Various Ideas and Definitions

 

Outline

 

1.       Authors and books of the NT

2.       NT Canonization (how we got the NT)

3.       Definitions

4.       Timeline so far

 

1.  Authors and books of the NT

 

The NT consists of 27 books.  Some of the books are long—many pages in length—and some are short—less than a page each.  Nevertheless, they are all referred to as “books.”  They can be divided into 2 categories:  types of books and authors of the books.

 

Type of book

Number

Gospel

4

History

1

Letters

21

Apocalypse

(future events)

1

 

Author

(In order of first

book written)

Number of Books

Matthew

1

Mark

1

Luke

2

John

5

Paul

13

Anonymous

(Hebrews)

1

James

1

Peter

2

Jude

1

 

2.  NT Canonization

 

A.  Definitions:  The word “canon” means “standard” and is used to describe the sacred writing of different religions.  For example, the Bible is the canon of Christianity.  The word “canonization” refers to the process of determining or deciding the canon.  For Christianity, it means the process of determining or deciding which books go into the Bible.  For this class we will look at NT canonization, or how the books of the NT were decided, although I will include a paragraph at the end of this section on books in the OT that Catholics have and that Protestants don’t have because much confusion surrounds that topic (G below).

 

B.  NT written in Greek:  When we discussed Pax Romana I mentioned that Greek was the most widely used language in the First Century in the Roman Empire.  Because of that the writers of the NT wrote all their books in Greek.  The language of the Jews in Israel and the language that Jesus used was Aramaic.  But since the early church leaders wanted everyone in the Roman Empire to be able to read their books, they wrote in Greek.  You can find some Aramaic words in the NT, though:  Matthew 27:46 is one example of a verse that has Aramaic words in it. 

 

C.  Original copies of the NT books:  None of the original copies of the NT books have been discovered.  We do know that copies of the original copies were made, because that was a common practice in those days.  Whenever one church or an individual received a copy, if they could afford it, they made one or more copies and passed it to other churches.  So we do not have any of the original copies, and we do not even have copies of the original copies (except in one case which I will discuss in the Gospel of John).  What we have are copies of copies of the original copies, and copies of copies of copies of the original copies, etc.  Almost 175 of these copies of various NT books have been discovered that were written before the year 400. 

·         This has caused many, many people to doubt the NT.  The complaint is that humans copied these books, so these copies cannot be trusted, and therefore the Bible cannot be trusted.  But that is an incorrect understanding of the process of copying in those days. 

·         For example, if I told you that I was going to die and I wanted you to copy a map that would lead to a million dollars in gold that is buried, do you think you would change or leave out any of the details?  In the same way, the early Christians believed that these books were from God, and so did not leave out any details when they copied the books.  For that reason, over 99.9% of the writings are the same. 

·         The only major differences come when someone changed a phrase due to personal preferences.  This is what I mean:  a scribe might like the phrase “Jesus Christ our Lord” better than “Our Lord Jesus Christ” and so changed that.  But the vast majority of the words, and 100% of the concepts and ideas, are the same in all the copies that we have.  In that way the books of the NT are reliably duplicates of the original copies. 

 

D.  NT Apocrypha:

How to pronounce:

A

po

cry

pha

a

like in “about”

po

like in “popcorn”

cri

like in “crib”

fa

like in “far”

The NT consists of 27 books, but in the 100 years after Jesus over 125 writings were made that claimed to be Christian-based.  You can find a listing of most of these books here (this list does not include the 27 book of the NT).  Most of these writings came from people who wanted to change the message of Jesus and so created new books for their new religions.  So the early church leaders had to figure out which of these books were truly from God and which were made up.  The listing here is of books the early church leaders decided were made up by people who wanted to start alternative religions and therefore were not true.  The main criterion they used was the authorship of each book.  If the author or the information came from an Apostle or from one of Jesus’ half-brothers (we will talk more about this when we get to the book of James) then the book was included in the NT.

 

            The early Christians may have gotten this idea from the Jews and the Old Testament.  All the books of the OT are linked to prophets to ensure they are from God.  We discussed earlier how Malachi was the last prophet, and so no more books in the OT come after Malachi.  The early Christians decided to use the Apostles as the measure of trustworthiness.  If a letter originated from an Apostle or one of Jesus’ half-brothers, then the letter could be trusted.  Only 27 writings fit this criterion, and so only 27 books are in the NT.  All the other books that claimed to be Christian but were not are known as NT Apocrypha. 

 

E.  Choosing the NT books:  This process of determining the NT books took a long time.  Some letters were quickly accepted as being from God:  the 4 gospels, Acts, and the 13 letters of Paul.  The other letters took the early church leaders longer to decide.  In this chart you will see four different lists that Christians developed from around 190 to 367.  It shows how some books were agreed on and rejected.  The last list comes from the year 367 and is the first listing of the NT books that have been discovered (it was written by an Egyptian bishop).  In addition, two councils met in the 390s and “closed” the NT canon; meaning that they said no books other than the 27 would be included.  

 

F.  Optional:  OT Apocrypha:  Warning, this can be confusing!  The OT also has its own Apocrypha; meaning they are books that discuss or claim to be from God but were rejected.  The Catholic Church does accept some of these into the Catholic Bible, but you will not find them in Protestant Bibles.  Let me pause and say this:  Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants (basically all Christians) only have 27 books in the NT.  The difference is in the OT. 

            Basically two different types of Apocrypha exists:  books that all Christians believe should be excluded from the OT, and books that Catholics (and Orthodox) include in their OTs.  But if the word “Apocrypha” means that it is not supposed to be in the Bible, then you can see that Catholics would not call these books Apocrypha.  Instead Catholics use a different word for these books:  Deuterocanonicals. 

            Catholics also accept the criterion from the Jews that a book needed to be linked to prophets in order to make it into the OT.  So why the extra books?  This might be oversimplifying the issue, but it is a good way to understand the situation:  Remember that we discussed how the OT ended 450 years before the beginning of the NT.  Protestants use the Jewish understanding of the OT, which means that in Protestant Bibles (Baptist, Methodists, nondenominational, Pentecostal, etc.) there is a 450-year gap between the OT and the NT.  Catholics (and Orthodox) decided to include some writings that were written in that period.  That is where the extra books come from.  Catholics recognize that these writings are not on the same level as the OT, but are a level below the OT writings.  That is why Catholics chose to use the word “Deuterocanonicals.”  If you break the word apart it will make more sense:  “deutero” means “secondary” and “canonical” means “holy writing.”  So these books are secondary holy writings.  Catholics do not belief they are on the same level as the 39 OT books, but that they should be read.  Therefore Catholic scholars included them in the Bible and gave them a special name to show that they are different.  If you want to learn more about this, you can go here:  http://studythechurch.com/deuterocanonicals.htm 

 

G.  Optional:  The earliest copy of the complete NT that has been discovered dates from the early-to-mid-300s.  You can read about it here:   http://studythechurch.com/sinaiticus.htm

 

Optional:  You can read about the earliest scrap of the OT that has been discovered here: http://studythechurch.com/Earliest%20Scripture.htm

 

3.  Definitions

 

A.  The title that God gave for himself in the OT is Yahweh.  This web page explains why LORD (all capital letters) is used in the OT.  (“LORD is found over 6000 times in the OT.  “Lord” is also found but it means something different):  http://studythechurch.com/Tetragrammaton.htm

 

B.  When the NT books were written the authors did not use chapters and verses like we have in the NT today.  Read this web page to discover when the chapters and verses were added:  http://studythechurch.com/Chapters%20and%20verses.htm 

 

C.  Many Christians use a fish symbol to symbolize Christianity.  But why a fish symbol?  Read this web page to discover the origin of the fish symbol:  http://studythechurch.com/ichthus.htm 

 

D.  I have discovered that many Christians do not fully understand 8 words that are frequently used in churches.  Go here to learn what these words really mean:  http://studythechurch.com/eightwords.htm  

 

E.  Many different Christian denominations exist.  My doctorate degree is in Church History, and as I studied many different denominations in the 25 years since I took my first church history class, I developed a list of common beliefs that all Christian groups have.  So, in order for a group to be considered Christian (in my opinion), it (or a person) accepts these basic seven ideas:

  1. Trinity
  2. Incarnation
  3. Virgin Birth of Jesus
  4. Jesus crucified, buried, rose from dead
    1. This includes ideas such as salvation, forgiveness of sin, etc.
  5. Everyone is separated from God from birth and, therefore, has to decide to become a Christian.
  6. Jesus left the church behind for Christians to join.
  7. Love everyone.

 

F.  Finally, I also wondered why Christianity has one Bible yet so many different denominations.  After thinking about it for 20 years, I developed this one word concept that explains it.  This is just my opinion, but it has worked out in every situation that I have experienced:  http://studythechurch.com/bat.htm

 

4.  Timeline so far

 

63 BC

Rome takes over Israel

40 BC

The Roman Empire makes Herod king of Israel

27 BC

Beginning of Pax Romana

4 BC

Herod died

Israel divided amongst his three sons

AD

AD from here on

6

Archelaus removed from power over Southern Israel

Different Roman governors rule Southern Israel

26-36

Pilate is governor over Southern Israel

55-68

Nero is Roman Emperor

64

Fire in Rome

First Roman persecution of Christians

66

Some Jews rebel against Rome and regain Israel

70

Romans regain Jerusalem

Romans destroy the Temple

81-96

Domitian is Roman Emperor

95

Apostle John on the island of Patmos as a prisoner

96

Domitian died

Apostle John released to traveled to Ephesus

367

First listing of the 27 books written in a letter by an Egyptian bishop

390s

Two councils “closed” the NT canon to those 27 books

1200s

NT divided into chapters

1500s

NT divided into verses

 

Dr. Nickens

 

©2016 Mark Nickens All Rights Reserved

 

Questions/comments, contact Mark at marknickens@gmail.com