How did the Bible become the Bible? Carl Trueman & G. K. Beale

carl-truemanCarl Trueman: The history of the production of the Canon is a long and complicated one. And it really doesn’t come to a close until the 16th century, with the struggle between Catholicism and Protestantism, when canonical issues really become somewhat acute, somewhere in the middle of the 16th century. Now that can be a very disturbing thought to people. (Thinking) Oh wow, so we didn’t have a Bible ‘til the middle of the 16th century? Well, no. The story is less disturbing than that when you look at the details. I think, by the middle of the second century, if you look at the writings of the apostolic fathers, or the writings of the Greek apologists, you already have functionally in place, the vast majority of the books of the New Testament- the canon. Canon formation is generally, christians are concerned about the formation of the New Testament. I mean, they’re really interested, how did the church decide that these New Testament works were part of the New Testament and not just early christian writings that weren’t inspired. I think, by the middle of the second century, (aprox 150 A.D.) you can make a good case for saying the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), most of the letters of Paul are already in place, as authoritative in the church. And the debates tend to be about the smaller epistles. I’d want to say (they are) not lesser material, because it’s all divinely inspired. But, in terms of constructing a coherent Gospel theology, the shorter epistles make less contribution to that overall theology.

G. K. Beale:

One of the criteria among the church fathers was apostleship, apostolicity. If you can demonstrate that in a book, it should be seen as included in the canon. But, then some will say, „But, wait a minute. How about Luke? He wasn’t an apostle.” And the author of Hebrews, we don’t know who that was, though the early church, some held it was Paul.  But it’s been pretty well concluded that we don’t know who that was. Some have even contended that even the Book of Revelation is not the John the apostle. Those who weren’t apostles were a part of the apostolic circles. Take Luke. Luke was a traveling companion with Paul. And so, those in the apostolic circle are considered New Testament prophets. We know Ephesians 2:20 talks about „the church is founded on the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus, Himself, being the cornerstone…” And so, we know there were a group of prophets attached, or in some way associated with the apostolic circle. So, all of these writings that can be traced back to the apostolic circle become canonical. They are the legal representatives of Christ, now that He’s left the earth. You might remember when Christ said, „He who receives you, receives Me. He who receives your word, receives My word”.

The idea of apostleship, they were like lawyers.  The lawyer in court represents the defendant. And so, the lawyer’s words are the defendant’s words. The apostles’ words are Christ’s words. This is really laid out nice in a book by Herman Ridderboss, called ‘Redemptive History and The New Testament Scriptures – Biblical and Theological Studies’.

Was there an official council that settled this, even beyond second century?

Carl Trueman:

In the 4th century, at the Council of Constantinople. The role of the church becomes acute because one of the things that is debated in the 16th century is why do people believe the canon? Is it because the church says these books are canonical, or is it because the books are in and of themselves canonical? And it’s a division, really, between Catholics and Protestants, that to an extent persists to this day.

I think, the Protestant response that I agree with is that the church recognized those books that were inspired. The church didn’t make them inspired, the church didn’t make them canonical, the church came to recognize them as canonical. One of the things, though, I think we need to do as individual christians is to understand how that dynamic works out in our own lives. When I was converted from a non-christian background,the first Sunday I go along to church, why do I take the canon of the Bible as the canon? Well, I did it that Sunday because the church told me. I was in a church and this was the canon, as far as the church saying it’s so. Over a period of time though, as the Bible was consistently preached and applied to me by ministers, and as I read it for myself, I saw the beauty and the coherence and the power of those books, which impresses itself on the individual. So, I think, as Protestants, it’s worth acknowledging that often, early in our pilgrimage we believe the Bible because the church tells us so. But, on the bases of that we move on ultimately to believe the Bible because the Bible itself is self authenticating. You don’t need an external authority to authenticate the Bible.

G. K. Beale:

Another way to put it is: Did the church create the canon or did the canon create the church? The canon created the church, the church recognized it. There’s a nice book that argues well with this. Because of the flurry of some scholars saying that a lot of the apocryphal Gospel really should have been in the canon and that it was really just a political power move that they weren’t in it. The book is The Heresy of Orthodoxy and its authors are Andreas Köstenberger and  Walter Kruger.

Here’s a little more on this second book from Amazon:

Beginning with Walter Bauer in 1934, the denial of clear orthodoxy in early Christianity has shaped and largely defined modern New Testament criticism, recently given new life through the work of spokesmen like Bart Ehrman. Spreading from academia into mainstream media, the suggestion that diversity of doctrine in the early church led to many competing orthodoxies is indicative of today’s postmodern relativism. Authors Köstenberger and Kruger engage Ehrman and others in this polemic against a dogged adherence to popular ideals of diversity.

Köstenberger and Kruger’s accessible and careful scholarship not only counters the „Bauer Thesis” using its own terms, but also engages overlooked evidence from the New Testament. Their conclusions are drawn from analysis of the evidence of unity in the New Testament, the formation and closing of the canon, and the methodology and integrity of the recording and distribution of religious texts within the early church.

VIDEO by DESERT SPRINGS CHURCH

Inerrancy is Supported Biblically: The Relationship Between the Nature of God and Scripture – Carl Trueman and G. K. Beale

G. K. Beale:

There’s been some debate among evangelicals. And when I say evangelicals I don’t know what I mean because everybody’s an evangelical today, and it’s a huge, huge umbrella. It didn’t used to be back in the mid 20th century. But, nevertheless, a book as been written arguing that the traditional view of the inerrancy of the Bible is not biblical. Now, the traditional view he has in mind is a particular writer who started an evangelical seminary in England. The usual deduction is made that:

  1. God is perfect. I think that’s a pretty good deduction. His character is perfect.
  2. Therefore, what God speaks orally is perfect. So far, so good, for this particular writer.
  3. But his third one is that since God is perfect, His oral word is perfect, therefore His written word is perfect.

And this writer says, „Nowhere in the Bible do you find where it extends the perfection of God’s character  to the written Bible. He says, „That’s a logical deduction,” and in one way it makes sense. But, it’s not biblical. You can’t find a passage that really connects God’s perfection and his character with his word. So, I started thinking, when I read this, „I think there are passages. Such passages as Revelation 3:14, where it says that Christ is the ‘Amen’, the faithful and true witness the beginning of the creation, i.e. the new creation of Christ. It says that Christ is the ‘Amen’, the faithful and true witness. What’s amazing about that is that it’s almost a quotation from Isaiah 65:15-16, where it speaks of God as the ‘Amen’, the faithful and true. What a high statement about Jesus.

In fact, Isaiah 65:16 is the only place where it addresses a person in the Bible with ‘Amen’ as God. The only other place is Revelation 3:14, Jesus is the „Amen’, He’s identified with God, he’s a divine person. And so, He’s the faithful and true witness. So His character is true and what He says is true, and then very intriguingly in chapter 21:5, you have the statement that says: „The one who sits on the throne says: Write, these are true words of God.” And it says: Behold I create all things new. But, this phrase ‘Write, John…’ why are you to write John? These are actually true and faithful words of God. Well, that phrase ‘faithful and true’ is found only back in chapter 3:14. And this is an explicit development here in chapter 21, where John is to write God’s oral word, because they’re faithful and true. In other words, there’s an actual command for him to now put into writing what has been said, that represents God’s faithful character.

So we do actually have a place where God’s faithful character is true, and His oral word is true, and that’s to be put into writing. And one person’s writing, „Yeah, but when John went to record it, – okay, he was commanded to write, but when he went to record it, couldn’t there have been a little slippage? Was God actually superintending the recording? Yeah, yeah, He was in the command, but was He superintending the recording?” And, in fact, Carl Trueman rattled off a number of passages  about John, in the Book of Revelation writing the word of God. You might remember the seven letter, where Jesus commands John, „Write!!!” And, all of a sudden Jesus is speaking, John’s writing, but they’re the words of Jesus and at the end it says: He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says. So, these are human words, they’re Christ’s words, they’re the Spirit’s words. Of course, at the very end it says, „If anyone adds to these words, God will add to him the plagues written in this book. And anyone who takes away from these words, God will take his part away form the tree of life and his part in the Holy City.” So, obviously, the words as they’ve been written down, have indeed been superintended by God through his prophet John.

So we do actually have an actual explicit Scriptural explanation of what this author says can’t be found. God’s character is true, His oral word is true, and the extension of that oral word to the written is not only commanded by God, but superintended by the Spirit. (Photos via http://www.wts.edu)

carl-truemanG. K. Beale:

Carl Trueman

From Acts 7- Scripture is the living word. As God is living and active, so His word is not just a book of logarithms, but it’s the speech of the living God.

G. K. Beale:

The sovereignty of God is important. Those, sometimes you find, who don’t affirm the absolute sovereignty of God. By that I mean, that leaves and birds don’t fall from heaven apart from God’s hand, even to that detail. If that’s the case, then it makes complete sense that when humans write, they will be sovereignly superintended by God, though their styles are different. But, those that don’t affirm the absolute sovereignty of God will say, „Humans have independence from God. They’re not always under God’s sovereign hand.” Then (to them) it makes sense that some human error could have crept in there. So I do think that an absolute understanding of the sovereignty of God is very important.

What Is Inerrancy? (William Lane Craig)

william lane craigThe doctrine of inerrancy doesn’t mean that everything in the Bible is literally true. What inerrancy, properly understood means is that everything that the Bible teaches is true. Or, that everything that the Bible teaches or affirms to be true is true.

Inerrancy is viewed as so important because if the Bible has mistakes in it, then how can it be inspired by God?

The doctrine of inspiration, I take to mean that the Scripture, as it was originally written was exactly what God wanted to be His word to us, that what those human authors wrote, under the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit was His word to us, and therefore is inspired, in that sense. Now, whether or not inerrancy is an implication of that, or not, might be something that one might debate. But, I think, typically, one might think that inerrancy would be a corollary of inspiration, because it is God’s word to us, and God is truthful. Therefore, whatever the Bible teaches or affirms is true. It is God’s word to us.

Bart Ehrman’s own evangelical faith was undermined, initially, at least he claims, by his abandonment in his belief in inerrancy. He had a strong view of inerrancy, as a student at Moody Bible Institute, and then Wheaton College. And when he went to Princeton to do his graduate work, apparently when he was doing the exegesis of a certain passage, that looked to have an error in it, and when he tried to think of all sorts of ways to interpret the passage, so as to explain away this mistake, and apparently, his professor returned the paper to him and said, „Maybe Mark just made a mistake.” And Ehrman said this was like the scales falling from his eyes. With that simple comment, his belief in inerrancy just began to collapse. And he thought, „Yeah, maybe the author just made a mistake.” And the problem for Ehrman was that once inerrancy went, it was like the finger in the dyke being released and the whole of his faith disintegrated.

And I think there’s a lesson in this. And it’s this: Inerrancy is a corollary of the doctrine of inspiration. And as such, it’s important to the Christian faith, but it doesn’t stand at the center of the Christian faith. It’s not one of the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith. If we think of our theological system of beliefs as like a spider’s web, at the core of the web, where the center is there will be things like

  • belief in the existence of God. That will be absolutely central to the web of beliefs.
  • a little further out would be the deity of Christ and His resurrection from the dead.
  • a little bit further out from that would perhaps be the penal theory of the atonement, the substitutionary death for our sins.
  • and even further out than that, somewhere at the periphery of the web will be the belief in the inerrancy of Scripture.

What that means is that if one of these central beliefs, like the belief in the existence of God or the resurrection of Jesus goes, that part of the web is plugged out, the whole web is going to collapse because if you take something out of the center, the rest of the web can’t exist. But if you pull one of the strands out that is near the periphery, that will cause some reverberation in your web of beliefs, but it’s not going to destroy the whole thing. And the problem with a person like Bart Ehrman, and I think, many people today, is that they have at the very center of their web of theological beliefs, the belief in inerrancy, so that if that belief goes, the rest collapses, and they are really in danger of committing apostasy.  They’re teetering on the brink by having this belief be at the very center of their beliefs.  And that, I just think is clearly mistaken. If inerrancy isn’t true, that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t exist. If inerrancy is not true, does that mean that Jesus of Nazareth was not the second person of the trinity, that He didn’t rise from the dead? That He didn’t die for persons? Obviously not.

So, inerrancy isn’t a doctrine that belongs at the center of your beliefs, it belongs on the periphery. What happened to Bart Ehrman was a misconstruction of his theological system. He set himself up for a fall by having a disoriented theology. If inerrancy is not true it weakens the Christian faith, because you would be prepared to say that various Scriptural authors have erred in things that they have said. And then the questions would arise, „Well, then, where do those errors lie?” And this would reduce your confidence and certainty in the teaching of the Scripture. So, absolutely, this is an important doctrine, and one that one would not give up lightly. (10:00)

However, it is a huge mistake to make the focus of evangelism inerrancy instead of Christ. It’s Christ that is the center of the Gospel. And so, He ought to be the stumbling stone, not the doctrine of inerrancy. Inerrancy is an in-house debate for someone who is already a Christian. It’s an in-house argument to what corollaries are there to the concept of inspiration. (10:00)

Suppose somebody did demonstrate an error in Scripture, does that invalidate the Christian faith? I am saying: No. It would mean that you’d have to adjust your doctrine of inspiration, you would have to give up inerrancy of the Scripture, but it wouldn’t mean that Christ didn’t rise from the dead. , and it wouldn’t even mean that you wouldn’t have good grounds for believing Christ rose from the dead. So often, christian apologists give lip service to this idea that if you approach the New Testament documents as you would any ordinary historical document, that they are reliable enough to show, for example, that Jesus thought He was the Son of God, that He did miracles and exorcisms, and that He rose from the dead. But, they don’t really believe that, because the minute somebody point an error, they go up in arms as though to admit this one error it would completely undermine the historicity of the records of Christ. No historian approaches his documents like that. Indeed, the very task of the historian is to sift through the chaff and to find the historical nuggets of truth amidst the errors and mistakes that are typically found in historical writing.

What I’m suggesting is that if you approach Scripture as you would historical documents, and you find in them mistakes, contradictions and errors, that still wouldn’t undermine the general historical  credibility of the Gospels for example. , including things like the miracles and exorcisms of Jesus, His radical self understanding, His resurrection from the dead. Those things don’t hang on the affirmation of biblical inerrancy. (15:00)

So, I am not arguing for biblical errancy. I do believe in inerrancy, myself, properly understood.

The passage in Matthew 27 is that at the time of the crucifixion, there were some, not resurrections, but revivifications of some saints who actually came out of the grave, and who appeared to people, much like other resurrections or revivifications in other Gospel accounts. And, whether that’s historical, or whether that’s language to illustrate  the profundity of it, we don’t know. Whether this looks like an error to some critics, it would be really quite irrelevant to either the historicity of the crucifixion or the historicity of the resurrection. It is just a red herring to try and distract people.

I’m happy to say, about this passage in Matthew that I’m not sure what it means, and that’s perfectly consistent with believing in biblical inerrancy. Believing biblical inerrancy doesn’t mean that you understand everything. I don’t understand the Book of Revelation. When I read the Book of Revelation, with all these various symbolic figures and images, I am not sure what it’s saying. But, that doesn’t mean that I don’t think that it’s inspired by God or inerrant in what it teaches. That’s perfectly consistent.

Scholars have given good explanations on this passage that it was the first fruit of the dead in Christ and that we would expect phenomenon like this to go on at such a profound event, at the crucifixion and the resurrection. So, it’s not a knock down error. For me it’s a triviality. It doesn’t prove anything. This is an addendum to the crucifixion story of Christ. It’s not part of the resurrection account. This is a part of the account of the crucifixion. And yet, no historian denies the truth that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified. So that even if you regard this a piece of apocalyptic imagery on Matthew’s part, and not something that literally, historically happened, nobody thinks it does anything to undermine the fact that Jesus of Nazareth died by Roman execution, by crucifixion. So, it is just a triviality, a red herring.

Norman Geisler is very encouraging to those that are disturbed at the longer ending of Mark not being authentic, not being in the oldest manuscripts, and he just says, „So what? So we have some extra material that we don’t quite know what to do with. Well, textual criticism helps us sort these things out. But, that’s quite a different answer than inerrancy. As we said before: Inerrancy is the view that whatever the original Scriptures, the original documents teach or affirm is true. But the question of textual criticism is: What were the original documents? So on discrepancies, an informed inerrantist won’t be upset by that, on the contrary, he’ll be involved in textual criticism, because he’ll be anxious to understand what the original text really did say, lest he me misled by copyist errors. So, somebody like a Daniel Wallace, for example, who is a fine New Testament textual critic at Dallas Theological Seminary is an inerrantist, but he’s also very much involved in establishing the original text in the New testament. And he, like other text critics would say the longer ending of Mar, as well as the shorter is spurious, it’s an accretion by some later author. That the original Gospel of Mark either ended with verse 8 of chapter 16, or else the original ending has been lost and has not been recovered. This is not really relevant to inerrancy at all.

What we need to understand is that the doctrine of biblical inerrancy  is a corollary of the doctrine of inspiration. As such, it is an important doctrine, but it is not a central doctrine to the christian faith. You can be a christian and not affirm it. And, if one does give it up, it will have some reverberations in your theological web of beliefs, but it won’t be destructive to that fundamental web of  Christian beliefs because it stands somewhere near the periphery. 

VIDEO by drcraigvideos

Have the prophecies in Revelation 17–18 about Babylon been fulfilled? Part 1 Andrew M. Woods

Dallas Theological Seminary

Dallas Theological Seminary offers the PDF download for this article from Bibliotheca Sacra, here.  BIBLIOTHECA SACRA 169 (January–March 2012): 79–100

Andrew Woods writes on the Preterists contention that-

„the events in Revelation 4-22 were mostly fulfilled in the events surrounding the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. They believe that the book of Revela- tion was penned in the mid 60s and predicts God’s judgment in AD 70 on national Israel because of her rejection of Christ”. 

Preterists believe that the harlot in Revelation 17–18 represents first-century Jerusalem and that the beast represents first- century Rome. Thus the beast’s destruction of the harlot (17:16–17) represents Rome’s sacking of Jerusalem in the events surrounding AD 70. Gentry states, “I am convinced beyond any doubt that this Harlot is first-century Jerusalem.”2 Hanegraaff similarly explains, “What has puzzled me over the years is not the identity of ‘the great prostitute,’ but how so many could mistake her historical identity. . . . In biblical history only one nation is inextricably linked to the moniker ‘harlot.’ And that nation is Israel!” (Kenneth L. Gentry, “A Preterist View of Revelation,” in Four Views on the Book of Revelation) 

He concludes that – neither Rome’s alliance with Israel, Rome’s revival, or Rome’s seven hills argue convincingly that a relationship between Jerusalem and Rome in AD 66–70 is portrayed in Revela- tion 17:3b, 8–9, 11. Thus neither the prophetic information regard- ing Babylon’s harlotry nor her alliance with the beast is sufficient to equate the Babylonian harlot with first-century Jerusalem. 

Click here to read the entire article.

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