"THE GOSPEL OF MARK" Peter’s Denial Of Jesus (14:66-72) INTRODUCTION 1. Among the things Jesus suffered was the indignity of Peter’s denial... a. Three times, with increasing intensity, Peter denied knowing Jesus - Mk 14:66-72 b. Peter denied knowing Jesus, despite being with Jesus: 1) From the beginning of His earthly ministry - Mk 1:16-18 2) At the healing of his own mother-in-law - Mk 1:29-31 3) On the Sea of Galilee, walking on the water - Mt 14:22-33 4) On the mount, seeing Jesus with Moses and Elijah - Mk 9:2-6 2. How did Peter come to deny his Lord and Savior...? a. What forces were at work, that led to his cowardly deed? b. Might they be forces we face today, encouraging us to do the same? [From "Peter’s Denial Of Jesus", there are important lessons to be gleaned. Indeed, Peter himself can help us to avoid making the mistakes he made when he writes as one who knows the dangers before us. For example, we note first of all that...] I. PETER WAS BETRAYED BY PRIDE A. HE BOASTED HE WOULD NEVER DENY JESUS... 1. Proudly proclaiming that even if all left Jesus, not him! - Mk 14:27-29 2. In so doing, Peter took the first step in falling away - Pr 16:18 3. We can also be overconfident in our service to God - cf. 1Co 10:12 B. PETER LATER COMMANDED HUMILITY... 1. To be clothed with humility - 1Pe 5:5 2. To humble ourselves before God - 1Pe 5:6 [Peter learned the hard way about the danger of pride. Will we learn from the mistake of Peter, and value the importance of humility? Next, notice that...] II. PETER WAS BESIEGED BY LAZINESS A. HE KEPT FALLING ASLEEP... 1. At a time when he needed to be watchful - Mk 14:37-42 2. His laziness therefore led to lack of preparation 3. The same thing can happen to us! a. Without diligent preparation, we too can be unprepared - cf. Lk 21:34-36 b. More often than not, we gradually "drift away" because we are too lazy to "give the more earnest heed" - cf. He 2:1-3 B. PETER LATER ENJOINED DILIGENCE... 1. Commanding vigilant resistance against the devil - 1Pe 5:8-9 2. Calling for diligence that we might: a. Grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus - 2Pe 1:5,10 b. Be found in peace, without spot and blameless - 2Pe 3:14 [Do we allow simple laziness to keep us from careful preparation? Do we fail to attend services, study God’s Word, or even pray, because of laziness? If so, how can we hope to stand up for Jesus when put to the test? As we continue, we observe that...] III. PETER WAS BESET BY COWARDICE A. HE FOLLOWED JESUS AT A DISTANCE... 1. Peter still followed Jesus - Mk 14:54 2. But now that Jesus was unpopular... a. He stays far enough away so not to be identified with Him b. He was unprepared to face the challenge of ridicule and persecution 3. Might we be guilty trying to follow Jesus, but with cowardice? a. Ashamed to be seen carrying a Bible? b. Ashamed to be seen giving thanks? c. Ashamed to be seen with other Christians? B. PETER LATER EXHORTED GLORIFYING GOD... 1. Charging us not to be ashamed, but to glorify God - 1Pe 4:16 2. Thinking not of what things mean to us, but what they mean to God! - cf. Mt 5:16 [With cowardice keeping him at a distance from his Lord, Peter was a prime candidate for succumbing to what came next...] IV. PETER WAS BELEAGUERED BY WORLDLINESS A. HE WAS INFLUENCED BY THE WORLD... 1. By sitting with the servants of the High Priest, and warming himself by their fire - Mk 14:54 2. Ashamed to be seen with Christ, it was easy to mingle with those of the world and enjoy their comforts 3. But one cannot be "comforted by the fire" of the world, and not be "burned"! a. E.g., close contact with things that can harm has an effect - cf. Pr 6:27-29 b. So we cannot flirt with the world and walk away untouched - 1Co 15:33 B. PETER LATER CALLED FOR US TO BE OTHERWORLDLY... 1. To live as sojourners and pilgrims, abstaining from fleshly lusts and with honorable conduct among the nations - 1Pe 2:11-12 2. To look for that new heavens and new earth, being diligent to be found by Christ in peace, without spot and blameless - 2Pe 3:13-14 CONCLUSION 1. When Peter concluded his second epistle, he did so with a warning... a. To beware lest you fall from your own steadfastness - 2Pe 3:17 b. To grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ - 2Pe 3:18 2. These admonitions come from one who was well qualified to speak... a. For he knew how easy it was to fall through such things as: 1) Pride 2) Laziness 3) Cowardice 4) Worldliness b. But he also knew how one could grow in grace through such things as: 1) Humility 2) Diligence 3) Glorifying God 4) Living as strangers and sojourners Yes, we know that Peter, though he denied Jesus three times and wept bitterly, received grace when forgiven by Jesus and permitted to fulfill his role as an apostle. If we have been guilty of letting our Lord down, look to Him for the grace to repent and growth that only He can bestow...!
"THE GOSPEL OF MARK" Jesus Before The Council (14:53-65) INTRODUCTION 1. Jesus faced two trials prior to His execution... a. The ecclesiastical trial, in three stages 1) The preliminary hearing before Annas - cf. Jn 18:12-14,19-24 2) The midnight trial before Caiaphas and the council - Mk 14:53-65 3) The morning consultation of the council - Mk 15:1 b. The civil trial, also in three stages 1) Before Pilate, the Roman governor - Mk 15:2-5 2) Before Herod, the tetrarch over Galilee - cf. Lk 23:6-12 3) Before Pilate again - Mk 15:6-15 2. In this lesson we turn our attention to the events of the midnight trial... a. The main stage of the ecclesiastical trial b. Where Jesus appeared before the council (Sanhedrin) [Turning to Mk 14:53-65, let’s direct our attention to the details of the trial, starting with...] I. THE PARTICIPANTS A. CAIAPHAS THE HIGH PRIEST... - Mk 14:53 1. Served for 18 years (18-36 A.D.) 2. Presided over the council (Sanhedrin) 3. This meeting occurred at his house - Lk 22:54; Mk 14:54 4. He had predicted Jesus’ death - Jn 11:49-52 5. He was involved with the plot from the beginning - Jn 11:53 B. CHIEF PRIESTS, ELDERS, SCRIBES... - Mk 14:53 1. Who had plotted to kill Jesus - Mk 14:1 2. Those who had sent to arrest Jesus - Mk 14:43 C. MEMBERS OF THE COUNCIL... - Mk 14:55 1. Also known as the Sanhedrin 2. The supreme ecclesiastical court of the Jews 3. Possibly including Joseph of Arimathea, even Nicodemus - cf. Mk 15:43; Jn 3:1 D. FALSE WITNESSESS... - Mk 14:55-56 1. From whom the chief priests and council sought testimony 2. But their testimony did not agree E. OTHERS PRESENT... 1. Peter in the courtyard - Mk 14:54 2. Another disciple, known by the high priest (John?) - cf. Jn 18:15-16 3. Other servants and officers - cf. Jn 18:18; Mk 14:65 [With the majority present predisposed against Jesus, accusations were brought against Him...] II. THE CHARGES A. BY FALSE WITNESSES... - Mk 14:57-60 1. Many bore false witness, but could not agree 2. Jesus would destroy the temple and build another in three days without hands 3. A false charge, misrepresenting what He taught - cf. Jn 2:19-22 4. Against which Jesus refused to defend Himself - cf. Isa 53:7 B. BY THE HIGH PRIEST (CAIAPHAS)... - Mk 14:61-64 1. In response to the question, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" 2. To which Jesus replied, "I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting..." 3. Greatly angering the high priest, who tore his clothes 4. Leading to the charge of blasphemy, deserving of death [With the charge of blasphemy against Him, the physical abuse against Jesus began to intensify...] III. THE ABUSE A. BY MEMBERS OF THE COUNCIL... - Mk 14:65 1. Some began to spit on Jesus 2. He was blindfolded and beaten 3. He was mocked to prophesy B. BY THE OFFICERS... - Mk 14:65 1. Struck with the palms of their hands 2. As foretold by Isaiah - cf. Isa 50:6 CONCLUSION 1. The injustice at this trial is evident... a. The false witnesses and physical abuse b. Many say the midnight setting made it illegal 2. How difficult it must have been for some who were present... a. For fair-minded members of the council (e.g., Joseph and Nicodemus, if they were there) b. For Peter and John as they witnessed or heard the proceedings take place 3. Most importantly, how difficult it must have been for Jesus... a. Who knew what was coming - cf. Mk 8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34 b. Who kept silent when He could have called a legion of angels - cf. Mt 26:53 Isaiah prophesied: "He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him." (Isa 53:3) If we had been there, we would have likely been influenced by the religious leaders. But knowing what Jesus went on to do and why, may we resolve never to be ashamed of our Lord...
"THE GOSPEL OF MARK" The Betrayal Of Jesus (14:43-52) INTRODUCTION 1. Certainly one of the saddest moments in the life of Jesus was His betrayal by Judas... a. One of Jesus’ closest disciples, even one of His twelve apostles - Mk 14:43-46 b. Followed by being abandoned by the rest of the apostles - Mk 14:47-50 c. And possibly Mark; many think he was the young man that fled naked - Mk 14:51-52 2. But our focus is on Judas: What led him to betray his Lord and Savior? How could one who had been with Jesus... a. Seen His miracles, heard His teachings b. Betray Him with a kiss? 3. And what about us, who claim to be Jesus’ disciples today...? a. Could we be guilty of betraying Jesus in some way? b. Are there things that misled Judas that could have a similar effect on us? [What might we learn from "The Betrayal Of Jesus"? Lest we follow the same path of Judas, let’s reflect for a few moments on what we can glean from the Scriptures...] I. JESUS WAS BETRAYED BY A CLOSE FRIEND A. JUDAS WAS NO STRANGER TO JESUS... 1. As already mentioned, he was one of the apostles - Mk 3:14-19 2. He was among those whom Jesus loved - cf. Jn 13:1 3. Yet as prophesied, Jesus was betrayed by "a familiar friend" - Ps 41:9 B. BEING CLOSE TO JESUS IS NO GUARANTEE... 1. Just being His disciples is no assurance we could not betray Him 2. Like several of the churches in Asia Minor, we could... a. Leave our first love - Re 2:4-5 b. Begin to tolerate false doctrine - Re 2:14-16 c. Permit false teachers to spread their doctrines - Re 2:20 d. Fail to perfect our works, and not be watchful - Re 3:1-3 e. Become lukewarm - Re 3:15-16 3. Yes, we can betray Jesus by denying Him who bought us - cf. 2Pe 2:1 [Therefore we need to heed Jesus’ admonition to be "faithful unto death" (Re 2:10), and not assume that close proximity to Jesus in the past guarantees faithfulness in the future.] II. JESUS WAS BETRAYED BY A LOVER OF MONEY A. MONEY WAS A PROBLEM FOR JUDAS... 1. He often pilfered from the money box of the disciples - Jn 12:4-6 2. The opportunity to make some money led him to betray Jesus - Mt 26:14-16 B. MONEY CAN BE A PROBLEM FOR US... 1. The deceitfulness of riches can render us unfruitful - Mk 4:19 2. The desire for riches and the love of money can lead us to stray from the faith and drown in destruction and perdition - 1Ti 6:9-10 3. The Laodiceans’ preoccupation with wealth made them lukewarm - Re 3:16-17 [Could we be guilty of betraying Jesus by our desire for riches, letting such things take precedent over our service to God and His church?] III. JESUS WAS BETRAYED BY A SHOW OF AFFECTION A. JUDAS BETRAYED JESUS WITH A KISS... 1. He could have pointed...perhaps he sought to soften the blow of betrayal - Mk 14:44-45 2. Jesus noted the obvious contradiction - Lk 22:48 B. DISPLAYS OF AFFECTION DON’T ENSURE FAITHFULNESS... 1. Many people are very emotional in their religion a. As displayed in their worship b. Believing it to be evidence of being "Spirit-filled" 2. Yet emotions alone are not a reliable guide a. They can easily mislead us - cf. Pr 16:25; Jer 10:23; 17:9 b. They are often present in the unstable believer - cf. Mk 4:16-17 3. This is not to discount the place and value of emotions a. We are to love God with all our heart and with all our mind - Mt 22:37-38 b. The Spirit does produce fruit in our lives that affects our emotions - Ga 5:22-23 c. But we must keep them in the proper order: 1) Our emotions must come from faith, not faith coming from emotions 2) Otherwise we are led by emotionalism, not faith 4. True faith comes from the Word of God - Ro 10:17; Jn 20:30-31 [If we believe that displays of affection in our religion can make up for our failure to heed God’s Word, we deceive ourselves and betray Jesus in the process!] IV. JESUS WAS BETRAYED BY A MISTAKEN DISCIPLE A. JUDAS MISTOOK THE CONSEQUENCES OF HIS ACTION... 1. He evidently didn’t think Jesus would be condemned - Mt 27:3-4 2. This has prompted some to think that Judas was motivated by more than money a. That perhaps his betrayal would force Jesus to act, show His true power b. That in such a way it would demonstrate who Jesus truly was B. WE CAN BE GUILTY OF MISTAKEN SERVICE... 1. Thinking our service is acceptable, when it is not - Mt 7:21-23 2. Thinking we can improve on God’s way, when His ways may not be ours - Isa 55:8-9 3. We need to head the Preacher’s advice - cf. Ecc 5:1-2 a. Come to hear and do what He says b. Not presume to know what pleases God and offer what we think is best [In our zeal, we may be guilty of acting based on mistaken knowledge (cf. Ro 10:1-3). Dare we possibly betray Jesus by presuming we know what is according to His will and plan?] V. JESUS WAS BETRAYED BY AN OVERWROUGHT FOLLOWER A. JUDAS REACTED TO HIS SIN THE WRONG WAY... 1. He was overcome with grief - cf. Mt 27:3 2. He took the wrong course of action by hanging himself - cf. Mt 27:5 B. WE CAN REACT TO OUR SINS THE SAME WAY... 1. There are two kinds of sorrow - 2Co 7:10 a. Sorrow of the world that produces death b. Godly sorrow that produces repentance c. The first sorrow is preoccupied with self; the second is sorrow for sinning against God 2. It is natural to be sorrowful for our sins a. But we should not wallow in our grief b. But repent, as did Peter who denied Christ 3. Paul is another example of one who did not let sins of the past hinder service in the present a. He focused on God’s grace which gave him another chance - 1Co 15:9-10 b. He directed his attention on striving for the upward call of God - Php 3:12-14 CONCLUSION 1. While Jesus was betrayed by all these things, let’s not forget the influence of Satan... a. Satan used Judas to betray Jesus - Lk 22:3-4 b. Satan put it in Judas’ heart to betray Jesus - Jn 13:2 c. For this reason Jesus referred to Judas as "a devil" - Jn 6:70-71 2. Yet how did Satan influence Judas? By some of the very things we’ve noticed... a. Through his love of money b. Through his emotionalism c. Through his mistaken ideas d. Through his preoccupation with self -- Even Peter was influenced by Satan through some of these things (cf. Mt 16:23) And so while we may decry the treachery of Judas, we should humbly learn from his mistakes, taking to heart the words of Peter: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world." - 1Pe 5:9-10
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
Political correctness is running amok in American civilization. This irrational, self-contradictory ideology is virtually ensconced in culture. Millions have been victimized by this propaganda and intimidated into silence when confronted by ideas and behaviors that are immoral or destructive. This sinister ideology began to assert itself with a vengeance during the turbulent 1960s. In seemingly conspiratorial fashion, socialistic forces strategized means by which to bully mainstream Americans into silent passivity. As Cuban producer, director, and author Agustin Blazquez explains: “Change their speech and thought patterns by spreading the idea that vocalizing your beliefs is disrespectful to others and must be avoided to make up for past inequities and injustices” (2002). While accusing the status quo of censorship, attempting to stifle free speech, and oppress the left, ironically, the left now uses the very tactics they mistakenly imagined in their opponents. Hence, the social liberals in politics, education, and beyond launched “a sophisticated and dangerous form of censorship and oppression, imposed upon the citizenry with the ultimate goal of manipulating, brainwashing and destroying our society” (Blazquez). They have worked their agenda with a shrewd precision that would be the envy of the most sinister dictators of human history—from Nero to Hitler to Stalin.
Strangely, the effort to silence the traditional Christian values that have characterized America from the beginning has been accompanied by inconsistent and self-contradictory accommodation of Islam. Immediately after 9-11, the forces of political correctness sought to minimize the obvious connection between Islam and the attack by insisting that Islam is a peaceful religion, and by promoting Islam in public schools and encouraging the construction of Mosques throughout the country. Even as Christmas cards, Christian prayer, and allusions to Christianity in American history were being challenged across the country, an elementary school in Texas permitted a girl to present an overview and show a video about her Muslim religion to her classmates; a public middle school in San Luis Obispo, California had its students pretend to be warriors fighting for Islam; and a school near Oakland, California encouraged 125 seventh-grade students to dress up in Muslim robes for a three-week course on Islam. Consider the attack by Islamic gunmen that killed 12 people at the offices of a French satirical newspaper in Paris. The event evoked reactions that sought to lay blame on “disrespect for religion on the part of irresponsible cartoonists” and “violent extremists unrelated to Islam,” rather than placing blame on Sharia law, Islam, and the Quran (McCarthy, 2015; Packer, 2015; Kristof, 2015; “All in With…,” 2015; Tuttle, 2015).
The open promotion of Islam across the country has become widespread as footbaths are being installed in universities and other public facilities, traffic in New York City is disrupted by Muslims performing prayer rituals in the streets, public school classrooms and extracurricular activities are altered to accommodate Ramadan and daily prayer rituals, and the capitol lawn is given over to a Muslim prayer service involving hundreds. Any who dare even to question these proceedings are instantly pummeled and castigated as intolerant and “Islamophobic.”
As an example, consider the nationwide brouhaha that surrounded the construction of a mosque near ground zero. Despite what the left alleged, participating in a public rally to voice opposition to the construction of a mosque was not “bashing Islam” or being intolerant and “Islamophobic.” In 1941, the World War 2 generation was not being “Japophobic” when they went to war with Japan because Japanese aircraft bombed Pearl Harbor, killing some 2,400 of our young men, and wounding a 1,000 more. Nor were they “Naziphobic” when they sought to deter Germany from its attempted conquest of Europe and eventually America. Even to suggest such is ludicrous. They were merely facing reality—an ability today’s social liberals seem to lack, coupled with their complete naiveté regarding the sinister threat posed by Islam. What if Japanese living in America had sought to erect a Buddhist temple or Shinto shrine over the wreckage of the USS Arizona?
Make no mistake, true Christians do not hate Muslims, nor harbor prejudice or ill will against them. Rather, informed Christians and Americans simply recognize the fundamental threat that Islam poses to the freedom to practice one’s Christian beliefs without fear of reprisal. Indeed, taking steps to minimize the spread of Islam is itself the exercise of First Amendment rights. It is a sincere attempt to discourage the spread of religious views that are antithetical to liberty and the Christian principles on which America was founded—and on which her perpetuation depends. The American Founders recognized this fact.
the founders on islamFather of American Jurisprudence and New York State Supreme Court Chief Justice James Kent noted that “we are a Christian people, and the morality of the country is deeply ingrafted [sic] upon Christianity, and not upon the doctrines or worship of those imposters”—referring to “Mahomet and the Grand Lama” (The People…, 1811, emp. added). Did you catch that? The moral fabric of America is “deeply engrafted” on Christianity—not the false religion of Islam. Labeling founders of false religions “imposters” is not “hate speech;” it is simply describing reality.
James Iredell, appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by George Washington, felt sure that Americans would never elect Muslims, pagans, or atheists to political office when he demurred, “But it is never to be supposed that the people of America will trust their dearest rights to persons who have no religion at all, or a religion materially different from their own” (1836, 4:194, emp. added). Father of American Geography, Jedediah Morse, explained the intimate connection between America’s freedom and the Christian religion:
The foundations which support the interests of Christianity, are also necessary to support a free and equal government like our own. In all those countries where there is little or no religion, or a very gross and corrupt one, as in Mahometan and Pagan countries, there you will find, with scarcely a single exception, arbitrary and tyrannical governments, gross ignorance and wickedness, and deplorable wretchedness among the people. To the kindly influence of Christianity we owe that degree of civil freedom, and political and social happiness which mankind now enjoy (1799, p. 14, emp. added).Here is an extremely wise, insightful, and sobering admonition—if we will listen and learn. The portrait that Morse painted has not changed in the intervening 200+ years. Muslim nations across the world are still “very gross and corrupt,” with “tyrannical governments” and “deplorable wretchedness among the people.” Is that what Americans desire for their own lifestyle? Does even the politically correct crowd wish to live in such a country? They do not. Yet, they foolishly hasten the deleterious transformation of our country.
In his masterful refutation of Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason, Elias Boudinot, who served as one of the Presidents of the Continental Congress, offered a blistering assessment of Islam in its contradistinction to Christianity:
Did not Moses and Christ show their divine mission, not only by the nature and effects of their doctrines and precepts,...but also by doing good, in the presence of all the people, works, that no other men ever did…? But Mahomet aimed to establishhis pretensions to divine authority, by the power of the sword and the terrors of his government; while he carefully avoided any attempts at miracles in the presence of his followers, and all pretences [sic] to foretell things to come…. [The laws] of Mahomet and other impostors have generally been compiled by degrees, according to the exigencies of the states, the prevalence of particular factions, or the authority who governed the people at his own will. Mahomet made his laws, not to curb, but humor the genius of the people; they were therefore altered and repealed from the same causes…. [W]here is the comparison between the supposed prophet of Mecca, and the Son of God; or with what propriety ought they to be named together? The difference between these characters is so great, that the facts need not be further applied (1801, pp. 36-39, emp. added).Ethan Allen exposed a fallacy of Islam in his discussion of the fact that the providence of the God of the Bible “does not interfere with the agency of man,” whereas
Mahomet taught his army that the “term of every man’s life was fixed by God, and that none could shorten it, by any hazard that he might seem to be exposed to in battle or otherwise,” but that it should be introduced into peaceable and civil life, and be patronized by any teachers of religion, is quite strange, as it subverts religion in general, and renders the teaching of it unnecessary… (1854, p. 21, emp. added).He also warned against being “imposed upon by imposters, or by ignorant and insidious teachers, whose interest it may be to obtrude their own systems on the world for infallible truth, as in the instance of Mahomet” (p. 55, emp. added).
When Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were appointed and authorized by Congress to negotiate a treaty with the Muslim terrorists who continually raided American ships off the coast of North Africa, they met in London in 1786 with the Ambassador from Tripoli. On March 28, they penned the following words to John Jay, then serving as Secretary for Foreign Affairs, reporting their conversation with the ambassador:
We took the liberty to make some inquiries concerning the grounds of their pretentions to make war upon nations who had done them no injury, and observed that we considered all mankind as our Friends who had done us no wrong, nor had given us any provocation. The Ambassador answered us that it was founded on the laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners; and that every Musselman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise. That it was a law that the first who boards an enemy’s vessel should have one slave more than his share with the rest, which operated as an incentive to the most desperate valour and enterprize [sic], that it was the practice of their corsairs to bear down upon a ship, for each sailor to take a dagger, in each hand, and another in his mouth, and leap on board, which so terrified their enemies that very few ever stood against them, that he verily believed that the Devil assisted his countrymen, for they were almost always successful (“Letter from the…,” emp. added).While the Founders were supportive of “freedom of religion,” they were not for encouraging false religions (i.e., all non-Christian religions) to spread in America, or to be given “equal time” with Christianity, or allowed to infiltrate civil institutions (see Miller, 2013). Consider U.S. Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story who was appointed to the Court by President James Madison in 1811, and is considered the founder of Harvard Law School and one of two men who have been considered the Fathers of American Jurisprudence. In his Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, Story clarified the meaning of the First Amendment as it relates to religious toleration and Islam:
The real object of the [First—DM] [A]mendment was not to countenance, much less to advance Mahometanism, or Judaism, or infidelity by prostrating Christianity; but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects and to prevent any national ecclesiastical establishment which should give to a hierarchy [of one denomination—DM] the exclusive patronage of the national government (1833, 3:728.1871, emp. added).Samuel Johnston, Governor of North Carolina and Member of the Constitution ratifying convention in 1788, attempted to allay fears that anti-Christian ideologies may infiltrate our elected officials:
It is apprehended that Jews, Mahometans, pagans, &c., may be elected to high offices under the government of the United States. Those who are Mahometans, or any others who are not professors of the Christian religion, can never be elected to the office of President or other high office, but in one of two cases. First, if the people of America lay aside the Christian religion altogether, it may happen. Should this unfortunately take place, the people will choose such men as think as they do themselves (as quoted in Elliot, 1836, 4:198, emp. added).John Quincy Adams, son of John Adams and distinguished for his significant contributions to the Founding era and thereafter, summarized the attitude of most Americans and Founders toward Islam in his brilliant “Essays on the Russo-Turkish War” written in 1827. In these essays, we see a cogent, informed portrait of the threat that Islam has posed throughout world history:
In the seventh century of the Christian era, a wandering Arab of the lineage of Hagar, the Egyptian, combining the powers of transcendent genius, with the preternatural energy of a fanatic, and the fraudulent spirit of an impostor, proclaimed himself as a messenger from Heaven, and spread desolation and delusion over an extensive portion of the earth. Adopting from the sublime conception of the Mosaic law, the doctrine of one omnipotent God; he connected indissolubly with it, the audacious falsehood, that he was himself his prophet and apostle. Adopting from the new Revelation of Jesus, the faith and hope of immortal life, and of future retribution, he humbled it to the dust, by adapting all the rewards and sanctions of his religion to the gratification of the sexual passion. He poisoned the sources of human felicity at the fountain by degrading the condition of the female sex, and the allowance of polygamy; and he declared undistinguishing and exterminating war, as a part of his religion, against all the rest of mankind. THE ESSENCE OF HIS DOCTRINE WAS VIOLENCE AND LUST: TO EXALT THE BRUTAL OVER THE SPIRITUAL PART OF HUMAN NATURE. Between these two religions, thus contrasted in their characters, a war of twelve hundred years has already raged. That war is yet flagrant; nor can it cease but by the extinction of that imposture, which has been permitted by Providence to prolong the degeneracy of man. While the merciless and dissolute dogmas of the false prophet shall furnish motives to human action, there can never be peace upon earth, and good will towards men. The hand of Ishmael will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him [Genesis 16:12—DM]. It is, indeed, amongst the mysterious dealings of God, that this delusion should have been suffered for so many ages, and during so many generations of human kind, to prevail over the doctrines of the meek and peaceful and benevolent Jesus (1830, 29:269, capitals in orig., emp. added).Observe that Adams not only documents the violent nature of Islam, in contrast with the peaceful and benevolent thrust of Christianity, he further exposes the mistreatment of women inherent in Islamic doctrine, including the degrading practice of polygamy. A few pages later, Adams again spotlights the coercive, violent nature of Islam, as well as the Muslim’s right to lie and deceive to advance Islam:
The precept of the koran is, perpetual war against all who deny, that Mahomet is the prophet of God. The vanquished may purchase their lives, by the payment of tribute; the victorious may be appeased by a false and delusive promise of peace; and the faithful follower of the prophet, may submit to the imperious necessities of defeat: but the command to propagate the Moslem creed by the sword is always obligatory, when it can be made effective. The commands of the prophet may be performed alike, by fraud, or by force (29:274).No Christian would deny that many Christians in history have violated the precepts of Christ by mistreating others and even committing atrocities in the name of Christ. However, Adams rightly observes that one must go against Christian doctrine to do so. Not so with Islam—since violence is sanctioned:
The fundamental doctrine of the Christian religion, is the extirpation of hatred from the human heart. It forbids the exercise of it, even towards enemies. There is no denomination of Christians, which denies or misunderstands this doctrine. All understand it alike—all acknowledge its obligations; and however imperfectly, in the purposes of Divine Providence, its efficacy has been shown in the practice of Christians, it has not been wholly inoperative upon them. Its effect has been upon the manners of nations. It has mitigated the horrors of war—it has softened the features of slavery—it has humanized the intercourse of social life. The unqualified acknowledgement of a duty does not, indeed, suffice to insure its performance. Hatred is yet a passion, but too powerful upon the hearts of Christians. Yet they cannot indulge it, except by the sacrifice of their principles, and the conscious violation of their duties. No state paper from a Christian hand, could, without trampling the precepts of its Lord and Master, have commenced by an open proclamation of hatred to any portion of the human race. The Ottoman lays it down as the foundation of his discourse (29:300, emp. added; see Miller, 2005).These observations by a cross-section of the Founders of the American Republic represent the prevailing viewpoint in America for nearly 200 years. Only with the onslaught of “political correctness” have so many Americans blinded themselves to the sinister threat posed to their freedom and way of life.
When General George S. Patton was waging war against the Nazis in North Africa during World War 2, he had the opportunity to observe what Islam does for a nation, particularly the female population. In his monumental volume War As I Knew It, writing from Casablanca on June 9, 1943, Patton mused:
One cannot but ponder the question: What if the Arabs had been Christians? To me it seems certain that the fatalistic teachings of Mohammed and the utter degradation of women is the outstanding cause for the arrested development of the Arab. He is exactly as he was around the year 700, while we have kept on developing. Here, I think, is a text for some eloquent sermon on the virtues of Christianity (1947, p. 49, emp. added).The Founders of the American republic were hardly “Islamophobic.” Rather, they wisely recognized the fundamental threat posed by the teachings of the Quran to the American way of life. As pursuers of truth, they believed Islam to be a false religion that should no more be encouraged to thrive in society than belief in Peter Pan’s Neverland. They viewed Christianity as the one true religion (see Miller, 2010). Indeed, mark it down, if Islam is given free course to alter the laws and public institutions of America, it logically follows that America will become just like the Islamic nations of the world. It is naïve and foolish to think that Islam can eventually become widespread in America and America remain the same country she has been. It is only logical and obvious to conclude that when America’s institutions are altered to accommodate Muslims, Islamic influence will, in time, dominate the nation. Then how will Christians be treated? The answer is self-evident. Look at how Christians are treated even now in Muslim countries around the world. Ask yourself this question: “Is there any Muslim country on Earth where I would choose to live?”
When clear thinking Americans examine Islam’s doctrines, and assess the behavior of its adherents over the centuries, they are merely doing what any rational person does every day with respect to a host of ideas. The honest heart naturally desires truth. Truth has nothing to fear. The God of the Bible wants truth contrasted with error so that all sincere persons can discern the truth and distinguish truth from falsehood (1 Kings 18:21; Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:21). Christianity is inherently a religion of truth, reason, and logic (John 8:32; cf. Miller, 2011).
conclusion"Islamophobia” is an irrelevant, concocted notion. It is a prejudicial, “red flag” word created by the left to stifle any hint of an inherent threat posed by Islam to the American way of life. In the words, again, of Agustin Blasquez: “It’s one thing to be educated, considerate, polite and have good manners, and another to be forced to self-censor and say things that are totally incorrect in order to comply with the arbitrary dictums of a deceiving and fanatical far-left agenda” (2002). As the deterioration and complete breakdown of traditional American (Christian) values climax, the destructive perpetrator—the left—is strangely eager to enable Islam to trample underfoot any Christian vestiges that remain. [NOTE: Ironically, if Islam were to take over America, many of the pluralistic ideologies championed by the left would be the first to be eliminated—from feminism to homosexuality.] To borrow the title of James Burnham’s book (1964), the suicide of the west is nearly complete. Or as D.T. Devareaux’s disturbing political cartoon depicts, Islam is happy to serve as the hammer finger on the weapon of Liberalism used by Uncle Sam (who upholds Western Civilization) to terminate his own existence (“The Art of…,” n.d.).
REFERENCESAdams, John Quincy (1830), “Essays on Russo-Turkish War,” in The American Annual Register, ed. Joseph Blunt (New York: E. & G.W. Blunt), 29:267-402, http://www.archive.org/stream/p1americanannual29blunuoft.
Allen, Ethan (1854), Reason, the Only Oracle of Man (Boston, MA: J.P. Mendum).
“All In With Chris Hayes” (2015), “Terror Attack in Paris,” MSNBC, January 7, http://www.msnbc.com/all-in/watch/terror-attack-in-paris-381379651841.
“The Art of D.T. Devareaux” (no date), http://plancksconstant.org/es/blog1/2009/06/the_art_of_dt_devareaux.html. See “The Study of Revenge: The Polemical Artwork of D. T. Devareaux,” http://plancksconstant.org/es/blog1/2008/02/devareax.html.
Blazquez, Agustin (2002), “Political Correctness: The Scourge of Our Times,” NewsMax.com, April 8, http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2002/4/4/121115.shtml/.
Boudinot, Elias (1801), The Age of Revelation (Philadelphia, PA: Asbury Dickens).
Burnham, James (1964), Suicide of the West (New York: John Day Company).
Elliot, Jonathan, ed. (1836), Debates in the Convention of the State of North Carolina, On the Adoption of the Federal Constitution (Washington, D.C.: Taylor & Maury), second edition, http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/amlaw/lwed.html.
Iredell, James (1836), The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, ed. Jonathan Elliot (Washington, D.C.: Jonathan Elliot).
Kristof, Nicholas (2015), “Is Islam to Blame for the Shooting at Charlie Hebdo in Paris?” The New York Times, January 7, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/08/opinion/nicholas-kristof-lessons-from-the-charlie-hebdo-shooting-in-paris.html?_r=0.
“Letter from the American Peace Commissioners (Thomas Jefferson & John Adams) to John Jay March 28, 1786” (1786), The Thomas Jefferson Papers Series 1. General Correspondence. 1651-1827, http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.mss/mtj.mtjbib001849.
McCarthy, Andrew (2015), “Don’t Blame the Charlie Hebdo Mass Murder on ‘Extremism,’” National Review, January 7, http://www.nationalreview.com/article/395876/dont-blame-charlie-hebdo-mass-murder-extremism-andrew-c-mccarthy.
Miller, Dave (2005), “Violence and the Quran,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=8&article=1491&topic=44.
Miller, Dave (2010), Christ and the Continental Congress (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Miller, Dave (2011), “Is Christianity Logical?” Reason & Revelation, 31:50-59, June, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=977.
Miller, Dave (2013), “Were the Founding Fathers ‘Tolerant’ of Islam?” Reason & Revelation, 33:26-28,32-35, http://apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=1116&article=2128.
Morse, Jedidiah (1799), A Sermon, Exhibiting the Present Dangers and Consequent Duties of the Citizens of the United States of America (Hartford, CT: Hudson and Goodwin), http://www.archive.org/details/sermonexhibiting00morsrich.
Packer, George (2015), “The Blame for the Charlie Hebdo Murders,” The New Yorker, January 7, http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/blame-for-charlie-hebdo-murders.
Patton, George (1947), War As I Knew It (New York: Houghton Mifflin).
The People v. Ruggles (1811), 8 Johns 290 (Sup. Ct. NY.), N.Y. Lexis 124.
Story, Joseph (1833), Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States (Boston, MA: Hilliard, Gray, & Co.).
Tuttle, Ian (2015), “The Rush to Blame the Victims in the Charlie Hebdo Massacre,” National Review Online, January 7, http://www.nationalreview.com/article/395912/rush-blame-victims-charlie-hebdo-massacre-ian-tuttle.
The Canon and Extra-Canonical Writings
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen” (Revelation 22:21). These two verses are the alpha and omega of the biblical text, the first and last verses in our Bible. In between (and including) these two verses lays God’s Word, the Bible—sixty-six generally accepted books composing one book that defines Christianity and its tenets. However, people assault this composition from every perspective. Theists and atheists alike attack its inspiration. Scholars in our universities attack its message. Infidels and skeptics allege that it contains numerous discrepancies. Even its make-up is subject to intense scrutiny. With attacks growing more hostile (as is evident by an article titled “The Lost Gospels” that appeared in the December 22, 2003 issue of Time magazine; see Van Biema, 2003), some ask, “What books really belong in the Bible?”
This question is difficult for many people, because beyond the pages of the Bible lie a number of works which some people hold as inspired and therefore worthy of inclusion. Still others examine the Scriptures and read citations of works such as the Book of Jasher or the Acts of the Seers—none of which is included among the writings of our Great Tome. Some people turn to these existing, but unaccepted, works to “add to their faith.” The answers to this difficulty lie in understanding the canon of the Bible and considering what additional books, if any, we should include.
THE QANEH OF SCRIPTUREOur word “canon” comes from the Greek word kanon and Hebrew word qaneh. These two words originally meant “reed.” The Greeks and Semitic peoples used reeds as measuring instruments, and so the meanings of kanon and qaneh changed gradually into “rule” or “measure.” To refer to a canon is to refer to those things that have been measured for acceptance; to refer to the biblical canon is to refer to the books considered Scripture—divinely inspired works that have been preserved for a purpose (Lightfoot, 2003, p. 152). The canons of the Old and New Testaments were set at different times, but each one had the influence of the Guiding Hand.
Development of the Old Testament CanonThe majority of Protestant translations of the Bible contain thirty-nine books in the Old Testament. These are divided into the five books of Law (also called the Pentateuch or Torah; Genesis through Deuteronomy), twelve books of History (Joshua through Esther), and five books of Poetry (Job through the Song of Solomon). The five Major Prophets (Isaiah through Daniel) and the twelve Minor Prophets (Hosea through Malachi) complete the thirty-nine books. Our Old Testament canon comes from the canon of the Hebrew Bible. [NOTE: Some Old Testament canons include certain apocryphal writings, which we will discuss later. However, these apocryphal writings were considered non-canonical by the Jews, and therefore were not included in the Hebrew Bible.]
The Hebrews divided their Scriptures, twenty-four books total, into three sections: the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings (also called the Hagiographa or Holy Writings). The order and numbering of the Hebrew Bible is different from the Old Testament, which explains why they list twenty-four books, while we list thirty-nine. The Law consisted of the five books of the Torah, exactly like our English Bible. The Prophets contained Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and the Twelve Prophets, in that order. They considered these eight books, but we divide Samuel into two parts, Kings into two parts, and the Twelve Prophets into their respective parts—yielding a new number of twenty-one books out of the same set of the Prophets. [NOTE: Stephen, in Acts 7:42-43, quotes from Amos 5:25-27 and cites it as the Book of the Prophets, showing how the Minor Prophets were considered a single composite work.] Finally, the Hebrew Bible placed Ruth, Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Lamentations, Daniel, Esther, Ezra, and Chronicles in the Writings. Our Bibles divide Ezra into two books (Ezra and Nehemiah) and Chronicles into two books. This order in the Hebrew Bible follows a rough chronology of authorship, based on Jewish tradition (Bruce, 1988, pp. 29-30; Rodkinson, 1918, V:44-45). However, the question remains. Whence did the canon of these books come?
From evidence in the New Testament, it is obvious that the Jews had a canon—a group of accepted scriptures—that included the Law and the Prophets (see Matthew 5:17-18; 7:12; 11:13; 22:40; Luke 16:16-17; John 1:45; Acts 13:15; 24:14; 28:23; Romans 3:21). In one passage, Jesus mentioned the Law, the Prophets, and Psalms (part of the Writings) together (Luke 24:44), showing that at some point before the time of Christ, the Jews had codified a group of literature into Scripture. History supports this view. Flavius Josephus, the first-century Jewish historian, wrote (c. A.D. 90) of twenty-two books “which contain the records of all the past times; which are justly believed to be divine….” Five of these were written by Moses (the Torah), thirteen books were written between Moses and Artaxerxes, King of Persia (the Prophets and part of the Writings using a different order and enumeration), and four books contained hymns and moral precepts (Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon) [Against Apion, 1:38-40]. He went on to state:
It is true, our history hath been written since Artaxerxes very particularly, but hath not been esteemed of the like authority with the former by our forefathers, because there hath not been an exact succession of prophets since that time; and how firmly we have given credit to those books of our own nation, is evident by what we do; for during so many ages as have already passed, no one has been so bold as either to add anything to them, to take anything from them, or to make any change in them; but it comes natural to all Jews, immediately and from their very birth, to esteem those books to contain divine doctrines, and to persist in them, and, if occasion be, willingly to die for them (1:41-42, emp. added).Josephus considered everything written after the time of Artaxerxes to be non-canonical, because prophetic messages had ceased. It is highly probable, since Josephus was a historian, that this was not his own idea, but reflected an earlier Jewish tradition (see Bruce, 1988, pp. 32-34). [NOTE: Josephus added Ruth to Judges and Lamentations to Jeremiah, making twenty-two books (Bruce, p. 33).] Also around A.D. 90, a group of Jewish rabbis gathered at Jamnia in western Judea to discuss the established canon. Testing for books that “defile the hands” (i.e., were prophetically inspired), they debated including certain apocryphal books and removing some disputed books. However, the conclusion was that only the books that comprised the Hebrew Bible were the inspired, canonical books (Bruce, pp. 34-36; McDowell and Wilson, 1993, p. 37).
The Talmud speaks in several places of the inspired Scripture. The Talmud is a collection of Hebrew oral law (the Mishna) along with transcribed scholarly discussions and commentary (the Gemara). The Mishna was written in the second century A.D., and the Gemara was added later (see Bass, 2003). While the Talmud was completed after the first century, it does contain the oral traditions from the post-exilic Jews. Tractate Baba Bathra contains the divisions of the Hebrew Scriptures (the Law, Prophets, and Hagiographa) with their contents, along with the traditional authors of each. The books listed match the books of our Old Testament—nothing added or taken from them (Rodkinson, 1918, V:43-46). The most interesting evidence concerning the Hebrew canon comes from tractate Sanhedrin: “The rabbis taught: Since the death of the last prophets, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, the Holy Spirit has left Israel…” (Rodkinson VII/VIII:24). Thus, Jewish oral tradition held that Malachi was the last inspired book of the Old Testament.
It is clear from the evidence that the Jewish people accepted the thirty-nine Old Testament books as their canon—no more, no less. The New Testament refers to an established division. Josephus said that Malachi, as the last inspired author, completed the canon of Hebrew Scripture. The rabbis at Jamnia, who had access to apocryphal writings, did not include them in the canon of Scripture. Moreover, the ancient oral tradition of the Jews held that the thirty-nine books in our Old Testament are the only Scriptures. This, however, does not explain how the canon came to be. Unfortunately, the first collection of these canonical books has been lost, but from the Bible we can construct how some books were canonized. It probably was a “piecemeal” process; as the inspired writers produced their books, they added them to the canon. Deuteronomy 17:18 refers to the Law as something written down in a book kept by the priests and Levites (see Deuteronomy 28:58; 28:61; 29:21; 30:10). Deuteronomy 31:9-13 and 31:24-29 recorded that Moses wrote the Law in a book and gave it to the priests and the elders, commanding them to read it before all the people every seven years. Immediately after the death of Moses, God Himself spoke to Joshua and referred to a Book of the Law that Moses had given to the people (Joshua 1:7-8). It is at this point that the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, was canonized—when it received God’s spoken seal of approval as the Law of Moses (see Joshua 8:30-35; 23:6; 2 Kings 14:6; 22:3-20, etc.). In like manner, the book of Joshua was canonized when Joshua wrote it down in the Book of the Law of God (the Old Testament), which, until then, contained only the Law of Moses (Joshua 24:26).
The remaining books of the Old Testament have no clear point of canonization; any dates or persons given for this process are speculation. Some have said that Ezra—with the assistance of Nehemiah, Zechariah, Malachi, and others—established the current canon before 400 B.C. (Milligen, 1868, pp. 155-159; see also Motyer, 2001, p. 15), while others have disagreed with this view (e.g., Briggs, 1970, pp. 120-122). The most likely theory is that the authors themselves were inspired to add their writings to the canon. At least part of Jeremiah appears to have been written by Jeremiah using Baruch as a scribe (Jeremiah 36, esp. vs. 32; 45:1), and perhaps the rest by his own hand (51:60). Sections of the Psalms contain the names of their authors, and tradition attributed the other books to various authors. According to tractate Sanhedrin,
Old Testament Authorship (Talmudic Tradition)
|Moses||Torah, Job, and Psalm 90|
|Joshua||Joshua 1-24:28 and Deuteronomy 34|
|Samuel||1 Samuel 1-24, Judges, and Ruth|
|Gad and Nathan||1 Samuel 25-31 and 2 Samuel|
|David, et al.||Psalms|
|Jeremiah||Jeremiah, 1 and 2 Kings, and Lamentations|
|Hezekiah, et al.||Isaiah, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, and Ecclesiastes|
|The Great Assembly||Ezekiel, the Twelve Prophets, Daniel, and Esther|
|Ezra||Ezra and 1 and 2 Chronicles|
This tradition shows the possible development of the canon. Moreover, the New Testament supports some claims of the traditional authorship. If Ezra was the last author of Old Testament history (1 and 2 Chronicles according to the Talmud), then it would explain the order of martyrs that Jesus used in Matthew 23:35. While rebuking the Pharisees (Matthew 23), Jesus mentioned two martyrs: Abel and Zechariah. The story of Abel, the first martyr, is found in Genesis 4:1-9. Zechariah was a priest who was martyred by King Joash of Judah (2 Chronicles 24:17-22), and the last martyr mentioned in the historical books of the Old Testament. It appears that Jesus was giving the record of martyrdom from the beginning of the Hebrew Scriptures (Genesis, written by Moses) to the end of Hebrew Scriptures (2 Chronicles, written by Ezra in the days of the last prophets)—thus denying any other books inclusion in the Old Testament canon (e.g., 1 and 2 Maccabees, which were penned after Ezra’s writings).
The conclusion, therefore, to the development and establishment of the Old Testament canon is this: certain portions of the Hebrew Scriptures were canonized upon the deaths of the authors (Genesis through Joshua); while men added the rest as they were written and/or collected—all under the oversight of God. The Jews considered inspiration to have ended with Malachi, and their canon of twenty-four books (the same as our thirty-nine books) supports this view. The New Testament writers, Josephus, the rabbis at Jamnia, and Talmudic tradition supported this finalized canon. This is what our Old Testament is based on, and we know that these thirty-nine books are in the canon, but the question remains: Should we add more books to this established Old Testament canon?
Development of the New Testament CanonThe New Testament contains twenty-seven books that are divided into five subcategories. These are the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), the book of Christian history (Acts), thirteen Pauline epistles (Romans through Philemon), eight general epistles (Hebrews through Jude), and one apocalyptical epistle (Revelation). [NOTE: Hebrews sometimes falls among the Pauline epistles.] Colossians 4:16 states that the churches shared their epistles, and we know that the majority of the New Testament took the form of an epistle (the exceptions being the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and John—their original form cannot be determined, but they were probably epistles). Over time, men gathered these writings and made lists of which epistles they considered acceptable reading in worship services. As early as the second and third centuries, there was a known canon of Pauline literature that usually included Romans through Philemon, although some placed Hebrews with them. This is evidenced by frequent allusions to Paul’s letters in the early Christian writings, showing that there was a commonly accepted set. The early Christian writers also referred to the gospels, again meaning that there was an accepted group of books (Matthew through John). As the other epistles spread, they became part of these sets of New Testament writings.
One of the first New Testament canons we see in history comes from the second century heretic Marcion. He was a radical who accepted Paul as the only “uncorrupted” apostle, and so accepted only the Pauline epistles. He wrote the Gospel, which was a corruption of Luke, and placed at the front what he considered the Pauline canon: Galatians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Romans, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Laodiceans (which was the name he gave to Ephesians; see Metzger, 2000, p. 532), Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon. Marcion also subjected these epistles to extensive editing; he took out anything that did not conform to what he thought was Paul’s “doctrine” (Bruce, 1988, pp. 134-141). Some have held that Marcion left the book of Hebrews out of his canon because of its close association to the Old Testament (Aland and Aland, 1981, p. 49).
A mutilated fragment of papyrus, known as the Murtorian Fragment, from the late second century, also contained a partial canon. It placed Luke and John as the third and fourth gospel accounts (mention of the previous two gospels existed at the top of the original manuscript, which is missing from the fragment), and attributed Acts to Luke. Paul’s letters were listed in the order of Corinthians (1 and 2), Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Galatians, Thessalonians (1 and 2), Philemon, Titus, and Timothy (1 and 2). It also mentioned Jude, two epistles of John (probably 1 and 2 John), and Revelation. It leaves out Hebrews, 1 and 2 Peter, and 3 John, but accepts as canonical the Apocryphal book Wisdom of Solomon (but it did not claim that it was written by Solomon himself, saying that it was “written by the friends of Solomon in his honour”). The Murtorian Fragment also stated that some accepted the Apocalypse of Peter, while others did not; and it mentioned the Shepherd of Hermas as a recent, uninspired composition (Caius, 1971, V:603-604). Kurt and Barbara Aland, a husband-and-wife team of distinguished Greek scholars, contended that the epistle to the Hebrews was left out of the Murtorian canon because of its “denial of a second repentance, cf. Heb. 6:4ff ” (1981, p. 49).
In his First Apology, Justin Martyr (c. 110-165) referred to the gospels as containing the account of the Last Supper, although he did not list the titles or authors (1973, I:185). He later mentioned that the writings of the apostles were read along with those of the prophets in the Sunday assembly (I:186). Origen (c. 185-254), one of the most prolific early Christian writers, mentioned Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as genuine (1974a, X:412; Eusebius, 1971, I:273), along with Paul’s writings (without listing or numbering them), 1 Peter, 1 John, and Revelation. He listed 2 Peter, and 2 and 3 John as disputed by some; and Origen mentioned a story from Acts as an apparent fact (the raising of Eutychus, Acts 20:7-12), which means he probably took Acts as a genuine writing (1974b, X:346-347; Eusebius, 1971, I:273). In his Homilies on Joshua, Origen listed the twenty-seven canonical books of the New Testament as abolishing idolatry and false philosophies (McGarvey, 1974, I:66), showing that as early as the mid-third century, these were the accepted writings.
Eusebius (c. 270-339), the famed historian of the early church, wrote concerning the accepted, disputed, and rejected books of the canon. He began the list of universally accepted works with the four gospels (previously listed as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John [1971, I:152-155]). To them he added Acts and the Pauline epistles (without listing them), 1 John and 1 Peter. The disputed books were Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, and Revelation (I:155-157). Athanasius (c. 296-373) listed the canon of the New Testament—the twenty-seven books that comprise our current New Testament. Of these books he said, “These are fountains of salvation, that they who thirst may be satisfied with the living words they contain. In these alone is proclaimed the doctrine of godliness. Let no man add to these, neither let him take ought from these” (1971, IV:552).
Early Christians in other parts of the world received certain books and translated them into their native tongues. Evidence from the earliest versions of the New Testament (the Old Syriac, Old Latin, and Coptic versions) shows what books were accepted in the second century. The Old Syriac version is the translation from Greek into the Syriac (Aramean) language of Syria and the northern part of Mesopotamia. It contained all the New Testament books with the exception of 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, and Revelation (McGarvey, 1974, I:34, 78). The Old Latin version was the African translation of the Bible into Latin during the second century; it lacked only Hebrews, James, and 2 Peter (I:34-35, 79-80). The Coptic (Egyptian) version of the New Testament existed in two dialects: Sahidic, used in Upper Egypt, and Bohairic, used in Lower Egypt. Both of these Coptic versions included all twenty-seven books of the New Testament, though they sometimes placed Revelation in a separate volume, as if they doubted its canonical status (I:35-36, 77-78). In speaking of the Old Syriac and Old Latin versions, McGarvey said:
Consequently we find the existence of every book of the New Testament except II Peter attested by translations as early as the middle of the second century. They were translated because they were the authoritative books of the churches, and they were authoritative because the churches believed them to have come from the apostolic hands. Is it possible that these churches could have been totally mistaken about such facts when the interval had been so short? (I:80).Moreover, 2 Peter, which was found in neither the Old Latin nor the Old Syriac versions, was found in both the Coptic Sahidic and Coptic Bohairic versions of the New Testament—showing that it was accepted by the early Egyptian Christians. Even the councils of the Catholic Church, which added the Apocrypha into the canon of the Old Testament, listed only the accepted twenty-seven books as canonical in the New Testament. The Council of Hippo (A.D. 393) accepted them; and the Third Council of Carthage (A.D. 397), the Sixth Council of Carthage (A.D. 419), and the Fourth Session of the Council of Trent (A.D. 1546) reaffirmed this (Bruce, 1988, pp. 232-233,247). The very councils that added books to the Old Testament refused to add anything to the New Testament beyond the twenty-seven inspired, commonly accepted books.
While these early men, early versions, and the Roman Catholic councils show the progression of the canon’s acceptance, they did not establish the canon. God established the canon for the New Testament through the inspired writers of the New Testament. Since the majority of Jesus’ disciples were Jews, they knew the Hebrew canon was inspired. Thus, anything placed on the same level as that canon, they considered inspired and therefore canonical. In 2 Peter 3:15-16, Peter stated that Paul had written to them “things hard to understand which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do the rest of the Scriptures” (3:16). Thus, Peter placed the writings of Paul (Romans through Philemon, and possibly Hebrews) on the same level as Scripture—referring to them as canonical alongside the Hebrew Bible. Paul, in Ephesians 2:19-20, placed the teachings of the apostles in the same category as those of the prophets, making the writings of Matthew, John, and Peter canonical. Again, Paul, in 1 Timothy 5:18, quoted from Deuteronomy 25:4 and Luke 10:7, citing both as Scripture. This leaves only Mark, Acts, James, Jude and possibly Hebrews unsupported by internal canonization. Mark and Acts were virtually undisputed in early Christian history, and Hebrews, James, and Jude gained acceptance over time; while other works that were previously accepted—such as the Didache and the Shepherd of Hermas—were removed from the canonical lists by the fourth century (Athanasius, 1971, IV:552).
The writers of the New Testament obviously considered each other’s writings as inspired work, and the majority of the New Testament writings were canonized internally. The inspired writers themselves added the books to the canon, and slowly the early church accepted them as canonical—eventually the Christian writers of the first four centuries wrote down lists of these accepted books. While there were disputes over certain books, eventually the majority of Christians accepted them, though other books lost their canonical status. “The New Testament canon was gradually formed, on the model of the Old, in the course of the first four centuries, under the guidance of the same Spirit, through whose suggestion the several apostolic books had been prepared” (Schaff, 1910, 2:516-517). We know that these twenty-seven inspired books are canonical, but the question remains: Should we add more books to this established New Testament canon?
The Biblical CanonThe canon is the rule, the measure, by which books are accepted or rejected. If they are inspired, then they are canonical. We know that the sixty-six books currently in the canon are inspired. God inspired men through the Holy Spirit to write them down, and as the books were completed, the authors added them to the canon of Scripture by inspiration. All Scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16), recorded and taught through the Holy Spirit by prophets, ministers, eyewitnesses (1 Peter 1:12; 2 Peter 1:16-21), or by those who, also through inspiration, compiled the accounts of eyewitnesses (Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1-3). These men received the words of Christ Himself, and dispensed these words to the rest of Christianity; commanding that nothing but their words, which were the word of Christ, be taught and preached (Hebrews 1:1-2; 1 Corinthians 4:7; 1 Timothy 4:11; Galatians 1:8-9). As Geisler and Nix said, “Canonicity is determined or established authoritatively by God; it is merely discovered by man” (1986, p. 221, emp. in orig.). This is how we know what books belong in our Bible. What, then, do we say concerning such books as 1 and 2 Maccabees, or the Gospel of Mary? Do they also belong in the canon, and if not, why?
THE EXTRA-CANONICAL WRITINGSEvery piece of literature outside of the Bible is extra-biblical. Everything of a biblical nature that is not included in the Bible is extra-canonical, which include the apocryphal writings, pseudepigraphal writings, and the Apocrypha. These are composed of books of prophecy, gospels, histories, acts, and apocalypses—many claiming to authorship by men and/or women mentioned in the Bible. Books have been attributed to Adam, Enoch, Barnabas, Thomas, Paul, and a number of others. Some are compilations containing the acts of such men as Pontius Pilate, Paul, Peter, and other noted men of the New Testament. The topics covered by this vast array of literature are extensive, from a yearly horoscope as found in the Treatise of Shem, to the childhood of Jesus as found in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas.
The Old Testament Apocrypha and PseudepigraphaThere are two sets of Old Testament extra-canonical writings: the Apocrypha and the pseudepigrapha. When most people hear about the extra-canonical (also called the deuterocanonical) books, the books that come to their mind are the books commonly known as the Apocrypha. The Apocrypha are a subset of the apocryphal writings, which literally means the “hidden away” writings. These words (Apocrypha and apocryphal) are derivatives of the Greek apokruphos, which is a compound of apo (“away from”) and krupto/kruptos (“I hide/hidden”) [Danker, 2000, pp. 114,105-107,570-571]. The Apocrypha refers to the apocryphal books that the Catholic, Russian Orthodox, and Greek Orthodox Churches accept as canonical, but that the Hebrew canon rejects. The Catholic and Orthodox canons vary, not only from the Hebrew and Protestant canon, but also from each other. The Catholic Church regards Tobit, Judith, an additional 107 verses scattered throughout the book of Esther (see Apocrypha, 1977, p. 96), the Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, the Letter of Jeremiah, the Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men, Susanna, Bel and the Dragon, and 1 and 2 Maccabees as canonical. 1 and 2 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasseh were added as an appendix at the end of the New Testament, and are considered non-canonical by the Roman Catholic Church (Apocrypha, pp. xi-xii). The Greek Orthodox Church accepts the Catholic canon, but adds 1 Esdras, Psalm 151, the Prayer of Manasseh, and 3 Maccabees to their canon, while placing 4 Maccabees in an appendix. In addition to the Catholic canon, the Russian Orthodox Church regards 1 and 2 Esdras (which they called 2 and 3 Esdras), Psalm 151, and 3 Maccabees as canonical (Apocrypha, pp. xiii). How did these additional books come to be regarded as canonical by some, but not by others?
As the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) gained prominence throughout the world, a group of writings was added to the traditional twenty-four of the Hebrew canon—these were the Apocrypha. Why would these books be in the Greek Old Testament but not in the Hebrew Old Testament? In his book The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Alfred Edersheim gave a probable explanation for the development of both the Apocrypha and Old Testament pseudepigraphal writings. With the translation of the Old Testament into Greek around 250 B.C., the Jewish people (particularly those outside of Palestine) began a transition from traditional Judaic thought to Judeo-Hellenistic thinking. This involved the melding of Grecian philosophies, most notably Stoicism and Epicureanism, with Old Testament theology. As this digression from traditional thought occurred, a new group of writings was sought that would help reconcile sometimes opposing viewpoints of Judaism and Hellenism. The result was the Apocrypha and the Old Testament pseudepigrapha—books that were the middle ground between the truth of the Old Testament and the mythology and humanistic philosophies of the Greco-Roman world (1972, 1:31-39). It is because of this that the Apocrypha, which had some verifiable historical significance to the Jewish nation and theological significance to the Hellenistic Jews, were included in the Greek canon of the Old Testament.
While the Hebrew canon never included the Apocrypha, the Hellenist and some early Christian canons and manuscripts included them. Existing copies of the Septuagint include them, some of the early Christian writings quote from them, and some Greek Church Fathers (Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, et al.) regarded them as canonical (Geisler and Nix, 1986, pp. 266-267). The Catholic Church’s Council of Hippo (A.D. 393), the Third Council of Carthage (A.D. 397), the Sixth Council of Carthage (A.D. 419), and the Fourth Session of the Council of Trent (A.D. 1546) accepted the Apocrypha as canonical (Bruce, 1988, pp. 97,104-105). Thus, they gained acceptance in the Catholic Church and the later divergences of the Orthodox churches, but why do we reject them? One objection is that they were written after the Old Testament revelations had ceased (after the time of Malachi), and before the New Testament revelations had begun. While certain books, like 1 and 2 Maccabees, contain accurate historical records, they should not be included any more than the histories written by Tacitus or Herodotus. In addition, many of the apocryphal additions to the Old Testament contain errors and contradictions. Nevertheless, the foremost objection to the inclusion of the Apocrypha is that the Hebrew Bible did not include them, and the majority of Jews did not consider them inspired writings. The Jews considered the canon complete and closed, consisting of only those thirty-nine books that make up our Old Testament. It was closed in the days of Ezra, and should not be re-opened to include such late additions as the Apocrypha.
The Old Testament pseudepigrapha are the set of writings that are attributed falsely to Old Testament era men, hence their name as the “false inscriptions.” The word is a Greek compound of pseudos (“false”) and epigraphe (“inscription,” which comes from epi, “upon,” and grapho/graphe “I write/writing”) [Danker, pp. 1097,369,363-367,206-207]. Some scholars contend that certain books from the Catholic and Greek Orthodox Apocrypha (Wisdom of Solomon, 2 Esdras, and the Letter of Jeremiah) belong in the Old Testament pseudepigrapha because they are falsely attributed, while certain books in the pseudepigrapha (3 and 4 Maccabees) should be included in the Old Testament apocryphal writings (Ladd, 1986, 3:1040). One of the most extensive and authoritative editions of pseudepigraphal writings of the Old Testament comes from James H. Charlesworth’s two-volume set entitled The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, which includes fifty-two complete works and a supplement containing fragments of other Old Testament pseudepigraphal writings.
Charlesworth gave the following requirements for a book’s inclusion in the Old Testament pseudepigrapha: (1) They are predominantly Jewish or Christian; (2) Usually, they are falsely attributed to Old Testament figures; (3) Most of them claim inspiration; (4) Often, they expand stories and concepts in the Old Testament; (5) They were either written between 200 B.C. and A.D. 200, or they preserve tradition from that time period (1983, 1:xxv). The pseudepigrapha include apocalyptic books, testaments, legends, wisdom and philosophical literature, Old Testament expansions, prayers, psalms, and odes.
Why are these books not included in the canon? The first, and most obvious, answer is that they contain false information about their respective authors. If a book lies about its origin, then its contents most likely contain falsehoods. If a book requires a false attribution in order to be canonical, then it must have characteristics that make its inspiration and canonicity suspect. For example, these books were written far too late to be included in the Hebrew canon of the Bible, and therefore do not belong in the canon of our Old Testament. Geisler and Nix rightly noted that “the Pseudepigrapha books are those that are distinctly spurious and unauthentic in their over all content…. Although they claim to have been written by biblical authors, they actually express religious fancy and magic from the period between about 200 B.C. and A.D. 200” (1986, pp. 262). They also stated regarding the pseudepigrapha:
There are a vast number of false and spurious writings that deserve mention at this point; not because anyone would seriously contend for their authority, but because they do represent the religious lore of the Hebrews in the inter-testamental period. The New Testament writers make use of a number of these books… Of course, it should be remembered that the New Testament also quotes from the heathen poets Aratus (Acts 17:28); Menander (1 Cor.15:33); and Epimenides (Titus 1:12). Truth is truth no matter where it is found, whether uttered by a heathen poet, a pagan prophet (Num 24:17), or even a dumb animal (22:28). Nevertheless, it should be noted that no such formula as “it is written” or “the Scriptures say” is connected with these citations. It should also be noted that neither the New Testament writers nor the Fathers have considered these writings canonical (p. 262, emp. added).They contain fanciful additions to the biblical record, a mixture of Greek philosophy/mythology and Old Testament theology, platitudes that contradict the Bible, and errors in the areas of science, history, geography, etc. It is on these grounds that we reject the pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament as non-canonical. Nevertheless, some canonical books contain possible references to pseudepigraphal writings. Geisler and Nix maintained that there were possible quotations or allusions in Jude and 2 Timothy to the pseudepigraphal books of 1 Enoch, the Testament of Moses, and the book of Jannes and Jambres (1986, pp. 262). The Testament of Moses and the book of Jannes and Jambres date to the first century A.D. or later, so if Jude and Paul were referring to them, it would have been as contemporary fictional literature. The same is true for 1 Enoch, which dates between the second century B.C. and the first century A.D. In a similar fashion, preachers today sometimes use extra-biblical sources in their lessons in order to make a point. Nowhere does the biblical text state that Jude and Paul equated pseudepigraphal writings with those of Scripture, so any reference to them in the biblical account was merely inspired use of an uninspired source.
The New Testament Apocrypha and PseudepigraphaThe New Testament pseudepigrapha are those books that were written in the form of New Testament works (gospels, acts, epistles, and apocalypses) but that exist outside of the New Testament canon. They often bear the names of apostles, prominent disciples, early Christian writers (e.g., Clement, Matthew, Barnabas), or famous figures from the New Testament (such as Pilate and Gamaliel). Some of them were attributed to groups of people, such as the Egyptians or Ebionites. We can quickly reject the New Testament pseudepigrapha because of their false attribution, errors, discrepancies, and false teachings. They were also written too late to be inspired, and some exist only as fragments. Moreover, most importantly, the early church rejected them as non-canonical.
However, despite their non-canonical status, many of the New Testament pseudepigrapha are useful historical and theological writings, because they show the traditions, myths, and superstitions of some of the early Christians, as well as the heretical branches of early Christianity (i.e., Doceticism, Gnosticism, Asceticism). One of the most extensive and authoritative editions of pseudepigraphal and apocryphal writings of the New Testament comes from R.M. Wilson’s English translation of Wilhelm Schneemelcher’s two-volume set titled New Testament Apocrypha, which includes translations or discussions of about ninety of the most prominent writings. [NOTE: In the ninth century, Photius listed around 280 pseudepigraphal and apocryphal works of the New Testament, and more have been discovered since then (Geisler and Nix, 1986, p. 301). Because of their great number, it is almost impossible to include all of them in a single collection, causing Schneemelcher to include only the most prominent in his work.]
However, there were some writings that early Christians accepted as either inspired works, or genuine (but uninspired) works—the New Testament apocrypha. Geisler and Nix listed these as the Epistle of Pseudo-Barnabas, 1 and 2 Corinthians from Clement, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Didache, the Apocalypse of Peter, the Acts of Paul and Thecla, the Gospel According to the Hebrews, the Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians, and the Seven Epistles of Ignatius. Many of these were listed or included in the best Greek manuscripts (Sinaiticus [א], Alexandrinus [A], and Bezae [D]): the Epistle of Pseudo-Barnabas (א and D), 1 and 2 Corinthians from Clement (A), the Shepherd of Hermas (א and D), the Apocalypse of Peter (D), and the Acts of Paul and Thecla (D). Moreover, some of the early Christian writers cited these as Scripture or listed them among sacred writings: the Epistle of Pseudo-Barnabas (Clement of Alexandria and Origen), the Shepherd of Hermas (Irenaeus and Origen), and the Didache (Clement of Alexandria and Athanasius) [Geisler and Nix, 1986, pp. 313-316]. With this evidence, why do we reject these as uninspired?
First, listing or including books in a Greek manuscript does not make it part of the canon of Scripture. Most of the books that were included in the manuscripts were placed after Revelation, almost as an appendix to the canonical works. Most modern Bibles contain a concordance, dictionary, or maps after the text, but none of these are considered inspired. In a similar fashion, these apocryphal works were included in the manuscripts (which date from the fourth and fifth centuries) as additional—but uninspired—literature. Moreover, the books that some early Christian writers listed as Scripture were not included in the canon lists of these men. They may have considered them as genuine as Scripture, but uninspired—and therefore non-canonical. For other writings (1 and 2 Corinthians from Clement, the Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians, and the Seven Epistles of Ignatius), the authors never intended them to be Scripture, but simply letters from one Christian to another. Some of these apocryphal works contained errors and false teachings, making them uninspired. Finally, they were written after the time of inspiration, and therefore after God had closed the canon. Nevertheless, these are some of the most valuable non-canonical writings. Even more than the New Testament pseudepigrapha, the apocryphal writings show what the early Christians thought concerning the church, worship, and the tenets of Christianity.
Many of the early Christian writers cited the New Testament apocrypha genuinely historical or as something of religious value, but uninspired—some even considered them canonical. Eventually, however, these works lost their status as canonical works, and rightly so. They were written too late to be inspired, and some teach religious errors and discrepancies. Gnostics and other heretics wrote several of the pseudepigrapha, and so introduced their deviant ideas through letters, gospels, and apocalypses under the guise of authentic New Testament figures. While some of the apocrypha and pseudepigrapha of the New Testament are valuable for historical and theological study, they should not be placed on the same level as inspired Scripture.
CONCLUSIONGod has given us “all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him…” (2 Peter 1:3), and our knowledge of Him is complete through the revealed Word. “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31). The Bible that we possess is the inspired Word of God, and the only thing we need—no additions and no subtractions, only sixty-six canonical books. While some of the extra-canonical writings are useful for historical or literary study, they are not inspired and do not belong within the pages of the Bible. They do not possess the same authority as the sixty-six inspired books, and should not be regarded as Scripture. This canon was created and established by God, and was closed by Him.
However, God presented these books to us with special directives. The writer of Proverbs said: “Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar” (30:5-6, emp. added). Moses commanded the Israelites in Deuteronomy 4:2: “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.” Again, in Deuteronomy 12:32, Moses said: “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.” As diligent students of the Scriptures, let us always keep in mind that these sixty-six inspired books contain everything we need to know. We have the Word of God just as He wanted us to have it—nothing more, nothing less.
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