BASIC BIBLE DOCTRINES – THE BIBLE PART (2)

THE CANON OF SCRIPTURE

The word “canon”, as used to describe the books of the Bible, means – “a body of rules, principles, standards. The books of the Bible recognized by the Christian church as genuine and inspired” (Webster’s Dictionary). The question arises: how do we know that only the sixty-six books contained in the canon are the only inspired books and that there are no others? The answer to this necessitates a very careful examination and comparison of the Biblical writings with the other writings that are presented, recognizing the fact that all facts must be substantiated throughout the complete manuscript. 

An examination of the growth of the Old Testament canon will reveal that important events from the lives of each writer were recorded and passed on from one generation to the next. As other writers contributed, these were added to the collection, this began with Moses and continued to Malachi, after which no prophetic voice was heard in Israel until the New Testament times – over four hundred years later. As has been previously stated, a careful study of these books reveals a common thread of evidence that each writer is presenting different aspects of the Lord Jesus Christ. A similar examination of the New Testament canon reveals that the twenty-seven books, written over a shorter period of time, were collected shortly after their completion. When the Apostles began to preach, Christ’s words were quoted from memory and later recorded in the four gospels, and later the Epistles and Revelation were added to the collection. After much controversy as to which were to be accepted, the Council of Carthage in 397 A.D. gave a formal recognition of the twenty-seven books as we know them today. “The Councils of Carthage, or Synods of Carthage, were church synods held during the 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries in the city of Carthage in Africa.” (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia). The tests of canonicity is centred on one basic question: Why are the books of the Old Testament (39 in total and no more) accepted by Christians? First, all the writings excepting Ruth, Ezra, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and a few of the Minor Prophets are quoted by those who wrote the New Testament books. Second, no important doctrine is based entirely on any one of these books. Third, our Lord Jesus Christ approved the Old Testament writings . Finally, we too can accept the entire canon of Scripture because they all speak of our Lord Jesus Christ and glorify Him. “Attempts to include other writings, such as the Apocrypha which contains historical and geographical errors, justify falsehood, salvation by good works and other unscriptural concepts, and was never a part of the Hebrew Old Testament” (quote from Basic Bible Doctrines; Emmaus Bible School); cannot be accepted on the basis that such teachings are not contained in the original writings of the Old Testament canon. The progress of the doctrine of inspiration does not state that any one book or passage contains all the truth on any one subject, but it does assert that there are no contradictions. Each book adds more information and teaching about the Person, work, and glory of God, and the Bible does not tell us everything, God has revealed enough about Himself that is necessary for us today. This progression can be observed in what is taught about Christ, the Holy Spirit, salvation and such, throughout the Scriptures, and it is apparent that the righteousness of God is emphasized by the Old Testament while the grace of God is the principle theme of the New Testament. Each divinely ordained period (dispensation) brought more explanation from God about Himself to mankind.

INTERPRETATION OF SCRIPTURE

Hermeneutics is the study of the correct principles of Scripture interpretation. Although most of the Bible is written in simple language, some passages are a challenge to the greatest of minds. The doctrine of interpretation does not declare that there are no problems interpreting the Scriptures.

The first most important principle is to differentiate between an observation of what the text says, the interpretation of what it means, and the application to be applied today. There is only one primary meaning to each passage, while the implications and applications may be numerous. Correct interpretation reveals what God is saying and helps to provide a link between ancient and modern times, and the overall rule is to accept each statement with a general and accepted meaning that makes sense. Let us examine seven principles, not complete, that will be an aid to Bible Study:

  1. Trace the truth all the way through the Bible.
  2. God has used human terms to reveal His point of view to us.
  3. Follow through all the passages on a given subject then extract an acceptable conclusion.
  4. All words, grammar, expressions should be examined in their proper context.
  5. Use the same grammatical and historical interpretation throughout the Scriptures; do not “spiritualize”
  6. The Bible teaches only one system of faith – eternal salvation; a “falling away” doctrine is not taught. There are different emphases and dispensational distinctions that should be observed. Cross references and parallel passages should be compared.
  7. The final authorization for any controversy must be the Hebrew text of the Old Testament and the Greek for the New Testament.
ENLIGHTENMENT OF SCRIPTURE

As physical objects are illuminated with light, so the Holy Spirit illuminates the inspired Word of God giving us a true understanding as we follow the principles of interpretation outlined previously. The Holy Spirit will give us the understanding that we require as we trust Him to open our spiritual eyes to what God is saying: “but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth….As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit — just as it has taught you, remain in him.” .

God can use any method to speak to mankind but He has done so through His one perfect Book – The Holy Bible. Since the Bible is inerrant (free from error) and infallible (incapable of error), it is the final authority for our Christian faith and Christian living.

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