Apocrypha Writings

The discussion of the exclusion or inclusion of the apocrypha writings in the Judeo-Christian canon of scripture focuses on several key points. First, the apocrypha writings never appeared in the Hebrew scriptures (or Masoretic Text) in the form of “the Law” “the Prophets” and “the Writings”, whereas the Septuagint (the greek translation of the Hebrews scriptures) included them in some early manuscripts (copies). Thus, from an ancient Jewish perspective they were never considered holy scripture, but as the septuagint gained influence in the greek speaking world, the canon of holy scripture began to blur. As more and more copies and translations were developed from the septuagint, some faith traditions (i.e. Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox) began to accept the apocrypha writings as part of the holy scriptures.[1]

Second, Jewish tradition taught that beginning in c. 400 BCE the prophetic presence of God was absent, meaning that throughout the following years, God was silent and no other holy writings were added to the Hebrew scriptures. Since the apocrypha writings appear to have been written during the silent years, it would not have been considered holy scripture.[2] Therefore, based on these arguments, the apocrypha writings should not be included in the Judeo-Christian canon of scripture.

[1]Paul D. Wegner, The Journey from Texts to Translations: The Origin and Development of the Bible. (Grand Rapids, MI.: Baker Academic, 1999), 120-126.

[2]Wegner, The Journey, 105-106.

Canonization: Part 3 New Testament

The canonization of the New Testament writings started with oral tradition focused on the life, ministry and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. F.F. Bruce writes,

…what he [Jesus] said was treasured and repeated by those who heard him, and by their hearers in turn. To those who confessed him as Lord his words were at least as authoritative as those of Moses and the prophets. They were transmitted as a most important element in the ‘tradition’ of early Christianity, together with the record of his works, his death and resurrection.  These were ‘delivered’ by the original witnesses and ‘received’ in turn by others not simply as an outline of historical events but as the church’s confession of faith and as the message the message which it was commissioned to spread abroad.[1]

This sacred oral tradition of Jesus eventually was recorded in written form due to the need to ensure the accuracy of the Jesus tradition. From an evangelistic perspective, written accounts of the life, ministry and teachings of Jesus would have had mass appeal in the Greco-Roman literate society. Also, they would have been helpful in responding to heretical teachings that were infiltrating the early christian movement.[2]

In 1 Timothy 5:18, the apostle Paul connects this early written record of Jesus with the Hebrew scriptures by quoting Luke 10:7 and Deuteronomy 25:4, while using the one phrase, “For the scripture says.” F.F. Bruce writes,

What is striking here is that a saying of Jesus known to us from Luke 10:7 is linked with an Old Testament text under the common rubric: ‘the scripture says’.  It has to be considered whether ‘the scripture’ refers strictly to the commandment from Deuteronomy, or also to a written collection of sayings of Jesus which may have served as a source for the Third Evangelist, or even to the gospel of Luke itself. [3] 

While this verse can be debated about its meaning, it may indicate that there was a body of writings focused on the life, ministry and teachings of Jesus that were recognized as being inspired by God and thus included in the canon of scripture.

A similar passage written by the Apostle Peter refers to the writings of the Apostle Paul as Scripture.  2 Peter 3:15-16 states,

Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

An interesting aspect of this passage is that it reminds the reader of the integrity of the New Testament authors. The Apostle Peter was rebuked by the Apostle Paul early in the Christian movement, yet the Apostle Peter still was able to refer to the Apostle Paul’s writings as scripture with honesty and trustworthiness. In addition, the Apostle Peter is comparing the Apostle Paul’s writings in the same sense as the Hebrew scriptures referred to earlier in his writing (cf. 2 Pet 3:5, 7-8).[4]  With this passage, a logical conclusion can be asserted that in the first century church the Pauline epistles were recognized as inspired by God and thus authoritative and canonical.

Norman Geisler and William Nix summarize the impact that 1 Timothy 5:18 and 2 Peter 3:15-16 have on the canonization of the rest of the New Testament by stating, “Certainly if Paul’s and Luke’s writings were considered Scripture, the the epistles of the apostles of Jesus, and the particularly those of the “inner circle” (Peter and John), which traditionally make up most of the remainder of the New Testament, cannot logically be excluded from the category of inspired Scripture.”[5]

Along with the internal evidence for the canonization of the New Testament writings, is the external evidence of the Early Church Fathers.  Throughout the centuries following the death of the apostles, the Early Church Fathers quoted from the writings of the apostles and began to form canons of recognized inspired writings. Also, Church councils and synods were formed in order to address the issue of the canon of scripture.  Wegner suggests principles that would have likely assisted in the process of canonization of the New Testament writings. 1) Was the book written by an apostle or at least someone or recognized authority? 2) Did it agree with the canon of Truth? 3) Did it enjoy universal acceptance? 4) Does it have a self-authenticating divine nature?[6]

[1] F.F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture. (Downers Grove, IL:, 1988), 118.

[2] Paul D. Wegner, The Journey from Texts to Translations: The Origin and Development of the Bible. (Grand Rapids, MI.: Baker Academic, 1999), 134-135.

[3] Bruce, Canon, 120.

[4] Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible. Revised and Expanded ed. (Chicago, IL:, Moody Press, 1986), 53.

[5] Ibid., 53.

[6] Wegner, The Journey, 148.

Canonization: Part 2 Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament)

The canonization of the Hebrew scriptures is traced back to when God communicated with the ancient Israelite people by dictating his words to be written by human writers and by physically writing on stone tablets. This is portrayed in Exodus 24:4 of the Hebrew scriptures stating, “Moses then wrote down everything the Lord had said.” Also, Exodus 31:18 states, “When the Lord finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the covenant law, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God.” The Israelites recognized, received, obeyed and preserved these written words throughout the centuries (Exod 24:7, 2 Kgs 23:3, Neh 8:9). Thus, an authoritative collection of written communication from God in the form of “the Law” (consisting of Genesis to Deuteronomy) was established early in the history of Israelites.[1]

Furthermore, God spoke prophetically through his chosen prophets both orally and in written form. There was a strong prophetic presence and influence by the prophets among the Israelite people. The prophets used statements claiming that they were speaking for God, including “declares the LORD” (Is 3:15, Jer 1:15, Hos 2:21), “this is what the LORD says” (Is 7:7, Jer 2:5, Ezek 3:11), “the word of the LORD came” (Jer 1:4, Ezek 6:1, Hos 1:1). [2] Thus, the words of the prophets and other Israelite prophetic writings were eventually recognized as God’s authoritative words with the designation of “the Prophets.”[3]

While there is canonical clarity of “the Law” and “the Prophets” in the Hebrew scriptures and in other ancient sources, the third traditional designation―”the writings”, has been debated by scholars. The debate focuses on the timing of the designation. Some scholars argue that the designation of “the Law” and “the Prophets” included those writings that are traditionally designated as “the writings”, and thus “the writings” were later re-categorized with a new designation. Others argue that there were developmental stages of the canon, where the initial stages only included the five books of Moses and the writings of the Prophets, and the latter stages introduced those writings that are designated “the writings”. Regardless of the position one settles on, the Hebrew scriptures in the form of “the Law”, “the Prophets” and “the Writings”[4] are considered part of the Judeo-Christian canon of scripture.

Moreover, there is strong historical, external evidence for this form of the canonization of Hebrew scriptures primarily from the septuagint c. 250-100 BCE, which contains writing from each of the designations. Ancient Jewish rabbis, philosophers and historians, including Jesus of Nazareth 4 BCE-30 CE, Philo of Alexandria c.20 BCE-50 CE and Josephus c. CE 37-100, allude to writings from the tripartite designation.  Further evidence for this canonical construction can be detected in other ancient Jewish tradition writings, and the writings of the Christian Apostles and Early Church Fathers.[5]

With all this in view, there is an incomplete record of the process of recognizing the canonicity of the Hebrew scriptures. Thus, Paul Wegner suggests four criteria that may have assisted in the process 1) the writing did not contain contradictions. 2) the writing was written by a prophet of God or someone thought to have been granted divine authority. 3) the writing originated through inspiration from God. 4) the writing was accepted by the Jewish people as authoritative. [6]

[1] Paul D. Wegner, The Journey from Texts to Translations: The Origin and Development of the Bible. (Grand Rapids, MI.: Baker Academic, 1999), 102.

[2] Ibid., 103.

[3] William Klein, Craig L. Blomberg and Robert L. Hubbard, Jr. Introduction to Biblical Interpretation. Revised and Updated ed. (Nashville: TN:, Baker Academic, 2004), 106.  

[4] Wegner, The Journey, 104.  

[5] Ibid., 108-114.

[6] Ibid., 117.


Canonization: Part 1

Canonization is an important area of study for the Jewish tradition and the Christian tradition because both place a strong emphasis on their sacred writings. The Jewish tradition points to the Hebrew scriptures as the inspired words of God, and the Christian tradition points to the Hebrew scriptures and the New Testament writings as the inspired words of God. From a Christian perspective, the study of canonization focuses on the recognition process of these two sacred bodies of writings as the inspired words of God. In order to understand this process of how the Hebrew scriptures and the New Testament writings were recognized as God’s written words, the concept of the canon of scripture should be explained.  

Definition of the Canon of Scripture

The ancient Jews would not have used the word canon when referring to their sacred writings, but the concept of a divine standard when applied to the Hebrew scriptures would have been present in the form of titles such as “The Sacred Writings”, “Authoritative Writings” or “The Books that Defile the Hands;”[1] Nevertheless, the Hebrew language had an influence on the development of concept of the canon of scripture. The english word canon, originally derived from the Hebrew word קָנֶה (qaneh) defined as “stalk” or “reed.”[2] In Hebrew culture some reeds were used for measuring, so the word developed the meaning of “rule.”[3] From the Hebrew קָנֶה (qaneh) was derived the greek word κανών (kanōn), which took on the developed idea of a “rule”, “norm” or “standard.”[4]

In the early church the word κανών (kanōn) referred to the summary of Christian teaching that was aligned with the teaching of the apostles, which was the standard by which all biblical interpretation and doctrine was to be held up against. Thus, it had a theological meaning as “the rule of faith” or “the rule of truth.”[5] By the 4th century BCE, κανών (kanōn) had a more technical meaning of a list of authoritative scripture or a standard collection or body of sacred writings.[6] F.F Bruce explains this close connect between these meanings by writing, “While the ‘canon’ of scripture means the list of books accepted as holy scripture, the other sense of ‘canon”━rule or standard━has rubbed off on this one, so that the ‘canon’ of scripture is understood to be the list of books which are acknowledged to be, in a unique sense, the rule of belief and practice.”[7]

Therefore, the canon of scripture in the present usage referring to the Hebrew scriptures and the New Testament writings signifies a collection of holy writings that have been recognized as the inspired words of God and are the authoritative standard and measure in all matters of faith, life and conduct.

[1] Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible. Revised and Expanded ed. (Chicago, IL:, Moody Press, 1986), 204-205.

[2] Francis Brown, S.R. Driver and Charles A. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. (Peabody, MA:, Hendrickson Publishers, 2001), 591.

[3] Paul D. Wegner, The Journey from Texts to Translations: The Origin and Development of the Bible. (Grand Rapids, MI.: Baker Academic, 1999), 101.

[4] Geoffrey W. Bromiley, ed., The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. rev. ed., vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI:, Eerdmans, 1979-86), 591.

[5] F.F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture. (Downers Grove, IL:, 1988), 18.

[6] Geisler and Nix, A General, 204.

[7] F.F. Bruce, The Canon, 18.  


While reading the scriptures, there are sections where there seems to be differences or discrepancies. For example, the gospel writers appear to give different reports of events in Jesus’ life and ministry. This may lead the reader to ask if these are errors, mistakes or untruths by one of the writers and whether the text can be considered inerrant. With these type of passages, it is important to take into account the writer’s stylistic nuances and purpose. God could have dictated every word and in such a way that every account would read exactly the same; however, God led the writers in a more mysterious way, where upon he created the scriptures through a combination of the writer’s unique personality and the guiding work of the Holy Spirit. The personality and style of each writer is evident throughout the scriptures.[1] Therefore, there are stylistic terminology differences that are not errors but rather God’s means of presenting his truth message to humanity.

Along these lines is the writer’s purpose in reporting the specific event. Some writers may set out to give a chronological order of events whereas other writers may give a summary of the event with no attention to chronological order which is not considered giving a false account.  Furthermore, omissions do not equate to deceit.  For example, at Jesus’ baptism the voice from heaven could have said both “This is my son…” (Matt 3:17) and (“You are my son…” Mark 1:11 and Luke 3:22) and the omission of either of these statements by the writers does not make the event any less truthful.  This demonstrates that God used limited human writers, but gave multiply accounts in order to give a more detailed divine perspective. Ultimately, the doctrine of inerrancy is focused on the scriptures being “wholly true in everything that they affirm.”[2]

John Frame writes, “Inerrancy, therefore, means that the Bible is true, not that it is maximally precise.  To the extent that precision is necessary for truth, the Bible is sufficiently precise.  But it does not always have the amount of precision that some readers demand of it.  It has a level of precision sufficient for its own purposes, not for the purposes for which some readers might employ it.”[3]

Proponents of full inerrancy believe that only the original autographs of the Hebrew Scriptures and the canonical Christian writings are inspired by God; thus, they propose that technically only these original autographs are considered inerrant.  These original autographs have not yet been discovered; however, hundreds of ancient manuscripts (copies) based on the original autographs have been retained. Throughout the centuries, scribes meticulously copied manuscript from manuscript with fervor, reverence, integrity and commitment. As a results, the original autographs can be constructed with a high percentage of accuracy. Furthermore, translations were developed from these manuscripts with the same rigor and determination in order to arrive at a text that reflects the original autographs, which for all intent and purposes is considered the inspired, truthful (inerrant) words of God. Thus, the view of the proponents of full inerrancy is that English translations are reliable and inerrant as God’s words if they are developed from the plethora of ancient manuscripts.

The doctrine of inerrancy has important theological implications for Christians and the church in that special revelation from God through the scriptures provides humanity with the truth for salvation. If Christians believe in a holy, omniscient, omnipotent and trustworthy God, then they should view his recognized words as true and without error. God moved in such a way through human writers so as not to deceive humanity or to present falsities. The rejection of inspiration and inerrancy can lead to a form of deconstructivism that strips the the meat from the bones leaving a decomposing carcass of the gospel message. By accepting the doctrine of inerrancy, christian align their lives with the power and life giving message of the gospel which promotes a healthy, kingdom focused Church.

However, inerrancy should not be a doctrine that if people reject, then they should abandon their relationship with Jesus. There have been scholars who delve into the study of inerrancy and arrive at a place where they are unable to reconcile their perceived discrepancies in the scriptures. The reverberation is that they reject the scriptures as God’s word and then lose their trust in God altogether. This does not need to be the natural progression of questioning inerrancy.  Thus, the Church would do well to accept and defend inerrancy, but not in such a way where it is considered a foundational doctrine that if rejected people are led to believe that they are doomed to the shadowy fringes of faith.  

[1] Paul Wegner, The Journey from Texts to Translations: The Origen and Development of the Bible. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004.), 28-29.

[2] Appendix D: Chicago Statement on Inerrancy (1978) quoting Paul Feinberg, in Inerrancy, edited by Norman Geisler, p. 294.

[3] John M. Frame, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing Company, 2013.), ePub edition, pt. 4, ch. 26, “Inerrancy and Precision.”  


Inspiration of Scripture

From a Judeo-Christian perspective, an unseen God has revealed himself to humanity through the created universe, which is often referred to as general revelation. This type of revelation gives a limited understanding of God, and so God provided further revelation or special revelation through the God-man, Jesus Christ and through his words in verbal and written form in order to communicate his salvation plan to humanity. The focus of our discussion is on the written form of God’s revelation; thus, we need to consider the process of written communication by God.  

God decided to communicate to humanity in human language.  There are a few instances where he physically wrote on stone tablets the words he wanted to communicate (Ex 24:12; Ex 31:18).  On other occasions, God verbally dictated to human writers his words for them to write (Ex 24:24; 34:27-28).  God could have used this dictation method through the centuries in order to give his divine message; however, he decided to use a more mysterious way, where upon he led human writers to create the scriptures. He used more collaborative means in the process by speaking through the words of human writers.  It was combination of the guiding of the Holy Spirit while using the human writers unique skills and personality. This is the process of inspiration, where God─the Holy Spirit, moved the writers to write in such a way as to communicate his divine message. Thus, the unique voices of the human writers are evident, but they wrote exactly what God intended them to write. Thus, human writers played an important role in the development of God’s written words. These written words are considered Holy Scriptures, and as we have explored, they did not mystically appear from heaven, but rather God worked through humans in order to communicate to them his divine and authoritative message.