Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Where did the Bible come from?
Who picked what writings got in and which were rejected? Today, the bottom line on how God superintended the Bible's contents by setting standards for what writings became scripture. To learn more, stay with us.
From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, when people hear the word cannon, they think of a military weapon. So what's the cannon of the Bible all about?
Well, you know, Dave, that word cannon really has to do with a rule or a measuring rod. And it became applied to the books of the Bible that were accepted as inspired. Now if you ask the average person, he thinks that some Friday afternoon, perhaps, a group of people got together and decided what books would be in the New Testament and what ones would be rejected. That is wrong.
That's not how it happened. In my book entitled Seven Reasons Why You Can Trust the Bible, I give a detailed sketch as to how those books were collected. I also mentioned the Apocrypha and why it is that we do not accept those extra books. I believe very deeply that the books of the New Testament are there by divine providence.
And that's why the process can be trusted. There is a story about a Protestant minister who spent a lot of time at the racetrack gambling. And he began to observe that there was a priest who was down at the racetrack and who blessed certain horses. And whenever those horses were blessed, they won. So I thought to himself, all that I have to do is to keep track and look at that priest and see what horse he blesses and then I'll put my money on that one.
That's what he did. Saw the priest bless the horse. The Protestant minister decided to put all of his money on that horse and ran about 100 yards and fell over dead. He was pretty upset because he lost a lot of money and he found the priest and said, I don't understand it. You blessed horses and every horse you blessed won the race.
You blessed this one and he died. The priest said, well, you know, that's the problem with some of you Protestants. He said, you can't tell the difference between a blessing and last rites. Well, you know, of course, that there are differences between Protestants and Catholics. And today, because of the nature of the subject, we're going to have to talk about those differences in a spirit of love, in a spirit of sensitivity.
But the differences are going to have to be talked about and faced ultimately. When Stephen and Janet Ray converted from Protestantism to Catholicism, they said that their decision came down to this question. Now listen carefully. Did the New Testament give birth to the church or did the church give birth to the New Testament? You say run that past me again.
Well, here's the issue, you see. If the New Testament gave birth to the church, then the New Testament has primacy. But if the church birthed the New Testament, then the church has primacy and it is first not only in time but also in authority.
Let me put it for you a little bit more clearly perhaps. The Catholics say that the Bible alone cannot be our authority because the Bible does not tell us which books are authoritative. Therefore the church and not the Bible is the final authority. And that's why church tradition is elevated, not only equal with the scriptures but in a sense above the scriptures. See that's why those of us who are Protestants were sometimes a little confused, aren't we, when we talk with our Catholic friends and we say now why do you pray to Mary when it's not found in the Bible? And many Catholics are not troubled by that at all because they say that I do not base it on the Bible, I base it on the tradition and the teaching of the church because the church has primacy over the scriptures. Now today we're going to be discussing some of these issues and I need to simply pause and remind you of the fact that if you're here today and you are a Catholic not only are you welcome but you are in good company. In fact we have discovered as we have new members classes here at the Moody Church that about 25 to 35 percent of all the people who join Moody Church have a Catholic background. And I've discovered as I've traveled around the country that we have thousands of listeners over our radio programs, on our radio programs who are Catholic. And so we want you to know that you not only are welcome but I hope that what I have to say today will be accepted in a spirit of acceptance and the recognition that there are these differences that we simply cannot avoid in this series of messages on the question of the Bible being the Word of God.
Let me tell you what we hope to accomplish today and I don't know whether or not we'll be able to do it all but here are the questions that I hope to answer in the next 25 minutes. When was the decision made as to what book should be in the Bible and who made it? Can we be sure that we have the right books in the Bible? Why does the Catholic Church have some additional books not found in the Protestant Bible?
And why do Protestants believe that the Bible alone is the basis for faith and practice? Now today we're going to cover some things that could become quite technical but we'll try to keep them from being such. Normally when I preach here at the church I take one passage of scripture and expound it. Today we're going to look at a number of different verses.
In some instances I will simply quote them because we have a lot of territory to cover and I hope that you will hang in. I discovered that last week there was a woman who is present who said, everything that Pastor Lutzer says is above my head. I have two comments about that. Number one, it's hard for me to believe that that is true because I've always prayed that God would keep me simple and my staff has said, stop praying it, he's overdone it already.
And secondly, if it is above your head I just want you to sit up a little straighter and I'm sure that it will not get past. Alright. So with that introduction let's begin. Now, let's begin by talking first of all about how the Bible came to be, the Old Testament.
How did it come to be? Well, when God inspired Moses and told Moses the words of the Lord, the scripture says that Moses wrote down all these words in a book. And then it says in Deuteronomy chapter 31 verse 26 that the book was taken and it was laid up in the ark of the Lord. And as you study the history of the Old Testament you discover two things. Number one, various books were added and number two, they were revered, they were recognized to be the word of the Lord. And throughout the Old Testament you have that expression, the word of the Lord came to me. Now, to be fair we have to understand that there were some books that were included then in the canon as it was developing and there were those who were uneasy and wondered whether they should be in the canon.
For example, some people said that the Song of Solomon is too sensual. They read the book of Esther and discovered that the name God does not occur in the book and they wondered whether or not the book of Esther should be in the Old Testament. But by and large they were convinced that what they had was the word of God and there was widespread agreement that the books that were included and revered were scripture. Now, not all the books that were written during that period of time were included as scripture. For example, the book of Joshua speaks about a book of Jasher.
1 and 2 Samuel talk about a book that I believe is called the Book of the Wars of the Lord. We don't know what happened to these books. All that we know is that they were not included as scripture and so far as we know they have passed from history. What's important for us in this message is to realize that the canon that Jesus had, and by the way I'm going to be using that word canon, it refers to the books that were thought to be qualified scripture.
Actually, the word canon originally was a reed or a measuring rod and so it became applied to those books that made the grade, so to speak. But what is important for us to realize is that all of the books that we have in our Old Testament, all 39 in content were identical to the Old Testament that Jesus had when he walked the face of this earth. Now if I had a Hebrew Bible here and opened the table of contents, we would discover that it looks quite different than our Old Testament. For example, our Old Testament has 39 books, the Hebrew Bible has only 22. But the reason is because they combine the certain books.
For example, in the Hebrew Bible there is no 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, it's simply Samuel and Kings. And other smaller books were attached to other larger ones. So you have 22 books, but the content is the same.
The second thing we discover is that the arrangement of the books, the order is different. Would you believe that in the Hebrew Bible, if we had one today here we could show it to you, that the last book is Chronicles? We call it 2 Chronicles, and that's the last book of the Old Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament. Now with that background, I want you to take your Bibles and turn to Matthew chapter 23. Matthew chapter 23. I ask you to turn here because this gives further incidental proof of the fact that when Jesus was on earth, the canon of the Old Testament, the 39 books we have, though arranged differently and grouped differently, was exactly the canon that is in the Hebrew Bible today, which is our canon. Notice in Matthew chapter 23 verse 34, Christ said these words. Therefore behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes, and some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city. Now notice that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berachiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.
Very interesting. The first murder in the Old Testament is that of Abel. Did you know that in 2 Chronicles chapter 24 in our Bible, that's the way we designated it, which is the last book of the Hebrew canon, you have the murder of a prophet by the name of Zechariah.
His father's name is different because sometimes in ancient times the grandfather and the father were sometimes used interchangeably, but it's the story there of how he was murdered in the temple. What Jesus is saying is from Genesis to Revelation, as we would say it in New Testament times, from the beginning of the canon to the end of the canon, all the righteous blood that was spilled from A to Z. You notice that Jesus clearly shows that the canon that he is accepting is that of the Old Testament ancient Jewish canon. Now you say, well, you entitled this message the providence of God. I still haven't seen the providence of God so far.
Here's where I see divine providence. Did you know that there never was a commission or a committee or a council that met together to determine what books were going to be in the Old Testament? They never gathered and debated the issue and said, well, I vote for this one and I don't vote for that one, and they never duked it out, so to speak.
That never happened any time in history. It was the people of God who discerned that certain writings were of God and they accepted those writings and they rejected others, and soon the people of God, the Jews of the Old Testament, accepted a certain body of literature as having come from God and they all believed that prophecy ended, the miracle of inspiration ended for them with the prophet Malachi four hundred years before the coming of Jesus Christ, and they subscribed and they agreed that this collection of books was the word of God, and I see in that the providence of God. Now it's true that there was a council later that ratified it. They looked at the list and said, yes, we agree, but they were actually ratifying what the Jews had already done hundreds of years earlier without a formal council.
There was individual debate, but it was never determined by a council but by the people of God. That's the Old Testament. Now what about the apocrypha? We of course as Protestants refer to the apocrypha, that word means hidden, because if you take a Roman Catholic Bible and you look at it, you'll notice that it has some additional books that are not found in the Protestant Bible, and I preach on this because people ask me about it all the time. They say, where did those books come from? How come we accept these books, a Catholic might say, and Protestants say, we don't accept them? Let me give you a little bit of history. And by the way, there are in total fifteen apocryphal books, eleven of which have been accepted as canonical by the Roman Catholic Church, four of which are combined with other Old Testament books, and that's why if you have a due-way version of the Old Testament as I do in my study, I believe I'm correct in saying that there are only seven additional books in the Roman Catholic Bible.
Why this difference? Come with me to the city of Alexandria in Egypt in about 250 years before the time of Christ. These scholars decided to take the Old Testament and translate it into Greek. They came up with a translation that became known in history as the Septuagint.
It simply means 70. There is a myth, probably a myth, although it's possible that it's true, that it was done in 70 days by 70 scholars, and that's where it got its name from. This became a very popular translation. In fact, it was used in the Greek-speaking world, and New Testament writers show acquaintance with it, and it is a very important link in the history of religion, the Jewish religion, and the Christian faith. Many of the verses that we even know today show acquaintance with the Septuagint translation. Now, in that translation, at a later date, some time later, these books were inserted, the books that we call the Apocrypha. What I'd like to do is to tell you that if you've never read the Apocrypha, it is important that you do so. You can purchase one, or if you have a Catholic Bible, I encourage you to read the Apocrypha, because many of these books give some interesting history regarding the intertestamental period.
Others of them, perhaps their value might be very severely and properly disputed. Let me give you some reasons why Protestants have never accepted this Apocrypha. And I might say that the Roman Catholic Church did not officially accept it until the Council of Trent in 1546. It is then that the actual vote and the actual council accepted the Apocrypha 29 years after Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, perhaps because some of the verses in the Apocrypha were being used against Luther at the time. Nevertheless, that is simply a record of history. But why don't Protestants accept these books? Number one, because the New Testament never quotes them as being authoritative. The writers might show acquaintance with the Apocryphal books, and certainly they would have known of their existence and they would have read them, but when the Bible says, Thus says the Lord, or as it stands written, often that quotation, that phrase is found in the New Testament, but it is never a quotation from the Apocrypha. That's one reason.
Let me give you a second. I have to say this, that the reason I encourage you to read it is because some of the stories are very fanciful, and others of them have rather evident historical errors. So there's always been a question as to whether or not they could be scripture. But perhaps the most important reason is that they were never a part of the Hebrew Old Testament canon.
That's perhaps the primary reason. The Apocrypha was never written in Hebrew. It was Greek. And as a result, it came into the Septuagint and was debated, and some people thought it should be a part of scripture.
Some of them thought that it shouldn't be. Some of the Bible translators said, We will translate it and we will set it apart because we don't believe that it is scripture, but nevertheless it is beneficial to read, and so you had the issue arise in that way. But that explains, I think, why it is, a very quick overview, as to why we have this divergence of opinion regarding these books, these books called the Apocrypha. Now let me talk briefly about the New Testament.
How did it come to be? Early on, as God inspired the New Testament writers, they began to write the Word of God but notice the difference now. Think this through. The ancient Jews could take these writings to the temple. They could put them in the ark.
They could accumulate them like a library. But the Christian church was scattered abroad. It was everywhere. You had congregations throughout all of Asia Minor. So as the Apostle Paul began to write a letter to one church, one church knew about that letter but not necessarily the other church.
There was no central depository for all of the books. Consequently, as these books were written, there were some lists of books that might have included some and excluded others. So there was a period of development as the canon began to come to be. I think for the early church, one of the most important questions to authenticate a book was, is it either written by an apostle or someone who would authenticate the apostle? For example, Luke was not one of the early apostles but he was a companion of the Apostle Paul. So in that sense, Luke had apostolic blessing, even if not apostolic authority. And of course, just to be clear, we believe that when Luke wrote, he also clarified in the very first chapter that he had carefully investigated everything that he wrote about. So we have an authentic gospel.
Let me ask you a question. Has somebody ever asked you about the Dead Sea Scrolls? What is their significance? Has someone asked you about the Apocrypha? Why is it that we have 66 books and not additional books that some Bibles have? What about the Bible Code? These are all topics that I also include in my book entitled Seven Reasons Why You Can Trust the Bible.
What I did in this book is to give those seven reasons but also at the end of every chapter deal with some issues so that you would have a grasp, generally speaking, of what these issues are really all about. You need this book. I think it will be a great blessing and a help to you. Your children certainly need it.
University students, college students, because in an age in which there is so much skepticism and criticism, we need to know that we have a sure word from God. For a gift of any amount, this book can be yours. Go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. And as you've heard me say so often, thank you so much for your prayers, for your interest, for your support, because running to win is really the ministry of the people of God who support this ministry.
Simply go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Seven reasons why you can trust the Bible. Written for the common person to understand that we have a sure word from above. Time now for another chance for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. Some of the things Jesus said are very hard to understand, and some even sound like he could never have said them. This is Bothering Krupa who asks, In Mark 4 12, after telling the parable of the sower, Jesus said, That seeing they may see and not perceive, and hearing they may hear and not understand, lest at any time they should be converted and their sins should be forgiven them. Can you please explain the meaning of this verse? Thank you so much for writing about this, and I need to admit that this is a very difficult passage, and the reason is because we ask ourselves, could this be the same Jesus who stretches out his hand and says to everyone, Come unto me all ye who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest, and yet here Jesus seems to be implying that he is withholding truth from people just in case they believe and are forgiven?
I think that the clue to this needs to be said. First of all, Jesus was presenting himself to the nation. People had many opportunities to believe on him. And now Jesus, when he tells parables, says that these parables will both reveal truth to the initiated, to the disciples and those who believe, but the parable will also conceal truth from those who've hardened their hearts. You know that there are some people who want an excuse to not believe, and I think that that's what Jesus is giving the people here. He's giving them an excuse to not believe. He's withholding truth so that the hardness of their hearts would be confirmed. It's a form of judgment. It's a form of judgment because they had opportunity to believe, bypassed it. Now we're looking for opportunities to continue in their hardness of heart, and Jesus is saying, I'm giving you that opportunity. Bottom line, if you're listening today and you want to believe and you want to come to Christ, you can.
This is a judgment for those who've chosen not to do so. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois, 60614. Running to Win comes to you from the Moody Church in Chicago. Next time, more on how the New Testament books were selected. For Pastor Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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