Christ's and the Apostles' View of Scripture
by Leland M. Haines
In the first two chapters of the book, The Authority of Scripture, we have shown how the historical-redemptive events of Christ's ministry were tied to the writing of the New Testament. Jesus Christ did not make a formal statement on His views of the Scripture, but gave only very brief comments, which we will discuss in the next section, showing He held a high view of them. Because God's revelation does not include such formal statements, we have to find Jesus' viewpoint from His verbal remarks recorded by the gospel and other New Testament writers. We now wish to look at what the New Testament says about Scripture. The New Testament should -- and does -- give some ideas as to its value. Our concept and use of Scripture should be formed from these ideas.
Christ's View Considered
One of the most important questions to ask is, What was Christ's view of the Scriptures? The answer to this question is found in several New Testament passages.
One indication of Christ's view of Scripture is found in His reply to the Jewish charge that He committed blasphemy by making Himself equal with God. In His reply He appealed to Scripture and added the statement, "The scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35). Christ believed Scripture was authoritative. For Him there was no question about breaking or setting aside Scripture, because it is God's revealed truth.
A record of how Christ viewed the authority of Scripture is found in the account of His temptations in the wilderness, which occurred after a forty-day-and-night fast. The tempter said to Christ, "If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread." Christ answered, "It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:3, 4; cf. Deut. 8:3). Every time he tempted Christ, the devil's words were ineffective, since God had revealed the truth through the Scripture. Christ introduced each of His answers by, "It is written" (Matt. 4:7, 10). This statement is used in the Bible to refer to the Word of God only. Jesus also stated that we are to live by "every word," not just by a part of Scripture, but by all of its words and teachings.
Jesus made other "it is written" statements. When He cleansed the temple, He said, "It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves" (Matt. 21:13). In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus told His disciples they would be scattered because "it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad" (26:31; cf. Zech. 13:7). He used the authoritative words "it is written" to show that the Word of God justified Jesus' actions. This authoritative formula showed that He believed the Old Testament was absolute truth.
Jesus also used "it was said" statements (Matt. 5:21, 27, 31, 33, 38, 43). These statements referred to the revelation given by Moses to the Israelites. The disciples had heard the law expounded many times, but Jesus was going to give man a New Covenant. His disciples were to live by His "I say unto you."
When the Sadducees asked about marriage, Jesus replied, "Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God?" (Mark 12:24). He then asked, "Have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?" (v. 26; Ex. 3). He then told the Sadduces that God was the God of the living; there was a resurrection (v. 27). They "greatly err" because they did not turn to the Scripture to seek their answer but reasoned among themselves. Jesus confirmed that the Scriptures contained what "God spake," and His Word was clear and easy to understand. These leaders erred, as all others who err, because they "know not the scriptures."
In connection with the rich man who tore down his barns to build bigger ones, Jesus remarked, "But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee" (Luke 12:20). This may be a paraphrase of Jeremiah 17:11 or an instance Jesus recalled from history. This shows that Jesus believed God did speak to man and His communications could be understood. If man can understand the spoken Word, surely he can understand the written Word.
In one of His prayers, Jesus said that His disciples are not of the world and therefore live on a much higher plain. He asked God the Father, "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth" (John 17:17). They were to live by truth, and this truth is known because "thy word is truth." Earlier Jesus spoke that "God is true" (3:33; cf. 7:28; 8:26) and about "the Spirit of truth" (14:17; cf. 16:13). He bore witness to Himself: "He that cometh from above is above all. . . . And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth. . . . For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him" (3:31-34). Jesus Christ spoke the "words of God" to His disciples, and they in turn wrote the same word.
Jesus believed God spoke through His prophets, such as Moses and Jeremiah, to give men His commandments. This is evident in His response to the Pharisees and scribes' question about His disciples transgressing the traditions of the elders. Jesus asked them, "Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death" (Matt. 15:1-7; cf. Ex. 20:12; Jer. 35:18, 19).
Jesus further revealed His view of Scripture in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. The rich man asked Abraham to warn his brothers so they would not go to hell, the place of torment. Christ said, "Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he [the rich man] said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead" (Luke 16:29-31; cf. vs. 19-28). Christ, by relating this incident, gave His support to Abraham's view that Scripture is sufficient for man's redemption, and if men will not believe it, they will not be persuaded. Jesus viewed Scripture as the all-sufficient means to reveal the Way.
On another occasion Jesus expressed this view again. He told the Jews, "Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify [bear witness] of me. . . . For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?" (John 5:39, 46, 47). The Old Testament Scriptures bear witness to Christ and are on the same level as His own Word; they are to be believed. Jesus believed the Scriptures are authoritative and trustworthy so that man's belief about Himself and His redemptive mission can be directly tied to them.
Jesus and Scripture's Historical Records
Jesus made many references to the historical records found in the Scriptures. Several of these are given below to help us understand His view of Scripture.
Jesus told the leper He cleansed to show himself "to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded" (Matt. 8:4), showing that He accepted Moses' commandments.
In commenting about the centurion's faith, Jesus said, "Many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 8:11), showing He accepted the historical facts of the patriarchs.
Because many did not repent even after seeing Jesus' mighty works, Jesus said, "Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented" (Matt. 11:21f.). Several Old Testament prophets spoke against Tyre and Sidon (Isa. 23:1-18; Jer. 25:22; 27:1-11; Ezek. 26:1-28:19; Joel 3:4-8; Amos 1:9-10), because these cities exploited their neighbors and were centers of idolatry, causing them to come under God's judgment. When the Messiah came to these cities, they followed the example of their fathers and did not repent. In referring to these Old Testament prophecies, Jesus showed He accepted the accounts of the prophets' evaluation of these cities.
When the Pharisees questioned Jesus and His disciples about plucking and eating grain on the Sabbath, Jesus told them, "Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungered, and they that were with him; How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread which was not lawful for him to eat. . . . Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath and are blameless?" (Matt. 12:3, 5). Jesus' appeal to the law showed He accepted its account involving David's life and the priests, and that He and His disciples' act of taking and eating the grain on the Sabbath was proper.
When the Pharisees asked for a sign, Jesus told them, "For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas" (Matt. 12:40; cf. Jonah 1:2, 17; 3:5). Later when the Pharisees and Sadducees again asked for a sign, Jesus told that wicked generation that "no sign be [would] given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas" (Matt. 16:4). Both of these responses are Jesus' and not Matthew's commentary. Jesus knew the story of Jonah going to Nineveh and directly quoted Jonah 1:17. Jesus' use of this story shows He accepted the events surrounding Jonah's ministry as historical facts; and as God miraculously had preserved Jonah, He would bring about His own Son's miraculous resurrection. Jesus' comments show He knew Jonah's story was true, and Jesus was willing to tie His own ministry to it.
When asked about divorce, Jesus referred to the Genesis narrative: "Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female?" Jesus accepted the creation account as literally true. He then said, "For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder" (Matt. 19:4-6; cf. Gen. 1:26-28; 2:23, 24). Jesus believed God instituted marriage when man was created, and that the Book of Genesis proved it was God's intention that the marriage bond be permanent and that no man dare break it.
The Pharisees asked about Moses' allowing a "writing of divorcement." Jesus said because "of the hardness of your hearts [Moses] suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so" (Matt. 19:7, 8; cf. Deut. 24:1-4). Jesus believed Moses' account, and that there was a beginning of revelation. This also showed Jesus accepted Moses as the author of Deuteronomy.
In Jesus' reply to the Sadducees' question about the resurrection, He asked, "Have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?" (Matt. 22:31, 32; cf. Mark 12:26; Luke 20:37; Ex. 3:6, 16). When the Sadducees questioned Jesus, they stated, "Moses said." Jesus went beyond this, asking if they had not read what was "spoken unto you by God." Jesus accepted the Old Testament as more than man's words; it was a record of God's revelation. Jesus' conversation also shows He accepted the Exodus accounts of the patriarchs as historically true.
Jesus asked the Pharisees a question about the Christ, and whose son is He: "He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord?" (Matt. 22:43; cf. Ps. 110:1). In referring to this psalm, Jesus recognized that David was directed by the Spirit, making it reasonable to believe that these writings were inspired by the Spirit.
Jesus referred to Moses' revelation in Deuteronomy when a lawyer asked about the greatest commandment in the law. Jesus responded, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." He then gave the second commandment, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Matt. 22:34-40; cf. Lev. 19:18; Deut. 6:5). These answers showed Jesus accepted Moses' writings, and the reference to "the law and prophets" shows He accepted the whole Old Testament.
In a "Woe" spoken to the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus mentioned "from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias" (Matt. 23:35; cf. Gen. 4:8; II Chron. 24:20-22), indicating He accepted the detailed Old Testament narratives concerning the innocent death of these two righteous men found in Genesis and Chronicles.
When Jesus told His disciples about His second coming, He said, "When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand)" (Matt. 24:15; cf. Dan. 9:27; 11:31; 12:11). Today some critics question the Book of Daniel because they are unwilling to accept the implications of its prophecies. They claim the book must have been written after the events because there is no denying that some of its prophecies involving major world events have been fulfilled. These critics' views are the opposite of Jesus' beliefs. He accepted the book and its prophecies as trustworthy.
Later, when speaking of His second coming and the day and the hour of it, Jesus said that only the Father knew the time. Then Jesus said, "But as the days of Noe were, . . . For as in the days that were before the flood . . . until the day that Noe entered into the ark" (Matt. 24:37, 38), showing He accepted the historical fact of Noah, the ark, and the Flood.
Jesus and Prophecy
Throughout His ministry, Jesus fulfilled many prophecies. In the Sermon on the Mount, He said, "Think not that I come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:17-19). On the road to Emmaus, after His resurrection, Jesus told two of His disciples that "the law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail" (Luke 16:16-17). Later He said that not only the law but the whole Old Testament had to be fulfilled: "all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me." He then opened "their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures" (Luke 24:44-45). Christ held that all parts of Scripture were trustworthy, even to the least letter marks, the jot and the tittle, and that He would fulfill all of Scripture.
Jesus spoke to the people about John the Baptist and identified him as "of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee" (Matt. 11:10). When it was time for the Messiah to appear, a forerunner would come and prepare the people so they would know what was happening. Malachi prophesied of this forerunner in the last book of the Old Testament about 450 years before John's coming.
After the Transfiguration, the three disciples asked about Elijah's coming. These disciples apparently were unaware of the earlier transfiguration because Jesus told the three not to tell of the vision. "And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things" (Matt. 17:9-13; cf. Mark 9:11-13; Luke 1:17; 3:1-6). The prophecy concerning Elijah is correct: "Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me." It was foretold in the last book of the Old Testament (Mal. 3:1; cf. 4:5, 6). John the Baptist in a sense was Elijah, the one who called men to repent and return to God.
When Jesus lamented over Jerusalem, He quoted the Psalms about His second coming, "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord" (Matt. 23:39; cf. Ps. 118:26), showing He accepted this book.
During the last days of His life on the earth, Jesus spoke of the coming events and showed how He would fulfill the Scriptures. During the Last Supper He said, "The Son of Man indeed goeth, as it is written." Later when He came to the Mount of Olives, Jesus said that the disciples "shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered" (Mark 14:27; cf. Zech. 13:3). At the time of His arrest, Christ told the officers, "I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and ye took me not: but the scriptures must be fulfilled" (Mark 14:49; cf. Isa. 53:7ff.). Then one of the disciples struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Christ rebuked His disciple. He said He could call twelve legions of angels to defend Himself, but He would not because "how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled?" (Matt. 26:54).
Jesus told the disciples who came to the tomb on the Monday after His resurrection, "O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself" (Luke 24:25-27). Thus it is clear that Jesus accepted Moses, the Prophets, and all the Scriptures as truth.
Jesus and the Old Testament
Jesus often referred to or quoted from the Old Testament Scriptures to support His teachings. He told the Jewish leaders, "Well did Esaias [Isaiah] prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me," showing He accepted Isaiah's prophecies (Matt. 15:7, 8; cf. Isa. 29:13). These leaders were hypocrites just as the leaders in Isaiah's generation were, and Jesus quoted Isaiah to support His point.
After Jesus healed many in Jerusalem during His last week, the children cried out, "Hosanna to the son of David," but the chief priests and scribes were indignant at this. Jesus asked them, "Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?" (Matt. 21:15, 16; cf. Ps. 8:2). These leaders did not know that the action of these young children was correct and even possible. Jesus had to point the skeptics to the Old Testament truth that these children could praise God.
Soon after this, Jesus, in a parable about the vineyard and hedge, asked, "Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes?" (Matt. 21:42; cf. Ps. 118:22, 23). This detail prophesied in the Old Testament would be fulfilled by Him. When the Sanhedrin pronounced judgment on Jesus the Messiah and turned him over to the Romans to be put to death, little did they realize this Rejected One would become the Head of the New Covenant.
Jesus may not have left us a formal statement about His view of the Scriptures, but we do know His views from events that occurred in His life. The above Scriptures show that Christ believed the Scriptures to be authoritative and true, even in the smallest details. All His utterances about Scripture emphasized His one thought: "Scripture cannot be broken."
The Apostles' View
The apostles' view of Scripture can be understood by studying their use of it. They often argued from the Scriptures to prove that Christ was the Messiah. Examples of this are very numerous in the New Testament, especially in Matthew and Acts.
Matthew, since he wrote to people of Jewish background, frequently turned to the Old Testament Scriptures to interpret Jesus' ministry. Matthew opened his gospel with "the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of Abraham. Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob . . . ." (Matt. 1:2-16; cf. Luke 3:23-38). Matthew's and Luke's genealogies show they accepted the Old Testament historical records as accurate. These genealogy records do not necessarily include every person in the line of descent, nor are they necessarily the same line back to Adam. About the discrepancies between Matthew and Luke's genealogies, Eusebius wrote, "It was customary in Israel to calculate the names of the generations, either according to nature, or according to the law; according to nature, by succession of legitimate offspring; according to the law, when another raised children to the name of a brother who had died childless." He notes that some in these genealogies tables were natural offspring and some by reputed fathers according to the law, "thus, neither of the gospels has made a false statement, whether calculating in the order of nature, or according to law."
In summing up the details of how Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, when she was engaged to Joseph, Matthew states, "Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call him Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us" (Matt. 1:22, 23). This reference is to Isaiah 7:14. The Greek term Matthew translated as "virgin" here is equivalent to the Hebrew term almah used by Isaiah. Matthew used the same Greek term used in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) to translate the Hebrew term, showing the miraculous conception of Jesus. This miraculous virgin birth was a sign that a Great King was born, the Great King Isaiah wrote about (Isa. 7:14; 9:2-7; 11:1-10).
When he sought to get rid of this new King, Herod became furious and killed all the boys around two years old and under. This caused much weeping: "Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not" (Matt. 2:17, 18; cf. Jer. 31:15).
When John the Baptist began his ministry, Matthew wrote, "For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight" (Matt. 3:3; cf. Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4-6; John 1:23; Isa. 40:3). Some 700 years earlier, Isaiah prophesied about "the voice of him that crieth in the wilderness," and Matthew knew this prophecy found fulfillment in John the Baptist.
After John the Baptist was arrested, Jesus withdrew to Galilee and Capernaum. Matthew wrote this occurred "that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordon, Galilee of the Gentiles; The people which sat in darkness saw great light" (Matt. 4:14-16; cf. Isa. 9:1-2). These people who did not have the benefit of a Bible heritage now saw a Great Light among them. In emphasizing this, Matthew showed he accepted the small details of Old Testament prophecies.
After the account of Peter's mother-in-law's healing, Matthew wrote that Jesus healed many others, "that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses" (Matt. 8:17). Jesus throughout His ministry healed the sick, giving proof to the common people that He was the Christ.
Many that followed Jesus were healed. Matthew interpreted this as fulfilling Isaiah's prophecies: "That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles" (Matt. 12:18; cf. Isa. 42:1-4). Isaiah wrote about God's Servant who would bring justice to the nations and to the earth, surely a prophecy involving one far greater than any known leader except Jesus.
Jesus taught by many parables, "and in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive" (Matt. 13:14; cf. Isa. 6:9, 10). This was done so "that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world" (Matt. 13:35; cf. Psalm 78:2).
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, He sent two of His disciples to find an ass and a colt for Him to ride into the city. "All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass" (Matt. 21:4, 5; cf. Zech. 9:9).
One of the twelve disciples, Judas, betrayed Jesus into the hands of the chief priest and elders for thirty pieces of silver. Seeing his mistake, Judas returned the money and went and hung himself. The chief priest and elders used the silver to buy a burial plot for the poor. "Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver . . . for the potter's field, as the Lord appointed me" (Matt. 27:9, 10).
All the apostles then understood the Scriptures concerning Christ. Soon after this, Peter told the apostles the reason Jesus was betrayed: "Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus" (Acts 1:16; cf. Luke 22:21, 22; John 13:21-30; Pss. 41:5, 9, 10; 69:25; 109:8). Peter used this quotation referring to traitors in David's time as types that related to Jesus Christ, showing that Peter accepted their Teacher's view of Scripture.
Luke's writings on the early church touched both Jewish and Gentile people. As mentioned earlier, Peter believed the Holy Spirit spoke through David. Peter's attitude toward the fulfillment of Scripture was the same as Jesus'. In his first evangelistic service, Peter said "that which was spoken by the prophet Joel" was being fulfilled (Acts 2:16-21). He also spoke of David's telling about One that was coming as the Christ and of Christ's resurrection (Acts 2:25-31).
Such use of Scripture shows that the apostles accepted it as authoritative and true, in every small detail, just as Christ did. Another example of this is found in Galatians 3:16, where Paul wrote, "He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ." This whole argument is based on the difference between the singular and the plural of the noun seed.
Some apostles also used other expressions showing the above viewpoints. Paul wrote to Timothy and warned him of the apostasy to come. Paul told him to continue in what he had learned, the Scriptures, "which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works" (II Tim. 3:15, 16). "All scripture" refers to Scripture in its entirety; every verse is inspired of God. This is the same view Jesus expressed to Satan when He said, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:3, 4).
The word translated into English as "inspired of God" is the Greek term theopneustos. It is a compound word of theo (God) and pneustos (breathed) and ends in tos. In the Greek language words that end in tos and that are compounded with theo are generally passive in meaning. Therefore, this word can be translated "breathed of God." All Scripture is that which was "breathed of God." It has come from God through men guided and infilled by the Holy Spirit (II Peter 1:21), as if it was spoken by God. God spoke through men, even though they kept their own human personality. This makes the Scriptures the Word of God. Men can place their confidence in the Scriptures because they were not written by men alone but by men moved by the Holy Spirit.
When Paul and Peter mentioned Scripture, they generally meant the Old Testament, but they also included the New Testament. Peter spoke about those who are "unlearned and unstable," who twist Paul's epistles "as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction" (II Peter 3:15, 16). Paul's epistles are thus put in the same category as those earlier writings -- Scripture that Peter had said was written by men moved by the Holy Spirit (II Peter 1:21). Paul's epistles are Scripture and were written when he was moved by the Holy Spirit. Paul also recognized New Testament writing as Scripture. In I Timothy 5:18 he writes, "For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward." This first quotation is from Deuteronomy 25:4. The second is not from the Old Testament but is a quotation of Jesus' found in Luke 10:7. Both are identified as Scripture.
The apostles claimed the Old Testament Scripture as Christian Scripture. Twice they expressed that the written Word was the "oracles of God" (Rom. 3:2; Heb. 5:12). The oracles of God "were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope" (Rom. 15:4), and they "were written down for our instruction" (I Corinthians 10:11 RSV). The prophets who spoke "were serving not themselves but you" (I Peter 1:12 RSV). Such sacred events as God's reckoning righteousness to believing Abraham were recorded "not for his sake alone, but for ours also" (Rom. 4:23 RSV). The apostles' view of Scripture was the same as Christ's. Both gave examples from the Old Testament to show that Christ's redemptive acts fulfilled the Old Testament promises. The Old Testament was used to bring men to Christ, and today it can still be used for the same purpose.
The Old Testament Apocrypha
Most Bible-believing Christians accept the Hebrew Old Testament canon that contains the familiar thirty-nine books found in the English Bible. In the Hebrew Old Testament some books are combined, giving twenty-two in number. The Roman Catholic Church and some others believe that more books belong in the Old Canon. These other books are found in the Greek Old Testament translation, i.e. the Septuagint. This name is the Greek word for seventy, and the book is so named because Aristea wrote in a letter that it was made by 72 translators in 72 days. This translation was made at Alexandria about 250 B.C., and at that time it consisted only of the books found in the Hebrew Scriptures. As Alfred Edersheim wrote, "The Canon of the Old Testament was then practically fixed in Palestine. That Canon was accepted by the Alexandrian translators, although the more loose views of the Hellenists on 'inspiration,' and the absence of that close watchfulness exercised over the text in Palestine, led to additions and alterations, and ultimately even to the admission of the Apocrypha into the Greek Bible." Thus the Septuagint as handed down through Christians contains 14 (or 15 depending how they are grouped) additional books not found in the Hebrew Old Testament. These additional books are know by the Greek term apocrypha, meaning "hidden."
Protestants in general have rejected these books, while the Roman Catholic Church accepted eleven of them as Scripture since the Council of Trent held in 1546. In the Catholic Douay Old Testament, there are only seven of these books because the others are combined with some of the thirty-nine familiar books.
Why have these aprocryphal books been accepted by some and rejected by others? There are several reasons they are rejected:
1. There is no evidence that either the Lord Jesus Christ or any of the apostles quoted or taught from the Apocrypha. Their lack of use of these books is a strong indication they rejected them as being a part of the canon. If these books had been accepted as part of the Old Testament, surely the New Testament would contain clear quotations from them since it frequently quoted the Old Testament books. Also, if Jesus would have accepted these books, He surely would have spoken out against the Jews' rejection of them. We know that Jesus accepted "the law of Moses and in the prophets and in the Psalms" as Scripture (Luke 24:44).
Furthermore, even if Jesus and the apostles had used or made allusions to the Septuagint, this would not prove they accepted the Apocrypha books as Scripture unless they were preceded by the authoritative formula "it is written," "the scripture says," etc.
2. There is no proof that the apocryphal books were a part of the first-century Septuagint used by the Lord and His apostles. The Jews did not accept the Apocrypha as part of the Hebrew canon. Flavius Josephus, the first-century Jewish historian, wrote, "We have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing and contradicting one another, but only twenty-two books; which contain the records of all the past times; which are justly believed to be divine; and of them five belong to Moses. . . . From the death of Moses till the reign of Artaxerxes, king of Persia, who reigned after Xerxes, the prophets, who wrote after Moses, wrote down what was done in their times in thirteen books. The remaining four books contain hymns to God, and precepts for the conduct of human life." These twenty-two books are the same as our thirty-nine Old Testament books. The Jewish canon combined several together to give twenty-two, the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet.
The earliest Septuagint containing the Apocrypha dates from the fourth century. Presumably the first-century Greek translation did not contain these books since most of the apocryphal books were written after the Septuagint translation was made in about 250 B.C. The earliest record of these books being a part of the Septuagint is from the fourth century, some six hundred years after the Septuagint was made.
The apocryphal books were post-Biblical, having been written roughly between 200 B.C. and A.D. 100. The Jews recognized this, as Josephus wrote: "It is true, our history hath been written since Artaxerxes very particularly, but hath not been esteemed of the like authority with the former of our fathers, because there hath not been an exact succession of prophets since that time . . . no one has been so bold as either to add anything to them, to take anything from them, or to make change in them; but it has become natural to all Jews immediately, and from their birth, to esteem these books to contain Divine doctrines, and to persist in them."
Eusebius, by quoting Josephus' view of "only twenty-two books," lends his support to this Jewish view. Eusebius also quotes Origen (185-254), an early Christian scholar, who said that "it should be observed that the collective books, as handed down by the Hebrews, are twenty-two, according to the number of letters in their alphabet." Origen, in his commentary on The Song of Songs, comments that "the churches of God have adopted three books from Solomon's pen," and gives them as Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs. Origen does quote from the Book of Wisdom, but this book "is not included among the Solomonic writings3/4here limited to three3/4accepted into the Canon."
3. As Josephus said, there was no "succession of prophets" since Artaxerxes, and the Apocrypha shows this by the absence of "Thus saith the Lord" statements. The apocryphal books also admit this was the case: "There was great distress in Israel, such as had not been since the time that prophets ceased to appear among them" (I Maccabees 9:27; cf. 4:46; 14:41). Malachi was the last prophet of the Old Testament, and he ended his prophecy with the pronouncement, "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse" (Malachi 4:5, 6).
4. "Elijah" did come; John the Baptist came to prepare man for the Messiah. Many of the apocryphal books were written just before and after the time when Jesus Christ's ministry of "grace and truth" occurred (John 1:17; cf. Heb. 7:22; 8:1, 7; 9:15; 12:24). It is unlikely that a new Old Covenant revelation would occur at such a time, especially when that period closed with the promise that Elijah would come, and when so much of its message related to Jewish nationalism and patriotism when Jesus was establishing a new "kingdom . . . not of this world" (John 18:36; cf. 6:15; Luke 17:21; 16:16; et al.).
5. The apocryphal books teach erroneous doctrine, such as salvation by works ("For almsgiving delivers from death, and it will purge away every sin," Tobit 12:9; cf. 4:10; 14:10, 11; Sirach 3:30), prayers for the dead ("to pray for the dead. . . . he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sins," II Maccabees 12:44, 45), that the dead pray ("hear now the prayer of the dead of Israel," Baruch 3:4), and angel intercession ("I brought a reminder of your prayer before the Holy One," Tobit 12:12).
6. The apocryphal books contain errors. For example, "On the third day thou didst command the waters to be gathered together in the seventh part of the earth; six parts thou didst dry up and keep so that some of them might be planted and cultivated and be of service before thee" (II Esdras 6:42 RSV). The Book of Judith (1:1) states that "the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, who ruled over the Assyrians in the great city of Nineveh." Nebuchadnezzar was not king of Nineveh but of the Neo-Babylonian Empire. Wisdom of Solomon (11:17) states that God "created the world out of formless matter." Tobit and Judith contain many historical, chronological, and geographical errors.
7. There are some clearly fanciful and immoral stories found in the Apocrypha, such as Judith deceiving King Nebuchadnezzar's general, Holofernes, and murdering him. She claimed God aided her (Judith 9:10-13; 13:8). These books encouraged and inflamed the Jewish people to revolt.
In summary, the apocryphal books are not considered a part of the Old Testament because (1) of Jesus Christ and His apostles' attitude toward them, (2) they were not a part of the Hebrew Old Testament, (3) they contain no claim to being prophetic, and (4) their messages seem foreign to the time when the Messiah was appearing.
Several of the reasons some give for accepting these books are listed below, along with answers to the reasons.
1. The Old Testament Septuagint was the Bible of the New Testament writers, and it contained the Apocrypha.
Answer: As mentioned earlier, there is no clear evidence that either the Lord Jesus Christ or any of the apostles quoted or taught from the Apocrypha, showing they rejected these books as being a part of the canon.
Jesus and the apostles' use of the Septuagint does not prove they accepted the apocryphal books.
2. The New Testament contains quotations and allusions from the Apocrypha.
Answer: There are no clear quotations from these books in the New Testament. The alleged quotations may be little more than verbal coincidences. None of the so-called quotations are preceded with an authoritative "it is written" or "the scripture says."
Even if there were quotations, they would not prove the apostles treated the books as Scripture. There are quotations from the heathen poets, such as Aratus in Acts 17:28, Menander in I Corinthians 15:33, and Epimenides in Titus 1:12; but their writings were not considered Scripture.
As Eusebius wrote, when New Testament authors made such use of other uninspired writings, their quotations were correct since they selectively quoted from them only to illustrate God's truth. They did not use the quotations to establish truth.
3. Some of the early church leaders used and accepted the Apocrypha.
Answer: Many early church leaders opposed these books. Jerome firmly put them in a class of writings separate from the Scripture.
4. The Catacombs have scenes based on the apocryphal books.
Answer: These scenes in all probability were of a later origin, and they only prove the artists accepted the historical fact of the events and does not indicate they accepted the books as part of the Old Testament.
5. The older Greek manuscripts, Aleph, A, and B, contain these books.
Answer: This does not prove these books were part of the first-century Scriptures. These Alexandrian manuscripts may not be representative of the original Biblical manuscripts, which, of course, originated in Jerusalem.
6. The Syriac church accepted these books in the fourth century.
Answer: The Syrian Peshitta Bible of the second century did not include these books.
7. Augustine and the councils he presided over (Hippo in 393 and Carthage in 397) accepted these books.
Answer: Augustine accepted them only as a "secondary canon." He did not know Hebrew or was not a Hebrew scholar and therefore may not have understood the Jewish position on these books. We can see he shifted in his assessments of the Hebrew Old Testament. At first he opposed Jerome's use of the Hebrew Old Testament for the Latin Vulgate translation, but later he accepted Jerome's Hebrew text as being the best.
8. The Greek Church accepted these books.
Answer: The Greek Church first accepted these books as part of the canon in 1638.
9. The Roman Catholic Church proclaimed these as part of the canon at the Council of Trent in 1547.
Answer: The Roman Catholic Church claimed these books as canonical at the Council of Trent in part because of their support for "salvation by works" (Tobit 12:9) and "prayers for the dead" (II Maccabees 12:44, 45).
10. They were found in some Protestant Bibles up until the nineteenth century.
Answer: The Protestant Bible placed these books in a separate section. The first English Bible to exclude them was the Wycliffe Bible (1382) and the Geneva Bible (1599 publication). The British and Foreign Bible Societies 1827 decision to suspend their circulation was not a new action but was based on earlier similar actions.
11. Some of these books are found among the Dead Sea scrolls.
Answer: Other noncanonical books are found among the Dead Sea scrolls, so finding some of these books proves nothing.
The above show there is no case for acceptance of the apocryphal books as inspired.
Do these books have any value? The Westminster confession of faith states: "The Books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are not part of the canon of the Scripture; and therefore are of no authority in the Church of God, nor to be any otherwise approved, or made use of, than other human writings." These apocryphal books do have value because they help understand the first-century climate in which Jesus, the apostles, and the early church worked.
Although these books have value, they should not be placed in the Bible. The Bible should contain only the inspired Scriptures. Since the apocryphal books are not inspired but are only the words of men, they should not be placed alongside the inspired Word.
1 Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1966, p. 32.
2 Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1886, 1962, 1:27.
3 The Proverbs are included in the Psalms section.
4 Against Apion, I:8.
5 Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1966, p. 97. 6 Ibid., p. 244.
7 Origen, The Songs of Songs, Commentary and Homilies, Ancient Christian Writers, New York: Newman Press, p. 39, note 65 on p. 317.
8 Edersheim, op. cit., 1:126.
9 Walter Elwell, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988, 1:129.