The Christian Canon:  

       Contrary to common belief, there has never been universal agreement as to what documents should be included in the Bible. There is no single canon of Scripture that has ever been accepted by all of Christianity. Remember, the word canon, as it relates to the Biblical Scriptures, is basically defined as a group of documents accepted as authoritative by some individual or group of individuals. As already mentioned, some see the word canon to mean a measuring rod whereby documents are included or excluded based on established standards. It is commonly assumed that our present canon of 39 OT documents and 27 NT documents is what the Christian Church has always used as the source for its theological system.  This simply is not the case. 

       To this very day there is disagreement as to what documents should make up the Bible. For example, early versions of the Greek Orthodox Bible did not include the Revelation although more recent versions do. The earliest extant versions of the Syrian NT, called the Peshitta, dating to the 5th century, excluded 2 and 3 John, 2 Peter, Revelation and Jude.  These books have since been added to the Syrian Bible although some Syrian Bibles still exclude these documents.  The Armenian Church Bible use to include a third letter to the Corinthians taken from a document called the Acts of Paul.  This Church did not accept the Revelation into its Bible until A.D.1200.  Early versions of the Coptic Bible, adopted by the Egyptian Church, include the two epistles of Clement of Alexandria.  Early Ethiopic Bibles include documents such as the Sinodos, a collection of prayers and instructions supposedly written by Clement of Rome.

       All these groups look upon their particular canon as inspired sacred Scripture.  Establishment of what should and should not be included as sacred Scripture has been an ongoing process for thousands of years.  The first Epistle of Clement of Rome, which scholars generally date to around A.D. 95, is found in many ancient Bibles and was regarded as inspired Scripture. This Epistle was written to the Corinthian Church.  Some scholars believe this Clement is the Clement Paul mentions in one of his letters and that this Epistle was written much earlier than A.D. 95. 

       The Didachē, a manual of Christian living which dates from the early second century, was regarded as canonical Scripture by Clement of Alexandria and Origen.  The Epistle of Barnabas, which cites many OT books by name and uses many phrases which appear in the Gospels, is felt to have been written somewhere between A.D. 70 and 130.  This letter was included in the NT canon for a long time and appears at the end of the oldest surviving complete Bible, the Codex Sinaiticus, which is dated from the fourth century.

       One of the first written texts to become universally popular and an object of praise among the early Christian community was The Shepherd of Hermas.  This document contains a collection of "visions, mandates, and similitude’s" which are also the names of the three books that comprise it.  The Shepherd of Hermas was written sometime in the early 2nd century, and there are papyrus fragments from that century to prove it. Some feel it dates from the 1st century.  Both Origen and Jerome thought the author was the very Hermas known to Paul (Romans 16.14).  So popular was the Shepherd that it was widely regarded as inspired. It is included, along with the Epistle of Barnabas, as the final books in the Codex Sinaiticus.  Hermas never names or quotes exactly any NT text.  It does, however, contain many statements which resemble those in various NT documents.

       It should be noted that the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas are found at the end of Codex Sinaiticus.  This pattern of adding certain documents at the end of a canon or codex is evident in the Muratorian canon (170-180 A.D.) and the Codex Alexandrinus.  Because the Epistle of Barnabas and other letters, such as 1st and 2nd Clement, are found at the end of some canons of Scripture and are not included in the main body of the canon as are the letters of Paul and the other Apostles, some believe such documents were added as documents of interest but not considered canonical Scripture. This, however, is speculative as it is apparent that various of the church fathers viewed these documents as canonical and when these documents were read by Christians they would have been looked upon as inspired Scripture. 

       As previously mentioned, Marcion, in A.D. 144, was the first to establish a formal canon which consisted of ten of Paul’s letters and parts of Luke’s Gospel. A man named Tatian produced a Syrian canon around A.D. 160 consisting of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. He wove them all together into a single document.  For a long time, this document was the official Gospel text of the Syriac Church centered at Odessa. Sometime after A.D. 177, Irenaeus composed a treatise in which he quotes from almost every book in what is our present Western canon.  He thus shows that the books of our present canon were in use at this time. Irenaeus also includes the Shepherd of Hermas as sacred Scripture.

The Muratorian Fragment:

       A seventh century document known as the Muratorian Fragment (aka the Muratorian Canon) contains commentary on the NT Scriptures. This document contains fragments of a Latin manuscript dated to somewhere in the seventh century AD.  This fragment was discovered by Ludovico Antonio Muratori, a prominent Italian historian. This document was published in 1740 and was named after Muratori.

       The Muratorian Fragment appears to have originally been written in Greek somewhere between 170 and 180 AD. It is thought to have been written about this time because the author refers to Pius the 1st as having recently been the Bishop of the church at Rome. Pius was Bishop from 140 to 155 AD.

       This document lists 22 of the 27 books of our present day New Testament.  Missing from this cannon are 3rd John, Hebrews, James and 1st and 2nd Peter. Interestingly, this document excludes The Shepherd of Hermas on the grounds that it was written too far after the other NT documents. On the other hand, the Muratorian Fragment includes the Apocalypse of Peter and the Wisdom of Solomon at the end of its list. However, the Muratorian Fragment appears to question whether the Apocalypse of Peter is worthy of being read in the churches.   

        In this manuscript the author writes of Paul following the rule of his predecessor John in writing to seven churches. The writer lists the seven churches Paul wrote to which are the seven churches shown in the NT to have received letters from Paul.  All indications are that Paul died during the reign of Nero which means he wrote these letters before AD 68 which is the year Nero died. Most scholars believe Paul wrote his letters somewhere in the 50's to early 60's AD. 

       We know that John wrote to seven churches as seen in Revelation 2 and 3. If indeed Paul followed the example of John as the Muratorian Fragment suggests, this would indicate John wrote the Revelation before Paul wrote his letters.  This would place the writing of the Revelation much earlier than is commonly believed. For more discussion of this issue and the general issue of when the Revelation was written, go to "Commentary on the Revelation: Part One."

Other Perspectives as to NT Canonical Scripture:       

       Around A.D. 200 we find Clement of Alexandria supporting the Tatian selection and also acknowledging the Gospel of the Egyptians, the Gospel of the Hebrews, the Apocalypse of Peter, Shepherd of Hermas, the Epistle of Barnabas and the Didachē as authentic.  The Gospel of the Hebrews was used as an authority in Syria as late as the fourth century.

       While the Apocalypse of Peter is believed to have been written between A.D. 125 and 150, some felt Peter himself wrote it. It remained in various church lists as a canonical text for centuries. It is interesting that the Apocalypse of Peter had canonical status early on whereas the epistle of 2nd Peter was highly questioned as having canonical status.  By the fourth century, the Apocalypse of Peter was dismissed as having canonical status and 2nd Peter became canonical.

       Some scholars believe the Apocalypse of Peter was rejected because it hinted of universal salvation which would have been anathema to fourth century theological orthodoxy. 2nd Peter was seen as in harmony with fourth century orthodoxy and was therefore accepted as canonical.  However, for a variety of reasons, to this very day Biblical scholars seriously question 2nd Peter having been written by the Peter who was a disciple of Jesus and therefore feel it should not be canonical.

       In A.D. 230, Origen established a seminary at Caesarea.  Origen declared the Gospel of Peter and the Book of James as trustworthy and approved by the church.  He considered the Shepard of Hermas Scripture. He also considered the Didachē and the Epistle of Barnabas as Scripture. On the other hand, Origen doubted the authenticity of 2 and 3 John and 2 Peter.  Origen also appears to have accepted much of the NT as it appears in its present form.  Bishop Cyprian, writing in the middle 200's, rejected Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John and Jude as divinely inspired.

       In A.D. 367, after many additional years of numerous declarations of what the Scriptures were supposed to be, Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, declared what he thought should be the NT canon which reflects the text we currently have. The canon produced by Athanasius was confirmed at the Council of Hippo in 393 AD and the Council of Carthage in 397 AD. However, there continued to be much controversy as to what documents should be in the canon and it wasn’t until A.D. 692, at the Trullan Synod, that the Athanasian canon became generally accepted.  

       At the Council of Florence in A.D. 1443, church leadership further ruled on what documents were to be considered canonical Scripture.  This canon was made an absolute article of faith at the Council of Trent in A.D. 1546.  This pronouncement, however, only carried in the Western churches. After the Reformation, the Protestant world followed the Catholic canon with the exception of the OT apocrypha which was excluded by the Protestant reformers.  It is interesting that Martin Luther did not treat all Scripture in the NT canon as equally valid and actually listed the NT documents in order of descending credibility. When he produced his German translation of the Bible, he placed Hebrews, Jude, James and the Revelation in an appendix to the other books of the Bible because he had reservations about whether these documents properly presented the salvation message. 

       The forgoing is but a thumbnail sketch of the dynamics involved in determining a NT canon. Much could be said about how choice of documents was often determined by the doctrinal perspectives of those making the choices and how church officials would change their choices as they changed their theology.  Much could be said as to how choices were made based on personal preference rather than objective investigation.  For a complete overview of the development of the NT canon, I highly recommend Bruce Metzger’s The Canon of the New Testament: It’s Origin, Development and Significance and Redating the New Testament by Dr. John A.T. Robinson.

Canonization of the Old Testament (OT) Scriptures: 

       The canonization of the OT was an historical process which took place over many centuries.  This process involved three separate collections of documents which came to form the Law, Prophets and Writings. The first collection to be canonized consisted of the first five books of the Bible and was variously called the Law (Hebrew Torah) or the Pentateuch (the first five books of the OT). This collection was canonized about 400 B.C. The second collection was that of the prophetic Scriptures which was canonized about 200 B.C.  The Writings (Psalms, Proverbs, etc.) were canonized about A.D.90. This last canonization was actually a ratification of a completed collection of writings in common use since the second century B.C.  The prophetic book of Daniel was accepted in this final collection, having been earlier rejected for inclusion among the prophetic books.   

       History shows that, as is true with the NT canonization process, there were a number of documents that were variously accepted or rejected at different periods of OT canonical development. Around 250 B.C., the Torah was translated from the Hebrew into the Greek language and called the Septuagint or LXX.  Septuagint means seventy.  It is believed this translation was completed in seventy days by a group of 72 Palestinian Jews.  The rest of the OT was translated into Greek during the next several hundred years and came to include the Apocrypha, a collection of writings not found in the Hebrew Scriptures but nevertheless included in the Septuagint. 

       A number of these writings are included in the Catholic Bible but have been rejected by the Protestant community.  It is interesting to note that when writers of the NT quote OT Scripture; such quotes are generally seen to be from the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. Therefore, when NT authors quote the OT, they are generally quoting from the Greek translation of the OT. It is instructive that the NT authors never quote from the Apocrypha writings even though these writings are included in the Septuagint. Was this because they did not believe the Apocrypha had the level of authority/validity as the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures?  More on this later. 

       What is called the Masoretic Text is the basis for most translations of the Hebrew Scriptures into English although some English translations are based on the Septuagint. The Masoretic Text is so named because it is based on the work of a group of Torah scholars and scribes called Masoretes who between the 7th and 10th centuries AD worked on copying various manuscripts of the Hebrew Scriptures that were extant at the time.  This work resulted in the production of the Masoretic Text of the Old Testament.  The oldest-known complete copy of this text is the Leningrad Codex which dates to the early 11th century AD.

       The Dead Sea Scrolls, some of which date back to the early 3rd century BC, provide copies and/or fragments of copies from almost every book of the Old Testament. Readings of these scrolls have revealed that there have existed multiple versions of the Hebrew Scriptures over the centuries.  While these scrolls largely show congruence with what became the Masoretic Text, there are notable differences between the Masoretic Text and what is seen in the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Septuagint and the Peshitta. The Peshitta is an Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. The earliest extant Aramaic manuscript dates to the 400’s AD.  The Peshitta is used by the Syrian Christian church.

       One example of a difference between the Masoretic Text and the above-mentioned translations is found in Psalms 145 which is an acrostic poem. An acrostic poem or Psalm is where each line starts with a successive latter of the Hebrew alphabet. The Hebrew alphabet has 22 letters.  Psalm 145 has 21 letters. The letter נ (nun) is missing in the Masoretic Text of this Psalm. This, in and of itself, is not unusual in that other Psalms and writings in the Masoretic Text that appear acrostic have letters missing or letters that are not in successive order (see Psalms 9 10, 25, 34, 37).

       However, with Psalm 145 the נ (nun), while missing in the Masoretic Text of Psalm 145, is present in the Dead Sea Scrolls and Septuagint text of Psalm 145.  This tells us that this verse was apparently in the texts that were used by the Dead Sea Scrolls and Septuagint translators but either missing from the texts used by the Masoretes or inadvertently left out.

        In the Dead Sea Scrolls (scroll 11Q5/11QPs-a, the Psalm scroll) verse 13 appears as נאמן אלוהים בדרכיו וחסיד בכול מעשיו (God is faithful in his ways and holy in all his works).  In the Septuagint it is rendered as πιστος κυριος εν τοις λογοις αυτου και οσιος εν πασι τοις εργοις αυτου (The Lord is faithful in his words and holy in all his works).

       While this may not be important to the overall integrity of the Masoretic Text, it does show how there are differences in the content of the Hebrew texts used by translators throughout history. English translations that exclusively depend on the Masoretic text will not contain this verse. However, some recent editions of the NIV have attached this verse to verse 13 which is how it also appears in the Septuagint and Peshitta.  Here is a contrast between the KJV the NIV and the Peshitta.

        Psalm 145:13: Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endureth throughout all generations (KJV).

       Psalm 145:13: Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The LORD is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does (NIV).

       Psalm 145:13: Your Kingdom is a Kingdom of all the ages and your authority is unto all generations of generations. LORD JEHOVAH is faithful in his words and righteous in all his works (Peshitta).

       What is more intriguing about this issue is that verse 12 of this Psalm is missing from the Dead Sea Scrolls rendering of this Psalm but present in the Septuagint.  Verse 12 was also apparently present in the texts used to produce the Peshitta and Masoretic Text as verse 12 is included in these manuscripts. Since we don’t have any original texts of this Psalm or any other original texts of the Old Testament narrative, we can’t know what the original said.  Not only don’t we have any of the originals, we don’t have any copies of the copies of the texts used by those who produced the Dead Sea Scrolls or the Septuagint. 

The Documentary Hypothesis:

      The Documentary Hypothesis was a protocol used by Biblical scholars throughout much of the 20th century to examine the authorship and development of the Torah/Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible known as Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The word Torah means direction, instruction or law. The Hebrew tō·w·raṯ (torah) appears 219 time in the OT and is usually rendered into English as Law but at times as teaching or instruction.  Pentateuch is a Greek word that simply means five. 

       The Documentary Hypothesis came to be used as a methodology to determine how the Torah/Pentateuch came to be.  It was determined by Biblical scholars that the Torah/Pentateuch could not have been written by the single author Moses as traditionally believed.  As early as the mid-18th century, scholars began to study what are called doublets in the Torah/Pentateuch which are parallel accounts of the same incidents. These studies revealed inconsistencies, differences in writing styles and differences in vocabulary among the various books of the Torah/Pentateuch.

       It was subsequently determined that four different source documents were responsible for the books known as Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. These source documents became known as the Jahwist, (J), Elohist (E), Deuteronomist (D), and Priestly (P) [JEDP].

       The Jahwist, (J) document is seen as the source for when the Torah/Pentateuch refers to God as Yahweh (YHWH).  The Elohist (E), document is seen as the source for when the Torah/Pentateuch refers to God as Elohim.  The Deuteronomist (D) document is seen as the source for the writings of the Law and the Priestly (P) document is seen as the source for the creation account.  J was dated to the time of Solomon (950 BC), E was dated to somewhere in the 9th century BC, D was dated to around the time of King Josiah and P was dated to the time of Ezra in the 5th century BC. It is to be noted that the existence of JEDP is theoretical. No such documents have ever been found to exist. 

       In recent decades, the JEDP conclusions of the Documentary Hypothesis have come under scholarly criticism and these conclusions are no longer considered definitive in determining how the Torah/Pentateuch came to be. For an instructive look at problems associated with the JEPD hypothesis, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xX2O2aACCOw.

       This being said, the basic premise of the Documentary Hypothesis that the Torah/Pentateuch was written after the death of Moses still stands with most Biblical scholars.  The majority view among Biblical scholars continues to be that the Torah/Pentateuch was not written by Moses (1400 BC), but represents a collection of informational sources that were written subsequent to the time of Moses and came to be compiled during the period of the Persian Empire (539–333 BC) and the time of Ezra. Some scholars place the completion of the Torah/Pentateuch during the Hellenistic period of 333–164 BC.  

       Critical analysis of the Torah/Pentateuch documents has convinced most OT scholars that these documents were written by authors that lived subsequent to the time of Moses. However, the Biblical Scriptures internally identify Moses as the author of a considerable amount of material found in the Torah/Pentateuch. There are a number of Scriptures that point to Moses writing this material

       When Joshua defeated the Amalekites, it is recorded that the LORD told Moses to write on a scroll what had transpired (Exodus 17;13-14). After Moses was given the words of the covenant by God, he is seen as writing down everything the LORD had said (Exodus 24:4, 34:27). In Numbers 33:1-2, Moses is directed by God to record the stages in the journey of Israel from Egypt under the leadership of Moses and Aaron. What follows is a detailed account of these stages presumed to have been written by Moses as God had directed him.

       In Deuteronomy 31:9 it is recorded that “Moses wrote down this law and gave it to the Levitical priests, who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel.”  In Deuteronomy 32:22 it is written that “Moses wrote down this song that day and taught it to the Israelites." The song was a prophecy about what would happen to the Israelites after Moses died. In Deuteronomy 31:24-36 we read:

       After Moses finished writing in a book the words of this law from beginning to end, he gave this command to the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD: “Take this Book of the Law and place it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God. There it will remain as a witness against you.

       In Joshua 8:31 and 23:6 the writer refers to the “Book of the Law of Moses.” Ezra 6:18 refers to things being done according to the Book of Moses. Nehemiah 13:1 speaks of the "Book of Moses" being read aloud to the people.

       In the NT narrative we find a number of references to the writings of Moses. In Mark 10:5 we see Jesus quoted as saying, “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law.”  Mark 12:19 speaks of Moses writing the Law.  In Mark 12:26, Jesus refers to the Book of Moses and quotes from Exodus 3:6 where God identifies Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

       Luke 20:28 and John 1:45 refer to the writings of Moses. In John 5:46-47, we see Jesus saying “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?” In Roman 10:5, Paul writes of Moses writing about the righteousness that is by the law and proceeds to quote from Leviticus 18:5, “The person who does these things will live by them.”

       The above references give scriptural attestation to Moses having written certain material and since such material is found in the documents called the Torah/Pentateuch, it has traditionally been assumed Moses wrote these documents.  So why do Old Testament scholars question the Mosaic authorship of the Torah/Pentateuch?  Here is why:

       Much of the Torah/Pentateuch is descriptive history. It is written in the third person were events involving Moses appear to be described by someone other than Moses. Third person narrative is where the writer exists outside the events of the story and writes of the actions of the characters in the story by referring to their names or by the third-person pronouns such a he, she, or they. This is different from second person narrative where the pronouns you, your, yours and yourself are used to identify an action of a person or persons. An example would be, “You can come and make yourself at home.”  First person narrative uses the pronouns I, me, my, mine, myself and we, us, our and ourselves.  An example would be, “I think I lost my cell phone”

       There are nearly 600 references to Moses in the third person in Exodus through Deuteronomy. There are hundreds of statements saying Moses did this or Moses did that, Moses said this or Moses said that.

       For example, in Exodus chapter 3 is the account of Moses’ birth, he being raised by Pharaoh’s daughter, his escape from Egypt to Medium, his marriage to Zipporah and the birth of his son Gershom.  The literary construction shows this story is being told by someone other than Moses.

       Here are a few of the hundreds of statements that show third party narrative in the Torah/Pentateuch. “Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses” (Exodus 4:14), “Then Moses went back to Jethro his father-in-law” (Exodus 4:18), “It was this Aaron and Moses to whom the Lord said…” (Exodus 6:26), “Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord commanded them” (Exodus 7:6), “Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three when they spoke to Pharaoh” (Exodus 7:7), “Moses himself was highly regarded in Egypt by Pharaoh’s officials” (Exodus 11:3), “Then Moses took the anointing oil and anointed the tabernacle” (Leviticus 8:10), “Moses and Aaron took these men whose names had been specified” (Numbers 1:17), “This is the account of the family of Aaron and Moses at the time the LORD spoke to Moses at Mount Sinai.” (Numbers 3:1), “In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses proclaimed to the Israelites all that the Lord had commanded him concerning them” (Deuteronomy 1:3).   

      It is recorded a number of times that “Now the Lord spoke to Moses.” This phrase or something very similar to it is found in Exodus 6:13, 6:28, Leviticus 1:1, 16:1, Numbers 1:1, 9:1 and many other places in the Torah.  Numerous times the phrase “The LORD had said to Moses” is found in the Torah/Pentateuch (See Exodus 4:19, 30, 9:12, 11:1, 19:9, 33:5, Numbers 1:48, 7:11).  The phrase "Then the Lord said to Moses" is seen over 60 times in the Torah/Pentateuch (Exodus through Deuteronomy). These are third party statements which appear to be written by someone other than Moses.

       In Numbers 12:3, its recorded that “Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.” It is unlikely Moses wrote this about himself. It should be obvious Deuteronomy 34, which is all about the death of Moses, was written by someone other than Moses. we also read this Deuteronomy 34:

       Deuteronomy 34:10-12: Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, who did all those signs and wonders the LORD sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.

       This is an obvious retrospective statement made by someone other than Moses where a writer is looking back on the historical period of Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian slavery and Moses’ part in that historical event. 

       In Exodus 16:35 it is recorded that, “The Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a land that was settled; they ate manna until they reached the border of Canaan.” Joshua 5:12 records that, "The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate the produce of Canaan."

       The narrative in Exodus 16 describes the providing of manna to Israel in the second month after their departure from Egypt. Yet 16:35 records that Israel ate manna for 40 years until they reached the border of Canaan and Joshua 5:12 records the manna didn't stop until they ate the produce of the land of Canaan.  Moses did not cross over to the land of Canaan and had died before the Israelites crossed the Jordan river and came to the border of Canaan. Therefore, it appears that Exodus 16:35 is a retrospective statement written by someone after the death of Moses. In Deuteronomy 2:12 we read the following:

       Deuteronomy 2:12: Horites used to live in Seir, but the descendants of Esau drove them out. They destroyed the Horites from before them and settled in their place, just as Israel did in the land the LORD gave them as their possession.

       Here we see it said that the descendants of Esau displaced the Horites and settled in their land just as the Israelites did in taking possession of the land the LORD gave them. This is another retrospective statement. The Israelites are seen as in the past taking the land.  We know the land they were given was the land of Canaan which they didn’t possess until after the death of Moses.

       In Genesis 36:31 it is recorded that "These were the kings who reigned in Edom before any Israelite king reigned." What follows is a listing of eight kings.  This same exact statement is seen in 1st Chronicles 1:43, followed by the same list of kings. Many commentators see this as narrative written after the reign of David who conquered Edom around 1040 BC.       

       It is these kinds of retrospective statements in the Torah/Pentateuch, along with a great deal of third party narrative, that has led OT scholars to believe the Torah/Pentateuch documents were written subsequent to the death of Moses. 

       It is to be noted that Moses is not mentioned in Genesis and nowhere in Scripture is there a reference to Moses writing Genesis. Genesis is a historical document that starts with the creation account and ends with the death of Joseph. It is written in the third person in that the writer is reflecting on events where he was not present. 

       Much of the narrative in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy appear to be written in the third person. While both God and Moses are extensively quoted in these documents, these quotes are recorded from a third-party perspective. The narrative comes across as written by someone who was either an eye witness to the events recorded or had access to oral or written material about these events. Some of the  narrative comes across as being written about Moses and not written by Moses.   

       However, as cited above, in Exodus 17 Moses is seen as writing on a scroll an account of the defeat of the Amalekites.  In Exodus 24 and 34, Moses is seen as writing down the words of the covenant given to him by God. In Numbers 33 Moses is seen as recording a history of Israels journey from Egypt to the edge of the Promised Land.  In Deuteronomy 31 Moses is seen as writing down the law He had spoken to Israel.  In Deuteronomy 32 he is seen as writing down the song he delivered to Israel.

       It certainly is apparent that Moses wrote what became known as the “Law of Moses.” While the phrase “Law of Moses” is not seen in the Torah/Pentateuch, the phrase "Law of Moses," or something close to it, is seen 21 times in the OT and 11 times in the NT.  

       When the Law of Moses is spoken of, it appears to be the written account of direct revelation given to Moses by God.  For example, in Joshua 8:30-31, Joshua is seen as building an altar to God according to the instruction given for building such altar as written "in the Book of the Law of Moses."  This instruction is seen as given to Moses by God as recorded in Exodus 20:25. This is a small sample of the massive amount of Law and regulations given by God to Moses that is recorded in Exodus 21 through 30.  This giving of Law and regulations continues in Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Several hundred times it is recorded that “the LORD said to Moses” followed by instruction as to how the Israelites are to conduct themselves. 

       "The Book of the Law of Moses" appears to be a compilation of all this revelation given to Moses by God. The record of this revelation from God (God speaking to Moses) comprises a major part of the narrative seen in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Therefore, despite much of the Torah/Pentateuch written in third party language, much of what is written appears to be a written record of the instruction given to Moses by God.  It is this instruction that became known as the "The Book of the Law Book of Moses" or simply "the Law of Moses." This being the case, it should be apparent that "The Book of the Law of Moses" was written by Moses.  Since it contains much of what is recorded in Exodus through Deuteronomy, it's apparent that it is Moses who wrote this material.   

       It should be noted that in Deuteronomy, Moses is seen as speaking in the first person a number of times.  Sixteen times Moses records that "The LORD spoke to me,"  Here are some examples:  Deuteronomy 1:42: “But the Lord said to me,” 2:2, “Then the Lord said to me,” 2:9, “Then the Lord said to me,” 2:17, “Then the Lord said to me,” 2:31, “Then the Lord said to me,’ 3:2 “The Lord said to me,” 5:28, “The Lord said to me,” 9:13, “The Lord said to me.”  Here we see narrative written in the first person by Moses (Deuteronomy 1:1). We also see in Deuteronomy 1:19 to 5:25 the writer using the  first person pronoun "we" dozens of times in describing Israels wanderings in the wilderness subsequent to their refusal to go into the Promised Land because there were giants in the land. This appears to be a first person account. There also are dozens of times in Deuteronomy where the writer uses the personal first person pronoun "I" in referring to himself.          


       It should be apparent from the above discussion and the quotes cited above from Joshua, Exodus. Numbers and Deuteronomy and from Mark, Luke, John and Romans, that Moses wrote much of the material seen in the Torah/Pentateuch and that this material became known as the "Book of the Law." The phrase "Law (Hebrew tō·w·raṯ [torah]) of Moses" is referred to many times throughout the OT Scriptures (See Joshua 23:6, 1st Kings 2:3, 2nd Kings 14:6, 23:25, Ezra 3:2, 2nd Chronicles 23:18, Daniel 9:1,13). The phrase "Law of Moses" is seen 21 times in the OT and 11 times in the NT.         

       Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy appear to be a group of documents containing both writings of Moses and writings about what Moses said and did. Because of the third party format seen in these documents and the inclusion of material describing events subsequent to the death of Moses, it could very well be that someone (s) other than Moses wrote this narrative. If indeed this is the case, it is evident that the narrative that became known as "The Book of the Law Book of Moses" was written while Moses was yet alive as it is seen as being referred to shortly after his death.  

       Shortly after the death of Moses, God is seen as speaking to Joshua and telling him to “Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you” (Joshua 1:7) and to “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it” (1:8). We see from Joshua 8:30-31 where "The Book of the Law of Moses" is being referred to in relation to instruction as to the building of an altar.  In Joshua 8:32 we read, “There, in the presence of the Israelites, Joshua wrote on stones a copy of the law of Moses.” All this is seen as occurring shortly after the death of Moses. This alone should negate the JEDP hypothesis which postulates that the narrative of the Torah/Pentateuch was not written by Moses but by others centuries after the death of Moses.     

       On the other hand, we may be dealing with two different time frames here.  It is evident that Moses was the author of much of the material found in Exodus through Deuteronomy as it is this material that makes up the contents of the Book of the Law seen being used while Moses was alive and shortly after his death. As already discussed, much of the material in these four documents is instruction given to Moses by God that became the narrative of the Book of the Law. 

       However, since Exodus through Deuteronomy contains much third party narrative and speaks of events that occurred after the death of Moses, it could very well be that what has come down to us as the Torah/Pentateuch was produced years after the death of Moses. Various scribes and editors could have gathered existing documents containing the Law of Moses and added other historical information about Moses and produced what has become known as Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

       As to the Genesis document, its authorship is thought to be anonymous. However, some believe there is scriptural evidence that Moses wrote Genesis. As mentioned above, in John 5:46-47 it’s recorded that Jesus said “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me."  Some believe Jesus was in part alluding to Moses writing about Him in Genesis.

       In Genesis 3:15 we read “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”  This is often cited as a prophecy of the destruction of Satan and the death of Christ. In Genesis 12:3 it is recorded that through Abram all peoples on earth will be blessed. Since Jesus is seen as a descendant of Abraham, this is believed to be a prophecy about the coming of Jesus. Peter, in Acts 3:25-26, alludes to Genesis 12:3 in speaking of Jesus.  Paul also connects Genesis 12:3 to Christ (Galatians 3:8).

       A lamb being provided to Abraham to be sacrificed in place of his son (Genesis 22:13) is seen as a type of Jesus becoming the Lamb of God to be sacrificed for the sins of the world (John 1:29). In Genesis 14:18 we have reference to Melchizedek as priest of God Most High. In Hebrews 7, Jesus is seen as a priest in the order of Melchizedek. In Genesis 49 is a prophecy about the scepter not departing from Judah until he to whom it belongs will be over the nations. This is seen as a prophecy of the coming of Christ who is seen in Revelation 5:5 as of the tribe of Judah.  

       So, when Jesus said that Moses wrote about him, did He have in mind the passages from Genesis cited above and does this verify that Moses wrote Genesis. This would appear to be the case in view of what Jesus said about Moses writing about Him. On the other hand, as is true throughout the rest of the Torah/Pentateuch, much of the writing in Genesis is in the third person. Could it be there were statements made by Moses that became incorporated into other narrative obtained from various historical documents and this accounts for the  third party writing we see in the document called Genesis?

       It is instructive that the phrase “This is the account of” appears 11 times in Genesis (2:4; 5:1; 6:9; 10:1; 11:10, 27; 25:12, 19; 36:1, 9; 37:2). This may suggest Genesis is a compilation of accounts gathered from various sources.  Could Moses have written such compilation?  Yes, he could have. But there is no solid evidence he did. It is certainly possible the document called Genesis may be the work of anonymous authors who gathered together narrative from various sources including material written by Moses. 

       Writings of unknown origin are said to be common to ancient documents.  Anonymity Is a common feature of ancient Near Eastern literature according to Christopher A. Rollston, professor of Northwest Semitic languages and literatures at George Washington University. 

       He writes that “It is worth emphasizing that we often do not know the names of the authors of literary masterpieces from the world of the Bible. For example, the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh, replete with its flood account, is anonymous. We do not know who composed it originally, nor do we know how long it was transmitted orally before it was written. And the Mesopotamian creation account known as Enuma Elish is also anonymous.”  

       It is instructive that in various OT Books we see a combination of first party and third-party narrative. For example, in the Book of Ezra there appears to be much first party narrative where Ezra is seen as speaking. He refers to himself as “I” a number of times. However, in Chapter 7 and 10, someone is seen as describing things about Ezra. Apparently not everything in the Book of Ezra was written by Ezra.         

       There are references throughout the OT to extra Biblical documents where information was recorded about individuals and events spoken of in the OT narrative. In Joshua 10:13 and 2nd Samuel 1:18 the Book of Jashar is cited. In 1st Kings 14:19, 2nd Chronicles 33:18 and 20:34 a document entitled “The Books of the Annals of the Kings of Israel” is cited.  In 1st Kings 15:7 we have “The Book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah” referenced.

       In 1st Chronicles 29:29 “The Records of Samuel the Seer, the records of Nathan the prophet and the records of Gad the seer” are mentioned.  In 2nd Chronicles 9:29 the records of Nathan the prophet, and the visions of Iddo the seer are mentioned. In 2nd Chronicles 12:15 is a reference to records of Shemaiah the prophet and of Iddo the seer.  In 2nd Chronicles 33:19 a document called “the records of the seers” is referenced.

       While most of these documents are seen as providing extra Biblical information about the kings of Israel, the fact that such documents are listed in the Biblical narrative shows how documents outside the Biblical narrative were known to the Biblical writers and they may have used some of this information in their writings. It’s to be noted that the authors of Kings and Chronicles are anonymous.  

       Gathering material from various sources and using such source material to create a historical document is common to all historical writing. While the authors of such source material are probably known at the time a document is written, such source material is often lost to history. Documents containing such source material may contain first party verbatim quotes from individuals written about and often contain third party descriptions of events involving such individuals. 

       This is how Luke apparently wrote his gospel. Like the author or authors of the Torah/Pentateuch, Luke wrote material about the Christ event subsequent to that event by consulting written material and eyewitness accounts of that event.   Luke begins his gospel by writing, “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus.” (Luke 1:1-3). 

       The translators of the New English Translation of the Bible (NET) provides the following commentary regarding this passage: "The phrase "eyewitnesses and servants of the word" refer to a single group of people who faithfully passed on the accounts about Jesus.  The language about delivery (passed on) points to accounts faithfully passed on to the early church."

       The implication is that Luke looked at the writings of others and investigated what had been written and what had orally been handed down and then wrote his own narrative as to the Christ event.  In his narrative Luke included verbatim sayings of Jesus and others along with descriptions of events and activities about Jesus and others.  While we know it was Luke who wrote this narrative, the sources he used are anonymous to us.  

       If appears that the Torah/Pentateuch may have come to be in similar manner. While the JEDP conclusions of the Documentary Hypothesis have been found to be problematical, the basic premise of the Documentary Hypothesis, that the Torah/Pentateuch was written subsequent to the time of Moses, may have some merit. It could very well be that the writings produced by Moses and writings produced about Moses (third party writings), along with material contained in Genesis, were gathered together after his death and became the Torah/Pentateuch documents.

       If this should be the manner in which the Torah/Pentateuch came to be, it would not in any way negate Moses as the author of the narrative attributed to him in the Torah/Pentateuch. The creation of the Torah/Pentateuch, as a set of documents produced subsequent to the death of Moses, does not mean Moses didn't write the material attributed to him as some in the scholarly community believe to be the case.  The Torah/Pentateuch appears to be a set of documents containing material written by several or more authors including Moses with a substantial portion of the narrative coming from the pen of Moses.     

General observations:      

        To this very day there is not a unified canon that all branches of Christianity accept.  While canonical history does show that the documents in our present canon were by and large recognized from early on, this history also shows that many other documents were also recognized.  Christians lived for centuries using a great variety of documents to formulate their particular theological perspectives.  The question that must be asked is whether the documents which were part of past canons but are not in our present canon are any more or any less "sacred" or "inspired" than our present canon of Scripture.  Secondly, are we missing information that is vital to our Christian faith by not having the documents that earlier Christians had access too?  What are we to conclude about the role of the Holy Spirit in the writing of the many documents that have been and are presently being used by the Christianity community?   We will address these issues as we proceed in this series.

       The Old Testament Scripture is essentially a historical document.  It is a collection of writings that reflect the development of the nation of Israel and its covenant relationship with God.  Much OT narrative deals with the interaction of Israel with the nations around them.  Much emphasis is placed on Israel’s religious and ethical system and how adherence or non-adherence to that system affected its survival. While the writers of these documents may have used a significant amount of figurative language and hyperbole in predicting and recording events, there is every reason to believe that the events recorded by these writers did take place in some fashion and are not fictional fabrications.

       There is corroborating testimony from a variety of canonical writers, secular historians and archaeological research, that gives evidence to the essential elements of what is recorded in the OT Scriptural narrative being reliable information.  While these records are ancient when compared to such recent history as the American Civil War, there is every reason to believe that the events recorded by the writers of OT Scripture are real events.

       Some argue that there is little known of Israel outside of the OT documents. One interesting extra-Biblical record Is an inscription discovered in 1868 known as the Moabite Stone and found to date back to around 840 BC.  This artifact shows king Mesha of the Moab kingdom telling how Chemosh, the god of Moab, had been angry with his people and had allowed them to be subjugated to Israel.  He goes on to say that Chemosh later helped Mesha and the Moabites throw off the yoke of Israel.

       We do not doubt the basic validity of historical documents reciting the history of ancient Egypt, Babylon or other ancient civilizations.  While we may not believe that all details of such histories are correct, we still accept them as reasonable reflections of history. I see no reason to treat the OT Scriptural record any differently. There’s little question that authors of history, including Biblical history, are influenced in their writings by the political, cultural, social and religious climate in which they work and live. This does not, however, negate the basic facts of their histories. 

       Some will argue that modern day scientific research has negated the Genesis account of creation and shown it to be bogus history.  I address this issue in depth in my multipart series entitled “Creation versus Evolution.”     

       As to the NT, it appears the NT documents were written within less than 40 years of the death and resurrection of Jesus and passed along through the centuries in a reasonably faithful manner.  It should be recognized that when it comes to the NT, there are copies of segments of the NT commencing within a couple of generations from the writings of the original texts.  There are 5,664 Greek manuscripts or parts of manuscripts that have been identified, with the earliest being a fragment of the gospel of John believed to go back as far as the beginning of the second century.  There are a number of Papyri dating from the second and third centuries that contain sizable sections of various parts of the NT Scriptures as we see in our present canon.  There is no other body of ancient literature in the world that enjoys such a wealth of good textual attestation as that of the NT.  While these manuscripts do vary from each other in a variety of ways, most of these variations do not appreciably alter what we see in our current renderings of the material contained in these manuscripts. 

       It is instructive that surviving copies of manuscripts from the second and third centuries determined to be apocryphal are much less numerous. From the second and third centuries, we have less than twenty copies of writings such as the Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Mary, Gospel of Peter and other such documents. While there are some exceptions, there is a huge discrepancy between the number of second and third century copies of texts included in our present canon and texts that were excluded.  This gives evidence to there being a greater circulation of the canonical texts and, therefore, a greater recognition by early Christians of these texts being foundational to the church. 

       The puny amount of surviving apocryphal texts from the second and third centuries compared to the canonized texts appears to discredit the Bauer/Ehrman thesis that there was great diversity of documents being used in the early church and therefore we can't know which documents should be canonical. It is apparent that what we have in the present NT canon is what the majority of early Christendom was using and that use of apocryphal writings was the exception and not the rule.  

       This being said, it must be noted that we do not have any complete codices of the NT as we know it today until the fourth century. Prior to this time the various apostolic gospels and letters were either seen as small collections of documents into a single codex or were being used as single documents. It is instructive that among the early collections of several letters or several Gospels, you do not find mixed in with such collections any of the documents that became known as apocrypha. This would indicate that apocryphal material was not considered on par with the canonical material.  While many of the extant second and third century copies of the canonized NT documents are fragmentary, meaning we only have bits and pieces of these documents, these bits and pieces, nevertheless, give witness to the existence from early on of there being an early selection of material that was considered authoritative and foundational to the church and thus functioned as canonical Scripture.

Canonization criteria:

        As already discussed, both the OT and NT canonization process occurred over a period of many hundreds of years and involved numerous inclusions and exclusions of documents. How do we know the present canon of documents best represents what God wants us to know and use to establish doctrine?   How did we end up with the present set of documents we have that make up the canon?  While the criteria used to determine what documents were to be included in the OT is not entirely clear, we do have a methodology extant for determining the makeup of the NT.

        As the canonization process continued, determination of what should be included and excluded from the NT canon came to rest on three basic criteria accepted as foundational to this process. 

       #1: All documents had to reflect what was called “the rule of faith.”  The contents of a document had to conform to what was believed to be the earliest of Christian doctrinal tradition. There needed to be doctrinal harmony between the documents established as canonical and also harmony with OT Scripture.

       #2: Documents written by those in close association with Christ or close associates of such individuals were given much higher consideration than documents written by authors further removed from the Christ event. Documents believed to be written by those designated Apostles were considered to be primary to the establishment of the NT canon.

       #3:  A document had to be recognized and accepted by a majority of Christendom over a reasonable period of time. Thus, the canon was in part established on the basis of response from the Christian community.

        These three criteria for determining what documents should be regarded as authoritative for the Church became normative during the course of the second century and continued normative throughout the canonization process.  On the other hand, there was considerable variation as to how these criteria were applied.  There were different ideas as to which criteria should carry the most weight.  This resulted in different decisions as to the inclusion or exclusion of various documents for many hundreds of years.

           Those who exclusively apply the "Historical/Critical" method to the establishment of the NT canon see #3 (community acceptance) as the only valid reason for the canon's existence. Those who embrace the "Historical/Critical" method believed the canon's creation is solely generated by the church and devoid of divine involvement. Therefore, it is authoritative only because the church has determined it to be authoritative. The Scripture is not seen to have intrinsic authority.  Under this perspective, the Church is more authoritative than the canon because it determines what the canon should be.

       However, as already discussed, the greater part of what is found in our present NT narrative was largely agreed upon as being authoritative during the first two centuries of the church.  These documents, while not formalized as canon in the first two centuries, nevertheless functioned as canon because of the early recognition of them as authoritative writings. Later, this functional canon became formalized by Church leaders as the NT canon. The Church recognizing and accepting these writings did not make them canonical.  The church recognized and accepted these writings because they already were canonical. We are not looking at a canon that was first created in the fourth century after years of controversy over its content.  We are looking at a canon that existed in principle in the first century and provided structure for the formation of the Christian Church. 

       Furthermore, while one could argue that without the Church there would be no canon, it may be more plausible to argue that without the canon there would be no church. The Church exists because of the canon. It was the writing and arranging of first century documents into codices that served to provide the foundational theological and doctrinal framework that established the Church. In this respect, the canon preceded the Church. The Church developed because of the canon. The writings of the apostles and others in the first century served to produce a virtual operating manual for the Church and thus facilitated and give direction to the Church's development.

       This is not dissimilar from what we see in the OT where the rules and regulations governing the Old Covenant were put in writing and became the operating manual for the nation of Israel which is referred to in the Greek Scriptures as "the church in the wilderness" (Acts 7:38 KJV).  In the Greek Scriptures we find the New Covenant introduced and, as was true with the Old Covenant "church in the wilderness," we have written documents that define how the New Covenant church is to function.  In both cases, written documents (a canon if you will) preceded the establishment of the church or were being prepared simultaneously with the church's development.  

       It should be noted at this point that there is another methodology extant for determining the canon and Church doctrine. The Catholic Church uses a combination of  Scriptural authority, Church tradition and the teaching authority of the church leadership called the Magisterium. The Magisterium is seen as the primary authority. It is argued that there must be an infallible authority that can determine the beliefs of the Church. While Christ is recognized as the supreme authority over the Church as an agent of the Father, the Pope is seen as Vicar of Christ and as such is able to make infallible decisions on matters of Church doctrine, theology, and what documents make up the Biblical canon.  The Pope's authority is based on the belief that he is the successor to Apostle Peter upon whom it is believed the church was built and who it is believed had the final say in doctrinal/theological issues facing the early Church.

       This Catholic position, however, is problematical.  While Peter is certainly seen as a leader in the developing Christian Church, he was one of several. It is instructive that it was Apostle James who made the decision at the Jerusalem conference as to what would be required of Gentile converts. Paul is certainly seen as the leading Apostle in bringing Gentiles into the Church and developing the Gentile Christian community. He made numerous decisions regarding doctrine/theology as seen in his letters to the Churches. 

       Scripture reveals that the Church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ being the corner stone (Ephesians 2:20). The idea that the Church was built upon the Apostleship of Peter is derived from a particular interpretation of Matthew 16:18. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus referred to Peter as a petros which in Greek means a small stone or pebble. Christ then said He would build His Church on a large boulder like rock, a petra. The Greek used for rock here is petra which means a large boulder, cliff or massive rock. Catholic doctrine teaches Peter is the petra upon which Christ said He would build His Church.

       Matthew 16:18: And I tell you that you are Peter (petros), and on this rock (petra) I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.     

       Overall Scriptural discussion of how it was that the church was built indicates Jesus was referring to Himself and not to Peter when speaking of the rock upon which the church would be built. In Romans 6:33 and 1 Peter 2:8 Jesus is described as a rock (petra) of offense. In 1 Corinthians 10:4, Jesus is seen as a spiritual rock (petra).  In Acts 4:11 Peter speaks of Christ being the capstone. Peter speaks of Christ being the cornerstone in 1 Peter 2:6.

       In John 1:42 we see Jesus giving Simon the name Cephas which is the Aramaic word for rock (Qéphâ).   John transliterates this word into the Greek petros which is rendered "Peter" in English. Qéphâ (Caphas) can refer to a large rock or a small rock. 

       John 1:42: And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas" (which, when translated, is Peter {petros} ).

       Some believe petra refers to Simon in Matthew 16:18 because petra is in the masculine gender and better matches Cephas which is in the masculine gender. However, John transliterates the masculine gendered Cephas into the feminine gendered petros in John 1:42. This indicates John sees Simon being named Cephas as being named a small stone. Jesus plainly calls Simon a petros (small stone) in Matthew 16:18. It seems unlikely the writer of Mathew 16:18 would used the word petra (which means boulder or massive rock) to describe Simon when He has just been described as a petros (small stone.)

       Since Jesus calls Simon a petros (small stone) in Matthew 16:18, it would indicate when Jesus names Simon Qéphâ (Cephas) in John 1:42, it is the small rock variety of Qéphâ that is intended. To believe the Church was built on Apostle Peter does not square with how the Scriptures describe how the Church was built.

Is the Canon self-authenticated?

       Some believe we must look for validation of the canon only in the canon itself.  The canon must be self authenticating. For those who believe the canon is the ultimate authority for the Christian belief system, it is felt it cannot be validated by an authority outside itself because then it would not be the ultimate authority. For example, church leaders can't validate the canon by establishing criteria for such validation outside the canon. The church doesn't create the canon but the canon creates the church.

       Those who ascribe to the self authentication method for establishing the canon believe the church developed in response to apostolic teaching that became written documents.  These documents were recognized by the first century Christians as authoritative and foundational to the church's development.  Because these documents were foundational to the church's development, they were considered canonical Scripture from the beginning. They were the "measuring rod" that provided the operating criteria for how the church was to function and what its doctrines were to be. Therefore, we see the self authenticating approach to canonicity embracing the first two of the criteria discussed above.

       In addition to seeing apostolic authorship and corporate acceptance creating a de-facto canon, the self authenticating method also requires there be "divine qualities" such as beauty, efficacy and harmony present in documents deemed canonical. It is believed the apostolic writings have these qualities whereas writings that came later do not. It is believed these "divine qualities" can only be recognized through the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it is believed the Holy Spirit must bear witness to these "divine qualities" existing in canonical documents. It is believed the Holy Spirit has borne witness to the "divine qualities" of the documents in our present canon while not bearing witness to those documents that have been excluded.

       The problem with this third requirement of the self authenticating method is that it is highly subjective.  It assumes certain attributes of canonical documents are "divine qualities" and that such qualities have been witnessed to by the Holy Spirit. However, early church leaders who accepted documents such as the Shepherd of Hermas, the Epistle of Barnabas and other such works into early canons of the NT, apparently believed these documents had "divine qualities" and that they were led by the Holy Spirit in accepting these documents as canonical. Yet these documents were later rejected.  Did the Holy Spirit make a mistake?

       Anytime someone claims the Holy Spirit has led them to the truth of a matter it should raise a red flag. Thousands of church leaders and others have claimed the Holy Spirit has led them to certain conclusions. More often than not, such conclusions turn out to be false or contradict conclusions reached by others who claim to have been led to their conclusions by the Holy Spirit.

      It may be best to leave subjective criteria out of the mix and simply go with objective data. It is apparent that a core group of documents were used from early on to provide governance and doctrinal/theological direction for the Church.  These are the documents that met the three-fold criteria for canonicity discussed above and are the documents that represent the oldest known written material connected with the Church.  Other documents such as the Shepherd of Hermas, the Didache and the Epistle of Barnabas were ultimately excluded from the canon because it was determined they did not adequately meet the threefold criterion discussed above.  Many other documents that appeared in various Church canons in past centuries also failed to pass some or all of the established criterion. 

       While some may argue that the three-fold criterion are arbitrary standards for establishing the canon, the reality is that the very existence of apostolic writing combined with church acceptance and usage of such writing to develop a rule of faith provides self authentication to the validity of these criteria. In reality, these three criterions were not arbitrarily developed in later centuries by church leaders but simply recognized as already present in the developing first century church. While there was some diversity of teaching and writing as the church developed, all evidence points to there being a core group of documents that were widely accepted based on their being written by apostles or close associates of the apostles.      

The Epistle of Paul to the Laodiceans:

       A good example of how the three-fold criterion has been applied to arrive at our present canon is the exclusion of The Epistle of Paul to the Laodiceans, which was for a time included in various Biblical manuscripts and survived such inclusion in some cases for over one thousand years. The epistle is some twenty verses long and consists of a patchwork of phrases and sentences found in other Pauline letters, particularly the letter to the Philippians.  This epistle purports to be written from prison and expresses joy over the faith and virtue of the Laodiceans and exhorts them to remain faithful. 

       Even though this document contains phrases and sentences found in Pauline writings from the first century and is purported to have been written by Paul, the evidence points to it having been written no earlier than the third century which means it wasn’t written by Paul who obviously would have been dead for many years.  Having been written several hundred years after the Christ event, it obviously fails the second criterion established for the inclusion of documents into the canon.  While this document does contain material that is found in the canonized letters of Paul, it is apparent someone simply copied what Paul wrote.

Epistle of Barnabas:

       The epistle of Barnabas was considered Scripture by many early Christians.  It is found in the oldest complete Greek manuscript of the NT, the Codex Sinaiticus.  This Codex also contains the Shepherd of Hermas which was the most popular of all ancient Christian documents that did not make it into our present NT canon.  Why is it that neither Barnabas nor the Shepherd of Hermas is in our present NT canon?

       The Barnabas known to the canonized NT was a companion of Apostle Paul and is mentioned 29 times in the book of Acts and 5 times in Paul’s letters.  The epistle of Barnabas is nowhere mentioned in the canonized NT and the actual epistle itself does not identify itself as written by a Barnabas or anyone else who is named.  It is anonymous.  We don’t know who the author is.  Furthermore, there is reasonable evidence to suggest this document was written around the year 130 or 135 A.D. which would be long after the Barnabas associated with Paul would have died.  For example, in the text of Barnabas is a reference to the temple lying in ruins and an expectation that it would be rebuilt.  It was rebuilt in part around A.D.130 by the Romans as a temple to Roman gods.

       Barnabas 16:3: Furthermore He saith again; Behold they that pulled down this
temple themselves shall build it.

       Barnabas 16:4: So it cometh to pass; for because they went to war it was pulled down by their enemies. Now also the very servants of their enemies shall
build it up.

       This being said, some scholars believe that when Barnabas refers to the temple lying in ruins and the expectation of it being rebuilt, he was reflecting on the destruction of Solomon’s temple and it being rebuilt. If this should prove to be the case, it could be that this epistle was written before AD 70 by the Barnabas that was Paul's companion. In the beginning chapters of this epistle there is rhetoric about it being the last days. In Barnabas 4:9 we read “Wherefore let us take heed in these last days.” Such teaching would be congruent with the teachings of Peter, Paul and other NT writers who all wrote from the standpoint of their living in the last days. On the other hand, Barnabas 16:5 indicates the destruction of the last days had already occurred.     

       Barnabas 16:5: Again, it was revealed how the city and the temple and the people of Israel should be betrayed. For the scripture saith; And it shall be in the last days, that the Lord shall deliver up the sheep of the pasture and the fold and the tower thereof to destruction. And it came to pass as the Lord spake.    

       The epistle of Barnabas is extremely anti Jewish in its text.  While some have characterized Apostle Paul as being anti Jewish because of his constant battle with the Jews over theological issues, Barnabas goes way beyond what Paul said and virtually distorts Old Covenant teaching. Barnabas held that circumcision had always been meant to be understood allegorically and that the Jews had never entered into a covenant relationship with God because of their many sins starting with the golden calf incident at Sinai.  The Barnabas epistle sees the entire Jewish sacrificial and ceremonial system as being meant to be interpreted allegorically.

       The epistle of Barnabas does quote/paraphrase a lot of OT Scripture including apocryphal books such as Esdras and 1st Enoch.  He twice quotes from the NT gospels and in general appears to be in agreement with NT salvation theology.

       After enjoying initial acceptance as canonical Scripture, the epistle of Barnabas was ultimately rejected as it was felt not to accurately reflect Paul’s and other Scriptural teachings as to covenant theology. It should be noted that Acts 11:24 depicts Paul’s companion Barnabas as “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith.”  On this basis alone one would think that if it was believed that the epistle of Barnabas was written by Paul’s Barnabas, it would have been incorporated into the final iteration of the NT cannon. The fact that it wasn’t included indicates there was the belief among the producers of this cannon that this epistle was written sometime after the other NT documents by someone other than Paul’s Barnabas.                

The Shepherd of Hermas:

      The Shepherd of Hermas was written by a man named Hermas who narrates a number of visions which are interpreted to him by an angelic companion who appeared in the form of a shepherd and thus the title of the book, Shepherd of Hermas.  The book is basically an apocalypse like John’s Revelation document.  There were many apocalypses floating around in the first and second centuries of the church.  This book was very popular and was included in various lists of authoritative Scripture.  Origen appears to have viewed the Shepherd as "inspired" but leaves it out of his own list of canonical documents.  Both Tertullian and Eusebius considered the Shepherd apocryphal.  However, it must be noted that the Shepherd, along with the Epistle of Barnabas, is included at the end of Codex Sinaiticus. Sinaiticus is a fourth century manuscript of all 27 documents of our present NT plus the Shepherd and Barnabas. 

       Some believe the placement of the Shepherd and Barnabas at the end of this codex signifies it was not considered to be on par with the other documents in the Codex and, therefore, not considered canonical.  However, it appears rather arbitrary to draw a line that says "this is the end" of the canonical documents and the beginning of non canonical documents.  It appears more valid to simply judge the canonicity of a document based on the three-fold criteria established to determine canonicity. 

       Shepherd was ultimately rejected for canonization because it was believed to have been written around the middle of the second century and therefore to be too far removed from the time of those associated with Christ or associated with those who personally knew Christ.  As previously mentioned, the Muratorian canon rejects the Shepherd of Hermas because it was written too long after the time of the apostles. Also, some of what the Shepherd teaches does not fit well with what is written in the first century documents presently included in the NT canon.  Therefore, the Shepherd fails the threefold criterion.

The Book of Enoch:

      Some question why The Book of Enoch is not included in our present canon since Jude quotes from this document in his canonized letter. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church does include Enoch in its canon of Scripture to this very day.  Enoch actually consists of five books.  The first book of this document describes the fall of the “Watchers,” who are believed to be angels who fathered the Nephilim spoken of in Genesis 6:4. The remaining books describe Enoch's visits to heaven in the form of travels, visions, dreams and revelations.

       Western scholars currently assert that its older sections, mainly the Book of the Watchers date from about 300 BC and the latest part of the book, called the Book of Parables was probably composed at the end of the first century BC.

       The complete book of Enoch is extant only in the ancient Ethiopic language. There are some Aramaic fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls and a few Greek and Latin fragments extant as well.  Ethiopian scholars generally hold that the Ethiopian language is the original language of this document from which Greek and Aramaic copies were made. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church considers Enoch as a document worthy of being in their canon of Scripture because they take the position that this document was written by Enoch himself and reflects ancient Ethiopic text. In their view, Enoch is written in the oldest written human language.

       The book of Enoch was considered Scripture in the Epistle of Barnabas, and by many of the early church fathers such as Clement of Alexandria, Irenaeus and Tertullian. Tertullian wrote around A.D. 200 that the Book of Enoch had been rejected by the Jews because it contained prophecies pertaining to Christ.

       By the time of the fourth century the canonicity of this book was being denied. Some even considered the letter of Jude itself not worthy of being canonical because it refers to what came to be considered a pseudepigraphic work, namely the Enoch document.   By the 4th century it was mostly excluded from Christian canons except for that of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church where it remains to this day.  It should be pointed out, however, that Jude quotes Enoch as if it is the Enoch mentioned in Genesis.

       Jude 1:14:  Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: "See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones.

       From where did Jude obtain this information?  What document was Jude quoting from? He obviously believed it was the Enoch mentioned in Genesis that prophesied. Did Jude have access to some ancient document actually authored by the Enoch of Genesis?  Was Jude quoting from some later document that had incorporated this prophecy of Enoch into its text?  Did God simply reveal this prophecy of Enoch to Jude? 

       This brings us to the most challenging and most important question of our entire discussion as to the reliability of the Biblical Scriptures.  Just how was the information recorded in Biblical Scriptures received or transmitted?  Most Christians believe the Biblical Scriptures are divinely inspired.  What does it mean to say the Scriptures are divinely inspired?  In Part Three of this series we will address this issue.