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The Authority of Scripture - being ready to defend your hope

Part 1: In Defence of the Canon of Scripture: It's Authenticity

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defence to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear (1 Peter 3:15)

Big Picture

Prologue

This message is part of a larger series, still in construction, that examines the evidence we have, as the Lord's people, saved from our sins by the precious blood of Christ, of our hope.

We are called to give a defence of your hope - are you able to do so?

This is a study in apologetics, which is taken from the Greek word απολογία meaning to "speak in defence" of.

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defence to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear
 (1 Peter 3:15)

Introduction

Can you defend your hope or faith?

Can you defend the Bible?

            Its authority

            Its inerrancy

            Its infallibility

            Its inspiration

Can you explain what Christianity is - and the need for salvation?

            This latter question I believe will be answered in part, if not in all over the next few months

And the Big question - can you explain God?[i]

Needed in this Western nation, who no long know God!

This Message is about the evidence of the authenticity of the Canon

What are we talking about?

Kanon is Greek for rod, rule or standard, where our word cane comes from. It is a measure, with beginning and end, marked off. This word is used in the context of this message because it is more encompassing then the term "bible". Canon has the connotation of authority.

The Canon has two testaments: - from the Greek testamentum, a kind of settlement or agreement, between a superior and inferior - ie in this case between God and man.

We are talking about the Christian Bible.

The Old Testament is what the Bible writers called the Scriptures.

For Christians, the entire Bible is now called the Scriptures, Holy Bible or Canon.

What the Canon is not.

1.    The Canon is not a sacred book as others would have as sacred.

            Carrying it around will not save you

            Revering it will not glorify God

            Reading it will however transform you

2.    The book itself is less important than the words

It is the Words that bring meaning:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν  λόγος, καὶ  λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν  λόγος. 

3.    The Canon itself will not save you - its words however might convict you of your sin and hence your desperate need for salvation.

The Canon is however useful for "doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness," (2 Timothy 3:16)

            Doctrine          The principles or teachings that keep us right

            Reproof           The principles that tell us when we are wrong

            Correction       The principles to tell us how to get right

            Instruction in righteousness    The principles for staying on the right track

4.    God exists without (ie outside) the Canon

God does not need the Canon to exist[1].

God is however the embodiedment of the Word of the Canon - the Word (logos) existed from the beginning.

5.    The Canon does not stand alone

The Holy Spirit is the divine author of the Canon and is the divine interpreter of the Scripture

The Purpose of the Canon - a fuller explanation will be given at another time.

1.    Indicates the need for salvation

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23 (NKJV).

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 (NKJV)

2.    Shows the Saviour and the way of salvation and is indeed the Good News (εαγγλιον)

[T]he Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 3:15 (NKJV)

3.    Shows the past, present and future of those saved.

I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed-52in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 1 Corinthians 15:51,52 (NKJV)

The Canon

6.    The Canon as viewed by Scripture as a complete entity

The Canon is closed - nothing more needs to be added to it, nothing needs to be taken away.

For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. (Revelation 22:19)[2]

It is made up of 66 books, 27 in the new and 39 in the old.[3]

Note that the Hebrew old testament has 24 books because many of the books are split in our Bible, eg Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra & Nehemiah, and the 12 minor prophets.

Some facts

  • Number of books in the Bible: 66 
  • Chapters: 1,189 
  • Verses: 31,101 
  • Words: 783,137 
  • Letters: 3,566,480 
  • Number of promises given in the Bible: 1,260 
  • Commands: 6,468 

The Author of the Canon is God, through the Holy Spirit

7.    Who is God

There is a God and His name is "I Am".[4]

am the LORD, and there is no other;
There is no God besides Me.
I will gird you, though you have not known Me,
That they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting
That there is none besides Me.
am the LORD, and there is no other; Isaiah 45:5-6 (NKJV)

God is more significant and important than man: He is Holy, He is sovereign, He is truth.

God is three persons but one (the trinity) God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

8.    The Canon is by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit

The Bible, that is the Canon of Scripture, is the Word of God, or put another way The Bible alone is the Word of God (YEWAH).

This means the Bible was wholly inspired by God and written for our purpose. It is the basis of Christianity, its faith and practice.

The writers spoke as they were moved by God

[F]or prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke [as they were] moved by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:21

The question of whether a book or some writing i.e. Scripture is the Word of God can only be answered by the Bible itself. In this discussion we cannot over estimated the power of the Holy Spirit. At every point in the history of the bible, the Holy Spirit has had his hand on its production and preservation, including the most difficult task of translating concepts, words and grammar etc from one language to another.

 

In defence of the Canon

9.    Is a unique book, pointing to a divine authorship

Even a cursory glance at the history of the bible declares its uniqueness.

Written over 1300-1500 years

Written by 40 authors

Written in 3 languages on 3 continents

Written in different times - war, peace, drought etc

Written in different places - brook, palace, prison, in exile etc

Written in different modes - joy, sorrow, confusion etc

Written in different styles - poetry, song, law, prophecy, narrative etc

Unique in circulation

Unique in translation - 2200 languages

Unique in survival - time, persecution, criticism, "chopped, knifed, sifted, scrutinised, vilified" (Bernard Ramm)

Unique in teaching - prophecy, history and character ie sin of man

Unique in influence in literature and civilisation.

Unique in power on the sinful soul (sharper than the two edged sword).

10.  The Canon has an inherit internal consistency

The Bible does not contradict itself

Those that find contractions always have fallen foul of poor observation and interpretation or have been led by the Devil.

There are a large number of tests that can be applied. The New Testament books were clearly recognised by Christians who saw the power of the Word act decisively in the hearts of many

Used by Christ - who never used non-conical writings

The Prophecies all are internally and externally consistent

There are a large number of books which people have tried to add. The collection called the Apocrypha such as "The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians", Macabess I & II etc are not considered canonical. The Vatican has accepted many, but there are few thoughtful Christian scholars who would consider these as authentic divine revelations of God. (see The Origin of the Bible, (2003) Edited by Philip Comfort: F. F. Bruce, J. I. Packer, and Carl F. H. Henry Tyndale House, USA).

But none of these were internally consistent with the existing Canon, and hence rejected

11.  Authenticity in the consistency of the manuscripts

We do not have the original manuscripts, but we do have more manuscripts for the Bible than any other ancient text.

For the New Testament, at least, many are only within tens of years or for the entire testament with 250 years of the original.

We have today in our possession 5,686 known Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, another 10,000 Latin Vulgates, and 9,284 other early versions (MSS), giving us more than 24,970 manuscript copies of portions of the New Testament today! (Josh McDowell (1999) The New Evidence That demands a Verdict, Thomas Nelson, Nashville).

For the New Testament there is over whelming MSS evidence.

Compared with our most venerated secular books such as those Plato, the New Testament has more MSS closer to the original than most others. For instance 1300 years elapsed between Plato and the oldest known MSS. Furthermore there are only 7 copies (extant), and yet no one questions its authenticity. (In fact it appears that only Christians question the authenticity of the New Testament).

By AD 325 the New Testament was as we know it today. The Pauline letters were bound (with Hebrews) much earlier than this, along with other books.

The Canon is not merely a translation of a translation

The Bible is not a mere translation of a translation of an interpretation of an oral tradition.

Translations such as the King James Version, the English Standard Version, etc were derived from existing copies of ancient manuscripts such as the Hebrew Masoretic Text (Old Testament) or Greek Byzantine text or  Codex Alexandrinus, plus the thousands of fragments found in the Dead Sea scrolls.

The primary differences between today's Bible translations are mostly related to how translators interpret a word or sentence from the original language of the text source (Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek), the style of writing and the intended purpose - always read a preface to a Bible to understand the purpose of the authors.[5]

Note that the Canon does not ever indicate how God intended to transmit the written Word.

12.  New Testament writers were eye witnesses of events

We are assured of the evidence internally - the writers of the New Testament were eye witnesses to the events and wrote about them

For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 2 Peter 1:16 (NKJV)

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life-2the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us-3that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4And these things we write to you that your joy may be full. 1 John 1:1,4 (NKJV)

"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-Acts 2:22 (NKJV)

External evidence arises from people quoting the New Testament - either from the text itself, or from the text as orally spoken - i.e. Polycarp actually heard John speak.

Secular writings including Jewish writing support the authenticity of the 27 books of the New Testament. Historical documents supports the minute nature of Luke's recording of history, in particular.

13.  The Old Testament had complex checksums to guarantee authenticity

The Old Testament has less in the way of documentary evidence but we have knowledge that the transcribing and transliteration (especially with names) was much more robust than probably the New Testament.

We can be assured of the Old Testaments authenticity (in either Greek or Hebrew) because:

Jesus quotes from nearly every book of the Old Testament - he uses the often poor Greek version (Septuagint) authenticating the use of a translation.

The Jews had a checksum method (each letter in Hebrew represents a number) that ensured exact letter for letter transcribing - checking process was very vigilant.

Internal evidence comes from matching the historical narrative which what the secular writing hold to be true. For instance the order of the kings mentioned in the bible match that which secular history views it. The probability of this being so is incredibly small compared with the alternative hypothesis - the names were just randomly made up and inserted into some fictional account of the history.

MSS available of the Old Testament the most recent being the Dead Sea Scrolls of which the entire book of Isaiah has been found. This particular book matches more modern versions with only very minor differences.

The Old Testament was in its present form since the Maroretics (AD 500-950) who took particular care in its form. Jesus quotes from the Septuagint (Greek form of the Old Testament) even though most accept that parts of it are not well translated.

Other writings of the Jews that quote and dissect the Old Testament; these all point to its authenticity. For instance the Mishnah (AD200) is a digest of the oral laws of Moses in intricate detail. The Midrash (100 BC - AD 300) is a textual interpretation of the Law. Each quotes the first Five books and the Prophets.

14.  The prophecies attest to the divine authority of the Scripture

Prophecies (to be dealt at another time) attest to the authority of the Scripture.

Archaeological evidence is also a strong indicator of the authenticity of the stories in the Scripture - to be discussed next month.

The Old Testament repeats itself in some places - some written many hundreds of years later, from a different view point (Samuel vs Chronicles, the latter being the last book written in the Old Testament).

Jesus quotes the Old Testament as do the other writers of the New Testament.

 

Conclusion

1.    In defence of the Canon we are asking ourselves whether we believe the Bible we have today is exactly that which the original writer wrote, and whether the "book" written should be included. (This latter thought is not included in this lecture). In the end the question is whether we have an authentic representation of Gods Word, and need to believe the Canon is the Word of God.

2.    We must, due the over whelming evidence, support the hypothesis that the Canon of Scripture is true and authentic and there is the Word of God.


Using the Canon

1.    To be Read

They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read. Nehemiah 8:8 (NIV)

24Furthermore, Josiah got rid of the mediums and spiritists, the household gods, the idols and all the other detestable things seen in Judah and Jerusalem. This he did to fulfill the requirements of the law written in the book that Hilkiah the priest had discovered in the temple of the LORD. 25Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the LORD as he did-with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses. 2 Kings 23:24, 25 (NIV)

2.    It is the Gospel

If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9 (NKJV)

Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him-to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.

 Romans 16:25 - 27 (NIV)

3.    Convicts us of sin

But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. Galatians 3:22 

But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. Galatians 3:22   (NIV)

4.    Protects

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; Ephesians 6:13,17 (NKJV)

5.    Is the Truth and Standard

"But I will tell you what is noted in the Scripture of Truth. (No one upholds me against these, except Michael your prince.) Daniel 10:21 

For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." Romans 4:3 

6.    The Royal Law

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well; James 2:8 

16The king.18When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the priests, who are Levites. 19It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the LORD his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees 20and not consider himself better than his brothers and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel.

 Deuteronomy 17:16 - 2- (NIV)

7.    For Understanding

1In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom-2in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the LORD given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. 3So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes. Daniel 9:1 - 3 (NIV)

8.    Instruction

How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. Psalm 119:9 

Blessed are You, O LORD! Teach me Your statutes! Psalm 119:12 

Consider how I love Your precepts; Revive me, O LORD, according to Your lovingkindness. Psalm 119:159 

The entirety of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever. Psalm 119:160 

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 2 Timothy 3:16 

9.    Prophecy - fulfilled

And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, "In you all the nations shall be blessed." Galatians 3:8 (NKJV)

10.  Historical account

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. John 1:1-3 (NKJV)

And again another Scripture says, "They shall look on Him whom they pierced." John 19:37 

 



[1] Unlike, say, Sherlock Homes, who with out Arthur Conan Doyle's books would never exist.

[2] This rightly belongs to The Revelation, but is applicable to the whole Canon. The Church deemed this book to be the final and last - nothing else has or was recognised as being authoritative after this/

[3] Note that the Hebrew old testament has 24 books because many of the books are split in our Bible, e.g. Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra & Nehemiah, and the 12 minor prophets.

[4] There are clearly set of self evident phrases that describe God and His attributes - these can be found in Scripture.

[5] See also Review:  Ron Rhodes (2009) The Complete Guide to Bible Translations: How They Were Developed *Understanding Their Differences Finding the Right One for You. Harvest House, USA.



[i] God can be demonstrated in three ways

1.    Fact 1 The Canon points to the Divine nature of God

There Is a Presumption in Favour of the Bible

The Perennial Freshness of the Bible Bears Witness to its Divine Inspirer

The Unmistakable Honesty of the Writers of the Bible Attests to its Heavenly Origin

The Character of its Teachings Evidences the Divine Authorship of the Bible

The Fulfilled Prophecies of the Bible Bespeak the Omniscience of its Author

The Typical Significance of the Scriptures Declare Their Divine Authorship

The Wonderful Unity of the Bible Attests its Divine Authorship

The Marvellous Influence of the Bible Declares its Super-Human Character

The Miraculous Power of the Bible Shows Forth That its Inspirer Is the Almighty

The Completeness of the Bible Demonstrates its Divine Perfection

The Indestructibility of the Bible Is a Proof that its Author Is Divine

Inward Confirmation of the Veracity of the Scriptures

Verbal Inspiration (Arthur Pink)

2.    Fact 2: The Jews is evidence of God

Can any one here tell me a name or two of who there are related to 4000 years ago? The Jew can. Any idea what tribe you come from? The Jew Can. Can anyone in this room relate to a group of ancestors that have been around for 4000 years? The Jew can.

The question arises - why can the Jew tell us so much about their ancestory, but no-one else?

Deuteronomy 4:34  "Or did God ever try to go and take for Himself a nation from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, by wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great terrors, according to all that the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?

3.    Fact 3: All of creation points to the existence of God

1The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork.
2Day unto day utters speech,
And night unto night reveals knowledge.
3There is no speech nor language
Where their voice is not heard.
4Their line has gone out through all the earth,  (Psalm 19)

 

 

David L Simon (GBC 18 July 2010)
Apologetics\The authority of the Bible - Defending your hope part A.doc