The Twelve Days of Christmas

The Twelve Days of Christmas (for protestants)

What are the Twelve Days of Christmas?

It is the celebrations and festivals that run from the day after Christmas (December 26th) to Epiphany (January 6th). It is a series of holidays (holy days) that have triggered the phrase “Happy Holidays” during this festive Christian season. Though in many cases, they have been forgotten.

Some hold the tradition that the Twelve Days of Christmas can run longer than 12 days. The reason for this understanding is that some hold that none of the Twelve Days of Christmas are to be permitted on Sunday, the Lord’s Day. For those who hold to this position, the next scheduled day of the Twelve Days of Christmas would pick up on the following Monday. So with the Twelve Days of Christmas, it could be either 13 or 14 days depending on whether one Sunday or two Sunday’s occur in this 12 day period. So the feast of Epiphany could be as late as January 7th or January 8th, as opposed to the traditional January 6th.

Others celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas straight trough having the Lord’s Day coincide with respective holy day. This was common in Scripture. For example, when a Sabbath day fell during a holiday period like Passover Week, they just overlapped but it was denoted as a High Sabbath.

The twelve days of Christmas are not mentioned in Scripture!

This is true, but what is mentioned in Scripture is:

So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. (Colossians 2:16-17)

One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks. For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. (Romans 14:5-10)

As Christians, we can utilize a day to the Lord at anytime and are welcome to have festivals and people should not judge. If one opts to refrain, then they need not celebrate, but judgment should not be directed toward non-celebrators either. We both celebrate to the Lord or not celebrate to the Lord—both as servants of God.

In the past, some of the twelve days of Christmas had become tied to local persons or events, harking back to the early church and medieval times. The twelve below is an updated listing utilizing more biblical themes and reformation theology.

What are the specifics of the Twelve Days of Christmas?

December 25th

Christmas Day – celebrating the birth of Christ

Day 1: December 26th

The First day of Christmas is known as Stephen’s Day (also known as Boxing day)—the first Martyr of the Church after the resurrection and he gave his all as a testimony to Jesus Christ. It consists of the Feast of Stephen. This is a day dedicated to giving to the poor. It is also called “Boxing Day”, in remembrance of giving boxes of food to the poor. Read Acts 6:8-8:2.

Day 2: December 27th

The Second day of Christmas (Apostles Day) remembers the apostles beginning with John the Apostle, “whom our Lord loved” and was present at the Crucifixion. It is customary to light candles on this day because John spoke of light versus darkness in a spiritual sense. It was also a day to bless wine and toast it (in moderation of course). Read Psalm 104:15, Amos 9:13-14, John 2:3-11, and 1 John 1:1-2:3.

Apostles

  1. John son of Zebedee and brother of James
  2. Andrew (Peter’s brother)
  3. James the son of Zebedee
  4. Simon Peter (Cephas)
  5. Philip
  6. Bartholomew
  7. Thomas
  8. Matthew the tax collector
  9. James the son of Alphaeus
  10. Lebbaeus Thaddaeus
  11. Simon the Canaanite
  12. Judas Iscariot, who forfeited his right as an Apostle
  13. Matthias (Acts 1:20-26) Replaced Judas
  1. Paul (2 Corinthians 11:5, 2 Corinthians 12:11, etc.)
  2. Barnabas (Acts 14:14)
  3. James the brother of Jesus (Galatians 1:19)
  4. Jesus is THE Apostle (Hebrews 3:1)

Day 3: December 28th

The Third day of Christmas is Ember Day where we recall the martyrs, particularly the Holy Innocents (those killed by Herod seeking to kill Jesus). It is a day to pray and fast for orphans and children; and to teach people why the modern form of child sacrifice, abortion, is wrong. Read Exodus 1:8-2 and Matthew 3:12-21.

Day 4: December 29th

The Fourth day of Christmas remembers all who have been exiled, murdered, and persecuted for defending the faith against all opposition (Martyrs and Sacrifice Day). It is a time to remember pastors/ministers/bishops, missionaries, Christian leaders (i.e., deacons and elders), apologists, and even previous reformers and Christians leaders back to the reformation and all that they sacrifice(d) to follow Christ. It is a time to encourage current leaders to defend the authority of God and His Word above all others. Gifts can be given to current leaders to show support and encouragement. Read Isaiah 52:7, Romans 10:13-17, and Ephesians 4:11-16.

Day 5: December 30th

The Fifth Day of Christmas, we celebrate Holy Family Day. This consists of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus as well as the rest of the Holy Family including Jesus’ earthly family (i.e., James, Jude/Judas, Joses, Simon and His sisters). This is a time to bless our immediate and extended families and pray for them and dedicate them to the Lord. Read Matthew 1:18-25 and Mark 6:3.

Day 6: December 31st

New Year’s Eve is the Sixth Day of Christmas, also known as Hogmanay/Hogmane Day (others have Hoggo-nott or Hoog Min Dag, meaning great love day or Holy Month or Holy Morning—for the looking forward to the first day of the year). This is the day for traditional games like shooting a bow (archery), javelin toss, and in our modern vernacular, shooting contests. Granted this is on our modern Gregorian calendar while different days were the first and last day of the year depending on calendar. To see significant events that occurred on the first day of the first month in Scripture see: Genesis 8:13, Exodus 40:2, Exodus 40:17, 2 Chronicles 29:17, Ezra 7:9, Ezra 10:17, and Ezekiel 29:17-20.

Day 7: January 1st

The Seventh day of Christmas celebrates the New Year and a new beginning, to become a New Creation in Christ. It is a time to share your testimony to your family and friends of how the Lord saved you. Then, communion should follow it. Read Psalm 119:88, 1 Corinthians 1:4-7, 2 Timothy 1:8, 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, and 1 Corinthians 11:20-29.

Day 8: January 2nd

The Eighth day of Christmas is the day to call to mind the church fathers (Church Father Day) and how they stayed the course to which the apostles laid the groundwork. It remembers their steadfast proclamation of teaching the good news of Jesus Christ. Try to call to mind certain early church fathers that the Apostles taught and delivered the faith that was to be once for all, [e.g., Timothy (to whom Paul wrote and traveled), Jude (author of Jude and brother of Christ), Clement (Philippians 4:3), Ignatius and Polycarp (disciples of John), Apollos (1 Corinthians 3:6)]. Read Ephesians 2:19-22 and 2 Peter 3:2.

Day 9: January 3rd

The Ninth day of Christmas is the day we celebrate the naming of “Jesus.” This is a day to recall the names of Jesus and the names of God (Mighty God, Elohim, Jehovah, Prince of Peace, I Am, Messiah, Son of God, The Word, Christ, etc.) and their significance it could be called Triune Day, as names of all three persons of one triune Godhead[1] is to be discussed and the Athanasius Creed[2] is to be read after the names of Jesus have been discussed.[3] All of the footnoted items here can be used on this Holy Day celebration.

Day 10: January 4th

The Tenth day of Christmas is Presentation Day or Simeon and Anna’s Day, when Jesus was presented at the Temple on the 40th day and the turtledoves/pigeons were sacrificed (customary for the those who were poor). Both Simeon and Anna saw the blessed Christ Child. It is a day to present ourselves and our children and grandchildren to Lord and ask for forgiveness of our sin (repentance). This 40th day was prior to the reception of precious gifts of the wise men, which included gold, to offer such a humble sacrifice. Read Leviticus 12:1-4 and Luke 2:22-39.

Day 11: January 5th

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas it is a time to remember the shepherds and angels (Angel and Shepherds Day/Epiphany Eve). The angels announced the coming of the advent of Christ to Mary, Joseph, Zacharias and the shepherds who were the first to worship Jesus. It is wise to read the entire account of Jesus birth in both Matthew and Luke. It is also a time to plan for the feast of the Epiphany, which occurs the next day. Read Matthew 1:20-24, Matthew 2:13-19, Luke 1:13-21, Luke 1:26-38, and Luke 2:8-18.

Day 12: January 6th

The Twelfth Day of Christmas is the celebration of the Epiphany—when the magi visited the Christ-child and presented gifts to Him – Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. Though this is honored on the 12th day, it was not until after the 40th day when Jesus was presented at the Temple that the Magi arrived. They saw Jesus at a house, not the manger scene and the Holy Family immediately went to Egypt for some time after the Magi to flee from Herod, the king ruling out of Jerusalem. This is the final day of the Twelve days of Christmas and time for great feasting and drinking wine (again in moderation) and presentation of the finals gifts to your family. Read Matthew 2:1-12.

Cite this article: B. Hodge, The Twelve Days of Christmas (for Protestants), Biblical Authority Ministries, December 16, 2015, https://biblicalauthorityministries.wordpress.com/2015/12/16/the-twelve-days-of-christmas/.

 

[1] God is Triune from Scripture: https://answersingenesis.org/who-is-god/the-trinity/god-is-triune/.

[2] The Athanasius Creed can be found here: https://carm.org/christianity/creeds-and-confessions/athanasian-creed-500-ad.

[3] Some names can be found here: http://www.gotquestions.org/names-of-God.html and http://www.gotquestions.org/names-Jesus-Christ.html.

Advertisements
The Twelve Days of Christmas

What did John Calvin and James Arminius actually agree on?

In Arminius’ and Calvin’s days (at the time of the Reformation and thereafter), there was some errant theology floating around (like it does today). One of the major points was about the days of creation not being normal days (again, like it does today). The debate is similar and yet different to today’s debate though.

In today’s day and age, some theologians try to take the six days of creation (and the seventh day of rest too) and stretch them out to be long periods of time to accommodate the pagan religion of secular humanism [and its long age, anti-God philosophy which include millions of years and evolution]. In Reformation days, some people were trying to take all six days of creation and cram them into a single moment within a single day. In both cases, people question the days of creation! Here is what Calvin and Arminius said about this debate:

John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries, Comments on Genesis 1:5 says:

The first day. Here the error of those is manifestly refuted, who maintain that the world was made in a moment. For it is too violent a cavil to contend that Moses distributes the work which God perfected at once into six days, for the mere purpose of conveying instruction. Let us rather conclude that God himself took the space of six days, for the purpose of accommodating his works to the capacity of men.”[1]

Calvin went so far as to say that he held that the world had not yet “completed its six thousandth year.”[2] Of course this would be true in Calvin’s time, but not our own as we have recently completed 6,000 years by most calculations including James Ussher and Floyd Nolan Jones.

Believe it or not, Jacobus Arminius agreed! He says:

“We think this was the order observed in creation: Spiritual creatures, that is, the angels, were first created. Corporeal creatures were next created, according to the series of six days, not together and in a single moment. Lastly, man was created, consisting both of body and spirit; his body was, indeed, first formed; and afterwards his soul was inspired by creating, and created by inspiring; that as God commenced the creation in a spirit, so he might finish it on a spirit, being himself the immeasurable and eternal Spirit.”[3]

Arminius disagreed with the idea that it took only a moment, but affirmed 6 days. Even a follower of Arminius theology, John Wesley agreed that the age of the earth was to be calculated based on 6 normal days of creation—not including millions of years. Wesley commented:

“The Scripture being the only Book in the world that gives us any account of the whole series of God’s Dispensations toward man from the Creation for four thousand years.”[4]

Wesley affirmed that creation to the New Testament Scripture (i.e., what God revealed to man as Wesley denoted as “dispensations”) to be 4,000 years.

Of course, Scripture makes 6 normal length days clear in Genesis 1:1-2:4 with by the context and evenings and mornings and numbered. Consider other cross-references, which reveal creation week as a basis for our 7 normal-day workweek too:

Exodus 20:11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

Exodus 31:17 ‘It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.’”

And this is a good teaching point. Let’s face it, God could have created in zillions of years or God could have created in a moment, but the issue isn’t what God could have done but instead is an issue of what did God said He did? To sum this up, Martin Luther, the famous reformer himself, had something to say on this subject and it is indeed worth repeating, as these wise words should be reiterated today.

“How Long Did the Work of Creation Take? When Moses writes that God created heaven and earth and whatever is in them in six days, then let this period continue to have been six days, and do not venture to devise any comment according to which six days were one day. But, if you cannot understand how this could have been done in six days, then grant the Holy Spirit the honor of being more learned than you are.”[5]

Cite this article: B. Hodge, What did John Calvin and James Arminius actually agree on?, Biblical Authority Ministries, November, 4, 2015, https://biblicalauthorityministries.wordpress.com/2015/11/04/what-did-john-calvin-and-james-arminius-actually-agree-on/.

[1] John Calvin Commentary notes on Genesis 1:5.

[2] John Calvin, Translated by Henry Beveridge, Institutes of the Christian Religion. 2nd ed. Hendrickson Publications, Peabody, Massachusetts, 2009.

[3] The Works of Arminius, DISPUTATION XXIV-ON CREATION, XII.

[4] John Wesley, Survey of the Wisdom of God in the Creation, vol. 2. William Pine Publisher, Bristol, England, 1763, p. 227.

[5] Martin Luther, What Martin Luther Says – A Practical In-Home Anthology for the Active Christian, compiled by Ewald M. Plass, Concordia, St. Louis, MO, 1959, page 1523.

What did John Calvin and James Arminius actually agree on?

Apologetics Methods used by Christians—A Brief Overview

I am presuppositional (Van Tillian to be precise—think Drs. Greg Bahnsen, Ken Gentry, and Jason Lisle). This should be clear in my writings—though I am not without error in my execution. The goal is to start with God and His Word, the 66 books of the Bible, as the ultimate authority in all matters.

Though other methods exist for apologetics, they often fall tragically short. But I wanted a concise table to summarize them. Some are more common than others [classical (sometimes known as traditionalist), evidential (apologetical—really a variant of classical), and presuppositional (Van Tillian)]. But presuppositional is typically in reference to Van Tillian and evidential is usually seen as apologetical evidential unless otherwise denoted.

I still wanted to insert some lesser-known methods into the table. I wanted to “cut to the heart” of the discussion and point out what is the underlying authority for each method, even methods that borrow much presuppositional material and methodology but then deviate.

I also wanted to have a column that pointed out the overall view of evidence, since there is much confusion over this by Christians who have not read much on apologetic methods. For example, some might mistakenly think that evidential apologetics means that you use evidence (because of the name) and conclude that presuppositionalists don’t use evidence since that is what evidentialists are using! Of course, both use evidence! But the difference is the starting point – human logic or God’s Word to look at that evidence.

The three other “presuppositional” methods by Drs. Clark, Carnell and Schaeffer are dealt with in great detail by Dr. Greg Bahnsen in his book “Presuppositional Apologetics”. So more detail could be ascertained there. Quotes are provided after the table for the three main methods used by Christians—classical, evidential, and presuppositional. In some cases the quotes were in the context of both evidential and classical. Even a couple of quotes from Dr. Gordon Clark on his variant of presuppositionalism was listed.

My hope with this was to give the reader a quick comparison of the overview of these methods as well as a better understanding of the presuppositional view as the only legitimate method that starts with God and His Word as the ultimate authority that it is. Consider. Why would one start with logic as the first authority to argue that God and His Word are the first authority? Isn’t that self defeating? At any rate, enjoy.

Table of Apologetic Methods (in brief)

Absolute authority Use evidence? Bible proves true? Basic argument:
Classical Logic Yes Probably (Logical analysis of philosophy supports the Bible) This method assumes that human rational thought[1] is the absolute standard regarding philosophical debates. Evidence is used in conjunction with the argument. Rational thoughts first to point to the Bible’s truthfulness.[2] Favors deductive reasoning.
Apologetical Evidential (a subset or variant of classical) Logic Yes Probably (Logical analysis of scientific, historical, archaeological evidence supports the Bible) Rational thought is the absolute standard and when viewing evidence outside the philosophical realm (e.g., historical, scientific, archaeological, etc.). Assumes people can come to the right conclusion when viewing evidence, evidence ultimately speaks for itself; i.e., evidence first to point to the Bible’s truthfulness.[3] This method assumes people are “neutral.” Favors inductive reasoning and empiricism.
Epistemological Evidential Logic Yes (no basis outside of evidence) Probably (Logical analysis of evidence supports the Bible) Like apologetical evidential but pigeonholed to Clifford’s dictum: “it is wrong, everywhere, always, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.”[4] Many reject it due to the arbitrariness of how much is sufficient? Furthermore, does Clifford have evidence to believe this?
Cumulative case (similar to classical and evidential) Logic Yes Can’t know Cumulative case tries to piece together several arguments and lines of [external] evidence to make a single theory or idea and that conclusion is seen as better than other theories. It works by testing God’s Word to see how well it does.
Reformed epistemology Logic No (not necessary) Probably (As long as it can be warranted and defended) No evidence; “grounded” beliefs are warranted as long as they can be defended against known “objections”. Evidence is not necessary to believe things. Though not fideism, it has a similar component but unlike fideism, one must defend against alleged problems.
Fideism (faith only) Self No Probably (on faith alone is it true) Faith alone, no arguments needed and no response is necessary to objections.
Van Tillian Presuppositional God’s Word Yes Yes (Unless one starts with the Bible, one can’t make sense of even asking the question) God and His Word are the absolute standards of all things (e.g., morality, logic, uniformity in nature, dignity, etc.) The Bible is the only basis for a worldview that makes knowledge, logic, premises, truth, etc. possible. All other worldviews must borrow from the Bible to make some sense of the world; i.e., Bible first and final to look at all things.[5]
Clarkian Presuppositional Logic is God[6] No/

minimal

Can’t know, but probably (It is the most logical and one must start with God’s Revelation to arrive at showing the Bible to be self-consistent logically) With aspects of Van Tillian but argues that the best worldview is the most logical and Christianity is the most consistent in its logic. So Christianity appears to be the best.[7] Clark’s view was similar [regarding evidence] but different from Fideism. It was similar to Classical, but recognized that God’s Word must precede logical argumentation (e.g., non-autonomy). Clark argued that we couldn’t know anything outside the Bible (particularly on the basis of sensation).
Modified Presuppositionalism (or Shaefferian) Logic Yes Probably (It has the best answers to life) With aspects of Van Tillian but argues that the best worldview will give the best answers to life. Christianity gives the best answers to life. So, Christianity appears to be the best.[8] His methodology allowed for the use of some classical arguments, autonomy, and neutrality.
Carnellian Presuppositional Logic Yes Probably (It is the most coherent) With aspects of Van Tillian but argues that the best worldview is the most coherent. Christianity is the most coherent via the internal text. So, Christianity appears to be the best.[9] He mixed many aspects of classical form (autonomy) with presuppositionalism, which is really a combinationalist.

Quotes by leading adherents of some of these popular positions

Classical Apologetics:

Classical: “In the case of apologetics, we consider it self-evident that it must start with the person who is making the intellectual journey. One simply cannot start outside himself.”[10]

Classical: “The issue of starting point is crucial to the debate. The presuppositionalist maintains that you cannot get to God by starting with the self (cf. chap. 10), and the traditionalist argues that the self is the only possible starting place (cf. chap. 11).”[11]

Classical: “Nevertheless, for Van Til, theoretically, the proper starting point is not man at all, but God. If man were the starting point, we all would have this in common and thus and initial point of contact. But this is not so, there is no point of contact – nothing in common.”[12]

Classical: “If we did not start with ourselves, we could not have come to Him.”[13]

Classical: “To briefly recapitulate our discussion of the starting point: we have given three arguments why we must start with ourselves rather than God: 1. It is psychologically impossible for us to start with God (as it is impossible for God to start with us). 2. It is logically impossible for us to start with God for we cannot affirm God without assuming logic and our ability to predicate.”…3. It is logically impossible to show rational necessity of presupposing God except by rational argument.”[14]

Apologetical Evidential/Classical:

Apologetical Evidential/Classical: “Evidentialism in Christian apologetics seeks to show the truth of Christianity by demonstrating its factuality. Whereas classical apologetics characteristically regards logic or reason as the primary criterion of truth, evidentialism characteristically assigns this priority to fact. (This difference can be understood largely a matter of emphasis; of course, both classical apologists and evidentialists consider reason and fact to be both essential to apologetic argumentation.)”[15]

Apologetical Evidential/Classical: “The difference between classical apologists and evidentialists may be identified from one perspective as the difference between two broad conceptions of the task of philosophy.”[16]

Apologetical Evidential:

Apologetical Evidential: ‘Montgomery states: “facts must carry their own interpretations”[17] and “the very nature of legal argument (judgments rendered on the basis of factual verdicts) rests on the ability of facts to speak for themselves.”’[18]

Apologetical Evidential: “Evidential apologists of all stripes hold in common a second crucial aspect: the conclusions of the apologetic arguments they employ are shown to be probable rather than certain.”[19]

Apologetical Evidential: Montgomery states in defense of evidential apologetics against Clarkian presuppositional method: ‘”Here we have the root of the problem with Clark’s philosophy of history: Can one “begin with God” (the Christian God) without benefit of objectively discoverable historical facts? I say No,…’[20]

Apologetical Evidential: “In other words, evidentialism in apologetics places a certain burden of proof on the apologist to show non-Christians why it is rational to believe in Christ. At the same time, evidentialists claim that the truth of the Christian message cannot be successfully or properly denied without a fair consideration of the factual basis for the Christian truth claim.”[21]

Clarkian Presuppositional:

Clarkian Presuppositional: “The intelligibility of the Scriptures presupposes logic. Therefore anyone who is in the business of selecting first principles would seem to do better by choosing the law of contradiction as the axiom rather than Scripture.”[22]

Clarkian Presuppositional: “The well-known prologue to John’s Gospel my be paraphrased, “In the beginning was Logic, and Logic was with God, and Logic was God…In Logic was life and the life was the light of men.” This paraphrase, in fact, this translation, may not only sound strange to devout ears, it may even sound obnoxious and offensive. But the shock only measures the devout person’s distance from the language and thought of the Greek New Testament. Why is it is offensive to call Christ Logic, when the New Testament calls him a word is hard to explain….Any translation of John 1:1 that obscures this emphasis on mind or reason is a bad translation.”[23]

Van Tillian Presuppositional Apologetics:

Presuppositional (Van Tillian): “God’s revelation is more than the best foundation for Christian reasoning; it is the only philosophically sound foundation for any reasoning whatsoever.”[24]

Presuppositional (Van Tillian): “Therefore, the authority of Christ and His Word, rather than intellectual autonomy, must govern the starting point and method of his apologetics, as well as its conclusion.”[25]

Presuppositional (Van Tillian): “The apologist must content that the true starting point for thought cannot be other than God and His revealed word, for no reasoning is possible apart from that ultimate authority.”[26]

Presuppositional (Van Tillian): “The presuppositional challenge to the unbeliever is guided by the premise that only the Christian worldview provides the philosophical preconditions necessary for man’s reasoning and knowledge in any field whatsoever.”[27]

Presuppositional (Van Tillian): “Therefore, when the apologetic debate centers (eventually) on the issue of conflicting presuppositions, the believer must defend God’s Word as the ultimate starting point, the unquestionable authority, the self-attesting foundation of all thought and commitment.”[28]

Cite this article: B. Hodge, Apologetics Methods used by Christians—A Brief Overview, Biblical Authority Ministries, October 19, 2015,https://biblicalauthorityministries.wordpress.com/2015/10/19/apologetics-methods-used-by-christians-a-brief-overview/.

[1] Unaided or autonomous human reason and this is the same with Evidential, Cumulative Case, and all others on this list except Van Tillian and Clarkian. Human logic is seen as the absolute standard by which all debate, thought, analysis, and conclusions are judged.

[2] Popular Classical apologists are William Lane Craig, Thomas Aquinas, Norm Geisler, R.C. Sproul, and J. P. Moreland.

[3] Popular Evidential apologists are B.B. Warfield, William Paley, and John Warwick Montgomery. Classical and Evidential have much overlap and many call themselves either-or depending on the topic at hand. The difference lies in the view of inductive or deductive method when dealing with philosophy.

[4] Variant of evidential by W.K. Clifford

[5] Named for Cornelius Van Til who articulated it in modern times, espoused by Van Til, Greg Bahnsen, Kenneth Gentry, Michael Butler, and Jason Lisle. Early presuppositional apologetics examples are claimed from the Bible itself, as well as numerous others such as Augustine (in some aspects) and John of Damascus. Logic is seen as a tool resulting from God and His Word as the ultimate authority.

[6] Unlike the unaided or autonomous human basis of logic, Clark viewed logic as God per his famous restatement of John 1.

[7] Variant developed by Gordon Clark.

[8] Variant developed by Francis Schaeffer.

[9] Variant developed by Edward J. Carnell.

[10] Classical Apologetics, R.C. Sproul, John Gerstner, and Arthur Lindsley, Academie Books (through Zondervan Publishing House), Grand Rapids, 1984, p. 212.

[11] Classical Apologetics, R.C. Sproul, John Gerstner, and Arthur Lindsley, Academie Books (through Zondervan Publishing House), Grand Rapids, 1984, p. 212.

[12] Classical Apologetics, R.C. Sproul, John Gerstner, and Arthur Lindsley, Academie Books (through Zondervan Publishing House), Grand Rapids, 1984, p. 214.

[13] Classical Apologetics, R.C. Sproul, John Gerstner, and Arthur Lindsley, Academie Books (through Zondervan Publishing House), Grand Rapids, 1984, p. 214.

[14] Classical Apologetics, R.C. Sproul, John Gerstner, and Arthur Lindsley, Academie Books (through Zondervan Publishing House), Grand Rapids, 1984, p. 223.

[15] Evidential Apologetic: Faith Founded on Fact, http://bible.org/seriespage/evidentialist-apologetics-faith-founded-fact

[16] Evidential Apologetic: Faith Founded on Fact, http://bible.org/seriespage/evidentialist-apologetics-faith-founded-fact

[17] Evidential Apologetic: Faith Founded on Fact, http://bible.org/seriespage/evidentialist-apologetics-faith-founded-fact

[18] Montgomery, “The Jury Returns: A Juridical Defense of Christianity,” in Evidence for Faith, 335

[19] Evidential Apologetic: Faith Founded on Fact, http://bible.org/seriespage/evidentialist-apologetics-faith-founded-fact

[20] Montgomery, J.W., The Philosophy of Gordon H. Clark: A Festschrift, Ed. Ronald Nash, The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, Philadelphia, PA, 1968, p. 383.

[21] Evidential Apologetic: Faith Founded on Fact, http://bible.org/seriespage/evidentialist-apologetics-faith-founded-fact

[22] Clark, G. H., The Philosophy of Gordon H. Clark: A Festschrift, Ed. Ronald Nash, The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, Philadelphia, PA, 1968, P. 64.

[23] Clark, G. H., Logic, The Trinity Foundation, Jefferson Maryland, Second Edition 1985, pp. 120-121.

[24] Bahnsen, G., Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings & Analysis, P & R Publishing, Phillipsburg, New Jersey, 1988, page 4-5.

[25] Bahnsen, G., Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings & Analysis, P & R Publishing, Phillipsburg, New Jersey, 1988, page 6.

[26] Bahnsen, G., Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith, Covenant Media Press, Nacogdoches, Texas, 1996, 72-73.

[27] Bahnsen, G., Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings & Analysis, P & R Publishing, Phillipsburg, New Jersey, 1988, page 5.

[28] Bahnsen, G., Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith, Covenant Media Press, Nacogdoches, Texas, 1996, 72-73.

Apologetics Methods used by Christians—A Brief Overview

Blood moons? Really? Seriously… Really?

“Blood moon” is not in the Bible. Search it; it is not there. Hard to believe that there are so many Christians up in arms about it thinking the world is about to end because of the sensationalism around so called blood moons.

Moon into Blood

Don’t get me wrong, there are things derived from the Bible that we give names to like Trinity, monotheism, atheism, incarnation, and so on forth. So where does the idea of a “blood moon” come from?

There is a faction of Christians who teach this and they go back to Joel 2 as the basis for their interpretation of a “blood moon”. What does Joel say?

Joel 2:31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD.

Ergo, they claim that if the moon turns a shade orange-ish or red-ish, because of the atmosphere, lunar eclipses, etc. then it could be a sign the world is about to end. By astronomical standards, we can often determine when the moon will look a little different. But that is really an aside to the discussion at hand.

To continue, some point out that the book of Acts has Peter reiterating this prophecy at Pentecost. They quote Peter:

Acts 2:20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD.

Context is key

Let us read the passages in context:

Joel 2

28 “And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions.

29 And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.

30 “And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: Blood and fire and pillars of smoke.

31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD.

32 And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, As the LORD has said, Among the remnant whom the LORD calls.

Acts 2

14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words.

15 “For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day.

16 “But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

17 ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams.

18 And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy.

19 I will show wonders in heaven above And signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke.

20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD.

21 And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved.’

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know —

First, Peter pointed out that what they were seeing was the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy before their very eyes! Therefore, it is not in reference to something that was to happen in the distant future (i.e., today).

Clearly, there is metaphorical language here too. So what does Peter mean when he says this prophecy of Joel was being fulfilled in his day? Let us evaluate this portion of Acts 2 in more detail.

Details of Acts 2 Fulfillment

17 ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams.18 And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy.

These things were happening at Pentecost before their very eyes. The Spirit of God was poured out and people began speaking in tongues and prophesying. In fact, the canon of Scripture was reopened after 400 years of silence when there had been no prophets. The New Testament is written fulfillment of this prophecy. This event at Pentecost triggered this.

19 I will show wonders in heaven above And signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke.

As witnessed by the miracles, wonders, and signs of Christ done in the midst of Israel (Acts 2:22).

20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD.

Let us now look at other Scripture (Scripture interprets Scripture) to see other uses of the sun, moon, and stars. The Bible talks a lot about the sun, moon, and stars in a metaphorical fashion as well as a literal fashion. Context determines the meaning and they can easily be determined as literal and metaphorical.

Let us do an example. Genesis 1:14-19 is speaking of the literal sun, moon, and stars. By the context, God created these physical bodies to give light on the earth in a physical sense.

Now let us flip to the back of the Bible. Are the sun, moon, and stars in Revelation in reference to the literal sun, moon, and the stars (Revelation 6:12, 8:12, and 12:1)? The context indicates something that yields a metaphorical nature. Here are the verses in question:

Revelation 6:12 I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood.

Revelation 8:12 Then the fourth angel sounded: And a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them were darkened. A third of the day did not shine, and likewise the night.

Revelation 12:1 Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars.

Phrases such as the “woman clothed with the sun”, the “moon became like blood”, the “sun became black”, a “third of the sun was stuck and it only shown a third of the day”, help us realize that this needs not be interpreted in a “wooden” literal sense. Now let us return to Acts 2 and Joel 2 while looking at other metaphorical uses of sun, moon, and stars.

Acts 2:20 and Joel 2:31 nearly mimics where the “the sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood”. The Gospel accounts in the context of tribulation and the temple’s and Jerusalem’s destruction say:

Matthew 24:29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

Mark 13:24-25 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; “the stars of heaven will fall, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

Luke 21:25 “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring;

So where Peter points out this was happening in his day, the Temple’s destruction was the final culmination of the sun, moon, and stars being darkened in its finality—which occurred in A.D. 70.

But what are the sun, moon, and stars, in these metaphorical instances. These passages in Revelation and the Olivet discourse are clearly not the first metaphorical use of sun, moon, and stars. Joel prophesied such things previously in 2:10; 2:31; and 3:15 (one we have already seen). Other prophets use this imagery as well such as Isaiah in 13:10. So where is this imagery from? The answer is in Genesis. The first use of a metaphorical nature of the sun, moon, and stars is:

Genesis 37:9-10 Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, “Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me.” So he told it to his father and his brothers; and his father [Israel] rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?”

Yes, Israel, that is the sun, moon, and 11 stars bowed down to Joseph in Egypt! Israel (i.e., Jacob and the twelve tribes) was seen as the sun, moon, and stars collectively. So the meaning reveals itself that Israel was to be darkened (e.g., Romans 11:7-10, Matthew 21:23) and turned to blood as Jesus indicated would happen with their destruction.

These things Peter spoke in Acts 2 about the sun, moon and stars, were in the works as Israel rejected Christ and now only a remnant would be saved (Joel 2:32) and final culmination would be at the destruction of the sun, moon, and stars (Israel) and the Temple in judgment for rejecting Christ (Luke 23:45, Matthew 24, Luke 21, Mark 13). The unrepentant Jews were darkened (Romans 11:7-10) and Christians are now bearers of as lights of the world (e.g., Ephesians 5:8, 1 Thessalonians 5:5) thorough Jesus Christ who is the ultimate light of the world (John 8:12) shining through Christians (Ephesians 5:14).

21 And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved.’

This was triggered for New Testament times at Pentecost and this still occurs today as the saving work of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3). Truly, the moon was turned to blood and sun was turned to darkness just as the Lord prophesied and Peter affirmed was occurring (i.e., when the Jews remnant was saved, then rest were darkened for rejecting Christ (Romans 11:7-10) and the gospel was finally sent to the gentiles who are listening, Acts 28:25-28.)

What can we conclude?

All this to say that looking at the moon turn colors due to atmospheric phenomena or eclipses misses the point of the whole passage. So seriously…blood moons really?

Cite this article: B. Hodge, Blood Moons? Really? Seriously…Really?, Biblical Authority Ministries, October 14, 2015, https://biblicalauthorityministries.wordpress.com/2015/10/14/blood-moons-really-seriously-really/.

BHodge

Blood moons? Really? Seriously… Really?

How do we know that the 66 books of the Bible are from God? A presuppositional response, Part 3: Related Issue: presuppositional vs. non-presuppositional

As we close this three-part discussion, we need to “button up some holes” and compare the presuppositional view with the common view of affirming the canon based on the ”apostolicity plus” view described in part 1.

When viewing the canon presuppositionally, there will always be some nuanced differences, but this is due to the methodology of the Bible being the absolute authority in all areas. Many well meaning Christians have bought into non-presuppositional views; as result, they may inadvertently not give the best answers to this question. I wish to encourage those who have not considered the presuppositional method to seek to understand it in more detail.

The Method of Apostolic Authority

The method of using the Bible as the authority and beginning with Christ who gave authority to the apostles for the New Testament writings is a presuppositional method. Development of the canon is taking the angle of starting with the Bible (i.e., let God be His own authority) as a basis to discern the canon based on statements from Jesus and the apostles as to apostolic authority (a self-authenticating approach).

For those who are familiar with the debate about determining the canon, the presuppositional approach is not the most common method used by evangelicals in the past 100 years. There are two primary competing methods by which evangelicals often argue when looking at the canon. I mentioned the most common one previously (see part 1: Number 9, Apostolicity Plus: things written or affirmed by the Apostles, their associates, or the brothers of the Lord, or potentially others; tests must be applied to find out if they are Scripture). I gave a brief response previously but will now dive into the debate over these two methods in more detail.

Both methods agree that there are twenty-seven books of the New Testament and agree on the books included, but the debate is over the method itself.

Position 1 (Presuppositional View): Apostolic authority granted to a book or letter for canon status, by being authored/co-authored by an apostle or affirmed by an apostle as Scripture when imposed on the church. This is the basis for canonicity, and external tests are useful (consistency, church usage, preservation, and so on), but are merely a confirmation of what Scripture already assets, not the basis of determination.

Position 2 (Apostolicity Plus): Some books by the apostles and some books by others, such as their associates and/or brothers of the Lord (Jude, Hebrews, Mark, and so on), could be canon (i.e., not all apostles’ books are canon; some books by non-apostles are canon). Potential Scriptures can only be found by applying tests like consistency, church usage, or preservation to see if they are Scripture.

In this three-part discussion on canon, I used the development method of Position 1 by starting from the internal texts of Scripture, particularly with Christ and His statements (e.g., John 14:26, 15:26–27, 16:7–15; Luke 11:48–49) Then I followed with other biblical passages to argue for the importance and authority of the apostles who Christ entrusted with the gospel and the authority to handle it properly. Some of these passages follow:

 “Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior.” (2 Peter 3:1–2)

  “Therefore the wisdom of God also said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, and some   of them they will kill and persecute.’” (Luke 11:49)

  “Having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20)

  (showing the authority an apostle had) “But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts. For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness—God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 2:4–6)

  “But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Jude 1:17)

At this point in the discussion, I want to critique Position 2 and expand on some biblical problems with it, which I began to do in previous sections. Keep in mind that those holding to this position are brothers in the Lord but simply fail to do apologetics in the area of canon from a proper presuppositional fashion.

Leading modern scholars

Scholars, including those who have proposed apostolicity plus/Position 2, recognize the importance of the apostles in determining the canon, and rightly so. There are a number of passages that make their importance in the church unmistakable, especially in light of statements from Jesus like, “I will send them prophets and apostles.”

A leading commenter on the canon of Scripture was B.B. Warfield. He took the position that the New Testament canon was the outworking of the apostles as either authored or affirmed by them.[1]

“We say that this immediate placing of the new books — given the church under the seal of apostolic authority — among the Scriptures already established as such, was inevitable. It is also historically evinced from the very beginning. Thus the apostle Peter, writing in A.D. 68, speaks of Paul’s numerous letters not in contrast with the Scriptures, but as among the Scriptures and in contrast with “the other Scriptures” (II Pet. iii.16) — that is, of course, those of the Old Testament. In like manner the apostle Paul combines, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, the book of Deuteronomy and the Gospel of Luke under the common head of “Scripture” (I Tim. v.18).

The early Christians did not, then, first form a rival “canon” of “new books” which came only gradually to be accounted as of equal divinity and authority with the “old books”; they received new book after new book from the apostolical circle, as equally “Scripture” with the old books, and added them one by one to the collection of old books as additional Scriptures, until at length the new books thus added were numerous enough to be looked upon as another section of the Scriptures.

The Canon of the New Testament was completed when the last authoritative book was given to any church by the apostles. . . . Whether the church of Ephesus, however, had a completed Canon when it received the Apocalypse, or not, would depend on whether there was any epistle, say that of Jude, which had not yet reached it with authenticating proof of its apostolicity…. And in every case the principle on which a book was accepted, or doubts against it laid aside, was the historical tradition of apostolicity.

Let it, however, be clearly understood that it was not exactly apostolic authorship which in the estimation of the earliest churches, constituted a book a portion of the “canon.” Apostolic authorship was, indeed, early confounded with canonicity. It was doubt as to the apostolic authorship of Hebrews, in the West, and of James and Jude, apparently, which underlay the slowness of the inclusion of these books in the “canon” of certain churches. But from the beginning it was not so. The principle of canonicity was not apostolic authorship, but imposition by the apostles as “law.”” [2]

There are also many other modern scholars, such as F.F. Bruce, who recognize apostolic authority as the key to canonicity in the New Testament. They recognize the importance of apostolic authority and there is no doubt why, with a host of Scriptures appealing to their authority. Bruce writes:

“For various reasons it was necessary for the Church to know exactly what books were divinely authoritative. The Gospels, recording “all that Jesus began both to do and to teach,” could not be regarded as one whit lower in authority than the Old Testament books. And the teaching of the apostles in the Acts and Epistles was regarded as vested with His authority. It was natural, then, to accord to the apostolic writings of the new covenant the same degree of homage as was already paid to the prophetic writings of the old.

One thing must be emphatically stated. The New Testament books did not become authoritative for the Church because they were formally included in a canonical list; on the contrary, the Church included them in her canon because she already regarded them as divinely inspired, recognising their innate worth and general apostolic authority, direct or indirect.”[3]

The crux of the issue

In the case of Bruce and many modern scholars (whose work is to be highly respected, no doubt) dealing with the details of the books of the New Testament, they ultimately had to give up apostolic authority to include other writings (e.g., Jude and Hebrews). Instead of asking the question, “How do these books have apostolic authority?”, they asked, “How can we add to apostolic authority to include other writings?” Herein lies the problem.

Sadly, many scholars who would readily affirm apostolic authority for the New Testament when pressured with Jude, which is one of the main debate points, would appeal to methods other than apostolic authority. Why not stand on the Bible’s claims of apostolicity and evaluate Jude to see whether it was founded in apostolic authority such as an apostle affirming it as authoritative?

Typically, the arguments include varying views such as “people who were eyewitnesses and companions of the Lord,” “brothers of the Lord,” “associates of the apostles,” and so on. Supposedly, these people can also be responsible for canon books of the New Testament of their own merit, according to this position—as if equal to the apostles! But there is a major problem with this—where does the Bible say this?

And further, who comes up with this list of potential authors? People do and then take their ideas to the Scriptures. Some may appeal to Acts 1:20–22 as “people who were eyewitnesses and companions of the Lord,” but this was a requirement for a candidate for an apostle, but it was not equal to a status as an apostle.

Recall that one of the two candidates (Barsabbas) was not counted among the twelve. If they could be equal to the apostles by writing or affirming canon Scripture without the approval from an apostle, then the elevation of Matthias to the level of apostle to replace Judas was meaningless. B.B. Warfield and other scholars were rather adamant about the authority of an apostle and were more consistent than this approach.

Summary of Strengths of Position 1 (Presuppositional view)

  • The New Testament is derived from apostolic guidance where the apostleship was of utmost importance and explains why Paul defended it so vigorously.
  • Apostles were entrusted with the authority and so, when the apostles died, the canon was closed.
  • All 27 books have a scriptural apostolic basis by which we can know they are canon as Christ conferred this power to them to recognize the Word of God by the Holy Spirit. Whether we know exactly which apostle is not necessary.
  • External tests are a confirmation (tests are of extreme importance as things should be consistent—God will not contradict Himself, according to 2 Timothy 2:13—and they can be used to ward off false books from false prophets and false apostles).

Summary of Weaknesses of Position 1 (Presuppositional View)

  • Jude does not say that James (who was called an apostle) affirmed his book as Scripture, nor does the book of Hebrews directly state it has apostolic support. In both cases, they must be inferred from the text.
  • The inferences are based on the assumptions that James gave authority to Jude’s book by mentioning him in the opening, that those confirming it to the writers of Hebrews were the apostles (Acts 1:21–26), and that Peter was correct that Paul wrote to the Hebrews (in verse 2:3 “and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him”). These could have been affirmed by other apostles; we simply are not told whom.

Summary of Strengths of Position 2 (Apostles Plus)

  • Tests are of extreme importance as things should be consistent (God will not contradict Himself—2 Timothy 2:13) and can be used to ward off false books from false prophets and false apostles.

Summary of Weaknesses of Position 2 (Apostles Plus)

  • No biblical basis to know what the full canon is; in other words, all books must tested to see if they are canon whether apostles or others.
  • The Bible does not give any credence to the authority of associates, friends, or co-laborers of the apostles or others or brothers of Lord, but appeals to human arguments must be made to support this view.
  • Who is the final authority on the canon? Humanity, who comes up with test, applies the tests, and makes judgment calls; so this view has man sitting in authority over the Word of God.

The Slowness of Canon Recognition

I have previously argued at length that God not only determines the canon and was completely responsible for its existence (developed it), but even more: that only God gives the guidelines to know what the canon is in His Word—so that people cannot even boast when they find it out. (If anything, it shows how slow fallible people are to take so long in realizing what the full canon was). To know what the canon is, we must begin with God’s Word.

If a book had apostolic authority (written or affirmed by an apostle for use in the churches for instruction), it was Scripture (e.g., Luke 11:49, 2 Peter 3:2); the apostles were the authority, as given by Christ, and if they imposed a book or letter on the church for instruction, then it was Scripture. Early on, this would have been obvious within the churches, as the apostles were alive and travelling around to these churches and teaching them verbally what was written Scripture. So they could easily say what was Scripture and what was not.

In some cases, the letters themselves give some snippets of this such as Peter affirming all of Paul’s letters (as discussed in the previous articles). It was not until the apostles died that people started to question what was Scripture. After that, people no longer had apostolic guidance and so likely began to react by putting together lists of Scripture such as the Muratorian canon (estimated to be from around A.D. 170). So the churches, in essence, lost information as to what was Scripture, even though the Scriptures themselves give the guidelines for knowing what it was.[4] This was likely because fallible people, within the church were muddying the waters on this issue.

Even at the time of the apostles, a particular church still may not have known the whole of the New Testament canon. It took time to get a copy of authoritative Scriptures, have it copied, and pass it along to another church. This process can take quite some time from one end of the Roman Empire to another—especially when Jews, as well as the Romans and Greeks, were persecuting the early church. In other words, it is not like our electronic age where we can send a copy around the world in a matter of seconds.

The moment a book of Scripture was written, it was Scripture and to be included in the canon, whether people recognized it or not. It may have taken some time for a church to realize it was Scripture until an apostle made it known to them. In other words, a letter written by Paul to the Galatians is Scripture, but Christians in Alexandria, Egypt may not have known it was Scripture for some time, even if they received a copy fairly soon after. But once they found out it had apostolic authority, they realized it was inspired Scripture. It makes more sense that people, over the generations, lost what was Scripture in the same way that many Israelites lost what was Scripture when in captivity.

As false books popped up and other letters were written between churches, there became a need to separate out the books with apostolic authority and those without. As we have seen in history, this took a while and people did not agree because they did not always look to the Bible for the guidelines, but instead looked at what fallible, sinful people said in their passing comments.

Sadly, a number of people throughout history began using human arguments to say what the canon was and ignored apostolic authority (i.e., not starting with the Word of God). The Roman Church for example openly makes the claim that they determine what the canon is, in essence elevating themselves to a position of being greater than the Word of God (Matthew 10:24).

Others, especially around the time of the reformation, rightly rejected that position in favor of a position closer to the view that the apostles were the ones responsible, but in some instances they use a human argument to include a few others (e.g., Jude). So they were closer but they still retained some elements of humanism in determining the canon.

But such things need to be revised further to get back to biblical authority, and reduce the human argument element—where the apostles were the ones who were responsible for the whole of the New Testament, by directly writing or directly affirming the twenty-seven books of the New Testament. When human arguments are involved it leaves open the possibility of an incomplete and an insufficient canon. In other words, the canon must simply be taken on blind faith without a true basis when the Bible is not the absolute authority on the canon.

Scholars who take Position 2 (Apostolicity Plus) conclude that the canon is simply taken on faith, because we can never know if it is complete. Stephen Voorwinde in The Formation of the New Testament Canon does not hold to the position of apostolic authority for the New Testament canon (though he recognizes that this was typically the early view) and he writes:

“Yet it remains a confession of faith that the canon of the New Testament corresponds exactly to Christ’s canon. Their identity cannot be absolutely established by historical study. Historical evidence and “proofs” take us only so far. As in so many other areas there comes a point where it becomes a matter of faith.”[5]

When it comes to the canon, we should start with the Word of God and let it dictate the guidelines for the canon. Tests are useful, but they cannot be the basis. Scripture gives the basis as apostolic affirmation of a book. This is the best method to know what the canon of the New Testament consists of.

Tests and Testing the Tests

Tests are important as a confirmation. I am not arguing that the tests are not based on Scripture; I am arguing that determining the canon by testing alone has no basis in Scripture. Putting the Word of God as the center of a test where we fallible humans are the ones doing the grading is back-to-front! Tests are great in an after-the-fact viewpoint (which is why they are supplementary in the presuppositional view).

One theologian and apologist emailed me this list as the tests that are generally agreed upon:

  • Is it prophetic (did it come from a “man of God,” 2 Peter 1:20, i.e., apostolic authority for NT)
  • Is it authoritative (“Thus says the Lord”)? (hundreds of verses)
  • Is it consistent with the rest of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 6:18)?
  • Is it dynamic in that it shows God’s life-changing power (Hebrews 4:12)?
  • Was it received and accepted by believers (2 Thessalonians 2:13 and others)?[6]

When people generally agree upon something, that makes humanity the authority. Other tests have been proposed. For example, Dr. Norm Geisler uses the following tests:

  • Was the book written by a prophet of God?
  • Was the writer confirmed by acts of God (performing miracles, etc.)?
  • Does the message tell the truth about God?
  • Did it come with the power of God?
  • Was it accepted by the people of God?[7]

Others say:

  • Whether the book had been written by one of the Apostolic circle or closely related to it
  • Whether it bore the marks of inspiration
  • Whether it was Christ-centered in its teaching
  • Whether it was read in the worship services of the Church[8]

There are others as well, but this should suffice to reveal there are as many tests as people commenting on the test! Some people have preservation as a test and so on. In the testing models, who proposes books for the canon? Humans. Who picks these tests and who grades them? Humans (i.e., “generally agreed upon”) who are sitting in authority over the Word of God. This is a subtle form of humanism that has crept in –albeit unknowingly for most—so please be forgiving. I say this cautiously as I used to do this method too! This is why the Bible needs to be its own authority in the development of the canon.[9]

Let’s turn back to the first set of tests. Using these tests as a sole basis to find out what the New Testament canon is causes problems. By these tests, how can Jude be Scripture—it is not written by an apostle, nor affirmed by an apostle in this view (this is obviously aside from the equivocation fallacy where a “man of God” is equivalent to “apostolic authority”). So Jude would fail the first test. If this concept is extended to merely holy men, not just apostles, then the idea of apostolic authority breaks down to lip service.

These tests are fine in once sense but it is how they are used. They still fail to address the concern over a basis for the canon. Tests are an after-the-fact criteria, not a basis. In other words, any book can be put through a test, even now, which leads to the issue of a complete canon and sufficiency. Using the Bible’s internal evidence as the authority to arrive at the canonical books is the basis; the tests are but a confirmation.

Let’s test the test with two books using the first set of tests.

Paul’s alleged missing book[10]:

Let’s take this claimed missing book of Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:9 and apply these tests. Is it from an apostle? Yes. Is it authoritative? Yes (according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:9). Is it consistent? Paul never wrote otherwise and even affirmed it to be followed in the church. However, since there are no extant copies of this alleged book, no one can prove otherwise. Is it dynamic (even though Hebrews 4:12 really does not say this)? One cannot know since we have no copies of a missing book. Was it received and accepted by believers? Yes, by the Corinthians. It gets a 4/5.

Jude:

Is it from an apostle? No. Is it authoritative? There are no statements like “God says.” Is it consistent? Yes. Is it dynamic? Yes. Was it received and accepted by believers? Yes. It gets 3/5.

By the results of the test, neither of these books should be Scripture, because neither got a 5/5; thus, the test is not adequate. But note how Paul’s alleged missing book outscored Jude! Had we selected different tests to include preservation, then Jude would have been 4/6 and so would Paul’s alleged missing book – both still failing.

If one turns to the second set of tests, it fairs no better. Is the book of Jude written by a prophet? No. Did Jude perform miracles? No. Need we go further? Jude would fail the test. But Jude is Scripture so the tests, fail.

But due to failure of the test-alone methodology, the presuppositional method is the answer and why it was used in this discussion. It removes the human element. This is why an internal textual means is superior—God develops the New Testament canon through Christ and the apostles, and apostolic authority is the basis.

Recognition by the Early Church—Is That Significant?

Another factor to consider is that the New Testament books were commonly used in churches. It was this widespread use that further indicated they were authoritative (building on that initial basis). This kind of confirmation was common with Old Testament books with the Jews because the prophets knew which books were authoritative and this permeated their society. So a similar practice should have been expected with the New Testament with the Apostles affirming certain books as Scripture.

Many church fathers recognized and quoted from New Testament books as authoritative early on. In short, some are:

  1. Polycarp (disciple of John)
  2. Ignatius (before AD 150)
  3. Tertullian (AD c. 155–d. 230)
  4. Clement of Alexandria (AD c. 150–d. 215)
  5. Justin Martyr (mid-second century) [11]

Recognized lists of authoritative books appeared to reduce confusion with many other writings that were in circulation by gnostics and others. Furthermore, early church leaders would write letters to churches as well, but there was need to distinguish these from authoritative canon. So they began to list these out. There was the Muratorian Canon from about AD 170. It was damaged but still listed all but about five books of the New Testament. Eusebius in the 4th century lists all but about five, but does not outright reject any other New Testament book.[12] But recall these are fallible lists by fallible men and merely a confirmation.

Many lists have followed since then. Such references reveal significant recognition of the canon. One would think that Christians, who have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, who is God (2 Timothy 1:14), would be able to recognize God’s writings to man and use them, but this is not always the case—but at the same time recognize that man does not set the canon but merely discovers what God has done. Anytime one is dealing with sinful, fallible man’s recognition, caution should be exercised, which is why a presuppositional approach should be the deciding factor. Lists are merely a good confirmation.

Church fathers like Ignatius (John’s disciple) and Irenaeus put the apostles on a level of authority well above themselves.[13] They do this to distance what they wrote from the books that apostles affirmed as Scripture.

Ignatius

“But shall I, when permitted to write on this point, reach such a height of self-esteem, that though being a condemned man, I should issue commands to you as if I were an apostle?”

“I do not issue orders like an apostle.”

“I do not, as Peter and Paul, issue commandments unto you. They were apostles;”

“I do not ordain these things as an apostle: for “who am I, or what is my father’s house,” that I should pretend to be equal in honor to them? But as your “fellow-soldier,” I hold the position of one who [simply] admonishes you.”

Irenaeus

“Such, then, is their system, which neither the prophets announced, nor the Lord taught, nor the apostles delivered, but of which they boast that beyond all others they have a perfect knowledge.”

“Since, therefore, the tradition from the apostles does thus exist in the Church, and is permanent among us, let us revert to the Scriptural proof furnished by those apostles who did also write the Gospel, in which they recorded the doctrine regarding God, pointing out that our Lord Jesus Christ is the truth, and that no lie is in Him.”

A Brief Introduction: Are More Books Ever Going to Come?

 “And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.” (John 21:25)

The point of the Bible was not to record all things but to record what was sufficient. It is sad that people are often looking to add books or materials at the level of Scripture (e.g., Book of Mormon, Watchtower publications, false gospels, hidden books, the Koran, and so on), and yet few have ever really read and understood what is already written in the sixty-six books of the Bible.

The Book of Life, mentioned in Scripture, is from God, but other books mentioned or quoted in Scripture are not inerrant Scripture.[14] Among these are the Book of Jashar (Joshua 10:13; 2 Samuel 1:18), Books of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel and Judah, Book of Enoch (quoted by Jude 1:15), and so on. If quoted, that particular passage can be seen as Scripture, but not the rest of the book.

The fact remains that the Scriptures have been preserved just as the Scriptures said they would be (Psalm 12:6–7). And the Scriptures cannot be broken (John 10:35). God cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18), so His writings will not contradict themselves. Thus, any book that is in contradiction with the sixty-six books of the Bible is not from God. This quickly eliminates many alleged holy books right from the start, even if they claim inspiration from God or try to attach a prophet’s or apostle’s name to themselves.[15]

Some models of progressive creationism have tried adding to Scripture as well. Leading progressive creationist Dr. Hugh Ross has made the claim in one of his books that nature is “likened unto the 67th book of the Bible.”[16] He has reiterated this more recently.[17]

Since the creation is under a curse (Genesis 3; Romans 8), and a new heavens and new earth are needed (Isaiah 65:17; Revelation 21:1), and the curse has not been removed yet (Revelation 22:3), it is appropriate to say that this alleged 67th book of the Bible (which, many times, is more the secular interpretation of nature) is not valid Scripture. Besides, heaven and earth will pass away, as have many of the secular interpretations of them already, but God’s Word will never pass away. This fact gives further indication that nature is not Scripture (Mark 13:31; Matthew 24:35; Luke 21:33).

 “Therefore the wisdom of God also said, “I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute.”” (Luke 11:49)

There is no mention of a future group of people given at the level of prophets of the Old Testament and apostles of the New Testament. Does the Bible talk about when the vision and prophecy would cease? Yes it does. Let’s dive into the Old Testament.

In Daniel 9:24-27, God prophesied that He would seal up vision and prophecy (Daniel 9:24) when desolations would occur in both the Holy City (that is, Jerusalem per Nehemiah 11:1, Isaiah 52:1), and the sanctuary (that is, the Temple; e.g., 1 Kings 6:19) per Daniel 9:26.

The end is when the Temple and Jerusalem were left desolate in A.D. 70 (Mark 13:14, Matthew 22:7, Luke 21:20). Consider that in the book of Revelation, the Temple was still standing (e.g., Revelation 11:1-2). This gives a timeframe for when vision and prophecy would stop [and hence, there would be no more Scripture after that date (Daniel 9:24)]. This is further elucidated in Psalm 74:1-12.

When Herod’s Temple was destroyed and things were smashed to pieces in the sanctuary and burned the Temple and when Judea was ravished and destroyed this fulfilled what is stated in Psalm 74:1-12 since there would no longer be any prophets after this desolation. This is not in reference to the captivity, when the first Temple was destroyed since the items in the Temple were removed and carried away (2 Kings 24:11-13) [as opposed to being destroyed] by Nebuchadnezzar; and prophets lived through this and continued prophesying in Babylon and Persia.

When the Temple and Jerusalem were left desolate in A.D. 70, it sealed up vision and prophecy. Essentially, the canon of Scripture would be sealed from that point until Christ returns on that final day, the Second Coming (prophets and apostles were responsible for the prophetic Scripture through the Holy Spirit). So Revelation, or any other book of Scripture, must have been written prior to this (A.D. 70) or they are not Scripture.[18]

Conclusion

Please do not get me wrong, there are still a number of great theologians, even though a number have bought into the apostolicity plus position. And if you know some, please be praying for them. The point is that many have been influenced by false ideas that have been creeping into theology ever since many Christians started to compromise the Word of God with humanistic viewpoints, such as millions of years or evolution in the 1800s.

Even I have been influenced by some of these ideas and I needed to get back to the authority of the Word of God and I think we all need to be humble in this area (1 Corinthians 8:1) – you see, I used to appeal to “apostles plus” and used to teach that view to others and I always struggled with it, until I realized I need to surrender to God’s Word alone.

Presuppositional thinking (God’s Word as the absolute authority as a methodology from the starting point to final authority) is a new way of thinking and is uncommon in today’s church.

When we start with the Bible, we see that God self-authenticates His Word as God is the greatest authority on this subject and no one can appeal to higher authority elsewhere. (Hebrews 6:13). God openly signed it (with many passages saying it was from Him as would be expected) and confirmed it via apostolic authority. So now it is a matter of taking the time to read and trust what God says in His Word. In summary, one can rightly state:

“The 66 books of the Bible are the written Word of God. The Bible is divinely inspired and inerrant throughout. Its assertions are factually true in all the original autographs. It is the supreme authority in everything it teaches.” [19]

BHodge

Cite this article: Hodge, B., How do we know that the 66 books of the Bible are from God? A presuppositional response, Part 3: Related Issue: presuppositional vs. non-presuppositional, Biblical Authority Ministries, September 3, 2015, https://biblicalauthorityministries.wordpress.com/2015/09/03/how-do-we-know-that-the-66-books-of-the-bible-are-from-god-a-presuppositional-response-part-3-related-issue-presuppositional-vs-non-presuppositional/.

[1] This is not to say everything that Warfield wrote is being endorsed, but for that matter neither are all the positions of the other authors that I have referenced.

[2] B.B. Warfield, The Formation of the Canon of the New Testament (Philadelphia, PA: American Sunday School Union, 1892). http://www.reformed.org/master/index.html?mainframe=/bible/warfield_canon.html.

[3] F. F. Bruce, “The Canon of the New Testament,” http://www.bible-researcher.com/bruce1.html.

[4] For more on the history see: http://www.bible-researcher.com/canon.html

[5] Stephen Voorwinde, “The Formation of the New Testament Canon,”,Vox Reformata 60 (1995), http://www.bible-researcher.com/voorwinde1.html.

[6] A friend who is a theologian-his name is held back for privacy, personal correspondence, April 28, 2011.

[7] Norm Geisler, “The Canonicity of the Bible,” http://www.pinpointevangelism.com/The-Canonicity-of-the-Bible.pdf.

[8] Bastian Van Eldren, “History of the English Bible,” (lecture, n.d.), p. 6.

[9] This must be the case in argument from the position of ultimate authority. There is no higher authority and, hence, the ultimate authority must be the final authority on the subject.

[10] I am not here to debate alleged missing books of Paul; though after much study, I would yield to the context of 1 Corinthians 5 as what Paul is referring to in this passage. Especially in light of Peter saying: “And consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation — as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.” Although this would be another chapter in and of itself.

[11] Brian Edwards, Why 27? (Darlington, England: Evangelical Press, 2007), pp. 46–48.

[12] Brian Edwards, Why 27?, p. 47. See also Glenn Davis, “The Development of Canon of the New Testament,” http://www.ntcanon.org/Eusebius.shtml#disputed.

[13] Their writings are readily found online such as: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/ignatius.html and http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/irenaeus.html.

[14] The Book of Life is in the possession of God alone.

[15] Bodie Hodge, “Other Religious Writings” Answers, October–December 2007, pp. 36–38. See also the chapter on New Testament Apocrypha in this volume.

[16] H.N. Ross, Creation and Time (Colorado Springs: Navpress, 1994), p. 56.

[17] Andy Butcher, “He Sees God in the Stars,” Charisma, June 2003, p. 40.

[18] Thus any alleged prophetic book that came after this such as the Koran, Book of Mormon, Watchtower publication and so on are not Scripture.

[19] Answers in Genesis, “Statement of Faith,” Basics (B) 1, http://www.answersingenesis.org/about/faith.

How do we know that the 66 books of the Bible are from God? A presuppositional response, Part 3: Related Issue: presuppositional vs. non-presuppositional

How do we know that the 66 books of the Bible are from God? A presuppositional response, Part 2: New Testament

What about the 27 books of the New Testament?

In part 1, we found that the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament were truly part of the canon based on the clear statements of Jesus regarding their authenticity and authority. The twenty-seven books of the New Testament require some deeper thinking than the Old Testament because they were written after Christ ascended.

Because of this, some may think that we do not have His authoritative statements concerning them as we did for the Old Testament books. This is not at all the case. But let’s begin this section with an analysis of how God communicated to man in the Old Testament as a springboard to look at the New Testament writings.

How did God communicate to mankind in the Old Testament?

From a big picture standpoint, how had God spoken in the Old Testament? In some cases, it was by direct address, such as God speaking to Abraham (Genesis 18) or Adam (Genesis 3:8–21) or Joshua at Jericho (Joshua 5:13–15). Jesus had appeared in physical form at many points before He took on flesh at His birth in Bethlehem. These appearances are referred to as theophanies or, more precisely, Christophanies. It seems that one of the last of these physical Christophanies prior to Christ in the flesh was with Solomon (2 Chronicles 1:7).

In other cases, the revelation was written by the hand of God (e.g., the 10 Commandments). Sometimes it was given in dreams (e.g., Genesis 20:6). Often, it was delivered by verbal preaching (e.g., Jonah preaching to the people of Nineveh in Jonah 3:2). In some cases, the oral revelation was transferred to written form (e.g., Moses speaking Levitical laws to the Israelites in Leviticus 1:2 and then recording those) and in other cases it was strictly written (e.g., Deuteronomy 27:8).

And, of course, Jesus Christ is the Word of God (John 1) and His every word was the Word of God, though clearly not all of it was recorded (John 21:25), just what was sufficient. He lived under the Old Testament as well, for He delivered the New Covenant in His blood (Jeremiah 31:31; Matthew 26:28).

Only that which has been written is sufficient, but that is for another discussion. There are a host of ways in which God delivered His Word. In the New Testament, we expect a variety of means as well—and we find this: verbal deliveries that needed to be put to paper (e.g., Stephen’s speech in Acts 7); directly written documents such as the epistles; direct address from Jesus (e.g., to Paul on the Damascus road); and so on. But what we have been left with is only that which was written. And this is important because what is being discussed in this treatise is what is written, not the verbal things that were not recorded for our benefit.

Authoritative guidelines from Christ

Now let’s turn back to Christ (with whom we began for the Old Testament) to look to the New Testament. Did Christ give any hints that there would be more books of the Bible or hints as to how and by whom they would arrive?

In John 14, Jesus is speaking with His disciples. He claims that the Holy Spirit will remind his disciples of things that have happened.

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” (John 14:26)

Bringing “to your remembrance” implies that believers should expect one or more complementary accounts of Jesus’ life—gospel accounts. What is the point of bringing something to one’s remembrance if it is not meant to be shared? Since the Holy Spirit helped them to remember, they needed some firsthand knowledge of Christ. Obviously, it is the guidance from the Holy Spirit that would give these books classification as the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21).

“But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.” (John 15:26–27)

“You will also bear witness” shows that we should expect some teachings from this group of witnesses for future generations; perhaps in the form of letters, books, sermons, and so on. This is significant, as Jesus points out that they will have the Spirit of truth, and Jesus is the truth (John 14:6). These disciples were also called apostles, which means “messengers” or “delegates” in Greek. Apostles are ones who have seen the risen Christ (1 Corinthians 9:1) and are appointed by Christ to be His messengers/representatives. The apostles were also given special gifts such as working miracles (e.g., 2 Corinthians 12:12).

“In fact, you bear witness that you approve the deeds of your fathers; for they indeed killed them, and you build their tombs. Therefore the wisdom of God also said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute.’” (Luke 11:48–49)

Because the Jews had not listened to the prophets, Jesus says that God in His wisdom also conferred “apostles.” And in a like manner as the prophets, apostles would speak and have authority on Christ’s behalf.

In other words, apostles, like the prophets of the Old Testament, were able to speak the very Word of God by the Spirit with authority when it comes to the text of Scripture. In the past, no prophets were able to speak for God on their own but only as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21), so apostles were able to do things in the same fashion as prophets in the Old Testament. Therefore, unlike the books of the Apocrypha, New Testament books have statements similar to those in the Old Testament claiming to be from God. For example, see the verses below:

To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things which angels desire to look into. (1 Peter 1:12)

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. (1 Corinthians 2:12–13)

If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I [Paul, the apostle] write to you are the commandments of the Lord. (1 Corinthians 14:37)

Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 4:1–2)

Now when this epistle is read among you, see that it is read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that you likewise read the epistle from Laodicea. And say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.” This salutation by my own hand—Paul. Remember my chains. Grace be with you. Amen. (Colossians 4:16–18)

Though these direct statements are not required since not all books of the Bible have these statements. Esther did not, nor does Jude. But seeing them in the New Testament in several places is similar to what we find in several places in the Old Testament showing the apostles knew they had the same authority, perhaps even more authority (1 Corinthians 12:28), than the prophets of the Old Testament.

John 16:13–15[1] speaks further on this subject, confirming expected writings. However, there is no reason to assume that all the apostles wrote something that would be part of the canon. Many prophets of the Old Testament have no written documents to their names. Also, there is no reason to assume that the eleven remaining disciples were the only ones able or gifted with such authority conferred to them. God called other apostles, such as Paul, who saw the resurrected Christ and became His messenger specifically to the gentiles. And as we see in Scripture, Paul rigorously defended his apostleship. There were also prophets in the New Testament, but they were under the authority of apostles (e.g., 1 Corinthians 12:28.)

This brings up another preliminary question: Who were the apostles listed in Scripture?

Who were the apostles and what was their function?

The discussion surrounding the apostles is relevant to determine who had apostolic authority, and, therefore, who would have authority to write, oversee, or put Christ’s seal of approval on the newly written Scripture of the New Testament.[2] In a greater sense of the word, apostle means one who is sent and is derived from the Greek word apostolos.

But apostleship carried more meaning than that. Being an apostle was more like a being a legal representative for someone—to speak, act, and make decisions on another’s behalf, such as in court. In today’s vernacular, our culture has something similar called “power of attorney” to make binding decisions and be a legal representative for someone else as though they were there.

In the Talmud (traditions of the Jewish elders, which was originally a study or commentary on the Old Testament Scriptures), an apostle was a delegate who carried the same basic authority as the one he represented, and he deserved the same respect (for example, see Mishnah Berakhot 5:5).

Sadly, Jews often elevated these Talmudic interpretations to a level greater than Scripture both in Jesus’ day and today. Recall in Matthew 15:2–9 where Jesus pointed out the error of the Jews when they elevated their interpretive traditions to be greater than God’s Word; the Talmud often recorded what these traditions were. Not that all traditions are bad, but they need to be placed well below the Scriptures.

But regardless, this helps us understand the authority an apostle carried for another person. So apostles of Jesus Christ would be representatives of authority for Jesus Christ. This explains why Paul defended his apostleship so vigorously in places such as 1 Corinthians 9. That apostolic seal gave him authority from Christ through the Holy Spirit to dictate or point out what was Scripture onto the church.

Authority of the apostles

“Therefore the wisdom of God also said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute’” (Luke 11:49)

And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:28)

having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20)

which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets (Ephesians 3:5)

that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior (2 Peter 3:2)

The apostles were conferred with power to speak, write, or make designations for Christ in a similar manner as the Old Testament prophets, though the work of the Holy Spirit that is. Notice that the apostles were actually listed as first importance in the church in 1 Corinthians 12:28. This gives the apostles a rank of authority – more on this in a moment.

The apostles were now the vessels of authority as given by Christ to write or impose upon the church the Word of God. So who were the apostles?

Scriptures gives apostleship to the twelve

The twelve disciples were listed as apostles (Matthew 10:2–4; Luke 6:13–16). They are as follows:

  1. Simon Peter
  2. Andrew, Peter’s brother
  3. James, the son of Zebedee
  4. John, the son of Zebedee and brother of James
  5. Philip
  6. Bartholomew
  7. Thomas
  8. Matthew, the tax collector
  9. James, the son of Alphaeus
  10. Lebbaeus Thaddaeus
  11. Simon the Canaanite
  12. Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Christ, killed himself, and forfeited his right to this office

Judas’s betrayal of Christ and subsequent suicide eliminated him from this position of authority. So this left eleven in this initial eminent position. But there are more.

Scripture says Matthias is an apostle

Due to Judas’s betrayal and death, his apostleship was essentially forfeited (John 17:12). After Judas’s death, the apostles cast lots to replace him, and the lot fell to Matthias (Acts 1, Psalm 109:8). He was now honored as one of the twelve and placed in the position of apostolic authority. The twelve apostles do have a special distinction as revealed in Revelation:

Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. (Revelation 21:14)

This special distinction, though, does not mean that other apostles listed in Scripture are not authoritative in their writings or oversight, as Paul made explicitly clear in his defense of being an apostle in several places. But it does show that Matthias’s inclusion was acceptable, for there were not eleven foundations, but twelve, for Judas had been replaced.

Scripture says Paul is an apostle

Paul was often declared to be an apostle in Scripture (e.g., Acts 14:14; Romans 1:1, 11:13; 1 Corinthians 1:1). Paul was not relegated to a position beneath the twelve eminent apostles.

For I consider that I am not at all inferior to the most eminent apostles. (2 Corinthians 11:5)

I have become a fool in boasting; you have compelled me. For I ought to have been commended by you; for in nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles, though I am nothing. (2 Corinthians 12:11)

Paul penned an extensive amount of the New Testament. When one is denoted in Scripture as an apostle, there should be little question as to whether the writings he was imposing on the church should be classed as Scripture due to the authority they bring.

In 1 Corinthians 15:8, Paul points out that he was the last to see the risen Christ, and hence was the last of the apostles (since one criteria of an apostle was to have seen Christ). This seems to imply that there would be no apostles in years to come. Those in Scripture who were called apostles would have been designated as such prior to Paul’s becoming an apostle; even James, who Paul recognized as an apostle in his book to the Galatians. It simply means they were not necessarily recorded in Scripture as apostles until afterward. But this also rules out people who claim to be apostles much later, such as Muhammad of Islam.

Scripture says Barnabas is an apostle

But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out. (Acts 14:14)

Scripture says James is an apostle

But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. (Galatians 1:19)

A deeper discussion regarding James’s apostleship will be dealt with later. But the simple fact that the word “other” (Greek: heteros) is used in this verse reveals that he is indeed an apostle.

Though some try to argue that the twelve and Paul were elevated in authority, there is no biblical basis for this. Scripture calls James an apostle (Galatians 1:19), so who can say he was not? Not being listed among the twelve does not mean that an apostle has no authority. The fact that, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, a person is listed with this unique title is of significance.

When some argued that Paul was in a lower tier, he refuted that position and shared that there is no such thing as a tier of apostleship (2 Corinthians 11:5, 12:11). This means that when Scripture calls someone an apostle, he is one—not in a caste-type system—and he has the same authority. Hence, Paul and James had the authority to write, oversee, or impose Scripture through the Holy Spirit in the same way John and Peter did.

Scripture says Jesus is the Apostle

Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus. (Hebrews 3:1)

Jesus is, of course, unique among the other apostles as indicated in John 13:16, where Jesus says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.” Because the apostles are the messengers of Christ, they are not as great as Christ. Of course, Christ is the messenger from heaven (John 6:38), the second person of the Trinity.

Apostolic Connection to the New Testament Books

New Testament canon came about because Christ conferred His authority to the apostles to write, edit, speak, or impose books on the church as authoritative. So all twenty-seven books of the New Testament are Scripture because of this authoritative line that has been in discussion. This is the methodology.

Do we need to know which apostle(s) affirmed each book as Scripture? No. And this is significant. The fact that they affirmed a book as Scripture to the early church is significant. It would not be Scripture had they not imposed it as such on the church.

In the same way, though we do not know who wrote each book of the Old Testament, the virtue that the books were affirmed by a prophet was all that was necessary and Christ put His seal of approval on this. Whether that information is passed along to us as to who the specific prophet(s) was, matters not. In some cases, we know from the Scripture the likely candidate (e.g., a specific psalm of David or the books of Moses). In some cases, we know who wrote New Testament books (e.g. Paul with Colossians) and hence, the likely apostle who affirmed it (Paul himself or even Peter in 2 Peter 3:15-16), but it is not necessary to know each person for each book. The sheer fact that it was an apostle who gave a “stamp of approval” for its inclusion in the canon is sufficient.

When it comes to the authority of the New Testament, it is important to understand how these books get this stamp of approval from the apostles. This does not mean that the apostles had to write each book, but they had to “impose” it on the church. Something could have been written by scribes of a prophet or an apostle, or even written by a prophet himself, but it was by an apostle’s authority as given by Christ that needed to confer it, on behalf of Christ whom they represent, as canon law.

Furthermore, this does not mean that everything the apostles said, wrote, or did was worthy of the canon; only that which was affirmed as Scripture for teaching over the church. If an epistle or book had an apostle involved in it, this does make it easier to identify the likely candidate (and other apostles would be able to recognize it as Scripture too) with whose authority this canon book came.

I would maintain that the early church knew the all the books of the New Testament because the apostles were able to tell them directly when a book was Scripture. Perhaps not all at the same time of course. Apostles were often in different places across the Empire. So it took some time for one church to get a copy or find out about other books across the Roman Empire.

In some cases, there may have been a subsequent loss or confusion over all the canonical books if there were not an apostle nearby to sort them out. For example an ancient canon list called the Muratorian canon was a list of 22 of the 27 New Testament books. Did this particular Christian who made this list not know about the other canon books yet or had he lost the information on what all was canon?

Who were the likely apostolic connections for the New Testament Canon?

Apostle John: 5 of the 27 books of the New Testament

  1. Gospel of John
  2. 1 John
  3. 2 John
  4. 3 John
  5. Revelation

John is obviously the best candidate for conferring apostolic authority for the books above. The short letters by John [the Elder] will be discussed in more detail later.

Apostle Peter: 3 of the 27 books of the New Testament

  1. 1 Peter
  2. 2 Peter
  3. Gospel of Mark

Two books were directly written by Peter (1 and 2 Peter). John Mark, who was under the guidance of Peter as pointed out by the early church, wrote the Gospel of Mark. Mark likely recorded much of Peter’s teachings, and the Gospel of Mark follows similar outlines to Peter’s sermons, such as Acts 10:34–43 from John the Baptist to the Resurrection. Mark was more or less acting as a scribe under Peter’s guidance. For example, Papias, who learned from John the apostle and wrote early in the 2nd century AD, said:

For information on these points, we can merely refer our readers to the books themselves; but now, to the extracts already made, we shall add, as being a matter of primary importance, a tradition regarding Mark who wrote the Gospel, which he [Papias] has given in the following words: And the presbyter said this. Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatsoever he remembered. It was not, however, in exact order that he related the sayings or deeds of Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied Him. But afterwards, as I said, he accompanied Peter, who accommodated his instructions to the necessities [of his hearers], but with no intention of giving a regular narrative of the Lord’s sayings. Wherefore Mark made no mistake in thus writing some things as he remembered them. For of one thing he took especial care, not to omit anything he had heard, and not to put anything fictitious into the statements.[3]

Also, Tertullian, an early writer, states at the same time as Papias:

The same authority of the apostolic churches will afford evidence to the other Gospels also, which we possess equally through their means, and according to their usage—I mean the Gospels of John and Matthew—whilst that which Mark published may be affirmed to be Peter’s whose interpreter Mark was.[4]

Other church fathers comment on this, but these early apostolic fathers share the initial view on these teachings. Apologist and researcher Brian Edwards sums it up nicely:

Papias and Tertullian, both of whom lived early in the second century AD, claimed that Mark wrote his Gospel in partnership with the apostle Peter.[5]

Is the fact that Mark acted as a scribe acceptable? There is precedence in the Old Testament for someone else to write things down for a prophet; for example, Baruch acted as the scribe for Jeremiah (Jeremiah 36:4–32). So there should be no problem with apostles having such writers under their oversight. But it was due to apostolic authority that these writings were imposed on the church.

Critics have argued that Peter was not the author of 2 Peter but without much warrant. When such claims are evaluated, they simply fall apart.[6]

Apostle Matthew: 1 of the 27 books of the New Testament

  1. Gospel of Matthew

Only one book was attributed to Matthew. Matthew was one of Christ’s twelve apostles, so it was likely his authority on this gospel account.

Apostle Paul: 15 of the 27 books of the New Testament

  1. Romans
  2. 1 Corinthians
  3. 2 Corinthians
  4. 1 Thessalonians
  5. 2 Thessalonians
  6. 1 Timothy
  7. 2 Timothy
  8. Ephesians
  9. Galatians
  10. Philemon
  11. Titus
  12. Philippians
  13. Colossians
  14. Gospel of Luke
  15. Acts of the Apostles

It is worth noting that from the earliest records few, if any, doubted that the thirteen letters (fourteen including Hebrews, as many did, more on this below) came from the hand of Paul. Why were Paul’s writings classed as Scripture? There are two reasons. First, Jesus selected Paul to become His apostle (Acts 9), and so Paul was in a position of honor like the other apostles. Again, Paul defended his apostleship when people questioned it.

The second reason is that the apostle Peter claimed that all of Paul’s epistles to the churches for instruction were Scripture (2 Peter 3:14–16). So this accounts for at least thirteen books of the New Testament. And we can be certain that if people did not recognize Paul’s authority here, that Peter, another apostle, affirmed these as Scripture. There is nothing wrong with having multiple apostles agreeing that a particular book is Scripture. In fact, this likely happened repeatedly in practice, but was simply not recorded in the Scriptures beyond this example.

Turning attention to the two books penned by Luke, we find that Luke spent considerable time with the apostle Paul—even being called a co-laborer by Paul in Philemon 1:24. Why is this significant? Luke was recording what he was learning from Paul. In the same way that Mark was under Peter’s guidance, Luke was under Paul’s guidance as he traveled extensively with him, and was, no doubt, involved in the account. Paul even quotes Luke as Scripture in 1 Timothy 5:18 (Luke 10:7). So Paul was one of the apostles that clearly imposed the gospel of Luke as Scripture.

In fact, Luke’s gospel account follows after Paul’s teachings, going back to the beginning with Adam and being directed toward Gentiles. Paul was the messenger from Christ to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15; Romans 15:15–16), so it makes sense that he would start at the beginning (unlike Peter, who preached primarily to the Jews, and so Mark’s gospel begins with John the Baptist). Luke’s writing was under the guidance of Paul, and early church fathers spoke of this. Irenaeus said:

After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him.[7]

Not only did Irenaeus confirm that Luke wrote as Paul instructed, but he also concurs with Mark writing what Peter instructed. Tertullian further builds on the comments of Irenaeus:

For even Luke’s form of the Gospel men usually ascribe to Paul. And it may well seem that the works which disciples publish belong to their masters.[8]

With this in mind Paul is also the likely candidate for Luke’s other book, Acts.

Apostle Paul/Other unidentified apostle: 1 of the 27 books of the New Testament

  1. Hebrews

There have been many authors suggested for the book of Hebrews. Many claim Paul for various reasons. One biblical reason for Pauline co-authorship, or at least guidance, is that Peter mentioned that Paul wrote to the Hebrews/Jews (to whom Peter also appeared to be writing in 2 Peter 3:15–16). So in light of 2 Peter 3:15–16, where it says all of Paul’s epistles are Scripture, which book of the canon was it referencing? Hebrews is the likely answer. And this would be Peter and Paul’s authority.

Even many early church fathers, such as Eusebius when he refers to Clement’s writings (one of Paul’s associates) in the first century, confirm that Paul was involved:

Clement in his epistle which is accepted by all, and which he wrote in the name of the church of Rome to the church of Corinth. In this epistle he gives many thoughts drawn from the Epistle to the Hebrews, and also quotes verbally some of its expressions, thus showing most plainly that it is not a recent production. Wherefore it has seemed reasonable to reckon it with the other writings of the apostle. For as Paul had written to the Hebrews in his native tongue, some say that the evangelist Luke, others that this Clement himself, translated the epistle.[9]

Eusebius continues:

He says that the Epistle to the Hebrews is the work of Paul, and that it was written to the Hebrews in the Hebrew language; but that Luke translated it carefully and published it for the Greeks, and hence the same style of expression is found in this epistle and in the Acts. But he says that the words, Paul the apostle, were probably not prefixed, because, in sending it to the Hebrews, who were prejudiced and suspicious of him, he wisely did not wish to repel them at the very beginning by giving his name. [10]

Eusebius explains the deviation from the normal Pauline style of introduction. If this is the case, then this translation into Greek was overseen and appointed to the church by the apostle Paul.

However, according to Hebrews 2:3, the writers (plural) of this final version, speaking of salvation, appear to not have had directly heard the Lord Jesus Christ, as most apostles had, but it has been confirmed to them through others who did hear the Lord teach regarding salvation. Though in an interesting way, Paul did not hear much of Christ’s teaching during his ministry (nor Luke) but only had the brief experience with Christ on the Damascus road.

This gives support to the view of Luke and probably others’ involvement in the writing of Hebrews. It opens up the possibility of one or more of the following being involved: Apollos, Silas, Barnabas, Clement, or others; but it is not likely Timothy, since he is mentioned in Hebrews 13:23. Apollos, Clement, and Barnabas are the more likely candidates. Whoever it was, the recipients of the book of Hebrews knew whose authority was behind it and were to be in prayer for the author(s) (Hebrews 13:18).

Since Hebrews 2:3 speaks of direct contact with those who had been with the Lord (e.g., an apostle) regarding salvation, this is consistent with the approval process by one who had been confirmed to them by those who heard Christ—in other words, an apostle. Looking back at Acts, when replacing Judas for apostleship the requirement was that it be one who had heard Christ by “accompanying the apostles all the time” when they were with Jesus (Acts 1:21–22). So this may be opening the door for another apostle other than Paul or perhaps more than one apostle made it clear this was Scripture.

Hebrews 2:3 is not the only passage to look at in Hebrews regarding authorship. Hebrews 1:2 is also significant. Hebrews 1:1–2 says (emphasis added):

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds.

The emphasized portion reveals that the authors did have contact with the Lord Jesus Christ (i.e., “to us”) in one sense, but perhaps not all the authors/translators of the book had. But in light of an apostle “coming with the authority of Christ as an authorized representative,” one could say they were spoken to by the Son having direct contact with an apostle or prophet to confer this information. This gives further confirmation to the authority of this book given to the church by an apostle as the final say. And of course this happened, but whether we know whose authority exactly is up for debate; in other words, I would not be adamant about Paul by any means; but Hebrews is Scripture nonetheless.

But this brings up another possibility: a New Testament prophet(s) was involved in the writing (e.g., Ephesians 4:11; 1 Corinthians 12:29). One of the apostles then imposed it on the church as they held Christ’s authority. Keep in mind that this epistle to the Hebrews was written prior to the death of the last apostle, John, as Clement quoted from it and he died long before John.

In light of Peter’s comments, Paul is the best candidate for applying authority to it, potentially with other apostles. Paul’s associate, Clement, quoted from it very early on and may well have been the first to do so, showing that he was aware of Hebrews. As we have seen, the most likely candidate is Paul, and early church fathers seemed to believe this was the case. Clement died long before the apostle John, so no less than one apostle was still around when Hebrews was in use in the church as authoritative.

The book was also written in Italy (Hebrews 13:24), where Paul was. Regardless, if we ever found out with certainty which of the other apostles may have been involved in Hebrews, Hebrews would still be included as Scripture, since it would have been under the imposition of an apostle as law for the church.

James, apostle and brother of Jesus: 2 of the 27 books of the New Testament

  1. James
  2. Jude

Like Hebrews, James and Jude do not seem to have an obvious and direct connection with one of the twelve disciples or the apostle Paul. But recall that Jesus confirmed the eleven disciples (leaving out Judas Iscariot), but He did not limit apostleship to just them. As noted previously, Paul and Matthias were raised up as apostles later.

James and Jude were brothers of Jesus Christ—sons of Mary and Joseph (Matthew 13:55). Some have claimed that the author of James was not the brother of Christ but John’s brother. However, that particular James died early in 44 AD (Acts 12:1–2), giving good reason that it was not him. Skeptics often attack James for other reasons, but they are beyond the scope of this treatise.[11]

Of all people, though, James and Jude, being Jesus’s brothers, would have known Jesus better than many of the disciples, with the exception of His years of ministry where He was closer to the disciples (although with the help of the Holy Spirit, any apostle could relay first-person events). Their books do not try to give an account of Jesus’s ministry but are directed at instructing the church.

Paul considered seeing the risen Christ as an important part of his defense of apostleship (1 Corinthians 9:1). And if one had not seen Christ, that person could not be an apostle. After Jesus’s resurrection, these brothers of Jesus were among the disciples and of one mind (Acts 1:13–14). Thus, James and Jude had in mind to be messengers of the good news also.

Jesus even visited James at another point (1 Corinthians 15:7) before He visited the other apostles, showing the importance that Christ placed on him. Furthermore, Scripture reveals that James the brother of Jesus was indeed elevated to the position of an apostle:

But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. (Galatians 1:19)

Some have argued that the rendering of this verse could leave James excluded from apostleship. Commentaries on Galatians 1:19 overwhelmingly view James as an apostle; for example, John Gill,[12] John Calvin,[13] John Lightfoot,[14] and, more recently, Henry Morris.[15] Church fathers, such as Papias, also acknowledged James as an apostle, but the better witness is the context in which Paul writes to the Galatians.

But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles), and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. (Galatians 2:7–9)

James, Cephas (Peter), and John are seen as pillars. Since Paul equates James with these other great apostles here, there should be no doubt as to the reference by Paul in Galatians 1:19 to the apostleship of James.

The James mentioned in Galatians 1 and 2 was not one of the original disciples (James the son of Alphaeus or James the son of Zebedee), since Scripture reveals that during Christ’s ministry none of his brothers believed in Him (John 7:5). James’s authority was further shown among the apostles when his comments held final sway regarding the gentile believers in Acts 15:13–21. With all this, James, the brother of Jesus, is an apostle, and this gives him the authority to affirm Scripture to the church on Christ’s behalf. So the book of James did come with apostolic authority, and the apostle James, brother of the Lord Jesus, is obviously the likely candidate for conferring that authority.

Jude, the author of the book of Jude, is short for Judas (not the betrayer of Christ), the brother of James (and half-brother of Jesus), as we learn from Matthew 13:55.

Two of Jesus’s disciples were named Judas—how do we know which Judas wrote this book? Let’s do a short analysis to see whether any other Judases are even valid candidates.

Judas of Galilee is mentioned in Scripture, but just as quickly as he is mentioned, he perishes (Acts 5:37). So the author was not this Judas (I am not aware of anyone who would suggest it was this Judas anyway).

Another Judas, who is likely the son of Joseph Barsabbas, is mentioned as a candidate for discipleship by the other disciples (Acts 15:22, Acts 1:23). This particular Judas—as well as Silas—was classed as a prophet in Acts 15:22–32. Silas spent time with Paul, but there are no recorded books with either of these two identified as authors.

Now Judas and Silas, themselves being prophets also, exhorted and strengthened the brethren with many words. (Acts 15:32)

This potential author of Jude was a prophet, and that would theoretically qualify his book as Scripture if it were written by him and affirmed with authority by an apostle; as Jesus had transferred the authority to apostles to affirm Scripture with final authority on His behalf (1 Corinthians 12:28—of course, this is through the Holy Spirit). However, there is no hint that this person had a brother named James (Jude 1:1). So this argues against this Judas as the author of the book.

Two more Judases are mentioned in one verse and were disciples of Jesus:

Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot who also became a traitor. (Luke 6:16)

Jude, the author, was not the son of James, nor was he the betrayer who died prior to Christ’s resurrection. The author of Jude was the brother of James.

Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to those who are the called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:1)

The only mention of a Judas being a brother of James is in Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3, both being the brothers of Jesus. Why would James or Jude not say they were brothers of Jesus when they introduced their books? Jesus is the Holy One of God, and it was likely simple humility—they did not want people to think they were equal to God and so they rightly stated that they were “bond servants” of Christ. They clearly told their readers that their position was subservient to Christ (recall how Christ claimed to be the Son of God and it was seen as equality with God in John 5:18).

Jude mentioning that he was the brother of James may imply that he was lesser known and had lesser authority than James, outside of familial relationship. James was well known and had the authority as an apostle. James was, at the time, the head of the church at Jerusalem. This would explain why he put this brother’s name into the first line of his short book and not Joses or Simon (Matthew 13:33). Jude was not an apostle.

James must have been someone of significance to be important enough for Jude to mention him in the first line of the book. If he simply wanted to let people know who he was, Joses or Simon could have been sufficient, so there must be more to this.

So how do we resolve this? Instead of saying “apostolic authority is insufficient” and come up with man-made rules to try to include Jude, let’s ask the question, “How does this book have apostolic authority?”

Paul often opened a book by stating the authority with which he wrote—as an apostle of Jesus Christ (e.g., Ephesians 1:1 and Galatians 1:1). While Paul and Peter mentioned their apostleship, they both used the term bondservant in the openings of Titus and 2 Peter respectively (but by then, people knew they had apostolic authority). James used this same opening in James 1:1.[16]

The mention of James in the opening of Jude not only gives us an idea of the author’s heritage, but it is significant because Jude is the only author of a New Testament book (that we can be certain about) who was not an apostle or under the obvious guidance of Paul or the twelve. James was called an apostle in Galatians 1:19, and Christ obviously elevated his status by appearing directly to him after the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:7). Also, Jude openly indicates that he is not among the apostles when he states:

But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:17)

The more likely reason James, who was an apostle, was mentioned was to show the church that this letter by Jude was under the guidance and approval of James; hence, it was authoritative. Think of it this way: If I receive a letter addressed from John Smith and he says come meet me at the White House for dinner, I would probably think he was crazy. But I received a letter from John Smith, the brother of the President of the United States of America and he says come meet me at the White House for dinner, this comes with the authority of the President and dinner at the White House is not at all unreasonable!

The mention of James, an apostle, gives the book of Jude an authority that comes with the apostles as James is the likely candidate to impose this on the church.[17] If we look back at many of Paul’s letters, they were co-written, but the fact that Paul was giving them guidance and even penning much of them himself gives little reason to doubt their authority. In like fashion, with James’s oversight and affirmation establishing the letter as canon, there is little reason to doubt the book’s authority, and his name was added as an “acknowledgement” of its authority.

The book of Jude is authoritative. Jude’s letter was quickly seen by the early church as authoritative and this may very well be the reason.

Concluding Remarks about the Development of Canon from the Scriptures

Scripture is Scripture because the Holy Spirit inspires the text. This is the case. To recognize the case, we turn to the pages of Scripture as our starting point and find that Christ gave authority to the apostles to affirm Scripture or recognize it by the hand of the Holy Spirit, who was sent in Christ’s name. Their imposing of certain books on the church as law is how these books were recognized as Scripture.

Whether we know which book was authorized by specific apostles in not necessary, but in many cases the likely candidate can be discerned. Internal evidence of the Scriptures affirms the authority of a number of books where people have questioned the apostolic authorship or authority of these books.

Other confirmations are helpful but not the absolute standard. For Mark’s gospel, Mark follows Peter’s sermon in Acts. The epistle to the Hebrews has affirmation by those who were with the Lord: Hebrews 2:3 likely refers to the apostles in Acts 1:21–22. Even Peter affirms that Paul wrote to the Hebrews, so Paul is clearly the candidate for affirming its authority (even if he was not the author) from the internal texts of Scripture.[18]

Peter called himself an elder, so this is obviously in company with an apostle like John the Elder for 2 John. Just as Peter referred to himself as an elder, so does the author of 1 John. This points to the apostle John, author of the Gospel of John, as the author. 2 John has linguistic and thematic similarities to 1 John, and 3 John has some similarities to 2 John as well as a common author, “The Elder” (presbyter). From this internal evidence, this is consistent with John being the author who outlived the other apostles as was prophesied (John 21:20-22).

The Gospel of Matthew is written with a Jewish crowd in mind, and Matthew Levi makes clear sense as the author with his history of tax collecting among the Jews.

We could continue for ages on this type of internal conformational evidence, keeping in mind that any external conformational tests are merely helpful—but they are not the basis for authorship. In seeking to understand the books that actually belong in the canon of Scripture, either God or man is the authority.

So, in conclusion, all twenty-seven books of the New Testament are self-authenticated within Scripture by an apostle (whom Christ, who is God, commissioned, whether we know the exact apostle(s) who gave it authority or not), along with the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament, which Christ confirmed. The unity of the sixty-six books, being without contradiction, is a further confirmation that each book indeed deserves its place, pointing to a God who cannot lie and will never contradict Himself (Hebrews 6:18).

BHodge

Cite this article: Hodge, B., How do we know that the 66 books of the Bible are from God? A presuppositional response, Part 2: New Testament, Biblical Authority Ministries, August, 27, 2015,https://biblicalauthorityministries.wordpress.com/2015/08/28/how-do-we-know-that-the-66-books-of-the-bible-are-from-god-a-presuppositional-response-part-2-new-testament/.

[1] John 16:13–15 “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.”

[2] Apostles being referred to in this discussion are specifically those who were called such in Scripture.

[3] Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, The Apostolic Fathers, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994), pp. 154–155.

[4] Roberts and Donaldson, Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 3, Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994), p. 350.

[5] Brian Edwards, Nothing But the Truth, p. 210.

[6] Hampton Keathley IV, “The Authorship of Second Peter,” Bible.org, http://bible.org/article/authorship-second-peter.

[7] Roberts and Donaldson, Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, The Apostolic Fathers . . . p. 414.

[8] Roberts and Donaldson, Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 3, Latin Christianity . . . p. 350.

[9] Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, eds., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, Eusebius: Church History, Life of Constantine the Great, and Oration in Praise of Constantine (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994), p. 169.

[10] Schaff and Wace, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, Eusebius . . . p. 261.

[11] For a biblical response on this subject please see: J.P. Holding, “The Authorship of James,” in Trusting the New Testament: Is the Bible Reliable? (Xulon, 2009), pp. 221-224.

[12] John Gill, Commentary on the Whole Bible, notes on Galatians 1:19.

[13] John Calvin, Commentary on the Epistle of Paul to the Galatians, notes on Galatians 1:19, 2:9.

[14] John Lightfoot, Bible Commentary, notes on Galatians 1:19.

[15] Henry Morris, The Defender’s Study Bible, notes on Galatians 1:19 (Iowa falls, Iowa: World Bible Publishers, Inc., 1995), p. 1294

[16] It was not always necessary for an apostle to state his authority. John did not even mention his apostleship in his writings and Paul did not do so in 1 and 2 Thessalonians.

[17] It is possible that James was not the affirming one, and could have been another apostle, but no other is mentioned and James is the obvious choice.

[18] I leave open the option that we may not know who Peter was addressing, but many suggest it was a Hebrew Christian crowd because of Galatians 2:8 which says: (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles) and the fact that Peter often preached to the Jews (e.g., Acts 2)

How do we know that the 66 books of the Bible are from God? A presuppositional response, Part 2: New Testament

How do we know that the 66 books of the Bible are from God? A presuppositional response, Part 1: Old Testament and Apocrypha

Introduction

Luke 11:49 Therefore the wisdom of God also said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute.’

Ephesians 2:20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.

2 Peter 3:2 that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior

If Roger were to write a letter to Bill, and Bill wanted to know whether Roger had really written it, the first thing he should do is ask Roger! If Bill asked Joe, who did not have firsthand knowledge of the letter, whether Roger had written the letter, would Joe be able to give a satisfactory answer? No. The best person to ask is the one who wrote the letter—Roger.

How does this relate to the Bible? If anyone knows what God wrote to the human race, it is God. There is no greater self-authenticating voice than that of the True One who created all things. Self-authentication is commonplace among all of us: if someone wants to know what I think about something or what I dreamt about last night, I am the only person in the world he can ask for the answer.

Some people who believe God does not exist say that God’s Word should not be consulted to see whether the Bible is from Him. But on what basis is such a claim valid? It is illogical to assume that the letter written by Roger to Bill is off limits for study. Therefore, one should also be able to use the Bible to defend the Bible. If someone claims the Bible cannot be used to defend the Bible, he is trying to make his fallible reasoning the ultimate authority on the issue rather than God’s infallible Word.

But believers should not be led astray by such a fallacy: believers should check God’s Word regardless of such a claim. Nothing can fully authenticate God’s Word other than God Himself (Hebrews 6:13); otherwise, there is an authority greater than or equal to God. If that were so, then God would not be God—the supreme authority. So it would be self-refuting to look somewhere other than Scripture when dealing with the unique issue of canon (the books that belong in the Bible). So, when examining the authority of the Bible, you should not lay it aside, but rather stand firm on the Scriptures as the foundation and ultimate authority for looking at the question: Did the sixty-six books of the Bible come from God?

Can the canon of Scripture (what God has written to man) be placed under the judgment of fallible man to determine whether it came from God? If so, then God is no longer the authority, nor is His Word; instead, fallible, autonomous human reasoning is the authority. Man, in essence, is sitting in judgment of God. This is the philosophy of humanism, where man is seen as the greatest of all things and the determiner of truth, thus replacing God.

Disregarding the Word of God forces people to accept the presupposition of humanistic thinking when looking at God and His Word (which leads to a world of problems, such as a breakdown of the foundations of logic, knowledge, morality, and so on).[1] Christians should not give the Bible away and play by man-made, humanistic rules. Sadly, however, many Christians fall for this line of reasoning, and in doing so they give up a biblical foundation for a false one based on humanism (i.e., man is the final authority).

Rather, Christians should start with the Word of God as the absolute presupposition (absolute beginning/basis and final authority on these matters) and verify that God’s Word will authenticate itself (although, being truth, naturally it will not be proven wrong—even by outside sources).[2] In other words, let God be the judge of whether or not the Bible is His Word. This stance (a presuppositional perspective) starts with the Word of God and uses it as a confirmation that the books are indeed from God.[3] With this perspective, Jesus Christ, being God, is used as the beginning of the analysis for both the Old and New Testament books of the canon.

The Two Issues

With this said, there are actually two different issues when it comes to this question of the canon. They are:

  1. What are the books of the canon?
  2. How can we recognize the books of the canon?

So often in this debate, people get confused over these two issues of “what is the case” and “how can we recognize the case.” The 66 books of the Bible are the Word of God by virtue that they came from God. This is the case. The longer issue is how can we recognize the case.

From here, the objective is to let God from His Word determine the canon from a self-establishing/self-authority perspective and merely follow His thoughts after Him. And then we will address how we can recognize these authoritative works.

But first, let’s analyze how many Christians approached this subject in the past and why the approach they often used fell tragically short.

Proposed methods of “canonization” of the books of the Bible

The method of canonization is an issue of authority. Either God is the ultimate authority or not. If God is not the ultimate authority, then the ultimate conclusion is that nothing matters. But in a sin-cursed world, where mankind seems to be in constant rebellion against God, mankind, even Christians who strive to follow God, still demote God (in their own minds) to being less than the final authority in a host of arenas—and the canon is no different.

But when people reject God as the ultimate authority on a subject, even in subtle ways, they elevate man (by default) into a position of greater authority on the subject than God. This should be a red flag to any Christian who trusts in God, and they should constantly humble themselves, submitting to the Word of God above the words of others—even their own.

The Bible repeatedly warns against elevating the ideas and traditions of men over the Word of God (emphasis added):

that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:5)

For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe. (1 Thessalonians 2:13)

Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8)

Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:6-9)

With this in mind, a number of “methods” for canonization have been proposed over the years (mostly in regard to the New Testament, which is the more controversial of the testaments, but that will be discussed later).[4] It needs to be specifically pointed out where the ideas of men have been elevated to the position of authority over God’s Word in these faulty views. Let’s look at some errant methods:

  1. If a book proclaims the gospel, then it is Scripture.

Naturally, there are a host of problems with this viewpoint. First, this idea does not originate in Scripture, but in the minds of man, so man is the ultimate authority over God. Furthermore, not all of the books of the Bible proclaim the gospel, and yet books that are not in the Bible often proclaim the gospel. This is clearly not a sufficient basis for canonicity.

  1. Christians have always agreed on the twenty-seven books of the New Testament.

Who is in the position of authority here? Not God, but fallible, imperfect Christians who made up this rule. And further, Christians have not always agreed! This is obvious when the history is studied and Christians debated over these books—in fact, Christians still do today!

  1. If a book claims to be from God, it is Scripture.

Who is the authority behind this method? Again, it does not come from Scripture, but from man. But some books of Scripture do not claim to come from God (e.g., Jude) and other books outside of Scripture do claim to come from God (e.g., Book of Mormon, Koran, etc.) but are not Scripture. So this is not an acceptable method either.

  1. The witness of the Holy Spirit allows each of us to determine the canon.

This one sounds like it gives the Holy Spirit, who is God, the authority, but does it? People can come up with thousands of variations of this and all claim it was the Holy Spirit that led them to a particular canon list. How can we know that one person was led by the Spirit and the other thousand were not? Ultimately, this leads to man’s authority and even though all Scripture came about by the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit did not say in His Word that He would guide each of us to know the canon. This too, falls tragically short. The Holy Spirit is indeed important to this issue, but not by the methodology proposed here.

  1. Identifying internal tensions after beginning with the 27 books of the canon (Luther’s original view, though he recognized this was not sufficient), e.g., James seems to be in conflict with Paul, so James should not be “full” canon.[5]

This is like a canon within the canon—start with the 27 books of the New Testament, then reduce as need be. Luther, coming out of the Roman church, was questioning a great many things about what he had been taught. But essentially, this is based on our own perceptions of the content of the books. With this false position, if I am having an issue reconciling Mark 16:16a with Mark 16:16b, then I would have the right to remove the book of Mark from the canon. In other words, I would be the authority over God, so this is clearly not the correct position.

There is no internal conflict with Mark 16:16, but the ideas are complimentary. The point is that is a conflict of human perception, not an actual conflict within the Scriptures. So clearly this method does not work correctly either.

  1. Magisterium determines the canon.

This view, commonly held by the Roman church, essentially allows them to claim the authority over canon. But they have elevated themselves to being greater than God in this instance. This is similar to Mormons and others, who have their leadership sitting in the position of authority to determine what God actually said.

Commonly, it is claimed that the Scriptures became authoritative about 300 years after their writing with a church council. Does this mean that for 300 years, the church was not subject to 1 Corinthians? Not at all. When the books were written by men, who were led by the Holy Spirit, the books were immediately Scripture.[6] If anything, this reveals how long it took for fallible, sinful people to recognize the books of the New Testament. The church is an outcome or result of the Scriptures, not the other way around. So this view is found wanting as well.

  1. The Holy Spirit led the church to the canon.

This sounds good at first, but the Bible does not make this claim. In an inadvertent way, it places the church—which is made up of people—as the actual authority. Furthermore, the church disagreed over the canon for quite some time. So this view falls short as well. The Holy Spirit is important in this discussion, but not via the means listed.

  1. The canon was determined by consensus.

It should be obvious that having people “cast their vote” on the issue is not an attainable means to determine the canon. Clearly, man would be the ultimate authority on the issue in this view.

  1. Apostolicity Plus: the canon includes things written or affirmed by the apostles, or their associates, or the brothers of the Lord, or others, and tests must be applied to find out if they are Scripture.

This has become the most popular view among evangelicals as of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It sounds easy enough and even has some merit, but falls short on the grounds of human authority as well. It is good in that it begins with Christ conferring authority to the apostles (which is biblical, as we will see later).

Regarding apostolic authorship, books like Matthew, Peter, Paul’s letters, and so on were written by apostles, so they are authoritative according to 2 Peter 3:2. This works for some New Testament books, but in regard to Luke or Acts, written by Luke, who was not an apostle, the apostolic authorship falls short. But all is not lost. Paul, an apostle, actually quotes Luke as Scripture in 1 Timothy, giving Luke’s writings direct apostolic affirmation.

Jude and Hebrews, though, are not quoted as Scripture by an apostle nor written by an apostle according to any part of Scripture, so the argument of apostolic authority seems to fail. So this method deviates here. The easy answer for those adhering to this position is to add in “close associates” of the apostles and “brothers” of the Lord or whoever else to include them with some form of apostolic authority as well. In other words, other people also had the same power to speak for Christ as the apostles.

But here is the problem: there is no biblical basis for this line of thinking, as Scripture does not confer any authority to brothers of the Lord nor to “close associates” of the apostles or anyone else. And what does “close associate” mean anyway? Yes, Luke was a close associate, but so were Timothy and Clement and others, yet there is nothing that is part of the canon that was entirely written by them.

Ultimately, this decision about who to include as a legitimate author of Scripture comes from the mind of man trying to reconcile the problem. So man becomes the authority over God’s Word regarding some of God’s Word.

This view has enjoyed great popularity since, unlike the previous erroneous views, it is not entirely based on human authority, but has only a few books based on human authority. But in an absolute sense, and although this viewpoint did get some things right, it is still not good enough.

  1. The canon is the canon because here it is in my Bible.

Of course, if someone decided to print a Bible with more books, then are those books part of the canon? In fact, a Bible that is produced by the Roman church it has a different set of books. This position is arbitrary and would allow man entirely to determine what should be Scripture, removing God as the authority.

With each of these ten views above (and there may be more obscure faulty views floating around out there), man is somehow elevated to the position of authority and God is somehow demoted, which defeats the purpose. If I were to claim that I am the ultimate authority on the subject of God being the ultimate authority, I have just refuted myself! In essence, this is what each of these positions has done: yielding to man as the ultimate authority on the subject of God’s Word, which is actually the ultimate authority since God’s Word comes with the authority of God!

To be clear, apostolicity and the Holy Spirit are indeed very relevant to this discussion, but not in the ways they were used in these previous arguments. The Scriptures need to act as the authority for determining the canon. With this in mind, let’s start with Christ’s view of the Old Testament in the Scriptures and then use this to springboard to the New Testament—all the while using the presupposition that the sixty-six books of the Bible are the Word of God.

What about the 39 books of the Old Testament?

Regarding the 39 books of the Old Testament, God in the flesh—Jesus Christ—confirmed these books. Hebrews 1:1–2 states:

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds

Jesus, being God the Son but also being a prophet (e.g., Deuteronomy 18:15–18; John 6:14; Matthew 13:57; Luke 24:19), or more specifically the prophet who lived under the Old Testament, made this easy for us. He affirmed the Jewish canon list, being in the position of authority both as Creator and prophet; we have a listing of the Old Testament books.

Prior to Christ giving the final seal of approval to the Old Testament books, it was the prophets who had the authority to speak for God and impose various written documents on the Israelites as authoritative (e.g., 2 Kings 17:13). Basically, they gave the stamp of approval to things that were Scripture, being entrusted with the oracles of God (e.g., Romans 3:2; Luke 11:49; 2 Peter 3:2; Ephesians 2:20).

The overall Hebrew breakdown of the Old Testament books puts them in three major categories: [7]

  1. The Law (Torah): Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy
  2. The Prophets (Nebhim):
    1. Early prophets: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings
    2. Later prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Twelve (minor prophets)
  3. The Psalms/Writings (Kethubhim):
    1. Poetic books: Psalms, Proverbs, and Job
    2. Five Rolls: Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Esther, and Ecclesiastes
    3. Historical books: Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles

The Jewish canon included exactly what is in the Protestant Old Testament and was used in the early churches as the New Testament was being written. The number of books in the Jewish canon is different (commonly 24), but it is the same text. Where Protestants divided Kings, Samuel, and Chronicles into two books apiece, the Jews had them as one. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah were also one book in the Jewish list. The twelve Minor Prophets were also compiled into one book.[8]

Jesus confirms all three divisions of the Old Testament in Luke 24:44, showing that they are authoritative.

Luke 24:44
Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.”

Even other New Testament authors openly confirm the Old Testament books. For example, Paul affirms them as oracles of God (Romans 3:1–2). But Christ or the New Testament apostles never indicated or suggested that any of the Jewish Scriptures be removed or others added. This should be reason enough to reject the Apocrypha (which is discussed a bit more in the next section) as Scripture.

And further, Christ used the Old Testament as authoritative on many occasions—too many to list. But for one example, when Satan tried tempting Jesus in Matthew 4, Jesus quoted three times from Moses’s books.

Was the Apocrypha canon Scripture too?

The Apocrypha (meaning “hidden” or “unknown”) are books written prior to the time of Christ, many during the 400 years of silence between Malachi and Christ’s entrance into the world. These books provide some history and insight into the times. These books were seen as historically valuable but not as Scripture.

However, some of these books have been “canonized” by the Roman and Orthodox churches. The Orthodox churches have some that are distinct from the Roman church, so the number of apocryphal books varies to some degree. In particular, the more popular ones are:

  1. Tobit
  2. Judith
  3. 1 Maccabees
  4. 2 Maccabees
  5. Wisdom of Solomon
  6. Ecclesiasticus (Book of Sirach)
  7. 1 Esdras
  8. 2 Esdras
  9. Baruch
  10. Letter of Jeremiah
  11. Additions to Esther
  12. Prayer of Azariah
  13. Suzanna (often inserted as Daniel 13)
  14. Bel and the Dragon
  15. Prayer of Manasseh

The books of the Apocrypha were never classed as Scripture by Christ or the Jews, nor did the writers of the New Testament quote from them—this should settle the issue. But let’s review the history of these books regarding canon status.

The Apocrypha appeared in the Latin Vulgate in the 5th century AD and copies of the Septuagint (a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures from about 250 BC, denoted as the LXX). However, the earliest extant copies of the LXX are from the 5th century AD, and that does not tell us whether or not the original LXX contained the Apocrypha.

The Apocrypha also appeared at the end of a biblical manuscript called Codex Sinaiticus about the 4th century AD, but the presence of the Apocrypha in any of these documents does not necessarily mean that they were regarded as Scripture, any more than commentary notes in Bibles are to be seen as Scripture. Regardless, modern Roman Catholic Bibles now contain the Apocrypha—as did the KJV in 1611 (the first edition of the King James Version) and early editions of the Geneva Bible.

Jerome, the translator of the Latin Vulgate in the 5th century for the Roman church, made it abundantly clear that the Apocrypha was not Scripture, even though it was included with the Vulgate. But Jerome felt that it, like many other ancient pieces of literature, was worthy to be translated into Latin, the common tongue of the day. Even many early church fathers, such as Melito, Origen, Athanasius, Cyril, and others, rejected the Apocrypha as Scripture.

Jews, before and during the time of Christ, often used the Septuagint (whether it contained the Apocrypha or not) but never classed the Apocrypha as Scripture for various reasons.[9] One such reason is that it never claimed to be Scripture, unlike many other books of the Bible. Even one of the apocryphal books affirms there was no one speaking on God’s behalf at that time (1 Maccabees 9:27) when it says, “There had not been such great distress in Israel since the time prophets ceased to appear among the people.”

Today, the Roman church views twelve of the Apocryphal books as Scripture and has included them in its modern Bible translations (e.g., New American Bible and New Jerusalem Bible). The books that are excluded are 1 and 2 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasseh. This decision to elevate some of the Apocrypha to full canon status was made in 1546 at the Council of Trent.

Some have claimed that apocryphal books were recognized as full scriptural canon by the church as far back as the First Synod of Hippo in AD 393 with Augustine. There are no extant records of this synod, so no one can say exactly what was decided, though the summary offered by the Council of Carthage in AD 397 is assumed to be generally accurate. However, the Synod of Hippo was regional, as was the following Council at Carthage where this new canon was approved; hence, it did not hold authority over the whole of the Roman church and it did not include all of the Apocrypha.

It was not until AD 405 that Pope Innocent I endorsed the Apocrypha—after the Council of Carthage—even though Jerome (who translated the Bible and Apocrypha into Latin) strictly opposed it as Scripture. Catholic Cardinal Cajetan, around the time of the Reformation in the 16th century AD, reveals that there were two different levels of canon in the Roman church (a strict canon and a non-official (i.e., second) canon that was still useful for teaching in the church). In regard to this council, he says in his commentary:

“Here we close our commentaries on the historical books of the Old Testament. For the rest (that is, Judith, Tobit, and the books of Maccabees) are counted by St Jerome out of the canonical books, and are placed amongst the Apocrypha, along with Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus, as is plain from the Prologus Galeatus. Nor be thou disturbed, like a raw scholar, if thou shouldest find anywhere, either in the sacred councils or the sacred doctors, these books reckoned as canonical. For the words as well of councils as of doctors are to be reduced to the correction of Jerome. Now, according to his judgment, in the epistle to the bishops Chromatius and Heliodorus, these books (and any other like books in the canon of the bible) are not canonical, that is, not in the nature of a rule for confirming matters of faith. Yet, they may be called canonical, that is, in the nature of a rule for the edification of the faithful, as being received and authorised in the canon of the bible for that purpose. By the help of this distinction thou mayest see thy way clearly through that which Augustine says, and what is written in the provincial council of Carthage.” [10]

This was presumably the real difference between the deuterocanonical (“second canon,” or books that were useful but not fully canonical) and protocanonical (fully inspired). Up to the Council of Trent in 1546, the view of Jerome dominated that Apocryphal books were not fully inspired canon, but were “second canon”; and the Catholic Polyglot Bible even left the Apocrypha out after the Council of Florence in 1451.

The official fully inspired Old Testament canon accepted by the Roman church was essentially the same as the canon being used by the Protestants and Jews until the Council of Trent; at this point however, the second canon books were promoted to the position of fully inspired canon by the Roman church.

This is why 1546 is the official date of the additions, because it was then that the Apocrypha was officially classed as full canon by the Roman church, even though the listing at Carthage (397) and Florence (1445) included some apocryphal writings. Of course, there were Catholic leaders on both sides of the issue between Pope Innocent I and the Council of Trent. But at the Council of Trent, there was no longer a real distinction between apocryphal books and the rest of Scripture in Roman Catholicism.

Brief Overview in History of the View of the Apocrypha

Date Event Apocrypha considered fully inspired?
c. 400 BC Malachi ends the OT Scripture. N/A
c. 100 BC–c. AD 100 The community who copies the Dead Sea Scrolls never refers to the Apocrypha as “it is written” or “God says” as they do with other canon books. No
c. AD 30 Jesus never rejects the Jewish canon (which is the same as the Protestant OT); Jesus never quotes from the Apocrypha as Scripture. No
AD 40 Philo, Jewish philosopher, refers to all but 5 OT books and never quotes from the Apocrypha. No
c. AD 40–90 The New Testament writers do not quote from the Apocrypha as Scripture. No
AD 90 The Council of Jamnia draws up a list of canonical books for Judaism at the time—the Apocrypha are excluded. No
AD 80–100 Josephus, Jewish historian, never lists the Apocrypha as Scripture. No
AD 170 The first verifiable canon listing from the church fathers is found in the writings of Melito of Sardis, and the Apocrypha are missing. No
AD 320s Another listing by Athanasius lists canon books, but the Apocrypha are missing. No
AD 382–405 Jerome, who translated the Bible into Latin, opposes the Apocrypha as Scripture, though he translates it. No
c. AD 350–370 Rufinius lists the canon books, and the Apocryphal books are not among them. No
c. AD 350–370 Cyril of Jerusalem rejects the Apocrypha. No
c. AD 343-381 Council of Laodicea rejects all of the Apocrypha except Baruch. No (except 1)
AD 393 Regional Synod of Hippo, influenced by Augustine, is the first listing of the Apocrypha as Scripture and is approved at the regional Council of Carthage (397). See the discussion above on Hippo. Yes
AD 590–604 Gregory the Great, Pope of Rome, in his writings denies Maccabees as canonical but still says it is useful (according to Roman Catholic patristics scholar, William Jurgens). Openly denies 1
AD 1445 Council of Florence declares that the Apocryphal books are canonical. Yes
c. early AD 1500 Catholic Cardinal Cajetan (who opposed Luther) points out that there are two levels of inspiration, and the Apocrypha, Judith, Tobit, books of Maccabees, Wisdom, and Ecclesiasticus are lesser and seen as non-canon books. No (secondary canon)
AD 1520 Polyglot Bible of Cardinal Ximenes (approved by Pope Leo X) is published. No
AD 1517–1520s Protestant Reformation retains the Jewish canon and that of Jerome (and many others) with no Apocrypha. No
AD 1546 The Council of Trent finalizes the Roman Church additions of the Apocrypha as full canon. Yes

Protestants today would say that the books of the Apocrypha are useful for many reasons (historical and so on), but they would not label them as Scripture. This was the view of the Reformers and Puritans. The early editions of the Geneva Bible and KJV (1611) contained the Apocrypha. It was dropped, presumably, when it was realized that some readers might not understand the distinction. This view is very similar to the dominant Catholic view up until the Council of Trent.

Concluding remarks about Old Testament canon and the presuppositional method

The presuppositional method essentially starts with God’s Word as an absolute beginning and ends with God’s Word as the final authority on matters. There is no greater authority on anything than God.

Christ, as the prophet, gives the final affirmation of the Old Testament as Scripture. Other prophets had written or affirmed books of the Old Testament canon upon Israel. Though we may not know who all of them were, the fact is that Israel knew they had been given authoritative status. In some cases, we may know which prophet it was, such as Moses for the Law. But Christ is the authority on this and affirmed the 39 books of the Old Testament.

This method of presuppositional apologetics has proved vital in defending many attacks on the Word of God. And the issue of canon is no different. This method hinges on Christ for both the Old and New Testaments (as we will see in the next section). The protestant and Jewish Old Testament were confirmed by Christ, while the books of the Apocrypha were not.

BHodge

Cite this article: Hodge, B., How do we know that the 66 books of the Bible are from God? A presuppositional response, Part 1: Old Testament and Apocrypha, Biblical Authority Ministries, August, 18, 2015, https://biblicalauthorityministries.wordpress.com/2015/08/20/how-do-we-know-that-the-66-books-of-the-bible-are-from-god-a-presuppositional-response-part-1-old-testament-and-apocrypha/.

[1] For more on these issues see Greg Bahnsen, Always Ready (Nacogdoches, Texas: Covenant Media Press, 1996).

[2] Any other starting point will self-destruct, as the Bible must be true in order for knowledge, logic, morality, science, and so on to exist. By starting with God and His Word, the all-knowing God of the Bible informs that all other worldviews are wrong. Therefore, other worldviews must borrow from the Bible to argue against the Bible. For more on this, see Jason Lisle, The Ultimate Proof of Creation (Green Forest, Arkansas: Master Books, 2009).

[3] Greg Bahnsen, “The Concept and Importance of Canonicity,” Antithesis 1, no. 5 (September-October, 1990): 42-45, http://www.reformed.org/master/index.html?mainframe=/bible/bahnsen_canon.html.

[4] Many of these past proposals for methods of canonization are based on the lecture given by Dr. Greg Bahnsen where he summarizes them entitled “The Question of Canonicity,” http://www.cmfnow.com/thequestionofcanonicity.aspx.

[5] To Luther’s credit, he did recognize this was a problematic way to look at the canon and really did not favor it greatly.

[6] Though it was not until an apostle pointed this out to the church that realized they were Scripture.

[7] Josh McDowell, A Ready Defense (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1993), p. 35.

[8] Some Jewish counts have 22 books instead of 24, because Ruth was combined with Judges, and Lamentations was combined with with Jeremiah, but the text is the same. Interestingly, if there are 22 books of the Old Testament by this count and 27 in the New, this makes 49 books. But if we add in the Book of Life (which is in Heaven) mentioned in Revelation, that makes an even round number of 50.

[9] For more on this subject, see Brian Edwards,Nothing But the Truth (Webster, New York: Evangelical Press, 2006) and Why 27? (Webster, New York: Evangelical Press, 2007).

[10] From Cardinal Caietan (Jacob Thomas de Vio), Commentary on All the Authentic Historical Books of the Old Testament, In ult. Cap., Esther; taken from William Whitaker, A Disputation on Holy Scripture (Cambridge University, 1849), p. 48. See also B.F. Westcott, A General Survey of the History of the Canon of the New Testament (Cambridge: MacMillan, 1889), p. 475.

How do we know that the 66 books of the Bible are from God? A presuppositional response, Part 1: Old Testament and Apocrypha