Pastor Jordan's Presentation
How was the bible written? (Understanding Canon)
Many people criticize the Bible for being a story book, it is written as fiction and how can we believe such a thing?
Not only is the Bible infallible, perfect and God’s Inherent, authoritative word but it also holds no contradictions and can be fully trusted.
Well, if it is fiction written by one person or “few” people then it is the most impressive piece of fiction ever put together. 40 authors penned the bible over a period of 1000+ years (1000 years for the OT and around 70 years for the NT). Mark is believed to have the source of Peter’s testimony, Luke traveled with the apostles and penned down eye-witness testimony of Jesus’ ministry, Matthew wrote Matthew and John wrote John–this means that these contain eye-witness primary sources of Jesus and the early church (church fathers) called these books Apolostolic. The NT Canon’s validity comes from being Apolostolic, Jude is believed to be Apolstolic and may have been a teacher during the church of Acts. These were written and put together 60-90 years after Jesus’ life and ministry.
“If God Inspired Any Books out there then there is a Canon of inspired books out there, whether we have them or not. Then the question is ‘Do we have the right one?’” – Mike Winger
Canon 1: Man’s list of writings
Canon 2: God’s authoritative writings (James White)
We have to understand that the bible started with the Torah, the books of law or the first five books of our current biblical canon (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy). The main way of passing tradition or text down to one another was through an oral tradition. In theological, scholarly circles it is now consensus that Moses was the writer of these five books, Moses took oral tradition and wrote it down.
The bible has over 58000 secondary manuscripts that have been found in the Common Greek (Koine Greek), 10,000 Latin Manuscripts, and 9,000 “other” manuscripts, totalling 24,000 manuscripts in total (The most for any ancient document.)
The bible (66 books) was written over a thousand year span by many different authors all telling ONE STORY. The story of God saving, redeeming a sinful world through sending Jesus to die on the cross, rise again and save humanity from their own sin.
God’s community has always viewed these writings to have complete authority in their lives. The Scriptures have INHERENT authority from God. (Whether you recognize or not the scriptures have this otherworldly authority) However, The catholic church believes that the scripture has authority because the church has given it authority–its the authority of the church versus an INHERENT authority from God. The right view of the bible is that it is INHERENTLY from God. This would align with the early church, and early church fathers.
(*Brendan’s Note: I would say instead that the books are authoritative because they are God’s words to his church and the early church officially recognized this authority. This does not mean that the Bible derived its authority from the church. This only means that the early church officially recognized which books are legitimately scripture to ward off apocryphal and pseudepigraphical writings.)
Hebrew scriptures today (OT) contain 39 books just as our christian bible does today, meaning Jesus, Paul and the apostles affirmed and used the 39 book OT canon. This gives us trust knowing that our early church fathers (and the person whom we worship) affirmed the complete 39 book canon (OT). 40+ Authors wrote the OT and there is a thousand year period from Genesis (Moses) to Malachi. The New Testament was written over a 70 year span (much shorter period compared to the OT).
The Bible is consistent–it tells one consistent story containing historical events which all prophecy about Jesus and fulfill the prophecy of Jesus. (Genesis 3, Genesis 5, the whole book of Isaiah, 1 Samuel 1&2 is a parallel to the messiah being born, Joel 3 is a fulfilled prophecy of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, Isaiah 9:1-7 directly compares to the new end times prophecy given to the church in Thessalonica in 1 Thess. 5). These books and writings are separated by different authors, different geographical locations
The Didache 100AD (means teachings) this was a collection of the early apostles’ teachings for the early christian church. This compilation plainly calls out Matthew as scripture. It is written or compiled (10 years before Ignatius’ death) confirming that the Apolstolic writings in these books are scripture. Scripture is an important word rather than using the word “written” or “Important”. This word “Scripture” implies that this gospel is the written law, it is commanded and must be adhered to. The Didache makes a similar parallel to the Deutoronomy curse in Deut. 27 and 28 when talking about “changing the written law or not following the written law.” This means that the compilers of The Didache (and later Ignatious who will call these early writings “scripture”) were affirming these early writings as God’s infallible word. This compilation of teachings and collection would have been put together a generation after the apostles’ lives (early early church) It is consensus among scholars that John would have been still alive during the time of the Didache.
The “Gospel of Thomas” was never accepted by the church because of its pseudepigraphal nature and because the core teaching contained a heresy called gnosticsm. This is important to note: Some criticize christianity and say that this time period of the early church INVENTED Jesus (or they were still deciding who Jesus was). This is not true. The early church was compiling and writing PRIMARY sourced gospels and scripture to defend Jesus and what the true gospel is. This is even happening before councils were formed to continue affirming the NT and defending the true nature of Jesus. The church was not inventing Jesus–they were defending Jesus.
The Bible and Contradictions
Many atheists and skeptics will say that the Bible cannot be trusted because of its many contradictions.
It may seem that the bible disagrees with itself and that God changes throughout the bible but we have to be careful not to put our modern bias and expectations onto the scripture when studying it.
Two major perceived “contradictions” in the Gospels.
The temptation of Christ in Matthew 4:8 and Luke 4:9 have Jesus going through his final temptation in two different places. The Matthew account has Jesus standing on a mountain, and in Luke Jesus is standing on a high temple. So does this mean that both gospels are lying? Which one is correct? Remember that the gospels have different theological emphasis. Matthew emphasizes the mountain motif and Luke emphasizes the significance of the temple in His gospel. Both gospels show the authority that Christs have over the world and that He does not give into Satan with this temptation. (Car and Van Analogy)
There seems to be two different lineages of Jesus when looking at Matthew 1:1-16 and Luke 3:23-38 this must mean that someone is lying and that humans are just making this up about Christ? Eusebius was a church historian from the 300 that pondered this question and researched these two different lineages. He favored the views of a man named Julius Africanus who was born in 160AD (roughly) and He cited material and people that had traveled to Israel and knew the descendants of Jesus’ half brothers and sisters. Africanus says in his writings that the difference in the lineages is simple: In Joseph’s lineage there was a levirate marriage (if a brother died the other brother would marry the widow but the offspring would be considered the offspring of his brother) SO this actually points to the difference. One lineage is a legal lineage and the other lineage is a biological lineage. Here is the truth that doesn’t change regardless of this difference: Both lineages teach us that Jesus is a descendant of Abraham and they both uphold the Davidic line of Jesus coming through the many people in the OT.
Here is a famous contradiction from the OT
#1 Does God Change?
No– Malachi 3:6 (NASB) “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.”
Yes – Exodus 32:14 (NASB95) So the Lord changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people.
One must ask “What did Malachi mean by “change”.
-God’s good character is unchanging so He is reliable
-God does respond to our repentance (thankfully) In Ex. 32:14 God is responding and reacting to repentance.
This doesn’t show us that God is always changing in His characteristics and who He is–God is reacting to His people, He is in a relationship with His people. God’s changing of mind here doesn’t change His sovereignty, His perfect nature, His holiness etc. God hasn’t changed His characteristics here–He is rather reacting.
One Last Contradiction:
Saved By Our Faith in Christ: Ephesians 2:4 – But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead [f]in our transgressions, made us alive together [g]with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
Saved by Our Works in Christ: James 2: 14-17 & 24
4 What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can [n]that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, [o]be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is [p]dead, being by itself…You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.”
So which one is it? Is James refuting Paul outright here thus creating a major contradiction based around Salvation in God’s Holy Word?
No. James is merely correcting a poor teaching and reception of Paul’s theology of both Salvation and of how the church is supposed to worship and live as saved people.
Let’s read Galatians 5:6
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.
James is actually reiterating what Paul’s basis of salvation theology truly is: We are saved by our Faith in Christ alone. But James is questioning his audience by saying “Are you saved? Because you are not acting through love, you are not obeying Christ (IN James 1 He talks about words and being slow to anger) James is trying to teach his audience that if we are saved by our Faith in Jesus Christ it will produce works in our lives in line with both Jesus (Love God, Love Your Neighbour heart, soul, mind, and strength). And what Paul is saying is “But faith working through love”.
I have been in two Atheists forums and have watched 15-20 Contradiction videos by atheists or skeptics and they merely just present the “contradictions” they rarely (if ever) explain what they mean. They say “look! These two verses explain the same idea in different ways or that may look different therefore the Bible is made up, false, not inspired by God and a lie.” It is a lazy argument rather than studying, compiling data (that is sourced through journals and scholarly sources) and looking into these “contradictions.” Other theologians also apply poor theology when saying that the bible has errors.
Video: “How did we get the bible?” Southern Seminary, Dr. Robert Plummer.
Video: “Are there contradictions and errors in the Bible?” Southern Seminary, Dr. Robert Plummer
Journal + Video: “Biggest Bible Contradictions: Evidence for the Bible” Pastor Mike Winger.
Understanding Scripture: An Overview of the Bible’s Origin, Reliability and Meaning, Wayne Grudem, John C. Collins, Thomas R. Schriener
Brendan Olenick's Presentation
The question concerning how it was decided which books would become part of the Bible is the question of canonicity. A discerning person would want to know why some books were included in the canon while others were excluded.
The basic factor for recognizing a book’s canonicity for the New Testament was divine inspiration, and the chief test for this was apostolicity. The church was built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, whom Christ had promised to guide into ‘all the truth’ by the Holy Spirit. The church at Jerusalem was said to have continued in the apostles’ teaching. The term apostolic as used for the test of canonicity does not necessarily mean ‘apostolic authorship’ or that which was prepared under the direction of the apostles. but that it is apostolic authority, or apostolic approval, that was the primary test for canonicity, and not merely apostolic authorship.
Note that the apostolic authority "which speaks forth in the New Testament is never detached from the authority of the Lord. In the Epistles there is consistent recognition that in the church there is only one absolute authority, the authority of the Lord himself. Wherever the apostles speak with authority, they do so as exercising the Lord's authority. Thus, for example, where Paul defends his authority as an apostle, he bases his claim solely and directly upon his commission by the Lord.
The New Testament Canonical Books
Reasons For Their Collection
1) They Were Prophetic
"The initial reason for collecting and preserving the inspired books was that they were
prophetic. That is, since they were written by an apostle or prophet of God, they must be valuable, and if valuable, they should be preserved. This reasoning is apparent in apostolic times, by the collection and circulation of Paul's epistles.
2) The Needs of the Early Church
The churches needed to know which books should be read, revered, and applied to their varied and often precarious situations in a generally hostile social and religious environment. They had many problems to address, and they needed assurance regarding which books would serve as their source of authority.
3) The Rise of Heretics As early as A.D. 140, the heretic Marcion developed his own incomplete canon and began to propagate it. The church needed to counter his influence by collecting all the books of New Testament Scripture.
4) The Circulation of Spurious Writings
Many Eastern churches used books in services that were definitely counterfeit. This
called for a decision concerning the canon.
"Christianity had spread rapidly to other countries, and there was the need to translate the Bible into those other languages. As early as the first half of the second century the Bible was translated into Syriac and Old Latin. But because the missionaries could not translate a Bible that did not exist, attention was necessarily drawn to the question of which books really belonged to the authoritative Christian canon."
The edict of Diocletian (A.D. 303) called for the destruction of the sacred books of the
Christians. Who would die for a book that was perhaps religious, but not sacred? Christians needed to know which books were truly sacred.
The Canon Recognized
1. Athanasius of Alexandria
Athanasius (A.D. 367) gave us our earliest list of New Testament books that is exactly like our present New Testament. He provided this list in a letter to the churches. As he put it: "Again it is not tedious to speak of the books of the New Testament. These are… (he proceeds to list them all)
2. Jerome and Augustine
Shortly after Athanasius circulated his list, Jerome and Augustine followed suit, defining the New Testament canon of twenty-seven books.
3. Polycarp and His Contemporaries
Polycarp (A.D. 115), Clement of Alexandria (about A.D. 200), and other early church
fathers refer to the Old and New Testament books with the phrase "as it is said in these
4. Church Councils
"when at last a Church Council- The Synod of Hippo in A.D.393- listed the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, it did not confer upon them all authority which they did not already possess, but simply recorded their previously established canonicity. (The ruling of The Synod of Hippo was re-promulgated a few years later by the Third Synod of Carthage. Since this time there has been no serious questioning of the twenty-seven accepted books of the New Testament by Roman Catholics, Protestants, or the Eastern Orthodox Church.
The 4 Big Questions: (Were they present? Were they corroborated/authenticated/verified? Were they accurate? Were they biased?)
1) WERE THEY PRESENT?
There are many pieces of evidence that form a pretty compelling case for the early dating of the Gospels. There are several good reasons to believe that the gospel writers are standing close to Jesus on the timeline. It’s easy to come to believe that the Gospels were written early enough in history to be taken seriously as eyewitness accounts. Here’s some evidence of that:
1. The New Testament fails to describe the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in AD 70, just as Jesus had predicted in the Gospels in Matthew 24. You would think this would be an important detail to be included in the New Testament, especially if it would prove Jesus’s prediction. Which must mean it hadn’t happened yet.
2. The New Testament fails to describe the 3-year siege of Jerusalem, culminating in the temple’s destruction. Yet no aspect of it is described, in spite of it being a powerful point of suffering for the writers to have pointed to. It must not have happened yet.
3. Luke said nothing about the deaths of Paul and Peter, who were both martyred in Rome in AD 64 & 65, respectively. Luke wrote extensively about them in the book of Acts, but said nothing about their deaths. In fact, Paul was still alive, but under house arrest in Rome, at the end of the book of Acts.
4. Luke said nothing about the death of James, another important figure of history. James was martyred in the city of Jerusalem in AD 62, but his execution is absent from the biblical accounts.
5. Luke’s gospel predates the book of Acts, because he tells us so in Acts 1:1-2.
6. Paul quoted Luke’s gospel in his letter to Timothy. So he appeared to already be aware of Luke’s gospel and wrote as though it was common knowledge in about AD 63 or 64.
7. Paul echoed the claims of the gospel writers. In 1 Corinthians (written from AD 53-57), Paul summarized the Gospel message and reinforced the fact that the apostles described the eyewitness accounts TO him. In his letter to the Galatians (also written in the mid-50s), Paul described his interaction with the apostles Peter and James and said their meeting occurred at least fourteen years prior to the writing of his letter. (Gal. 2:1) This means that Paul saw the risen Christ and learned about the gospel accounts from the eyewitnesses (Peter and James) within five years of the crucifixion. He then visited them within three years of his conversion. This is why Paul was able to tell the Corinthians that there were still “more than five hundred brethren” who could confirm the resurrection accounts (1 Cor. 5:6). That’s a gutsy claim to make in the mid-50s, when his readers could easily have accepted his challenge and called him out as a liar if his claim were untrue.
8. Paul quoted Luke’s gospel in his letter to the Corinthians. In 1 Cor 11, Paul appears to be quoting Luke’s gospel, so this account must have been circulating for a period of time prior to Paul’s letter.
9. Luke quoted Mark and Matthew repeatedly. Luke, when writing his own gospel, readily admitted that he was not an eyewitness to the life and ministry of Jesus. Instead, Luke described himself as a historian, collecting the statements from the eyewitnesses who were present at the time. So it’s reasonable to conclude that at least Mark’s account and probably Matthew’s were already recognized, accepted, and available to Luke prior to his authorship of his gospel.
10. Mark’s gospel appears to be an early eyewitness account; one that is brief and focused on the essential elements. This is likely because of the urgency of the moment, to get the essentials out. Although Mark’s gospel contains the important details of Jesus’ life and ministry, it is brief and less ordered. This is what me might expect, if it was, in fact, an early account of Jesus’ ministry, written with a sense of urgency. Probably because for all Mark knew, Jesus would be returning soon, before there would be any need to write an ordered biography of sorts. But as the years passed and the eyewitnesses aged, others like Matthew made a more deliberate effort to place the narrative in the correct order. So Matthew and Luke are more concerned about the “final report”.
11. An interesting note, careful readers of Mark’s gospel have observed that there are a number of unidentified people described in his account. A couple of whom get named in the repeated stories in the gospel of John. This makes sense if Mark was trying to protect their identities. If Mark wrote his gospel very early on, while people like Peter, Mary sister of Martha, and Lazarus were still alive, it is reasonable that Mark might have wanted to leave them unnamed. So John, written much later, had the liberty to identify these important people; because they were either dead now or were no longer in harm’s way.
Given these eleven pieces of evidence, what reasonable inference can be drawn about the dating of the Gospels?
Now, the 2nd Big Question:
WERE THEY CORROBORATED?
1. The Gospel writers provided unintentional eyewitness support
True and reliable eyewitness accounts are never completely parallel and identical. Instead, they are different pieces of the same puzzle, unintentionally supporting and complementing each other to provide all the details related to what really happened.
When you read through the Gospels, comparing those places where two or more gospel writers were describing the same event, you are struck by the inadvertent support that each writer provided for the other. The accounts puzzled together just the way one would expect from independent eyewitnesses. When one gospel eyewitness described an event and left out a detail that raised a question, this question was unintentionally answered by another gospel writer (who often left out a detail that was provided by the first gospel writer). This interdependence between the accounts could be explained in one of two possible ways. They either worked together, writing everything all at precisely the same time and location, to craft a clever lie so subtle that very few people would even notice. Or, the second possibility is that the Gospels were written by different eyewitnesses who witnessed the event and included these unplanned supporting details; they were simply describing something that actually happened.
2. The Gospel writers referenced names correctly. The manner in which the gospel writers described details and the approach they took when they referred to people using the names and descriptors we would expect in first-century Palestine) are consistent with corroborating their testimonies.
3. Even non-biblical eyewitnesses corroborated the Gospels. These writers who were hostile to Christianity or at least denied that Jesus was who He said He was, wrote in history and help us reconstruct the picture they offer of Jesus. Historian Josephus (AD 37-circa 100) described Jesus, Samaritan historian Thallus (AD 5-60) described Jesus, one of the most trusted ancient historians and Senator under Emperor Vespasian, Tacitus (AD 56-117) described Jesus, Syrian philosopher Mar Bar-Serapion (AD 70-unknown) described Jesus,
4. Archaeology continues to corroborate the Gospels. The Pool of Bethesda written about in John 5 has been corroborated, The Pool of Siloam written about in John 9 has been corroborated, the existence of Pontius Pilate, the governor of Judea who authorized the crucifixion, was corroborated. A description of the Roman custom of crucifixion has been corroborated.
Many other gospel details have been corroborated by archaeology; such discoveries continue to validate the claims of the gospel writers from the “outside in”.
The 3rd Big Question
WERE THEY ACCURATE?
And by this, we need to know: What did they say, and how well was it preserved?
We need certainty in these two important areas of investigation.
First, we need to make sure we know what the Gospels said in the first place. Second, we need to know if there is a good reason to believe that these documents were preserved well over time.
One way to be certain about the content and nature of the early eyewitness statements is to examine the evidence related to the transmission of the New Testament. If we can examine, perhaps, what these first eyewitnesses and their immediate disciples said to their students, we can reasonably trace back the content of the Gospels and New Testament writings from their alleged date of creation to the earliest existing copies. The oldest, complete surviving copy of the New Testament that we have is called Codex Sinaiticus, it was discovered in Mount Sinai and scholars believe that it was produced sometime close to AD 350. So, the text of Codex Sinaiticus provides us with a picture of what the New Testament said in the mid fourth century, and scholars have used it to confirm the content of Bible translations for many years now. So basically, if we can link the chain of those first few centuries up to this fourth-century New Testament, we can confirm if it is indeed accurate. So here’s a few points:
1. Apostle John’s students confirmed the accuracy of the Gospels. Unlike the other apostles who died as martyrs, John lived to approximately 94 years old and died a natural death. John taught two important students and passed his gospel into their trusted hands.
a) John taught Ignatius of Antioch, b) John taught Polycarp who was known to have been converted to Christianity by the apostles themselves, c) Ignatius and Polycarp taught Irenaeus of Lyons, d) Irenaeus taught Hippolytus of Rome That brings us up to about AD 220, and Hippolytus had many important students of his own. So John’s students recorded this teaching and identified the sources for later generations. Long before the Codex Sinaiticus was first penned or the Council formalized the canon.
2. Paul’s students confirmed the accuracy of the Gospels. We can follow Paul’s influence through the early leadership in Rome and even to places as far away as Syria. a) Paul taught Linus and Clement of Rome during his last years in Rome under house arrest, awaiting trial. b) Linus and Clement established a lineage of bishops to pass the truth to, c) one of them, Pius 1 and Justin of Caesarea who became in important philosopher and contributor to the history of Christianity. Justin Martyr, as he came to be known as. d) Justin taught Tatian the Assyrian. This takes us to about AD 175. In any case, this sequence from Paul acknowledges that the eyewitness accounts existed, were treated as sacred scripture from a very early time, and were handed down with care from one generation to another.
3. Peter’s students confirmed the accuracy of the Gospels. a) Peter communicated through Mark, his eyewitnesses testimony in the Gospel of Mark. b) Mark established the church in Alexandria had at least five disciples of his own: Anianus, Avilius, Kedron, Primus, and Justus; these five men all eventually became bishops of Alexandria one after the other. c) Justus passed the truth to Pantaenus, an ex-Stoic philosopher who converted, d) Pantaeus taught Clement of Alexandria, e) Clement of Alexandria taught Origen, who prolifically wrote commentaries for nearly every book of the Bible. f) Pamphilus of Caesarea adopted Origen’s work and guarded and defended it; he then taught Eusebius of Caesarea, a became one of the most important church historians in the early 300’s. Eusebius takes us all the way to his death at AD 339.
All of that being said, how do we know if the other gospel details, not specifically mentioned by any of the students of the apostles?
Is there any good reason to believe that the primitive, first-century Christians would be willing and capable of such preservation?
Two final points:
1) The eyewitnesses were conscientious and protective. They understood the gravity and importance of their testimony. The apostles recognized their role in God’s plan was simply to tell others about their experiences with Jesus and their observations of His resurrection. It’s reasonable to expect that they would fact-check the content of their testimony as it was being told to others.
2) The copyists and scribes were meticulous. The apostles emerged from the ancient Jewish religious culture that was already well established at this point. It’s clear the Jews guarded Scripture with extreme care and precision, and that this likely carried on with the responsibility of copying and meticulously caring the sacred text.
Given the evidence that we have from the chains I described and what we know of the diligence of the first-century scripture copiers, what is the most reasonable inference we can draw about the accuracy of the Gospels? They appear to have been adequately preserved.
The 4th Big Question
WERE THEY BIASED?
There are three motives that are the same driving forces behind every type of misbehaviour; financial greed, sexual or relational desire, and pursuit of power.
So the question is, did the apostles of Jesus’s life and ministry have an ulterior motive when writing the Gospels? Do we have any good reason to believe that they were driven to lie by any of those motives I described? No. There is nothing in history (neither Christian history or secular history) to suggest that the disciples had anything to gain from their testimony related to Jesus.
1) The apostles were not driven by financial gain. They rejected all material wealth.
2) The apostles were not driven by sex or relationships. Most of them were married. The twelve apostles were not twelve single men in search of a good time. They weren’t using their position to woo eligible women. They were mostly married men, save for likely John who held chastity and purity in high regard.
3) The apostles were not driven by the pursuit of power. They made themselves the targets of persecution and abuse. The more prominent they became, the more they risked death. And all of them, save for John, died at the hands of execution in some way!
The apostles were free from ulterior motive.
Thus ending my answering of the 4 Big Questions.
- coldcasechristianity.com Jim Warner Wallace, Christian apologist and cold case homicide investigator, investigates the New Testament
- “The Evidence That Demands a Verdict: one volume to answer questions challenging Christians in the 21st Century” by Josh McDowell
- https://ccel.org/fathers the writings of the early church fathers