The Bible

The Bible

TABLE OF CONTENTS

The Bible – What We Believe
Online Bibles
Recommended Bibles
Most Popular Bible Translations
Old Testament Categorized
Old Testament History Periods
Eras of Old Testament History
New Testament Books Categorized
The Bible in Its Making
A Living Book
Two Famous Versions of the Scriptures
Fragment of the Septuagint
The Samaritan Book of Law at Nablous
The Bible in the Days of Jesus Christ
The Beginning of the New Testament
How the Gospels Came to Be Written
The Canon of the Bible

 

The Bible – What We Believe

The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.

Exodus 24:4; Deuteronomy 4:1-2; 17:19; Joshua 8:34; Psalms 19:7-10; 119:11,89,105,140; Isaiah 34:16; 40:8; Jeremiah 15:16; 36:1-32; Matthew 5:17-18; 22:29; Luke 21:33; 24:44-46; John 5:39; 16:13-15; 17:17; Acts 2:16ff.; 17:11; Romans 15:4; 16:25-26; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Hebrews 1:1-2; 4:12; 1 Peter 1:25; 2 Peter 1:19-21.

(Adapted by Clear Sight Music)

Online Bibles

 

Recommend Study Bibles

Even though it is nice to have online Bibles and we are fortunate to have access to a Bible, it is still highly recommended to have a physical Bible of your own. One you can take notes in, hold and take with you places. You’ll also find yourself remembering a verse and wanting to find it and being able to find it quicker because you’ll remember the column, side of the book, if in the old or new testament, etc.

    • The ESV Study Bible
    • The Henry Morris Study Bible – KJV
    • Archaeological Study Bible – NIV
    • The Apologetics Study Bible – HCSB
    • The Evidence Bible – NKJV
    • 1599 Geneva Bible Patriot’s Edition
    • Family Life Marriage Bible – NKJV
    • The Comparative Study Bible – A Parallel Bible NIV, NASB, Amplified, KJV

 

Most Popular Bible Translations

2012 – Based on Dollar Sales
1. New International Version
2. King James Version*
3. New Living Translation
4. New King James Version*
5. English Standard Version*
6. Holman Christian Standard Bible
7. New American Standard Bible*
8. Common English Bible
9. Reina Valera 1960
10. The Message
* Recommended
2012 – Based on Unit Sales
1. New Living Translation
2. New International Version
3. King James Version*
4. New King James Version*
5. English Standard Version*
6. Common English Bible
7. Holman Christian Standard Bible
8. New American Standard Bible*
9. Reina Valera 1960
10. New International Readers Version

 Old Testament History Periods
I. PRIMEVAL PERIOD CREATION
Creation to Abraham
Genesis 1-11
Job
II.PATRIARCHAL PERIOD
(2166-1446)
COVENANT Abraham to Moses Genesis 12-50
III. EXODUS(1446-1406) LAW Moses’ Leadership Exodus
Numbers
Leviticus
Deuteronomy
IV CONQUEST OF CANAAN  (1406-1390) CONQUEST  Joshua’s Leadership Joshua
V. TIME OF JUDGES(1367-1050) JUDGESNo Leadership Judges
Ruth
1 Samuel 1-7
VI. UNITED KINGDOM(1050-931) KINGDOMMonarchy Established 1 Samuel 8-30
2 Samuel
1 Kings 1-11
1 Chronicles
2 Chronicles 1-9
Establishment (David) Psalms
Decline (Solomon) Ecclesiastes
Proverbs
Song of Solomon
VII. DIVIDED KINGDOM(931-722)Israel
Elijah
Elisha
Judah
PROPHETIC MOVEMENT
Two Kingdoms
1 Kings 12-22
2 Kings 1-17
2 Chronicles 10-29
Isaiah
Hosea
Joel
Amos
Obadiah
Jonah
Micah
VIII. SURVIVING KINGDOM(722-586) Judah Remains 2 Kings 18-25
2 Chronicles 30-36
Jeremiah
Nahum
Habakkuk
Zephaniah
IX. BABYLONIAN CAPTIVITY(586-538) JUDGMENT Torn from Palestine Ester
Ezekiel
Daniel
X. RESTORATION(538-400) The Jews Return Ezra
Nehemiah
400 Years between the Testaments Haggai
Zechariah
Malachi

 

ERAS OF OLD TESTAMENT HISTORY

Bible-Periods

 * Tables by Lawrence Richards

 

New Testament Books Categorized

Christ as Lord – Matthew, Mark, Luke
Christ as Savior – John
The Early Church – Acts

 


Salvation by Faith – Romans
Freedom from the Law – Galatians
Application Oriented Faith – James
Confident & Enduring Faith – Hebrews
Recognizing the Saved – 1 John

 


Christ and the Church – Ephesians
Joy in Christ – Philippians
Christ and the Cosmos – Colossians
Forgiveness in Christ – Philemon

 


Problems of a Church – 1 Corinthians
Ministry Vindicated – 2 Corinthians
Pastoral Care of a Church – 1 Timothy
Ministry Accomplished – 2 Timothy
Traits of a Good Church – Titus
Fellowship – 2 John, 3 John

 


The Lord’s Coming – 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians
Living in the End Times – 1 Peter, 2 Peter, Jude
Final Victory – Revelation

 

*Table by Berean Christian Bible Study Resources

The Bible in Its Making – The Most Wonderful Book in the World
By Mildred Duff & Noel Hope

A Living Book

There is only one Book that never grows old. For thousands of years men have been writing books. Most books are forgotten soon after they are written; a few of the best and wisest are remembered for a time. But all at last grow old; new discoveries are made; new ideas arise; the old books are out of date; their usefulness is at an end. Students are the only people who still care to read them.

The nations to which the authors of these first books belonged have passed away, the languages in which they were written are ‘dead’—that is, they have ceased to be used in daily life in any part of the world. Broken bits and torn fragments of some of the early books may be seen in the glass cases of museums. Learned men pore over the fragments, and try to piece them together, to find out their meaning once again; but no one else cares much whether they mean anything or not. For the books are dead. They cannot touch the heart of any human being; they have nothing to do with the busy world of living men and women any more.

Now, our Bible was first written in these ancient languages: is it, therefore, to be classed among the ‘dead’ books of the world? 

No, indeed. The fact alone that the Word of God can be read today in 412 living languages proves clearly that it is no dead book; and when we remember that last year 5 million new copies of the Bible were sent into the busy working world for men and women by one society alone, we see how truly ‘alive’ it must be.

Nations may pass, languages die, the whole world may change, yet the Bible will live on. Why is this?

Because in the Bible alone, of all the books seen on this earth, there is found a message for every man, woman, or child who has ever lived or will live while the world lasts: It is the Message of God’s Salvation through His Son Jesus Christ.

The message is for all; for the cleverest to the most ignorant; for the black man of Africa, the yellow man of China, to the tawny little man who lives among the icefields of the Arctic Circle. It does not matter who the person is, nor where he lives; a living force exists in the Bible that will help every human being who acts upon its words to become one of God’s true sons and soldiers. No human wisdom can explain this.

The Bible tells us about Christ. Before Christ came all teaching led up to Him. He is the only safe guide for our daily life. Through His death alone we have hope for the future. From the first page to the last the Bible speaks of Christ. This is the secret of its wondrous power.

These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning Me. 

-Luke 24:44

Although we speak of the Bible as one Book, because it tells one world-wide story, yet this one Book is made up of many books—of a whole library of books in fact.

Two Famous Versions of the Scriptures

By the blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea, on the coast of Egypt, lies Alexandria, a busy and prosperous city of to-day.

You remember the great conqueror, Alexander, and how nation after nation had been forced to submit to him, until all the then-known world owned him for its emperor? He built this city, and called it after his own name.

About a hundred years before the days of Antiochus (of whom we read in our last chapter) a company of Jews were living in Alexandria, then a rich and beautiful city, with its stately palaces and temples of white marble, its beautiful gardens, and groves of graceful palm-trees.

After the death of Alexander, the Greek kings of Egypt delighted to live in the new city, and in the old Greek books we can yet read of the splendid processions and festivals held in its streets year by year.

At this time Alexandria drew all the merchants of the world to her markets; and her harbour was constantly filled with ships laden with silver, amber, and copper; while caravans were arriving daily, bringing jewels and rich silks from China, India, and the cities of the far East.

The Jews of Alexandria were not treated as foreigners, but as good subjects and citizens, by the Greek rulers of Egypt, and therefore as the years passed they grew rich and honoured in their beautiful home. Their children, however, seldom if ever heard Hebrew spoken; for all the Jews of Alexandria, for convenience’ sake, spoke Greek like their neighbours.

But, although these Jews lived in a heathen city where they read nothing but Greek books, and heard Greek spoken all day long, they did not forget their God. They longed as earnestly as ever to hear about Him, and to read in His Book; but what was to be done? Only a few of the elder Jews could read Hebrew, and their children could not understand one word of the language. Must the little ones, therefore, grow up in ignorance of the Word of God?

This was impossible. Here in the heathen city of Alexandria the Scriptures would be the only safeguard of Jewish boys and girls. ‘If the language of our children is Greek, then the Bible must be translated into Greek, so that they all can understand it.’ So said these Jewish parents.

This was a wonderful proof of the Bible’s living power. The Jews had changed their language and their country. Thousands of the cleverest books ever written were within their reach—for Alexandria had at this time the largest library in the world—yet all this made no difference; without the written Word of God, they could not exist.

Some writers say that Ptolemy Philadelphus, the king of Egypt of that time, having heard the Jews speak of their Book, and wishing to have a copy of it to place in his great library, sent all the way to Jerusalem for seventy learned scribes who should translate the Book into Greek.

Now, however, it is believed that the Jews of Alexandria did the work entirely themselves, although their Greek Bible is still called the ‘Septuagint’—that is, ‘The Scriptures of the Seventy’—in memory of the old tradition.

 

Fragment of the Septuagint

The Old Testament in Ancient Greek, the First Written Translation of the Bible Ever Made

Gradually, as the years passed, the Greek language spread to other nations, until at last it became, as we have seen, the leading language of the world. Even to-day, as you know, this old Greek tongue is taught in many of our schools and colleges, and those who can read it tell us that there is no language so beautiful; none with words so sweet to the ear, nor in which such deep thoughts can be expressed.

Thus we see how God used the learning of the heathen Greeks to make His Book known to the world!

For hundreds of years the Bible had been a Book for the people of Israel alone; but now, as the time drew near when the Son of God Himself should come to the world—that the world by Him might be saved—the Scriptures, which had since the days of Moses spoken of His coming, were sent out to the nations by God Himself in order to prepare the way.

The Jews of old divided all dwellers on the earth into two classes: the Jews—that is, themselves; the Gentiles—that is, all the other nations.

But now the wall of separation was to be broken down, and the words of the Prophet Isaiah were to be fulfilled, ‘The Gentiles shall come to Thy light.‘ (Isaiah Ix. 3.)

Now that God’s Holy Word had been translated into Greek, the one language which every man of those days wished to learn, the message could ring through all the Gentile cities: ‘A King, a Saviour, is coming; be ready to meet Him!’

So the Scriptures went forth, north, south, east, and west, and we think they reached to that far eastern city in which those three wise men lived who afterwards travelled to Bethlehem, seeking the Messiah, and saying, ‘Where is He that is born King of the Jews?‘ (Matthew ii. 2.)

The Bible had indeed taken a strong leap forward now!

For long centuries it had been like a tiny stream flowing through a dry land, and reaching only a few people. Now it had become as a river of truth, ever growing deeper and wider, guided by God in all its wanderings across the earth.

The Bible was now no longer locked up in a language which was already half-forgotten. With this Greek translation its world-wide work had begun!

But while the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures was becoming an open door through which the people of many lands could draw nearer to God, a second witness to the truth of God’s Book was hidden away in Samaria.

For the Samaritans had their own copies of the Books of the Law, and kept them closely shut up among their own people for hundreds of years.

It is impossible now to give the actual date when the Samaritans began to use a different copy of the Scriptures from the Jews. The Israelitish city of Samaria was captured by Sargon, king of Assyria, in 722 B.C.; but although he carried away the most important inhabitants captive, a great number of the poorer people remained on the land, and when Sargon filled the country with new and heathen settlers, so many marriages took place between the two races that the Children of Israel lost their old name and were known to the Jews of Judah as ‘Samaritans.’

Yet the Samaritans still clung to the Jews’ religion, and the separation did not probably become complete until Nehemiah expelled all those Jews from Jerusalem who had married heathen wives. (Nehemiah xiii. 23-30.)

Now Josephus, the Jewish historian, tells us that among these exiles was a man named Manasseh, a grandson of the high priest, and that, indignant at being cast out, he fled to Samaria. Here he determined to set up a separate worship of Jehovah, and, having obtained permission from the king of Persia to erect a Temple, he built a Holy Place on Mount Gerizim, which became the centre of a new form of religion.

It is thought that Manasseh had carried away a copy of the Books of the Law from Jerusalem, and by means of certain alterations in the words he made it appear that God had chosen Mount Gerizim in Samaria for the site of His House, instead of Mount Moriah in Jerusalem.

Now at this time all the Jews still wrote in the ancient style, forming their letters as we see them on the Moabite Stone; but not long afterwards they adopted the square letters of Hebrew writing such as are still in use to-day.

The Samaritans, however, in their hatred of everything Jewish, refused to follow their example. The Jews had cut them off, and they would take nothing from the Jews; they would keep to the old style of letters; they would not allow a single word of the Books of the Prophets or the Psalms or History Books to have a place among their sacred writings. The Jews accepted these Books as inspired; therefore the Samaritans rejected them.

Thus Jewish pride and Samaritan littleness raised a terrible barrier between the two nations, which grew more hopeless every year.

 

The Samaritan Book of Law at Nablous

Yet these hidden Samaritan documents, falsified as they had been, have had a work to do for God’s Word within comparatively recent times.

For in the year 1616 A.D., just as some people were beginning to attack the Bible, and to declare that they could find no evidence that the Old Testament was so ancient after all, the world was suddenly startled to hear of a great discovery—an ancient copy of the Law had been found in Syria.

Other copies soon afterwards came to light: the world had rediscovered the Samaritan Bible!

At Nablous, in Samaria, known in Old Testament times as Shechem, a traveller was allowed to look at the oldest Samaritan copy of the altered books of the Law. Its queer letter signs are traced on parchment rolls, which are said to have been formed from the skins of rams offered in sacrifice. They are kept in a silver cylinder, covered with crimson satin, heavily embroidered with gold.

But out of this discovery a new difficulty arose. Some of the critics decided that this was the original copy written by Moses, and therefore more correct than the Jewish Scriptures. They would have done better to wait, and to have trusted the Bible a little more.

True, the discovery was of great importance, for these documents proved beyond all doubt that the Book of the Law dated back to a time when the ancient form of letters were still in use, and so they bore a strong witness to the great age of the first five Books of our Bible.

But learned scholars were soon able to prove that the oldest Samaritan copy was probably not older than the tenth or eleventh century of our era, and that the form of the letters was so ancient merely because the Samaritans refused to imitate the improved Jewish writing. A hundred years ago, for instance, books with long ‘s’s’ were printed in England; but the old form of letter was tiresome to read, and is now entirely out of date.

Now the Samaritans had not only refused to accept the new and improved form of letters—they had rejected as well all the fresh light and inspiration which God was continually giving to His people through the Holy prophets. According to the Samaritans, Moses was the only true prophet. Thus they cut themselves adrift from further light, and little by little the nations had dwindled away.

Yet because so many of the Samaritans in the time of Christ were faithful to the measure of light they had, and kept alive in their hearts the hope of a coming Messiah, God made for them a wonderful way of escape.

Every Bible reader knows and loves that beautiful scene by the well of Sychar, in Samaria, where the Saviour began by asking a woman for water to drink, and ended by explaining to her some of the deepest truths of God’s Kingdom.

We understand now why the woman was so surprised that a Jew should condescend to speak to her, and why the Jews would have ‘no dealings with the Samaritans.’ As we have seen, a great barrier divided her from all ordinary Jewish teachers—she had been taught to believe in an altered Bible.

Not merely a different translation, remember, for the Bible should be the same in every language, but a Book of the Law in which some of the words had been changed and the original meaning destroyed.

So the woman said to our Lord, ‘Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.‘ (John iv. 20.)

The Saviour had not said so, but she felt sure that He, as a Jew, would certainly contradict the old traditions of his countrymen.

But the Lord Jesus Christ had come to show the world that it was no longer a question of this mountain or that. Such matters had been but a shadow of the good things to come. ‘God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.‘ (John iv. 24.)

With these words Jesus, the Messiah, for whom both Jews and Samaritans were waiting, threw down the barrier of ages, and united the two nations in a spiritual worship.

The Bible in the Days of Jesus Christ

Slowly but surely, as time went on, God was adding to His Book, until about four hundred years before the birth of Jesus Christ the Old Testament Scriptures, in their present shape, were completed.

Many questions have been asked as to how the canon of the Old Testament was formed—that is, how and when did the Jews first begin to understand that the Books of the Old Testament were inspired by God.

About the first five Books—the Books of the Law—there had never been any question. From the very earliest times those Books, so wonderfully given to the people, had been the strength and stay of the Children of Israel.

But many books had been written in the days of the old Jewish kings, and also after the return of the people from Babylon: some of these were very beautiful and helpful. How were the sacred Scriptures first divided from the other Jewish writings?

We do not know. Some have thought that Ezra the scribe, with the assistance of a council of elders, fixed the canon of Hebrew Scripture; others have supposed Nehemiah to have undertaken the work; but most likely it was a gradual process, directed by God Himself, who inspired His servants to carry out His will.

The Christian Bible is composed of two parts, the Old and the New Testament; but the Jews divided their Scriptures—our Old Testament—into three parts, and they certainly looked upon some books as far more sacred than others. The ‘Torah’—that is, the Law—included, as we have seen, the first five books of the Bible. From the very earliest days the Torah was reverenced as containing the commandments and promises of God.

The second division consisted of the ‘Prophets,’ these being subdivided into the ‘Former Prophets’ (four volumes)—Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings—and the ‘Latter Prophets’ (three volumes)—Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel—and the Twelve Minor Prophets (which were included in one book).

Next in order of sanctity came the third division, the ‘Writings,’ and these again were subdivided into three groups: the poetical Books of the Psalms, Proverbs, and Job; the ‘Rolls’ or ‘Readings’ (seven volumes)—Solomon’s Song, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, and one volume containing Ezra and Nehemiah; and, lastly, in a separate book, Chronicles. Thus the whole Scriptures were contained in twenty-four books.

Indeed, not until the Greek translation was made were the books grouped in the order in which we have them now, and at the same time their number was increased to thirty-nine by taking the writings of each of the prophets separately, and treating Ezra and Nehemiah as different books.

And now God, who has spoken in times past by many different ways and voices, spoke at last to the nations by His Son, ‘by whom also He made the worlds.’ (Hebrews i. 2.)

Let us think for a little while of what was being done with the Scriptures in the days when the Lord Jesus learnt to read their words at His mother’s knee; words which from first to last told of Himself.

We have seen that no people could possibly honour the actual letters of the Scripture more highly than did the Jews. The care they took to keep the words exactly as they had been handed down to them was infinite; and God, who knows all things, knew that a time would come when the pure Hebrew words of the old Bible would be eagerly sought for, and treasured by all who truly honour His Book.

Therefore, although the eyes of the learned Jewish scribes were so blinded, that they did not recognize their King and Saviour when He came, yet God blessed all that was true in their work, and it is from the Hebrew copies which they made of the Books of the Old Testament, and not from the ‘Septuagint,’ or Greek translation, that the Old Testament of our Bible has come to us to-day.

Yet, sad to say, while so careful to preserve the words of the Scriptures, the Scribes and Pharisees forgot its spirit, the very purpose for which the Bible had been given them.

A man might know by memory every letter of the Bible, but unless the Spirit of God were in his heart, helping him to act out in his life the words he repeats with his lips, all his knowledge of the Bible would only lie as a dead-weight upon his soul. ‘The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.‘ (2 Corinthians iii. 6.) So wrote the Apostle Paul, who had, as we know, been educated by the Scribes and Pharisees, and when he wrote those words he was recalling his own experience.

Thus, as year by year the learned Jews thought more of the letters of their Bible, they saw less of its spirit; worse still, they began to add to the teaching of the Books of the Law.

Not that they ventured to put other words between those of the Bible, or to alter it as the Samaritans had done; but they invented long explanations of almost every verse, and declared that these explanations must be followed as absolutely as the words of the Bible itself.

For instance, a learned Jewish teacher wrote an explanation of Moses’ command about obeying the Levites. (Deuteronomy xvii. 11.) Moses had said that the people were to do what the Levites told them respecting the Law of God, neither turning ‘to the right hand, nor to the left.‘ The Jewish teachers declared what Moses really meant was that if a teacher of the Law told you that your left hand was your right you must believe him!

The Beginning of the New Testament

Turn to the list of books given in the beginning of your New Testament. You will see that first come the four Gospels, or glimpses of the Saviour’s life given by four different writers. Then follows the Acts of the Apostles, and, lastly, after the twenty-one epistles, the volume ends with the Revelation.

Now this is not the order in which the books were written—they are only arranged like this for our convenience.

The first words of the New Testament were written, not as we should have supposed by one of the twelve apostles, or by some one who had loved and followed the Lord Jesus Christ when He was upon earth. They are written by a Pharisee who had been one of Christ’s bitterest enemies.

Though Saul had, as far as we know, never seen the Saviour on earth, what he had heard of His work and teaching made him feel that in stamping out all the followers of the so-called Messiah, he would be doing God service. But we remember how the Saviour Himself appeared to Saul on his way to Damascus, and how his heart was changed, and his eyes were opened.

We can scarcely imagine the transformation which came over his mind. Together with all the other learned Jews he had considered Jesus of Nazareth to be an impostor, and to blaspheme the words of God’s Holy Book when He applied them to Himself. Now Saul the Pharisee understood that he and his countrymen, not Jesus of Nazareth, were at fault. As he read the old prophesies he understood their true meaning, ‘and straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.‘ (Acts ix. 9.)

Then the full tide of Jewish anger turned upon him. That he should join the followers of the despised Nazarene and forsake the sacred traditions of the Law made all the Jews scattered through the then-known world into his bitterest enemies.

Paul, as he was afterwards called, loved his countrymen with a passionate love. He would gladly have died for them,[1] and that he should be unable to show them what was so clear to himself, was certainly the greatest sorrow and disappointment of his life. But though he was unable to help his countrymen, as a nation, God made him the most successful missionary-traveller the world has ever known, and to him was given the privilege of writing a large part of the New Testament.

Before we think about his writings, however, let us look at the condition of the great heathen cities of the world at the time when he lived.

In the year A.D. 54, that is, twenty years after our Saviour’s death upon the cross, the Emperor Nero, who is still remembered as one of the worst men who ever lived, began to reign in Rome.

For many years the Roman Emperors had been masters of all the then-known nations, and for awhile they had ruled justly; but ever as the Roman Empire increased in power and riches, the Roman rulers grew more haughty and selfish, until at last they cared for nothing but their own pleasures, and spent their days in drinking and feasting, wasting enormous sums in senseless extravagance, while thousands of their subjects starved.

A dreadful city Rome must have been in those days, though to look at she was beautiful indeed.

A city of marble palaces, of fair white statues and green gardens; of huge public baths and theatres. On one side stood an enormous building, with a round space in the centre, and tiers of seats rising one above another like a circus. This was an amphitheatre, where shows and performances were given.

There were no sham combats in a Roman circus; no mere pretence of being wounded. Men fought with men in stern reality; worse still, men were made to fight with wild beasts. Lions and tigers, and fierce bulls tore and gored men to death, while the audience leaned back in their comfortable seats, watching the horrible scenes intently.

Every rich man in Rome at the time of which we write owned hundreds of slaves, who were the absolute property of their owners.

A slave-girl who arranged her mistress’s hair badly was burnt with a hot iron. If a slave-boy broke a costly vase his master might whip him to death, or have him thrown into a tank full of ravenous fish. There was no limit to the master’s power.

Although millions of people had scarcely a rag to cover them, or a crust to eat, the rich people flung their gold away on useless trifles. Indeed, a kind of competition existed among them as to who could waste his money the most foolishly.

‘Nightingales sing more sweetly than any other bird,’ thought one of these. ‘I have it. I’ll order a dish of nightingales’ tongues for my feast next week; that will be something rare and expensive indeed!’

All his friends were charmed with the new idea, and nightingales’ tongues became quite the fashion.

But all the time, in this mighty city, so black with sin, so red with cruelty, the pure white light of the Gospel of Christ had begun to shine.

‘Gospel’ means good news. The story of Jesus was blessed news indeed, for the suffering, hopeless people. As yet all unnoticed by the rulers of the heathen world, the little band of Christians was ever increasing.

How the Gospels Came to Be Written

But how did the story of the Saviour’s life on earth come to be written?

We have seen that many years passed before any one thought of writing it down at all. The men and women who had really seen Him, who had listened to His voice, looked into His face, and who knew that He had conquered death and sin for evermore, could not sit down to write, for their hearts were all on fire to speak.

But as the years passed, the number of those who had seen Christ grew less, and the need of a written Gospel became ever greater. Precious words would be forgotten, precious facts passed over, unless they were collected together and put down in black and white. Some of those, therefore, who had seen and heard Christ began to write down all they remembered of His life.

They had no thought, as yet, of a New Testament being added to their Bible; the Old Testament Scriptures were still the ‘Bible'[1] to them. These early Christians, as we remember, did not read the Bible in the original Hebrew, but in its Greek translation. They loved it and searched its pages eagerly, as they realized that all its words spoke of Christ!

But about the time that St. Paul was imprisoned at Rome we think that the Gospel according to St. Mark was written.

Most of you know that Mark was a young Jew who began his work for God by travelling with Paul and Barnabas (Acts xii. 25), but who left them when the work grew dangerous. (Acts xiii. 13.) Paul was so grieved at his failure, that for a while he refused to trust him again; but Barnabas, who believed in his repentance, gave him another trial. (Acts xv. 37-39.) That Mark proved himself even to Paul we find from the Apostle’s last Epistle to Timothy, when he writes: ‘Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.‘ (2 Timothy iv. 11.)

Before that time, however, Mark had lived and worked for many years with the Apostle Peter, who in his letter written from Babylon speaks of him as ‘Marcus my son.’ (1 Peter v. 13.)

Now a Christian writer, named Papias, who lived about sixty years after this time, tells us that Mark wrote his Gospel story from what Peter had told him about Christ; so we think this Gospel writing is really the Apostle Peter’s account of our Lord’s life on earth.

Very likely, as Mark journeyed with the Apostle from place to place, and heard him tell and retell the wonderful story of His Master’s life on earth, the thought came into the young man’s mind, ‘Why not write down what Peter says, so that his words shall not be forgotten?’

And so fresh and vivid are the words of Mark’s Gospel, so full of little natural touches, that most people agree that old Papias must have been right. The very things St. Peter would have noticed are mentioned by Mark.

Matthew, the writer of the Gospel which comes the first in our New Testament, was a Levite; that is, he belonged to the tribe of Levi, and this tribe was specially chosen in the time of Moses to learn the Law and serve God in His Temple. Matthew, therefore, was very learned in the books of the Law, and in the writings of the old prophets. As you all know, the Lord Jesus chose Matthew to be one of His special companions; and as Matthew followed his Master day by day, he saw more and more clearly how all the old prophecies which he knew so well pointed to the coming of Christ.

The Canon of the Bible

A. Introduction.
We need to recollect here that the Bible is comprised of sixty-six books written by
approximately 40 authors over a period of 1600 years.
1. The term “canon,” comes from the Greek word kanèn, kan¯on, meaning a rule, a
standard, hence a measure of authoritative teaching. Compare the use of this same
Greek word in Galatians 6:16.
2. The “canon of Scripture” is that recognized and accepted collection of sixty-six books
of the Bible which conforms to a standard, especially that of being God-breathed or
inspired (II Tim. 3:16), and consequently is infallible, that is truthful and without error.
3. To say that the Scriptures are “canonical” is to declare that they have been recognized
as the Word of God written, and thus have accepted authority which is unique, that is
distinct from all other books.
4. When the Old Testament and New Testament canons were recognized as complete, it
was not man determining the parameters of the Word of God, but rather man
identifying the Word of God. J. I. Packer illustrates this point well when he writes:
The Church no more gave us the New Testament canon than Sir Isaac Newton gave us the
force of gravity. God gave us gravity, by His work of creation, and similarly He gave us
the New Testament canon, by inspiring the individual books that make it up.7
B. The Old Testament Canon of Scripture.
1. After the Babylonian exile concluded during the fifth century B.C. under the leadership
of Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah, an even greater regard for Scripture resulted,
especially on account of the fulfillment of prophecy, such as with Jeremiah 25:11.
2. Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, was written about 450 B.C. when Ezra, a
father of the Scribes and one of the most learned men of the Hebrews, was alive.
3. Ezra was probably involved in the identification of the completed Old Testament
canon, which was certainly recognized no later than 300 B.C. Following the writing of
Malachi, it was the conviction of the Jews, as expressed by intertestamental writers,
that God had ceased to speak directly through trustworthy prophets.
4. The Hebrew Old Testament, or Tanakh, is comprised of twenty-four books. (Refer to
pages 6-7 for the Christian classification of the Old Testament.) The traditional threefold classification, as inferred in Luke 24:44, is as follows:
a. The Law, or Torah (instruction): Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers,
Deuteronomy, (5).
7
J. I. Packer, God Speaks Man, p. 81. 20 BIBLE INTRODUCTION 101
b. The Prophets, or Neviim, (8).
(1) Former: Joshua, Judges, I & II Samuel, I & II Kings, (4).
(2) Latter: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, the Twelve (Minor Prophets), (4).
c. The Writings, or Kethuvim, (11).
(1) Poetical: Psalms, Proverbs, Job, (3).
(2) Five Scrolls: Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Esther, (5).
(3) Historical: Daniel, Ezra & Nehemiah, I & II Chronicles, (3).
C. The extracanonical books of Judaism.
1. The lost books of the Old Testament.
a. The Old Testament mentions numerous books that are no longer available, such
as, the Book of the Wars of the Lord (Num. 21:14); the Book of Jasher (Josh.
10:13); the Book of the Acts of Solomon (I Kings 11:41); the Visions of Iddo the
Seer (II Chron. 9:29); the Record of Shemaiah the Prophet (II Chron. 12:15).
b. However, should any of these books be discovered today, they would not be
considered as inspired any more than a work of the Cretan philosopher,
Epimenedes, which Paul presumably quotes in Titus 1:12. Because Peter, John,
and Paul were moved by the Spirit of God to write books that were recognized as
canonical, it does not follow that newly discovered writings by these same authors
would be similarly recognized.
2. The Apocrypha.
a. The term “apocryphal” means “hidden, legendary, less than true, of doubtful
authenticity.”
b. This particular collection of 15 books includes history, poetry, prophecy,
romance, and bizarre legend.
c. The Roman Catholic Church accepts the full Apocrypha as canonical, particularly
on account of the support which II Maccabees 12:39-45 gives to the doctrine of
prayers for the dead. However, along with the uncertainty of the Early Church
and Martin Luther’s rejection of the Apocrypha as inspired, Protestantism has
unanimously agreed that this body of interesting literature is certainly not
canonical, for the following reasons:
(1) The Jews have never accepted the Apocrypha as canonical, even though it so
substantially concerns them.
(2) The New Testament, Jesus Christ, and the Apostles, never quote from the
Apocrypha. BIBLE INTRODUCTION 101 21
d. The Church of England accepts the Apocrypha for instruction, but not as inspired
of God along with Scripture. For this reason the original King James Version of
the Bible included the Apocrypha, though most editions omitted it following
1630.
3. The Pseudepigrapha.
a. This collection of Jewish literature written between 200 B.C. and 200 A.D. was
never seriously considered for recognition as being canonical. Although the
standard collection is comprised of eighteen titles, yet since the discovery of the
Dead Sea Scrolls, others have come to light.
b. Their imitative, apocalyptic style draws upon the Hebrew canon so that comfort
might be obtained by a persecuted people. Titles include, The Book of Adam and
Eve; The Martyrdom of Isaiah; The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs; The
Assumption of Moses; The Psalms of Solomon; Psalm 151.
D. The New Testament Canon of Scripture.
1. The twenty-seven books of the New Testament. These were formally acknowledged at
the Council of Hippo in North Africa, 393 A.D., and the Council of Carthage in North
Africa, 419 A.D. Both gatherings were under the influence of Augustine. While this
may appear to suggest an extended delay, certain facts should be born in mind.
a. Athanasius, the great defender of Jesus Christ as the “God-man,” declared all 27
books of the New Testament to be canonical, c. 367 A.D.
b. Concerning II Peter, probably the most disputed book in the New Testament, B.
B. Warfield declares that there is more evidence for its authenticity than the
writings of the Greek historians, Herodotus and Thucydides.8
2. The antilegomena, or disputed books. While the accepted books of the early church
numbered approximately twenty during those formative centuries, being called the
homologoumena, yet the remaining seven books were, for various reasons, disputed.
a. Hebrews. The chief reason was its anonymity of authorship.
b. James. There was a supposed conflict with Paul’s writings.
c. II Peter. Its style was considered quite different from I Peter.
d. II & III John. These were too personal, without apostolic claims.
e. Jude. In vs. 9, 14-15, reference is possibly made to Pseudepigraphical writings.
f. Revelation. Its apostolicity and millennialism were questioned.
8
B. B. Warfield, Syllabus on the Special Introduction to the Catholic Epistles, pp. 116-117. 22 BIBLE INTRODUCTION 101
E. The extracanonical books of Christianity.
1. The lost books of the New Testament.
a. From Luke 1:1-4 it would seem that gospels other than the recognized four were
in circulation. We do not have access to an earlier letter to Corinth (I Cor. 5:9), or
Paul’s letter to the Laodiceans (Col. 4:16). Again, what are the sources of Jude 9,
14-15?
b. However, we repeat that should some of these writings be discovered, they would
not be recognized as inspired of God, for there is good reason to believe that the
Canon of Scripture is closed (Jude 3).
2. The New Testament Apocrypha.
a. This collection is not fixed. But it does include some writings that were seriously
regarded in terms of canonicity as well as containing probable elements of truth.
b. The best known of these writings are, The Epistle of Barnabas; The First and
Second Epistles of Clement to Corinth; The Shepherd of Hermas; The Didache, or
Teaching of the Twelve; The Apocalypse of Peter; The Acts of Paul and Thecla;
The Epistle to the Laodiceans; The Gospel According to the Hebrews; The Epistle
of Polycarp to the Philippians; The Seven Epistles of Ignatius.
3. The New Testament Pseudepigrapha.
a. Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea during early fourth century, described these writings
as, “totally absurd and impious.” Geisler and Nix write of them:
Virtually no orthodox Father, canon, or council considered these books to be
canonical and, so far as the church is concerned, they are primarily of historical
value. These books indicate the heretical teaching of gnostic, docetic, and ascetic
groups, as well as the exaggerated fancy of religious lore in the early church.9
b. The Gospel of Thomas is a far more famous example of hundreds of such works.
It tells of the infant Jesus making clay sparrows that fly away, of his withering
curse of an ungodly lad.
F. The divine ordination and human recognition of the Canon of Scripture.
1. The human recognition of the Canon of Scripture involved rules.
a. Apostolic authority and verification.
b. The rule of faith, that is judgment by known truth.
c. Catholicity, or universal acceptance.
9
Geisler & Nix, A General Introduction To The Bible, p. 301. BIBLE INTRODUCTION 101 23
d. Contemporary witness, or proximity to the early church.
e. Internal witness of the Spirit of God.
f. Acceptance in early church worship, such as in lectionaries.
2. The divine ordination of the Canon of Scripture involved God’s sovereign oversight.
a. In II Peter 1:20-21 we are told, “that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s
own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but
men moved [borne along] by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” If God so
superintended the writing of the individual books of the Bible, then it is to be
expected that He would likewise superintend the gathering together of those
books.
b. In both Matthew 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9, Jesus indicates his awareness that
these Gospels would be part of the Canon of Scripture. Surely this suggests that he
knew of the other books as well. Why would He have such knowledge? Because
His Father has sovereignly determined such a Canon.