Daily Inspiration

April 8, 2024

Remember the Bible Series, #1

What Constitutes Scripture?

All Scripture is inspired by God . . . .

~ 2 Timothy 3:16

We have had many discussions on this, our first and primary Memory Verse; so for just today, I want to assume that we all share a belief in the Bible as the actual Word of God, an inspired document that represents God’s communication to us on what is true that we cannot see, and how we should behave.

I had a young friend email me (and some other teachers) saying, “I have a silly question. . . .Obviously, scripture is at the heart of everything we do and believe, but my question is what makes something scripture.”

This is hardly a silly question. Someone hands me a Bible and says “This is Scripture and nothing else.” Why do I believe him? And so, here is my answer:

As to the Old Testament, we defer to, and depend on, Orthodox (Rabbinical) Judaism! But there have been two different sets of Scripture as defined by the Jews.

The original Old Testament was taken from the first collection of Hebrew Scripture, called the “Septuagint”, compiled (in Greek!) in Alexandria maybe around 300 BC, by 70 Jewish scholars. And this is what Catholics accepted as Scripture, in the Old Testament, when the church finalized the Biblical canon in 380 A.D.

But Judaism threw a monkey wrench into the works. In roughly 1000 A.D. the Jews finalized their Tanakh (Bible) with a monumental work of scholarship called the “Masoretic Text,” and Christianity revised its Old Testament to conform. The Masoretic Text eliminated seven books from the Old Testament. So the Protestant Bible has 66 books, the Catholic Bible has 73, and Orthodox Bibles have even more.

I will point out, this difference is not as great as it sounds. Protestants approve of the 7 books and used to include them in a separate section called The Apocrypha. Catholics call them “deuterocanonical” and in practice seem to place less reliance on them as works of theological doctrine.

Why we consider the 27 books of our New Testament to be “Scripture” is a lot simpler. We simply trust that those who were closer in time to Christ knew what they were doing when they chose the canon. It was winnowed and discussed in minute details for several hundred years, until the New Testament canon was finalized at the Council of Rome in 382 AD. All Christian churches, including Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox, agree on the New Testament. (The Mormons also accept the identical New Testament, although they add a third section to their Bible, the Book of Mormon.)

Lord, let me always remember that your Word is sacred and infallible. Amen.

~ Mason Barge
Editor, Daily Prayer

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