment him. Yet at the same time it was given to him in order that he would not become conceited. The present paradox can be compared to that of the story of Job. Satan was permitted to afflict God’s servant, yet only within the parameters set by God (Job 2). Paul also wrote about handing an immoral brother to Satan so that his flesh may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord (1 Cor 5:5). Satan is used at times as an instrument to bolster the faith or prove the righteousness of believers.
The ambiguity of the thorn in the flesh is actually a positive thing. If Paul would have specifically stated the identity of his thorn, believers from following generations may have discarded his experience if they were not afflicted with the same affliction. However, Christians from many generations have benefited by his reference to the thorn while applying it to their specific problems (Murray J. Harris. The Expositors Bible Commentary: 2 Corinthians. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976. p. 396). The thorn of which Paul speaks gives us an understanding of God’s perspective concerning physical infirmities. Sometimes God uses illnesses for his purposes. Paul experienced many sufferings outside of his thorn (2 Cor 11:22-28), yet God used him mightily for the furtherance and advancement of His Gospel. The existence of illness or suffering in a believer’s life does not necessarily constitute a sinful life or a life that lacks faith. Paul pleaded with the Lord on three separate occasions for the Lord to remove the thorn, yet God’s grace was enough for the apostle and His power is made perfect in Paul’s weaknesses.
Study Resources :: Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh. Retrieved from http://www.blueletterbible.org/faq/thorn.cfm
While tithing is part of the Old Covenant arrangement God had with Israel for the support of the priests, the New Covenant does away with tithing as required in the Old Covenant. There is no longer a Levitical system of priests to support. We have Jesus as our High Priest and as believers we are now considered a part of the priesthood. Consider the following verses:
Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:5
Note however, that while tithing is no longer required, giving is still a principle of God. As believers all that we have is God’s. We really should be praying along the lines of how much should I be keeping for myself, not how much do I give to God. And we believe God still honors giving, even structured giving such as tithing. Look at God’s promise to those who give tithes.
Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
Will He not also honor those who give from their heart? The apostle Paul tells us that God loves a cheerful giver.
Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.
1 Corinthians 9:14
Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to you ahead of time, and prepare your generous gift beforehand, which you had previously promised, that it may be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation. But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.
2 Corinthians 9:5-7
The ultimate answer to the question of tithing is found in your prayer closet. Seek what God would have you to keep, and then as a faithful steward of that which He entrusts to you, seek to know how to use the rest for His kingdom.
Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.
But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?
1 John 3:17
This study is an excerpt of the book by Don Stewart entitled What Everyone Needs To Know About The Bible, which is part of The Basic Bible Study Series published by Dart Press, Orange, California. Used by permission of the author.
Don Stewart has written over twenty books on the subject of evidences for the Christian faith. These include You Be the Judge, Ten Reason to Trust the Bible, The Coming Temple, The Basic Bible Study Series. In the last fifteen years he has spoken in over thirty countries proclaiming the message that the Christian faith is both reasonable and intelligent.
What is the Canon of Scripture?
One of the terms used in describing the books that belong in Scripture is the word canon. This comes from the Greek word kanon, meaning reed or measurement. A canonical book is one that measures up to the standard of Holy Scripture. Thus, the canon of Scripture refers to the books that are considered the authoritative Word of God.
One of the terms used in describing the books that belong in Scripture is the word canon. This comes from the Greek word kanon, meaning reed or measurement. A canonical book is one that measures up to the standard of Holy Scripture. Thus, the canon of Scripture refers to the books that are considered the authoritative Word of God.
We have but twenty-two [books] containing the history of all time, books that are justly believed in; and of these, five are the books of Moses, which comprise the law and earliest traditions from the creation of mankind down to his death. From the death of Moses to the reign of Artaxerxes, King of Persia, the successor of Xerxes, the prophets who succeeded Moses wrote the history of the events that occurred in their own time, in thirteen books. The remaining four documents comprise hymns to God and practical precepts to men (William Whiston, trans., Flavius Josephus against Apion, Vol. 1, in Josephus, Complete Works,Grand Rapids, Kregel, 1960, p. 8).
Biblical scholar Gleason Archer comments on the impact of the statement made by Josephus:
Note three important features of this statement: (1) Josephus includes the same three divisions of the Hebrew Scriptures as does the MT [Massoretic text] (although restricting the third group to ‘hymns’ and hokhmah), and he limits the number of canonical books in these three divisions to twenty-two. (2) No more canonical writings have been composed since the reign of Artaxerxes, son of Xerxes (464-424 B.C.), that is, since the time of Malachi. (3) No additional material was ever included in the canonical twenty-two books during the centuries between (i.e., from 425 B.C. to A.D. 90). Rationalist higher critics emphatically deny the last two points, but they have to do with the witness of such an early author as Josephus and explain how the knowledge of the allegedly post-Malachi date of sizable portions, such as Daniel, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and many of the psalms, had been kept from this learned Jew in the first century A.D. It is true that Josephus also alludes to apocryphal material (as from 1 Esdras and 1 Maccabees); but in view of the statement quoted above, it is plain that he was using it merely a historical source, not as divinely inspired books (Gleason Archer Jr., A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, Revised Edition, Chicago: Moody Press, 1974, p. 71).
Josephus also declared:
And how firmly we have given credit to those books of our own nation is evident by what we do; for during so many ages as have already passed, no one has been so bold as either to add anything to them or take anything from them, or to make any change in them-, but it becomes natural to all Jews, immediately and from their very birth, to esteem those books to contain divine doctrines, and to persist in them, and, if occasion be, willing to die for them. For it is no new thing for our captives, many of them in numbers, and frequently in time, to be seen to endure racks and deaths of all kinds upon the theatres, that they may not be obliged to say one word against our laws, and the records that contain them (Josephus, Ibid., p. 609).
The biblical evidence also testifies to a completed Old Testament. From the Gospels we see that Jesus spoke of Scripture as being complete. He said to the religious rulers:
You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life (John 5:39).
These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me (Luke 24:44).
The law, the writings, and the prophets were the threefold division of Old Testament Scripture. Jesus testified to their authenticity.
New Testament Canon
Although the New Testament does not speak of a completed canon of Scripture, it does testify to writings already considered to be the Word of God. Peter recognized the writings of the Apostle Paul as Scripture. He cited Paul’s letters, which some were twisting “as they do the rest of the Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:15,16).
When Paul wrote to Timothy he quoted a passage from Luke as Scripture.
For the Scripture says,
‘You shall not muzzle an ox while It treads the grain,’ and, ‘the laborer is worthy of his wages’ (1 Timothy 5:18).
The first verse quoted is from Deuteronomy, but the second is a quotation of one of our Lord’s statements recorded by Luke: “The laborer is worthy of his wages” (Luke 10:7).
The formation of the New Testament canon began in the early part of the second century A.D. The earliest list was drawn up in Rome, in A.D. 140, by the heretic Marcion. Although his list was not authoritative, it did demonstrate that the idea of a New Testament canon was accepted at that time.
The concept we have today of a completed Bible was formulated early in the history of the church. By the end of the second century all but seven books (Hebrews, 2 and 3 John, 2 Peter, Jude, James, and Revelation) were recognized as apostolic, and by the end of the fourth century all twenty-seven books in our present canon were recognized by all the churches of the West. After the Damasine Council of Rome in A.D. 332 and the third Council of Carthage in A.D. 397 the question of the Canon was closed in the West. By the year 500 the whole Greek-speaking church had also accepted all the books in our present New Testament.
Who Decided Which Books Should Be Placed in the Bible?
Many people wonder who decided which books should be placed in the Bible.
The simple answer is that God decided which books should be in the canon. He was the final determiner. J. 1. Packer writes:
The church no more gave us the New Testament canon than Sir Isaac Newton gave us the force of gravity. God gave us gravity, by his work of creation, and similarly he gave us the New Testament canon, by inspiring the individual books that make it up (J. 1. Packer, God Speaks To Man, p. 81).
Canonizing and Collecting
A distinction needs to be made between canonizing and collecting. No man or council can pronounce a work canonical or scriptural, yet man was responsible for collecting and preserving such works. F. F. Bruce writes:
One thing must be emphatically stated. The New Testament books did not become authoritative for the Church because they were formally included in a canonical list; on the contrary, the Church included them in her canon because she already regarded them as divinely inspired, recognizing their innate worth and generally apostolic authority, direct or indirect. The first ecclesiastical councils to classify the canonical books were both held in North Africa-at Hippo Regius in 393 and at Carthage in 397-but what these councils did was not to impose something new upon the Christian communities but to codify what was already the general practice of these communities (F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?, Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1960, p. 27).
Hence the books we have as Scripture were inspired by God and recognized such by man.
What Criteria Were Used in Determining Which Books Belong in the Bible?
The books admitted to the canon of Scripture were inspired by God. There were, however, many false books that claimed inspiration. How did the people judge between the true and the false? The Bible does not give any set of criteria that were used to determine which books were to be considered Scripture. We are not told how the determination was made. Though we do not know the exact criteria which were used, they may include the following:
For a book to be considered canonical, it must have been written by a prophet or apostle or by one who had a special relationship to such (Mark to Peter, Luke to Paul).
Only those who had witnessed the events or had recorded eyewitness testimony could have their writings considered as Holy Scripture.
Witness of the Spirit
The appeal to the inner witness of the Holy Spirit was also made to aid the people in understanding which books belonged in the canon and which did not. Clark Pinnock writes:
The Spirit did not reveal a list of inspired books, but left their recognition to a historical process in which He was active, God’s people learned to distinguish wheat from chaff, and gold from gravel, as He worked in their hearts (Clark Pinnock, Biblical Revelation, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1973, p. 104).
The final test is the acceptance of the people of God. Jesus told His disciples:
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things Which I said to you (John 14:26).
We have the promise of Jesus that His disciples would be given total recall by the Holy Spirit of the things He said and did. These same disciples either wrote the New Testament books or had input into which works were accepted as Scripture. Any book that claimed canonical status, yet diverted from the truth of the life of Christ, would have been rejected by Jesus’ own disciples who were, eyewitnesses to the New Testament events. Thus the acceptance of God’s people is an important criterion for book to be considered canonical.
How Do We Know the Correct Books Are in the Bible?
The Bible, as we have it today, consists of sixty-six books. The fact that these books belong as Holy Scripture is confirmed by the testimony of Jesus Christ.
First, with regard to the Old Testament we have the testimony of Jesus to the existing books. He confirmed the accepted three-fold division of our canonical books.
These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me (Luke 24:44).
The Promise of Jesus
As far as the New Testament is concerned, we have the promise of Jesus.
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you (John 14:26).
Though we do not have His guarantee after the fact, we have this promise that a New Testament would be given. Thus, we have Jesus “pre-authenticating” the New Testament.
Nature of God
Another reason we can be assured the correct books in the Bible is the nature of God. It has been estimated there are a quintillion stars in the universe and the Bible says God calls them by their names. If God is able to do this, He certainly is able to preserve intact His Word for the benefit of mankind.
Since we have the testimony of Jesus that God preserved the Old Testament for His people, we can also be assured that God took the same care in preserving the New Testament books. When the evidence is examined, we find it consistent and credible.
Do Jews and Christians Use the Same Old Testament?
The Old Testament consists of thirty-nine books according to the Protestant reckoning but only twenty-four according to the Jewish reckoning. The books are the same; the difference is in the way they are divided.
The division of the Protestants’ Bible is as follows: seventeen historical books: Genesis-Esther: five poetical books Job-Song of Solomon: seventeen prophetical books: Isaiah-Malachi.
The Hebrew Bible numbers these as twenty-four: The Torah or law contains five books, Genesis-Deuteronomy; The Prophets contain eight books, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve minor prophets are grouped into one book; The Writings or Kethubim contain eleven books, Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles.
The Hebrew Bible combined 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, and 1 and 2 Chronicles. The twelve minor prophets were combined into one book. Josephus numbered the books as twenty-two by attaching Ruth to Judges and Lamentations to Jeremiah.
Thus, the books are identical. The only difference is in the way they are divided.
What Effect Did the Council of Nicea Have on Determining What Books Belonged in the Bible?
There have been accusations that the council of Nicea had a tremendous effect on both choosing what books should be in the Bible and changing some of the doctrines that the church held before that time.
The council of Nicea met in A.D. 323 to discuss how Jesus Christ was related to God. There were some in the church, led by Arius of Alexandria, who denied that Jesus Christ was God in human flesh, the Second Person of the Trinity. In order to answer these issues, the church had to make a pronouncement about which books authoritative doctrine could be based on.
The council of Nicea did not meet to discuss which books belonged in the New Testament canon. It only recognized the books that the church had from the beginning considered to be the Word of God.
The books that were recognized as Scripture had already been composed at the time. All the books contained in the New Testament were composed before the end of the first century. Some fifty existing papyrus manuscripts written before A.D. 325 contain parts of every book of the New Testament except 1 Timothy.
There is no truth to the argument, so often brought up, that some of these books were not in existence until the council of Nicea. The argument, therefore, that certain doctrines were invented at this time has no basis in fact.
Should Other Early Writings Be Included in the Bible?
There are some very early works in the history of the church that add to our information about Jesus. These books written between A.D. 80 and A.D. 180, were composed by “apostolic fathers.” Although they were not inspired, as the New Testament books are, they do provide us with some confirming information regarding the New Testament events. Some of the most notable examples include:
Letter of Clement
In A.D. 95 Clement of Rome wrote a letter to the Corinthian church. This is an extremely important work because Clement was the leading elder of the church of Rome. He wrote his letter to the Corinthians to end a dispute between the laity and the elders.
Ignatius of Antioch
Ignatius of Antioch wrote seven letters in A.D. 115 on his way to being thrown to the lions. He made the distinction between his writings and that of the apostles.
I do not enjoin you as Peter and Paul did. They were apostles, I am a convict; they were free, but I am a slave to this very hour (Ignatius, Letter to the Romans, 4.3).
Quadratus was one of the earliest defenders of the Christian faith. He wrote to the Emperor Hadrian about A.D. 125. The work has been lost except for a brief statement in the writing of the church historian Eusebius.
The deeds of our Saviour were always before you, for they were true miracles; those who were healed, those who were raised from the dead, who were seen, not only when healed and when raised, but were always present. They remained living a long time, not only whilst our Lord was on earth, but likewise when he left the earth. So that some of them have also lived to our own times.
Quadratus gives another account of the miracles of Jesus and testifies as the Apostle Paul does that many who participated in the miraculous events surrounding the life of Christ lived long after Jesus ascended into heaven.
The Epistle of Barnabas
The Epistle of Barnabas, not the Barnabas of the New Testament, was written between A.D. 130 and 138. It was written to show that Jesus is a fulfillment of the Old Testament law.
Though these books were written at an early date, they have never been seriously considered as Holy Scripture. They do not claim biblical authority, some actually disclaim it. In addition, none of them were written by apostles or members of the apostolic company. But they are helpful in shedding light on the New Testament.
Why Was the Authority of Certain Old Testament Books Questioned?
At certain times some of the biblical books had their authority questioned. These include:
The problem with the Book of Esther is that the name of God is not found in the book. The hand of God, however, is certainly evident in the story as He protected the Jews from total annihilation. The mere absence of God’s name is not sufficient reason to deny its status, especially when His providential hand is so evident.
Ecclesiastes was sometimes objected to because of its skeptical tone. The writer of the book exclaims. “Vanity of vanity, all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). The problem here is a matter of understanding the author’s intent. Solomon, the writer of the book, is demonstrating that no one can experience ultimate satisfaction in this world. He shows that all people need God.
Song of Solomon
The Song of Solomon was sometimes criticized as being too sensual. It inspiration, however, was never really been in doubt. The misdirected criticisms of sensuality do not understand the purpose of the book, which is to emphasize the nobility of marriage.
There were some who considered the Book of Ezekiel to be against the Mosaic Law. However, no specific examples were ever provided. The problem was again one of interpretation, not inspiration.
Proverbs had some who doubted it because of certain supposed inner contradictions. Yet a proper interpretation of the book will show this is not the case.
Why Was the Authority of Certain New Testament Books Questioned?
Some of the books that are now in the New Testament canon have been, at times, questioned as being inspired of God. They are known as the antilegomena, “the books spoken against.” There were seven books whose authority was doubted by some members of the early church. The reasons vary from book to book.
The main problem that some of the early church members had with the Book of Hebrews was that it was written anonymously. Yet Hebrews is not the only anonymous New Testament book; the four Gospels, for instance, do not name their authors either. From the earliest times, the letter to the Hebrews was accepted everywhere but in Latin Christianity. The problem still was lack of a stated author. However, it was soon realized that the Book of Hebrews was orthodox in its content and deserved a place in the New Testament.
The main problem some had with James was the content. James put more emphasis on works than do the other New Testament writings. But James is not so much theological as it is practical and fits a much-needed gap between the doctrine and practice of Christianity.
The most suspect of all the books is 2 Peter. Basically, the reasons for questioning its authorship are the stylistic differences between it and 1 Peter. However, these stylistic differences can be explained by Peter’s use of an amanuensis, or secretary, to do the writing for him.
Second and Third John
Second and Third John were questioned for several reasons. First, the author was not specifically stated he is called merely “the elder.” Both letters were addressed to individuals, both are very brief, and neither have much theological content. Because of these factors there were not too many early writers who would quote from them.
Jude is a brief letter that gained immediate acceptance everywhere except Parthia, modern-day Iran. Jude was questioned for his use of the apocryphal Book of Enoch.
It is no surprise that the Book of Revelation would meet some opposition due to the apocalyptic nature of the work. However, it had almost instant recognition everywhere except in Parthia. The great biblical scholar R. H. Charles wrote concerning the Book of Revelation:
Throughout the Christian church during the second century, there is hardly any other book in the New Testament so well received as Revelation (R. H. Charles, Revelation, The International Critical Commentary, vol. 1, Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1906).
We must remember that Jesus promised His disciples would be guided into all truth. The authority of Jesus’ disciples matched that of Himself. Those whose writings were accepted by them would share the same authority. These seven books were only questioned by some of the church, not all of it. They were eventually recognized by the whole church to be included in the New Testament canon.
What is the Apocrypha?
There are a group of writings which are considered part of Old Testament Scripture by the Roman Catholic church but are not accepted as inspired by the Protestant church and Judaism. These are known as the Apocrypha.
The word Apocrypha means “hidden.” The Apocrypha refers to the fifteen books (fourteen if the Letter of Jeremiah is put with Baruch) written between the years 300 B.C. and 100 B.C. (except Esdras which was written about A.D. 100). Eleven of these fourteen books are considered Holy Scripture by the Roman Catholic church. When added to the Old Testament, they constitute only seven extra books because the others are attached to existing books. The Apocrypha is about the size of the New Testament.
Apocrypha and Apocryphal
Sometimes people confuse the terms Apocrypha and apocryphal. The term apocryphal is also applied to other books that are New Testament forgeries. An example of this would be the Gospel of Thomas, which claims to have been written by Jesus’ disciple Thomas. The book, however is a forgery. The word Apocrypha is a specific term used to refer to the particular books that are considered Scripture by the Roman Catholic Church.
The Protestant reformers, particularly in the sixteenth century, pointed out many abuses in the Roman Catholic church at that time. From 1545 to 1563 a church council met at Trent to answer some of their charges. Among their decisions was the pronouncement of these books as Holy Scripture. Before that time they were not regarded by the Roman Catholic church as sacred Scripture. The Protestant church rejects them for the following reasons:
The primary reason for rejecting the Apocrypha as Scripture is that there is no claim within the books that they are inspired by God. This is in contrast to the canonical Scriptures which claim to record the revelation of God.
Though the New Testament cites directly or alludes to almost every book of the Old Testament as Scripture, it never cites the Apocrypha as being God’s Word. If the Apocrypha were considered Scripture by the people living in the first century, we would certainly expect them to refer to it in some way.
The New Testament does refer to the Apocrypha in Jude 14 and Hebrews 11:35. but does not cite it as holy Scripture. It cites the works the same way Paul cited heathen poets (Acts 17:28). This demonstrates that the New Testament writers were familiar with the Apocrypha but did not consider them to be upon the same level as Old Testament Scripture.
Rejected by the Jews
The Jews have never considered these works to be inspired. On the contrary, they denied their inspiration. At the time of Christ we have the testimony of the Jewish writer Flavius Josephus that they were only twenty-two books to be inspired by God. The books of the Apocrypha were not among these.
Not on Early Lists
In the early years of the church it drew up various lists of the books it considered to be Scripture. The books of the Apocrypha do not appear on any list until the fourth century.
Rejected by Many Catholic Scholars
Many Roman Catholic scholars, through the Protestant Reformation, rejected the Apocrypha as Scripture. There was no unanimity of opinion among them that these books should be considered Scripture.
The Apocrypha also contains demonstrable errors. For example, Tobit was supposedly alive when Jereboam staged his revolt in 931 B.C. and was still alive when the Assyrians captured the Northern kingdom of Israel in 721 B.C. This means that he lived over two hundred years! However, the Book of Tobit says he lived only 158 years (Tobit 1:3-5; 14:11). This is an obvious contradiction. Other examples could be cited. Those who believe in an inerrant Scripture cannot accept the Apocrypha as God’s Word.
No Evidence of Inspiration
The books of the Apocrypha do not contain anything like predictive prophecy that would give evidence of their inspiration. If these books were inspired by God, then we should expect to see some internal evidence confirming it. But there is none.
Old Testament Complete
It is clear that in the first century the Old Testament was complete. The Hebrews accepted the same thirty-nine books, (although divided differently) that the Protestant church does today. Jesus put His stamp of approval on these books but said nothing concerning the Apocrypha. However, He did say that the Scriptures were the authoritative Word of God and could not be broken. Any adding to that which God has revealed is denounced in the strongest of terms. Therefore, we have the testimony of Jesus against the authenticity of the Apocrypha.
We conclude that the Apocrypha should not be considered canonical because the books do not demonstrate themselves to be upon the same level as Scripture. Jesus did not consider it part of His Old Testament and we are told not to add or subtract anything from God’s Word.
Did Jude Quote from the Book of Enoch?
The Book of Jude seemingly contains a quotation of the intertestamental Book of Enoch. The question results from a citation found in Jude 14.
Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men saying, ‘Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints’ (Jude 14).
Jude records a prophecy made by Enoch, who lived before the flood of Noah. Enoch predicted the coming of the Lord to judge wicked individuals. The Apostle Paul wrote of this same judgment (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10). This prophecy made by Enoch is not recorded in the Old Testament. Two questions arise: (1) Where did Jude obtain his information? (2) Was Jude’s information correct?
During the period between the testaments the Book of Enoch was written. It contains this prophecy. Some assume that Jude obtained this prophecy from the Book of Enoch, but this is not the case. Jude does not quote from the Book of Enoch but rather directly from Enoch. This could have been by means of special revelation from God or from some now unknown written source. The source of Jude’s quotation was the person Enoch. Where the Book of Enoch derived his information is another matter. It is possible that the source of the quotation found in the Book of Enoch was Jude, since there is no evidence as to the precise contents of the Book of Enoch until several centuries afterJude was written. Whatever the answer may be. It is not necessary to assume that Jude considered the Book of Enoch as authoritative.
Since we believe that Jude’s writing was inspired by God, we take this information as being correct. It is not essential to know how Jude obtained this information. Jesus had promised that His disciples would be indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who would guide them into all truth.
However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak (John 16:13).
Because of Jesus’ promise, the words of the New Testament writers were safeguarded from error.
We conclude that Jude did not quote from the Book of Enoch, but received the information in some other way.
Has God Revealed Anything Further to Mankind Since the First Century?
There is evidence that the canon of Scripture was complete in the first century. Has God, since that time, revealed anything that is to be added to Holy Scripture?
Claims Do Not Make It True
The mere claim that God spoke to an individual does not make it true. There has to be evidence to back up the claim. The question Is, “Does the evidence support the claim that God spoke through them?” The Bible instructs us to test the spirits:
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world (1 John 4:1).
When we test the claims of those who have brought forth a “new Scripture” we find them to be untrue.
The downfall of all the books that have had inspiration claimed for them is that they present a different revelation from what has previously been recorded. They contradict the Bible. For example, the Koran says that Jesus was not the Son of God and that He did not die upon the cross for the sins of the world.
The sacred books of Mormonism teach that there exist many gods rather than the one God the Bible speaks of. In addition, Mormonism teaches that each male can someday become a god himself, Mormonism also denies the doctrine of the Trinity. salvation by grace through faith, and the eternal punishment of the wicked.
No Book Qualifies
Every book written since the completion of the Bible that claims to be further revelation from God fails on the same ground. They all deny that Jesus Christ is God Himself, second Person of the Trinity. These works also deny salvation by grace through faith. They preached a different gospel. The Apostle Paul warned the church at Galatia about such people.
I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel … But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:6,8).
Furthermore, there is no substantiating evidence such as fulfilled prophecy to demonstrate the books are of divine inspiration.
Thus, as we examine the various books that have been written since the completion of the New Testament that have claimed to be further revelation from God, we find them coming short of the mark. The Bible warns:
Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He reprove you and you be found a liar (Proverbs 30:5,6).
Can Anything Be Added to the Bible Today?
We have seen that the canon was closed in the first century, and that since then God has not revealed anything on the level with Holy Scripture.
“The Westminster Confession,” a seventeenth-century statement of faith, says concerning the Bible,
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,” 1:6).
According to this statement, which sums up the Protestant view of Scripture, nothing is to be added or subtracted from the Bible. The revelation from God to man has been completed.
No Direct Word
However, there is no direct word in the Bible that says God has stopped revealing Himself. Some have appealed to the following verses in the Book of Revelation.
For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life (Revelation 22:18,19).
This is only speaking of the Book of Revelation. It is not a commandment against adding any other book to Scripture. If taken literally, then you could not have any other book in Scripture but the Book of Revelation!
Yet there is a principle here that is clearly taught. No one is to add or to take away from the revealed Word of God.
Jude makes a statement that Is pertinent to’ our discussion.
I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).
This verse teaches that a body of truth from God has been delivered to man and that this faith has been wholly delivered. This seems to indicate that no further revelation from God is necessary. God has told us in Scripture everything that we need to know about who He is, who we are, and what will happen to the earth in the future.
We know the nature of God does not change:
For I am the Lord, I do not change (Malachi 3:6).
The Bible says clearly that the faith has been completely revealed. Therefore, If any new revelation were to come from God, it would be consistent with past revelations.
Even if a work met all of the above criteria, it would not necessarily be the Word of God. While theoretically it is possible that God could add something to what He has previously revealed, it is highly unlikely that this would be the case. The faith has already been delivered to mankind. Any further word from God to man is not necessary. The canon of Scripture is complete.
After considering the subject of the canon of Scripture we can make the following conclusions:
- The term canon refers to the authoritative books of Scripture.
- God is the One who decided which books should be placed in the Bible.
- We know the correct books are in the Bible because of the testimony of Jesus
- The Apocrypha, books considered inspired by the Roman Catholic church, do not give evidence of inspiration.
- Recent books that have claimed Divine inspiration have proven themselves to be frauds.
- The Scripture is complete. Nothing should be added or subtracted from it.
Thank you for your interest in the Blue Letter Bible and we hope that God will grant you continual blessing in your studies.
Study Resources :: The Canon of Scripture. Retrieved from http://www.blueletterbible.org/faq/canon.cfm
Actually, Paul wrote more books than anyone, taking up 2/3 of the books, but as far as actual writing, literature, words, sentences, etc. Luke, who only wrote two books (Luke and Acts) “wrote” more than Paul. It’s like saying I wrote seven 100 page books, when you wrote one book that has 800 pages, same size font, same size page etc. All in all, Paul wrote 25% and Luke wrote 27% of the New Testament.
Books by Paul: Romans, 1st and 2nd Corinthians, Galations, Ephesians, Philipians, Colosians, 1st and 2nd Thessalonians, 1st and 2nd Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews (the author of Hebrews is not identified but is attributed to Paul)
Luke wrote the book of Luke and Acts.