The Canonicity of the Scriptures

The term canon, which comes from the Hebrew term qāneh and the Greek term kanin, refers to a measuring stick or standard (cf. Ezekiel 40:3). 1  Canon is the standard used to determine which books God inspired and are therefore authoritative and orthodox.  Canon does not make the Scriptures inspired.  As well, at no time has a church council ever made a book inspired.  At best they could only acknowledge which books were inspired.

The Scriptures were inspired by God, the moment they were written and were immediately recognized as inspired by the original recipients.  For example, Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah and Malachi were the last Old Testament books to be penned (460-425 BC).  According to Josephus, “the boundary of the accepted books [of the  Old Testament] is marked by the time of Artaxerxes (465–425 BC), after which no authorized books were issued.” 2  The dating of Malachi and the testimony of Josephus demonstrate that the Scriptures were immediately recognized as inspired by the original recipients.

The first five book of the Bible known as the Torah were penned by Moses.  The Torah is the standard by which all other Biblical writings are tested.  There are three reasons why the Torah formed the standard.  First, God, the divine author, spoke His revelation directly to Moses, the human author, as witnessed by 600,000 men (Exodus 33:11a; Deuteronomy 5:4; 34:10b).  Second, Moses was a prophet equal only to Jesus (Deuteronomy 18:18; 34:10a).  Third, God specifically stated that nothing could be added to or taken away from the Torah (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32).  The term add (yāsap) means to increase the size or scope. The term diminish (gāraʿ) means to take away or reduce. Thus every book that came after the Torah, had to be in agreement with God’s truths as revealed in the Torah (Deuteronomy 18:21-22).

Jesus, Himself, acknowledged that the Torah, as penned by Moses, was the standard by which His own words should be tested (John 5:39, 46-47).  In other words, Moses’ words (i.e. the Torah) was the standard by which everything which Jesus said could be tested.  The implication of this is that Jesus could not speak anything contrary to the Torah (cf. Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; 18:21-22).  Jesus, Himself, testified to this fact (Matthew 5:17-19).

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  1. Randall Price, Searching for the Original Bible (Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007), 139
  2. D. Guthrie, “Bible” in Merrill C. Tenney, ed., The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, 5 vols. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975), 1:560.

© Rev. Gregory G. Capel, Jr. – 2016

The Preservation of Scripture

Today, there are no original manuscripts (i.e. autographs) of Scripture in existence.  This is due in part to the passing of time, in part to the wear and tear of use, and in part to the tendency of man to worship religious relics.  God intended though that His Word be preserved.  He accomplished this by employing His people to make copies (i.e. apographs) of His Word.  Since God employed people to copy His Word,  He placed a severe penalty upon those who would add to it or take away from it (Deuteronomy 4:2a; 12:32; Proverbs 30:5-6; Revelation 22:18-19).

While the autographs were free from error, this does not mean that all the apographs were errorless.  That there are copies or apographs which are in error is testimony to the fact that Satan has been trying to distort and destroy  God’s Word.   He distorted God’s Word to Adam and Eve in the garden and to Jesus in the wilderness (cf. Genesis 3:1-4; Matthew 4:6-7).  Also, he attempted to destroy God’s Word through King Jehoiakim (cf. Jeremiah 36:23).

In spite of Satan’s attempts, God has preserved a line of apographs which are exact copies of the inerrant, infallible autographs (Psalm 119:152; Isaiah 40:8; 1 Peter 1:24-25).

The term forever (`owlam – HB/ aiōn – GK) means continuous, perpetual, or everlasting.  While the autographs have long since deteriorated, no Scripture has ever been lost, nor is any Scripture waiting to be discovered.

God promised that the Scriptures will be preserved both in Heaven and on Earth (Psalm 119:89; Isaiah 59:21).

That God preserved His Word both in Heaven and on Earth guarantees that it will not become extinct and that a line of apographs will be kept from corruption.  By using the Old Testament apographs, Jesus affirmed the existence of a line of errorless apographs in His day (John 10:35b).

Formation of the Bible

The Bible is a collection of sixty-six books, written by forty different authors,  over a period of 1,600 years, yet there is not one  contradiction.  Choose any other subject matter, gather sixty-six books, by forty authors, spread over 1,600 years, on the chosen topic, and it will result in contradictions.

The Bible was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic.  The largest portion of the Bible was written in Hebrew and the smallest portion in Aramaic.  While much of the Bible was written in Israel, it was also penned in Babylon, Arabia, Egypt, Greece, and Rome.

The human authors of the Bible were kings, priests, prophets, soldiers, statesmen, shepherds, fisherman, a tax collector, a doctor, a tent-maker, and a farmer.1     

Screen Shot 2016-05-07 at 10.21.06 AM

Screen Shot 2016-05-07 at 10.22.54 AMThe various occupations of the human authors account for the various literary genres of the Bible.  The Scripture contains a historical, legal, wisdom, psalms, prophecy, apocalyptic, gospel and epistles.  In spite of the diversity of languages, locations, authors, occupations, and genres, the Scripture is unique in its harmony and unity.

Screen Shot 2016-05-07 at 10.23.23 AM__________

  1.  Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Nature of the Bible. (Ariel Ministries, 2005), pp. 8-9.

© Rev. Gregory G. Capel, Jr. – 2016

Inerrancy and Infalliblity of the Bible

The superintending, of the Holy Spirit, prevented the human authors from recording any distortions or falsehoods. To put it another way, since God cannot lie (cf. Romans 3:4) and the Scriptures are breathed out by God (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16) then the Word of God is free from error or inerrant (Psalm 33:4a; 119:160a; Proverbs 8:8; 30:5a; John 17:17b).  Inerrancy means that, “the Scriptures possess the quality of freedom from error. They are exempt from the liability to mistake, incapable of error. In all their teachings they are in perfect accord with truth.1 Truth includes “approximations, free quotations, language of appearances, and different accounts of the same event as long as those do not contradict.”2

In other words, different writers might use different words to describe the same incident. For example, Luke 4:1 states “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,” while Mark 1:12 states “the Spirit driveth Him (Jesus) into the wilderness.” Luke and Mark depict the same event (the temptation of Jesus) but use two different terms (led and driveth) to describe how the Spirit was involved in Jesus going into the wilderness. Also, inherency allows the writers to record the same event from different points of view. For example, the Feeding of the Five Thousand is recorded in Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44, Luke 9:10-17, and John 6:1-15. Each of the authors wrote about the same event but each includes information not revealed by the other three.

Inerrancy includes not only theological issues, but extends to all issues upon which Scripture speak. “Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching, no less in what it states about God’s acts in creation, about the events of world history, and about its own literary origins under God, than in its witness to God’s saving grace in individual lives. […] Inerrancy means that when all the facts are known, the Scriptures in their original autographs and properly interpreted will be shown to be wholly true in everything they teach, whether that teaching has to do with doctrine, history, science, geography, geology, or other disciplines or knowledge.3

When the Bible speaks on these matters, it must be inerrant; otherwise it is not trustworthy. If the Bible is not trustworthy on earthly matters, how can it be trustworthy on heavenly matters? Often times what the Scriptures teach about heavenly matters are uniquely tied to earthly matters. For example, Paul links the reality of a literal, historical Jesus to a literal, historical Adam (Romans 5:12, 17).  As well, the birth of Jesus is tied to the geographical location of Bethlehem. The same verse which prophesies of the location also teaches the eternality of Jesus (Micah 5:2).

Like inspiration, inerrancy applies only to the autographs. While the autographs were free from error, this does not mean that all the apographs were errorless. God, has preserved a line of apographs which are exact copies of the inerrant originals. Jesus did not have the Old Testament autographs, so He used apographs. By using the apographs, Jesus affirmed that a line of errorless apographs were existent (John 10:35b).

Infallibility means that the Scriptures are true and reliable in all that they teach. Since the Scripture does not contain error, than it is incapable of teaching error (Psalm 12:6a; Proverbs 30:5-6; 2 Peter 1:19a).  The term pure (ṭāhôr) means that God’s Word is free from fraud, falsehood, or deceit. The term more sure (bébaios) means reliable or trustworthy. Since Scripture is free from error (inerrant), it is incapable of teaching error (infallible). It is impossible for the Scriptures to mislead, though man’s twisting of Scripture could mislead.

Inerrancy and infallibility are the guarantors of the Scriptures profitability concerning doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction. Because the Bible contains no errors and is incapable of teaching error we can trust it to: 1) lay a solid foundation for all of life and faith; 2) equip us with the ability to discern and confront false teachings; 3) discern and correct bad behaviors; and 4) develop right behavior.

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  1. E. J. Young, Thy Word Is Truth. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1957), p. 113.
  2. Charles C. Ryrie, What You Should Know About Inerrancy. (Chicago: Moody, 1981), p. 30.
  3. James Montgomery Boice, Does Inerrancy Matter? (Oakland: International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, 1979), p. 13.

© Rev. Gregory G. Capel, Jr. – 2016

Inspiration and the Bible

Inspiration is “the Holy Spirit’s superintending [i.e. direction] over the writers so that while writing according to their own styles and personalities, the result was God’s Word written—authoritative, trustworthy, and free from error in the original autographs.”1  Inspiration is necessary to guarantee that what God chose to reveal to man was accurately recorded by man.  There are five key aspects to inspiration: 1) the divine author, 2) the human author, 3) the result of the divine/human authorship, 4) the extent of inspiration to the selection of words, and 5) the relationship to the original manuscripts.

Inspiration involves divine authorship.  The term inspiration (theopneustos) literally means God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16).   It comes from two Greek terms theos and pneuma.  The term pneuma is the same term translated as Spirit.  God did not breathe on the text to make it inspired, but rather, breathed, the Scriptures, out of His mouth.

Inspiration involves human authorship.  However, inspiration applies only to the words, not the persons. In other words, God communicated His words to human authors, who in turn wrote down what was spoken.  These men were not supernatural or inspired.  Scripture was not the by-product of their logic or reasoning (1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Peter 1:21).

Rather than producing the Scriptures on their own, the human authors were moved (phérō) by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21).  This means that they were lead, directed, or carried along by the Holy Spirit.  This is what is known as the superintending  of the Holy Spirit.  Though God communicated His Word to man, it was not merely dictation.  These holy men were not passive instruments or secretaries.  While God spoke to them, He allowed their personalities and vocabularies to express His Words.  This can be seen in the various writing styles of the sixty-six books of the Bible.  For example: John’s writings reflect the style of a fisherman — simple and straightforward; Luke’s writings reflect the style of a doctor — sophisticated and detailed;  Paul’s writings reflect the style of a lawyer — philosophical and difficult.

Since the Holy Sprit superintended the human authorship, God’s Word was recorded without error in the original autographs.  Autographs refer to the original writings.  While there are no known original documents in existence, we do have apographs or copies of the originals.  It is important to understand that inspiration only applies to the original writings or autographs.

The inspiration of Scripture is best understood as verbal-plenary inspiration.  By verbal, it is meant that each and every word of Scripture is breathed out by God.  In other words, God communicated not by thought or ideas but accurately and precisely through words.  Jesus alluded to the importance of inspired words when He stated that the very letters of the words were inspired (Matthew 5:18).

The jot is the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet.  The tittle is the smallest stroke of a Hebrew letter which distinguishes between two similar letters (i.e. the stroke that differentiates between an O and a Q).  Verbal inspiration applies not only to the words themselves, but to the letters and parts of letters.  As well, many of Jesus’ debates or arguments with the religious establishment hinged on the particular use of certain words (Matthew 22:43-44; John 8:58; 10:34).

If God only breathed out ideas or thoughts, then Jesus’ arguments on the basis of words would be rendered void.

By plenary, it is meant that all Scripture, in all its parts, are equally from God.  There is no part of Scripture that is more inspired than another part.  The Law is just as inspired as the Gospels, the Psalms are just as inspired as the Epistles.   By teaching of Himself from the three parts of the Old Testament (i.e. Law, Prophets, and Psalms) Jesus affirmed that they were equally inspired (Luke 24:44-45).

As well, the term ‘all’ (pás) refers to the whole as well as each and every part.  Thus, Paul’s use of the term all (pás) in the statement “all Scripture…” (2 Timothy 3:16) demonstrates the fact that Scripture in its whole and in its parts is equally inspired.   If only certain parts of Scripture are inspired, which parts are?  If some portions of Scripture are more inspired than others, are the more inspired, more trustworthy?

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  1.  Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1989), p. 160.

© Rev. Gregory G. Capel, Jr. – 2016

Revelation and the Bible

The Bible is a revelation or uncovering of God and His ways to man. Revelation can be defined as, “the act of God whereby He discloses Himself or communicates truth to the mind, whereby He makes manifest to his creatures that which could not be known in any other way.” (1) Revelation signifies “God’s disclosure of Himself through creation, history, the conscience of man and Scripture. It is given in both event and word.(2)

God has chosen to reveal Himself through two avenues: General Revelation and Special Revelation. General Revelation is available to all mankind. It reveals certain truths about God. As well, it points man to God and thus sufficient to condemn man. There are three types of general revelation: nature, providence, and conscience.

Nature reveals God’s glory and existence (Psalm 19:1-6).  Nature also reveals Gods’ omnipotence and right to judge (Romans 1:18-21).  Providence reveals God’s benevolence to all mankind (Matthew 5:45; Acts 14:15-17).  Providence also reveals that God raises up and removes rulers (Daniel 2:21).  Conscience reveals that God has placed His law in the hearts of all people (Romans 2:14-15).  General Revelation cannot provide salvation to man; that is the role of Special Revelation.

Special Revelation then is that revelation that reveals truths about God that could not be known through General Revelation. Throughout the Old Testament and New Testament, God implored a number of ways to communicate His mind to man. He used dreams (Genesis 20:3, 6; 31:11–13, 24:40–41; Joel 2:28), (3) visions (Isaiah 1:1; 6:1; Ezekiel 1:3), (4) theophanies (Genesis 16:7-14; Exodus 3:2; 2 Samuels 24:16; Zechariah 1:12), (5) angels (Daniel 9:20-21; Luke 2:10-11; Revelation 1:1) prophets (2 Samuel 23:2; Zechariah 1:1). The final means of Special Revelation is Jesus, the Living Word, and Scripture, the Written Word. Jesus reveals what God the Father is like (John 1:18; 5:36-37).  The Scripture reveals all that God has chosen to disclose to man (Galatians 1:11-12; 2 Peter 1:21).

Is God just in condemning those who only have General Revelation, but not Special Revelation? Absolutely, God is just. In fact, if the person was convicted of their need for God through General Revelation, God would provide the Special Revelation (Acts 10:3-6).

The Special Revelation of God through the Scriptures was progressive. God did not reveal all of Himself or His will in one moment. Rather, He revealed it to mankind, over a period of time. “Since God’s redemptive acts were progressive, preparing the way for Christ who should come in the fullness of time (Galatians 4:4) the accompanying truths that were progressively revealed show in most cases a progressive development. That is, God graciously unfolded both His redemption and His revelation in ways corresponding to man’s capacities to receive them.” (6)

For example, God did not reveal everything about His redemptive plan through Jesus at once. God revealed to Adam and Eve that the Savior would come through the seed of the woman but not which woman (Genesis 3:15).  God revealed the means of Jesus’ death to David (Psalm 22:1, 7-9, 16-19).  God revealed to Micah, where Jesus would be born (Micah 5:2).

Progressive Revelation does not mean that older revelation is irrelevant or less scriptural than newer revelation, since all Scripture is given by God. “The Bible is to be regarded as a holistic book in which the Old Testament helps us understand the New Testament and the New Testament sheds significant light on the Old Testament.” (7)

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  1. Henry C. Thiessen, Lectures in Systematic Theology, revised by Vernon D. Doerksen (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), p. 7.
  2. C. M. Horne, “Revelation” in Merrill C. Tenney, ed., Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975), 5:86.
  3. Dreams were more suitable for individuals who have little or no spiritual discernment (i.e. Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar). In the case of dreams the individual was in a passive state (i.e. sleep) and their personality is rendered inert.
  4. Visions were more suitable for the spiritually mature (i.e. prophets). In the case of visions, the individual was actively involved (i.e. acting, moving, talking, interacting) with the object of the vision.
  5. Theophanies are physical manifestations of God (typically Jesus, prior to the incarnation).
  6. J. Barton Paynes, Theology of the Older Testament, (Zondervan Publishing House, 1962), p. 18.
  7. R. C. Sproul, Can I Trust the Bible?, vol. 2, The Crucial Questions Series (Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2009), p. 17.

© Rev. Gregory G. Capel, Jr. – 2016