This online institute is designed to give a brief analysis and discussion of all scientific disciplines through the lens of a biblical world view. +++ SDG +++

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

SMBI #84

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
(Est. 2009) Lesson #84
Let’s continue our discussion of how we got the bible this month. Some early historical witnesses and early church witnesses. Irenaeus of Lyons is a man studied under Polycarp who was martyred in 155 AD, and it is traditionally held that Polycarp was a student of the Apostle John. So, Irenaeus was only one generation from the original writers of Scripture.  This makes him a very reliable witness.  Irenaeus is one of the earliest and greatest defenders of Scripture’s divine inspiration.  In his writings from around 180 AD, he quoted over 1000 scripture passages from all but 5 books of the New Testament. Irenaeus called them “the Scriptures” given by the Holy Spirit.  Similar claims of divine inspiration can be cited in the 3rd century by the early church fathers, Clement and Origin of Alexandria.  They too cite Scripture as a fixed number of writings with divine authorship. Origin is the first to mention all 27 books of the NT in 240 AD. Let’s look at one more church father—Athanasius of Alexandria. He too cites 27 NT books in 367 AD, and he wrote the following words: “These are the fountains of salvation, that whoever thirsts, may be satisfied by the eloquence which is in them.  In them alone is set forth the doctrine of piety. Let no one add to them nor take anything from them.” You may think these witnesses are biased and they probably were, but their bias does not invalidate their witness.  Their credibility is not historically in question, so their witness is of great value.

            We also have the Jewish historian Josephus who is accepted world-wide as one of history’s earliest historians.  He refers to sacred scriptures divided into three parts: the five books of the Torah; thirteen books of the Nevi'im, and four other books of hymns and wisdom. Since there are 24 books in the current Jewish canon instead of the 22 mentioned by Josephus, some scholars have suggested that he considered Ruth part of Judges, and Lamentations part of Jeremiah. “The Jewish Canon has only 24 books because of the combination of books like Kings & Chronicles their 24 contain the same information as our 39.  So let’s see what he had to say about our Old Testament.  In about 90 AD, Josephus wrote the following words: “for we have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from and contradicting one another [as the Greeks have] but only twenty-two books, which contain all the records of all the past times, and which are justly believed to be divine.” 

Till next month Pastor Portier                         

SMBI #83

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
(Est. 2009) Lesson #83

So let’s do a brief discussion of how we got what we today call the bible. Discussing what we know as the 66 books of the bible and how they came together in the first three centuries of Christianity. Much of this was covered way back in lessons 3 and 4 but it is appropriate to review that here as we addressed that over 7 years ago.

            First let’s look at the Old Testament (OT).  39 books written between 1446 BC to around 433 BC.  It constitutes the solid foundation upon which the New Testament stands, and points to Christ in its entirety.  All Hebrew scholarship is in agreement as to what constitutes the TANAK, The Torah or (Law); Genesis, through Deuteronomy, Neviim or (Prophets); Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the 12 minor prophets, The Kethubim (writings); Psalms Proverbs, Job, Ruth, Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, Ester, Daniel, Ezra & Nehemiah, Chronicles.  This Old Testament Canon has been accepted as the divine Word of God by His people for almost 2500 years.  And since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, we have copies of OT text that range in age from 2100 to 2300 years old with the exception of the book of Esther the oldest copy being just over 1000 years old. 

            Trinitarian Christianity and all of biblical scholarship find full agreement on the 27 books that constitute the New Testament, written between 45 and 95 AD.  The earliest list is the Muratorian Canon from 150 AD listing 24 books.  Origen of Alexandria listed all 27 in 240 AD, and by 397 AD Eusebius, Athanasius, and the Council of Carthage had all listed the 27 books we call the New Testament.

            Now you might ask: Why did it take them so long, some 150 to 300 years to identify these 27 books?  Well, that would be a very good question and here are some very good answers.
            - Over half of the NT is letters that were spread all over the Roman Empire, The Gospels were also spread throughout the early church.  These obviously took time to be brought together and for their authorship to be verified.
            - The “technology” of the day was not conducive to large collections of books: scrolls which can only hold one or two books.  Scrolls were replaced by what is called a Codex or “books with pages” and these did not start being produced until the second and third centuries.
            - The first century Christians probably did not see the need for a collection of books because they thought Christ’s return would be very soon, but “soon” for us and “soon” for our eternal God are very different.
            - Heretical writings existed, like the Gnostic gospels, and other “pseudepigraphalbooks—spurious writings falsely attributed to biblical characters or times.  These texts were written between 200 BC--200 AD and were easily identified by the early church as fraudulent because of their clear contradiction to the rest of the canon.  But excluding these fraudulent works also took time.

            Now many say that centuries of copying to replace old worn-out text would introduce many errors.  Well, let’s look at all the errors introduced into the book of Isaiah between the Dead Sea Scroll copy (from about 100 BC) and the earliest copy we had available (before the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered) known as Codex Leningradensis (1000 AD).  The differences between these two texts over that 1100 year period, can be described as changes in the style that a particular letter is written, changes in the way words are spelled, changes in the way sentences are constructed, changes in prefixes or suffixes.  It seems that over time as the language changed, but God’s word grew to communicate the same truth. So, while grammar and spelling have changed, God’s word has not. 

Till next month In Christ Pastor Portier