As you can easily see, from our last four devotions, the fallacious notion that the books of the Bible were handpicked by prejudiced church councils comprised of narrow-minded fundamentalists flies in the face of historical facts. Furthermore, the idea that today’s so-called “lost books of the Bible” are “sacred writings” unfairly excluded from the Scripture is also easily proven to be nothing more than plain balderdash.
Far from being equivalent to the books included within the sacred Scripture, these books were excluded because they are obviously profane rather than sacred. While there are a few exceptions, such as the books of the Apocrypha, these other “sacred writings” or “lost books of the Bible” are heretical documents written for the most part by Gnostic heretics. As we will prove over the next three of days, it doesn’t take “spiritual rocket science” to figure out that these heretical books are totally void of divine inspiration and undeserving of a place in the Bible.
All of the books of the New Testament were already in existence by the beginning of the second century AD. In addition, the four Gospels had already been placed in a collection called “The Gospels” and the Pauline Epistles had already been placed in a collection called “The Apostle.”
The first known list of all twenty-seven books of our New Testament appears in a letter by Athanasius, the Bishop of Alexandria, in 367 AD.
However, long before Athanasius’ letter, Polycarp, a young friend and follower of the Apostle John, quoted from the Gospels of Matthew and John, as well as from ten of Paul’s epistles.
Justin Martyr (150 AD), a contemporary of Polycarp, considered all the Gospels inspired and made mention of most of the books that makeup our present-day Bible.
Irenaeus, who lived around 170 AD, was a disciple of Polycarp who quoted from twenty-three of our New Testament’s twenty-seven books.
Finally, around 200 AD, Clement of Alexandria, recognized almost every book of our New Testament as canonical.
When it comes to the New Testament canon, the authors of the books of the New Testament understood that they were writing with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
- “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.’ (1 Corinthians 2:13)
- “But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God.” (1 Corinthians 7:40).
They also recognized each other’s books as canonical. For instance, the Apostle Peter recognized the writings of the Apostle Paul as divinely inspired Scripture.
- “And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” (2 Peter 3:15-16)
Most of the Bible was judged canonical—divinely inspired—soon after it was written. In the Old Testament, the writings of Moses were placed in the Ark of the Covenant while Moses was still alive.
- “And it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book, until they were finished, That Moses commanded the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, saying, Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee.” (Deuteronomy 31:24-26).
The Prophet Daniel acknowledged the Book of Jeremiah as canonical (Daniel 9:2). The Prophet Ezekiel acknowledged the Book of Daniel as canonical (Ezekiel 28:3).
When it come to the Old Testament canon, it was authenticated by no less of an authority than Jesus Christ Himself. In Luke 24:44, Jesus explains to His disciples: “These [are] the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and [in] the prophets, and [in] the psalms, concerning me.”
Unlike today, in Jesus’ day, the Old Testament was divided into twenty-four books and three divisions. These divisions were: The Law, The Prophets, and The Psalms. Notice, Jesus declared the whole Old Testament canonical by referring to all three divisions!
THE COUNCIL OF JAMNIA AND THE SYNOD OF HIPPO
It is true that the canon of the Old Testament was formerly acknowledged by the Council of Jamnia, which was a gathering of Jewish rabbis following the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. It is also true that the canon of the New Testament was formerly acknowledged by the Synod of Hippo—an early church council convened in northern Africa in 393 AD. Yet, it is equally true, that neither the Jewish rabbis at the Council of Jamnia nor the church leaders at the Synod of Hippo determined the books to be included in the Old and New Testaments. Instead, they merely confirmed the books that had been commonly accepted as divinely inspired for centuries.
Thanks to things like Dan Brown’s New York Times record-breaking bestselling book, The Da Vinci Code, and the National Geographic’s discovery of the Gospel of Judas, many people today have been deceived into believing that the books of the Bible were handpicked by prejudiced church councils. According to these conspiracy theorists, who have bought into Brown’s fiction passed off as fact and the National Geographic’s looney attempt to peddle the Gospel of Judas as a “lost book of the Bible,” these cherry-picking church councils gutted the Christian faith of its original diversity and restricted it to a narrow-minded fundamentalism. By doing so they also unjustly excluded from the biblical canon many other “sacred
These popular conspiracy theories—theories obviously designed by enemies of the Christian faith to undermine the credibility of the Bible—have one big fatal flaw. They have no basis in fact. They are pure fabrication, without one iota of historical evidence to corroborate them. For instance, as we will prove in the days ahead, the books of the Bible were never determined by any church council.
When it comes to the biblical canon, many other books were written besides those that comprise our Bible. However, they all failed to measure up as divinely inspired for one reason or another. Consequently, they were excluded from the Bible, being easily differentiated from the books that were divinely inspired.
Of all of the non-canonical books, the best known are found in the Apocrypha. The Apocrypha is a collection of books written during the four hundred years between the Old and New Testaments. These books were excluded from the canon of Scripture because there was no succession of prophets during this period, a period which began with the conclusion of Malachi’s ministry and ended with the voice of John the Baptist crying out in the wilderness.
Although the Apocrypha certainly has some historical value, filling in the gap between the Old and New Testaments, it was written after the cessation of Old Testament prophecy and prior to the breaking of prophetic silence in the New Testament by the preaching of John the Baptist. It is also noteworthy to point out that in the New Testament, where our Lord and His apostle often cite the books of the Old Testament, they never once cite a single book in the Apocrypha.
The Roman Catholic Church officially canonized the Apocrypha in 1546 AD at the Council of Trent, which explains its inclusion in the Roman Catholic Bible. However, the reason it did so was because the Apocrypha contains material that supports some of the false doctrines of Roman Catholicism, such as purgatory, praying for the dead, and the treasury of merit. Of course, this actually serves as another excellent reason why the Apocrypha should be excluded from the canon of Scripture, namely, its contradictory teaching to the rest of Scripture.
Everyone, whether they know it or not, has a spiritual authority; that is, something upon which they base their beliefs and behavior. It may be a man-made religion, a human philosophy, or a political ideology. It may be themselves or someone else. Still, everyone has a spiritual authority, something or someone by which they determine what they should believe and how they should behave.
How do you decide what is right and wrong? How do you decide what is true and false? How do you decide what you should and shouldn’t do? If it’s a simple matter of personal opinion, then, you are your own spiritual authority. You have also committed the same offense against God that Adam and Eve committed in the Garden of Eden, which resulted in the fall of man. You have usurped the place of God in your life by making yourself rather than God the final arbiter of what is good and evil.
If you are a Christian, then, your spiritual authority should be the Bible. The books of the Bible, the canonical books—those that have measured up as divinely inspired—should be your sole authority for faith and practice. You should believe biblical doctrine and behave according to biblical dictates. For you, what is right, is what the Bible says is right. What is wrong, is what the Bible says is wrong. What is true, is what the Bible says is true. What is false, is what the Bible says is false. What you should do, is what the Bible says you should do. What you should not do, is what the Bible says you should not do. It is really that simple for Christians, who have been called “the people of the Book.”
With today’s devotion we will take up the very important subject of the biblical canon. The books that makeup our Bible are called the “cannon of Scripture.” The word “canon” comes from a Greek word that was used to signify a “measuring rod” or “standard.” Therefore, the “canonical books,” the books that make up our Bible, are simply those that have “measured up” as divinely inspired. It is these books alone that are to serve as the Christian’s standard for faith and practice.
As we’ve clearly shown over the last three days, with our devotions on textual variants, caused by two common scribal mistakes, the Exemplar and Harmonization, the differences in ancient copies of the Scripture are trivial. They are small and unimportant mistakes that in no way effect the true meaning of Scripture. In addition, these mistakes are easily detected and corrected when comparing the thousands of ancient manuscripts with one another.
In light of all of this, we can be assured today that the Bible we hold in our hand retains the true meaning of the Scriptures in their original manuscripts. God has truly and miraculously preserved His Word to our present-day!