Tag Archives: How Was the Bible Assembled

William Tyndale: His Life, His Legacy

9 Sep

Throughout the world today, people are learning to be more efficient farmers, to keep more sanitary houses, and to prevent diseases all because someone was committed to bringing them the Bible in their native tongue.  This connection may not be obvious at first.  After all, what does the Sacred Writ really have to do with better medical techniques or the production of crops?  The answer may be simpler than you imagine.

Each of the 7,000 languages spoken in the world today began as an oral form of communication.  While this allows people to communicate their immediate needs, it is rarely an efficient form of accurately conveying information in the long term.  Like a game of “telephone”, verbal instructions can be warped and mutilated until what began as history and good advice becomes legend and folklore.  The ability to write changes this… and frequently this transformation begins with the work of men and women dedicated to sharing the words of the Bible.  It’s a story shared by literally thousands of languages, including (not too long ago) our own.

That’s why, this week, we’re featuring the 60 minute DVD “William Tyndale: His Life, His Legacy”.  Brief and informative, this winner of the 2004 WORLDFEST International Film Festival GOLD Special Jury Award will introduce you to the man whose efforts to make the Holy Scriptures available in the common tongue led to the creation of the modern English language.  In this incredible documentary, you’ll learn about Tyndale’s spiritual journey and the passion which drove him to defy the ruling powers as he translated the Bible into the language of his people.  You’ll hear about his fearless drive, even in the face of death, and you’ll witness first-hand how the written language can impact both the fate of nations and of individuals.  It’s a fascinating journey through the history of the world’s most popular book filled with insights into the origins of one of the most spoken languages of our day!

William Tyndale: His Life, His Legacy” was produced by Avalon Press and is available on www.Amazon.com.

How Do Christians Determine What they Accept as Scripture: The Test of Value

25 Jan

Not every accurate text written during the time of Christ was included in the Christian canon.  Often times, the reason for this was that these texts were written by those who were not followers of Jesus.  But what about books written by non-apostolic contemporaries who were?  To answer this question, we turn to the final test in our series on how Christians determine what they accept as Scripture: The Test of Value.

Anyone who has read Christian writings beyond those included within the Scriptures will likely understand why such a test is necessary, even though it may at times appear to be a bit subjective.  Christian book stores abound with volumes written by educated men: preachers, theologians, and philosophers.  On occasion, these books meet the other standards set for Scriptural writings in that they are accurate, internally consistent with both themselves and other revelation, and even helpful to believers in general.  To include such works within the Christian canon, however, would make for more reading than most of us could do in a lifetime.

Such products are not limited to our modern age and Christians in the early Church found themselves in a position of needing to refine what would or wouldn’t be selected for inclusion in their Sacred Text.  The easiest way to make the decision was to select only those texts containing authentic and new apostolic doctrine.

You can think of it a bit like making a decision whether or not to include the writings of C. S. Lewis as part of the New Testament.  Provided that Lewis was an authentic apostle (he wasn’t) and that his writings were always consistent with previous revelation (not always the case) and that what he had to say would be useful to the Church worldwide (it is), they might make a good addition to the Holy Writ.  So why not include them?  The answer is that Lewis’ writings are an exercise in the application of Biblical principles, not a presentation of new principles upon which believers should act.  It is for this reason that some otherwise good candidates for inclusion in the Bible, such as the Shepherd of Hermas and the Didache or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles are unknown to many of today’s churchgoing believers.

By limiting the Sacred Text in this way, Christians erred on the side of caution and also kept their writings compact enough that every believer would have the ability to read, understand, and master the core doctrines of the faith.  (That’s not to say that this always happens or even that it happens frequently – just that it is a conceivable possibility!)

So there you have it: the tests which have been traditionally used to determine what does or doesn’t belong in the Christian canon.   They have influenced the Church for millennia and will likely continue to do so well into the future!

What happens if you aren’t sure about all of the selections made by the Church in the past?  Next week, we’ll conclude our series with a look at the finalization of the Canon and what it does or doesn’t mean for believers today.  Meanwhile, feel free to share your own thoughts on this test and why (or why not) you accept its validity in the comment box below!

How Do Christians Determine What they Accept as Scripture: The Test of Authenticity

18 Jan

Over the last few months, we’ve looked at a number of tests used by Christians to determine what we accept as Scripture.  This week, we’ll continue this theme as we take a look at the Test of Authenticity.  Why does authenticity matter?  Quite simply because it is the eye-witnesses (like Matthew and John) and those who were close to them (like Luke and Mark) who were in the best position to describe what Jesus actually taught.  They saw the events for themselves and were closely associated with the person of whom they spoke.  More importantly, as Apostles or those close to the Apostles, they were privy not just to Jesus’ public teachings, but also to what He had to say in private.  As such, they were uniquely qualified to purvey His doctrine to other followers not just in Judea, but around the world.

That isn’t to say that accurate accounts of Jesus’ life and teachings couldn’t or didn’t originate from those who weren’t Apostles.  Indeed, there are a number of excellent accounts from the time period, not all of which were provided by followers of “The Way”.  When it comes to establishing the doctrines of the Church, however, Christians are and were concerned with ensuring that the teaching came from someone with Apostolic authority.

Verifying authorship and date of composition is relatively easy when copies of “Scriptural” books are confined to a limited geographic area, such as the region of Judea (as was the case with most of the Old Testament).  Add in the rest of the world, however, and confirming the origin of a text becomes a challenge.  Though all 27 books of the New Testament were written within 70 years of Christ’s death, writings like these were copied and sent to churches individually and not every congregation in the early Church had copies of every document.  Most churches subjected new writings to serious scrutiny (using the previously discussed tests) before accepting the documents as authoritative.  Books like James, 2 Peter, Jude, 2 and 3 John and Revelation, were not immediately embraced by all Christian congregations and, as a result, decades passed before the New Testament officially stood as it does today.

The Church would later face similar difficulties when it came to verifying the authenticity of Old Testament writings as well.  The Alexandrian Jewish Diaspora had an edition of the Scriptures which contained numerous works which did not pass the authentication process utilized by the Orthodox Judean Jews.  While some Christians accepted these apocryphal books, others rejected them outright.

While these “hidden” or “secret” books contained material pertaining to this time, they were eventually excluded for a number of reasons varying from lack of authenticity (as found in additions made to Daniel and Esther long after the events in their volumes supposedly occurred) to scientific inaccuracies (as found in 2 Esdras, Tobit, and Judith) to contradictions with other Scripture (such as found in 2 Esdras, the Sibylline Oracles, and the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs) or simple historical inaccuracies (as those manifested in Baruch).   Indeed, Jerome (one of the early Church fathers) struggled with the idea of including these texts in his Latin translation known today as the Vulgate and did so only with deep reservations.

That said, if you want a broader understanding of varying Christian traditions, all of these make for excellent reading.  Most High School students should be able to pick out the reasons for their exclusion from the evangelical tradition and, if they think carefully, the reasons for their inclusion in other traditions.

Next week, we’ll take a look at one final test applied to determining whether a text qualifies for a place among the Holy Writ: The Test of Value.  Meanwhile, feel free to share your thoughts and discoveries in the comment box below!

Answering Questions About the Bible: How Do Christians Determine What They Accept As Scripture?

5 Oct

Deciding what is or isn’t accepted as sacred text isn’t a problem limited to Christianity.  Ask any Muslim and they’ll tell you that one of the greatest debates of the Islamic world revolves around the Hadith, the apocryphal sayings of Mohammed.  Which teachings are accurate?  Which one’s aren’t?  How are they tested?  And who, ultimately, gets to decide which ones remain a part of the accepted religious tradition and which ones don’t?

These are questions faced by many faiths, so it’s not at all surprising that they should be asked in reference to Christianity as well.  There are more than a few ancient texts which refer to the struggles of the Jewish people and the work and teachings of Christ – so who decided which books were sacred and which weren’t and how did they decide?

Over the next few weeks, we’ll take a look at why the Christian Bible stands as it does today – why some writings were accepted universally and others only by certain groups – and why so many of us are convinced that these 66 books stand out from the rest!

We’ll start by taking a look at the key tests applied to any text which makes a claim to Divine authority:

  • The Test of a Prophet – What role does prophesy play in defining the Christian Scriptures… and how do we know that a prophet really is from God?
  • The Test of Uniqueness – What role does logic play in defining what is or isn’t prophesy and how does it influence what believers will or won’t accept as genuine?
  • The Test of Detail – Is detail an important element of authentic prophesy and how might it help us determine whether a text does or doesn’t belong in the Bible?
  • The Test of Value – How do accuracy and applicability help Christians to determine whether a text (prophetic or not) deserves a place within the Holy Writ?
  • The Test of Authenticity – Why when a text was written and who wrote it can make the difference between the acceptance or rejection of an ancient composition.

We’ll examine the philosophies and events which surrounded the establishment of the Canon (a fancy, Latin word meaning “rule” or “measure” which is used in reference to those books without which a group of writings – in this case, the Bible – would not be complete), answer some frequently asked questions, and consider the implications of our findings.  Whether you agree with me that the Bible is the inerrant, infallible, Word of God or not – you’re sure to find the journey an enlightening one.

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