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Books of the Bible

            If we accept that all Scripture is divinely inspired, the question arises as to what constitutes Scripture. In other words, what books should we accept as being divinely inspired and therefore authoritative ? Some might say we should just accept those which have traditionally been held to be part of Scripture. Others might say we should hold those that appear to our judgment to be divinely inspired. If we simply take the first view we could be wrong as the Romish Church holds certain apocryphal books to be inspired. However we must accept that God is faithful (1 Corinthians 1:9 & 10:13) and would not allow the simple who rely on him to have a Bible containing a mixture of inspired and uninspired books before them for their edification. The other view would make our judgment (a subjective thing) a determining factor and could lead to all sorts of Bibles coming into existence.

            However, a reliable method of determining what books are divinely inspired would be to see what books Christ and his apostles considered authoritative. One is thinking here of the Old Testament. We will come to the New Testament later. In broad terms Christ used “the law of Moses and prophets and psalms” (Luke 24:44-47). This covered the Hebrew Bible. Elsewhere He spoke of the Scripture as something that cannot be broken (John 10:35), in other words that it was one whole. We cannot pick and choose what we will accept. (Consider also James 2:10). In the foregoing passage which Christ quoted from the Psalms He spoke of it as the law (John 10:34), so that although it was not the law of Moses itself, it was, so to speak, an extension of it and therefore authoritative (law is authoritative).

            Further to the above we may note that the Old Testament is quoted frequently by Christ and his apostles, thus showing the place He gave it in his ministry, as He said regarding Moses: “If ye do not believe his writings, how shall ye believe my words?” (John 5:47) (Consider also Luke 16:31). Quotations and references are made as follows:-

Genesis 1:27 in Matthew 19:4

Exodus 20:13 in Matthew 5:21

Leviticus 19:18 in Matthew 22:39

Numbers (a) 28:9/10 in Matthew 12:5

Deuteronomy 8:3 in Matthew 4:4

Joshua 6:15-25 in Hebrews 11:30/31

Judges (generally) spoken of in Hebrews 11:32

Ruth 4:13-22 in Matthew 1:5

1 Samuel 21:6 in Matthew 12:3/4

2 Samuel (included with 1 Samuel in the Hebrew Bible) chapter 7 in Acts 7:46

1 Kings 17:1 in James 5:17/18

2 Kings (included with 1 Kings in the Hebrew Bible) 4:8-37 in Hebrews 11:35

1 Chronicles 17: 13 in Hebrews 1:5

2 Chronicles (included with 1 Chronicles in the Hebrew Bible)

Ezra (a) 6:10 in 1 Timothy 2:2

Nehemiah (included with Ezra in the Hebrew Bible)

Esther (a) 1:22 in 1 Timothy 3:4/5

Job 41:11 in Romans 11:35

Psalms 91:11/12 in Matthew 4:6

Proverbs 3:11/12 in Hebrews 12:5/6

Ecclesiastes (a) 12:14 in Romans 2:16

Song of Songs (a) 8:11/12 in Mark 12:1-12

Isaiah 11:1 in Matthew 2:23

Jeremiah 31:15 in Matthew 2:18

Lamentations (a) 3:45 in 1 Corinthians 4:13

Ezekiel 32:7/8 in Matthew 24:29

Daniel 9:27 in Mark 13:14

Hosea 11:1 in Matthew 2:15

Joel 2:28-32 in Acts 2:17:21

Amos 5:25-27 in Acts 7:42/43

Obadiah (a) verse 21 in 1 Corinthians 15:24

Jonah 1:17 in Matthew 12:40

Micah 5:2 in Matthew 2:6

Nahum (a) 1:7 in 2 Timothy 2:19

Habakkuk 2:4 in Galatians 3:11

Zephaniah (a) 1: 10-13 in James 5:1-3

Haggai 2: 6 in Hebrews 12:26

Zechariah 13:7 in Matthew 26:31

Malachi 3:1 in Matthew 11:10

Note: The references marked with an (a) are not actual quotes but passages that support statements in the New Testament. Although not quoted above the statement in Ecclesiastes 7:20 “Surely there is not a righteous man upon earth, that doeth good and sinneth not” would support Paul’s statement in Romans 3:23 “all have sinned”.

            The above references have been limited to one per book, though many of the books are quoted from more than once. Many of the citations are in Matthew and Hebrews as these books were written particularly for Jews. Further, as to Matthew, that being the first New Testament book in our Bibles, it was the first book one looked at for quotations.

            If we turn to the New Testament we have Christ’s own authority for accepting the word of his apostles (John 15:27). All hangs on his word, which we accept on the basis of the witness of the four evangelists, two of which were also his apostles (Matthew and John). Peter himself confirms that Paul’s ministry should be accepted (2 Peter 3:15/16). The only other writers of epistles are James and Jude, very likely the natural brothers of Jesus (Matthew 13:55, Jude 1). Christ himself appeared to James after the resurrection, showing his approval of him (1 Corinthians 15:7). Christ did not appear to his enemies after his resurrection (Acts 10:40/41). He will not appear to them until the time specified in Matthew 23:39. The apostles could only bear testimony to Christ as they had known him during his ministry here on earth, assuming they had not known him before then. The brothers of Jesus could no doubt have testified as to his younger days. Paul had made James’ acquaintance (Galatians 1:19), and James had an important part in the conference in Acts 15:13-21. As to the other Gospel writers we know that Luke travelled with Paul and had his approval (Colossians 4:14; Philemon 24: 2 Timothy 4:11). Paul also considered Mark serviceable to him for ministry near the end of his life (2 Timothy 4:11), though in Mark’s earlier days he did not (Acts 15:36-41).

            Scripture speaks of there being in New Testament days, apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers (Ephesians 4:11). Thus we have the apostolic writings of Paul, Peter and John; the Revelation, the prophetic writing of John; and the teaching epistle of Hebrews where we are not told the author, though it may well have been Paul - see the reference to Timothy, (Paul’s “true child in faith” 1 Timothy 1:2) in Hebrews 13:23. Then we have what are called the evangelists, the writers of the Gospels and the Acts (the latter also written by Luke - compare Acts 1:1 and Luke 1:1-4).

            It may be asked: “Were there any other inspired writings that those we have in our hands?” The answer to that is: “We are not told, and therefore we do well to keep silent about the matter”. We know that we are to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), so that if we are it is hardly possible for us to put out anything that is not of the Spirit. In fact Scripture enjoins that if persons speak they should do so as oracles of God (1 Peter 4:11), that is, as mouthpieces of God. The Psalms were divinely inspired but at same time they express the feelings of the writers (e.g. Psalm 45:1).

            It may be as well to close with reference to two passages which set before us the inspiration of Scripture. These are 2 Timothy 3:16/17 and 2 Peter 1:21.

            As a curiosity one has noticed that there are a number of 3:16 passages in the New Testament that stand out as well as John 3:16 !

            It may also be noted that there are quite a number of Old Testament passages appearing in earlier books, as to date, which are quoted in later books. This would make an interesting study in itself. For example, we have 1 Chronicles 17:27 referred to in Psalm 45:2.

February 2010