The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible

The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible

The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible
The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible

Two great revelations stand at the center of historic Christianity: the personal revelation of God in Christ and the prepositional revelation of God in Scriptures. The Christian claims that God has disclosed himself in the Scriptures and in the Savior, in the written Word and in the living Word of God. The evidence that the Bible is the written Word of God is anchored in the authority of Jesus Christ. The basic argument in support of this runs as follows:

(1) the New Testament documents are historically reliable (Chapter 16);

(2) these documents accurately present Christ as claiming to be God Incarnate and proving it by fulfilled messianic prophecy, by a sinless and miraculous life, and by predicting and accomplishing his resurrection from the dead (Chapter 17);

(3) whatever Christ (who is God) teaches is true;

(4) Christ taught that the Old Testament is the written Word of God and promised that his disciples would write the New Testament (Chapter 18);

(5) therefore, it is true on the confirmed divine authority of Jesus Christ that the Bible is the written Word of God.

The Teaching of Christ and the Apostles About the Old Testament

Christ and the apostles did much of their teaching from the Old Testament, but what is sometimes overlooked is that they also taught a great deal about the Old Testament. Both direct and indirect references unmistakably manifest their affirmation that the Old Testament writings are the inscripturated Word of God.1 If Jesus did indeed teach that the Jewish Scriptures were the inspired Word of God, then on his confirmed divine authority it can be established that the Old Testament is the written revelation of God.

Since we have already argued for both the reliability of the New Testament and the integrity of Christ’s apostles as eyewitness reporters of what Jesus taught (Chapter 16), we need not separate here the words of Jesus from those of the apostles for two reasons.

First, the testimony of the apostles about the Old Testament does not differ from Christ’s nor does it add in kind to Jesus’ view. Second, according to the confirmed integrity of the apostolic witness, they were not giving merely their own personal views but were expressing what Jesus himself taught (cf. John 14:26; 16:13; Acts 1:1).

The Old Testament Teaching About Its Own Authority

From the very beginning, the Old Testament writings of Moses were held to be sacred and were stored in the ark of God (Deut. 10:2) and later in the tabernacle (Deut. 6:2). Prophetic writings were added to this collection as they were written (Josh. 24:26; I Sam. 10:25; etc.). Moses claimed that his writings were from God (cf. Exod. 20:1; Lev. 1:1; Num. 1:1; Deut. 1:3), and the remainder of the Old Testament recognizes the divine authority of Moses’ writings (Josh. 1:8; I Sam. 12:6; Dan. 9:12; Neh. 13:1).

After Moses came a succession of prophets who claimed “thus saith the Lord.” Near the end of Old Testament history there were collections of “Moses and the prophets” held as divinely authoritative (Dan. 9:2; Zech. 7:12). The acknowledgment of the divine authority of Moses and the prophets’ writings continued through the period between the Testaments (cf. 2 Macc. 15:9) and into the Qumran literature (Manual of Discipline 1:3; 8:15).

The New Testament Teaching About the Divine Authority of the Old Testament.

There are numerous ways that Jesus and the New Testament writers indicated their belief that the Old Testament was God’s Word. Sometimes they referred to the Old Testament as a whole; other times they mentioned specific sections or books, and sometimes even words, tenses, or parts of words as possessing the authority of God.

  • New Testament Teaching About the Inspiration of the Old Testament as a Whole

II Timothy 3:16 declares “all scripture is inspired of God,” which in context refers to the “sacred writings” of the Jewish faith in which young Timothy was taught (v. 15). The comprehensive use of these writings for all “faith and practice” indicates the belief that these writings included the entire canon of Jewish sacred Scripture (v. 17). The New Testament often refers to the authoritative writings of the Jews as “the scriptures.” Jesus said, “The scriptures cannot be broken” (John 10:35).

Or, “You are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures, or the power of God” (Matt. 22:29). The less common but more powerful designation “the Word of God” is used interchangeably with the “scriptures” (John 1:35). Paul employs the same phrase (Rom. 9:6; II Cor. 4:2). A similar phrase, “the oracles of God,” is used by Paul in reference to the whole Old Testament (Rom. 3:2). Sometimes the word “Law” (of God) is used to denote the authority of the Old Testament (John 10:34; cf. John 12:34).

But probably the most common way of referring to the whole Old Testament is the phrase “law and prophets.” This is used a dozen times in the New Testament and it depicts all the Old Testament writings as the authoritative voice of God. Jesus claimed that the law and prophets will never pass away (Matt. 5:17). Jesus said that the law and the prophets included all the divine revelation up to John the Baptist (Luke 16:16), and Paul claimed that it was the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 24:14).

The phrase “it is written” is used more than nineteen times in the New Testament; some have application to the Old Testament in general (Mark 9:12; Luke 21:22) and indicate the divine authority of what is written. Likewise the phrase “that it might be fulfilled” is sometimes used in connection with references to the divine authority of the whole Old Testament (cf. Matt. 5:17; Luke 24:44).

  • New Testament Teaching About Sections of the Old Testament

The usual way of referring to the Old Testament indicates two divisions, the law and the prophets. The former was Moses’ writings, believed by the Jews to include the first five books of the Old Testament. “Moses” (II Cor. 3:15), the “law of Moses” (Acts 13:39), or the “books of Moses” (Mark 12:26) are often alluded to by the New Testament as the Word of God.

The word prophets identifies the second part of the Old Testament (John 1:45; Luke 18:31). II Peter makes it very clear that all prophetic writings come from God “because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (1:21).

  • New Testament Teaching About the Divine Authority of Specific Books of the Old Testament

Jesus and the New Testament writers did not have a specific occasion to quote every book in the Old Testament, but when they did cite a specific book it was often with introductory phrases that indicated their belief in the divine authority of that specific book. Of the twenty–two (twenty–four)2 books numbered in the Jewish Old Testament some eighteen are cited by the New Testament.

There is no explicit citation of Judges, Chronicles, Esther, or the Song of Solomon, although Hebrews 11:32 refers to events in Judges, II Chronicles 24:20 may be alluded to in Matthew 23:35, Song of Solomon 4:15 may be reflected in John 4:15, and the feast of Purim established in Esther was accepted by the New Testament Jews.

Virtually all of the remaining books of the Old Testament are cited with divine authority by the New Testament. Jesus himself cited Genesis (Matt. 19:4–5), Exodus (John 6:31), Leviticus (Matt. 8:4), Numbers (John 3:14), Deuteronomy (Matt. 4:4), and I Samuel (Matt. 12:3–4). He also referred to Kings (Luke 4:25) and II Chronicles (Matt. 23:35), as well as Ezra–Nehemiah (John 6:31).

Psalms is frequently quoted by Jesus (see Matt. 21:42; 22:44), Proverbs is quoted by Jesus in Luke 14:8–10 (see Prov. 25:6–7), and Song of Solomon may be alluded to in John 4:10. Isaiah is often quoted by Christ (see Luke 4:18–19). Likewise, Jesus alludes to Jeremiah’s Book of Lamentations (Matt. 27:30) and perhaps to Ezekiel (John 3:10).

Jesus specifically quoted Daniel by name (Matt. 24:21). He also quoted passages from the twelve (minor) prophets (Matt. 26:31). Other books, such as Joshua (Heb. 13:5), Ruth (Heb. 11:32), and Jeremiah (Heb. 8:8–12), are quoted by New Testament writers. The teachings of Ecclesiastes are clearly reflected in the New Testament (cf. Gal. 6:7 and Eccles. 11:1 or Heb. 9:27 and Eccles. 3:2).

More than the number of individual books cited, the authoritative manner in which they are often cited indicates that Jesus taught the full divine authority of these books. Quotations are prefaced with “it is written,” “that it might be fulfilled,” “till heaven and earth pass away” (Matt. 5:18), “you are wrong” if you do not believe (Matt. 22:29), and even “God commanded” (Matt. 15:4). In short, the written words of these books were considered to be God’s words.

The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible
The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible
  • New Testament Teaching About the Historicity of Specific Events in the Old Testament

Jesus and the New Testament writers not only cited sections and books of the Old Testament as inspired but they often taught the truth of specific Old Testament events recorded in these books. Jesus himself taught the creation of Adam and Eve (Matt. 19), Noah’s flood (Luke 17:27), Jonah and the Great Fish (Matt. 12:40), Elijah’s miracles (Luke 4:25), and Moses’ miracles in the wilderness (John 3:14; 6:32), plus many other persons and events.

Taking the total testimony of Jesus and the New Testament writers who related his teaching one can virtually reconstruct the main events of the Old Testament including:

  • creation (John 1:3),
  • the fall of man (Rom. 5:12),
  • the murder of Abel (I John 3:12),
  • the flood of Noah’s day (Luke 17:27),
  • Abraham and the patriarchs (Heb. 11:8 f.),
  • the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Luke 17:29),
  • the offering of Isaac (Heb. 11:17),
  • Moses and the burning bush (Luke 20:32),
  • the exodus from Egypt (I Cor. 10:1–2),
  • the miraculous provision of the manna (I Cor. 10:3–5),
  • lifting up of the brazen serpent (John 3:14),
  • the fall of Jericho (Heb. 11:30),
  • the miracles of Elijah (James 5:17),
  • the famous judges (Heb. 11:32) and kings (Matt. 12:41–42),
  • Daniel in the lions’ den (Heb. 11:33),
  • and the rejection of the Old Testament prophets (Matt. 23:35).

In this sample listing, several things should be noted. First, most of the major Old Testament events are taught to be historically true by Jesus or the New Testament writers. Second, often the passages are cited with emphatic parallel to events which Christ claimed to be historical facts (see Matt. 12:40).

Third, sometimes Jesus clearly affirmed the plain historical truth of his teachings on the authenticity of those Old Testament persons or events (Matt. 22:32). Jesus once challenged a Jewish leader by saying, “If I tell you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (John 3:12).

  • New Testament Teaching About Words and Parts of Words as Authoritative

Sometimes the New Testament hinges the authority of its teaching on the very tense of a verb or a single letter of a word. Jesus taught the doctrine of the resurrection on the present tense of the Old Testament phrase “I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Matt. 22:32). Paul contended that the singular form of the “offspring of Abraham” gave it messianic significance (Gal. 3:16).

Even granting hyperbole for the sake of emphasis, it is significant to the complete authority of every part of the Old Testament that Jesus proclaimed that “not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter of the law would pass away until all is fulfilled,” literally, “not an iota, not a dot” (Matt. 5:18).

Affirmation or Accommodation?

The objection is sometimes raised that Christ did not affirm the inspiration and authority of the Old Testament; he merely accommodated himself to the accepted but false Jewish belief about the Old Testament. According to this accommodation theory, Christ affirmed neither the authority of the Scriptures nor the authenticity of the events recorded therein; he simply appealed to the accepted Jewish beliefs about the Old Testament and used them as a starting point in his discourses. If this is so, then Jesus did not really teach Jonah was in the great fish but simply used the story like a parable or illustration of his own resurrection.

Jesus, as it were, adapted his message to the Jewish tradition and culture in which he found himself. Accordingly, he never really affirmed or taught anything about the Old Testament; he simply taught from it as an accepted religious model or myth structure.

In response to this theory we should observe first that it is a confusion of divine adaptation and human accommodation. Certainly an infinite God must adapt his revelation to the finite human understanding of the people to whom he communicates. However, it is quite another thing for God to accommodate his revelation to the error of sinful minds. Adaptation to finitude is necessary but accommodation to error is neither necessary nor is it morally possible for a God of absolute truthfulness (Heb. 6:18).3

Furthermore, there are numerous facts known from the life and activity of Christ that render the accommodation theory untrue.4 The combined testimony against the accommodation theory makes it so highly implausible that no sensible reader of the New Testament ought embrace it.

The Emphatic Manner of Citation of the Old Testament by Jesus

Oftentimes Jesus cited the Old Testament with such emphasis that it eliminates the possibility of accommodation. “Truly, truly, I say unto you …” or “you have heard that it was said … but I say unto you” (John 3:11; Matt. 5:38–39). Elsewhere Jesus said that “heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away” (Matt. 24:35). Jesus’ teaching that the “scriptures cannot be broken” (John 10:35) and that “not an iota, not a dot will pass away from the law until all is accomplished” flatly contradicts the accommodation hypothesis.

The Direct Comparison of Old Testament Events with Historical Happenings

Often Jesus compares Old Testament events with historical occurrences in a strong manner. When responding to an evil generation’s demand for a sign from heaven Jesus replied, “No sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights, in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt. 12:39–40).

It seems highly improbable that Jesus would contrast something so essential as the historicity of his own death and resurrection with a mythology of Jewish belief. It is much more reasonable to conclude that Jesus is affirming the historicity of Jonah, as indeed the Old Testament itself does (see II Kings 14:25). In like manner, the teachings of Christ about the destruction of Sodom and the flood of Noah are used in strong contrast with historical teachings about his own ministry and coming again (see Luke 17:26–30).

The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible
The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible

Historicity of Old Testament Events Is Sometimes Crucial to the Doctrine Taught

Often it is impossible to separate the doctrine being taught by Jesus from the historicity of the event to which he refers. The point Jesus is making about marriage and divorce—an obviously physical union of two bodies into “one flesh”—is void unless the Old Testament quotation about Adam and Eve refers to actual and historical persons of flesh and bone.

“Have you not read that he who made them, in the beginning, made them male and female. … What therefore God joined together, let no man put asunder” (Matt. 19:4, 6).

Here the very validity of Jesus’ answer to the question about marriage and divorce depends on the reliability of there being a literal creation in the beginning of a male and a female whom God had joined together as “one flesh.” Hence, there is no way here to completely separate the doctrinal or spiritual from the physical and historical in Jesus’ teaching.

Jesus Often Rebuked False Jewish Tradition and Error

The evidence of the Gospel record is that Jesus is anything but an accommodator. He did not hesitate to make forthright pronouncements. Jesus rebuked the Jewish ruler Nicodemus saying, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand this?” (John 3:10).

To the Sadducees Jesus said plainly, “You are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God” (Matt. 22:29). In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus repeatedly debunked false Jewish belief with the emphatic phrase, “you have heard that it was said … but I say unto you” (Matt. 5:38, 39).

On another occasion Jesus deliberately decried Jewish teaching that went contrary to God’s truth with the challenge, “Why do you transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” (Matt. 15:3). It seems plain from these events that Jesus did not hesitate to refute error whether it was accepted Jewish belief or not. The same consistent picture of Jesus’ rejection of false Jewish tradition and teaching is evident in his relation to the belief about keeping the sabbath (see Matt. 12:12).

Jesus Was Forthright in His Condemnation of False Prophets. The portrait of a young revolutionary attacking the inflexible religious establishment of the day fits Christ much better than that of an accommodator to accepted traditions and teachings. The severe denunciations of Matthew 23 have led some unbelievers even to charge that Jesus was unkind.5

Yet the fact that other unbelievers consider Jesus so soft that he capitulated truth to his hearers’ fancy indicates the extreme dilemma of unbelief. The Jesus that gave his life for this sinful world and that forgave his enemies for crucifying him (Luke 23:34) was not unkind or unloving (John 10:11; 15:13). However, Jesus’ love for men and for truth did prompt him to take a firm stand against error and false teachers.

“Woe to you, blind guides. … Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you build the tombs of the prophets. … You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?” (Matt. 23:16, 29, 33). Even in what is universally acknowledged to be Jesus’ greatest moral discourse and what some interpret in a very pacifistic manner, Jesus had strong words of warning about avoiding error: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matt. 7:15).

And in the great Mount Olivet discourse near the end of his life Jesus was still warning against “false Christs and false prophets” (Matt. 24:24). The Gospel picture of Christ is consistent; he is a debunker of error and a rebuker of false teachers but definitely not an accommodator to either.

In summary, neither the activity, attitudes, nor affirmations of Jesus were accommodations to error. When Jesus affirmed something as true it was because he believed it to be so. And as the Son of God his affirmations carry divine authority. Hence, when Jesus taught the divine origin and authority of the Old Testament, he was not mouthing false Jewish beliefs; rather, he was teaching divine truth.

Limitation or Authorization?

It has been hypothesized that Jesus’ human knowledge did not extend to matters such as the authority and authenticity of the Old Testament. His teaching was purely doctrinal and spiritual but not historical and critical. Some critics have argued that in the incarnation Jesus “emptied himself” of omniscience. He was ignorant of the time of his second coming (Mark 13:32), of whether there were figs on the tree (Mark 11:13).

Jesus “increased in wisdom” as other humans do (Luke 2:52), and asked many questions that revealed his ignorance of the answers (Mark 5:9, 30; 6:38; John 14:9). This being the case, perhaps Jesus was ignorant of the origin of the Old Testament and of the historical truth of the events in it.

This “Limitation Theory” is much more plausible and potentially damaging to the case for the authority of the Old Testament than is the “Accommodation Theory.” Let us examine the evidence carefully.

First, it seems necessary to grant that Jesus was indeed ignorant of many things as a man. As God, of course, Jesus was infinite in knowledge and knew all things (Ps. 147:5 ).6 But Christ has two natures: one infinite or unlimited in knowledge, and the other finite or limited in knowledge. Could it be that Jesus did not really err in what he taught about the Old Testament but that he simply was so limited as a human being that his knowledge and authority did not extend into those areas? The evidence in the New Testament records demands an emphatically negative answer to this question for many reasons.

The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible
The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible

Jesus Had a Supernormal Knowledge Even as a Human Being

Even in his human state, Christ possessed supernormal if not supernatural knowledge of many things. He saw Nathanael under the fig tree, although he was not within a normal visual distance (John 1:48). Jesus amazed the woman of Samaria with the information he knew about her private life (John 4:18–19). Jesus knew who would betray him in advance (John 6:64) and “all that would befall him” in Jerusalem (John 18:4).

He knew about Larazus’s death before he was told (John 11:14) and of his crucifixion and resurrection before it occurred (Mark 8:31; 9:31). Jesus had superhuman knowledge of the location of fish (Luke 5:4). There is no indication from the Gospel record that Jesus’ finitude deterred his ministry or teaching. Whatever the limitations to his knowledge, it was vastly beyond normal men and completely adequate for his mission and doctrinal teaching.

Christ Possessed Complete and Final Authority for Whatever He Taught

One thing is crystal clear: Christ claimed that whatever he taught came from God with absolute and final authority. He claimed “Heaven and earth will pass away but my word will not pass away” (Matt. 24:35). Jesus believed and proclaimed that “all things have been delivered to me by my Father” (Matt. 11:27). When Jesus commissioned his disciples he claimed “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given me. Go therefore and make disciples … teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:18–19).

Elsewhere Jesus claimed that the very destiny of men hinged on his words (Matt. 7:24–26) and that his words would judge men in the last day (John 12:48). The emphatic “truly, truly” is found some twenty–five times in John alone, and in Matthew he declared, “Not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law” which he came to fulfill. Jesus then placed his own words on a par with it (Matt. 5:18, 21 f.).

Jesus claimed that his words bring eternal life (John 5:24) and vowed that all his teaching came from the Father (John 8:26–28). Furthermore, despite the fact that he was a man on earth, Christ accepted the acclaims of deity and allowed men to worship him on many occasions (cf. Matt. 28:18; John 9:38).

In view of the foregoing evidence, the only reasonable conclusion is that Jesus’ teachings are possessed of divine authority. Despite the necessary limitations involved in a human incarnation, there is no error or misunderstanding in whatever Christ taught. Whatever limits there were in the extent of Jesus’ knowledge, there were no limits to the truthfulness of his teachings.

Just as Jesus was fully human and yet his moral character was without flaw (Heb. 4:15), likewise he was finite in human knowledge and yet without factual error in his teaching (John 8:40, 46). In summation, whatever Jesus taught came from God. Hence, if Jesus taught the divine authority and historical authenticity of the Old Testament, then this teaching is the truth of God.

The Nature of the Inspiration of the Old Testament

Granted that Jesus affirmed the inspiration of the Old Testament, just what does it mean when we speak of “inspiration”? The answer to this question has several aspects. For Jesus, as for the Jews, an inspired writing meant that it was sacred (cf. John 10:35 and II Tim. 3:15) and that it was “from God.” “Inspired” means “God-breathed” (II Tim. 3:16) and “Spirit–moved” (II Peter 1:20–21).

Inspiration Is Verbal. It was not merely the thoughts or the oral pronouncements of the prophets that were inspired but the very “words.” Moses “wrote all the words of the Lord” (Exod. 24:4) and David confessed, “His word is upon my tongue” (II Sam. 23:2). Jeremiah was told to “diminish not a word” (Jer. 26:2 KJV). Jesus repeated over and over that the authority was found in what “is written” (see Matt. 4:4, 7). Paul testified that he spoke in “words … taught by the Spirit” (I Cor. 2:13). And the classic text in II Timothy 3:16 declares that it is the “writings,” the graphë that are inspired of God.

Inspiration Is Plenary. Jesus not only affirmed the written revelation of God but he taught that the whole (complete, entire) Old Testament was inspired of God. Everything including Moses and the prophets is from God (Matt. 5:17, 18) and must be fulfilled (Luke 24:44). Paul added that “whatever was written in former days [in the Old Testament] was written for our instruction” (Rom. 15:4) and that “all scripture is inspired of God” and therefore “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (II Tim. 3:16, 17).

That is to say, the inspiration of the Bible extends to everything it teaches whether spiritual or factual. Of course, not everything contained in the Bible is taught by the Bible. The Bible contains a true record of Satan’s lies (see Gen. 3:4), but the Bible is not thereby teaching that these lies are true. Plenary inspiration means only that whatever the Bible teaches is true, is actually true.

Inspiration Conveys Authority. Further, the authority of the Bible’s teaching flows from its divine origin as the oracles or Word of God (see Rom. 3:2). Jesus said of the Old Testament, “The scriptures cannot be broken” for they are the “word of God” (John 10:35). Jesus claimed the authority of “it is written” for his teaching over and over again (cf. Matt. 22:29; Mark 9:12). He resisted the devil by the same written authority (see Matt. 4:4, 7, 10). The written Word, then, is the authority of God for settling all disputes of doctrine or practice. It is God’s Word in man’s words; it is divine truth in human terms.7

Inspiration Implies the Inerrancy of the Teaching. Jesus believed that God’s Word is true (John 17:17) and the apostles taught that God cannot lie (Heb. 6:18). Furthermore, Jesus affirmed that every “iota and dot” of the Old Testament was from God. This, of course, is a claim only for the writings as they were given by God, namely, the autographs, and not for the copies which have been in minor detail subjected to scribal errors.

The net result, however, is the necessary conclusion that the Old Testament is without error (i.e., inerrant) in whatever it teaches. Simply put: whatever God utters is true and without error. The original writings of the Old Testament are the utterance of God through men. Therefore, the writings of the Old Testament are the inerrant Word of God. This is what both Jesus and the apostles taught with divine authority, an authority confirmed by the unique concurrence of three miracles in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ (see Chapter 17).

The Extent of the Old Testament Scriptures

There is some dispute as to which books are to be included in the Old Testament canon of Scripture. Some claim that the so-called apocryphal books written between 250 B.C. and the time of Christ are also part of the Old Testament canon. Hence, we must turn our attention from the nature of the Old Testament as the inspired Word of God to the extent of those inspired writings.8

Arguments Advanced in Support of the Apocrypha Examined

The basic debate is between the Roman Catholic position that the books of the so-called Alexandrian Canon should be included in the Old Testament and the Protestant position that only the books of the so-called Jewish Palestinian Canon are inspired. The books involved in the dispute are named as follows by Protestants (and Catholics):

  1. Esdras (III Esdras)
  2. II Esdras (IV Esdras)
  3. Tobit
  4. Judith
  5. Addition to Esther (Esther 10:4–16:24)
  6. The Wisdom of Solomon
  7. Ecclesiasticus or Sirach
  8. Baruch and the Letter of Jeremiah (Baruch)
  9. The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men (Dan. 3:24–90)
  10. Susanna (Dan. 13)
  11. Bel and the Dragon (Dan. 14)
  12. The Prayer of Manasseh
  13. I Maccabees
  14. II Maccabees

In favor of the acceptance of the Apocrypha the following arguments have been advanced:9

(1) The New Testament makes direct quotes from the book of Enoch (Jude 14) and alludes to II Maccabees (Heb. 11:35);

(2) Some apocryphal books were found in the first century Jewish community at Qumran;

(3) Many early Christian Fathers including Origen (A.D. 185–253), Athanasius (A.D. 293–373), and Cyril of Jerusalem (A.D. 315–386) quoted some apocryphal books;

(4) Many early Greek manuscripts of the Old Testament such as Codex Vaticanus (A.D. 325) and Codex Sinaiticus (A.D. 350) contained the Apocrypha;

(5) Augustine accepted all the apocryphal books later proclaimed canonical by Trent (in 1546);

(6) Many early church synods, such as the Synod by Pope Damasus (A.D. 382), Synod of Hippo (A.D. 393), and three synods at Carthage (A.D. 393, 397, 419), accepted the Apocrypha;

(7) Some later bishops and councils between the ninth and fifteenth centuries listed the apocryphal books as inspired;

(8) This long line of Christian usage culminated in the official pronouncement of the Council of Trent (A.D. 1546) that the Apocrypha (or “deutero–canonical” books, as Roman Catholics call them) is part of canonical Scripture.

Despite the long list of names and churches associated with the apocryphal books, these arguments must be rejected in view of the following considerations:

(1) No apocryphal book is quoted as Scripture in the New Testament. The New Testament writers allude to and even cite pagan poets whose books were not considered inspired Scripture (see Acts 17:28).

(2) The Qumran community was not an orthodox Jewish community and, hence, is not an official voice of Judaism.

(3) Many of the early Christian Fathers including Origen, Cyril of Jerusalem, Athanasius, and all important Fathers before Augustine clearly rejected the Apocrypha. Some of these men made presumable or occasional reference to one or more apocryphal books in a homiletical way but none of the major early Fathers accepted the apocryphal books into the Christian canon.

(4) Augustine’s acceptance of the Apocrypha is refuted by his contemporary Jerome who was the greatest Biblical scholar of his day.

(5) No local synod or canonical listing included these apocryphal books for almost the first four hundred years of the church’s existence. Neither early church synods nor Augustine listed the apocryphal books as inspired until after the appearance of the Greek translations of the Old Testament containing these books (i.e., after A.D. 325). These local listings are based on a Greek Alexandrian tradition where the Hebrew Old Testament was translated (250 B.C. following) and not a Jewish Palestinian tradition where the Old Testament was actually written and accepted by Jewish people.

(6) Even up to and through the time of the Reformation (A.D. 1517) some Roman Catholic Scholars, including Cardinal Cajetan who opposed Luther, did not accept the Apocrypha as authentic Old Testament books.

(7) Furthermore, Christian usage of the Apocrypha has varied greatly down through the years. Fathers before Augustine accepted only a fraction of the Apocrypha, sometimes only one or two books. Many Fathers would “quote” and even “read” some apocryphal books in church but excluded them from their canonical lists. The best explanation seems to be that they had two groupings: one a doctrinal canon which determined matters of faith and the other a broader homiletical collection which they used to illustrate and expand on their beliefs.

(8) Trent was inconsistent in accepting only eleven of the fourteen apocryphal books. They rejected the Prayer of Manesseh, I Esdras (III Esdras), and II Esdras (IV Esdras) which contains a strong verse against praying for the dead (viz., 7:105) and accepted a book with a verse supporting prayer for the dead (viz., II Macc. 12:45 [46]). Proclaiming this book canonical some twenty-nine years after Luther lashed out against prayers for the dead is highly suspect, especially since the book disclaiming the efficacy of such prayers was rejected.

The Extent of the Jewish Canon of Jesus’ Day

The mistake in the broader canon theory is that it employs Christian usage as the determinative factor in deciding the Jewish canon. This is wrong for two reasons: first, these were Jewish books written by Jewish writers for Jewish people and rejected by the Old Testament Jewish community. It is presumptuous for Christians hundreds of years after the fact to inform Jews which books belong in their sacred writings. Second, the New Testament clearly informs Christians that the Old Testament was given into the custodianship of the Jews.

Paul wrote, “The Jews are entrusted with the oracles of God” (Rom. 3:2). In view of this it behooves us to ask. What is the extent of the Old Testament canon according to the Jews? To this question there is only one answer, as even Roman Catholic scholars readily admit, namely, the twenty-four (thirty-nine) books of the Jewish and Protestant Bibles of today comprise the Jewish Old Testament canon.

There is an even more decisive argument than Jewish custodianship against the Apocrypha, namely, the authoritative testimony of Christ. Which books were included in the Old Testament of which Jesus spoke when he proclaimed it the unbreakable and authoritative Word of God? The answer to this question seems clear: there were no more (and no less) than twenty-four (thirty-nine) books of the Jewish Old Testament to which Christ attested.

  • The Jewish Scriptures of the Time of Christ

The best authority for the Jewish canon of the time of Christ is the Jewish historian Josephus. Josephus lists twenty-two books, “five belonging to Moses … the prophets, who were after Moses … in thirteen books. The remaining four books containing hymns to God and precepts for the conduct of human life.”10Ruth was no doubt appended to Judges and Lamentations to Jeremiah, thus accounting for the difference between the numbering of twenty-four and twenty-two.

Job was probably listed among the historical books, since Josephus cites it in his writings and since there would be only twelve historical books without it. This would leave Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon in the last category.

With this arrangement, we have the identical books of the thirty-nine now in the Protestant Old Testament, since by counting I and II Samuel as one book, I and II Kings as one book, I and II Chronicles as one book, Ezra-Nehemiah as one book, and the twelve (minor) prophets as one book, the difference between the numbering of thirty-nine and twenty-four is accounted for. That Josephus considered this to be the complete and final Jewish canon is made clear by his declaration that the succession of Jewish prophets ended in the fourth century B.C.

Likewise, the Talmud teaches that “after the latter prophets Haggai, Zechariah … and Malachi, the Holy Spirit departed from Israel.”11 Since all the apocryphal books were written after the fourth century (viz., from 250 B.C. to the time of Christ), it is clear that they were not in the Jewish Old Testament. This fact is supported by the apocryphal books themselves, for not only do they lack the claim to any divine inspiration, but they are devoid of any predictive or messianic prophecy, and do in fact disclaim inspiration.

I Maccabees says that in those days “there was great distress in Israel, such as has not been since the time the prophets ceased to appear among them” (9:27). b. The Old Testament Canon of Jesus and the Apostles. The best evidence for the extent of the Jewish canon of the time of Christ is found in the New Testament. Both Jesus and the apostles affirm only the canon containing the thirty-nine (twenty-four) books of the Protestant Old Testament. This is supported by several lines of evidence.

First, no apocryphal book is ever cited as Scripture by either Jesus or the New Testament writers, despite the fact that they obviously possessed them and even made allusions to them. Coupled with the fact that Jesus and the apostles did have occasion to quote from some eighteen of the twenty-two (twenty-four) books in the Jewish Old Testament, the omission of any quotations from the Apocrypha actually entails a rejection of these books.

Second, the New Testament makes at least a dozen references to the whole Old Testament under the phrase “law and prophets” (cf. Matt. 5:17; Luke 24:27); and yet the apocryphal books are admitted by both friend and foe to have never been in the section of the canon known as “the prophets.” Their late date would automatically have placed them in the “writings” or so-called third section of the Old Testament.

Even during the intertestamental period (see II Macc. 15:9) and in the Qumran literature (Manual of Discipline. I, 3; VIII, 15), the Old Testament is referred to under the standard phrase “the law and the prophets.” The threefold division that emerged by the time of Christ and is reflected in Philo, Josephus, and possibly in the introduction to Sirach was apparently an alternate way of subdividing “the prophets” into “prophets” and “writings” for festal or literary reasons.

Jesus’ possible allusion to a threefold division that emerged by the time of Christ and is reflected in prophets and the psalms” (Luke 24:44) is used in direct parallel with the phrase “Moses and all the prophets” earlier in the same chapter (v. 27).

According to New Testament usage the phrase “law and the prophets” includes “all the scripture” (Luke 24:27) and “all the prophets [who] prophesied until John [the Baptist]” (Mark 13:31). Paul the apostle staked his complete orthodoxy on the grounds that he believed “everything laid down in the law or written in the prophets” (Acts 24:14). Jesus said he had come to fulfill “all” according to what was predicted in the “law and prophets” (Matt. 5:17).

We cannot avoid the conclusion that the phrase “law and prophets” referred to all divine written revelation from Moses to Jesus.12 This being the case, the fact that neither the first century Jews, Jesus himself, nor the apostles accepted or quoted the apocryphal books as inspired is sufficient evidence that these books were not part of their canon of Scripture. This conclusion has been the uniform testimony of Judaism throughout the centuries.

The extent of the Old Testament canon is limited, by both the Jews who wrote it and by Jesus about whom it is written, to the thirty-nine (twenty-four) books listed in Protestant Old Testament Bibles today.

Conclusion

Jesus taught emphatically that the Jewish Old Testament was the very inspired and written revelation of God. In this teaching, he neither accommodated himself to false tradition nor was limited in his knowledge of the matters of which he spoke. His teaching was with all authority in heaven and on earth. And since Christ has been verified to be the unique Son of God, whatever he teaches is the very truth of God.

Hence, on the testimony and authority of Christ, it is established as true that the Old Testament, with all of its historical and miraculous events, is an inscripturated revelation of God.

There are many other pieces of evidence that the Bible is the Word of God— for example, its supernatural predictive prophecy, its amazing unity, its superior moral quality, its worldwide publicity, and its dynamic power.13 It is sufficient evidence, however, that Jesus verified the Old Testament to be God’s Word. Since Jesus is confirmed to be the Son of God, his testimony that the Bible is the Word of God is more than adequate. Either a person accepts the authority of Scripture or he must impugn the integrity of the Son of God; they stand together.

Christ Promised the Inspiration of the New Testament

Jesus not only confirmed the divine authority of the Old Testament but he also guaranteed the inspiration of the New Testament. He promised to lead his disciples into “all truth” by the Holy Spirit. This promise was not only claimed by the apostles but was fulfilled in the apostolic writings of the New Testament. With these twenty-seven books God completed the fulfillment of all things that had been promised and closed the canon of revelation.

The Life and Ministry of Christ Is the Fulfillment of All Things

The New Testament teaches that Christ is the full and final fulfillment of “all things” (see Luke 21:22). Jesus claimed that he was the fulfillment of the whole Old Testament on many occasions (cf. Matt. 5:17; Luke 24:27, 44). The Jews knew only two days, “the former days” and “the latter days.” Jesus brought in the fulfillment of all the prophecies of the latter days so that the apostles announced that they were in the “latter times” (I Tim. 4:1) or the “last hour” (I John 2:18).

The Book of Hebrews declares that God spoke in many ways through the Old Testament prophets in times past “but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son” (1:3) who is the full and final revelation of God, “the very stamp of his nature” (1:3) who brings both eternal (5:9) and final salvation (10:10–12). Daniel was told, “Shut up the words, and seal the book, until the time of the end” (12:4); but in the last apocalypse (unveiling) John is told, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near” (Rev. 22:10).

All of God’s revelation comes to a culmination in Christ. In him are “hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). The very theme of Colossians is completion of perfection in Christ (1:28). Christ is not only the completion of God’s revelation but the complete revelation of God is about him. On at least five occasions Christ declared himself to be the theme of the Scriptures (Matt. 5:17; Luke 24:27, 44; John 5:39; Heb. 10:7).

John said that “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:10) and it was by “the Spirit of Christ” that the prophets spoke (I Peter 1:11).

Jesus Promised to Guide His Disciples into All Truth

Jesus promised his disciples that he would send them the Holy Spirit who “will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I have said to you” (John 14:26). Jesus added, “When he the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13). The phrase “all truth” obviously does not refer to all scientific or all historical truth, and so on, but to “all truth” necessary for faith and practice (see II Tim, 3:16, 17).

After Jesus died he continued “to do and teach” through the apostles (Acts 1:1). Even so, the promise is doctrinally all-inclusive and very important, since it ties in with the claim that Jesus is the fulfillment of all prophecy and that all truth resides in him. The important question is not whether Jesus is the final and complete revelation of God—that is repeatedly declared in Scripture—but rather where that full and final revelation can be found and who are its authorized agents.

The Twelve Apostles Are the Only Authorized Agents of Christ

Jesus chose twelve apostles and commissioned them with divine authority. He gave them power to forgive sins (John 20:23). Through the apostles’ hands the early believers received the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14, 15) and to the apostles were committed the “keys to the kingdom” (Matt. 16:19; cf. 18:18). The early church was built on the “foundation of the apostles … ” (Eph. 2:20), it continued the “apostles’ teaching … ” (Acts 2:42), and it was bound by apostolic decision (see Acts 15).

Even Paul, whose apostleship and revelation came from God (Gal. 1), had his credentials confirmed by the Jerusalem Twelve (see Gal. 2:2, 9). The writer of the Hebrews acknowledged that the message of Christ “was attested to us by those who heard him” (2:4). This latter phrase is important; there were prophets and writers of New Testament books other than the twelve apostles (Mark, Luke, Paul, James, Jude, and the writer of the Hebrews), but each of these had his message confirmed by the twelve apostles.

Mark was an associate of Peter; James and Jude were associates of the apostles and were probably brothers of Jesus. Luke was a companion of Paul whose message was confirmed by the apostles (Acts 15; Gal. 2) and also by Peter (II Peter 3:15, 16). The writer of Hebrews acknowledges his debt to the twelve apostles (2:3) who “heard” Christ. In fact, when Judas died two qualifications for being one of the Twelve were set forth: a potential candidate had to be:

  1. a member of the eyewitness circle of disciples from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, and
  2. an eyewitness of the resurrected Christ (Acts 1:21, 22).

Only two men qualified, and Matthias was elected and then “enrolled with the eleven apostles” (v.26).

The implications of these facts have a most significant bearing on the limits of the New Testament canon of Scripture, namely, no writing after the death of the Twelve can be canonical. Only the Twelve can attest to the truth of a writing about Christ. When all the eyewitnesses had died, the canon of revelation about Christ ceased. And since Christ is the full and final revelation of God, we must conclude that the collection of books authorized by the twelve apostles is the full and final revelation of God to men.

The Twenty-seven Books of the New Testament Are the Only Authentic Apostolic Writings Extant

Once the facts were generally known, the Christian church has been unanimous down through the years as to the authenticity of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament. It is true that some second-century Christians had doubt about various New Testament books such as Hebrews, James, II Peter, II and III John, Jude, and Revelation (called “Antilegomena” or “spoken against”).14

But once the authorship and message were attested, there was universal acceptance of their divine authority. And despite the prearchaeological higher criticism of some of these books in modern times, there is ample evidence to support the traditional first-century authorship of all of these books.15 In this regard it is important to observe that the often challenged epistle of II Peter has much more evidence for its authenticity than do the works of Tacitus.

Even within the New Testament, there is ample evidence of a developing canon of apostolic literature as it was written. First, there was a deliberate effort made to select only the authentic writings about the life of Christ (Luke 1:1–4) and only the authentic epistles of apostles (II Thess. 2:2). The apostles were a kind of “living canon” of eyewitnesses for the teachings about Christ that were circulating (cf. II Peter 1:16; I John 1:3; 4:1, 6).

Second, those books that were authorized by the apostles were recommended for reading in the churches (Col. 4:16; Rev. 1:3). Third, these books were both circulated in other churches (Col. 4:16; Rev. 1:11) and collected along with the Old Testament Scriptures (II Peter 3:15, 16). There is even evidence within the New Testament that later books quoted earlier ones as Scripture. Paul quoted Luke (I Tim. 5:18; cf. Luke 10:7) and Jude quoted Peter (cf. Jude 17 and II Peter 3:2).

Likewise, Luke assumed Theophilus possessed his “firstbook” (Acts 1:1). Many of the books were probably intended for a wide group of churches. The Book of James is addressed to the “twelve tribes in the dispersion” (1:1); Peter is written to “the exiles of the dispersion” (1:1) and Revelation was sent to “the seven churches” of Asia Minor (1:11). So from the very earliest of times there was a selected group of apostolically approved writings circulating and being read in the churches.

Only twenty-seven such authentic books have been passed down to us from the apostles. Inasmuch as Jesus promised to lead the apostles into “all truth” we may assume that these twenty-seven books fulfill that promise. Even if there were other books by an apostolically authorized New Testament writer, such as the epistle to which Paul referred in I Corinthians 5:9, we may assume that it contained no truth about Christ not found in these twenty-seven extant books.

The so-called Letter of the Laodoceans (Col. 4:16) may refer to what we know as the Book of Ephesians.16 If not, then it would fall into the same classification as Paul’s so-called “lost” letter to the Corinthians. What we do know is that there are twenty-seven authentic books from the apostolic period which provide a fulfillment of the “all truth” Jesus promises. In addition, we know that this revelation about Christ is the complete and final wisdom of God for men (Col. 2:3; Heb. 1:1 f.).

We may conclude, then, that with the apostolic writings of the New Testament the canon of Scripture is complete. John, the last of the apostles to die, seemed to recognize that he was completing the canon of Scripture when he signed off his Apocalypse. He not only wrote of the final revelation of Jesus Christ, which was to be unsealed, for the time of final fulfillment was at hand (22:10), but he recorded an anathema for anyone who added to or took away from his book (vv. 18–19).

Since John was allegedly the last living apostle writing his last book, and since there could be no apostolic book after he died, and since “all truth” was committed to the apostles, this concluding statement about not adding to “the words of the prophecy of this book” has at least an indirect bearing on the whole canon of Scripture. Christ fulfilled all, his apostles told all, and his last apostle completed the canon.

The Test of a False Prophet or False Writing

The Old and New Testaments are not the only writings that claim divine origin. The Koran claims to be inspired as do the Book of Mormon and the writings of the Bahai prophet, Bahá’U’lláh. There are also many contemporaries who are acclaimed as prophets, the most famous of whom are the late Edgar Cayce and Jeane Dixon. Space does not permit a systematic analysis of the claims and credentials of all the writings of these persons.

It will be sufficient for our purposes here to lay down the tests for a false prophet or writing and illustrate the same by examples drawn from these alleged prophets.

Do They Claim to Have a New Revelation from God for Mankind?

Properly speaking, most of the forecasts of Edgar Cayce and Jeane Dixon are not religious; they do not come as a revelation of God for mankind. Mohammed, Joseph Smith, and Bahá ’U’lláh are different. They each claim divine inspiration. The same is true of David Berg of the Children of God cult.

When any alleged prophet comes with a new revelation of God for mankind, then we know he is not a prophet of God. According to the New Testament he may appear to be a “minister of righteousness” but he is really an emissary of the devil or the satanic “angel of light” himself (II Cor. 11:14, 15). We have already seen that Christ is the full and final revelation of God and that his apostles were commissioned to speak “all truth” about him.

When the last of the twelve apostles died, the revelation was completed. Anyone who adds to it is under the anathema of God. Hence, all these modern “prophets” who claim they are adding some new and additional revelation to that of the Bible must be classed as false prophets.

Do They Have a Different Revelation for Mankind?

Not all who have a different revelation from that of Scripture claim to be saying something different. Here the believer must be careful; he must “not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (I John 4:1).

In like manner, Paul warned the Corinthians “not to be quickly shaken in mind or excited, either by spirit or by word, or by letter purporting to be from us …” (II Thess. 2:2). Jesus warned his disciples on several occasions to “beware of false prophets” (Matt. 7:15) and that “false Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray …” (Matt. 24:24).

How will one know if these “prophets” are false? Moses laid down the conditions in Deuteronomy 13 and 18. “If he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or to that dreamer of dreams” (13:2). Moses adds, “You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him, and keep his commandments and obey his voice …” (13:4). Likewise, Moses warned that the prophet “who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die” (18:20).

In short, any prophet speaking in the name of a different god or giving a different revelation from that of the God of the Bible is a false prophet. The apostle Paul summed it up well for the Christian when he charged: “Even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8). There is only one gospel; it is the gospel of salvation by the grace of God apart from any human works (Gal. 2:21; 3:11; cf. Rom. 4:5; Titus 3:5–7; Eph. 2:8–9).

Another essential doctrinal test for truth is the confession of Jesus Christ as God Incarnate in human flesh (I John 4:1; cf. John 1:1, 14). Those who deny the apostolic confession of Christ are of the “spirit of antichrist” (I John 4:3). The apostle John added, “Whoever knows God listens to us, and he who is not of God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (v. 6).

On these two doctrinal criteria alone—the deity and humanity of Christ and justification by faith alone—we know that the writings of the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Bahá’U’lláh, Mohammed, and many other modern cults are not of God. Mormons deny both the deity of Christ and salvation by faith alone.17 Mohammed and Bahá’U’lláh believed Christ was only a prophet who did not die for our sins and who was superseded by prophet(s) after him.18

Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the deity of Christ, claiming that he was the created angel Michael.19 Christ proclaimed that he is the only way to God (John 10:1, 9; 14:6) and the apostles emphasized the same (Acts 4:12; I Tim. 2:5; Heb. 10:10–12). On this ground the writings of Bahá’U’lláh must be rejected since they relegate Christ to the status of a mere prophet whose claims were only for his people and his day but have been superseded by Bahá’U’lláh.20

Do They Obtain Their Revelations from Angels or Spirits?

God spoke to men of old through dreams (Gen. 28; Dan. 2), visions (Dan. 7; Zech. 1), angels (Gen. 18; Dan. 9), and in “various ways” (Heb. 1:1). But we are emphatically informed that “in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he created the world” (Heb. 1:2). Paul warned about revelations from an “angel from heaven” (Gal. 1:8) or from a “spirit” (II Thess. 2:2).

In these last days, God has given a full and final revelation in his Son and through his authorized apostles. Any other alleged revelation must be in strict accord with what they have said. The Scriptures also make it plain that any attempt on our part to contact or communicate with spirits from other worlds is forbidden and is not of God. Attempting to communicate with the dead is called “necromancy” and it is explicitly forbidden in Scripture. “There shall not be found among you … a necromancer. For whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord” (Deut. 18:11, 12).

In view of this warning, it is not difficult to determine whether or not David Berg is of God when he confesses to receiving his “revelations” from his dead mother and from an angel named “Abraham.”21 The same is true of Bahá’U’lláh who not only permits but, through his “infallible” interpreter Abdul–Baha, encourages contact with departed spirits:

The unity of humanity as taught by Bahá’U’lláh refers not only to men still in the flesh, but to all human beings, whether embodied or disembodied. … Spiritual communion one with another, far from being impossible or unnatural, is constant and inevitable. … To the Prophets and saints this spiritual communion is as familiar and real as are ordinary vision and conversation to the rest of mankind.22

This confession leaves no alternative for the Christian but to pronounce Bahá’U’lláh a false prophet in contact with evil spirits.

Do They Use Any Objects of Divination to Make Their Prophecy? Another test for a true prophet given by Moses and repeated by the prophets involved the use of physical objects with which one would “divine” results. “There shall not be found among you … any one who practices divination. … For whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord” (Deut. 18:10, 12). Isaiah spoke against “diviners” (44:25) and Jeremiah added, “do not listen to your prophets, your diviners …” (27:9). According to Zechariah, “the teraphim utter nonsense, and the diviners see lies” (10:2).

On this criterion both Jeane Dixon and Joseph Smith come up wanting. Jeane Dixon confesses to the use of a crystal ball. Joseph Smith is known to have used a stone in a hat over his face when translating the Book of Mormon.23 It has been established as well that Smith used a divining stone and that he carried an occult Jupiter Talisman around his neck.24 Such objects of divination are forbidden by God and are signs of a false prophet.

Does the Prophecy Center in Jesus Christ? Jesus himself claimed to be the theme of prophetic Scripture on at least five occasions (Matt. 5:17; Luke 24:27, 44; John 5:39; Heb. 10:7). The apostles repeated this claim (Acts 10:43). John wrote, “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:10). Those prophets, then, who testify not of Jesus are not of God. In his epistle, John added, “Every spirit which does not confess Jesus is not of God” (I John 4:3).

Even a casual examination of the writings of Jeane Dixon reveal that Jesus is not the center of her writings. The writings of Bahá’U’lláh are clearly not centered in Christ, and it is questionable whether Joseph Smith’s works are really Christ-centered. Of course, the Koran is not a testimony to Jesus. We conclude that only those Scriptures which point to Jesus Christ are of God. The Old and New Testaments are the only Scriptures that unmistakably provide a divinely confirmed and unfolding messianic revelation centered in Jesus.

Do They Ever Utter False Prophecies?

It is a mistake to believe that the coming to pass of a prediction is an unmistakable sign of its divine origin. But the opposite is clearly a negative test for a false prophet, namely, “if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word which the Lord has not spoken” (Deut. 18:22).

It is this negative test for the truth or falsity of a prophecy that renders Edgar Cayce, Jeane Dixon, and their like false prophets. It is questionable whether they hit on over 60 percent of their predictions, but even 80 percent or more would show them wrong 20 percent of the time and thus make them false prophets. Jeane Dixon is known to have been wrong about many predictions and Joseph Smith gave a false prediction about the city of Zion.25

Bahá’U’lláh predicted just before the turn of the century that an age of peace was dawning on the world. His prediction has been followed by the worst time of war the world has ever known, including the First and Second World Wars, the Asian wars, the Near Eastern wars, and the many African wars even in this very day some one hundred years later.26

Are They Official or Confirmed Prophets of God? There is evidence within the Old Testament that there was an official line of prophets beginning with Moses. Each wrote and his book was laid up before the Lord (Deut. 31:24–26; Josh. 24:26). Later Samuel started a school of the prophets (I Sam. 19:20) and Ezekiel speaks of an official “register” of prophets (Ezek. 13:9 ASV margin). If challenged as to his prophetic credentials, a man of God could depend on miraculous confirmation from God.

Moses was given the miraculous rod with which he divided the waters of the sea and performed numerous miracles (Exod. 4). Once when Moses’ prophetic office was challenged the earth opened up and swallowed Koran and his followers (Num. 26:10). Elijah and Elisha performed many miracles to authenticate their prophetic credentials including calling down fire from heaven (I Kings 18:38).

The New Testament prophets confirmed their divine credentials in the same miraculous way. Jesus gave power to his disciples to heal the sick, open the eyes of the blind, cast out demons, and even raise the dead (Matt. 10:1 f.). The writer of the Hebrews summarized well the credentials of true apostles, saying they were those through whom “God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit …” (Heb. 2:4). If a man claims to be a prophet of God, he must be able to have the confirmation of God by a notable act of God.

Paul defended his divine authority to the Corinthians by saying to them, “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you in all patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works” (II Cor. 12:12). There were, of course, some false prophets and apostles. Moses was confronted by the magicians of Egypt who performed some parallel and amazing feats.

But when God through the hand of Moses turned the dust into lice, the magicians gave up crying, “This is the finger of God” (Exod. 8:19). Likewise, the power to raise the dead singled out the true New Testament prophets from the false. None of the modern day “prophets” stand in the official line of confirmed prophets of God nor do they possess these unique prophetic powers. They are, then, not prophets of God.

Summary and Conclusion

Jesus is God incarnate. As God, whatever he teaches is true. Jesus taught that the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament are the authoritative, written Word of God. Likewise, Jesus, who is God’s full and final revelation, promised that his twelve apostles would be guided by the Holy Spirit into “all truth.” The only authentic and confirmed record of apostolic teaching extant is the twenty-seven books of the New Testament.

Hence, the canon of God’s revelation to man is closed. With these sixty-six books we have the complete and final revelation of God for the faith and practice of believers. Every spirit or prophet who claims to give a new or different revelation is not of God.

This does not mean that there is no truth in other religious writings or holy books. There is truth in Greek poetry (Acts 17:28), in the Apocrypha (Heb. 11:35), and even some truth in pseudepigraphical writings (Jude 14), as is manifest from the New Testament usage of these books. The point is that the Bible and the Bible alone contains all doctrinal and ethical truth God has revealed to mankind.

And the Bible alone is the canon or norm for all truth. All other alleged truth must be brought to the bar of Holy Scripture to be tested. The Bible and the Bible alone, all sixty-six books, has been confirmed by God through Christ to be his infallible Word.

SELECT READINGS FOR CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

  • Archer, Gleason. Survey of Old Testament Introduction.
  • Geisler, Norman. General Introduction to the Bible.
  • Green, William H. General Introduction to the Old Testament.
  • Harris, Laird. The Inspiration and Canonicity of the Bible.
  • Harrison, Everett. Introduction to the New Testament.
  • Ramm, Bernard. Protestant Christian Evidences.
  • Warfield, B. B. The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible.
  • Wenham, John. Christ and the Bible.
  • Westcott, Brooke F. A General Survey of the History of the Canon of the New Testament.

1 For a more complete discussion on the Bible’s claim for its own inspiration see N. L. Geisler, A General Introduction to the Bible, Chapters 1–9, or my From God to Us, Chapters 1–5.

2 The Talmud and Jewish Bibles today number them as 24 but Josephus and others combine Ruth with Judges and Lamentations with Jeremiah making the number 22. See Josephus, Against Apion I, 8.

3 For support of the belief in absolute moral norms see my Ethics: Alternatives and Issues, Chapters 1–7.

4 An excellent exposition of Christ’s verification of the Old Testament is found in John W. Wenham, Christ and the Bible.

5 Bertrand Russell, “Why I Am Not a Christian,” in The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell, p. 594.

6 See also chap. 13 above on why God must be infinite.

7 This does not mean that the Bible was verbally dictated as some have mistakenly taught (cf. John R. Rice, Our God–Breathed Book, pp. 265–67, 281–91). There are stylistic differences easily recognizable in Scripture which indicate that God used the various personalities of the different authors in a dynamic way.

8 For a fuller treatment of the canonicity of Scripture see my A General Introduction to the Bible, Chapters 10–15, or my From God to Us, Chapters 6–10.

9 For a fuller discussion of this point see my article “The Extent of the Old Testament Canon,” in Current Issues in Biblical and Patristic Studies, ed. Gerald F. Hawthorne, pp. 31–46.

10 Josephus, Against Apion I, 83.

11 Babylonian Talmud, “Sanhedrin,” VII–VIII, 24.

12 For further support of this point see Laird Harris, Inspiration and Canonicity of the Bible.

13 See Bernard Ramm’s Protestant Christian Evidences for an elaboration of some of these arguments.

14 See Geisler, A General Introduction to the Bible, chap. 15, or From God to Us, chap. 10.

15 See Everett F. Harrison, Introduction to the New Testament, or Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, vol. 4.>

16 See Harrison, Introduction to N.T., p. 311.

17 James E. Talmage, Articles of Faith, p. 479, calls “justification by faith” a “pernicious doctrine.” Jesus is a god for Mormons only in the same sense we are gods {Journal of Discourses, I, 51).

18 See Koran, Surah IV, 157, 171.

19 Let God Be True, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, p. 101; and What Has Religion Done for Mankind?

20 See J. E. Esslemont, Bahá’U’lláh and the New Era, pp. 102, 127, 135–36.

21 See Letters of Moses David (“MO”), London: Children of God Trust.

22 Esslemont, Bahá’U’lláh, p. 197.

23 This is documented in Mormonism: Shadow or Reality? by Jerald and Sandra Tanner, p. 32 f.

24 The discovery of Joseph Smith’s occult Jupiter Talisman has come to light recently in a revealing, unpublished historical paper given at Navoo, Ill., April 20, 1974 by a Mormon historian Reed Durham entitled “Is There No Help for the Widow’s Son?”

25 See Doctrines and the Covenants, sec. 97, a prophecy given August 2, 1833. It said: “Zion /Missouri/ cannot fall or be moved out of her place.” But two weeks earlier (July 20, 1833) Zion was moved, the Mormon presses were destroyed, and the leading Mormon officials were run out of town. Smith was in Kirtland, Ohio, and unaware of the fall of Zion when he gave his “revelation.”

26 Esslemont, Bahá’U’lláh, p. 144.

Geisler, N. L. (1976). Christian apologetics. Includes index. (353). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible

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