The Idea of Canon (Part 2) (The Covenant & the Cross #17)


Today’s passage of Scripture is Ezra 7:10 which reads: “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.”

Today’s quote about the Bible is from Johann Goethe. He said: “Let mental culture go on advancing, let the natural sciences progress in ever greater extent and depth, and the human mind widen itself as much as it desires, beyond the elevation and moral culture of Christianity, as it shines forth in the gospels, it will not go.”

Our topic for today is titled: “The Idea of Canon (Part 2)” from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin

When the Jews were scattered throughout the world in the Diaspora (after the Babylonian exile), they began translating the Old Testament into their everyday languages. The most important translation of the Old Testament is the Greek, often called the Septuagint. The Septuagint is a product of the Exile. Although Ezra and Nehemiah consolidated the nation after the return, a number of Jews remained scattered throughout the Middle East. After Alexander the Great, Greek displaced Aramaic as the lingua franca. Aramaic was close enough to Hebrew that literate Aramaic speaker, with some effort and help, could read Hebrew. That was not the case with Greek. Within a few generations, many Greek-speaking Jews were no longer able to understand their Bible. To compensate, the Jews in Alexandria commissioned a translation of Hebrew-Aramaic text into Greek. This translation became the text of choice of many Jews outside of Palestine and served as a background to most of the New Testament citations of the Old Testament.

After a hiatus of about 400 years, the New Testament writings began to be added to the cannon, following the same procedures: God guiding men to write books as He deemed necessary. The early New Testament books fell into two basic categories: eyewitness accounts of the Messiah (the Gospels), and letters from key witnesses written to various groups of believers (the Epistles). The book of Acts, which recounts part of the history of the early church, and the book of Revelation, which gives the church hope of the second coming of the Messiah, finish it off. The question of whether this later collection should be considered Scripture was one factor leading to the division between Judaism and Christianity (although the key issue was whether Jesus was the Messiah).

Clearly the first books of the Old Testament were accepted readily by God’s people because they were witnesses to much of what the books recorded. They had seen Moses go up the mountain, and they had heard God speak. Other books were added through the years as they were accepted by the community of believers. This addition process started soon after the initial canon. Moses wrote Numbers and Deuteronomy, and they were added in about forty years of the initial canon. But the fact that Moses wrote them was not the deciding factor. He also may have written the “Book of the Wars of the Lord” and the “Book of Jashar.” We no longer have those; they were never canonical.


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