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Issues of Canonicity:

The Apocrypha, the Book of Enoch, and Divine Inspiration.

Word RTF

Question #1:   Hello Dr. Luginbill, I have a question. Since your area of expertise is ancient and classical writings, do you know anything about the Apocrypha? I have always heard that Jesus and the disciples never quoted from it. Or mentioned them, just the "Law and the prophets and the psalms." Now, this person says that isn't true and gave this website as proof:

http://www.scripturecatholic.com/deuterocanon.html

Here is a quote of supposed use of the Apocrypha in the Bible taken from the site:

"Kings 2:1-13 – Elijah being taken up into heaven follows Sirach 48:9."

Isn't 2 Kings far older than Sirach? It seems to me, that Sirach got if from 2 Kings. And here's another one:

"Matt. 27:43 - if He is God's Son, let God deliver him from His adversaries, follows Wisdom 2:18."

THIS is also far older than the Apocrypha, as it comes from Psalm 22:8!

I know there are some truthful things in the Apocrypha, but I also know there is no prophetic authority in them. And that the Orthodox Jews never accepted them as canon. So how true is it? I know the apocrypha contains errors and therefore, cannot be considered inerrant, but the Roman Catholic Church needs the apocrypha, to back up its heretical teaching on Purgatory, from one of the Maccabbees. Anyway, I'd appreciate your perspective on this. Thanks.

Response #1:   The apocrypha is all in Greek and is all later than the entire Old Testament. It is awful stuff, and best avoided; anything true in there is so by accident and is surrounded by untrue (or pointless) things. Jerome had it right when he said "looking for truth in the apocrypha is like looking for nuggets of gold in the mud"; I would only add that you won't find any nuggets. You can get my essential view from the following link: "Is there any value to the Apocrypha?". So the short answer is "no, there is no value only potential harm".

You are absolutely correct that the R.C. church defends these documents as support for many of their more bizarre and anti-biblical teachings (it was not made "canon", however, until the council of Trent in the 16th century as a reaction to the Reformation). Of course, in that church, "scripture", however defined, is last on the list of important authorities in any case (so that it is often of little value to fight this battle when the other side will quickly fall back on tradition, the church fathers, canon law, and the pope when pushed). But you don't have to be a biblical scholar to see that the Apocrypha is not the Bible; all you have to do is read a little bit.

I looked over the list on the website, the argument that is being made (namely, that questionable echoes in the New Testament prove the canonicity of the Apocrypha) is so weak as to barely need response. For, clearly, the apocrypha is going to quote the Old Testament (any work that aspires to be a part of a corpus when it is not will imitate that corpus to the greatest degree possible; cf. the Book of Mormon; derivative literature always contains deliberate parallels). Also, since the scriptures are in fact a unified whole, with almost everything in the New Testament paralleling the language and theology of the Old Testament, like-sounding passages from a work that is deliberately mimicking the Old Testament will of course seem to be echoed in the New (if one casts the net widely enough). But I find in all of the passages listed not "smoking gun", that is, no single passage that can convincingly be said to be a case of the New Testament quoting the apocrypha.

So that it is possible to find "parallels" in the apocrypha is not surprising. What is surprising is how few and how weak these parallels are (as you point out in the discrepancies you have noticed). And more than that, this list at their website stretches things to the breaking point. For example, the contention that somehow Wisdom 5:16 has influenced 2nd Timothy 4:8 is ludicrous. No one knows when Wisdom was written, but as far as I know there is absolutely nothing preventing the assigning of a post-New Testament date (even though many scholars put it pre-New Testament). If the former is the case, then it is derivative. If the latter, it is merely a case of regurgitating Old Testament themes (the crown of the righteous is found in Ps.8:5; 149:4; Prov.4:9; 10:6; Is.35:10; 55:11; 61:3; cf. Is.62:3 which may well be the exemplar for Wisdom here). In many of the instances quoted, there is just as good a chance that the writer(s) has been influenced by Greek philosophy (and in the case of the precise diction of many of the sentiments in the Apocrypha that is surely the case as most scholars recognize). When we start seeing literary parallels independent of precise doctrinal teaching, the lines always blur (that is, we are getting away from canonicity and theology and into the fields of "Comparative Literature" and "Comparative Religion" instead).

That brings me to my main objection with giving this body of material known as the apocrypha any credence: not to begrudge a reader getting some small benefit out of some passage or merely becoming bored with others; rather, my worry is that in cases where something is semi-true or seems close to the truth, a fatal flaw in the reader's understanding of scripture generally will be introduced that stands to compromise their overall spiritual growth, an unnecessary "chink in the armor" of the edifice of truth they are striving to build in their heart. I suppose one could make a similar argument about the "value" of many of the Mormon materials "as literature", but the end result of accepting them as from God is a disaster (same in my view with the apocrypha). We find enough such debilitating influences out there already given the nature of life and the world, and the great quantity of bad and deceptive "Bible teaching" abroad of late. No need to inflict more of the same on a spiritual body that is already laboring under multiple afflictions.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

 

Question #2:  

Thanks for your input. How do you account for the apparent paraphrasing in the New Testament, that appears, at least some of the time, to have been taken from the Apocrypha? Like on the website I sent you, to check out? I noticed something else--if there ARE paraphrasing of the Apocrypha, NONE of them is ever preceded by "as it is written", when Jesus or the Apostles quoted something from Scripture. I think most of the scriptural references in the New Testament are preceded by that, aren't they?

What about Jude and the story of Moses' body? Isn't that taken from the Ascension of Moses? And isn't there some Apocryphal "quoting" in one of Peter's epistles?

Thanks for your help. God bless you.

 

Response #2: 

You are correct that no New Testament writer ever cites the Apocrypha or related pseudepigraphical works directly – and that is true in spite of such things as Jude 1:14ff. (I think this may be what you are referring to instead of 1st or 2nd Peter). Enoch is not strictly Apocrypha. The technical name for these erroneous works that are not part of the corpus officially accepted by the Roman Catholic church is "pseudepigrapha", or "false-additional-writings" – but it's all the same idea. Jude actually does attribute the quote there to "Enoch", but he is either referencing a work written long ago (and now lost), or perhaps getting this information from independent revelation (Jude is a divinely inspired book after all). Later on well after Jude, someone wrote a counterfeit work taking on that name, unquestionably playing off of Jude's reference. So the true sequence is 1) the historical person, Enoch; 2) Jude's quotation of him (source unknown); 3) the pseudepigraphical "book of Enoch", an entirely false work no doubt built around this quotation taken from the New Testament (to give it authority).

Since all of the Apocrypha may post-date all of the New Testament, it may very well be that whatever "allusions" are present (to the extent that there are any in fact; I don't really even see that to any great degree), this may be explained by deliberate aping of New Testament language as in the Enoch example (the later work mimicking the earlier famous literature). Secondly, since the Apocrypha is at least deliberately fashioning itself on the Old Testament, and since the New Testament has a very obvious relationship to the Old Testament as well, the fact that they both draw from a common fund of material inevitably means that some passages end up sounding similar.

Jude 1:9 is only known to us as having something to do with a work called the "Ascension/Assumption of Moses" because of some of the church fathers, Clement, Origen, et al. Most likely this is also a case of the counterfeit following the inspired original. Of course, it would be easy to speculate and expand a very scriptural sounding parallel to Jude 1:9 just on the basis of putting together Deuteronomy 34:6 with Malachi 4:4-5 and Genesis 5:24. This sort of thing happens very frequently in Greek literature and many scholars have been led astray by failing to recognize clever conjecture by ancient authors. For writing of this type was a very common thing in antiquity (e.g., the letters of Plato, the letters of Themistocles, interpolations into Thucydides [3.84], and many a work reputedly by some famous figure but undeniably not in fact). However, since we don't know anything more about the specific pseudepigraphical work in question besides these glancing references, it's only speculation either way.

I did not go through each and every "example" listed on the website, but I am beyond skeptical from what I have seen in the past (and what I looked at anew yesterday). Most of the "examples" come from the wisdom books. Obviously, anyone who has read Job, Psalms, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes could write any number of like sounding apothegms, salting in other such sentiments and sententiae from the considerable body of similar material in pagan literature (both in Aramaic and stemming from the near East, but also from Greek literature as well). As one makes pronouncements about morality and God from a common stock of phraseology and in a tradition that was very lively throughout the near East and Mediterranean world, it is inevitable that there would many accidental similarities. What I find most interesting is how even so the Apocryphal writings always leave one cold, even when they seem to come close to something in scripture. As I say, reading is the surest test, and always leads a believer to the same solution (sadly, few "scholars" are believers). The Bible is absolutely unique in every way, and any true believer need only read something not inspired (but purporting to be) to be able to see very quickly that the false item does not past biblical muster. The power of the true Word of God cannot be duplicated and it cannot be imitated.

As I say, I have never seen anything close to a "smoking gun" that would convince me of any deliberate references in the New Testament to either the apocrypha or other pseudepigraphical works. I could very easily set up a similar list to the one on that R.C. website using the fragments of Greek tragic poets or later philosophers, cases where we know for certain that there is not direct overlap with the New Testament (although Paul does in fact quote classical authors on a couple of occasions). I think the best answer is that the Apocrypha either did not exist at the time the New Testament was written, or, that such parts of it that did exist were understood very well for what they were, namely, a secular, pseudo-religious philosophical literature written to lay claim to scriptural authority by human will out of human ambition (and given short shrift by all biblical writers as a result).

I would be very happy to address any particular "parallel" you would wish to have examined more closely.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

 

Question #3:  

Hi--Yes, you did answer most of my questions in your last letter. You are the first scholar I've come across that thinks that most of the Apocrypha comes in A.D. and NOT in B.C. The few books I have seen on the subject say that the vast majority were more likely written between the two Testaments, and a few may even predate Daniel, though they don't say which ones. Not the books we have, at any rate. I wish I could find our books that actually have the Apocrypha in them; all I can find is the INVITATION TO THE APOCRYPHA, and it's just a synopsis of each book. Thanks again and God bless you.
 

Response #3: 

You're very welcome. Most scholars use a range for these writings as they are of widely disparate provenance. The most common range I have seen is "200 B.C. to 100 A.D." which certainly admits of some if not all of the Apocrypha post-dating the New Testament. When it comes to dating such things, that is a highly subjective endeavor in any case. For example, Sirach is often dated as having an ante quem (it should only be good for post quem) of 132 B.C. because of the introduction's reference to Ptolemy Euergetes. But of course any work trying to hype its own authority will claim an antiquity greater than what is actually the truth (and what better way to do so than to drop a famous name of yore?). Given the vast number of Greek writings of this and a similar sort which are not in fact as old as they make out, I retain my skepticism. Arguments based on style are even less secure and less precise, and again would not preclude later dating in any case. And much of the dating argumentation is circular; i.e., scholars assume that the New Testament quotes or alludes to these works, therefore these works have to be older. That is counter-intuitive to the normal state of affairs, however. Generally speaking, it is the famous work which is quoted / alluded to by the less famous, not the other way around, as the parvenu seeks to latch onto the greater authority and benefit thereby. It may be that some of these works actually do pre-date or are roughly contemporaneous to the New Testament; but I would not even if assured of that be any more likely to find deliberate New Testament allusion based upon the supposed "parallels" of the sort this website claims.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

 

Question #4:  

Just came across your site and picked an interest. Would you say the compilation of the Bible was also inspired? The issue being not that the Bible is the word of GOD. I am agreeable that the Bible is the word of God. The bone of contention is: People sat down in the middle ages and set some rules on which books to include in the current bible. They decided to discard certain books of scripture (according to their understanding) and incorporate certain books. Now who gave them the power to do so? Can you say without a shred of doubt that these guys could not have discarded an authentic book or included a book that was not inspired as much as other books. The council of Trent sat down and came up with its recommendation of the current books in the bible. These were people who did this and there could have made mistakes in their selection. There could have been bias. For example the book of Esther was initially rejected but later incorporated. Why the change of heart?

 

Response #4: 

I am happy to hear that you accept the Bible as what it is, the very Word of God (cf. 1Thes.2:13). Your question about the compilation of the Bible, the "formation of the canon" as it is usually termed in historical theology, is in some respects a complicated one, so please understand that this e-mail response cannot be the ultimate in-depth answer to your question. In the Basics series, currently in the process of production, part 7, "Bibliology", will be devoted to this and related issues. I will try to give you a satisfactory answer to your question here, but would urge you to read the following as well:

Read Your Bible: A Basic Christian Right and Responsibility.

Is there any value in the Apocrypha?

The "Gospel of Judas" and Issues of Canonicity

The Canonicity of the Book of Hebrews

Did Matthew write his Gospel in Hebrew?

The "Gospel" of Thomas

The Canonicity of Revelation

If the books that truly are part of the Word that God has given us were only so because they had been determined to be so by rules set down during the middle ages, skepticism would certainly have its place. However, such is not the case. The council of Trent which you reference (1545-63), as is clear from the dates, took place after the Reformation was already in full swing, and I can assure you that at that time Protestantism, despite its factional nature, was in no doubt about what books composed the true canon of scripture. Much more compelling is the fact that as early as Polycarp (ca. 69-155 A.D.) we find even New Testament books being referenced as scripture. Indeed, there are a number of places in the New Testament where other New Testament books are recognized as scripture:

Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom 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

We find similar things of course throughout the Old Testament and in the New as it quotes the Old etc. so that even from the academic point of view the methods used to support canonicity are far from arbitrary. As I say, one could go on in this vein a long time, however I would prefer to put the matter a bit differently. The Bible is the Bible – because God, not man, has made it so. Whether or not people accept it as such is a completely different matter. Should some new ecumenical council agree to throw out, for example, the book of Hebrews, Hebrews would not for that reason fail to be scripture. And should the same council include, for example, the book of Tobit, Tobit would not for that reason become scripture. All true scripture is "God-breathed" as Paul tells us (2Tim.3:16). That means that if something is really part of the Bible it is so because God caused it to be written through the process of inspiration; analogously, something that is not written at the behest of God through the direct inspiring ministry of the Holy Spirit cannot be scripture. Peter addresses this issue directly:

For I did not follow concocted tales in making known to you the power and the earthly ministry of our Lord, Jesus Christ, but was an eyewitness to His majesty. For when He had received honor and glory from God the Father, these words sounded forth to Him from God's majestic glory: "This is my beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased." And these words I myself heard as they were delivered from heaven, for I was with Him on the holy mountain (cf. Matt.17:1-8). Yet I consider the prophetically inspired Word (i.e. the Bible) even more reliable (i.e. than what I saw with my own eyes). You too would do well to pay the closest attention to this [prophetically inspired Word], just as to a lamp shining in a dark place (cf. Ps.119:105), until the day dawns, and the Morning Star rises (i.e. the Living Word, Jesus Christ, returns), pondering in your hearts this principle of prime importance: no single verse of prophetically inspired scripture has ever come into being as a result of personal reflection. For true prophecy has never occurred by human will, but only when holy men of God have spoken under the direction and agency of the Holy Spirit.
2nd Peter 1:16-21

I would put it this way. There are ways to determine if a ring, for example, is truly made of gold or instead is only fabricated to look like gold. If we design a "test" or a "rule" that correctly discerns the true value of the ring, the ring is not gold nor does it fail to be gold because of our test. The ring has an intrinsic value (or lack thereof) which is not dependent in any way on our test. All our test does is to seek to discern the true underlying value already there. Scripture is the same. The books of the Bible are the books of the Bible because of their underlying value. They are "gold", as it were, because God made them so. Your question is really quite incisive because it asks, essentially, have we applied the correct test. In addition to the brief sketch above and the information contained in the links provided I would tell you that, yes, in my considered opinion, experience and research, the books of the Bible are the true books of Holy scripture – nothing has been left out (of the standard Protestant Bible) which should be included, and nothing has been included which should have been left out. The early collections and councils of the Church (well before Trent) and previous Hebrew collections and councils (e.g., Jamnia ca. 100) did not "create the canon" nor did they "select the canon". All they did was to do in a far grander way what I am doing here, namely, to affirm that the books of the Bible are what they claim to be without addition or subtraction. In each case, they affirmed the judgment of millions of believers past who "knew" what was and what was not scripture by the applying of the same standard we all apply: to belong in the Bible, it has to be the Word of God. If it is the Word of God, that will be clear from reading it; and if it is not, reading it will show that it is not.

But you don't have to take my word for it (nor should you). To paraphrase Dr. L.S. Chafer, the founder of Dallas Theological Seminary, "The Bible is a book that, apart from divine inspiration, no one would write if they could, nor could if they would". What he meant, very simplistically put, is that scripture is unlike any other literature in world history. It possesses power and wonder that is completely inexplicable apart from divine inspiration, and that power and wonder is very obvious to any reader who chooses to delve into it, even very superficially. And no other literature can make the same claim. When, for example, someone wants to claim that the "gospel of Judas" has just as much right to be considered canonical as the "gospel of Luke", well, we could go on at great length about the historical and textual and theological reasons why that is patently false (and in all of these cases there is plenty of evidence to support and reject all true books from false respectively). But it is far easier and probably better, especially for the non-specialist Christian, just to read the two books side by side. We feel the truth of God being empowered by the Spirit when we read Luke. The gospel of Judas is just a mess of words. In other words, Luke is clearly "golden" and Judas so clearly falls short of that standard that we can see God laughing at all the debate about church councils and textual survival and etc. Anyone who sets themselves to reading scripture will very quickly and easily see and understand exactly what I mean, for all believers have experienced this to some degree, and unbelievers who attempt the same either are led to faith through the words of truth, or else violently react against it – and this is clearly also something that no other "literature" in world history could accomplish. Yes, there are "rules" that one might codify, but there is no rule superior to that of the Holy Spirit speaking to us through scripture, and our consciences responding and affirming joyously that "this is in truth the very Word of God":

For the Word of God is living and powerful; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even to the point of being able to divide the spirit from its earthly life and the marrow from its bones; [for] it (i.e., the Word when resident in our conscience) acts as a judge of our heart's intentions and emotions.
Hebrews 4:12

I hope that this goes part way to answering your question. Please feel free to write me back about any aspect of this issue you'd like to discuss further.

In Him who is the very Word of God made flesh, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob Luginbill

 

Question #5:  

Thank you for your response. However, I think you are missing the point. The current bible was inspired-no question. But there are other scriptures that are not in the bible. Remember Peter says all scripture is from GOD. Now some people sat down during the dark ages and decided on which books to include and which books to exclude in the current bible. 2nd Peter was almost discarded. 3rd and 4th Peter were discarded. Esther was added though it did not fit the whole criteria. Jude quotes the book of Enoch, but the book of Enoch is not in the current bible. Jude regarded the book of Enoch as holy to the extent of quoting from it. There is a risk that these man may have excluded books that made them uncomfortable/or condemned what they were doing at that particular time. Remember this was a council of man Like a political or board meeting deciding on such an important issue. All the books should be made available and people read and choose what they want. Peter said all scripture is from GOD.

 

Response #5: 

With respect, I believe it may be you who are missing the real point – although that may be my fault on account of a response you found less than clear, for whatever reason. If so, I apologize for my lack of clarity and will have another go here.

The point is that there are many, many works of literature out there which purport to be of God but which in truth are not of God. Even if we were only to restrict ourselves to works commonly known as Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, we would still have hundreds of surviving works and thousands of titles and fragments, the combined mass of which would fill a score of volumes each the size of the true Bible. The point is that these works are not inspired by God, although almost without exception they claim to be (or at least imply that they are). If I were to make up a "gospel of Andrew" today and write in it Greek, then claim I had "discovered" this ancient witness to the gospel, it would certainly not be an inspired work just because I made that claim and just because it might seem to relate to the gospel (if I did a good enough job on the forgery). The point is that all of these books you refer to are in that exact same category. They are forgeries. The only advantage they have over something I might produce today is that they are older. The "third epistle of Peter" which refer to is a good case in point, for that is a document produced in the 19th century and was a parody apparently never meant to be taken seriously as an ancient document – but it seems to have upset and mislead a number of people in spite of this. The point is that we as Christians draw our faith and practice from the genuine Word of God, but of necessity something that is not really the Word of God will lead us astray, at least to some degree. Even if my hypothetically forged "gospel of Andrew" was, according to my human lights, saying only things that I felt reflected exactly what the Bible taught elsewhere, I know enough about scripture to understand that in spite of my best efforts I would write at least some things that distorted the truth in ways I might not anticipate, and – the real point – as a result would contribute to the degeneration of the faith of those who read it and believed it. If one reads something that is not of God and believes in it as if it were of God, then one is apt to do serious damage to one's faith, because faith thrives on truth and is sickened by belief in anything untrue.

I certainly am not trying to get into an altercation with you, and it is of little moment to me whether or not you are inclined to take my word for anything, but as your brother in Christ I am indeed concerned for your spiritual welfare, and I can say unequivocally that while reading Apocryphal books such as those you mention may not be catastrophic to your faith, believing that what they say is true can be.

To conclude, I am happy to discuss these and any other true books of the Bible – or any you feel wrongly left out. But "the point" remains the same: it is just as important for Christians not to read non-scripture as if it were scripture as it is for them not to reject the authority of true scripture.

Yours in the Word made flesh, our Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

 

Question #6:  

Thank you very much for your patience, you would not believe how much these letters are helping me. God bless you. A poser though, what determines(d) canonicity?

 

Response #6: 

I am always very pleased to hear that these letters and studies have been helpful. Thank you for your patience in wading through them. As to your further question, what determines(d) canonicity, I suppose I should start by explaining that in Greek a kanon was a long reed used in a similar way to how we might use a yard stick for measurements today (cf. in Revelation 11 where John is given a "reed" to measure the temple; the word is different there but the idea is the same and you can find the actual word kanon in the sense of a measuring stick at 2Cor.10:13-16 and Gal.6:16). So we are back to my illustration of the gold-standard test. God determines(d) the true canon. All we do as believers is to recognize and appreciate what he has done. So for example when Peter in the reference given in my last letter refers to Paul's epistles as being "scripture" (2Pet.3:16), we can see that he, an apostle writing under the inspiration of the Spirit himself, was well aware of the canonicity (or "golden" nature) of the Pauline epistles. It is true that various denominations of Christianity have all to one degree or another and at one time or another made some sort of official statement or doctrinal pronouncement wherein they have validated the universal decision of the early church as to what constitutes the true canon, but all they have done thereby is precisely what any believer does when he/she picks up the Bible and reads it; there is no comparison between the genuine Word of God and any other literature ever written.

Besides the issue of the Apocrypha, a small collection of inter-testamental books of dubious authenticity, there is as far as I am aware no disagreement whatsoever on this issue in either medieval or modern times about what is and is not a genuine part of the Bible. In ancient times, what we have to do with was really not so much an argument over "what should be included" as it was dealing with occasional attempts by fringe elements to "dis-include" one book or another to further their own ends. For example, Marcion, a second century cult leader, is a famous in this regard. He devised a Bible that threw out much of the New Testament which did not agree with his particular theology. And really this illustrates how the whole idea of composing and "ratifying" lists of what constitutes the true "canon" got started. That is to say, the whole idea of needing to pronounce a "canon" came about as a reaction to those heretics who began to question the Bible, and not because the early church was in any doubt about what constituted the Bible. Indeed, the earliest manuscripts we have tend to be complete (i.e., to include the entire canon), and not to have anything else included (i.e., there is in fact no class of books that are systematically in some manuscripts and left out of others).

There are a few small exceptions to this rule. It is true that 2nd Peter, Jude, and Revelation, for example, apparently took a while to be properly distributed so that there are lacking in a minority of early witnesses, but 1) this is understandable in that they were among the last books to be written, and 2) the manuscript and citation evidence even for these three books is decisively in favor of positing that they were nearly universally accepted immediately after they were written, and were so once they had been properly circulated. For example, all three books are found in the oldest and best manuscript of the Bible, the 3rd century codex Sinaiticus. When one considers all the ancient evidence it is sufficiently clear that even here any honest scholar would have to conclude that these books too were "considered canonical" by the earliest Christians – but what that really means is that in the late first century the entire church, everyone who was a true Christian, knew very well what the Bible was and what was not the Bible (and their understanding was exactly the same as that of us orthodox (small "o") Christians today.

The other major exception to the rule is the Apocrypha, a small collection of later material that unfortunately became so popular in following centuries that it began to be circulated with the "deluxe" manuscript editions of the Bible as a sort of "helpful appendix". Jerome who translated the Bible anew into Latin only agreed to include the Apocrypha on account of pressure from friends who couldn't bear not to have it too – but he clearly recognized that it wasn't scripture. I have covered this subject elsewhere (and you have the link: Is there any value to the Apocrypha?).

To get the nub of your question, while I strongly affirm that there has never been any doubt among the communion of true saints as to what the Bible is and what is not the Bible, still, there are tests that can and have been done. But I would always want to emphasize that 1) the test of the individual believer reading these books is enough, and 2) these tests were only developed to answer criticisms – i.e., they were never used an a priore means to figure out which books were truly inspired: everyone knew the truth; some merely felt the need to support the truth.

The first sort of test, to split these means into two broad categories, is that of "internal evidence", namely, does the book seem to show by its own words that it is scripture as opposed to mere literature (or the other way around). As I have said above this is such a "slam-dunk" kind of test for anyone who is a true believer in Jesus Christ that for practical purposes one needs go no farther (though scholars will look at things like linguistic and theological issues beyond the overall spiritual impression). However, the second sort of test is also much used in literature and scholarship which deals with this issue, namely that of "external evidence". For example, Jesus quoting Isaiah is evidence for Isaiah being around in His day. Same is true of quotes from that book in Paul's epistles e.g.. Manuscripts and fragments in the Hebrew tradition and including the Dead Sea scrolls show the ancient provenance of the book. And there are all sorts of references from other archaeological sources, papyri, ostraca, the Church Fathers and ancient historians etc. etc. But ultimately no secular cynic would or could ever be convinced, even by a mountain of evidence as high as Everest, that the Bible is the Word of God (and the Bible is by far the best preserved and witnessed of any of the ancient texts).

In the end, one either believes it or one doesn't, and the true test of the Bible's "goldenness" is "in the pudding" or "in the eating". The Word of God is indeed "sweet in the mouth" like nothing else, and this is an experience (and a test) that any believer can provide for him or herself. As to the specifics of any of the "internal/external" evidence for any of the books of the Bible, I am happy to answer your specific questions. A good New or Old Testament Introduction will generally cover these issues in more depth than most non-specialists need of want, but I can recommend the following:

New Testament Introduction by Donald Guthrie (Intervarsity: 1970)

Introduction to the New Testament by H.C. Thiessen (Eerdmans: 1958)

An Introduction to the Old Testament by Edward J. Young (Eerdmans: 1983)

Introduction to the Old Testament by Roland K. Harrison (Eerdmans: 1969)

Any good Bible dictionary (I like Unger's, Moody Press) or Bible encyclopedia (e.g., International Standard Bible Encyclopedia) would also have an article on canonicity and on the evidence for each individual book of the Bible (as well as for much of the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha).

Hope this is helpful - please feel free to write me back.

In our dear Lord Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

 

Question #7:  

Dear Robert:

I recently found out about your website yesterday and I downloaded all of the study materials. I'm very intrigued about the study of angels and your material will be a very interesting avenue to learn more about angelology. I've read many of the materials that are out there (some or most of it is utterly nonsense and ridiculous). However, I try to maintain an open mind and some of the materials are interesting. Ultimately, the Word of God is the ultimate say in this subject. I found that the study of angelology coincides very closely with salvation: that there's a broader picture in the whole scheme of things beginning with the fall of Adam and Eve to the sacrifice of our Lord God and Savior, Jesus Christ on the cross, to the very end. One can't discuss angelology without mentioning God's ultimate plans on how, as a result of the fall, the grave consequence of sin and its horrific nature that have plagued this earth and mankind and the great plan God has in motion to deliver us all.

With all that said, I noticed you haven't made any reference about the Book of Enoch. I've read this book and can safely say that it's indeed very true. Do you have a different view on this since it was mentioned in the Bible, specifically, in Jude? There are so many paraphrases from the Book of Enoch that are mentioned throughout the Bible.

I'll appreciate hearing your opinion about this.

Best regards,

 

Response #7: 

Good to make your acquaintance. Thank you for your interest and for your e-mail. To respond to your question, the statement you made to the effect that "ultimately, the Word of God is the ultimate say in this subject" is one with which I wholeheartedly agree, and one, moreover, which is pivotal to answering your question.

As we know from Jude 1:14-16, Enoch, a man of God who "walked with God" (Gen.5:24; Heb.11:5), also was a prophet, and Jude preserves for us one of his divinely given prophecies. But how did Jude know this?

With the exception of some of the final verses in Deuteronomy which describe his death, Moses wrote the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible otherwise known as the Torah. In Genesis, Moses gives us fifty chapters of information detailing the history of the world from the divine point of view, going back to the garden of Eden, to the reconstruction of the heavens and the earth, and even beyond to the beginning of all things (i.e., the account of original creation in Gen.1:1). But how did Moses know this?

In Moses' case, given the paucity of written sources in the 15th century B.C., and given the fact that the alphabet did not even exist before (or much before) Moses' day, it is certain that he is not drawing from a written record – a fact which not even the secularists dispute. But while those who hold to the documentary hypothesis theory of the origins of Pentateuch trace the sources back to oral tradition and authorial invention, those of us who believe the Bible and who have put our faith in the truth of the Word understand that Moses was a prophet and that he got his information straight from the Lord who – obviously – knows everything that happened (and did even before it happened).

The answer to the second question I pose above, therefore, is that Moses drew directly on divine knowledge rather than upon any written record. And I, at least, am confident that this is also the case with Jude. Jude, after all, does not mention any "Book of Enoch". Indeed, he says quite forthrightly that Enoch "prophesied" the statement he then precedes to quote, not that he "wrote". And it is, of course, quite common for those who write scripture and quote scripture in support of their points to say "as it is written" (cf. Rom.3:10), or to make use of similar words (cf. Rom.10:5). While this may not exclude entirely the possibility of Jude having consulted a "Book of Enoch", it does place the burden of proof upon the argument that says he did. For my part, 1) the way the quotation is framed (as just described); 2) the fact that nowhere else in the New Testament does anyone else cite extra-biblical literature as having biblical authority, at least to my knowledge, and 3) the absence of any biblical reference anywhere to a "Book of Enoch" are a set of facts more than persuasive enough for me to conclude that Jude, inspired by the Holy Spirit, was given knowledge of this prophecy (rather than having read it or heard it elsewhere).

But since you broach the question, I am happy to discuss briefly the alternative possibility. The first thing to mention in this regard is that even if there ever was a "true" book of Enoch, that is, a document penned by Enoch himself before the flood, it would certainly have taken quite an effort as well as quite a serendipitous series of events for it have survived in any form down to the present day. While we are right to accept that God has providently made similar provisions for all of the books of the Bible, it is less clear that He should or would do so for something not divinely inspired and necessary for His children to have and enjoy, or that, alternatively, if He had done so, and done so in what would then be a way more miraculous than is even the case with our present Bible (since it was penned after the flood), how it could or would be that "the [hypothetically genuine] book of Enoch" is not to be considered part of the true canon of scripture (and why would it be "prophecy" preserved in writing and yet non-canonical?).

We can address the issue of canonicity another day if you wish, but suffice it to say here that as far as I am aware no one has ever considered the book part of the canon nor has there has ever been a serious argument put forward to include Enoch – the book is not even nor has it ever been even been a part of the Apocrypha.

What, then, is the book of Enoch? First, I would say that it is very clear that this piece of literature, falling into the literary category of what is commonly called "pseudepigrapha", was written by an indefinite number of authors over an indefinite period of time. While it is hard to be much more specific, what seems clear from an analysis of the text (wherein markedly different styles are readily evident) is that there were at least more than two contributors who wrote at different times. If this is the case, and it certainly appears to be, then ipso facto the true Enoch is not the author of the book, nor is the book the source of the biblical quotation (which Jude proclaims is from the actual Enoch). The best sources I know of for information on this extra-biblical literature are:

The Book of Enoch, R. H. Charles and W.O.E. Oesterley (London 1917)

The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha ed. J.H. Charlesworth, v.1 (NY 1983)

The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church ed. F.L. Cross (London 1983)

Why would someone make up a "book of Enoch". In fact, the ancient libraries were filled with works written in the names of famous persons by anonymous writers working centuries, sometimes, as in this case, many centuries after the fact. The phenomenon is by no means restricted to the Bible. We remain fascinated by the idea of what "famous so-and-so" did "after that", or what he/she might have said, or written. I am aware that the Book of Enoch contains Jude's quote. Even if one wishes to accept the verdict of the bulk of contemporary secular scholarship and say that Enoch drew his quotation from this source, that is still a far cry from saying that he felt the book to be inspired in toto (though it does pose certain other problems). What I would argue, however, is that the dating of such documents is always a thorny problem, let alone dating portions of them. The Ethiopic texts of this work, as far as I am aware, date from the fifteenth century A.D. While it is true that fragments of the book of Enoch have been found among the Dead Sea scrolls, and it is possible that this argues for the existence of the book before Jude wrote, even this is not necessarily the case. What is more important is that there is no way to prove that the quotation "from Enoch in Jude" is not, in truth, a quotation "from Jude in Enoch". After all, what better way to peak interest in the manuscript than to arrange it around what is by far Enoch's most well-known saying (and what in my view is most likely his only known saying truly belonging to him)?

In all my writings, I have scrupulously tried to avoid relying upon anything that is not actually contained in scripture, whether the source be extra-biblical manuscripts or theological speculations. None of us is perfect of course (and I least of all). We all must labor to some extent under our own preconceptions (many of which inevitably turn out to be mis-conceptions), but if we are willing to maintain a heart tender to the Spirit's guidance and an ear attentive to the actual words of the Bible, God has a way of leading us into the truth in the true service of Him who is the truth, the very Word of God, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I hope this response was helpful to you.

In His Name and service,

Bob Luginbill

 

Question #8:  

Dear Robert,

Thanks for the information. It has been very helpful to me. I must say that your explanation regarding the Book of Enoch and how it may have come about has broadened my understanding. I'm looking forward to more research on this subject. I'm happy to inform you that after many years of my own personal search for the truth, I've decided to make that leap of faith and to surrender my heart to God. I've asked my Lord and my now personal Savior Jesus Christ to come into my life.

I'm looking forward to self-studying courses outlined Ichthys to further strengthen my faith, understanding, and relationship with God through his Son Jesus Christ. Again, thank you for spending time with me on answering my questions. I know that you must have a busy and a hectic schedule and I appreciate your valuable time you've spent with me.

Your New Brother in Christ,

 

Response #8: 

First let me say that I am absolutely delighted to hear that you have given your life to Jesus! Let me be among the first to welcome you as your brother in Christ into the family of God! The eternity we shall enjoy with our Master is not to be compared to anything we might have or experience in this world of darkness. Praise be to the Lord who is Light! I thank my God that you have turned to the light and encourage you to persevere in the course you have set and the spiritual growth to which you have set yourself. I will certainly be more than happy to continue to examine with you this issue and anything else about the Bible that you would care to discuss.

I don't know if I had extended you the invitation or not (I generally wait to see whether people write back after my replies), but I would be more than happy to add your name and e-mail address to my notification list (brief messages sent out for major postings once or twice a year).

Let me just say again how thrilled I am to hear your good news about embracing the Good News in Jesus Christ. Walking with Jesus is the only way to live one's life. Everything else is only sound and fury, emptiness and vanity. But everything done for Jesus, all growth and production, works out an eternal weight of glory that can not even be partially comprehended at the present time, and produces a joy that no unbeliever can appreciate, one that is developing from joy to joy, day by day, in the power of the Spirit and the confident anticipation of eternal life.

In the dear Savior who bought us with His work on the cross, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Your brother,

Bob L.

 

Question #9: 

How is it by you Bob?

I have a question about your posted response on Matthew 19:24 ("The Camel and the Needle"). Isn't it about more than just with YHVH all things are possible? I notice that there are a few of the Ten Commandments that were left out of the ones to follow to enter into life. Namely the one that says, You shall have no other gods before Me. As I see it, anything that we rely, on other than YHVH, for our life or Salvation becomes like a god. We may not actually bow down and worship that thing or in some cases person, but they get in the way or in between us and the Father. The rich man wanted to know what HE could do but when he was told he needed to give up his god, he couldn't bare the thought. It is only with Yahshuah as his God that he might be Saved. As my analogy pointed out, it takes Yahshuah to unwind us to our basic form and draw us through the needle unto Himself. Nothing we can do on our own and no matter how fast a camel runs at the eye of the needle, he can't make it through on his own. So you see, I think there is much to this text besides just the need for Yahshuah. We need Him first and above all. We need to be obedient and we need to humble and teachable.

I think I understand your view on the writing of the Scriptures, but I just want to make sure. Is every jot and tittle the jots and tittles that YHVH said to be written down without any human intervention of any sort? YHVH just used man's fingers to hold the pen and YHVH moved man's hand around to form the jots and tittles? I do not doubt the substance of the Bible, so don't get me wrong. I was just wondering if that is the case, why are there different writing styles? You hear of some teachers of the Bible that there is question as to who wrote what Book based on writing style. If they were all ultimately written by One, why the different styles? Why different views in the Gospel accounts? Is INSPIRATION different from actual dictation? Again I don't think the substance is wrong, I just think that something may be missing (however small) in the step from Greek to modern English. We know that not every detail of one language can be completely and perfectly conveyed from one language to another. I have found that out from my Hispanic neighbor when we try to communicate some things. He is fluent in both but sometimes he says, there is no English word for something he is trying to say. I will end my thoughts on Bible language with if His Word is pure dictation, why do we have so many versions of the Bible? I had a Pastor once say to me, God would not let His Word be mis-written. This is from a man who blasts some versions of the Bible for inaccuracies. If God wouldn't let it happen, how come it does?

As I have said in the past, I value your insights and your time,

 

Response #9: 

I'm not arguing the theology of your point on Matt.19:24, merely the exegesis of the passage. Regardless of what may or may not "make sense" from the point of view of one theological system or another, we have to start with what the text actually says, and on that point. On the other hand, the text we do have makes perfect sense to me according to how I understand scripture to teach salvation elsewhere, namely, that it is impossible through works; it can only be had by grace through faith in the One who did the real work for us on the cross.

As to my view of scripture, it is entirely within the conservative evangelical mainstream. God didn't waive the personalities or idioms or language abilities or diction or literary abilities (or lack thereof) or any of the discernible human characteristics we associate with human language and literature when He directed and empowered the writers of scripture to write; what He did do through His Spirit was to ensure that 1) everything they said was true; 2) they said everything He wanted them to say; and 3) they didn't say anything He didn't want them to say.

For I did not follow concocted tales in making known to you the power and the earthly ministry of our Lord, Jesus Christ, but was an eyewitness to His majesty. For when He had received honor and glory from God the Father, these words sounded forth to Him from God's majestic glory: "This is my beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased." And these words I myself heard as they were delivered from heaven, for I was with Him on the holy mountain (cf. Matt.17:1-8). Yet I consider the prophetically inspired Word (i.e. the Bible) even more reliable (i.e. than what I saw with my own eyes). You too would do well to pay the closest attention to this [prophetically inspired Word], just as to a lamp shining in a dark place (cf. Ps.119:105), until the day dawns, and the Morning Star rises (i.e. the Living Word, Jesus Christ, returns), pondering in your hearts this principle of prime importance: no single verse of prophetically inspired scripture has ever come into being as a result of personal reflection. For true prophecy has never occurred by human will, but only when holy men of God have spoken under the direction and agency of the Holy Spirit.
2nd Peter 1:16-21

As a result, we have God's perfect and complete message to humanity in the canon of scripture – as it stands in the original text. Of course that does not mean that acquiring and accessing the truth of the Bible is without effort. The truth is much to the contrary. It requires, time, effort, preparation and prior study, and the requisite spiritual gift(s) to get past a certain point in the interpretation of scripture. The Bible was written in Greek and Hebrew (and some small parts in Aramaic); this requires the exegete to know the original languages very well. The original exemplars of the texts have, of course, perished, and that means that the text has to be established before a translation can be attempted; this requires the exegete to have some knowledge of the art and science of textual criticism. The Bible was written in a different time and to a different group of peoples with different ideas, customs, mind-sets, institutions, and modes of expression than obtain today; this requires the exegete to be well versed in ancient history and culture. And, finally, the Bible is, in a very unique way, a whole that is not immediately obvious given its apparent (and only apparent) disparate parts, with the message of scripture running deep into every verse and phrase; this requires the exegete to be studied in systematic and biblical theology (and, to some degree, church history), and to have a fairly detailed and sophisticated understanding of the truth of the Bible overall.

All of the above, of course, require faith, an unshakeable faith in the living Word, Jesus Christ, and in the written expression of His thinking shared with us in time, the written Word, the holy scriptures. For after we entrust our lives to Jesus, further spiritual advance cannot be divorced from what the scriptures actually say and genuinely teach. This is why I am so insistent upon accepting the complete veracity of every true word and phrase in the Word of God. Men may misunderstand them, get the text wrong, fail to realize some important point of historical or cultural divergence, or may not be up to the (not insignificant) task of translating from Hebrew and Greek into English and capturing the force, the power, the flavor, and, above all, the precise meaning of the original. But that is not God's fault and it is not any fault that can be put down to the scriptures. Thus, the substance of the Bible is indistinguishable from what the Bible actually says when translated/interpreted with complete accuracy. Any other point of view is, in my opinion, incredibly and deceptively dangerous, because it opens unseen "super-highways" for the evil one to plant doubts and undermine whatever truth the Christian in question has digested, because, ultimately, if there is any sense in which the Bible might not "mean what it says", then who can say with authority that it ever really means or says anything?

People make mistakes all the time (including bad translations). God has not abrogated the principle of free will so as to allay this in biblical interpretation – far from it; in fact, the only reason for us to be here on earth after accepting Christ is to demonstrate what is really in our hearts by the myriad choices we make every day. Those choice include how much we value our Lord and His Word, and what we are willing to do to find out what He really says, means, and wants, and how readily we undertake to respond.

I wish I could say that I am perfect in this (or even close). Here's hoping that, God helping us, all of us who truly love the Lord begin to make a better effort day by day toward attaining to that perfect standard.

In the name of the One who died for us on the cross, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

 

Question #10:  

Do you know if the following verse is in most or all of the oldest manuscripts?

"and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved bother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do the rest of Scripture, to their own destruction."

(2 Pet. 3:15-16)

I thought this book took a little while to be accepted into the canon, but I might be mis-remembering.

Thanks and take care.

 

Response #10: 

Not only are these verses in the oldest and best manuscripts; they are not omitted from any manuscript as far as I am aware. There are a few small variations here and there (e.g., Sinaiticus reads en tais instead of en hais in verse 16), but nothing of interpretive significance. Canonicity is a different question. 2nd Peter is most definitely part of the Word of God. It has been subject to attacks, but then most of the books of the Bible have had some objection or other launched against them. 2nd Peter is one of the last books to have been written, so it is not independently as well documented by fragments as some of the earlier books. But the book is in Sinaiticus and Ephraemi Rescriptus, and in the Bodmer papyri as well. All of these are among the very earliest witnesses we possess (ca. third century), so it is clear that the early pre-Roman church certainly accepted the book's canonicity. Most of the arguments against the likes of 2nd Peter are based upon much later evidence and much later objections, chief of which is the so-called Muratorian canon (or fragment). This is a very slender reed upon which to base any sort of canonical argument, however. The date and provenance of Muratorian "canon" are unclear (I am loath to accept the second century date often advanced). It was copied only in the seventh century, and there are many disturbing things in its commentary which no Christian would accept. For my money, it is most likely a spurious concoction of the early middle ages (though conservatives and liberals are equally likely to accept it, each for their own purposes). Any way, we can talk about canonicity more if you like. As to the existence of these verses essentially as is in all of the manuscripts there is no doubt.

In Jesus our Lord,

Bob L.

 

 

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