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The Bible Canon

21st August 2009, mgh,hej

 

5) Why Were Many Works not Included?

In our modern world a lot of research in many fields is carried out. There are numerous types of resources that can be used, some reliable and some unreliable. The Bible clearly defines the principles that determine whether a book is inspired and reliable. There are many writings such as those of the Apocrypha, and those mentioned in the Bible but lost over time, which possibly contained useful or interesting historical information, but they do not meet the criteria laid down for an inspired work.

From the Bible itself there is evidence that the books considered inspired were identified by a prophet. Joshua, who is confirmed a prophet (1kings 16:34), confirmed the books of the Law were inspired. Peter speaks of the prophets from Samuel, indicating Samuel was a prophet (Acts 3:24). Jewish tradition holds Ezra canonized the Jewish sacred texts. Josephus dates the sacred writings were from Moses to the latest at the time of Artaxerxes (ca.400B.C) which is the time of Ezra. Ezra confirmed that the writings from Samuel until his day were inspired. He could do this as Ezra demonstrated he had the holy Spirit like the prophets Ezekiel, Jeremiah and Daniel.

“And I was strengthened as the hand of the LORD my God was upon me, and I gathered together out of Israel chief men to go up with me” (Ezra 7:28)

The work of Ezra was recognised by Nehemiah (Nehemiah 8:6). In the book of Nehemiah, Ezra, a Levite descended from Aaron. is described six times as 'Ezra the scribe' and once as the 'priest'. It is evident that all the people respected Ezra as a prophet in the same way as Samuel had been.

And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded to Israel. And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding. (Nehemiah 8: 1-2)

The book of Ezra also has evidence within it. There is great emphasis on the instruction of the people, however, there is more powerful incidental evidence. Ezra is 'somebody'. Ezra himself does not say why specifically except to say “the hand of the LORD my God was upon me”. The king, we are told, had given Ezra all that he had requested. The King's attitude displayed concern that the worship of the people prosper, and he feared the God of Ezra. This indicated that Ezra had convinced him that his God, by a display of power, was the “God of heaven”.

This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given: and the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the LORD his God upon him. And there went up some of the children of Israel,.. unto Jerusalem, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king. And he came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king. For upon the first day of the first month began he to go up from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month came he to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God upon him. 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.
Now this is the copy of the letter that the king Artaxerxes gave unto Ezra the priest, the scribe, even a scribe of the words of the commandments of the LORD, and of his statutes to Israel. “Artaxerxes, king of kings, unto Ezra the priest, a scribe of the law of the God of heaven, perfect peace, and at such a time. I make a decree, that all they of the people of Israel, and of his priests and Levites, in my realm, which are minded of their own freewill to go up to Jerusalem, go with thee. Forasmuch as thou art sent of the king, and of his seven counsellors, to enquire concerning Judah and Jerusalem, according to the law of thy God which is in thine hand” (Ezra 7: 6-14)

From this passage we have a testament of the role of Ezra from no less than Artaxerxes. He writes on an official document, 'a decree', which clearly states that the Law of God was “in (Ezra's) thine hand”. Copies of decrees were kept and could be verified. Ezra asserts with the authority of God that the works of the prophets were the commands of God,

Which thou hast commanded by thy servants the prophets, saying, The land, unto which ye go to possess it, is an unclean land... (Ezra 9-10-11)

This testimony has a second witness, as the law requires, in the book of Zechariah, who was contemporary with Ezra.

But they refused to hearken ... Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the LORD of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the LORD of hosts. (Zechariah 7:12)

The use of 'former prophets' indicates that they had been defined. Zechariah bases his authority for saying that the former prophets spoke the law and were inspired on the evidence that their words were fulfilled beyond doubt in Israel's experience.

The New Testament indicates that any writing had to be tested

The Apostles and early disciples seem to have immediately recognised inspired writing, and ask all follower of Christ to likewise to test the writings,

Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. (I John 4:1)

Paul gave a method, which required that every prophecy was to be tested,

Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. If any thing be revealed to another that sits by, let the first hold his peace. For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. (I Corinthians 14:29-32)

From this we can know that any inspired words were to be judged by someone capable. In this way the letters could be immediately identified as being inspired. Amongst the the early congregations there were people who could discern inspired words. Paul lists this as a gift.

To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; (I Corinthians 12:10)

Paul added that the inspiration would vanish.

Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. (I Corinthians 13:8-10)

The apostles writing was a witness and is called the 'word of God',

Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. (Revelation 1:2)

The Test for a Prophet and Divine Inspiration

The test for a prophet in relation to the Bible was clearly set out in the Law. In the book of Deuteronomy the nation of Israel were given clear instructions for the identification of a prophet. If the words of someone professing to be a prophet in the name of the LORD came to pass, then he was indeed a prophet.

And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.... And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him. (Deuteronomy 18: 19-22)

Ezekiel and Jeremiah also state the same thing.

And when this comes to pass, (lo, it will come,) then shall they know that a prophet has been among them.(Ezekiel 33:33)
The prophet which prophesieth of peace, when the word of the prophet shall come to pass, then shall the prophet be known, that the LORD hath truly sent him.(Jeremiah 28:9)

The book of the Law and the Prophets can stand the test of the words of Deuteronomy. Whether it be the rise and fall of kingdoms as predicted in Daniel, the dispersion of Israel as predicted in many of the prophetic books, the fall of Tyre and Babylon as in Isaiah and Ezekiel or the fate that came upon Israel in the books of the Law.

Today we can use the same rule to test the validity of the prophets. The establishment of the state of Israel and the return of Israel to their homeland show that the books identified long ago as inspired are still valid for today, and can still pass the test for inspiration as their prophecies continue to be fulfilled in the modern world.

Many prophecies were only partially fulfilled. It is foolish to put forward a late date for the writing of Daniel or Isaiah because of their accuracy, when all their words are still being fulfilled in detail.

Daniel in particular has been targeted. However, Josephus speaks of the high Priest Jaddua coming forward to meet Alexander the Great (in 332 BC) and later in Jerusalem showing him the book of Daniel.

And when he went up into the temple, he offered sacrifice to God, according to the high priest’s direction.. And when the Book of Daniel was showed him wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians, he supposed that himself was the person intended. And as he was then glad (Antiquities 11:8:4-5)

This shows that the book of Daniel was already considered amongst the inspired writings as the book was in the temple (where Josephus says the scriptures were kept). They could have shown to Alexander Isaiah's prophecy of Tyre, but Josephus did not mention Isaiah. The book also was clearly known as the 'Book of Daniel'. That they should chose Daniel over Isaiah fits neatly with Daniel being a famous person, commensurate with his high status under two regimes (comparable in modern terms to Henry Kissinger). That he was famous, at least among Jews, is confirmed by Ezekiel 14.

Critics are happy to admit, “The Book of Ezekiel was written for the captives of the tribe of Judah living in exile in Babylon following the Siege of Jerusalem of 597 BC” (Wikipedia). Ezekiel therefore begins his prophecy about the time Daniel dies. The book of Ezekiel mentions a Daniel famous for wisdom, as you would be if you had risen to such a height by this skill. There was no other Daniel who was famous for wisdom. There is no ancient text that questions Daniel. There are three independent ancient sources that confirm his work: Ezekiel, the gospel of Matthew and Josephus. These 3 sources all agree. The first is contemporary. It is not scholarly to move the date of Daniel as all extant ancient sources support that Daniel's book was written when it claims to have been written.

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