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The Bible and the Canon:

The Inspired Word of God

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Question #1: 

The weird view of that guy in the last posting was interesting. So a pentagram has innate power; so did my grandmother’s broom . . . and I felt that power when she swatted me with it. There must be something in the human psyche that wants to put some kind of power or meaning, for good or ill, in objects and symbols. Something may be associated with demonic worship but that does not give it any actual power. And a cross is magic against a vampire. Hey, we need some holy relics. The deceiver has had a field day with that. I like the scene from the 1950’s movie War of the Worlds where the minister is walking toward the alien craft holding up a cross and gets zapped into eternity by the death ray; yea, that cross was really effective. Kinda like those 1000 stitch belts the Japanese wore that worked so well for them in warding off bullets from Marines in WWII. What a crock of superstition. Superstition, no matter what the culture, is still superstition. It is like political correctness with a religious bent. If someone wants to wear a piece of jewelry that has become a symbol of their belief through custom or tradition, that’s fine. It’s between them and the Lord, or whatever god they worship. They have to answer for it if it is an issue, not me. I have enough to answer for on my own without worrying about what other people do. That’s why I walk under ladders, break mirrors, step on sidewalk cracks, keep a black cat and wear something with the number 13 on it. Okay, so I’m exaggerating. I just find it amusing.

What is in our mind, written on our heart, that is what matters. Does someone really think that if you’re thrown in prison for your beliefs they’re gonna give you a Bible to read. If you don’t already have it in you, where will it come from. God doesn’t expect us to be lazy. The bad part about getting older is that it seems like I’m forgetting more than I learn. I’m putting it down to information overload in the hope that I can recall it when needed. We have been given a better opportunity to store up for the coming horror than any generation; we have so much more free time and access to Biblical information than anyone even dreamed of in the past. Thanks again for providing some of that information.

Response #1: 

Thanks for this. It's a very important perspective to keep in mind. The Bible is the only source of God's truth, and it has to be in us to do us any good. I know what you mean about remembering too. I never had a particularly good memory and it is not getting better with age. I saw a fellow on C-SPAN who had just written a biography of Eisenhower who, when asked to give some bibliography, cited a book but couldn't come up with the author's name: "I tell people", said he, "that the part of my brain that remembers names has died". Naturally, I can't remember the guy's name.

In my estimation and experience, unless we are aggressively applying the truth to every aspect of our lives now, it'll be darned hard to get into that habit if we wait until the balloon goes up and the Tribulation begins. Pushing oneself to function day by day, step by step thinking God's way is not easy and not particularly common, even among Christians (even, I dare say, among Christians who happen to know something about scripture). Legalistic churches and groups substitute phony "God-talk" for legitimate, Christ-like perspective and application, but that is a case of doing something even worse than walking around with "practical spiritual amnesia".

As you point out, now is the time to "get on the stick" with "thinking about the things above, not the things below" – and I don't mean your gramma's broom.

Your pal in Jesus (who just got back home safe and sound),

Bob L.

Question #2: 

We are considering attending this church. Could you please take a look at their statement of faith and tell me what you think? Thanks.

At the center of our faith is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. We believe, according to the Bible, that he came from heaven, took upon himself humanity, died by crucifixion and arose from the tomb. His resurrection is God's way of verifying that he truly died for our sins.

We are convinced that the goal of history is to be found in our Lord's prayer: "Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

The Bible

We affirm that the Bible is the Word of God in human language. These Scriptures are fully inspired and they hold final authority in the life of the church.

God

God is the one true living God, Creator of the universe, perfect and sovereign, and ready to save from sin and death those coming to him through faith in the death and resurrection of Christ.

Humans

All humans have exercised their will against God, and due to sin, they are incapable of returning to God by their own power or good works.

Jesus Christ

God revealed himself most fully in Jesus Christ for the express purpose of redeeming lost humanity. Jesus was born of a virgin, fully God, yet fully human. He was crucified and rose again on the third day. He is now alive, exalted as Lord and Christ, and he holds all power in heaven and on earth.

Salvation

Salvation comes by the grace of God, that is, his unmerited favor which he bestows upon sinful humans. Faith is the acceptance of God's gift of salvation. It is trust to the point of a commitment and not simply the belief that God exists.

Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit comes to indwell all believers in the response of faith. He bears witness to Christ and guides God's people into the truth. He graciously provides gifts and ministries to enable the church to carry out her task.

Church

The church consists of those who have been chosen by God. It should be an instrument of worship and celebration, of support for its members, and of evangelism. It is committed to two ordinances, baptism and the Lord's Table. The church includes all believers everywhere, living and dead, and is not to be defined merely by institutional labels.

Last Things

God's eternal purpose will be consummated at the return of Christ who will raise the dead and judge all humans. The kingdom of God began to break into the present age in a partial and hidden way in the ministry of Jesus. In the end, it will be fully manifested. The church in every generation is comforted by this blessed hope.

Response #2: 

Just had a look at the website for the church. They have very limited information on their statement of faith. What they did have seems to show overall a pretty standard, conservative, evangelical base of belief (with which I am personally in agreement). Their statement about the Bible, its primacy and inspired nature is good if short. However, there are a couple of questions which their precise wording raised in my mind (because of the sorts of things I deal with constantly in my email-reply ministry and things I have seen personally in the past).

1) They believe in water baptism as an "ordinance"; not surprising: that is most people's position (even though I strongly disagree). Good luck finding a place that doesn't! It's just that making a point of mentioning it in a short statement may mean they put great weight on it (and that could be problematic, depending).

2) Salvation: while I agree with everything they have to say, it strikes me as a bit unusual that they do not expressly say under this rubric that salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ.

3) The present status of our departed brethren: When they say "The church includes all believers everywhere, living and dead", while I certainly approve of the statement generally, the phrasing gets my "radar" into an active mode. Another very prominent heresy presently making the rounds is the false doctrine of "soul sleep", the very misguided notion that after death believers are "in the grave asleep" rather than in heaven with Jesus as He has promised us. John Calvin's first foray into theology was a formal refutation of this false doctrine. If I am not mistaken, many Lutheran groups also teach "soul sleep" (but they are by far not the only ones). I would ask about this.

4) Last Things: It is entirely unclear from this blurb what their view of eschatology really is, except to observe that it gives the impression of being amillennial (i.e., essentially dispensing with any serious consideration of what the Bible has to say about the coming Tribulation and the Millennium etc.). That is the classic Presbyterian position too, but it is fair to say that even those of Presbyterian background who are serious about the Bible have largely dispensed with that Reformation view (so would have Calvin eventually if he didn't have bigger problems like the attacks verbal and physical coming from Rome). I've met plenty of this "non-amillennial" sort in seminary and have contact with them in the course of this ministry as well (explains in part the continuing splitting up of Presbyterianism). I am also disturbed by this statement: "The kingdom of God began to break into the present age in a partial and hidden way in the ministry of Jesus". This may not be social gospel, but, whatever it means (I don't see it as biblical), it is a rather odd thing to want to include in such a very short statement of faith (considering all the things they've left out).

In short, there are some wonderful things here, but since I have a few concerns I would want to test the waters before becoming seriously involved. I would certainly be happy to have a look at anything else they might have put on paper or communicate to you later.

Being careful about these things in this day and age is very important and I commend you for it. I may just be being paranoid here, but I have seen enough wolves in sheep's clothing in my life not to remain at least a little gun shy (until I am absolutely certain there is indeed no "gun").

Love in Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #3: 

Hi Dr. Bill L.,

Could not locate a statement of faith on your website. Could you provide me with one?

Thank you.

--

"Resolved, never to give over, nor in the least to slacken, my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be"

--Jonathan Edwards

Resolutions, 56

--

"For I do not seek to understand in order to believe, but I believe in order to understand.

For I believe this: unless I believe, I will not understand. "

--Anselm of Canterbury

Response #3: 

Good to make your acquaintance. Here is what I say on the "About Ichthys" page:

Ichthys is an independently owned and operated, non-profit, personal ministry. All materials posted to this site are the sole property and responsibility of myself, its webmaster, Dr. Robert D. Luginbill. Although the Bible study materials found here are in the Protestant, Evangelical tradition, this site has no denominational affiliation – the Bible studies at Ichthys are intended to speak for themselves. It is my profound hope that these lessons will contribute to the spiritual growth and progress in the Christian life of those who make use of them.

The construction of detailed statements of faith may have their place, but ever since the Nicene creed they have also caused problems. That is because the Bible in its entirety is every Christian's true "statement of faith" with the result that any statement will be interpretive at least to some small degree. Of course we have to expend a lot of energy and ink explaining the Bible and its doctrines – or we should – and that is indeed what this particular ministry is devoted to doing. The intermediary step of distilling things down to a traditional statement of faith may be of some use in some circumstances – as in the case of a local church where I might want to know something like "are they pre-Trib or post-Trib" for example before I show up. But Ichthys is an internet Bible study ministry easy to access and easy to dismiss, with all the studies clearly labeled and with postings on virtually every doctrinally controversial subject (so that within a few seconds anyone can easily apprise themselves of the positions taught here). And as I say in the snippet above, these studies are meant to "speak for themselves". I would rather present my view on post-Trib, for example in context with evidence than merely list it in a statement of faith. Finally, I am also always willing to answer questions on these subjects to any and all who write in.

I hope this answers your question – do feel free to write back if you have any specific questions about the positions adopted here (odds are there are a variety of postings which explain each and every one of them in some detail).

Yours in Jesus Christ our Lord, the Savior of the world,

Bob Luginbill

Question #4: 

Hi Dr. Robert D. Luginbill,

Thank you for your reply.

I came across your site while researching the chronological order of the bible. Your site appears legit in its theological positions but whenever I come across an online ministry I always check for a Belief/Faith Statement to avoid wasting valuable time on some heretical or false doctrine promoting site.

Now since your site appeared(s) legit (sound theologically) I did something I've never done - I emailed your ministry requesting a Belief/Faith Statement.

Please understand my goal is not division or heresy hunting - I just want to understand where your ministry stands. So one last question.

Do you agree with the "Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy"?

Thank you.

Response #4: 

I appreciate that. Yes, the Chicago statement is marvelous and I find nothing in it which I would even want to footnote or correct. I note that article IIb says "We deny that Church creeds, councils, or declarations have authority greater than or equal to the authority of the Bible." That is the genesis of my position on a statement of faith. It strikes me that most believing Christians who have genuinely sought God's truth from scripture would agree with and have functioned on the principles laid out in the Chicago statement without putting it in these exact words. One of the problems with reducing something to writing in a sort of "once and for all" method like this is that it may give the impression of authority and completeness, whereas, since language changes and statements and creeds are not in fact inspired and cannot be completely comprehensive, over time they generally come to be taken the wrong way, at least in part. Case in point in the Chicago statement is article IV and the language problem – which is really a problem of sin and the transmission of perfect truth to sinful mankind (i.e., the epistemology problem). This article while true doesn't really address the underlying issues and can thus open the statement up for confusion on the one hand and improper simplification on the other (for those who feel it is "the last word" on all these matters). What the statement say is true here, but it leaves some things to be desired – as any such statement which was not a tome would have to do. That is the problem in my view with such statements and creeds, not so much perhaps for those who write them and understand perfectly well what they were trying to say, but for those who use them and make assumptions about the definitive nature of what they do say. Certainly, that has been a historical problem with creeds, statements, confessions, and catechisms, especially when they have gotten something partially or entirely wrong (or been prone to mis-interpretation on account of brevity). But if the Bible needs to be explained (and it does) and if a statement or what have you does not explain it nearly well enough, then what we are left with is the need for a day by day explication and teaching of scripture in an orthodox way by responsible and dedicated teaching ministries wherever they may yet be found. Q.E.D.

Again, I appreciate your godly spirit. Please feel free to write back any time.

In Jesus our dear Lord who is the truth, the very Word of God.

Bob L.

Question #5: 

Hi Dr Lugenbill,

I found this website that I thought interesting, and want to know what you think about his theories (?) about the possible corruptions in the Bible regarding cosmology:

http://www.sentex.net/~tcc/bcr.html#Zeus

It's rather long, but when you have time, I hope you can share your thoughts on this, because I think you know more about this than I do ;-)

Response #5: 

This site is "interesting", but it betrays a low view of inspiration. The section you ask about, "cosmology", suggests that somehow the Bible was altered in the 2nd cent. B.C. to conform to Hellenistic Greek beliefs. From a historical or textual perspective, that is absurd. Most unbelievers who study the Bible as a text from a secular point of view would find this theory laughable. The "cosmology" of the Bible, whether one chooses to believe it or not, is inherent in its original form, and there is absolutely no evidence for any revision in the 2nd century (or at any other time, except for some well-documented interpolations of which we are well aware or should be; see the link). None of that is of great importance to me as a believer, however, compared to the underlying assumption throughout this discussion that the Bible is not the infallible and perfect Word of God. That is the great dividing line between genuine believers who are making spiritual progress and unbelievers, quasi-believers, and compromised believers who do not have faith in God's ability to produce the perfect book which is our Bible. Since everything we know about God beyond His revealing of Himself in the natural order He created comes from scripture, without faith in Him and His Word as completely correct there can be no serious spiritual growth.

For specific questions about true biblical cosmology and an explanation of supposed "errors", please see the following links:

Is the earth ever described as round in the Bible?

The Origin of the Four Seasons.

Darwin vs. Hodge

The Shape of the Universe, Hominids, and the Genesis Gap.

Science and the Bible.

The Problem of Science and the Bible

Thanks for the link!

In Jesus our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #6: 

Hello Dr. Luginbill!

Someone had used the term "biblical mythology" and I told him that is an ironic statement. He responded by saying that I needed to learn the definition of what mythology meant and use the word ironic correctly. I believe that is an ironic statement because the bible is "truth" and mythology is a collection of myths that are essentially "untrue". Who is correct?

God Bless,

Response #6: 

Clearly, you are completely correct. When people say something is a myth, they mean it is not true. Since the Bible is the truth, calling it mythology is certainly ironic – and also highly offensive. It also tells us the true point of view of the person who says this, i.e., said person does not believe the Bible. In my experience, when someone starts with the position that the Bible is untrue, there is very little to be gained from arguing with them. That is because everything we know of the truth, beyond the truths that God has written loud and large on the universe in unmistakable ways, comes from the Bible. When people talk about mythology in regard to the Bible it is generally because they wish to "de-mythologize" it. But that is only an intelligent-sounding way to say that they want to be able to ignore everything in it of a miraculous and supernatural nature and, even more importantly, anything that suggests they are going to be held to account for their essential life-choice of refusing to submit to the justice of God . . . the only way to do which is to receive His gift of Jesus Christ by faith.

Keep fighting the good fight!

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #7: 

Hi Bob,

In the contest of the NT, how are we to treat a murderer?

What does this following reference mean, as you translate it? Exodus 21:12

From part of a conversation on Face Book:

"Whether the man was improperly breast fed as an infant, beaten by his daddy, or was just plain old mean ... means nothing. At least it means nothing in regards to his guilt. A murderer should be executed. If perchance the man is elect and receives God's unmerited grace and is eternally saved, praise God. The murderer should still be executed.

Exodus 21:12 "Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death."

I cannot find an exception for diminished capacity."

In Christ,

Response #7:

As I often have recourse to say, all scripture must be taken into account in order to correctly understand any scripture. The Bible is a unified whole with one essential message which unifies it: Jesus Christ. So it is often the case when we find a "problem" or something that does not seem to fit with the overall Bible, that it may be that we need to adjust our thinking, but that it also may be that we haven't yet considered everything. I have been at this a long while and I learn new things every day.

This is the rule concerning the man who kills another and flees there to save his life--one who kills his neighbor unintentionally, without malice aforethought. For instance, a man may go into the forest with his neighbor to cut wood, and as he swings his ax to fell a tree, the head may fly off and hit his neighbor and kill him. That man may flee to one of these cities and save his life.
Deuteronomy 19:4-5 NIV

As these verses suggest, Exodus 21:12 must be giving the general rule: capital punishment for murder in the first degree with malice aforethought (cf. KJV on the passage quoted above: "ignorantly, whom he hated not in time past"). Thus, in cases where there is reasonable mitigation, there is no death penalty. That would certainly seem to me to include cases of diminished capacity.

Clearly, scripture does not spell out all the ins and outs, and if what little I know about the law is any indication, it would have to run to hundreds of volumes just to get close. The Bible gives us all we need, in a perfect and succinct way. Interpretation requires the help of the Spirit of God (and a lot of homework on our part, well and consistently done).

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #8: 

Bob,

Thank you. I am having difficulty focussing today and am not sure to what you refer in the sentence: "capital punishment for murder in the first degree with malice aforethought (cf. KJV on the passage quoted above: "ignorantly, whom he hated not in time past")."

Blessings,

Response #8: 

This is the phraseology used by the NIV in Deut.19:4; the parenthesis has the KJV's quote of the same things. You can see from the translations that the KJV is more "literal" but that the NIV translates the Hebrew into what we mean by killing someone "ignorantly, whom he hated not in time past"; i.e., we didn't intend to do it and there is no "track record" to indicate we are only faking an accident. So no death penalty in such cases.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #9: 

Dear Mr. Luginbill,

I'll introduce myself first. I'm going to be a sophomore in college this August.

Recently, a few of my friends have started to watch some Youtube videos by an author by the name of Jacob Israel. His videos are...for lack of a better word dramatic. He explains his beliefs of God and salvation in a different way then I am use to, and he has a way of making it seem that church traditions and rituals are not the way to God. He claims that the Bible is a collection of allegories that we are to use to develop our faith, which can only be achieved in ourselves. He goes on to say the Bible has become an idol in the hearts of men (which he demonstrated by ripping a book he had us to believe was a bible, though it turned out to be one of his own books that he had written. He justified the demonstration by saying "how did you feel when it was ripped?", saying if we were disturbed or angry, it was because we have made the Bible an idol in our hearts, and have placed it before God). He says the word of God is living in us and is not the words in the good book. He preaches that salvation is in the mind, is the awakening of truth, and that God is Love and will not condemn people because that is not a loving God. "Fear tactics" as he calls them, are used to keep us doing what "they want us to do."

I come with concern. My friends believe the Bible is to be used as a teaching tool, but it is not the word of God. That the word of God is that only of the living word of God, something that lives inside of us. I believe the Bible is the word of God and the word of God does live inside of us, but also in His written word. They say that they cannot influence others' faith, that they have been "awakened" in the way that only God can do and others will come into that awakening if they listen to God.

These friends also see the church, as in the physical building for worship, as something corrupt. The don't think it is right to have the different religions and denominations, seeing as there is one true God. They say God is not religion. God is Love. Traditions are the ways of brainwashed individuals who think they know the truth. And going to church and not changing is false hope for the people. One has even mentioned that she goes to a ministry, not a church but a group who meets, where the leader is called Apostle So-and-so, who represents the framework. They have five different types of people in this ministry, including apostles and prophets (someone who interprets what the apostle is saying if the others don't understand).

I don't know what to say to them. These are my friends and I wish to help them. I just feel that what they have chosen to believe is something that is leading them off the path to the real truth, to God. They still accept God, and recognize Jesus as their savior, but chose not to recognize the Bible as the word of God and have some very misguided (at least in my eyes) views of the truth. What can I do to help them? If there is anything to help them.

Please, help me help them if you can.

Thank you,

(P.S. I don't know if this is the right email address for my question. And I don't know if you will answer my question here, or in that email section of the website. In any case, I would greatly appreciate if you email me back a response or at least email me where I can find your response. I am in great need of guidance and not being able to find your response or not hearing back from you will, well, discourage me if I'm honest. Please just get back to me when you can. Thanks again.)

Response #9: 

Good to make your acquaintance, and thank you for your email. I want to commend you for resisting this false teacher as well as for your efforts to seek the truth.

Let me start by saying that I also am not much on "church traditions and rituals" (since these may or may not have anything to do with the truth of scripture, depending). However, the Bible, the Word of God, is my life. Without the Bible, we would know nothing specific about our Lord or about anything God would have us know (apart from His existence and goodness, which things are evident to all mankind from His design of all created things: Ps.19:1-6; Rom.1:18-21; see the link: Natural Revelation). That is the way God has designed things and deliberately so, so that our faith might rest in His carefully preserved and provided truth, and not in human beings (who often lie) or traditions or rituals or signs or dreams or what have you (which can be wrong, faked, etc.). The truth contained in the Bible, on the contrary, is available to us all to see for ourselves, and this is what we as Christians believe, namely, the truth contained in the holy scriptures. The Bible is the only ultimate source of all post-salvation truth about God, because it is the very "mind of Christ" (1Cor.2:16). Please read the important link: "Read your Bible".

The disturbing details you report are very typical of cult methodology (covered in the previous link, and see the collection of links listed at the end of this email). It is very important for any prospective cult leader to divorce his/her victims from all their prior grounding in order to make them vulnerable and completely dependent upon what the cult says is "the truth". Since this cult is aimed at trapping Christians, getting them to discard the Bible is absolutely essential because, obviously, the Bible is going to be contradicting much of what the cult has to say sooner or later.

My first question to people like this is how they know what they know without the Bible? How does this person know that God is a God of love? It is certainly true (though he is distorting that truth for his own purposes), but how would he know the first thing about God without the scriptures? In fact, of course, this person is little concerned about truth. "God is love" sounds pretty good, so a prospective cult leaders can use it to trap people – and then treat them in a most unloving and self-serving way thereafter.

In fact, of course, any Christian who has devoted him or herself to the task of spiritual growth to which all believers are called knows very well that God is both a God of love and a God of justice. If it were only about love, then Jesus would never have had to come to earth and be judged by the Father on the cross in our place. God is perfect love, but He is also perfect justice. In order for us to be recipients of His love, He had first to satisfy His justice by putting our Savior to death in our place in order to pay the penalty for all of our sins. Now He is free to be perfectly loving to all – to all, that is, who are willing to accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ by believing in and following Him. But for all who refuse God's mercy by refusing Christ, justice and judgment await. Failure to understand such absolutely basic principles of divine truth makes any person very vulnerable to being led astray.

I am very pleased to hear that you yourself are solid in your understanding of the importance of God's Word. Your understanding of all these matters seems to me to be precisely correct. We can and do have the Word within us, but it is only the actual Word (i.e, the actual, biblical truth) that profits us, and only when we take the time to study and hear it so as to know it, and then to actually believe it. Lies do us no good whatsoever. Only the truth resident in our hearts by faith is the capital used by the Holy Spirit to guide us and use us. We can never get enough of the actual truth, and our continuing effort to learn the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27) from His entire Bible is what produces our spiritual growth (2Pet.3:18), fuels our spiritual progress, and prepares us for whatever ministry the Lord has for us (and He has something for us all: 1Cor.12:4-6) so as to earn eternal rewards (1Cor.3:12-15).

Your friends are in grave spiritual danger. When a person cuts him/herself off from the truth and instead hands his/her free will over to some person or group which is not accountable to the scriptures, anything can happen – and, eventually, usually does. This is the reason that the Lord is said to have "magnified thy word above all thy Name" (Ps.138:2 KJV). Only by respecting the written word can we really follow correctly the Living Word, Jesus Christ – because, obviously, only by learning and believing what the written word contains can we know even the first thing about what our dear Savior wants us to think and say and do.

What you are endeavoring to do for your friends is honorable and noble. It is also somewhat dangerous, and I ask you to please take great care in this mission of mercy and love. My advice would be to train for the mission as much as possible before embarking upon it. For it is clear that this cult has already made deep inroads into the hearts of your unsuspecting and well-intentioned friends. It is also the case even if a person is spiritually mature and well-versed in apologetics, that even so sometimes one has to wait for the right opportunity. That is to say, while people are plunging headlong into something like this, we can and we should do what we can to warn them (Prov.24:11-12), but it is often the case that they will have to be "burned" a bit first before they start to seriously consider your wisdom which they are presently being told is "foolishness".

One thing you can always do is pray, and I promise to join you in that effort. For while our knowledge is very limited and our strength meager, the wisdom and might of the Lord are unlimited.

This problem would benefit from all manner of truth (and you are certainly welcome to all of the materials at Ichthys), but, in addition to the very important link mentioned above, "Read your Bible", here are some other links which will give you an idea of the sort of thing you are dealing with and some ways in which you might answer or oppose lies of this sort:

Cults and Christianity I

Cults and Christianity II

Cults and Christianity III

Cults and Christianity IV

How can we know the Bible is true?

Issues of Canonicity

Issues of Canonicity II: Aramaic, Enoch, KJV, and the Pastorals

Christians Beware (2)

Please feel free to write me back about any of this. May God grant success to your efforts on behalf of Jesus' Church.

Bob Luginbill

Question #10: 

In GOD we trust !!

Food for thought...I thought this was so interesting ... I had to pass it along. Is the Bible the Inspired Word of God? By Jason Carlson and Ron Carlson, 5/25/11

During a question and answer session at a recent speaking engagement, a university student asked me, "Why do you believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God?" Now this is a very interesting question; and probably one of the most important questions any Christian could ask them selves.

What is so special, so unique about the Bible that Christians believe it is literally the inspired word of God?

In answering this student's question, I encouraged him to consider the following facts about the Bible:

First, the Bible is not just one single book. This is a more common misconception than many people realize, especially with people who do not come from a Judeo-Christian background. Rather than being a single book, the Bible is actually a collection of 66 books, which is called the canon of scriptures. These 66 books contain a variety of genres: history, poetry, prophecy, wisdom literature, letters, and apocalyptic, just to name a few.

Second, these 66 books were written by 40 different authors. These authors came from a variety of backgrounds: shepherds, fishermen, doctors, kings, prophets, and others. And most of these authors never knew one another personally.

Third, these 66 books were written over a period of 1500 years. Yet again, this is another reminder that many of these authors never knew or collaborated with one another in writing these books.

Fourth, the 66 books of the Bible were written in 3 different languages. In the Bible we have books that were written in the ancient languages of Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic; a reflection of the historical and cultural circumstances in which each of these books were written.

And finally, these 66 books were written on 3 different continents: Africa, Asia, and Europe.

Once again, this is a testament to the varied historical and cultural circumstances of God's people.

Think about the above realities: 66 books, written by 40 different authors, over 1500 years, in 3 different languages, on 3 different continents. What's more, this collection of books shares a common storyline- the creation, fall, and redemption of God's people; a common theme- God's universal love for all of humanity; and a common message- salvation is available to all who repent of their sins and commit to following God with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength.

In addition to sharing these commonalities, these 66 books contain no historical errors or contradictions. God's word truly is an amazing collection of writings!

After I had shared the above facts with this student, I offered him the following challenge: I said to him, "If you do not believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, if you do not believe that the Bible is of a supernatural origin, then I challenge you to a test." I said to the student, "I challenge you to go to any library in the world, you can choose any library you like, and find 66 books which match the characteristics of the 66 books in the Bible. You must choose 66 books, written by 40 different authors, over 1500 years, in 3 different languages, written on 3 different continents. However, they must share a common storyline, a common theme, and a common message, with no historical errors or contradictions." I went on to say, "If you can produce such a collection of books, I will admit that the Bible is not the inspired word of God."

The student's reply was almost instantaneous, he emphatically stated," But that's impossible!"

It truly is impossible, for any collection of human writings. However, the Bible passes this test. The Bible contains 66 books, written by 40 different authors, over 1500 years, in 3 different languages, on 3 different continents, with no historical errors or contradictions. The entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, bears the mark of Divine inspiration.

The next time you encounter someone who asks you why you believe the Bible is the inspired word of God, try sharing this challenge with them. Better yet, don't wait until you're asked, just go ahead and share this challenge with a friend today. You don't even have to mention the Bible up front, just ask them if they think it would be realistic to assemble such a collection of books. After they say, "But that's impossible!" you've got a ready-made opportunity for sharing the truth of God's word with somebody!

In God We Trust

Response #10: 

That's terrific!

I plan to incorporate this – or at least the key points with attribution – when I finally get around to finishing Bible Basics #7: Bibliology.

Thanks!

Bob L.

Question #11: 

Dear Bob,

I thank you very much for the love of your essential scholarly, biblical research that inspires a deepening of knowledge and capacity to serve Jesus Christ.

I recently had a conversation with a business associate who has read and is moved by the Bible, but rejects "Paul" as a source of his Christianity. How would you answer his note to me that he sent in response to my inquiry (attached below).?

Keep the faith and be in JOY, with Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior, 

My interpretation of the Gospels is not shared by anyone I've ever talked about it with. The idea of seeing the writings of the disciples and Paul as separate from the teachings of Christ is universally seen as "cherry picking" as my former minister described it. Yet, there is nothing I am aware of in the Bible that says it is a complete book to be read and taken as a whole. Historically, is was writing across a great distance of time by individuals without any concept of the complete book as we see it today. Further more, the present Bible leaves out as much as is included. The books of Thomas, Mary Magdalene and others were excluded by the early church for reasons important to those decision makers at that time.

Jesus said, "When I was sick, you comforted me. When I was in prison, you visited me. I was hungry and you fed me. . ." My point is that you could read Paul for weeks and find little that addresses this very basic call to action and compassion of the Christ. It is, in fact, this call to service the needs of the unworthy that makes reading Paul so very attractive. He gives us rules and rituals which are far easier to pursue than the following of those simple words of Jesus.

Years ago a wonderful old Episcopal priest told me, " The scary thing about Jesus is not that he makes bad men good, but that he loves bad men." It was such ideas that slowly led me away from Paul. My readings of Tao, Zen and American Indian beliefs continued that education. At some point, I began to see the message of Jesus as one of inclusion while Paul teaches in a way that excludes.

For many years I struggled with this challenge to all I had been raised to believe. It was the words of ST Thomas Moore which finally liberated me. About to face his death we are told he said, "God will not refuse one so blind to go to him." I was overwhelmed with such faith in the goodness of our Lord, the openness and the justice of such love. It is as though God is so great a target that, if we aim in that directions we are bound to hit it. Pursuing love we will find the source of love.

As to what to read, I like Luke and John. The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis gives a wonderful picture God's love and our relationship with it.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Response #11: 

There are a number of things I would have to say about this. First of all, while I have never heard of this particular selective approach before, there is certainly precedent. In the mid-second century, Marcion, a bishop from Sinope who came to Rome to teach his personal brand of Christianity, threw most everything out of the Bible except for Paul. Paul, it seems, was the only one who really understood the Christian "gospel of love" (one would dearly like to go back and ask him about John!). Marcion included Luke's gospel, no doubt because Luke is Paul's associate and wrote under Paul's apostolic authority. That brings up a couple of points for your friend. I am not sure on what basis Paul could be excluded without excluding Luke and Acts as well, and for that matter the book of Hebrews would also have to be tossed out (Paul wrote it, very clearly in my humble opinion; see the link:  "The Canonicity of Paul's Epistles"). But as to removing Paul from the Bible, what does Peter have to say about it?

Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
2nd Peter 3:15-16 NIV

So Peter clearly realized that Paul's letters were part of the Bible. And there is plenty of internal evidence from the New Testament itself to show unequivocally that the Pauline epistles are divinely inspired. That is really the test of canonicity.

Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
2nd Peter 1:20-21 NIV

The Bible is God's Word, given to mankind through divine inspiration so that we might know the truth. The real question here is does a book/writing belong to the Word of God or not? For beyond all question it is very dangerous to add or subtract from His words:

Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you.
Deuteronomy 4:2 NIV (cf. Deut.12:32)

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.
Revelation 22:18-19 NIV

Since these warnings come in the first set of books and very last book of the Bible, the point seems to be sufficiently made. And it is very easy to see why this is the case. After all, if we were free to throw out verses, commandments, chapters, books, whole testaments with which we did not agree, we would very soon make short shrift of any corrective potential for our point of view the Spirit might otherwise have in mind. We would very soon find ourselves in need of no Bible at all (or the essential equivalent). This approach cuts a person loose from God's authority, to one degree or another. And in my observation and experience, that always leads down, never up. All scripture is "God-breathed" and is useful for "teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2Tim.3:16 NIV). But what if we exempt ourselves from even considering some or all of it?

As the Peter quotes show, the apostles most certainly did know they were writing scripture (cf. Rom.16:25-26, 1Tim.5:18b), and that is even more clear in the case of the Old Testament prophets (cf. Rom.15:4). The existence of a large body of pseudepigraphical materials and false gospels whose origin is much latter (and which were never accepted by the early church, not even the Roman one), is not much of an argument against the traditional canon. For one thing, these are pseudonymous works: since the "gospel of Mary" does not predate the 5th century, Mary Magdelene did not write it. In terms of quality and internal tests of scripture, it is a little like comparing Shakespeare to a comic book. To paraphrase L.S. Chafer, the Bible is a unique book that no one would write if they could and no one could write if they would – without divine inspiration. Read any genuine portion of scripture and the differences between that and any other literature are graphically obvious (at least to those who are saved).

1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
1st Corinthians 13 NIV

As someone who reads the Bible everyday, I find the statement in the text you attached "you could read Paul for weeks and find little that addresses this very basic call to action and compassion of the Christ" so incomprehensible as to leave me dumbfounded. One can certainly see in the chapter quoted just above how it was that Marcion gave Paul pride of place in understanding the love of Christ, and it is difficult to find a chapter written by that greatest of the apostles that is not awash with Christian love and the need to share it aggressively through active measures. But this is all to some degree beside the point. There is one, single, unified message in the Bible; every scripture supports it, no scripture contradicts it: Jesus Christ. To the extent we do not see or understand Him in any given portion of the Word, to that extent we are not yet complete in our understanding of the Word.

People are certainly free in this country to read whatever they like, and there is certainly an argument to made for reading more rather than less broadly. However, if your friend really wants to grow in Jesus, it cannot be done by exclusivity. In my view, he should read less of "Tao, Zen and American Indian beliefs", and should read more of Paul (and the entire rest of scripture as well).

Yours in Him who is the very Word of God, whole, complete and without exclusion, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #12: 

Dear Dr. Luginbill (Ichthys),

I have an interest in which NT 'book' was penned first. Many sources I have investigated clearly place James as likely the first NT 'book' penned. However, your chronological outline (link) places James as 21st, likely around 55-60A.D. I'm sure you are aware of the many sources that place James as the first likely penned and so I'll not restate unless you'd like.

I would prefer to understand how it is that you came to place James at the chronological position you did and related how that same method came to place Matthew as being penned first. That's all, thank you.

In Christ,

Response #12: 

Good to make your acquaintance. You are correct that scholarly opinion tends to place James early, sometimes first. Matthew is, if I am not mistaken, also considered to be early by most scholars who opine on these matters as it occurs in first position in all of the ancient collections of the Bible (the main controversy regarding Matthew centering around whether or not it was originally written in Aramaic or Hebrew – it wasn't [see the links:  "Christians Beware" and "Did Matthew Write his Gospel in Hebrew?"]).

All of these exercises are to some degree speculative. For example, before many of the earliest witnesses to the text of the New Testament came to light in the mid to late nineteenth century, there was plenty of speculation that the gospels, for example, might date to the second or even the third century (a hypothesis difficult to maintain when late 1st century papyri of John began to appear, however). The actual evidence we possess is in general as follows: 1) witnesses to the biblical text (manuscripts, papyri, et al.); 2) information from church history (primarily the sources collected by Eusebius); 3) theological arguments or other deductions based upon any and all of the above; 4) direct internal evidence from the books themselves.

In my opinion, there are two reasons why James is usually put early or first: 1) academic tradition (even in conservative circles scholars writing for an academic audience are reluctant to stir things up to the point of going against an earlier consensus); 2) the desire among secular or secularly-minded scholars to deconstruct scripture and reconstruct the early church, a process which has led many to put James in a position superior to what is actually related in the book of Acts (denigrating the apostolic ministries out of an anti-supernatural bias is also part of the motivation here). The latter is an exercise parallel to the search for the "true kerygma of the teachings of Jesus", and is likewise driven by a desire for academic accomplishment and self-aggrandizement as opposed to seeking the truth for the good of the Church of Jesus Christ.

With no such ax to grind, the evidence suggests to me that James' epistle is later. 1) Texts: James is consistently grouped late in the canon with the other general epistles, and the groupings do generally reflect the date of the writings, especially in the earlier witnesses (e.g., Sinaiticus); 2) Eusebius likewise groups James with 2nd John and Jude as "disputed books" – a strange thing if the epistle had been around earlier than the others; 3) James is concerned with doctrinal issues which seem to me to bespeak a later rather than an earlier stage of the apostolic period; that is to say, the topics he addresses and the way in which he addresses them seem to represent a response to or, better put, a filling in of the Pauline epistles for a Jewish audience (and I note that there is no trace of any such response/explanation of James' on Paul's part, though the great apostle to the gentiles was never reluctant to engage in such matters as the book of Galatians makes abundantly clear); 4) In terms of the relative dating, the decisive thing for me is the internal evidence of James; I am convinced that James 4:5 is a deliberate paraphrase of Galatians 5:17 (albeit clearer in the Greek than in many English translations): since James quotes Galatians, not only does it have to be later, but it has to be enough later to allow for circulation of the former et al. (please see the link: "'The Spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy': Explaining James 4:5").

Seeing James as an important provision and supplementation of doctrine to the Church – and especially the Jewish members of the Church – after the passing of the two great pillars Paul and Peter has, in my view, much to recommend it. Read in that light and considered from that temporal vantage point, late in the apostolic period, the themes, content and tone seem to me to fit perfectly. Putting these things early in the history of the Church even before the apostolic ministries were in full swing, on the other hand, appears to mesh not at all. These thematic arguments could be drawn out at great length, but given the quotation, it doesn't seem to me to be necessary.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #13: 

I was interested to read you place Mark's Gospel as being written well after Mt and Lk. I understand the vast majority of scholars believe Mk was written first with Mt and Lk both drawing on material from his Gospel when they compiled their own. Do you have any source references which indicate that Mt was written first and Mk was the last of the Synoptic Gospels?

Many thanks. Best wishes.

Response #13: 

Good to make your acquaintance. To answer your question, first, all of the ancient manuscripts with which I am conversant place Matthew before Mark as the first book of the New Testament. That is not, perhaps, decisive evidence, but, since the ordering of New Testament books in the ancient manuscript tradition is by no means uniform (e.g., in Sinaiticus, Hebrews is placed before the Pauline pastoral epistles, and Acts before the general epistles), this is a good indication that "Marcan priority" was not a theory known to the early church.

Second, the early witnesses, Papias, Justin Martyr, and Irenaeus, all report Mark as representing the apostle Peter's point of view, and all have the book written from Rome, a supposition which the gentile rather than Jewish focus of the book and the many Latinisms it contains surely support. Since Peter's traveling to Rome certainly has to post-date Paul's arrival and imprisonment there, that would argue strongly for a later rather than an earlier dating of the gospel, late 50's A.D. at the earliest (where I have placed it on my chart; see the link: "Chronological Order of the Books of the Bible"). In such a case, it is hard to see how it could have preceded Matthew, much less Luke, whose follow-on book, Acts, ends with Paul's imprisonment at Rome.

Thirdly, the idea that Mark wrote first does not predate the 19th century (Lachmann 1835), and the only reason this earlier dating is "significant" is its potential of showing that the other gospels are merely derivative. That is to say, the "priority of Mark" really has as its only functional goal to prove that the other three gospels are fictional. But even if Mark did write first (a virtual impossibility given the evidence above), he clearly did not write so much earlier than the apostles Matthew and John or Paul's faithful physician Luke so as to be able to influence them in any way – even if they had been of a mind to copy him, and even if there were no such thing as divine inspiration (which of course there most certainly is!).

The "Marcan hypothesis" assumed that none of the gospels were really written by the first generation of Christians as they claim to be and were in fact very late, as late as the third or even fourth century (depending up the theory). That is not a defensible position nowadays as portions of the last gospel, that of John, for example, have been found in papyri which date to as early as the late first century. The essential idea behind the Marcan hypothesis and the questionable research which has sprung from it is that Mark had captured a core of teaching/preaching (kerygma) which was expanded and elaborated upon by the later gospel writers. But since the short amount of time which could have actually elapsed in any sequence of composition makes it impossible for any such thing to have happened (even if we were to consider it all fiction), this entire set of theories (i.e., "form criticism" and its children) is built upon sand. That has not, however, stopped several generations of "theologians" from devoting all of their time and effort to these activities. I suppose it is one way to get tenure.

Please feel free to write me back about any of this.

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob Luginbill

Question #14: 

Dear Professor Luginbill,

Many thanks for your kind [and comprehensive!] response which has certainly given me food for thought. In similar vein may I ask about John's Gospel? I am not well read in this area, as you will have guessed; I have, though, read W.D. Davies' "Invitation to the New Testament"(JSOT Press, Sheffield p379-381). In this he argues that the internal evidence of John's Gospel is against apostolic authorship. For example, he states that the order of events and content are so different from the Synoptics that both cannot preserve direct apostolic witness. He gives the example of John placing Jesus' cleansing of the Temple early in his ministry whilst the Synoptics place it late, concluding that the Apostle John is unlikely to have placed this so differently from the other Apostles.

He also says that while many scholars claim that the author knew Judaism very well, Jn 18:13 suggests the High Priesthood is elected annually which is incorrect. In addition, John refers to the Sea of Galilee as 'the Sea of Tiberius' but this name was used only in the second century. Finally, the author is referred to as a disciple in 21:24f but the chapter is certainly an addition to the Gospel. He suggests Ch 21 may be the work of a disciple but not the whole Gospel.

Obviously his argument is more detailed than this but the above gives a broad outline of his objections.

My belief has been that, owing to 'faulty' theology developing in Christian thought, John wrote to correct this and highlight Christ's Divinity - rather than just produce another 'synoptic' covering what had already been addressed in the other three Gospels.

Yours in Christ

Response #14:

People who are looking for "contradictions" in the Bible are almost always doing so to undermine its authority. Christians who are looking for answers always find them – if they look long and hard enough in faith.

There were actually two cleansings of the temple, one at the outset of Jesus' ministry. Excerpt from BB 4A: Christology (link):

Immediately upon entering Jerusalem that first day, our Lord went up to the temple mount and swept the court of the gentiles clean of the commercial enterprises that had turned the worship of God into a human system of monetary transactions, exactly as He had also done at the beginning of His earthly ministry (Matt.21:12-13; Mk.11:15-18; Lk.19:45-48; cf. Jn.2:13-22). This is a striking foreshadowing of what will happen in the Millennium (cf. Zech.14:21; Dan.12:10), and therefore another prophetic sign of Jesus' Messiahship.

The phrase "who was high priest that year" does not necessitate the assumption of an annual election. In my view, John adds this bit as part of the explanation of why Jesus was taken to both Annas and Caiphas, what the relationship was between them, and what official position they each held. In any case, I have studied ancient history and biblical history in particular long enough to know that when people say things like "this never could have happened" or "this is not they way they did things", much more often than not the person is proceeding with a theory that is not capable of being vetted to the extent that said person might assume. That is to say, the details of most things in ancient history are not well-known. Scholars hypothesize based upon very incomplete information and attempt to construct likely scenarios – I do this all the time in my secular work. The one thing that is sure in this sort of a situation is that there will be others out there in academia who have seen the same data and have drawn different conclusions. I certainly wouldn't throw a book out the canon on such a flimsy reed of an excuse (even if I did not have a ready answer such as the above)!

The details of chronology when it comes to the life of Jesus Christ as reported in the gospels are not easy to arrange into a comprehensive whole which answers all questions. In the study above (at the link: "The Life of Christ") I have attempted to do this and specifically vis-a-vis "passion week". As you will see there, much depends upon proper translation of the texts (and reading the right text, that is, some textual criticism is essential to the process). People often assume that because two thousand or so years have passed since these gospels were written that by now they should have been perfectly understood. The fact is that the entire Bible, not just the gospels, is far from being "perfectly understood" in every respect, even on the part of those who are genuinely soldiering on in the cause of Jesus Christ. This ministry is dedicated to doing its part to understand all that may be understood (and to believing it).

John's gospel, as with every other book in the Bible, was always meant to be part of the perfect whole of the canon of scripture since before the Lord created the universe in the blink of an eye. Along with those of us who have believed in Jesus, it is one of the few things that will survive the fiery replacement of this present cosmos at the end of time – because it is the very "mind of Christ" (1Cor.2:16).

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.
Revelation 22:18-19 NIV

In Jesus, the living and eternal Word of God,

Bob L.

Question #15: 

When Paul penned (2Tim.3:16), wasn’t he speaking to a people that was educated in Greek, did they not speak, think and write in Greek, the Berians who searched the Bible so diligently, wont they Greeks, so Paul was referring to the Greek Bible which contained the Apocrypha, he did not have anything negative to say about it, he encouraged its study, please help me to understand after hundreds of years of use it lost its inspiration?

Response #15: 

Good to make your acquaintance.

In actuality, there was nothing like a modern "Bible" in antiquity in the sense of a collection of books bound together, not, that is, until ca. the late second or early third century – over two hundred years after the completion of the canon. In the apostles' day, a "book" was a papyrus scroll, and it would be very rare for one to be big enough to contain more than a single large book like, say, the book of Genesis, so that the Pentateuch would most likely be contained on multiple scrolls, and the larger or "major" prophets might have their own scroll:

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down.
Luke 4:14-20a NIV

This, by the way, is why we spell "Bible" the way we do; the word is from the Greek biblia which means, technically, "books" (note the plural). The book or codex form we take for granted was probably invented by fourth (or possibly late third) century Christians in order to have "all the books" conveniently in one place, as well as to make finding particular passages easier (rolling and re-rolling multiple scrolls to look for something was not an easy matter). Paul's "Bible" was a collection of scrolls.

When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments. (note the plurals)
2nd Timothy 4:13 NIV

So when Luke tells us that the Bereans "examined the scriptures" (Acts 17:11), or when Paul tells us that "all scripture is God breathed" 2Tim.3:16, we should not imagine them looking in one place the way we are privileged to do today. Rather, they would have had to consult many scrolls, and so we have to understand what is meant by "scripture/scripture", namely, "writing(s)" which are indeed inspired by God – as opposed to all other writing, whether or not it is of a religious character.

Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
1st Peter 1:20-21 NIV

Only actually inspired books belong in the canon. Is the Apocrypha inspired? Jerome certainly didn't think so, and that was the universal opinion of the church for centuries. It was only during the Reformation when Protestants began to take issue with certain Roman Catholic practices that these books were declared canonical by the R.C. church at the council of Trent in 1453.

No New Testament writer quotes or cites or recommends any apocryphal book – only canonical Old Testament books (or in some cases previously written New Testament books). It is true that these books you ask about were written in Greek – but so were countless other books, many of which survive today and were historical or philosophical or even religious, none of which are considered biblical today (nor in antiquity either, I might add). It is true that no New Testament writer condemns the apocryphal books by name. Indeed, it is not even clear that they even knew about them or had ever read them (at least there is no evidence of this whatsoever). All the early evidence as to the canon excludes the apocrypha – not by way of being critical of it; it's just that these books were left off any such list (deemed so obviously non-biblical that no monitory comment was necessary). Most importantly of all, while scripture itself is so clearly and so powerfully the Word of God, and unmistakably so to any child of God, the apocrypha is equally and manifestly not scripture. Just as no true Christian would ever be likely to mistake the Book of Mormon for scripture, so no genuine believer would ever be likely to read the apocrypha and come away feeling as if he/she had been reading God's Word.

The only reason this debate ever came up was that some of these writings came to be attached to some of the early codices – not systematically but occasionally. They were included by well-meaning people who felt that, for example, the books of the Maccabees might provide valuable historical information for the time between the Testaments. I am confident in asserting that the people who attached these works did not do so with the idea that they were scripture or with any expectation that some in later generations would assume that they were. To use a modern example, this would be like a large study Bible including a number of appendices with, say, some excerpts from Flavius Josephus or Maimonides, then, centuries after the fact, someone finding this study Bible and assuming that the illustrative appendices were part of scripture.

So to answer your question directly, the apocrypha never "lost its inspiration" – it was never inspired in the first place: no one in antiquity believed that it was inspired, no serious person in the history of the early church believed that it was inspired, and any discerning Christian today can see that plainly enough for him/herself simply by comparing it to the Bible that it is not inspired. The Holy Spirit is the Arbiter of what is canon and what is not (not human beings), and through the ministry of the Spirit we can certainly separate the wheat from the chaff (of which the apocrypha is the latter).

Yours in Jesus Christ who is the Word of God,

Bob Luginbill

Question #16: 

I appreciate your explanation very much, it gives me a lot clearer picture of what actually happened, but there is still one troubling question! The Greek version of the then cannon known also as the "Septuagint/LXX" was translated approximately 400 BCE, within that four hundred year period and beyond Greek became the main language, I think it would be reasonable to think that when Jesus read from the scroll of Isaiah it would have been part of the Septuagint collection, especially because there was not a Hebrew cannon in effect at that time, the Hebrew cannon was in its early preparation stage and only contained Genesis to Deuteronomy and Joshua, it was only completed approximately 200 CE, Now! if that is actually the case, then the only available collection of scripture to the Greek speaking church would have been the Septuagint collection, which included the Apocryphal scrolls, which would have bin the same collection that the Bereans searched, and it also would be reasonable to think this is the same collection that Paul was referring to in 2 Tim 3:16 etc, I am very aware that just because something makes sense or sounds logical or reasonable, does not makes it the truth.

I would really like to have this matter settled in my mind, so I could answer with confidence when I am asked again as I am a church elder.

Response #16: 

Good to hear from you again. As to your further question, I'm afraid the story is somewhat more complicated than this. It is certainly not the case that a "Greek canon" for the Old Testament preceded a "Hebrew canon". We do have indications from Jewish writings and from compilations of Jewish scriptures so as to be able to say with authority that the Apocrypha was not part of the Old Testament canon in the Hebrew scriptures. It is never included in any compilation and today for the most part only exists through preservation in later Greek manuscripts.

It is important to understand, moreover, that the canon is the canon. All human beings are able to do is to recognize what God has done. Either a book is divinely inspire by God or it is not. Historical human councils (like the council of Jamnia – the hypothetical Jewish "council" to which you seem to be referring – most scholars would place it in the first century before the destruction of the second temple) can only give their own opinion. As suggested in the earlier email, there is a variety of evidence for what the earlier Church thought about these things in terms of the New Testament (and also from Hebrew sources about the Old), but any Christian should be able to apply the true litmus test for him/herself: merely by reading the documents it is very clear what is inspired and what is not.

The LXX began to be composed in the 3rd century (not the 4th or 5th), and it was not until the late second century B.C. that we find all the books of the Old Testament translated into Greek. That is to say, "the Septuagint" is really a later idea: it was not composed all at once or by the same translators or in the same place (as anyone who has read it in Greek can easily see: the styles of the various books are quite different). In fact, "the Septuagint" originally referred to the Torah only, and it was this collection of five books that was both completed first and gained some notoriety as a "collection". Still, there is no evidence that even these five "books" were always bound together – and it is simply not the case that there was anything like a "collection" that was "standard" and which contained any not to say all of the Apocrypha however defined.

Many of the works of what we now call the Apocrypha are found attached to 3-8th century Greek codices, and it is important to understand that unlike the canonical books which are with few exceptions the same in all of these codices, there is little rhyme or reason to what apocryphal books are included by each individual codex – some even have widely varying versions of the same book (i.e., "Tobit I and II" in Vaticanus and Sinaiticus respectively). The only way this state of affairs could come to pass is if there was no agreement as to "canonicity" when it comes to these apocryphal books. The only reason there is now a recognized list of what is the Apocrypha is that St. Jerome – much to his displeasure as he records – included many of the more popular of these pseudigraphical works in his Vulgate. That is the reason that Tobit, for example is "in" the Apocrypha, but the book of Enoch is "out" – neither is part of the Bible, however.

So when the Bereans "searched the scriptures", we can only speculate about what scrolls they had. They may have had most of the Old Testament on several dozen scrolls or they may only have had some of the Torah, some key prophetical books, Psalms etc. It is possible that some of them had some of the apocryphal literature, but the fact that they may have searched Greek scriptures does not necessitate this for the reasons described above. Also, of course, Paul went into "the synagogue of the Jews" at Berea, so it is entirely possible that the scriptures referred to were at least partially in Hebrew.

We can say, however, that when Acts 17:11 says that the Bereans were "searching the scriptures to see if these things were true" that they were not consulting the Apocrypha. First, the Jewish communities of that day did not deem these works canonical, so that neither they nor Luke who is writing the book would have used the word "scriptures" for the apocryphal books. Second, and very important to note, the reason given for their careful attention to scripture was "to see if these things were so", that is, to check on Paul's citations of the Bible which he had been using to prove that Jesus was the Messiah. That means they would be checking out Psalm 22, Isaiah 53, Deuteronomy 18, etc., that is, various and sundry passages which prophesy that "the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected" (Mk.8:31) – and nothing in the Apocrypha is the least bit concerned with Jesus Christ. Therefore, even if the Bereans did have some or even all of these documents (and defining precisely what "all" would have meant before Jerome is no easy matter since there are dozens of other such pseudepigraphical writings), they would not have considered them scripture, nor would they have had any motivation to look at them to check on Paul even if they did (for he didn't quote these works as he didn't consider them scripture and would find nothing helpful in them to quote even if he had). For these reasons, the experience of the Bereans is of no moment to the Apocrypha one way or the other.

So when in 2nd Timothy 3:16 Paul says that "all scripture is profitable", he means "all the divinely inspired books of the Bible". If that included the Apocrypha in his thinking, it is odd that he never quotes from a single one its books (even though he finds opportunity to quote occasionally from secular Greek writers, Aratus [Acts 17:28] and Menander [Titus 1:12]).

For more on these issues, please see these links:

The so-called "Q" Hypothesis of the composition of the gospels.

Issues of Canonicity: The Apocrypha, the Book of Enoch, and Divine Inspiration.

The Gospel of Judas, and Issues of Canonicity

The Gospel of Thomas

The Author of Hebrews

The Canonicity of the book of Hebrews

The so-called "Documentary Hypothesis"

The Relationship between the Books of Kings and Chronicles

More on the Documentary Hypothesis

The Canon (from "Read Your Bible")

Jesus' use of "I AM" from Exodus 3:14 in John 8:58 (for LXX quotes)

The Book of Enoch is a Forgery

The Canon and the Roman Catholic Tradition

Literacy and the Canon

Two Timothys two Pauls?

Hope this helps!

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #17: 

Dear Professor,

I'm writing to you with another set of questions.

1. Should John 8:1-11 be a part of the Scripture? I have always taken for granted it should and it's a passage often used in the R.C. church, but I read on your website that its origins are questionable.

Response #17: 

Good to hear from you, and thank you for your questions.

1) No, it is not a part of scripture. It is absent from the texts of all of the most ancient witnesses (something that can be said of very few interpolations). The passage is completely inconsistent with true Christian doctrine, so it is no wonder that it is a favorite and often quoted by those who have a warped view of scripture (the other most famous passage in this category is "Father forgive them for they know not what they do"). Whenever I hear either of these passages being quoted, I know that what follows will be wrong too. Please see the link: "Interpolations in the New Testament".

Question #18: 

2. I wanted to ask about the book of Ezra - it seems I haven't got it in my Polish translation. Is there any particular reason why it may not have been included by R.C. Bible (I may be wrong, but I'm quite positive it's not there). I have got Esdras, second book of whom you've included on the list of apocrypha (some consider the first one apocryphal too - could you please clarify this as well?).

Response #18: 

2) In the Septuagint version and in some Latin and Slavonic versions, Ezra-Nehemiah is called "1st Esdras". In such systems, it is 2nd Esdras which is the apocryphal book. However, in some systems the two are reversed (sometimes in such cases they are called "A" and "B" respectively. The one which begins "Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia" (or equivalent) is the canonical book.

Question #19: 

3. Could you please explain the phenomenon of prophetic foreshortening?

Response #19: 

3) Looking forward to a series of mountain ranges, all the mountains seem to form one mass; looking at these mountain ranges from the side-long perspective, we see the distinction between the different ranges. Looking forward to the entire eschatological future from the Old Testament perspective, the distinction between the two advents and the separating space of the Church Age was not entirely clear; for that reason Old Testament prophecy often moves freely from one advent to the other, summing up all of future events in one unified prophetic view (rather than clearly distinguishing future events as we are now able to do between the First Advent, the Church Age, the Tribulation, the Second Advent, the Millennium and the Eternal State).

As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look.
1st Peter 1:10-12 NASB

Question #20: 

4. In part one of the 'Basics series' you write that there is any inferiority or disparity of status, activity or substance between the members of the Trinity (as would inevitably be the case in any human association). Some Christian scholars state that Jesus is not equal in authority with God the Father, using, among others, John 14:28 as evidence for this claim. In Matthew 28:19 says that the 'authority' has been given to him, doesn't that imply that someone must have granted this authority and hence has a greater status? Some also say that although the nature of Jesus is divine, there is some ranking within the Trinity itself (for example Matt 24:36 - The Father knowing something the Son doesn't). Jesus crying out in Matt 27:46 can also make some doubt the unity of the Trinity. This is a very important question, as Jesus' equality with The Father is attacked not only by Muslims, but even a lot of Christians.

Response #20: 

4) The traditional understanding of the Trinity as "three in person, one in essence" presupposes the corollary of equal persons. Equality of Persons in the Trinity does not preclude the Trinity from taking on the roles they have individually adopted. The Father is not the Son; the Son is not the Spirit; the Spirit is not the Father; etc. Each member has adopted a particular role in the process of history and each member's title reflects that role. When Jesus says "I and the Father are one" (Jn.10:30), He does not mean that they are the same Person; He does mean that they have the precise same essence, the precise same attitude/thinking, the precise same purpose towards everything that ever has or ever will happen (cf. 1Cor.3:8) – it's called the Plan of God. Thus, all statements which point to Jesus' subordination relate to His voluntary acceptance of the role of the suffering Servant, taking on true humanity and dying for our sins without which sacrifice we could not be saved. As to Matthew 28:19, Jesus "receives authority" in His humanity (His deity is authoritative by definition). As to Matthew 24:36, Jesus is speaking from His humanity to a human audience; in His divinity it would be impossible for Him not to know everything (He is omniscient), else He would not be divine. That is really the departure point for all such discussions. If Jesus is God (and He is), He must be coequal and coeternal with the Father and the Spirit. Therefore all attempts to make Him somehow less of necessity make Him less than divine. The answer to all such "apparent problems" has to do with the true humanity He voluntarily took on to fulfill the Plan of God – without which sacrifice there would have and could have been no creation of the universe in the first place (see the link in BB 4A: "The Hypostatic Union and Kenosis"):

YOU HAVE PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET." For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him. But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.
Hebrews 2:8-9 NASB

Question #21: 

5. How should we understand Exodus 20:4: 4 "You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. Does this mean that all paintings and drawings are banned? Or does its meaning should linked with the next verse, which would mean that no representation of what's divine is allowed?

Response #21:

5) Art is not prohibited by the second commandment. The first three commandments are designed to help us guard against thinking, acting, or speaking about the Lord in an improper way (#1, #2, and #3 respectively). The second commandment prohibits the making of idols which take the form listed in Exodus 20:4 (not images of such things altogether – the second half of the verse is meant to explain the first: "an idol, namely, any likeness ..." is a better way to translate). It is certainly true that all cultural expression is by definition worldly and contains some skewing of the truth – and so should be indulged in by Christians with care if at all – but such activity is not prohibited by the second commandment.

Question #22: 

6. I cannot the following sentence from the first Basics study: From the coats of skin that God provides for Adam and Eve to indicate that One will die in their place. How do these coats indicate the One will die in their place?

Response #22:

6) The coats of skin made by God for Adam and Eve at Genesis 3:21 stand in direct contrast to the clothes made of leaves by Adam and Eve themselves. Cain offered vegetables, but there was no blood shed in so doing so that his sacrifice was not accepted; Able offered animals whose blood is symbolic of Jesus' death for us all – and so he "still testifies though dead" (Heb.11:4; cf. Heb.12:24). The "fig leaves" sewn by Adam and Eve represent Man's efforts to try and save himself; these are ever insufficient in the eyes of righteous God and an odious offense to Him (only Christ's sacrifice produces the sweet savor He finds acceptable). The "coats of skin" represent God's efforts in providing salvation to Man by His own Hand and at His own cost: only through the shedding of blood is there remission of sin. Since throughout Old Testament history the sacrifice of animals and the shedding of their blood is just such a symbol of atonement through symbolizing a sacrifice presented by God Himself, the conclusion that this provision by God to the first man and woman just after their fall of skins (which necessitated the slaughter of living animals) is a message of salvation by accepting from God something we could not provide for ourselves is correct. This is traditionally termed the protoevangelium (i.e., the "first giving of the gospel").

Question #23: 

7. Could you please clarify the following you wrote: d) Dignity of the Father: The fact that the angelic rebellion led by Satan precedes the creation of man (Job 38:7; Is.14:12-15; Ezek.28:12-19) explains much about the Father's modus operandi of working through the One who will ultimately replace Satan as ruler of this world, His Son Jesus Christ (Lk.10:18; Jn.12:31; 16:11; 1Cor.15:24-25; Col.2:15; Rev.11:15). What modus operandi do you mean there - the fact that man was created after the angels that rebelled? Why was that the order?

With prayer and in Jesus,

Response #23:

7) Yes. I could perhaps have made this clearer. However, this is a long argument to make to everyone's satisfaction. It is not too much to say that the purpose of the entire Satanic Rebellion series is to answer and explain this question (and much of Basics 4B: Soteriology as well). God was well aware that a class of creatures possessing perfect knowledge would act somewhat differently in the exercise of their free-will than a class of creatures beset by many limitations. The former decide "once and for all"; the latter learn by trial and error – or better, we learn by error, then, in some cases, respond positively to God when He grants a means of recovery. The specific "method" is explained in the rest of the paragraph: God the Father oversees the plan of salvation, maintaining the principle of complete dignity, authority and righteous judgment, sending His Son to pay the price for those willing to repent, and winning the victory in the conflict which giving creatures free-will necessitated through the agency of His Son our Lord Jesus, who wins the Name above every Name thereby.

Best wishes in all of your studies in the Word of God!

In Jesus,

Bob L.

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