Recognizing and Compiling the Bible

By Christopher Scott

I remember sitting down with the man discipling me near the window at Starbucks. I was curious about the Bible. The question I asked him was, “How did the Bible come to be put together?” I think I jokingly said, “Was there an explosion in a paper factory, and the Bible got put together in that explosion? How did it happen?” With that story, let’s take a look at the methodical and God-directed way that the Bible was compiled. 

Scripture completion date: The Old Testament (OT) was finished being written about 435 B.C. The last books of the OT written were Nehemiah and Malachi near the reign of the Persian King Artaxerxes II. The last New Testament (NT) book was completed A.D. 95. The last book of the NT that was written was the book of Revelation during the reign of Emperor Nero of Rome. 

Early acceptance of Scripture: Both the OT and NT were recognized as Scripture soon after they were written. Space won’t allow me to explain my points, but you can contact me for further discussion. There are at least five examples of the OT being accepted as Scripture. These are mentions in the book of 1 Maccabees, writings of Josephus the historian (born A.D. 38), Rabbinic literature (such as the Babylonian Talmud), the Qumran Community (a group of people that lived during same time as Jesus), and Melito of Sardis (lived around A.D. 170 and was a church historian). There are at least four examples of the NT being accepted as Scripture very early on. These are 1 Timothy 5:17-18 (Paul quoting Luke 10:7 which was written four years before Paul wrote his letter), 2 Peter 3:15-16 (Peter reference’s Paul’s letters as Scripture even though Peter was writing just three years after Paul died), Athanasius’s Letter in A.D. 367 (over time there began to be controversy about what was and was not Scripture so the Bishop of Alexandria—Athanasius—gave a list of what made up the NT books), and the Council of Carthage in A.D. 397 (the Council of Carthage brought together pastors from northern African and they officially recognized the twenty-seven books of the NT as Scripture).

Criteria for New Testament Scripture: There were four basic criteria used to determine what books made it into the NT. First, an eye-witness source. While the person that was writing the book might not have actually seen Jesus in person, in order to be recognized as Scripture he had to get his material from an eye-witness of Jesus. Second, is agreement with the OT. Since the OT was recognized as Scripture during the life of Jesus, then any new writings that would be considered as Scripture had to agree with the OT teachings. Third, is early recognition as inspired writings. This point I have explained above. Fourth, is Jesus Christ as the central focus. After thousands of years of waiting for the Messiah, any writing after Jesus’s death and resurrection had to have Christ as the central focus. 

From the beginning God has guided the process of providing the Bible to Christians as his Word. As soon as these books were written you can begin to see God guiding the local churches to recognize and use the books that he wanted them to use. These books and letters were written and quickly circulated, copied, and used in many churches. God had a hand in the process of ensuring what he wanted the church to use. And because of that, we as Christians can trust what he has given us. If you want to learn more about this topic, read the book, “Truth in a Culture of Doubt” by Andreas Kostenberger, Darrell Bock, and Josh Chatraw.

Christopher Scott is small groups pastor at Rocky Hill Community Church in Exeter. He may be reached by calling 559-730-1906.

Prays Together is a rotating column between the pastors of the First Presbyterian Church of Exeter, Church of Christ of Exeter, Nazarene Church of Exeter, Church of God of Exeter, the New Life Assembly of God and Rocky Hill Community Church as well as the Lemon Cove Presbyterian Church. 

This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.

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