Dr. John Ankerberg: What evidence shows that the Bible is the very Word of God to man? Well, my guest, Dr. Norman Geisler, has already spent three programs in presenting evidence that proves the Bible did come from God. Today we’re going to examine another important topic that must be examined when anyone claims the Bible is the Word of God—”How Do We Know Which Books Belong in the Bible?” Why are there only 66 books, not more, not less? This is very important and a question many people ask.
Dr. Norman Geisler: The Bible: Which books belong in it? Why do we have 66 books in the Bible? Why not 67? Aren’t there some lost books of the Bible? What about the so-called Dead Sea scrolls? Didn’t they unveil books we never knew of before that should be in the Bible? What about the Gospel of Thomas that the Jesus Seminar is saying ought to be one of the Gospels? Which books belong in the Bible?
Why is this so important? Because if the Bible is the Word of God, we need to know, Is there anything missing? We need to know, Do we have everything God wants us to know, or are there new revelations? Should we be adding books to our Bible today? Who determined which books are in the Bible?
|Incorrect View||Correct View|
|Church as Determiner of canon
Church as Mother of canon
Church as Magistrate of canon
Church as Regulator of canon
Church as Judge of canon
Church as Master of canon
|Church as Discoverer of canon
Church as Child of canon
Church as Minister of canon
Church as Recognizer of canon
Church as Witness of canon
Church as Servant of canon
Take a look at this chart. The incorrect view and the correct view. The incorrect view is that the Church determined the canon of the Bible. Not true. The Church discovered it. The incorrect view: the mother of the canon is the Church. No. The Church is the child of the canon. The Church is not the magistrate. It’s the minister of the canon. It doesn’t regulate, it just recognizes. It’s not the judge, it’s just the witness. The Church is not the master, it’s the servant.
In other words, how do we know that there are 66 books in the Bible? The simple answer is, God only inspired 66. If He wanted 67, He would have inspired 67. In brief, God determines which books should be in the Bible. The people of God discover which books. So the question now is, How do we know what characteristics did a book have so that they could immediately recognize that it has the thumb print of God on it? Other books didn’t have the thumb print of God. And the answer to that is that the early Church Fathers and the people who received these books as they were written recognized the thumb prints of God on them because God has unique thumb prints and we’re going to take a look at what those thumb prints are all about.
Ankerberg: All right, maybe you’re not satisfied with Dr. Geisler’s answer that the people of God just recognized which books were inspired because it raises the question, “How did they know which books were inspired?” How can we check today whether or not they were right? Well next, Dr. Geisler explains the five tests Christians used to determine whether or not a book should be in the Canon and whether or not it was inspired.
Geisler: There are five tests for whether or not a book should be in the canon. They are the finger prints of God on this book. The first is perhaps the most important. Was the book written by a prophet of God? In the Bible a prophet was a mouthpiece, was a spokesperson for God. He was someone through whom God spoke and if necessary, whom God would confirm by miracles. Every book of the Bible was written by a prophet of God. Some were prophets by office; others were just prophets by gift. But everyone [writing] in the Bible was a prophet.
It behooves us to take a close look at what a prophet is. A prophet is someone who said, “The Lord has spoken.” “Who can but prophesy,” as Amos said. Don’t add a word or detract a word from what God says. Give it exactly as I provided it for you, God says to the prophets.
So here is somebody who is faithful to the message he got from God to give to the people of God. Moses was a great prophet—Deuteronomy 18 talks about that. Joshua who followed him, and Samuel who followed him, and Jeremiah, and all of the Old Testament prophets.
But how about the New Testament? Was it written by prophets of God? Yes. The Apostles were, of course, all prophets in that they were spokespersons for God. And their associates were prophets. Ephesians 2:20 says, “the Church is built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Christ being the chief cornerstone.”
John, who wrote the last book of the Bible, was called a prophet alongside of your fellow servants, the prophets (Revelation 22). So, the entire Bible is a prophetic revelation. And if the book was written by a prophet of God, it was accepted by the people of God as the Word of God.
The second test as to whether or not a book was a book inspired by God was, Was the writer confirmed by acts of God?
Moses was confirmed by miracles–Exodus Chapter 4. All the ten plagues that He brought on Egypt. Elijah, of course, later and the other prophets were confirmed by miracles. “Jesus, a man attested by signs and wonders,” Acts 2:22 says. Or John 3: Nicodemus said, “We know you are a teacher come from God because nobody can do the miracles that you do except God be with him.” The Apostles were all confirmed by miracles. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:12, “Have I not shown you the signs of an apostle?”
So if the message came from a prophet of God, if he was confirmed by acts of God, it was accepted to be the Word of God. So we didn’t have people sitting around in the fourth century voting with colored beads about which books belong in the Bible. We had people who immediately knew the prophet, who saw his message, knew he was confirmed by God. He wrote the book and the people saved the book. When Moses wrote his book, they didn’t have any question. What did they do with it? Put it in the Ark because it’s holy.
Joshua’s book was later added to Moses’ book, as was Samuel’s and the other prophets. When we get to Daniel Chapter 9, we know we have Moses’ books and the Prophets, including his contemporary Jeremiah. All the books from Moses to Jeremiah, who was still living, Daniel had possession of and could quote from.
In the New Testament we have the Apostle Paul writing a number of epistles and Peter said in 2 Peter 3:16, “I have Paul’s epistles and they are also scripture.” In fact, in 1 Timothy 5:18 Paul quotes Luke 10:7, saying the Gospel is all part of the Word of God.
So they didn’t wait hundreds of years. Immediately a prophet of God, who was confirmed by acts of God, told the truth about God and that leads us to our third test for a true book of the Bible: Does this book tell the truth of God? If the book had an error in it, if it taught false doctrine, if it told about false gods, Deuteronomy 13 and Deuteronomy 18 tell us, should be rejected. If it had a false prediction in it, it couldn’t come from God. Every book in the Bible met these tests: it was written by a prophet of God; it was confirmed by acts of God; told the truth of God–didn’t have false prophecies in it, didn’t talk about false gods in it.
That leads us to the fourth point: Did the book come with the power of God? Is this the dynamic of God? The Gospel is “the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16). Hebrews 4:12 says, “The Word of God is alive and powerful.” Did this book have a dynamic to it? Did it rise head and shoulders above the other literature?
If so, a book from a prophet of God, confirmed by an act of God, that told the truth of God, and came with the dynamic of God, and, number five, was accepted by the people of God. So they were just recognizing, they weren’t regulating. They weren’t making these books inspired, they were recognizing these books were inspired, and they received it. Paul said when it’s read here, send it to another church. He said to the Church in Colossians, “Be sure and get the book,” probably Ephesians. It was coming from Laodicea. They circulated the books, read them, collected them, and the final group of those books which you and I possess in our hand is called The Bible, a book written by prophets of God, confirmed by acts of God, told the truth of God, came with the power of God, and was accepted by the people of God, not hundreds of years later, but immediately.
Ankerberg: Now, these are the five tests Christians used to determine whether a book was inspired of God or not, and whether or not it should be part of the biblical canon. Next, do we have actual proof that the people of God chose these books on this basis? Again, the answer is, “Yes.”
Geisler: Early Church Fathers quoted extensively from the books in our New Testament. Take, for example, a man named Iranaeus (130-202 A.D.). By his time, every book of the New Testament had been quoted as Scripture. He himself quotes almost all of the books. And the Muratorian Canon, 170 A.D., had already quoted the other books that weren’t quoted. So by 200 A.D., every book of the New Testament had been quoted in some other writing as part of the inspired Word of God.
The reason why this is so important is, we’re not talking about a theory here. We have the actual proof that the books were accepted by the people of God, not in the fourth century or fifth century; they were immediately accepted by the people of God and immediately quoted by the people right after the Apostles and their successors.
Ankerberg: Now, the main question we are asking today is, “How do we know that only 66 books belong in the Bible, not more, not less?” I’m sure you’ve heard some people say, “You know, there are some books that are missing from the Bible that should have been put in there.” Or others say, “You know, I think that some books were suppressed for political reasons among second and third century Christians and therefore they never included “such and such” book in the Canon of the Bible. That’s just not true! Dr. Geisler once again tells us the reasons why.
Geisler: But do we have all the books in the Bible? Aren’t there some missing books? What about the so-called lost books of the Bible? These are the so-called Apocryphal or Deuterocanonical Books. They are listed as 15 different books, like Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, down to Susanna and Bel and the Dragon. Now, of these 15 books, two of them are sometimes combined: Jeremiah and the Letter of Jeremiah, and Baruch are put into one. That would make 14 books. Of these 14 books the Roman Catholics accepted 11 of them as inspired at the Council of Trent in 1546 A.D. So in their Bible you won’t find 39 books in the Old Testament. You will find 39 plus 7 more listed in the Table of Contents and then in addition to those seven, you’ll find four pieces of books: three pieces in Daniel and one piece in Esther.
So they have 11 more books than we do. Should these books be in the Bible or should they not? The answer is, No. Why? Because they weren’t in Jesus’ Bible. Jesus talked about the entire Old Testament. The New Testament quotes virtually every book in the Old Testament Jewish canon or cites it some way. They weren’t in the Canon of Josephus who was the Jewish historian at the time of Christ. They weren’t in Philo’s canon, the Jewish philosopher just before the time of Christ. The scholars of Jamnia in 90 A.D., the Jewish scholars didn’t have them in their Bible.
In fact, these books were never in the Jewish Bible. They were written by Jews between let’s say 250 B.C. and the time of Christ or shortly thereafter for Jews but they were just considered history and literature, they weren’t considered inspired. In fact, not one of these books claims to be inspired. Not one of these books has supernatural predictions in it. Not one of these books gives us some new messianic truth about Christ.
The books even have errors in them, historical errors, doctrinal errors. 2 Maccabees 12:46 has errors in theology, teaching that we should pray for the dead. David in the Old Testament prayed for his son until he died. When he died, he said, “I can’t bring him back, I’m going to go to be with him.” Luke 16 says, “There is a great gulf fixed” so we can’t go from one side to the other. And Hebrews 9:27 says, “It is appointed unto man once to die and after this the judgment.”
But how these books got in the Bible is very interesting. In 1517 Martin Luther tacked up 95 theses on October 31. What was he rebelling against? The indulgences that were being sold by the Roman Catholic Church to build their magnificent buildings. There was a guy named Tetzel who was going around Europe saying, “When the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.” Has kind of a nice ring to it, right? Who wouldn’t want his mother to spring out of purgatory? His mother-in-law, maybe not. But his mother, definitely. And Luther said, “No!” He tacked up his 95 theses and said, “There is no purgatory. There are no prayers for the dead. You can’t buy people out of purgatory.” Twenty-nine years later at the Council of Trent, 1546, the Roman Catholic Church got together and added these books to the Bible. Why? Because when Luther debated Eck, the Roman Catholic scholar, Eck quoted 2 Maccabees 12:46 as a proof for purgatory. It says, “It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought that we should pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins.”
And Luther said, “When did that get in the Bible?” Twenty-nine years later they added it to the Bible and guess what? One of the books they rejected of the 14 Apocryphal Books was 2 Esdras which they call 4 Esdras because they call Esdras and Nehemiah 1 and 2 Esdras. Here’s what it says in 2 Esdras 7:105: “No one should ever pray for the dead.” The Roman Catholic Church didn’t like that verse. They liked the one which said prayers for the dead, so they added these books to the Bible. Wrong group, not Jews; wrong time, over 1800 years after some of the books or most of them were written; wrong reason, a dogmatic reason to support their doctrine. There is no evidence that these Apocryphal Books belong in the Word of God.
We don’t have any “lost books” of the Bible. You can pick up your Bible and say, “I’ve got the whole Bible.” In fact, to summarize it by a motto of a school I used to attend, “The Word of God: nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.”
Ankerberg: Now, here’s something else about the Apocryphal books. Did you know that the greatest Catholic scholar in the Middle Ages who translated the Latin Vulgate rejected the Apocryphal books? He didn’t think they should be put in the Bible. Well, it’s true.
Geisler: The irony is that one of the greatest scholars, Catholic scholars in the Middle Ages, Jerome, who translated the Latin Vulgate–it lasted from a thousand years from 400 to time of the Reformation–rejected the Apocrypha. He said, “I won’t even translate them. Over my dead body will they get in the Bible!” Well, guess what. After he died, they took them out of the old Latin and put them in the Bible against the wishes of the greatest Catholic scholar of the day.
Ankerberg: Now, both Catholics and Protestants believe that Jesus is God. If He is God, then which books did Jesus say should be included in the Old Testament and the New Testament? Whatever Jesus said should settle the question for Christians. Does He even answer this question? Yes, He does. Dr. Geisler again presents the evidence where this can be found:
Geisler: But what about the New Testament? Jesus and the New Testament writers confirmed the Old Testament–they quoted from almost all the books; they referred to all the sections of the Old Testament; they used phrases like “Law and the Prophets” that always refers to the Old Testament. But how do we know the New Testament? Well, Jesus promised the New just as He had confirmed the Old. He said in John 14:26 and John 16:23, “The Holy Spirit is going to lead you, the Apostles, into all truth, bring to your remembrance whatever I have taught you.”
Now, whatever the Apostles taught was Spirit directed. Jesus said so. The New Testament is what the Apostles taught. Therefore, the New Testament is Spirit directed. Jesus promised that He would give the New Testament. The Apostles claimed this power. And they wrote it. The only place in the world you will find a record of Apostolic teaching is in the 27 books of the New Testament–no more, no less. There is no other book known to mankind that the Apostles wrote and every book that they wrote under the inspiration of God we have in the New Testament. Therefore, with the end of the New Testament, with the end of Apostolic teaching, we have the full and final revelation of God. Because Jesus said, “I will lead you to all truth,” not just some; “all truth necessary for faith and practice will be given to you.” The New Testament is the record of what was given to them; therefore, the New Testament completes the Canon, finishes the Bible. And when the last Apostle wrote the last book, referring to his book but indirectly to the whole Bible, he said, “Don’t add to it; don’t take away from it because the Bible is the complete Word of God.”
So if somebody comes along today and says, “I have a new revelation from God,” ask him two questions. Number 1: How old are you? If they’re not 2,000 years old, if they didn’t live in the Apostolic period, they don’t qualify. Why? To be an Apostle you had to be an eyewitness of the Resurrection (Acts 1:22; 1 Corinthians 9:1). “Am I not an Apostle? Have I not seen our Lord? Didn’t I show you the signs of an Apostle?” 2 Corinthians 12:12 Paul said if they aren’t 2,000 years old, they’re very, very late on saying that you should accept their revelations.
Number 2: Can they raise the dead? Now, I know a lot of contemporary evangelists who raise Cain, you know. Take their coat and swing it around, knock people over and people faint. But can they raise the dead? Can they heal Joni Eareckson Tada? Can they instantaneously cure all kinds of sicknesses? If they don’t have those kinds of powers, they aren’t Apostles. And if they aren’t Apostles or associates of Apostles that they gave those kinds of powers to, they aren’t qualified to write books that should be added to the Bible. If you listen to a lot of the televangelists today, you would think that we should all be getting a Bible with a lot of white pages in the back or a loose leaf Bible to add all this new stuff. No.
The Bible is sufficient. The Bible is complete. Jesus confirmed the Old; promised the New; the Apostles wrote it, and we’ve got it.