Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Questions of Faith – Why hasn’t there been any additions to the Bible for almost two thousand years?

Below are the notes from the second session of a study entitled “The Questions of Faith.” This 15-session series attempts to answer some of the questions raised by participants from our last study. This week we worked of the question, Why hasn’t there been any additions to the Bible for almost two thousand years?  You may listen to a podcast of this session on the Cove Presbyterian PodBean page.

If you found this study meaningful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.

The History of the Hebrew Canon 
  • Rabbinic Judaism recognizes the twenty-four books of the Masoretic Text, commonly Hebrew Bible. Evidence suggests that the process of canonization occurred between 200 BC and 200 AD, and a popular position is that the Torah was canonized c. 400 BC, the Prophets c. 200 BC, and the Writings c. 100 AD.
  • The book of Deuteronomy includes a prohibition against adding or subtracting which might apply to the book itself (i.e. a "closed book", a prohibition against future scribal editing) or to the instruction received by Moses on Mt. Sinai. 
  • The Hebrew Canon closed around AD 100.
  • The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches accept some other books not found in the Hebrew canon.

The History of the New Testament Canon 
  • The Early Church used the Old Testament according to the canon of the Septuagint (LXX). Writings attributed to the apostles also circulated among the earliest Christian communities. The Pauline letters were circulating in collected forms by the end of the 1st century AD. Justin Martyr, in the early 2nd century, mentions the "memoirs of the Apostles," which Christians called "gospels," and which were considered to be authoritatively equal to the Old Testament.
  • Marcion was the first Christian leader in recorded history (though later, considered heretical) to propose and delineate a uniquely Christian canon (ca. AD 140). This included 10 epistles from Paul, as well as a version of the Gospel of Luke, which today is known as the Gospel of Marcion. In so doing, he established a particular way of looking at religious texts that persists in Christian thought today. 
  • The first council that accepted the present Catholic canon (the Canon of Trent) may have been the Synod of Hippo Regius in North Africa (393); the acts of this council, however, are lost. A brief summary of the acts was read at and accepted by the Councils of Carthage in 397 and 419.
  • Martin Luther (1483-1546) made an attempt to remove the books of Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation from the canon (partially because they were perceived to go against certain Protestant doctrines such as sola scriptura and sola fide), but this was not generally accepted among his followers.
Standards for Inclusion
  • Apostolic Origin — attributed to and based upon the preaching/teaching of the first-generation apostles (or their close companions).
  • Universal Acceptance — acknowledged by all major Christian communities in the ancient world (by the end of the 4th century) as well as accepted canon by Jewish authorities (for the Old Testament).
  • Liturgical Use — read publicly when early Christian communities gathered for the Lord's Supper (their weekly worship services).
  • Consistent Message — containing a theological outlook similar to or complementary to other accepted Christian writings.

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