Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Acts 17:11
The Bible means “The Book.” It is a book unlike any other for in it we have the very words of God. When it speaks, God speaks; authoritatively and truthfully on all matters upon which it positively touches. For those convinced of this from the Bible itself, the testimony of the Spirit, reason and logic, experience, etc, there is no other place to look for truth for in Scripture alone are found the words of life.
A friend of mine has a common saying, “if you’re not reading the Bible, you shouldn’t be reading anything else, for you’ll have no standard by which to evaluate its truthfulness.” This is not mindlessness or uncritical detachment; for the one who has placed their faith in revelation over reason it is recognition that God’s word is truth, spoken by the author of truth, to inform how we ought to understand reality as He’s created it. He’s given us minds, so we should use them, but the greatest wisdom is in trusting the mind of God revealed in Scripture.
There is the old adage, you are what you eat. Ps 115 says the same thing, “Those who make them [idols] become like them; so do all who trust in them.” If we indiscriminately take on board whatever we hear, read, listen to or watch, we are like waves tossed to and fro, we’re undiscerning fools that will be led away into great sorrow. We’ll become just like what we absorb. We must be anchored to the truth of God’s word and try every thought, word, deed, idea or attitude by it.
Here God’s Word is like a filter. It helps us sort between what is helpful and unhelpful, true and false. Many years ago it was said that the RCMP didn’t teach constables about every single counterfeit bill but rather taught them to know an authentic bill and so be able to try every bill by that standard. If we’re not spending time in the truth (and with the Truth) how are we to discern truth or goodness:
At our evening service this past Lord’s Day an interesting question arose, did Jesus or John speak the words of John 3:16?
This was something I did not even notice because I don’t use a red letter Bible and my quotation marks in my ESV are so small! (I evidently wasn’t wearing my glasses). I had always presumed this verse was John’s commentary upon the story of Jesus and Nicodemus.
In the Greek original there are no quotation marks here and so the question is left to the translators. Here is how it breaks down in some common Bible translations:
Those that have it as Jesus: NLT, ESV, NASB, AMP, HCSB
Those that have it as John: NIV, BSB, BLB, KJV, NKJV, CSB, ASV, CEV, GNB
So more have it as John than Jesus, but the division is comparable. Evangelical Bible commentaries also seem to be divided on the matter.
There are no major doctrines that are effected whether this was spoken by John or Jesus; ultimately John’s words are Christ’s (1 Ti 3:16; 1 Pe 1:11). There are minor issues of how we might interpret the words, like if I say the same thing or you say the same thing; however, these won’t break the bank.
I have always taken these as John’s words because they read like the introduction to John, they are explanatory (rather than progressive). John often takes time as the narrator to interject his [inspired] thoughts. There is also a tense change, which points away from Jesus and to John. Jesus also never referred to Himself as, “the only begotten Son,” but rather John does. It seems to me that John is explaining, or expanding upon, what Jesus and Nicodemus had been conversing about.
However, it is such a minor matter than I’m certainly open to alternative views.
In the early Church there was a man by the name of Marcion (c. AD 85–160), who stands for us not as an exemplar but as a warning. Marcion held to a number of grave errors. He held a dualistic view of matter and spirit and saw all physically things as evil (vs. Genesis that says God created all things as “very good”). He also dismissed the Old Testament and any Jewish portions of the New Testament as irrelevant, unnecessary, and again, evil. These two errors stemmed from the third, his view of God. Marcion believed that the god of the OT and the god of the NT were in fact two different gods. One was filled with wrath and anger (the OT god) and the other with love (the NT god). Marcion was a gnostic, a complicated religious view that essentially believed a secret knowledge [gnosis= knowledge] was necessary for the spirit to find salvation and escape the body. Though originally a part of the church in Rome, he was condemned as a heretic for these pernicious lies. However, parallel gnostic churches arose and co-existed with orthodox ones for many years.
The older I get and the more I study history the more—on the whole—I am convinced that there is “nothing new under the sun.” Like Marcion, there are many today who believe—if not explicitly at least implicitly—that the god of the OT is a different god than the NT (and if they were following C2C would rejoice to have left the drab and dreary OT behind them and be in the bright and cheery NT).
Not only does this view fail to comprehend the grand story of salvation history, seeing, instead of continuity, discontinuity; it also fails to see God’s character as more than merely loving. It fails to see the characteristics of God so hated in the OT in the NT and the characteristics of God so cherished in the NT present in the OT. The same God is in fact God of and in the OT and the NT.
For example: in the OT God shows grace and not wrath (full wrath) when Adam sinned; He began a rescue plan to save mankind through Abraham’s descendant. When the Israelites made a Golden Calf, He did not destroy them all but only judged the perpetrators. In the face of spirals and circles of evil in Judges and Kings He showed patience. All of this is why the resounding chorus of the OT, and you’d be deaf not to hear it, is expressed in Ps 103:8: The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. (c.f. Ex 34:6).
Turning to the NT when God, expressed in gentle Jesus meek and mild, is supposed to be woolly love (a love Biblically unrecognizable), while finding great displays and teachings on love, forgiveness, mercy, etc, we also find words such as:
Do you see the point, why Marcion was dead wrong on a fundamental point and why so many progressives and liberals are today? The God of the OT is the same as the God of the NT, one and the same Father, Son and Holy Spirit: full of justice and grace, truth and love, wrath and mercy.
As we continue in C2C and go about our lives may we never forget the perniciousness of this ancient heresy, often expressed today, but unveil it for what it is: gravely mistaken.
Apocrypha means “the things hidden away.” Jews used to hide old copies of revered books rather than burn or destroy them. As a result the term came to be synonymous with highly esteemed. Thus the Apocrypha originated as highly esteemed books that weren’t Scripture. There were 12 (or 15, depending on how they are divided):
When Jerome was compiling his Latin version of the Bible based off of the Hebrew, (completed c. AD 405) he followed the Greek tradition to insert them, however, he included prefaces that stressed their deuter-canonical (sub-canon) status of these books—that they were not Scripture and that the Hebrew list of Scripture represented the “clean jar”:
As, then, the Church reads Judith, Tobit, and the books of Maccabees, but does not admit them among the canonical Scriptures, so let it read these two volumes for the edification of the people, not to give authority to doctrines of the Church.
This distinction was lost on many and throughout the Middle Ages and numerous Roman Catholic doctrines were built upon references in the Apocrypha. For examples:
In review there are 5 reasons to reject the Apocrypha as Scripture (however helpful it may be historically):
There is great importance in defining what is the authoritative and inspired canon/rule of the Christian faith. This is why historic Baptist statements of faith, including our own, specify the number of books that make up the Bible, including the OT:
Now you know!
As we conclude our Old Testament (OT) portion of C2C here in 2020 there are a couple important questions that we might consider.
Why does the Jewish OT or Bible (called the Tanak), differ in its arrangement of the books from the Christian OT?
When was the Old Testament canon (rule of faith) finalized and how?
Though somewhat technical questions it is hoped that in answering them believer’s will be strengthened in their knowledge of the Scriptures and thus their faith.
Here is the order and books of the Christian OT and Hebrew Bible (the TaNaK, see Bible Project). Essentially the OT is broken into four sections, whereas the Tanak is divided into three. (It is interesting to note Jesus referred to this trifold division in Lk 24:44):
Notice they are the same number of books (39) but in a very different order. Why the difference, especially if this was the accepted order of the Hebrew Bible in Jesus day?
Sometime in the 3rd and 2nd centuries there arose a large Jewish community in Greek speaking Alexandria (Egypt) who translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek. It is called the Septuagint or LXX (both mean 70) after the legend that 72 independent translators (6 from each of the 12 tribes) translated the entire project identically (thus giving evidence of Divine oversight). What is true is that they re-ordered the Hebrew Bible so the Hebrew and Greek versions, though containing the same books, were ordered differently. The Greeks, ever the masters of logic, categorized the books under headings, and many books under those according to length. As this video explores, the Hebrew Bible had other historic and theological reasons for how it was arranged. It is also interesting how the arrangements end, the Hebrew with Chronicles (itself a summary of the Tanak; a return to the Promised Land and a prefiguring of Christ) and the Greek with Malachi (the promised day of the Lord).
Though Jesus would have known the Hebrew order, most of the early Christians spoke Greek and so followed the Greek version. When Jerome translated the Bible into Latin by AD 405 he followed this tradition and so the Greek pattern was all but established as the Christian ordering.
Canon is Greek for rule. What books are recognized as inspired and authoritative? The Jewish community, guided by the Holy Spirit, came to recognize the above list as canonical some 200 years before Christ, who affirmed the same in Lk 24:44 (along with multiple other sources).
Regardless of the order, as Christians we can be confident that our OT books have come to us under God’s sovereign hand, and that these books, and these alone, constitute our rule of faith as the Old Testament; or as 2 Tim 3:16b puts it are therefore the “inspired word of God, profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”
Now you know!
So that it isn’t simply a big black hole, allow me to recount the basics of the story between the Testaments.
The last book of Malachi was written sometime around the era of Nehemiah in the post exilic period (c. 450s). From this period—for some 400 years—the prophets were silent. During this period Judea was often ruled over by a series of empires: the Persians who then fell (c. 331 BC) to Alexander the Great and the Greeks; and following the breakup of his empire into smaller ones, first the Ptolemaic Empire (Egypt) followed by the Seleucid Empire. This Greek period lasted from 331–164 BC. The Greeks brought their language and culture, which would be so important during the New Testament period. The Hebrew Scriptures were even translated into Greek by Jewish scholars in Alexandrea (Egypt), so dominate was the language. However, the Jews in Judea rebelled when the Seleucids set up “an abomination” in the Temple and the Jews were forbidden to practice their religion. An aged priest, named Mattathias and his five sons led a revolt. After his death his eldest son, Judas Maccabeus, continued and won independence in 164 BC. From the Greeks, Persians and Babylonians, all the way back to King Jehoiakim/Zedekiah, this was the first time the Jews had been independent in centuries.
However, there was nothing new under the sun; their hearts remained unchanged. During the Maccabean period, successive rulers became increasingly authoritarian, corrupt, immoral and pagan. This descent became so bad that eventually some of the Jewish leaders invited the Romans—of all people—to come and restore order, which they did in 63 BC under General Pompey. They stayed for centuries to come in an uneasy arrangement. In 37 BC, partly as a political favour and partly because he was partially Jewish, the Romans appointed Herod “the Great” to be king over all of Palestine. He built Caesarea Maritima (where Paul was imprisoned), greatly improved Jerusalem and remodelled the Temple into the exquisite structure it was in Jesus’ day. This was the Herod who slaughtered all the little boys in search of Jesus. The various Herods who appear later in the NT were his descendants.
Now you know!
A week or so ago I received an email from a man in our congregation. He had been looking for something in the cubby holes on his desk and came across an old Gideon's New Testament; the one he had received in school years previously. When he opened the cover the date he was given it was 65 years ago to the very day, December 9th, 1954.
"I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD," (Isa 45:3, NIV)
Oh the small graces the Lord is sometimes pleased to send us!
Author: Chris Crocker
Pastor, historian and beekeeper.