Development of the Papacy

The purpose of this work is to show how the Papacy was a gradual development from the New Testament form of church organization. Today, it is commonplace to see the Pontiff traveling throughout the world, and in most countries a Papal visit is a national event. However, the Papacy as we know it today has evolved over centuries and centuries and bears no resemblance to anything we read about in Scripture.

       The Catholic Church maintains that the Papal office can be found in the words of Jesus spoken to the apostle Peter in Matthew 16:18. They view the Pope in Rome, as a successor to Peter and is the supreme head of the church. Moreover, they teach that Keys to the Kingdom were given directly and personally to Peter alone.

Cardinal Gibbons asserts the primacy of Peter and his successors as follows: ‘Our Lord conferred on St. Peter the first place of honor and jurisdiction in government of His Holy Church, and that the same spiritual supremacy has always resided in the Popes, or Bishops of Rome, as being the successors of St. Peter.’ [1]

       Earle Cairns adds this historical insight:

The Petrine theory, based on such scriptures as Matthew 16:16-18; Luke 22:31-32, and John 21:15-17, was generally accepted by 590. According to this theory, Peter had been given “ecclesiastical primogeniture” over his fellow apostles, and his superior position had been passed on from him to his successors, the bishops of Rome, by apostolic succession. As early as about 250, Stephen I had appealed to these Scriptures. [2]

       However, in Scripture Peter does not refer to himself as a Pope but as an elder, in I Peter 5:1-4.

ELDERS-BISHOPS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

       Joseph Henry Thayer in his Greek-English Lexicon says that the term for elders among Christians referred to:

Those who presided over the assemblies (or churches): Acts 11:30; 14:23; 15:2, 4, 6, 22; 16:4; 21:18; I Timothy 5:17, 19; Titus 1:5; II John 1; III John 1; I Peter 5:1, 5. That they did not differ at all from the (episkopoi) bishops or overseers (as acknowledged by Jerome on Titus 1:5)…is evident from the fact that the two words are used indiscriminately, Acts 20:17, 28; Titus 1:5, 7. [3]

       Furthermore, the New Testament knows nothing of one human being to rule God’s church here on earth. Jesus chose 12 apostles – not just one. When each congregation was set in order in the New Testament times there were elders (bishops) selected for each congregation. (Acts 14:23) Paul addressed the bishops at Philippi – not just one bishop. (Philippians 1:1)

ELDERS-BISHOPS IN THE SECOND AND THIRD CENTURY

Didache:

Elect therefore for yourselves bishops and deacons who are worthy of the Lord, men who are meek, not lovers of money, true and tested. For they minister to you the service of the prophets and teachers. Do not look down on them, for they are your honored men along with the prophets and teachers. [4]

The terms bishop and elder appear to have been used interchangeably in early post-apostolic Christianity, even as they appear in the New Testament.

Polycarp:

Likewise the deacons are to be unblameable before his righteousness as servants of God and Christ and not men. They are not slanders, double tongued, not lovers of money, but self controlled in all things…Wherefore it is necessary that… you be subject to the elders and deacons as to God and Christ….And the elders are to be compassionate, showing mercy to all, turning back those who have strayed.[5]

       Elders are plural and Polycarp says nothing about a separate bishop.

The growth of the office of the monarchical bishop did not develop until the end of the second century.

       For example Ignatius said this in his letter to the Symyrneans:

Avoid the divisions, as the beginning of evil. Follow, all of you the bishop, as Jesus Christ followed the Father; and follow the presbytery as the apostles. Moreover, reverence the deacons as the commandment of God. Let no man do aught pertaining to the Church apart from the bishop. Let that Eucharist be considered valid which is under the bishop or him to whom he commits it. Wheresoever the bishop appears, there let the people be, even as wheresoever Christ Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful apart from the bishop either to baptize, or to hold a love feast. But whatsoever he approves, that also is well pleasing to God….[6]

       Ignatius makes a distinction between the bishop and the presbyters. The Ignatian pattern of one bishop and a plurality of elders and deacons spread through out the churches by the end of the second century.

LATER HIERARCHICAL DEVELOPMENTS

The bishop in the early church was considered one of many bishops who were equal to one another in rank, power, and function. Between 313 and 450 the Roman bishop came to be acknowledged as the first among equals. But, beginning with Leo I’s accession to the Episcopal throne in 440, the Roman bishop began to claim his supremacy over other bishops….The Bishop was also considered the guarantor of orthodox doctrine. [7]

       Later Boniface III was recognized as the first Universal Bishop of Rome in the year A.D. 606.

       The zenith of Papal power was exercised between 1054 and 1305. During this time some of the Popes even had authority over government rulers.  For example, Philip of France married Ingeborg of Denmark. However, when his bride came to France, he claimed she had been bewitched. He forced the French bishops to annul the marriage, and then later took a woman by the name of Agnes home as his wife. Pope Innocent III ordered Philip to put away Agnes and restore Ingeborg to be his lawful wife. When Philip refused to do so Innocent placed France under an interdict in 1200. This decision closed all churches, forbade the celebration of mass, the priests were not allowed to preach except out in open places. The uproar all over France forced Philip to submit to the Pope. 

BIBLICAL REBUTTAL TO THE PAPACY

Psalm 118:22

22 The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone;

Isaiah 8:14

14 and he will be a sanctuary; but for both houses of Israel he will be a stone that causes men to stumble

Isaiah 9:6

6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, [a] Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 22:22

22 I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.

Isaiah 28:16

16 So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation;  the one who trusts will never be dismayed.

       In Old Testament prophecy, the Stone, the Foundation, the Government, and the Keys refer to Christ and not to Peter. Furthermore, the New Testament “foundational prophecies” apply directly to Christ. (Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11; Ephesians 2:20; I Corinthians 3: 10, 11; I Peter 2:4-10)

Moreover, in Matthew 16 the context is asking about the identity of Jesus and not the identity of Peter. (Matthew 16:13-20). When Jesus spoke of His church being built upon the rock, what was he referring to? If the building is to last it must be built upon something solid. There is only one person who provides such a foundation – Jesus the Christ the Son of the living God.

In fact, the doctrine that Christ had built his church upon Peter was prominently announced for the first time in the council of Chalcedon (451) with the famous words: ‘The twice blessed and all honored Peter who is the rock and basis of the Catholic Church and the foundation of the orthodox faith.’ But even in then these words were not used to urge a claim to any pre-eminence by the bishop of Rome. They were spoken to give force to the condemnation of Dioscoros who was the most unpopular man in the Episcopal assembly at Chalcedon. Before this time, most of the fathers referred the expression ‘upon this rock’ to Peter’s faith and confession: ‘Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God.’ [8]

Finally Augustine, probably the greatest mind of the Catholic Church, writing in the fifth century, did not hold the position of present day Romanists as to Peter’s having primacy over others, and not at all as to transmitting to others any special authority. In fact, in his sermon on Matthew 16:18 he affirms that the church was not built on Peter but on Christ: ‘Simon he was called before: but his name of Peter was given him by the Lord and that in figure to signify the Church. For because Christ is the Rock (Petra), Peter (Petros) is the Christian people. For the Rock (Petra) is the principle word. Therefore Peter (Petros) is from Petra, not Petra from Petros; as Christ is not called from the Christian, but the Christian from Christ. ‘Thou art therefore,’ said he, ‘Peter, and upon this Rock, which thou hast confessed, upon this Rock which thou has recognized, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God, I will build my church. Upon me I will build thee, not me upon thee.’[9] 

       This should help our Catholic friends to see that Matthew 16:18 was not always interpreted as Peter being viewed as the rock foundation of the church, even among their own scholars.

       Furthermore, the qualifications of apostolic succession are clearly set forth in Acts 1:21, 22.

21Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”

       The conditions are:

1)     Witness of Jesus’ baptism.

2)     Witness to all Jesus teachings, miracles and demonstrations of his divinity

3)     Witness of the ascension

4)     Witness of Jesus’ resurrection

       No one could possibly qualify for these terms today. The apostolic ministry was unique in that it formed the foundation for the church not only in the first generation, but for all future generations (Ephesians 2:20). Once that foundation was laid there was no need for that office to continue in succeeding generations. Now local churches are overseen by a plurality of bishops within each local church.

Ephesians 4:11, 12

11It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up

       We have a complete list of ministers and servants as found in the early church; however, there isn’t a cardinal or a pope mentioned in the list.

Colossians 1:15-23

Christ as the head of the Church certainly precludes any other person of a lesser nature to occupy that place.

CONCLUSION

       The doctrine of the Papacy is a departure from what the scriptures teach. The apostles never believed that the church was built like a pyramid with Peter at the top. Instead they portrayed the church as a flock of sheep overseen by Christ as the Chief Shepherd.

       The leaders of the church are not to be masters or rulers but only stewards of the flock committed under their care. (Matthew 20:26, 27) The truth of the matter is the supremacy of the popes can in no way be derived from the humble apostle like Peter (Acts 10:26) but the result of tradition that had developed over many years. If we will read the Bible without prejudice we will find that Christ and not a Pope in Rome is the Chief Shepherd and Universal Head of the church here on earth.

[1] Aniceto M. Sparagna, Personal Evangelism Among Catholics (Joplin: College Press, 1955) 56.

[2] Earle E. Cairns, Christianity through the Ages (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996) 151.

[3] Joseph Henry Thayer, Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976) 536.

[4] Everett Ferguson, Early Christians Speak (Abilene: Biblical Research Press, 1981) 167.

[5] Ferguson, 168.

[6] J. Stevenson, A New Eusebius (Southhampton: The Camelot Press Ltd., 1957) 48.

[7] Cairns, 150.

[8] Sparagna, 67.

[9] Sparagna, 68.

The Kingdom of God

The concept of the Kingdom is a very important biblical topic. The idea is first introduced in the Old Testament and then continues in the New Testament.

 THE TERM DEFINED 

            The New Testament word is Basileia which is defined by W. E. Vine as:

Primarily an abstract noun denoting sovereignty, royal power dominion… then by metononmy, a concrete noun denoting the territory or people over whom a king rules.[1]

      Nat Cooper makes this point in the use of the word in the bible.

In scripture the abstract concept of the term kingdom is used the most. It is rule rather than realm. Hence, His Kingdom is His rule or reign. God’s priests and holy nation (Exodus 19:5-6; I Peter 2:5-9) became a manifestation of His sovereignty made visible in His people (Israel in the Old Testament – the church in the New Testament). [2]

THE KINGDOM IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

God is regarded as sitting upon a throne (Psalm 103:19a; Ezekiel 1:26-28) where he is surrounded by the heavenly host who serve Him (I Kings 22:19) and from where he watches over the whole earth (Psalm 33:13f.). In the praise offered to Him by Israel He was regarded as the King of the whole world (I Chronicles 29:11; Psalm103:19b) and of all the kingdoms of men (2 Kings 19:15; Psalm 47:2, 7). He is the eternal King (Psalm 145:13; Daniel 4:3, 4), both from everlasting (Psalm 74:12; 93:2) and to everlasting (Exodus 15:18). His right to be King rests upon the fact that He is the Creator of the heaven and the earth (Psalm 95:3-5). His kingly rule is displayed in His present jurisdiction over the nations of the world (Psalm 22:28; Jeremiah 46:18; 48:15; 51:57) and in His appointment of their rulers (Daniel 2:37; 4:17; 5:21).  [3]

      Furthermore, the Kingdom in Old Testament theology would refer to the Israelites as a nation of people. God ruled more than Israel, but had a special kingdom relationship Israel. For example, in Exodus 19:5-6 we read.

5 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 6 you [a] will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”

The concept of the kingdom then is not about territory but ruler ship. Unfortunately many of them did not realize that God wanted to rule the hearts of the people. No doubt this is why Jesus will sternly say to some of the Jews of his day:

The kingdom of God shall be taken away from you and given to people who will produce its fruit. (Matthew 21:43)

Each man finds something that he personally appropriates. That shows us that you can be under the dominion of God and not a member of the kingdom. Everyone in the universe is under God’s rule, because He is the Sovereign of the universe. Those who are on the earth are, in a sense, in the kingdom. But many on those on earth are not subjects of the King. [4]

      Therefore, the way to be the true people of God is to acknowledge God’s rule. The kingdom of God must be personally appropriated. So in a sense God has always had a kingdom within a kingdom.

      However, there are prophecies in the Old Testament that refer to the kingdom being established in the future, like in Daniel 2:30-45.

Daniel was summoned to interpret the vision and he said unto Nebuchadnezzar, “thou art the head of gold.” (2:38) Daniel then said, “And after thee shall arise ANOTHER KINGDOM inferior to thee; and another THIRD KINGDOM of brass, which shall bear rule over the earth.” (2:39)

After these another FOURTH KINGDOM would rise. (2:40) The first kingdom, as Daniel says, was the Babylonian kingdom. History tells us that the second world power after Babylon was the Medo-Persian kingdom. (5:28) Again, history confirms that the third world power after the Medes and Persians was the Grecian kingdom of Alexander the Great. After the Greeks came the great Roman kingdom which subdued all other kingdoms of the world. In verse 44, Daniel says, “And in the days of those kings (the Roman kings) shall the God of heaven set up a KINGDOM which shall never be destroyed, nor shall sovereignty thereof be left to another people; but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and IT SHALL STAND FOREVER”.[5]

THE KINGDOM IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

      It was during the days of the Roman Kings that John the Baptist said, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2) It was also during the days of the Romans kings that Jesus came preaching, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17; 10:7). “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand.” (Mark 1:15)

When Jesus declared ‘The time is fulfilled,’ he was saying that it was time for all God had said and done in Israel’s history to be brought to competition. The universal reign of God was about to be manifested in a new and special way. The hopes expressed in the Old Testament prophets were ready to be realized. [6]

      It is clear that in several references the kingdom refers to the church. Therefore, in one sense the kingdom prophecies of the Old Testament were fulfilled when the church was established on the day of Pentecost, because after the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 the Bible speaks of the Kingdom as being in existence. (Revelation 1:9; Colossians 1:13; I Thessalonians 2:12)

The prophets closed with the promises of the Messiah’s coming. The Gospels close with the Messiah promising that the kingdom of God had just about arrived. The book of Acts (chapter 1 excepted) tells the story of a kingdom arrived.[7]

There is a difference between the relationships designated by the terms Kingdom and Church. The kingdom refers to the relationship Christians have with God. It’s the rule or dominion of Christ in one’s heart. The church refers to the relationship Christians have with one another. These are two different terms, yet they refer to the same group of people just as father and husband are two different terms which refer to two different relationships, yet refer to the same man. These terms are not the same, they are inseparable.[8]

      These terms are applied to the same group of people but define different aspects of the body. Kingdom refers to the “governing aspect” of God’s people and church refers to them as a “called out body” of people separate from the world. The church is a monarchy with Christ as King with all authority. (Matthew 28:18; I Timothy 6:15) Only those born again, born of water and the Spirit, can enter the kingdom. (John 3:3-5) This means they must be baptized according to Christ’s will and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)

      Matthew uses the term kingdom of heaven thirty times. Mark uses kingdom of God sixteen times. Luke uses the phrase kingdom of God thirty two times. By cross referencing parallel accounts in the synoptics, the expressions kingdom of heaven and Kingdom of God are synonymous. (Matthew 19:23; Mark 10:23; Luke 18:24) By looking at these parallel accounts it is clear that the two expressions are interchangeable. In fact in Matthew 19:23 Matthew uses the phrase kingdom of heaven, and then in verse 24 he uses the phrase kingdom of God.

      Nonetheless, the idea of God wanting to rule the hearts of the people in the Old Testament is also found in the New Testament. It is still appropriate to pray, like Jesus first taught his disciples to pray, for the kingdom or the ruler ship of God to come into this world. (Matthew 6:10) However, by this I am not talking about the “millennial kingdom” but God’s reign in the hearts of men and women.

      Jesus emphasized the internal aspect of His kingdom in Luke 17:20, 21.

When Jesus said (Luke 17:20, 21) that the kingdom doesn’t come with observation – that the kingdom of God is ‘within’ he wasn’t denying external things, he was emphasizing internal things. These people thought of the kingdom only in terms of victory, triumph, over enemies not knowing that the central thrust of God’s rule was to produce victory within.[9]

      In Matthew 18:3 Jesus says that one cannot enter the kingdom unless one has a child-like spirit. In Matthew 18:23 one cannot enter unless he or she has a forgiving spirit. In Matthew 25:31-46 one cannot enter it unless he or she cares for their fellowman. We should desire for God to take full control of our own personal lives. (Matthew 6:33)

THE KINGDOM IN HEAVEN

      Christians have a dual citizenship. Under the flags of worldly governments we are to be citizens living exemplary lives in our communities, but there is a more valuable citizenship which is in heaven. (Philippians 3:20, 21). Those who do the will of the Father will inherit the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 7:21) Christ now reigns in heaven. (Acts 2:30-36) Ultimately he will translate all of his subjects to the heavenly kingdom. (Matthew 25:1-13)

[1] W.E. Vine, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Mclean: Macdonald Publishing Company) 634.

[2] Nat Cooper, The Life of Christ (Lubbock: Sunset School of Preaching Extension Study Guide, 1983) 18.

[3] I. H. Marshal, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible Volume Three (Grand Rapids: Zondervan publishing House, 1977) 801.

[4] John MacArthur, The Parables of the Kingdom (Chicago: Moody Press, 1985) 105.

[5] Roger Dickson, Millennial Mistake (Shreveport: Lambert Book House, Inc, 1976) 71.

[6] Everett Ferguson, The Church of Christ (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1996) 23.

[7] Jim McGuiggan, The Reign of God (Lubbock: Montex Publishing Company, 1979) 79.

[8] Wayne Kilpatrick, Church History (Florence: Heritage Christian University) 2-1.

[9] McGuiggan, 67.

WORSHIP IN THE EARLY CHRISTIAN CHURCH

Worship in the New Testament embraced both attitude and form. Jesus spoke of worship in this way in John 4:24:

24God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit d in truth.”

Worship must not be robbed of its emotional content or made void of feelings. However, it must also be based upon the truth of God’s word. True worship is not based upon doing things the way we like, or the way that most people like it. We have to look through scripture to find the God affirmed acts or items of praise and devotion to God.

Worship is not a spectator sport in which the worshipers sit in the stands giving their approval or disapproval to those performing in the arena. In true worship, the worshippers are involved in the action. Worship is not a dramatic production in which the ‘clergy’ are the actors and the worshippers are the audience. In true worship, God is the audience, and the worshipers are the actors.[1]

Earle Cairns has this to say about the corporate worship of the early church.

During the first century, two services were held on the first day of the week. That day was adopted as the day of worship because it was the day on which Christ rose from the dead (Acts 20:7; I Cor. 16:2; Rev. 1:10). The morning service most likely included the reading of Scripture (Col. 3:16), exhortation…, prayers, and singing (Eph 5:19). The love feast (I Cor. 11:20-22), or agape preceded the Communion during the evening service, By the end of the first century the love feast was generally dropped and the Communion celebrated during the morning service of worship. [2]

It is also interesting to look at what we know about worship during the second and third Centuries.

WHERE CHRISTIANS MET

The early Christians did not think of a church as a place of worship. A church signified a body of believers who were called out of the world and into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. They met in homes (Acts 12:12; Romans 16:5 Colossians 4:15; Philemon 1-4), the Temple (Acts 5:13), public auditoriums (Acts 19:9), and synagogue as long as they were permitted to do so (Acts 14:1, 3; 17:1; 18:4). Everett Ferguson said:

Not until the age of Constantine do we find specifically constructed buildings. Any space where an assembly was permitted was a possible site for Christian gatherings. [3]

CHRISTIAN ASSEMBLIES

Between A.D. 110 and 113 the Roman Emperor Trajan received a series of letters from Pliny, the governor of Bithynia. Pliny was concerned about what he considered a cult who met secretly within his governmental domain. His letters give some ideas about the types of things Christians practiced in their assembly in the early second century.

….It was their habit on a fixed day to assemble before daylight and recite by turns a form of words to Christ as a god; and that they bound themselves with an oath, not for any crime, but not to commit theft or robbery or adultery,

not to break their word, and not to deny a deposit when demanded. After this was done, their custom was to depart, and to meet again to take food, but ordinary and harmless food; and even this (they said) they had given up doing after the issue of my edict, by which in accordance with your commands I had my edict, by which in accordance with your commands I had forbidden the existence of clubs. [4]

Clement of Alexandria (150-220 A.D.)

Always giving thanks in all things to God through righteous hearing and divine reading, true inquiry, holy oblation, blessed prayer, praising, hymning, blessing, singing, such a soul is never separated from God at any time. [5]

THE DAY OF CHRISTIAN WORSHIP

Ignatius (born about 50 A.D.)

If therefore those who lived according to the old practices came to the new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath but living according to the Lord’s day, in which also our life arose through him and his death (which some deny), through which mystery we received faith, and on account of which we suffer in order that we may be found disciples of Jesus Christ our only teacher, how shall we be able to live apart from him for whom even the prophets were looking as their teacher since we are disciples in the spirit (Magnesians 9) [6]

The Epistle of Barnabus. This could be the oldest uninspired Christian writing (69-79 A.D.). He was antagonistic towards the Judaizers, and worked to harmonize the Old and New Testaments.

Moreover God says to the Jews, ‘Your new moons and Sabbaths I cannot endure.’ You see how he says, ‘The present Sabbaths are not acceptable to me, but the Sabbath which I have made in which I rested from all things, I will make the beginning of the eight day which is the beginning of another world.’ Wherefore, we (Christians) keep the eight day for joy, on which also Jesus arose from the dead and when he appeared  ascended into heaven. [7]

THE LORD’S SUPPER

The roots of the Lord’s Supper are deeply intertwined in the Passover Meal which God instituted shortly before the Israelites escaped Egyptian bondage. Jesus did share many meals with his disciples but the Passover meal he shared with them the night he was arrested was special. (Matthew 26:17-30; Mark 14:12-26; Luke 22:1-21). Jesus gave it an all new meaning. However, our knowledge of exactly how the Lord’s Supper was celebrated in the first century is limited.

In the mid second century, sometime between A.D. 140 and 155 Justin Martyr wrote his Apology to the Emperor Antionius Pius. This philosopher, teacher, apologist informed the emperor of this account of the meal:

Having ended the prayers, we salute one another with a kiss. There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he, taking them, gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and offers thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at his hands. And when he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all the people present express their assent by saying Amen. This word Amen is the Hebrew for ‘so be it’. And when the President has given thanks, and all the people have expressed their assent, those of us who are called deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and the wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving was pronounced, and to those who are absent they carry away a portion. [8]

The Didache was a church manual used by the early church that some have dated between (110-120 A.D.)

Concerning the eucharist, give thanks in this way: First concerning the cup, ‘We give thanks to you, our Father, for the holy vine of David, your servant, which you made known to us through Jesus your servant. To you be the glory forever.’ Concerning the broken bread, ‘We give thanks to you, our Father, for the life and knowledge which you made known to us through Jesus your servant. To you be the glory forever. As this broken bread scattered upon the mountains and being gathered together became one loaf, so may your church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into your kingdom. Because the glory and the power are yours through Jesus Christ forever.’ No one is to eat or drink of your eucharist except those who have been baptized in the name of the Lord. [9]

SCRIPTURE READING IN WORSHIP

The first Christians were Jews. It should not be surprising that they would bring to their new faith and worship the custom of reading from Scripture. Paul wrote to Timothy, (I Timothy 4:13)

13Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.

Later in the second century Justin Martyr wrote,

The memoirs of the Apostles or the writings of the prophets are read as long as time permits (1st Apology67) [10]

CONCLUSION

The location of worship is not what is important. Worship takes place inside us. Our attitudes and emotions must blend with the God ordained items or acts of devotion. The Christians of the second and third centuries continued the external forms of worship that began in the first century by Jesus and his apostles.

We need to continue to worship God in spirit and truth today!

[1] Jimmy Jividen, More Than A Feeling Worship That Pleases God (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1999) 76.

[2] Earle E. Cairns, Christianity Through The Centuries (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996) 84.

[3] Everett Ferguson, Early Christians Speak (Abilene: Biblical Research Press, 1981) 76.

[4] J. Stevenson, A New Eusebius (Southampton: The Camelot Press Ltd., 1983) 14.

[5] Ferguson, 82.

[6] Ferguson, 67

[7] Ferguson, 67

[8] J.G. Davies, The Early Christian Church (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1985) 104.

[9] Ferguson, 93.

[10] Dan Dozier, Come Let Us Adore Him (Joplin: College Press Publishing Company, 1996) 196.

Worship in the Early Church

Worship in the New Testament embraced both attitude and form. Jesus spoke of worship in this way in John 4:24:

24God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit d in truth.”

Worship must not be robbed of its emotional content or made void of feelings. However, it must also be based upon the truth of God’s word. True worship is not based upon doing things the way we like, or the way that most people like it. We have to look through scripture to find the God affirmed acts or items of praise and devotion to God.

Worship is not a spectator sport in which the worshipers sit in the stands giving their approval or disapproval to those performing in the arena. In true worship, the worshippers are involved in the action. Worship is not a dramatic production in which the ‘clergy’ are the actors and the worshippers are the audience. In true worship, God is the audience, and the worshipers are the actors.[1]

Earle Cairns has this to say about the corporate worship of the early church.

During the first century, two services were held on the first day of the week. That day was adopted as the day of worship because it was the day on which Christ rose from the dead (Acts 20:7; I Cor. 16:2; Rev. 1:10). The morning service most likely included the reading of Scripture (Col. 3:16), exhortation…, prayers, and singing (Eph 5:19). The love feast (I Cor. 11:20-22), or agape preceded the Communion during the evening service, By the end of the first century the love feast was generally dropped and the Communion celebrated during the morning service of worship. [2]

It is also interesting to look at what we know about worship during the second and third Centuries.

WHERE CHRISTIANS MET

The early Christians did not think of a church as a place of worship. A church signified a body of believers who were called out of the world and into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. They met in homes (Acts 12:12; Romans 16:5 Colossians 4:15; Philemon 1-4), the Temple (Acts 5:13), public auditoriums (Acts 19:9), and synagogue as long as they were permitted to do so (Acts 14:1, 3; 17:1; 18:4). Everett Ferguson said:

Not until the age of Constantine do we find specifically constructed buildings. Any space where an assembly was permitted was a possible site for Christian gatherings. [3]

CHRISTIAN ASSEMBLIES

Between A.D. 110 and 113 the Roman Emperor Trajan received a series of letters from Pliny, the governor of Bithynia. Pliny was concerned about what he considered a cult who met secretly within his governmental domain. His letters give some ideas about the types of things Christians practiced in their assembly in the early second century.

….It was their habit on a fixed day to assemble before daylight and recite by turns a form of words to Christ as a god; and that they bound themselves with an oath, not for any crime, but not to commit theft or robbery or adultery,

not to break their word, and not to deny a deposit when demanded. After this was done, their custom was to depart, and to meet again to take food, but ordinary and harmless food; and even this (they said) they had given up doing after the issue of my edict, by which in accordance with your commands I had my edict, by which in accordance with your commands I had forbidden the existence of clubs. [4]

Clement of Alexandria (150-220 A.D.)

Always giving thanks in all things to God through righteous hearing and divine reading, true inquiry, holy oblation, blessed prayer, praising, hymning, blessing, singing, such a soul is never separated from God at any time. [5]

THE DAY OF CHRISTIAN WORSHIP

Ignatius (born about 50 A.D.)

If therefore those who lived according to the old practices came to the new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath but living according to the Lord’s day, in which also our life arose through him and his death (which some deny), through which mystery we received faith, and on account of which we suffer in order that we may be found disciples of Jesus Christ our only teacher, how shall we be able to live apart from him for whom even the prophets were looking as their teacher since we are disciples in the spirit (Magnesians 9) [6]

The Epistle of Barnabus. This could be the oldest uninspired Christian writing (69-79 A.D.). He was antagonistic towards the Judaizers, and worked to harmonize the Old and New Testaments.

Moreover God says to the Jews, ‘Your new moons and Sabbaths I cannot endure.’ You see how he says, ‘The present Sabbaths are not acceptable to me, but the Sabbath which I have made in which I rested from all things, I will make the beginning of the eight day which is the beginning of another world.’ Wherefore, we (Christians) keep the eight day for joy, on which also Jesus arose from the dead and when he appeared  ascended into heaven. [7]

THE LORD’S SUPPER

The roots of the Lord’s Supper are deeply intertwined in the Passover Meal which God instituted shortly before the Israelites escaped Egyptian bondage. Jesus did share many meals with his disciples but the Passover meal he shared with them the night he was arrested was special. (Matthew 26:17-30; Mark 14:12-26; Luke 22:1-21). Jesus gave it an all new meaning. However, our knowledge of exactly how the Lord’s Supper was celebrated in the first century is limited.

In the mid second century, sometime between A.D. 140 and 155 Justin Martyr wrote his Apology to the Emperor Antionius Pius. This philosopher, teacher, apologist informed the emperor of this account of the meal:

Having ended the prayers, we salute one another with a kiss. There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he, taking them, gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and offers thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at his hands. And when he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all the people present express their assent by saying Amen. This word Amen is the Hebrew for ‘so be it’. And when the President has given thanks, and all the people have expressed their assent, those of us who are called deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and the wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving was pronounced, and to those who are absent they carry away a portion. [8]

The Didache was a church manual used by the early church that some have dated between (110-120 A.D.)

Concerning the eucharist, give thanks in this way: First concerning the cup, ‘We give thanks to you, our Father, for the holy vine of David, your servant, which you made known to us through Jesus your servant. To you be the glory forever.’ Concerning the broken bread, ‘We give thanks to you, our Father, for the life and knowledge which you made known to us through Jesus your servant. To you be the glory forever. As this broken bread scattered upon the mountains and being gathered together became one loaf, so may your church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into your kingdom. Because the glory and the power are yours through Jesus Christ forever.’ No one is to eat or drink of your eucharist except those who have been baptized in the name of the Lord. [9]

SCRIPTURE READING IN WORSHIP

The first Christians were Jews. It should not be surprising that they would bring to their new faith and worship the custom of reading from Scripture. Paul wrote to Timothy, (I Timothy 4:13)

13Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.

Later in the second century Justin Martyr wrote,

The memoirs of the Apostles or the writings of the prophets are read as long as time permits (1st Apology67) [10]

CONCLUSION

The location of worship is not what is important. Worship takes place inside us. Our attitudes and emotions must blend with the God ordained items or acts of devotion. The Christians of the second and third centuries continued the external forms of worship that began in the first century by Jesus and his apostles.

We need to continue to worship God in spirit and truth today!

[1] Jimmy Jividen, More Than A Feeling Worship That Pleases God (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1999) 76.

[2] Earle E. Cairns, Christianity Through The Centuries (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996) 84.

[3] Everett Ferguson, Early Christians Speak (Abilene: Biblical Research Press, 1981) 76.

[4] J. Stevenson, A New Eusebius (Southampton: The Camelot Press Ltd., 1983) 14.

[5] Ferguson, 82.

[6] Ferguson, 67

[7] Ferguson, 67

[8] J.G. Davies, The Early Christian Church (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1985) 104.

[9] Ferguson, 93.

[10] Dan Dozier, Come Let Us Adore Him (Joplin: College Press Publishing Company, 1996) 196.

Gospel of John

Authorship of the Gospel of John

I. Introduction
In this paper, I want to discuss the authorship of the Gospel of John. Some will question the validity of such an effort. They will say that it does not matter who wrote the words, but what is written is important. It is true that the Gospel as it stands is anonymous. The caption in some Bibles – The Gospel according to John is not a part of the ancient biblical text. This title was attached to the letter when the four Gospels were gathered together and began to be circulated, in order to distinguish it from the other three. However, there is a big difference in authorship to say that the writer was an eyewitness, like John the apostle, or to say that it was written by a second century person who never set his eyes on Jesus. Therefore, there is some value to pursue this subject. Traditionally, the apostle John is viewed as the author. However, it is interesting that the fourth Gospel never mentions the apostle John by name from beginning to end.

II. INTERNAL EVIDENCE FOR AUTHORSHIP

The person who wrote the letter is described in two ways in the book.
First, he describes himself as personal witness of Jesus, like in John 19:35:
35The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe.

Moreover, this disciple ends the book like this in John 21:24.

24This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.

Second, the Gospel speaks of the disciple whom Jesus loved. He is described in this way in several locations. When Jesus had the “Last Supper” with his disciples, he was next to Jesus in John 13:23-25.
23One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.”
25Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?”
Furthermore, at the cross Jesus committed the care of his mother to this disciple in John 19:25-27.
25Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” 27and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

He is again described this way in John 20:2
1Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

This disciple is also at the last resurrection appearance recorded in the Gospel in John 21:7 & 20.
7Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water.

20Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”)

In the context of John 21, we learn that the writer was one of a group of seven men who went fishing together. Three are mentioned by name: Simon Peter, Thomas, and Nathanael. The remaining four were the two sons of Zebedee and the two who were unnamed. The one “whom Jesus Loved” must have been one of the last four. Again, verse twenty positively identified him with the beloved disciple who leaned on Jesus’ breast at the last supper (13:23). Mark 14:17 reveals that it was only the apostles who joined Jesus for this meal. Therefore, the writer was one of the twelve apostles, and one of the inner circle of friends associated with Jesus. It is clear that the author of the fourth Gospel was a contemporary of Jesus, who associated with him on intimate terms, and was present with him at most of the major crises of his life.
Moreover, Leon Morris points out areas where the writer revealed his knowledge of the apostles.
The writer of this Gospel had a good knowledge of the apostolic band. He recalls words the twelve spoke among themselves (4:33; 16:17; 20:25; 21:3, 7). He shows knowledge of their thoughts on occasion (2:11, 17, 22; 4:27; 6:19, 60f). He knows places they frequented (11:54; 18:2). Sometimes he speaks of mistakes they made which were later corrected (2:21f; 11:13; 12:16). If he were one of their number all this would fall into place.1

There is also some other internal evidence about the author. He was accustomed to thinking in Hebrew although he wrote in Greek. Notice how he inserts Hebrew or Aramaic words and then gives explanations (5:2; 9:7; 19:13,
17). He was familiar with Jewish tradition concerning the expectation of the Messiah (1:19-28). He mentions three Passovers (2:13, 23; 6:4; 13:1; 18:28). And maybe referring to another one in 5:1. He is familiar with Jewish customs and habits of thought like: questions of purifying (3:25; 11:55), burial customs of the Jews (11:38, 44; 19:40), and Jewish views concerning women (4:27), the law against leaving dead bodies on the cross over the Sabbath (19:31), the prejudice between the Samaritans and the Jews (4:9). Apparently he was quite at home in the country he described because of the following: knew that Jacob’s well was deep (4:11), knew there was a descent from Cana to the Galilean Sea (2:12), distinguished between the two Bethany’s (1:28; 11:18), knew of the city of Ephraim (11:54) of Aenon (3:23), or Bathsaida (1:44; 12:21) and about Mount Gerizim (4:20). The topographical references in the Gospel indicate an acquaintance with the land.
Frank Pack in his commentary on the Gospel of John adds this insight on the author’s use of the Old Testament.
While the author quoted the Old Testament (27 times) less than Matthew (124 times), Mark (70 times), or Luke (109 times), he knew Old Testament themes and background. In quoting he often followed the Septuagint Greek text, but in places he used the Hebrew, and in other passages he seemed to quote the Palestinian Targums (Aramaic translations). The prophets were used authoritatively (6:45) “and scripture cannot be broken” (10:35). Abraham (8:56), Moses (5:46), the uplifted serpent in the wilderness (3:14), Jacob’s vision at Bethel (1:51), Jacob’s well (4:5ff.), the manna given in the wilderness (6:31-33), the Passover sacrifice with no bones broken (19:36) were all referred to. He spoke of Palestine as Jesus’ “home” and the people of Israel as “his own people” (1:11). The figures of the good shepherd (10:1-18) and the vine (15:1-6) recall Old Testament figures of God’s relationships to Israel. Passages from the Psalms (22:15, 18; 34:20; 35:19; 41:9; 69:4, 9, 21) and passages from Isaiah (6:10; 40:3; 53:1; 54:13) and Zechariah (9:9; 12:10) were quoted as fulfilled in Jesus and his ministry. Similarities between Genesis 1 and John 1:1-18 can be seen, and relationships between the Prologue and the Wisdom literature of the Old Testament have been found. Many parallels between the exodus experience of Israel and this Gospel can also be seen. The Old Testament forms the background for understanding the significant “I am” sayings in John. The author knew the Old Testament well.2

With all of this being said, the internal evidence is in favor for the writer to be the apostle John. Coy Roper in his Notes on the New Testament states the following on the authorship of the book.
Had to be one of the apostles, because they were the only ones present when Jesus announced that one would betray Him. Mk. 14:17. It seems most likely that it would have been Peter, James, or John. Mk. 14:33. It was not Peter, because Peter is named in the fourth gospel. Jn. 13:24; 20:2; 21:20. It was not likely to have been James, because of his early death. Acts 12:2. It is interesting that John the apostle is not mentioned by name in this gospel. And that “John the Baptist” is just called John. Why? Perhaps because it was not necessary to distinguish him from John the apostle, since John the apostle was the author of the gospel. John the apostle would be a suitable author from the standpoint of the characteristics of the book: It claims to be written by an eyewitness (Jn. 21:24) and the book bears evidence of this. John was an eyewitness. It also appears to have been written by a Palestinian. John was a Palestinian. And by a Jew. John was a Jew.3

Furthermore, Merrill C. Tenney adds this thought.
Jesus’ committal of Mary to the beloved disciple is more easily understandable if he were John. According to Matthew’s narrative, one of the women who witnessed the crucifixion was the mother of the sons of Zebedee (Matt. 27:56). A comparison with John 19:25 and Mark 15:40 establishes with a high degree of certainty that she was Salome, the sister of Jesus’ mother. John was therefore, the first cousin of Jesus and nephew of Mary. As the nearest male relative who was a believer, it would be natural for John to undertake the care of his aunt.4

III. EXTERNAL EVIDENCE FOR AUTHORSHIP

The early church history testifies that the apostle John, brother of James and son of Zebedee, was the writer of the fourth Gospel. The external evidence for the fourth Gospel is impressive. The earliest known fragment of any part of the New Testament is a tiny papyrus fragment containing words from John 18, and is dated about AD 130. This ancient portion of the Gospel can be seen in John Rylands University Library in Manchester, England.
One principle witness of the early church who said that the fourth Gospel was written by John was Irenaeus. He wrote around AD 177. He not only spoke of the Gospel as being authoritative but said this about the author.
John, the disciple of the Lord, who also leant upon his breast, himself published the gospel in Ephesus, when he was living in Asia.5

Irenaeus attached importance to reliable Christian tradition. For example, Polycarp who is said to be a disciple of John the apostle is said to have quoted from the fourth Gospel. Irenaeus has this to say about his association with Polycarp.
I remember the events of those days more clearly than those which have taken place recently, for what we learn as boys grows up with our lives and becomes united to them. So I can describe for you the very place where the blessed Polycarp sat and discoursed, how he came in and went out, his manner of life and his bodily appearance, the discourses which he used to deliver to the people, and how he would tell of his converse with John and with the others who had seen the Lord, how he remembered their words, and what things he had heard from them about the Lord, including his mighty works and his teaching.6

Clement of Alexandria AD 200 also speaks of John as the author. Frank Pack in is commentary on John says this about Clement:
Clement of Alexandria reported that after the death of Domitian the apostle returned from Patmos to Ephesus (Who is the rich man? 42; Eusebius, Church History III. xxiii. 5, 6). In his Hypotyposeis Clement preserved the tradition that this Gospel was written last, John, last of all, conscious that the outward (lit. bodily) facts had been set forth in the Gospels, was urged by his disciples, and, divinely approved by the Spirit, composed a spiritual Gospel (Eusebius, Church History VI. xiv. 7).7

Furthermore, the Muratorian Canon (circa AD 170-180), which contains a list of New Testament books compiled in Latin states:
John, one of the disciples, wrote the Fourth Gospel. When his fellow disciples and the bishops urged him to do so, he said, ‘Join me in fasting for three days, and then let us relate to one another what shall be revealed to each.’ The same night it was revealed to Andrew, one of the apostles that John write down everything in his own name, and that they all should revise it.8

The Muratorian Canon goes on to state:
And therefore, although varying principles are taught in the several books of the gospel, yet it makes no difference to the faith of believers, since everything is set forth in them all by one directing Spirit, concerning the Lord’s nativity, his passion, his resurrection, his converse with his disciples and his twofold advent – first in lowliness, without honour, which is past; secondly in royal power and glory, which is yet future. No wonder, then, that John so explicitly lays claim in his letters also these experiences one by one, saying of himself, ‘What we have seen with our eyes and heard with our ears and our hands have touched this is what we have written.’ Thus he claims not to be a spectator and hearer only but also a writer of all the Lord’s wonders in due order.9

Moreover, another piece of evidence is a man by the name of Polycrates. Tasker in his book on the fourth Gospel records this about him:
Polycrates, bishop of Ephesus, in a letter to Victor, bishop of Rome, which is usually dated about AD 190, states that ‘John who reclined on the breast of the Lord’ was a witness (martus) and a teacher’.10

Furthermore, not surprisingly because of its content, the Gospel of John was known and read by Gnostic writers of the second century. According to Leon Morris:
There can be no doubt about the Gnostic use of John. It appears to have been the favorite Gospel among the Gnostics. The first commentary on it was written by the Gnostic Heracleon. The Chenoboskion literature shows that John was widely used and highly esteemed by the Gnostics.11

IV. ARGUMENTS AGAINST JOHN THE APOSTLE BEING THE AUTHOR

Some in the early days of church history did not accept Johannine authorship.
Frank Pack says:
Irenaeus mentioned certain persons rejecting it because in the Gospel the Lord promised the Comforter and they denied the giving of the Holy Spirit (Against Heresies III. xi.9). Epiphanus wrote of a group whom he called the Alogoi because they rejected the writings of John in their opposition to the concept of the Word (Logos), and attributed the Gospel and the Book of Revelation to the Gnostic heretic Cerinthus (Panarion 51).12

However, concerning the Gnostic Cerinthus, William Barclay says:
Eusebius (3:28) tells another story of John which he got from the works of Irenaeus. We have seen that one of the leaders of the Gnostic heresy was a man named Cerinthus. ‘The apostle John once entered a bath to bathe; but, when he learned that Cerinthus was within, he sprang from his place and rushed out the door, for he could not bear to remain under the same roof with him. He advised those who were with him to do the same. ‘Let us flee,’ he said, ‘lest the bath fall, for Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within.’ 13

Moreover, radical criticism has tried to apply a late date (second century or later) to John because they feel the content of the book deals with the development of Gnosticism. But Burton Coffman has this to say concerning this:
Twentieth century archaeological discoveries have proved completely the unsoundness of ascribing Gnostic influences as sources of the lofty thought of the gospel. In fact, it is the other way around, as Unger said, ‘Gnosticism is much later than the gospel of John… the Gnostics based much of their teaching on the gospel!’ Abraham Malherbe stated flatly that ‘The literary evidence does not therefore support the Gnostic theory.’14

Nonetheless, there is some question about the apostle John and a reference by Papias, about another John called the presbyter or elder John. Papias was a bishop of Hierapolis, who was born AD 70 and died about AD 146. He was a contemporary of Polycarp and may have been a student of John.
Eusebius quoted Papias as saying, ‘If anyone came who had followed the elders, I inquired into the words of the elders, what Andrew or Peter or Philip or Thomas or James or John or Matthew or any other of the Lord’s disciples had said and what Aristion and the elder John, disciples of the Lord, are saying. For I did not consider that the accounts from books could have the same value for me as the words of a living and abiding voice’ (Church History III. xxxix. 4). Eusebius understood from Papias that there were two John’s in Asia, one the apostle, and the other ‘the elder John.’ He also cited a story of two tombs in Ephesus from comments of Dionysius, bishop of Alexandria (247-264), whom he quoted, ‘But I think there is a certain other John of those who were in Asia, since it is said that there are two tombs in Ephesus and that each one is said to be John’s’ (Church History VII. xxv. 16). Eusebius regarded the apostle as the author of the Gospel, but ascribed the book of Revelation to the elder John. 15

However, others have thought that this “elder John,” rather than the apostle John is the author of the fourth Gospel.
Conversely, Carson, Moo & Morris state that this appeal to Papias is precarious for the following reasons:
1. It is now widely recognized that whereas Eusebius makes a distinction between apostles and elders, understanding that the later are disciples of the former and therefore second generation Christians, Papias himself makes no such distinction. In the terms of Papias, ‘the discourses of the elders’ means the teaching of Andrew, Peter, and the other apostles. It is Eusebius who elsewhere writes, ‘Papias, of whom we are now speaking, acknowledges that he received the discourses of the apostles from those who had been followers’ Transparently, that is not what Papias said.
2. In the Papias quotation John is designated ‘the elder’ precisely because he is being grouped with the elders mentioned, that is, with the apostles. It is worth noting that ‘apostle’ and ‘elder’ come together with a common reference in I Peter 5:1. Indeed, the Greek syntax Papias employs favors the view that ‘Aristion and John the elder’ means something like ‘Aristion and the aforementioned elder John.’… In choosing to refer to apostles as elders, Papias may well be echoing the language of 3 John (on the assumption that Papias thought that the epistle was written by the apostle John).
3. It appears that the distinction Papias is making in his two lists is not between apostles and elders of the next generation but between first generation witnesses who have died (what they said) and first generation witnesses who are still alive (what they say). Aristion, then, can be linked with John, not because neither is an apostle, but because both are first generation disciples of the Lord. And this supports witness of Irenaeus, who says that Papias, not less than Polycarp, was a ‘hearer of John.’
4. In any case, Eusebius had his own agenda. He so disliked the apocalyptic language of Revelation that he was only too glad to find it possible to assign its authorship to a John other than the apostle, and he seizes on ‘John the elder’ as he has retrieved him from Papias.16

It certainly is possible for the apostles also to be called elders. Peter does refer to himself as an elder. We know from I Timothy 3 and Titus 1 that elders in the New Testament sense were married men. And in I Corinthians 9, where Paul is making a case for Christian liberty, and how that he and Barnabus have the right to have believing spouses; he makes it clear that the majority of the apostles were married men. I guess we could also assume that they would have children as well.
Nonetheless, it is not clear that when Papias mentions a “John the elder” that he is talking about two different people.
Another objection raised against the John’s authorship is based upon stylistic unity of the book, and choice of words used in the book. It has been argued in the past that a Palestian could not write such fluent Greek. However, it has been determined that the populace was at least bilingual, and in some cases trilingual. Furthermore, it is argued that the apostle John would not describe himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved. Some believe that this implies exclusivism, or at least that this would be a statement made by some one else about another disciple. Conversely, the apostle Paul in Galatians 2:20 says that Jesus loves him and gave himself for him. When an early Christian said that Jesus loved them it did not suggest that Jesus did not love others as well. It could also be argued, that John describes himself this way in order not to draw attention to himself but rather to focus on the one he serves. John meant to bring praise to the lover and not to the loved. Others have said that John made reference to himself in this indirect manner, on the ground that the use of this title is an expression not of pride but of gratitude for special privileges. Jesus did have an inner circle of friends (Peter, James and John); what would be wrong if John was the closest friend that Jesus had on earth?
Some believe that the book is a product of a “Johannine community”. The expulsion theory for the Johannine community basically says that the synagogue gradually began to view the Christian movement as a clearly distinguishable rival. The tension ultimately resulted in the exclusion from the synagogue of those who believed in Jesus as the Messiah. This belief leans heavily on three verses in the Gospel record: 9:22; 12:42 and 16:2. Therefore, some believe that the Gospel was produced over a period of time in reaction to problems faced by the community. Therefore, there was not one author but several authors, such theories maintain pseudonymity of the authorship of the book.
For example, Sandra M. Schneiders explains her thoughts of the Johannine community in this way.
The Beloved disciple is neither a pure literary symbol nor a single historical individual nor an undifferentiated collective such as ‘the Gentile Church.’ The Beloved Disciple is a textual paradigm who concretely embodies in the text the corporate authority of the Johannine School which rests on the eyewitness testimony of one or some of its members.17

Furthermore, H. M. Jackson says:
The consensus of critical opinion that the ‘we’ in John 21:24 is represented…in the form of a Johannine speaking as theological successors of the deceased Beloved Disciple.18
However, one major criterion used by the early church to determine canonicity was authorship. The books were usually written by an apostle, or someone who was a close associate with an apostle, like Mark or Luke. It would be difficult to prove how a book could be accepted as canonical without the early Christians recognizing the author’s authority.

V. CONCLUSION
From the second century onwards the overwhelming evidence of early Christian writers is that the apostle John was the author of the fourth Gospel. The assumption that scholars in the twenty-first century are better able to determine the authorship of the fourth Gospel, than men in the second century is very arrogant. Those who were closer to the time of original text of the book gave it a place in the sacred canon. They no doubt believed that the author had the authority to write a book that would be circulated among Christians for centuries to follow. Bible believers, on the basis of reasonable and credible evidence can accept that the fourth Gospel was written by the one whose name it bears and that “his witness is true!” (John 21:24.) Thus there is no likely alternative to the view that the fourth Gospel was written by John the apostle.

1 Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1971), 16.

2 Frank Pack, The Gospel According to John Part 1 (Austin: Sweet Publishing Company, 1975), 15.
3Coy Roper, Notes On The New Testament (Florence: Heritage Christian University, 1995), 36.
4Merrill C. Tenney, John The Gospel Of Belief (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1948), 302.
5William Barclay, The Gospel of John Volume 1 (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1975), 20.
6F.F. Bruce, The Gospel Of John (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Company, 1983), 11.
7 Frank Pack, The Gospel According to John Part 1 (Austin: Sweet Publishing Company, 1975), 8.
8 F.F. Bruce, The Gospel Of John (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Company, 1983), 10.
9Ibid.
10R.V.G. Tasker, The Gospel According to St. John (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Company, 1976), 17.
11Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1971), 22.
12Frank Pack, The Gospel According to John Part 1 (Austin: Sweet Publishing Company, 1975), 8.
13 William Barclay, The Gospel of John Volume 1 (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1975), 18.
14James Burton Coffman, Commentary On John (Abilene: A.C.U Press, 1974), 8.
15Frank Pack, The Gospel According to John Part 1 (Austin: Sweet Publishing Company, 1975), 9,10.
16D.A. Carson, Douglas J. Moo, and Leon Morris, An Introduction To the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 142,143
17 Sandra M. Schneiders, New Testament Studies an International Journal (United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, Oct. 1998 Vol 44n), 527
18H. M. Jackson, The Journal of Theological Studies (Huddersfield, Oxford University Press, April, 1999 Vol 50 Part 1), 12

The Apocrypha

I. HISTORY AND DEFINITION OF THE WORD APOCRYPHA

The word Apocrypha as used in this paper refers to a small group of ancient writings whose status has long been subject to debate and controversy. In Classical Greek the word Apocrypha was used to describe something “hidden away”. The early church writers like Jerome and Irenaeus used the word to describe noncannical books, including the Pseudepigrapha (false writings). However, since the Reformation, the word has come to mean the Old Testament Apocrypha.The Apocrypha is the collection of Jewish writings included in the Septuagint and in the Latin Vulgate, but are not found in the Hebrew Old Testament canon. The contents of the Septuagint and the Vulgate differ slightly. Some Septuagint manuscripts include III-IV Maccabees and Psalm 151, which are never found in the Vulgate. A psalm that is said by some to have been composed by David after he defeated Goliath.

In Roman Catholic Bibles these books are interspersed among other canonical Old Testament books. The Basic list for the Apocrypha includes the following:

  1. The First Book of Esdras
  2. The Second book of Esdras
  3. Tobit
  4. Judith
  5. The Additions to the Book of Esther
  6. The Wisdom of Solomon
  7. Ecclesiasticus, or the Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach
  8. Baruch
  9. The Letter of Jeremiah
  10. The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men
  11. Susanna
  12. Bel and the Dragon
  13. The Prayer of Manasseh
  14. The First book of Maccabees
  15. The Second book of Maccabees

Only eleven of these fourteen or fifteen books are accepted as canonical by the Roman Catholic Church, which includes all but I and II Esdras (which are called III and IV Esdras) and the Prayer of Manasseh. However, according to the numbering of books in the Douay Old Testament, only seven additional books are indicated, making forty-six. The reason for this is that Baruch and the Letter of Jeremiah were combined into one book, having six chapters; the additions to Esther were added at the end of the book of Esther; the Prayer of Azariah was inserted between the Hebrew Daniel 3:23 and 24, making it Daniel 3:24-90 in the Douay Version; Susanna was placed at the end of the book of Daniel (chap. 13); and Bel and the Dragon was attached as chapter 14 of Daniel. Because three of the fifteen books were rejected, the remaining twelve books were incorporated into eleven, since four of these books were incorporated into eleven, and since four of these books were added to the existing Old Testament books, only seven extra books appear in the Douay Old Testament table of contents. Nonetheless, the Roman Catholic Church has actually added eleven (twelve if Baruch and the Letter of Jeremiah are separated) pieces of Apocryphal literature to the Hebrew canon, in contrast to the Protestants who followed the Hebrew canon.1

II. A SUMMARY OF THE INDIVIDUAL BOOKS OF THE APOCRYPHA

I Esdras (about 150 BC) is the Greek form of Ezra. It tells of the restoration of the Jews to Palestine after the Babylonian exile. It draws material from Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah, but the author adds a lot of legendary material.
II Esdras (AD 100) is an apocalyptic work, containing visions given to Ezra. It is also called the Apocalypse of Ezra. It contains seven visions. It is also said, that Martin Luther was so confused by these visions that he threw the book into the Elbe River.

Tobit (early 2nd century BC) is a short novel. It emphasizes the Law, clean foods, ceremonial washings, fasting and prayer. It is clearly unscriptural in its statement that alms giving atones for sin. It contains a romance of a rich young Israelite captive of Ninevah, who was led by an angel to marry a virgin widow who had lost seven husbands.
Judith (about the middle of 2nd century BC) The heroine of the novel is Judith, a beautiful widow. She offered some food to an attacking general. He was so enamored by her beauty that he gave her a place in his tent. Judith took his sword and cut off his head, and thus saved her city.

Additions to Esther (about 100 BC) the additions have long prayers attributed to Esther and Mordecai, along with a couple of letters supposedly written by Artaxerxes.
The Wisdom of Solomon (about 180 BC) was written to keep the Jews from falling into skepticism, materialism, and idolatry. It is very similar to parts of Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. An Alexandrian Jew who impersonated as Solomon wrote it. A Platonic concept of the preexistence of the soul was upheld by the author of this book.
Ecclesiastes, or Wisdom of Jesus, son of Sirach (about 180 BC) shows a high level of religious wisdom. John Wesley quotes from this Apocrypha book several times in his sermons. And it is widely used in the Anglican Church. It extols a long list of Old Testament heroes. The characteristic themes of Proverbs were expounded and illustrated with examples from the experience of the author.

Baruch (about AD 100) supposedly was the scribe of Jeremiah. The book urges the Jews not to revolt again, but to be in submission to the emperor. It consists mostly of paraphrases from Jeremiah, Daniel, and other Prophets.

Susanna. She was the beautiful wife of a leading Jew in Babylon. Two elders became enamored with her, while she was bathing, and tried to seduce her. When she cried out, the two elders said they had found her in the arms of a young man. She was brought to trial. Since there were two witnesses who agreed in their testimony, she was convicted and sentenced to death. Daniel interrupted the proceedings and began to cross-examine the witnesses. When they gave different answers they were put to death and Susanna was saved.

Bel and the dragon was to show the folly of idolatry. However, the stories are viewed simply as fiction. It contains stories that are embellishments of the canonical book of Daniel.
Song of the Three Hebrew children follows Daniel 3:23 in the Septuagint and the Vulgate. It borrows heavily from Psalms 148. It is supposedly a prayer while in the fiery furnace, and their triumphal song of praise for deliverance. The Apocryphal works usually attempt to supply information that is missing in the canonical books. For example, the bible does not tell what the young Hebrew children were doing in the fiery furnace.

Prayer of Manasseh (2nd century BC) supposedly a prayer of Manasseh, the wicked King of Judah, which is spoken of in II Chronicles 33:12-13.
I Maccabees (1st century BC) is perhaps the most valuable book in the Apocrypha. Along with Josephus it is the most important source of history of the intertestimental period, relating events of the Jews’ heroic struggle for liberty (175-135 BC).II Maccabees (same time) is not a sequel to I Maccabees, but a parallel account. It is generally thought to be more legendary than I Maccabees. It confesses to be an abridgement of a work written by a certain Jason of Cyrene.

There is another group of religious writings produced by the Jewish people between the Testaments. They have never been accepted by any Christian group, not even the Roman Catholic Church. They are called the Pseudepigrapha; this word means “false writings”. One work of the Pseudepigrapha, the Book of Enoch. Is quoted in Jude 14,15.2
Some describe this book as an Apocryphal book while others put it into the category of Pseudepigrapha. But I mention it here because it is one of the books written during the intertestimental period, and because it quoted by Jude.

III. THE APOCRYPHA IN JUDAISM

All of the books of the Apocrypha were written by Jewish authors whose names, with the exception of Jesus the son of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus 50:27), are unknown. (II Maccabees is the summary of a five-volume history of Jason of Cyrene).

The books of the Apocrypha (except I-II Esdras) were written presumably during the last two centuries BC.

The Apocryphal books represent several types of writing; there are pieces of fiction, legends and ancient folklore, wisdom books and historical books.

These documents can be studied to learn about religion, political, and social conditions of the Jews at the end of the Old Testament period.

The Jews in the early Christian centuries had two translations of the Bible. There was the Hebrew Bible, which did not include the Apocrypha. This was called the Palestinian Canon (containing twenty two books in Hebrew. These are the same as the thirty-nine books found in most English Bibles today). This Bible was circulated around Palestine and Babylon. And there was the Greek Version (LXX) used by the Greek speaking Jews everywhere, which included the Apocrypha. This was called the Alexandrian Canon. This Greek translation of the Hebrews Scripture occurred about 250 BC.

Some of the apocryphal books may have originally been written in Hebrew but there were only known to exist in their Greek versions – one of the reasons the rabbis rejected them as part of Hebrew Scripture.3

IV. REASONS FOR ACCEPTING ALEXANDRIAN CANON

  1. The New Testament reflects the thought of the Apocrypha, and even refers to it (cf. Heb. 11:35 with II Macc.7,12).
  2. The New Testament quotes mostly from the Greek Old Testament (LXX), which contained the Apocrypha.
  3. Some of the early Church Fathers quoted and used the Apocrypha as scripture in public worship.
  4. Many of the Fathers accepted all of the books of the Apocrypha as canonical, for example, Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria.
  5. Catacomb scenes depict episodes from the Apocrypha.
  6. The great Greek manuscripts (Aleph, A, and B) interpose the Apocrypha among the Old Testament books,
  7. The Syriac Church accepted them in the fourth century.
  8. Augustine and the councils he presided over at Hippo (393) and Carthage (397) accepted them.
  9. The Greek Church accepts them.
  10. The Roman Catholic Church proclaimed them canonical at the Council of Trent (1546).
  11. The Apocryphal books continued in the Protestant Bibles as late as the nineteenth century.
  12. Some Apocryphal books written in Hebrew have been found among other Old Testament canonical books in the Dead Sea community at Qumran.4

V. REASONS FOR REJECTING ALEXANDRIAN CANON

  1. There may be New Testament allusions to the Apocrypha, although few are indisputable, but there are no clear New Testament quotations from it. In any event, the New Testament never refers to any of the fourteen Apocryphal books as authoritative or canonical.
  2. It has not been proven that the Greek Old Testament (LXX) of the first century contained the Apocrypha. The earliest Greek manuscripts which include them date from the fourth century AD. In addition to this, if they were in the LXX of apostolic time, Jesus and the apostles implied their view of them by never quoting them, although they are supposed to have been included in the very version of the Old Testament that they quoted.
  3. While some individuals in the early church had a high esteem for the Apocrypha, no council of the entire church during the first four centuries favored them, and there were many individuals who vehemently opposed them, Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Origen, Jerome.
  4. Scenes form the catacombs do not prove the Canonicity of the books whose events they depict. Such scenes at best could only prove the belief of those Christians in the historicity of the events portrayed.
  5. The fact that the Apocrypha books were a part of the Greek manuscripts in the fourth century AD does not prove that they were considered canonical by the apostolic church.
  6. The Syrian Church did not accept these books until the fourth century AD. In the second century AD the Syrian Bible (Peshitta) did not contain the Apocrypha.
  7. Augustine is the single significant voice of antiquity that recognized the Apocrypha. But, even in his case several things should be noted; He omits Baruch and includes I Esdras, thus accepting one and rejecting the other in contrast to the Council of Trent; other writings of Augustine indicate that he held to a “secondary Canonicity” for the Hebrew canon; the councils at Hippo and Carthage were small, local councils dominated by Augustine and had no qualified persons present to judge the issue of Canonicity. Augustine, not a trained Hebrew scholar, led early opposition to Jerome’s use of the Hebrew Old Testament for his Latin Vulgate. Later, however, he recognized that the Septuagint was not inspired, and reverted to the authority of the Hebrew Scriptures.
  8. The Greek Church has not always accepted the Apocrypha, nor is its present position unequivocal. Not until the synods of Constantinople (1638), Jaffa (1642), and Jerusalem (1672) were these books declared canonical. And, even as late as 1839, their larger Catechism expressly omitted the Apocrypha on the grounds that “they do not exist in the Hebrew.”
  9. The Council of Trent was the first official proclamation of the Roman Catholic Church on the Apocrypha, and it came a millennium and a half after the books were written, in an obvious polemical action against Protestantism. Furthermore, the addition of books that support “salvation by works” and “prayer for the dead” at this time (1546), only 29 years after Luther posted his Ninety-five Theses, is highly suspect.
  10. Apocryphal books appeared in Protestant bibles prior to the Council of Trent, and were generally placed in a separate section as they were not considered to be of equal authority. Even Roman Catholic scholars through the Reformation period made the distinction between the Apocrypha and the canon. Cardinal Ximenes made this distinction in his Complutensian Polyglot (1514-17) on the eve of the Reformation. Cardinal Cajetan, who opposed Luther at Augsburg in 1518, published a Commentary on all the Authentic Historical Books of the Old Testament that did not include the Apocrypha in AD 1532. Luther spoke against the Apocrypha in his bible published in 1543 by placing its books at the back.
  11. The discoveries at Qumran included not only the community’s Bibles but their library with fragments of hundreds of books. Among these were some of the Old Testament Apocryphal books. While the argument from silence is in itself generally a weak one, it may be said that as far as the present evidence goes, the fact that no commentaries on the noncanonical books have been discovered tends to support the contention that the Apocryphal books were not viewed as canonical by the Qumran community.5

VI. REASONS FOR ACCEPTING THE PALESTINIAN CANON
(ONLY THE THIRTY-NINE BOOKS OF THE OLD TESTAMENT)

  1. Some of the additional books have teaching which is unbiblical or heretical. Two of the main doctrines in dispute during the reformation are supported by the Apocrypha: “prayers for the dead” (II Macc. 12:45,46) and “salvation by works” (Tobit 12:9). The canonical books of the Bible are against praying for the dead (Heb 9:27; Luke 16:25-26; II Sam.12:19). They are also strongly against salvation by works (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:5; Gal. 3:11).
  2. Some of the Apocryphal stories are extrabiblical and fanciful. The story of Bel and the Dragon is a good case in point. In it, the pagan priest of Bel try to deceive Daniel by using a trapdoor to go in and consume the food offered to Bel to prove that Bel is a “living God” who “eats and drinks every day” (v. 6). So, in order to assist the “living God,” Bel, “in the night the priest came with their wives and children, as they were accustomed to do, and ate and drank everything” (v. 15). The same unauthentic ring may be heard in the legendary books of Additions to Esther, Prayer of Azariah, and Susanna, as well as Tobit and Judith.
  3. Much of the teaching of the Apocrypha is subbiblical and, at times, even immoral. Judith was assisted by God in a deed of falsehood (Judith 9:10,13), while both Ecclesiasticus and Wisdom teach a morality based upon expedience. Besides this low morality, the subbiblical nature of the Apocrypha can be seen in its historical and chronological errors. It is claimed that Tobit was alive when the Assyrians conquered Israel (722 BC) as well as when Jeroboam revolted against Judah (931 BC), yet his total life span was only 158 years (14:11; cf. 1:3-5). Judith speaks of Nebuchadnezzar as reigning in Ninevah instead of Babylon (1:1). William H. Green concisely summarizes this evidence, as he writes, ‘The books of Tobit and Judith abound in geographical, historical mistakes, so as not only to vitiate the truth of the narratives which they contain, but to make it doubtful they even rest upon the basis of fact’.
  4. Most of the Old Testament Apocrypha was written in the postbiblical, intertestamental period. According to Josephus, the prophets wrote from Moses to Artaxerxes, and he adds, ‘It is true our history hath been written since Artaxerxes very particularly but hath not been esteemed of the like authority with the former by our forefathers, because there hath not been an exact succession of the prophets since that time’. The Talmud adds a similar thought, as it records, ‘After the latter prophets Haggai, Zechariah…and Malachi, the Holy Spirit departed from Israel.’ Since the Apocryphal books were written long after Artaxerxes time (Malachi’s day, 400 BC), namely, after about 200 BC, then they could not be considered inspired. Not only does the Talmud testify to this end, but the canonical books of the Old Testament also imply this (see Zech. 1:5; Mal. 4:5), as do some of the statements in the Apocryphal books themselves. In fact, there is no claim within the Apocrypha that it is the Word of God. It is sometimes asserted that Ecclesiasticus 50:27-9
    29 lays claim to divine inspiration, but a closer examination of the passage indicates that it is illumination and not inspiration that the author claims to have….
  5. Finally, all of the books of the Apocrypha are nonbiblical or uncanonical since none of them was ever accepted by the people of God as canonical books were. In order for a book to be canonical, it must satisfy the tests of canonicity:
    1. Was written by a ‘Prophet’ of God? There is neither claim and/or proof that they were.
    2. Did it come with the authority of God? No! There is a striking absence of the ring of authority in the Apocrypha….
    3. Did it have the power of God? There is nothing transforming about the Apocrypha. Its truth is not exhilarating, except as it is a repetition of canonical truth in other books.
    4. Did it tell the truth about God, man, etc.? …there are contradictions, errors, and even heresies in the Apocrypha. It does not stand the test of canonical truth.
    5. Was it accepted by the people of God? It is this final question upon which the Apocrypha takes the final and fatal fall.6

VII. ADDITIONAL REASONS FOR ACCEPTING THE APOCRYPHA

For example, some will cite that there were several early church writers who accepted the Apocrypha.

First Clement (d. AD 95) included quotations from the Wisdom of Solomon, while Polycarp of Smyrna (d.c. AD 156) quoted from Tobit. Tertullian (d.c. AD 225) and Irenaeus (d.c. AD 200) cited certain books of the LXX Canon as scriptural and were followed in this by Clement of Alexandria, Origen and Cyprian in the 3rd cent. AD.”7

Others have said that, some books (Judith, Tobit, Baruch, and Epistle of Jeremy) had qualifications for inclusion into the canon; the early date, Hebrew or Aramaic language, sound orthodox teaching, and the literary quality of these books. Some feel were on par with (if not superior to) the other parts of the canonical Old Testament.

Declaring itself supremely authoritative in all matters involving the canon of Scripture, the Roman Catholic Church has pronounced the Apocrypha canonical, and of equal value for doctrine with the Old and New Testaments.8

In fact the decrees made by the Council of Trent (1546) pronounced any man anathema who did not accept the canonical nature of the Apocrypha.

VIII. ADDITIONAL REASONS FOR REJECTING THE APOCRYPHA

According to the Interpreter’s Bible the Jews were warned that other literature was useless or dangerous. Whoever brings together in his house more than twenty four books (the Hebrew Old Testament) brings confusion. (Midrash Qoheleth 12:12). Rabbi Akiba (died ca. 132) even declared that readers of apocryphal literature had no part in the future world. (Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin 100B).9

Furthermore this quote gives additional feelings that Jerome had concerning the Apocrypha.

The non-canonical works, said Jerome, were like the crazy wonderings of a man who senses have taken leave of him.” Labeling these books Apocrypha (for hidden), Jerome placed them outside the Christian Canon as well.10

Some will also bring up that Jude quotes from the Apocrypha in Jude 14,15.
14 Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones
15 to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”

However consider what Neil R. Lightfoot has to say about these verses:

Jude 14,15 gives reportedly a prophecy of Enoch, and it is true that this prophecy is found in the Apocryphal book of Enoch (1 Enoch 1:9). But here several things need to be said: (1) It is possible that Jude is acquainted with this prophecy from a different source. (2) It is possible that both the book of Enoch and the book of Jude draw upon a common source of oral tradition. (3) It is probable, however, that Jude quotes directly from the book of Enoch. If so – and the form of the quotation is almost precisely in the agreement with the book of Enoch – Jude does not quote Enoch as “scripture” nor does he say “it is written.” When a writer cites another work, this does not mean that he necessarily regards the work as divine. Paul quotes from heathen poets (Acts 17:28; Titus 1:12). He also names evidently from a noncanonical source, Jannes and Jambres as magicians of Pharaoh (2 Timothy 3:8); but in doing so he does not sanction it from being from God.11

Furthermore, Henry H. Halley offers these thoughts on the quotation from Enoch.

This is the only scripture allusion to the prophecy of Enoch. The brief story of his life is told in Genesis 5:18-24, but there is no mention of any of his words. Jude’s quotation is from the Apocryphal Book of Enoch, which was written about 100 BC. He evidently regards it as a genuine word of Enoch….Jude’s sanction of one passage in the book does not sanction the whole book.12

Moreover, Josh McDowell adds that the oldest list of the Old Testament canon that we can date (c. 170 AD) does not include the additional Apocryphal books.

Melito, Bishop of Sardis drew up the oldest list of the Old Testament canon that we can date (c.170 AD). Eusebius (Ecclesiastical History IV.26) preserves his comments. Melito said he had obtained the reliable list while traveling in Syria. Melito’s comments were in a letter to Anesimius, his friend; ‘their names are these…five books of Moses; Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy. Jesus Naue, Judges, Ruth. Four books of Kingdoms, two ofChronicles, the Psalms of David, Solomon’s Proverbs (also called Wisdom), Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Job. Of the Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, the Twelve in a single book, Daniel, Ezekiel, Ezra.

F.F. Bruce comments that ‘It is likely that Melito included Lamentations with Jeremiah, and Nehemiah with Ezra (though it is curious to find Ezra counted among the prophets). In that case, his list contains all the books of the Hebrew canon (arranged according to the Septuagint order), with the exception of Esther. Esther may not have been included from the list he received from his informants in Syria.13

IX. VIEWS DURING THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION

One early Reformer, Andreas Bodenstein used the term “Apocrypha” to designate the excess of the Alexandrian over the Palestinian Jewish canon of the Old Testament. Bodenstein held that the books of Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Judith and Tobit, I and II Maccabees had some value, but that others, including I and II Esdras, Baruch, and the Prayer of Manasseh, were clearly Apocryphal. Martin Luther, a fellow student of Bodenstein, was in agreement of his conclusions, and in his 1534 German Version of the Bible the “outside books” were placed at the end of the canonical Old Testament, describing them as “Apocryphal”. John Calvin and his followers explicitly rejected any authority that the Apocrypha might have claimed or received, holding that the contents were not divinely inspired. The fact that the apocrypha was absent from the Hebrew canon must have had some influence on the minds of the Reformers. Moreover, it contained doctrines inconsistent with Protestant principles.

The Westminister Confession of Faith, which is representative of the Protestant Churches, says that the Apocrypha is of no authority in the Church of God nor to be otherwise approved or made use of other than human writing.14

X. CONCLUSION

The King James Bible of 1611 followed the normal custom in printing the Apocrypha as a separate work and inserting it between the Old and New Testaments. Subsequent issues of the KJV, however, were printed without the Apocrypha. Other Protestant Bibles included the Apocrypha up to 1827.

The Protestant churches today have emphatically rejected the Roman Catholic position concerning the inspiration and authority of the Apocrypha, maintaining that the Old Testament and New Testament are alone to be regarded as Scripture.

However, since the Bible does not contain the history of the Jews between the close of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New. Today we have three chief sources available to us concerning that period of history: secular history, the works of Josephus, and the Apocryphal writings. And from these three sources a student is able to learn important facts in the life of the Jewish people during the intertestimental period. However, it is going too far to give the Apocrypha a “semicanonical status”, as the Church of England has done. They read them for examples of life but do not apply them to establish any doctrines. However, the Apocrypha should not be viewed as part of the theological canon of 14Pryor, Trust. 52.

Scripture. The canon of the Hebrew Bible today includes the same material as the thirty-nine Old Testament books found in most editions of the English Bible.


1Noman L. Geisler & William E. Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible (Chicago: Moody Press, 1978) , 168.
2Neale Pryor, You Can Trust Your Bible (Abilene: Quality Publications, 1976) , 51.
3Kenneth Davis, Don’t Know Much About The Bible (New York: Eagle Brook, 1998) , 319.6
4Geilser & Nix, Introduction 169,170.
5Geilser & Nix, Introduction 171-173.
6Geilser & Nix, Introduction 173-175.
7Merrill C. Tenney, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible Vol. one, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975) , 205.
8Roland Kenneth Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament (Peabody: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999) , 1192
9George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible (New York: Abingdon Cokesbury Press, 1952) , 393
10Robert V. Huber, The Bible Through The Ages (Pleasantville: The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., 1996) , 223.
11John T. Willis, The World and Literature of the Old Testament (Abilene: A C U Press, 1979) , 56
12Henry H. Halley, Halley’s Bible Handbook (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1927) , 683
13Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands A Verdict (San Bernardino: Campus Crusade for Christ International, 1972) , 36

 


 

WORKS CITED
Buttrick, George Arthur. The Interpreter’s Bible. New York: Abingdon Coksbury Press, 1952.

The Bible. New International Version.

Davis, Kenneth. Don’t Know Much About The Bible. New York: Eagle Brook, 1998.

Geisler, Norman L. & William E. Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible.
Chicago: Moody Press, 1978.

Halley, Henry H. Halley’s Bible Handbook. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1927.

Harrison, Roland Kenneth. Introduction to the Old Testament. Peobody: William
B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1999.
Huber, Robert B. The Bible through the Ages. Pleasantville: The Reader’s Digest Association, 1996.

McDowell, Josh. Evidence That Demands A Verdict. San Bernardino: Campus
Crusade for Christ, 1972.

Tenney, Merrill C. The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible Vol. One.
Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975.

Willis, John T. The World And Literature Of The Old Testament. Abilene: A C U
Press, 1979.

Canon of the Bible

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. Introduction
II. Canon of the Old Testament
III. Old Testament Apocrypha
IV. Canon of the New Testament
V. The Pseudepigrapha
VI. New Testament Apocrypha
VII. Conclusion
VIII. Works Cited

Why do we have 66 books in the bible and not more or less? It is not uncommon to hear such statements as… “The Bible was corrupted by the Catholic Church who possessed it” (Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses). “Only Catholic Bibles are reliable, since the church possesses the oldest copies” (Catholics). Yet it is possible to have confidence in the Bible, that it… Contains the Scriptures as they were originally written.

The process by which the 66 books became a part of the bible is called the history of the canon. The word came from the Greek word kanon, which means “reed” or “measuring rod”. The word came to denote that which “passed the test” and eventually meant “standard”. So, the canon is made up of the books that have passed the test and have been accepted as Scripture. One thing to keep in mind is that the church did not create the canon or books included in what we call Scripture. But rather they were inspired by God when revealed to certain men by the Holy Spirit (II Peter 1:20,21). God directed and controlled the free and willing choice of words. It was not just the words of men but we can also say that God wrote it. David testified, “The Spirit of the Lord spoke to me, and His word was in my tongue” (2 Samuel 23:2). I like what Louis Gaussen said about this in his book entitled “Theopneustia”.

“In this affair, then the Church is a servant and not the mistress; a depository and not the judge. She exercises the office of minister, not the magistrate…she delivers testimony, not a judicial sentence. She discerns the canon of the Scriptures, she does not make it; she has recognized their authenticity, she has not given it…the authority of the Scriptures is not founded then, on the authority of the Church: It is the Church that is founded on the authority of the Scriptures.”1

Canon of the Old Testament
“According to the Talmud, the Jews used the phrase ‘defile the hands’ from the first century AD forward to identify writings suitable for reading in the synagogue. When the Torah had been produced through Moses, for example, there was no need for someone to pronounce it canonical. As Moses had been the undisputed leader of the nation of Israel and the one through whom God revealed himself to the people, the materials he wrote down were immediately regarded as inspired, obligatory, and unalterable. As other materials came to be written within the community of Israel, acceptance grew out of their concurrence with the Mosaic writings and from the personal authentication the writers received through signs given by God during their ministries. The process by which the Old Testament canon took form was thus a gradual and extended one over a considerable period of time.”2

The reason they used the phrase “defiled the hands” of the users was because the books were so holy to them.

The Jews divided the Old Testament into a threefold division of Law, Prophets, and Writings. The Law was the Pentateuch or Torah, which were the first five books (Genesis through Deuteronomy). The Prophets were divided up this way – Joshua, Judges, I and 2 Samuel (counted as one book), and 1 and 2 Kings counted as one book, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve Minor prophets counted as a single book. The Writings included the eleven books of Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther,

Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah (as one book) and 1 and 2 Chronicles (counted as one book).

Today we simply divide this same material into 39 books.

By the time of Jesus and the writing of the New Testament books, the New Testament would describe the Old Testament material as “Scripture” (Matthew 22:29; John 10:35; 19:36; Acts 18:24; Romans 1:2; 2 Peter 1:20), “Sacred writings” (2 Timothy 3:15 NASB), or “Law and Prophets” (Matthew 5:17; 7:12; 22:40; Luke 16:16; Acts 13:15; 28:23). Jesus also described a threefold division of the Old Testament as the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms (Luke 24:44). The earliest record to a three fold division of the Old Testament is in the prologue of the book Ecclesiasticus (around 130 BC).

Furthermore, Paul acknowledged the Hebrew canon. As written for our learning – (Romans 15:4), as written for our admonition – (1 Corinthians 10:11), as profitable for doctrine, etc.- (2 Timothy 3:14-17) The apostles frequently quoted from those books in the Hebrew canon – In their Gospels – (Matthew 1:22-23; 2:17-18; John 12:37-41), in their efforts to evangelize – (Acts 17:2-3), in their epistles – (Romans 3:9-10; 4:3; 1 Peter 2:6). It is evident that Jesus and His apostles accepted the authority (canon) of the Hebrew Scriptures, which include the 39 books in the Old Testament.

“Melito, Bishop of Sardis drew up the oldest list of the Old Testament canon that we can date (c.170 AD). Eusebius (Ecclesiastical History IV.26) preserves his comments. Melito said he had obtained the reliable list while traveling in Syria. Melito’s comments were in a letter to Anesimius, his friend; ‘their names are these…five books of Moses; Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy. Jesus Naue, Judges, Ruth. Four books of Kingdoms, two of
Chronicles, the Psalms of David, Solomon’s Proverbs (also called Wisdom), Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Job. Of the Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, the Twelve in a single book, Daniel, Ezekiel, Ezra.’ F.F. Bruce comments that ‘It is likely that Melito included Lamentations with Jeremiah, and Nehemiah with Ezra (though it is curious to find Ezra counted among the prophets). In that case, his list contains all the books of the Hebrew canon (arranged according to the Septuagint order), with the exception of Esther. Esther may not have been included from the list he received from his informants in Syria.”3

When the church came into existence it accepted the Jewish canon in its entirety.

Old Testament Apocrypha

However, the bible of Roman Catholic Church contains additional material than the books just identified. Specifically, there are seven books (Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, 1 and 2 Maccabees), additions to Esther (10:4-16:24), and additions to Daniel (Song of the Three Holy children inserted at 3:24-90; Susanna inserted as chapter 13 and the Bel and the Dragon inserted as chapter 14) These books were written after Malachi (400 B.C), prior to the coming of Jesus.
The Council of Trent accepted the Old Testament Apocrypha as canonical in 1546, with the exception of 1 and 2 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasseh. The teaching of 2 Esdras 7:105 in opposition to prayer for the dead may have led to its exclusion by the Roman Catholic Church. Reasons suggested for the Old Testament Apocrypha as Scripture include: 1. Some church fathers accepted these books (Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria 2. The Syriac church accepted them in the fourth century 3. The Eastern Orthodox church accepts them 4. The Roman Catholic Church proclaimed them as canonical in 1546 5. The Apocrypha was included in Protestant Bibles, including the original Kings James Version of 1611 6. Some have been found among other Old Testament books with the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Reasons why the Apocrypha should be rejected in the canon

1. Jesus and His apostles did not accept these books as part of the Scripture. There are no New Testament references to any of the Apocrypha as being authoritative. The New Testament writers quote not one part of the Apocrypha or refer to them as authoritative or canonical 2. Judaism never accepted these books as part of the Scriptures. Ancient Jewish leaders specifically rejected the Apocrypha (Josephus, Philo) While included in the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament); they were never accepted as canonical. The New American Bible, the New Catholic translation, in a footnote to the Story of Susanna and Bel and the Dragon frankly admits: “They are excluded from the Jewish canon of Scripture…” 3. While a few early church leaders appear to take some material from them, most were opposed to the inclusion of the Apocrypha into the canon of Scripture (Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Jerome, Origen) 4. The Apocrypha itself recognizes our Old Testament canon as a distinct twenty-four books, which corresponds to the Hebrew Bible as it is known today a. In 2 Esdras 14:44-48, 70 books are distinguished from 94, leaving 24, or the exact number of the Hebrew canon, which became our 39 Old Testament books. Not only does the Apocrypha not claim inspiration for itself, it actually disclaims it when 1 Maccabees 9:27 describes an existing cessation of prophecy 5. They include unbiblical teaching, such as praying for the dead (2 Maccabees 12:46) 6. They contain demonstrable errors; for example: Tobit was supposedly alive when Jeroboam led his revolt (931 BC) He was still living at the time of the Assyrian captivity (722 BC). Yet the Book of Tobit says he lived only 158 years – Tobit 1:3-5; 14:11 7. The first official adoption of the Apocrypha by the Roman Catholic Church came at the Council of Trent in 1546, over 1,500 years after the books were written 8. When the Apocrypha appeared in Protestant Bibles: It was normally placed in a separate section since it was not considered of equal authority. Luther included the Apocrypha in his German Bible, but he introduced them with the comment, “These are books that are not to be considered the same as Holy Scripture, and yet are useful and good to read.” 9. No Greek manuscript contains the exact collection of the books of the Apocrypha as accepted by the Council of Trent (1546). Furthermore, the addition of books that support “salvation by works” (Tobit 12:9) and “prayers for the dead” (2 Maccabees 12:45,46), only twenty-nine years after Luther posted his Ninety-five Theses, is highly suspicious. 10. While the Syrian church accepted the Apocrypha in the fourth century, the translation of the Bible into Syrian in the second century AD did not include it 11. The Qumran community had hundreds of books in its library beyond the Scriptures. While the library had some of the Apocrypha, it did not have commentaries on the Apocrypha like it did with Old Testament books. The Old Testament books had special script and parchment, unlike the Apocrypha. Qumran clearly considered the Apocrypha as different from Scripture.

“William H. Green concisely summarizes this evidence, as he writes, ‘The books of Tobit and Judith abound in geographical, chronological, and historical mistakes, so as not only to vitiate the truth of the narratives which they contain, but to make it doubtful whether they even rest upon a basis of fact.”4

Those who accept the authority of Jesus and His apostles will be content with those 39 books found in the Hebrew Old Testament.

Canon of the New Testament

As to the test of Canonicity employed from the first century through the fourth. The critical question would be – was the Holy Spirit its ultimate author? Was it from God?

Therefore, one of the main tests to determine the canonicity of a book was that of authorship. Very early in the church the words of the apostles were regarded as inspired.

Another factor that helped the early Christians decide the canon was the intrinsic value of a book. The book would have a message that was in harmony with other books in the Bible. It would also contain lessons that were vitally needed by the early church. This test eliminated most of the apocryphal materials during the early centuries.

The third test was universality. Was the book received widely among orthodox churches? This test served to eliminate Gospels and epistles written by heretical groups. The books of the bible were written for specific purposes to fulfill specific needs. Although the writers recognized that they were writing through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, they did not write these books simply to add another book to the bible. However, the early Christians realized the value of these books and kept them. They refused to let them die because there was a message for all Christians, not just to individuals to whom they were addressed. Colossians 4:16 reveals the early practice of sharing, and possibly copying and collecting letters of the apostles. Peter speaks, for example, of how Paul writes “in all his letters” with wisdom God provided him (2 Peter 3:16). What this reveals is a circulation of Paul’s letters and the tendency to quote from them as “Scripture”. When the apostles began to die there was a conscious effort to preserve every communication from them.

There were three main factors that led to the New Testament canon.

The first of these was the heretical canon drawn up by Marcion about AD 140. This man was a disciple in Rome before he became a leader of the sect known as the Marcionites, after his own name. Marcion believed that the New Testament should not reflect any Jewish thought but be completely free from such influence. In fact, he taught the God of the Old Testament was the imperfect creator of an imperfect world, and quite different from the good Father of Jesus Christ. Jews and Christians simply worship two different Gods, and the Father of Christ is not responsible for the evil in the world that he did not make. This false teacher accepted only 10 epistles of Paul and a mutilated Gospel of Luke. He rejected the other books such as Matthew, Mark and John, and Acts, etc. because he thought they contained “anti-christian” thought. He rejected the whole Old Testament. As an answer to his heretical canon, the early Christians made known publicly the canon they were using. Probably the Muratorian fragment (the earliest orthodox list, from about AD 170) was drawn up to serve this purpose.
F.F.Bruce has this helpful material on the Muratorian Fragment.
“…dated about the end of the second century, is that commonly called the Muratorian fragment, because it was first published in Italy in 1740 by the antiquarian Cardinal L. A. Muratori. It is unfortunately mutilated at the beginning, but evidently mentioned Matthew and Mark, because it refers to Luke as the third Gospel; then it mentions John, Acts, Paul’s nine letters to the churches and four to individuals (Philemon, Titus, 1 and 2 Timothy), Jude, two Epistles of John, and the Apocalypse of John and that of Peter.”5

A second factor was persecution. Under the Roman emperors such as Diocletian (AD 303) it was a death penalty to be found in possession of a copy of Christian Scriptures. This brought up the question of which writings were worth dying for. Many uninspired copies were no doubt burned during this period of time.

The third factor was the rise of the codex or book form. In earlier days Scriptures were written on scrolls. When Christians began to use the codex form instead of rolling up scripture on a stick they sewed the leaves together to form a book. When the codex form developed the question arose as to which books should be sewed together.

Furthermore, F.F. Bruce has some other helpful material concerning the New Testament canon based upon early church writers.

“Origen (185-254) mentions the four Gospels, the Acts, the thirteen Paulines, 1 Peter, I John and Revelation as acknowledged by all; he says that Hebrews, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, James and Jude, with the epistle of Barnabus, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Didache, and the gospel according to the Hebrews, were disputed by some. Eusebius (c. 265-340) mentions as generally acknowledged all the books of our New Testament except James, Jude, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, which were disputed by some, but recognized by the majority. Athanasius in 367 lays down the twenty-seven books of our New Testament as alone canonical; shortly afterward Jerome and Augustine followed his example in the West. The process farther east took a little longer; it was not until c. 508 that 2 Peter, and 2 and 3 John, Jude and Revelation were included in a Syriac Bible in addition to the other twenty two books”6.

But what about other books supposedly written by or about the apostles? Why are they not accepted? It may therefore be of interest to note… THE PSEUDEPIGRAPHA A BRIEF DESCRIPTION… 1. Otherwise called “false writings” 2. There are over 280 of these writings 3. More than 50 are accounts of Christ 4. The more well known of these are: a. The Gospel of Thomas b. The Gospel of Peter c. The Gospel of Hebrews d. The Protevangelium of James 4. Their value is limited, but they do illustrate: a. Some of the ascetic and Gnostic attitudes opposed by the apostles b. The popular desire at that time for information beyond the Scriptures c. The tendency to glorify Christianity by fraudulent means. REASONS FOR REJECTION… 1. They were never considered canonical by respectable leaders 2. Mainly produced by heretical groups 3. Containing exaggerated and mythical religious folklore 4. Most known

only through citation or quotation by another author 5. Thus their historical connection to the apostles is suspect… THE NEW TESTAMENT APOCRYPHA A BRIEF DESCRIPTION… 1. Not to be confused with the Old Testament Apocrypha 2. These were books written after the time of Christ a. Which were accepted at first by some in the church b. Which appeared at times in collections and translations of Scripture c. They had acceptance in some areas for a temporary period of time d. They never enjoyed acceptance by the Church in general 3. The New Testament Apocrypha include: a. The Epistle of Pseudo-Barnabas (70-79 AD) b. The Epistle to the Corinthians (96 AD) c. The Ancient Homily, also known as the Second Epistle of Clement of Rome to the Corinthians (120-140 AD) d. The Shepherd of Hermas (115-140 AD) e. The Didache, also known as the Teaching of the Twelve (100-120 AD) f. The Apocalypse of Peter (150 AD) g. The Acts of Paul and Thecla (170 AD) h. The Gospel According to the Hebrews (65-100 AD) i. The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians (108 AD) j. The Seven Epistles of Ignatius (110 AD) 4. These are more valuable than the Pseudepigrapha a. They provide early documentation of the existence of New Testament books b. They fill in the gap between the teaching of the apostles and the writings of the early church of the third and fourth centuries c. They provide clues to the practices, policies and future teachings of the church. REASONS FOR REJECTION… 1. They never enjoyed more than a temporary and local recognition 2. Those that advocated their acceptance considered them at best to be “semi-canonical” 3. No major church council or New Testament collection included them as inspired books 4. The reason they had some acceptance was because they wrongly attached themselves to references in canonical books or alleged apostolic authorship (i.e. the Acts of Paul).

In summary, many have dedicated a major portion of their lives and ministry to the study of this subject, and many scholars have come to the conclusion that the 27 books of the New Testament should be the standard that we use to follow God’s guidance for us today. Since the Council of Hippo in AD 393 (North Africa), there has been no serious questioning of the twenty-seven accepted books of the New Testament by either Roman Catholics or Protestants.

CONCLUSION
Christians believe that God has spoken… First, through prophets in Old Testament times – cf. Hebrews 1:1 Then, through His Son Jesus Christ – cf. Hebrews 1:2 Now, through the apostles and inspired writers of the New Testament – cf. 1 Corinthians 14:37 — The record of God’s revelation is now contained in the Bible, both the 39 Old Testament and the 27 New Testament books. Of all the doctrines connected with the Christian faith, none is more important than the one that has to do with the basis of our religious knowledge. And the only true and reliable source lies in the book we call the Bible.

With all the things that critics say against the Bible yet the bible still stands.
A.Z. Conrad said:
Century follows century – there it stands
Empires rise and fall and are forgotten – there it stands
Dynasty succeeds dynasty – there it stands
Emperors decree its extermination – there it stands
Kings are crowned and uncrowned – there it stands

Agnostics smile cynically – there it stands
Profane, prayerless punsters caricature it – there it stands
Unbelief abandons it – there it stands
Higher critics deny its inspiration – there it stands
The flames are kindled about it – there it stands
The tooth of time gnaws at it – there it stands
Infidels predict its abandonment – there it stands
Modernism tries to explain it away – there it stands7
——————————————————————————–

WORKS CITED

Bruce, F.F. The New Testament Documents Are They Reliable? Grand Rapids:
William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1943.

Geisler, Norman L. & Nix, William E. A General Introduction To the Bible.
Chicago: Moody Press, 1968.

McDowell, Josh. Evidence That Demands A Verdict Vol. 1 San Bernardino:
Campus Crusade for Christ International, 1972.

McGuiggan, Jim. If God Came An Approach to Christian Evidences. Lubbock:
Montex Publishing Company, 1980.

Shelly, Rubel. Prepare To Answer A Defense Of The Christian Faith.
Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1990.

1 Norman L. Geisler & William E. Nix, A General Introduction To The Bible (Chicago: Moody Press, 1968) , 137

2 Rubel Shelly, Prepare To Answer A Defense Of The Christian Faith (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House,1990) , 142

3 Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands A Verdict (San Bernardino: Campus Crusade for Christ International, 1972) , 36

4 Norman L. Geisler & William E. Nix, A General Introduction To The Bible (Chicago: Moody Press, 1968) , 174

5 F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents Are they Reliable? (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1943) , 22,23

6 F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents Are they Reliable? , 25,26

7 Jim McGuiggan, If God Came An Approach To Christian Sciences (Lubbock: Montex Publishing Company, 1980) , 197

Prepared by

James A. Crisp

August 21, 2003

The Problem of Evil and Suffering

One of the most frequently asked questions among skeptics, and even within the Christian community has to do with the problem of suffering. Indeed, human history is largely about crime, war, disease, and terror. Some people are born in pain and know nothing else. Mark Twain said that life is just one darn thing after another. Either the hose breaks on the washing machine and floods the basement, or a family member gets sick, or there are unforeseen financial expenses. That’s the way it goes in this imperfect world. Because of this some have concluded that there is nothing intelligent behind the universe, or else if there is a divine being out there, He is indifferent to the good and evil that occurs. The thinking of some is, If God was good, He would wish to make His creatures perfectly happy, and if God were almighty, He would be able to do whatever He wanted. Therefore, God lacks goodness, or power or both. Hence, the image that some have of God seems to evolve with each passing day, adjusting to whatever experiences he or she might have.

Moreover, we may try to fashion a god after our understanding of what God should be like. Some want a grandfather in heaven, who wants to see all of His creation enjoying themselves, and in the end of each day it could be said, a good time was had by all.

Atheists have not failed to note the problem. In fact, some will say that the problem of suffering is of crucial importance, because it shows that the God of popular theism does not exist. However, if something bad or something going wrong argues that God does not exist, then how about all things which are right and good? On the same basis would that not prove the existence of God? If something going wrong disproves the existence of God then something going right would prove it. Augustine put it very simply:

If there is no God, why is there so much good? If there is a God, why is there so much evil?” (The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel, page 45)

However, in this paper I have to begin with this premise, what I know about God and what can be known about God must come from the Bible. Therefore, concerning the problem of evil and suffering I will develop my ideas based upon what the Bible says about it. Knowing God accurately is vital.

It is an incorrect view of scripture to say that we will always be able to comprehend what God is doing and how suffering and disappointment fit into His plan. If you believe that God is obligated to explain all that He does, you need to examine the following scriptures. Solomon wrote in Proverbs 25:2, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter.” Isaiah 45:15 states, “Truly you are a God who hides himself.” Isaiah 55:8-9 teaches, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Clearly we will not be able to grasp all the ways that God intervenes in this world. Therefore, there will be situations that God will allow which will not make sense to us. It is what one writer called – life’s imponderables – those things we desperately want to know about but can’t seem to figure out very well.

It is a common human experience to question where God is and what He is doing when we are suffering. Job felt this anguish and it is recorded for us in Job 23:2-9. David had similar feelings in his life (Psalm 13:1; Psalm 77:7-8). Even Jesus felt this way for a while on the cross (Mark 15:35). Probably all of us will go through a period when it seems that God has let us down. The danger is that Satan can use these moments to make us feel than we can no longer trust in God.

However, it is extremely important to look at Scripture and recognize that trials and suffering are part of the human condition. The bible is full of examples of heroes of faith that have gone through similar hardships.

Jesus even told his disciples that they should anticipate suffering in John 16:33. The apostle Peter left no doubt to the difficulties in this life when he wrote, I Peter 4:12-13.

God’s first act toward humanity was not the Exodus, nor the Cross, it was Creation. When God created, He acted freely and without compulsion. Humanity did not deserve to be created. It had no inherent right to exist. Creation was an act out of God’s own free will. Genesis describes God providing for His creatures. He provides life (Genesis 2:7). He provides a garden furnished with all things necessary for life. He provides a special tree which offers everlasting communion in the presence of God (Genesis 2:9). He tells humanity to be caretakers over all His creation (Genesis 1:28-30). Yet in this community God also gave humanity a choice. All the provisions in the garden are available except for one. God placed the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the middle of the garden and he forbade them to eat from it (Genesis 2:17). Apparently God sees some value in choice itself. Choice does provide us the opportunity for genuine free expression of love. Without freedom, there can be no real love. Without freedom, there is only a robotic coerced relationship. God does not drag us into the palace and force us to live with Him.

When you give people the power to choose there is risk involved. We can choose our own interests over the fellowship with God. The trees are not about fruit they are about fellowship. They are about life and death, a choice about life with God or life without God. It was a choice of moral dependence on God or an assertion of their own will. In other words, God will not prevent us from deciding to do evil (Romans 1:18-32).

Their rebellion brought the sentence of death and suffering upon the whole world (Genesis 3:15-19; Romans 5:12; I Corinthians 15:22). Adam and Eve as representatives of humanity rejected God’s offer of communion and asserted moral independence. Because human existence is bound together in this solidarity, when God acts against sin, even innocent children suffer. The death and sickness of children, more than any other thing, testifies that this world is not the way it is suppose to be. Genesis 3 reveals Satan as an alien evil force in God’s creation. The Devil opposes God’s purposes. He seeks to destroy the harmony of God with His creation. Therefore, there is a contest over the hearts of people.

In addition to this, the bible says that Satan can inflict illness or destroy one’s life (Luke 13:16; Acts 10:38). Whatever control the Devil has – God can limit and control it. Therefore, our prayer is to lead us not into temptation (Matthew 6:13).

Moreover, the Bible teaches that the holiness of God cannot commune with evil (Psalm 5:4). God is faithful to His promises and His threats.

Consequently, rebellion brought judgment on the world. We now live on a cursed planet, a planet where we as well as all creation cries out in pain (Romans 8:18-23). Childbirth has become a painful event. The joy of work has become toil and painful. The harmony between human beings is destroyed. Rebellion introduced hostility, pain, and death. God did not desire these things for us, but they are the consequences and the punishment for sin.

Imagine, if you will, a situation where our government passes a law abolishing all punishment from crimes. The status would still be on the books, but there would be no punishment for offenders. It would still be against the law to murder, but if he did, there would be nothing done about it. It would be against the law to steal, but there would be no punishment for thieves. Can you imagine the anarchy that would follow? All penitentiaries would be opened, jails unlocked, and courts dismissed. That would be unbearable. Transfer that thought to the spiritual realm. One sins, and instead of the consequences which would normally follow, God removes those sins and the sinner is unpunished. In such a case, man could rebel against God forever and ever and never suffer. That would totally destroy God’s plan for man. (Why Has All This Happened to Us? by W.T. Hamilton, page 49)

Sometimes we suffer because of our own sin. I had a friend die in a car accident because he was drunk. I have done funerals for people who have died because of living a promiscuous lifestyle and in the process contracted AIDS.

We drink too much or gamble compulsively or allow pornography to possess our minds. We drive too fast and work like there is no tomorrow. We challenge the boss disrespectfully and then blow up when he strikes back. We spend money we don’t have and can’t repay. We fuss and fight at home and create misery for ourselves and our families. We not only borrow trouble – we go looking for it. We toy with the dragon of infidelity. We break the laws of God and then honestly believe that we have beaten the odds. Then when the “wages” of those sins and foolishness come due, we turn our shocked faces up to heaven and cry, “Why me Lord?” In truth, we are suffering the natural consequences of dangerous behavior that is guaranteed to produce pain. (When God Doesn’t Make Sense by James Dobson, page 193)

Moreover, the bible does reveal cases where suffering is the result of our personal transgression, as in the case of Israel (Hebrews 3:7-11). Therefore, suffering is part of the gift of human freedom.

Suffering also can help to lead to repentance, because it was only after suffering and disaster that the Israelites turned back to God.

To quote C. S. Lewis:

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world. (The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel, page 60)

Pain and suffering are frequently the means by which we become motivated to finally surrender to God and to seek comfort and hope in Christ.

At times we suffer because of the sin of others. Christians have often been persecuted because of their faith and conviction. Jesus pointed out to his disciples that such would be the case with them (John 15:18-19).

Sometimes we suffer because the laws of nature have been broken, even though they were broken unintentionally or due to matters beyond our control. God made this world and set in order various laws, like the law of gravity. Sometimes we suffer when we misuse these laws, like driving to fast, or falling off a cliff that we were climbing. To blame God under these circumstances would be like blaming Henry Ford for all of the automobile accidents, because he invented the car, or to blame the Wright brothers for all airplane crashes because they invented the airplane.

God has all power. No one can limit Him, but He can limit Himself. When God built the universe and made the laws of nature, He abides by those laws too.

I think we should be careful to refer to all suffering as God’s will. It is one thing to say that God is working His will through an event; it is quite another to say that God planned the event.

However, the Bible reveals that God’s ultimate goal for us is happiness. But not the kind that we often seek for ourselves, the self absorbed kind of happiness. The happiness that He wants to give us is to enjoy Him forever.

Meanwhile, this business of pain and suffering can be used by God to point us towards ultimate happiness.

C. S. Lewis points out one way that God can use it for our good.

No doubt pain as God’s megaphone is a terrible instrument; it may lead to final and unrepented rebellion. But it gives the only opportunity the bad man can have for amendment. It removes the veil; it plants the flag of truth within the fortress of a rebel soul. If the first and lowest operation of pain shatters the illusion that all is well, the second shatters the illusion that what we have, whether good or bad itself, is our own and enough for us. (The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis, page 95)

God can use all of the pain and suffering to cause us to look up to Him!

He can use troubles, tribulations, and trials to generate, strengthen or refine our faith in Him (Hebrews 12:5-11; James 1:2-3) God will use the circumstances of this fallen world to accomplish His ultimate purpose. Instead of wondering, “Why me?” You may say, “What can I do with this?” What happens to us when we experience suffering or adversity may not be as important as the way we respond to it? Dentists, athletic trainers, teachers, parents all know that sometimes testing and discipline help to achieve a greater good of physical well being and moral and spiritual education. In fact, courage would be impossible in a world without pain. The apostle Paul also testified to the refining quality of suffering (Romans 5:3-4).

An additional thought concerning pain and skeptics is stated by Strobel:

If there is no Creator and therefore no moment of creation, then everything is the result of evolution. If there was no beginning or first cause, then the universe must have always existed. That means the universe has been evolving for an infinite period of time and, by now, everything should be perfect. There would have been plenty of time for evolution to have finished and evil to have been vanquished. But there is still evil and suffering and imperfection and that proves the atheist wrong about the universe. (The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel, page 47)

Moreover, the final and best proof of an all loving God comes from God Himself. God participated in this suffering world by allowing His Son to put on human flesh (Philippians 2:5-8). The Christian affirmation is that far from being aloof, God participated in His suffering world and suffered as a real human being. The Gospel writers show how deeply touched Jesus was by people’s pain and grief. A major part of his earthly ministry was healing of the sick (Luke 4:18; 7:22). Furthermore, you cannot read the story of the crucifixion without thinking about the suffering and pain that both the Father and the Son felt. When suffering people talk about feeling alone and ask where God is, they should think about where God was when His Son was suffering on the cross. He was right there identifying with mankind and offering an ultimate answer to all the suffering in the world (Hebrews 2:14-18). Centuries earlier the prophet Isaiah had foretold the coming Messiah would be a suffering servant (Isaiah 53:3-6). When you are tempted to think that God does not care about pain and suffering close your eyes and picture Jesus on the cross. Why is God silent? Why doesn’t He intervene? He has. He has spoken and He has acted.

The British preacher and writer John R. W. Stott reached this conclusion concerning the suffering of Christ.

I could never my self believe in God, if it were not for the cross…. In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time after a while I have had to turn away. And in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in God forsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in light of his. There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross symbolizes divine suffering. The cross of Christ…is God’s only self-justification in such a world as ours. (The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel, page 74).

The question is not if we are going to have trouble and pain and suffering in this world. The question is “when” or “how much”? Scripture supports the premise that we can prepare for the storms of life (Matthew 7:24-29).

For those of us who are Christians we need to keep an eye on our final destination (Romans 8:18; II Corinthians 4:17). The point of our lives in this world isn’t comfort, but training and preparation for eternity.

Essay on Sex

Sex is everywhere in our society. Television, dramas, music video’s, and advertising abound with sexual images and innuendo. The average American child, who watches about 20 hours of television a week, is subjected to an implicit sex education. Michael A. Carrera, who teaches at Hunter College in New York, says there are about 20,000 scenes on television each year that suggest sexual acts, all of them without regard to the outcome.

In a comprehensive study of sexual behavior, Samuel Janus and Cynthia Janus (1993) compiled the Janus report, which surveyed 2,765 Americans age 18 to over 65. The researchers found that sexual activity had begun earlier in life for members of each age group than it did for the next oldest age group among both males and females, and that the age of first intercourse has become progressively younger over the years. Of males in the younger age group, 91% had had sex by age 18; only about 60% of the males 65 and older had had sex by that age. By the age of 18 to 26 year old women 83% had had sex; of the women 65 and older, only 41% had had sex by the age of 18.

There is a shift in attitudes about premarital sex. In a Seventeen Magazine survey, 44% of the girls and 54% of the boys thought there was nothing wrong with premarital sex. Moreover, by the age 15 24% of both girls and boys reported having had sex.

In 1994 the University of Chicago study found that about 25% of the husbands and 15% of the wives had been unfaithful at least one during their marriage.

Furthermore, the U.S. Census bureau released a report offering a historical perspective on the state of marriage in 1994. From 1970 the number of divorced adults quadrupled from 4.3 million to 17.4 million in 1994. In addition, the number of cohabiting couples with children in the home has increased 550% from 1970 to 1994, children are present in 40% of cohabiting unions, and 27% of all nonmarital births between 1970 to 1984 were to cohabiting couples.

Views on Premarital Sex

The Natural impulse rule.

This view says that sex is a natural human impulse or instinct. Just as food can be enjoyed in a variety of settings, so one can enjoy a casual sexual encounter with some one without deep feelings of love and affection. Thus, greater human happiness is attained if people can take whatever pleasure they can get from sex without the burden of moral guilt. Some defend free love on the basis of hedonistic utilitarianism (the view that we ought to act to maximize pleasure). Thus any act that would increase pleasure ought to be performed. This is not a new view at all, because the apostle Paul alludes to some in the city of Corinth having this idea in I Corinthians 6:12-13.

However, studies have shown that can be significantly more emotionally fulfilling and physically satisfying when shared in marriage. The University of Chicago and the State University of New York at Stony Brook did a study called the National Health and Social Life Survey, a staff of 220 interviewers spent seven months interviewing 3,432 respondents. Of all sexually active people, the group with the highest percentage reporting being extremely or very satisfied with the amount of physical pleasure and emotional satisfaction they received from their partner are the faithfully married respondents. The faithfully married were also least likely to report sex making them feel sad, anxious, worried, scared or afraid, or guilty. The study also revealed that married couples, compared to single people, have more sex and are more likely to have orgasms when they do have sex. Nearly 40% of those married reported that they had sex twice a week, whereas only 25% of singles said that they had sex twice a week.

Moreover, a study conducted by the researchers at the University of Maryland and the National center for Health statistics, looking at a nationally representative sample of women ages 15 to 44, found that women who were sexually active prior to marriage faced a considerable higher risk of marital disruption than women who were virgin brides. And if young women get pregnant in their teens, they are less likely to finish High School, and less likely to find high paying jobs in the labor force. Planned Parenthood reports that 1.1 million American girls between fifteen and nineteen become pregnant every year. More than two thirds of teen mothers bear their children out of wedlock, and those who marry have a high rate of divorce. The majority of teen mothers are forced to live on welfare, and that dependence usually lasts until their children are grown. David Ellwood, Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University said: The vast majority of children who are raised entirely in a two parent home will never be poor during childhood. By contrast, the vast majority of children who spend time in a single parent home will experience poverty. In addition to this, a 1990 government survey conducted by the Centers for Disease control found that 1 in 25 students reported having had a sexually transmitted disease. There are an estimated 19 million new cases of STD’s each year in the United States, up from 15 million nearly a year ago. Experts don’t have exact numbers because not all diseases are reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and many people don’t know they are infected. Among the most shocking estimates are that one in five Americans has genital herpes and more than half of women will contract HPV, or human papillomavirus, which causes genital warts and can lead to cervical cancer. At least a million Americans are living with the deadly AIDS virus.

There are some who believe that living in a cohabitating relationship will lead to a healthy marriage. However, studies in Canada, Sweden, and the United States found that cohabitation increased rather than decreased the risk for marital satisfaction. There is considerable empirical evidence demonstrating that premarital cohabitation is associated with lower martial stability. It was also discovered that the longer the cohabitation the higher likelihood of divorce. On the basis of this evidence we should resist the idea that cohabitation provides superior training for marriage or improves mate selection.

The Family Violence Research Program at the University of New Hampshire reveals that cohabitators are much more violent than people who are married. They found that the overall rates of violence for cohabitating couples were twice as high when compared with married couples.

Cohabitation also has a specific impact upon children. Children are present in 40 percent of all cohabitating couples. Michael Gordon and Susan Creighton, presenting their research in the Journal of Marriage and the Family, explain that a number of studies have shown that girls living with nonnatal fathers (boyfriends and stepfathers) are at a higher risk for sexual abuse than girls living with natal fathers.

Sex is a powerful force, and societies around the world have found it necessary to develop some rules regarding sexual behavior. Where are we going to get the directions?  Where are the best directions for the gift of sex?  Hugh Hefner? Jerry Springer?  MTV?  Cosmopolitan?  No.  You’ve got to go to God’s word.

The bible has much to say about sexuality, both negatively and positively.

The bible is clear on what it says about premarital sex.

Any sex, no matter how nice it looks on the movie screen, outside of God’s perimeter of marriage, is willful disobedience.  It’s thumbing your nose to God and saying, “God, I know better.  I know You invented this thing, but I know better.  I know You created it, but I know better”.

1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified and that you should avoid sexual immorality and that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable.”  People say all the time, “I want to know God’s will.”  You can start right there.  That one is real obvious.  If you want to know God’s will for your life, here it us – Avoid sexual immorality and be holy.  Learn to control your sexual appetites.  God’s no killjoy.  Remember He invented sex but every gift must be controlled.  (A good example for that is Joseph in the Old Testament.)  God made water.  It’s a gift.  It can either satisfy you or it can drown you.  God created fire as a gift.  It can either warm you or it can burn you.

The Bible says that sexual sin is in a class by itself.  The verse you can look at is 1 Corinthians 6:18 “Flee from sexual immorality.  All other sins a man commits are outside his body.  But he who sins sexually sins against his own body.”  New Living translation: “Run away from sexual sin.  No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one.”  The Message: “There is a sense in which sexual sins are different from others.  In sexual sins we violate the sacredness of our bodies and these bodies were made for God given and God modeled love, for becoming one with another.”  God says, yes, there is a difference.  Why?  Because the scars are permanent.  The shame does not seem to go away.  The sense of loss affects everybody.  Some said – we do not have a condom for the heart.

The bible is also very clear about extramarital sex.

The National Opinion Research Center, in 1994 found that about 21% of men and 11% of women had an extramarital affair. The likelihood of underreporting is great because, as family therapist Frank Pittman said, if people would lie to their own husbands or wives, they would lie to a poll taker. Adultery was condemned by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:27-28. Furthermore, in Hebrews 13:4 God draws a firm line against casual and illicit sex.  I don’t know if that could be any clearer.  It says that sex is for a husband and a wife.

It may surprise many people that the bible has some very positive things to say about sex in marriage. This is a gift that’s handcrafted by God for us.  It’s valuable because our sexuality determines our identity.  Genesis 1:27 “God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him, male and female…”  Right at the beginning, that’s who we are, male and female.  Part of being created in God’s image is being a man.  Part of being created in God’s image is being a woman.  Part of being created in God’s image is our sexuality.  If we miss that, we miss one of the main truths – the first truth in the Bible about who we are.  That’s the value of God’s gift.  Our sexuality affects all of who we are.  It affects our body, our mind, our soul and our spirit.

God’s direction in marriage is to be unselfish with your body.  Notice a couple of verses in 1 Corinthians 7:2-5.  There’s the idea of sharing one another.  There’s the idea in the scripture of serving one another in marriage.

Conclusion

We need to honor God for what He’s done.  Honor God for His great gift.  The body is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord and the Lord for the body.  You are not your own.  You are bought with a price.  So honor God with your body.  We can honor God with the way we react to our sexuality.  It is my belief and one supported by the bible, that monogamous marriage is the relationship that best provides for the most favorable avenue to express human sexuality. It is best for the overall well being for the adults involved, and also provides the best place for the socialization and moral direction of children.

The Ministry of Elders (Historical)

Historical Background 

To gain some measure of clarity about the ministry of elders, it may be helpful to trace back to their origins. We would be mistaken to suppose that elders were unique to the early church. Long before the church was ever established, the Jews had a rich history of elders in their communities. The Hebrew word for elder is zaqen. This rich term occurs more than one hundred times in the Old Testament. The original meaning of the word is old. In the Old Testament it can refer to that which is old or identifies one as old. In the Psalms, zaqen is compared to gray hair (Psalm 71:18). There were certain characteristics that came with age that were highly regarded by the Jews. Job tells us that “with the ancient is wisdom; and the length of days understanding” (Job 12:12). God’s people were to “honor the face of an old man” (Leviticus 19:32). Furthermore, the term was applied to men who played various leadership roles in Israelite society. Thus, older men became leaders of the people because of wisdom and knowledge gained through years of experience. The role that elders played in the Old Testament as representatives of God’s people can give insight into the intended role of elders in the New Testament.

For instance, some elders of Israel accompanied Moses and Aaron when they approached Pharaoh in Egypt (Exodus 3:18). It’s interesting that what we see most frequently mentioned in the history of Israel’s elders is their leadership from town to town.

“These “town elders” were responsible for apprehending murderers who might flee unlawfully to one of the cities of refuge (Deuteronomy 19:11-12); for admitting to those same specially-designated cities any manslayer who had a lawful right to their protection (Joshua 20:1-6); and for presiding over the bizarre ceremony where an unsolved murder happened to occur outside their own town (Deuteronomy 21:1-9). As these and other examples illustrate, Israel’s elders were respected as wise judges over criminal, civil, and religious affairs.”1

Furthermore, elders are seen in the Old Testament Scriptures sitting at the gates to the city. The elders would act as a kind of informal court from this position as can be seen in (Deuteronomy 21:18-21; 22:13-21; 25:7-10). Also, from the city gate the elders could keep a close eye on who was coming into the community and who was leaving. It is obvious that elders had a powerful influence on local and municipal affairs of the Jewish community.

These men did not hold some vague and unorganized position of leadership. Each elder was recognized as a part of organized body of men. On several occasions Moses provided the elders with the experience necessary to make them teachers of Israel. (Exodus 4:29-30; 19:7; Deuteronomy 27:1). With the departure of leading figures like Moses and Joshua, the burden of leadership and teaching fell more on the elders (Joshua 23:1-11; 24:1-14).

However, the Jewish elders did not always live up to their lofty responsibility because by the time of Christ he had many conflicts with the Jews over the tradition of the elders. (Matthew 15:1,2). The tradition of the elders was the extra biblical oral law. When a point of view was in question, those with knowledge of the tradition gave oral testimony to what they had heard from the teachers of the past. Unfortunately, many elders who were contemporary with Jesus had abused their God given power and influence over the people.

The concept of elders in the Old Testament was a wise principle. The fact that certain ones abused it through the centuries – does not argue against the wisdom of the principle any more than the fact that the presence of false prophets argues against the true and prudent principle of loyal prophets. Therefore, it should come to no surprise that when Jehovah first organized the church of His Son he chose a group of older men to be spiritual leaders over His congregations.

The eldership:
Its names

I think we can learn a great deal about the ministry of elders by looking at the various terms used to describe them.

Elders or Presbyters

The terms elders or presbyters refer to the same work in the Lord’s church. In fact the two terms come from the same root word in the Greek language in which the New Testament was written. Both words come from the Greek word presbuteros. And the root meaning is older men. In about 16 instances in the New Testament presbuteros refers to Christian leaders. Therefore the word is used both in a technical way to describe a leader in the church, and yet retains its ordinary meaning of an old man. Since the term elder or presbyter indicates spiritual age and advanced judgment, a novice or new convert could not qualify for this ministry (I Timothy 3:6). The eldership of God’s church is no realm for spiritual babes; it is a role for spiritually mature men to fulfill. Their maturity must be seen in the following hallmarks of holiness. (1) Desire (I Timothy 3:1) (2) Not a new convert (I Timothy 3:6) (3) A good reputation (I Timothy 3:7) (4) Husband of one wife (I Timothy 3:2; Titus1:6) (5) One who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (I Timothy 3:4; Titus 1:6) (6) Above reproach (I Timothy 3:2; Titus 2:7) (7) Temperate (I Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8) (8) Prudent (I Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8) (9) Respectable (I Timothy 3:2) (10) Hospitable (I Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8) (11) Uncontentious – man of peace (I Timothy 3:3) (12) Not given to wine (I Timothy 3:3) (13) Gentle – not stubborn (I Timothy 3:3; Titus1:7) (14) Not self willed (Titus 1:7) (15) Not quick tempered – patient (Titus 1:7) (16) Free from the love of money (I Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7; I Peter 5:2) (17) Must love what is good (I Timothy 1:8) (18) Must be just (Titus 1:8) (19) Must be devout (Titus 1:8) (20) Able to teach (I Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:9) (21) Must hold fast the faithful word (Titus 1:9). Every elder while never reaching these qualities in their perfected state, yet is ever stretching himself to grow to there fullest realization. These qualifications concern the man’s character, reputation, family life and ability to be a leader. These qualifications are as apropos for the 21st Century as they were for the first century church. Furthermore, little is required of the elder that is not required of every Christian. Lynn Anderson offers a practical way to determine who should serve as elders or why some have been selected to serve as elders:

“I know ________,_________,________ well. I already have some sort of relationship with them.”

“I see _________,_________,________ as experienced and competent enough to give wise counsel.”

“________,________,________ are available. I can always find them.”

“_________,________,_________ are approachable. I find it comfortable to be open with them.”

“________,__________,_________ are hospitable, express love to me in several ways, and often create opportunities for conversation.”

“I have watched ________,__________,_________ make sound spiritual decisions in their own lives.”

“__________,__________,_________ know the Word of God.”

“___________,__________,_________ are respected by the people I most admire.”

“Christians often long for guidance from a wise and gentle big brother or big sister. God wired us up this way. When we hurt, we long for help and comfort from some one who has been where we are. When life overwhelms us, we look for someone who is strong and experienced. In the midst of the confusion, we seek people who can give steerage through treacherous waters. When shaping our lives, we reach out for mentors.”2

Moreover, in the United States, most of our Presidents have been at least in their fifties or beyond when first elected to our nations highest office. Youth has a lot of things going for it, but decades of experience and wise judgment are not yet present among the young in our age. Bible elders were older men with experience and spiritual maturity. It is clear in Scripture that elders were men who considered important matters facing the church. Paul and Barnabus were received by the elders when they came to Jerusalem to consider a doctrinal dispute (Acts 15:2-6). The decision by the apostles and elders resulted in a decree given to the Gentile churches. The elders at Ephesus came to Miletus to hear an important message from Paul (Acts 20:17f). Paul reminded them to oversee and feed the church and to watch out for false teachers (Acts 20:28-31).

Bishops or Overseers

These two terms are translated from the same Greek word episkopos. Jack Lewis gives some helpful information about the English usage of the word. “”Episkopos is used four times for leaders of the churches (Acts 20:28; Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:7). The KJV used both “overseer” (Acts 20:28) and “bishop” (Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus1:1; I Peter 2:25) as rendering of this term. The ASV consistently used “bishop” in the text of all the passages, but listed overseer in the margin; the RSV used “guardian” in Acts 20:28 and in I Peter 2:25, but used “bishop” in other cases. The NIV has reversed the practice of the ASV and put “overseer” in the text and “bishop” in the margin in all cases. This reversal is necessary in view of the connotation “bishop” has taken in the current religious usage. The Scripture is not speaking of the “bishop” in the denominational sense of a man over a group of churches. “Overseer” corresponds to the etymology of the Greek word and avoids the erroneous connotation that may be attached to “bishop.”3

Joseph Henry Thayer, in his Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament, defines the Greek term under current consideration as: “an overseer, a man charged with the duty of seeing that things to be done by others are done rightly, a curator, guardian or superintendent.”4

Bishops or overseers certainly could not and should not do all the work that needs to be done in a given congregation. But all the work performed within a local church setting is under their oversight. The church is a monarchy, not a democracy. Jesus is Lord. Bishops are to assert Christ’s will – not the mind of the membership. Leaders must be loyal to Christ, His doctrine, His church, His morals and His worship. Jesus did not condemn all authority. He only condemned its abuse (Matthew 20:20-28). Authority must never be carried to extremes. No one in the Kingdom is to become Lord or a boss. Bishops are not called to reign but to serve (I Peter 5:1-5). Spiritual leadership sees itself as a servant – first of Christ then of the church. Furthermore, the New Testament knows nothing of one man rule in a local congregation here on earth. Even Jesus selected 12 apostles – not just one! When each congregation was set in order in the New Testament letters there were elders selected for each congregation (Acts 14:23). Paul addresses the bishops at Philippi – not just one bishop (Philippians 1:1). The New Testament is totally silent about THE elder or THE bishop concept. Such concepts came later with the deviations and departures that developed into wholesale apostasy from the truth.

J. W. McGarvey makes an excellent point in his commentary on Acts about how these fairly new congregations mentioned in Acts could have elders so quickly. “If any one is surprised that men were found in these newly founded congregations possessed of the high qualifications for the office laid down by Paul in his epistles to Titus and Timothy, he should remember that although these disciples had been but a comparatively short time in the church, many of them, in character and knowledge of the scriptures, the ripest fruits of the Jewish synagogue; and they needed only the additional knowledge which the gospel brought, in order to be models of wisdom and piety for the churches. They were not novices (I Timothy 3:6) in the sense of being newly turned away from wickedness.”5

The terms elder or presbyter do not mean the same as bishop or overseer but both sets of terms refer to different functions performed by the same office or ministry. God’s leaders are elders in that they are men of spiritual experience and maturity. They are bishops in that they are men of management. Paul said, “Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other” (I Thessalonians 5:12,13).

The bishops are to admonish, warn, and instruct the church in what is right. If elders really love the flock they will rebuke and warn them of sin.

Pastors or Shepherds

The New Testament usage of the term pastors was radically different from the denominational usage the word currently takes. Most religious people today employ the term in reference to the preacher. Now it is true that some preachers do serve as both elder and preacher. But even in those cases he is simply a pastor along with his fellow pastors, fellow elders, fellow bishops or fellow overseers. In many translations of the Bible the word pastor occurs only once. Paul says this in Ephesians 4:11.

11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,

I believe that gospel preachers would be included under the word evangelist. Evangelists (preachers) should not take over the work of elders and neither should they assume their leadership role. Paul wanted Timothy and Titus to do the work of evangelists. That is why they were to appoint elders (Titus 1:5). Therefore, the word pastor then would refer to the elders of the church. The Greek word that Paul uses in Ephesians 4:11 is poimen.

Joseph Henry Thayer, refers to this term and says that it refers to the “overseers of the christian community”.6 Preachers are not the overseers of the Christian assemblies like God intended the elders to be. The word pastor is the Latin word for a shepherd. I understand that the term shepherd is the best way to express the original idea behind the meaning of poimen. J.B. Myers has an easy way to see how the verb form poimaino is used by various translations.

KJV ASV NASV RSV NIV
Acts 20:28 feed feed shepherd care for be shepherds
I Peter 5:2 feed tend shepherd tend be shepherd
John 21:16 feed tend shepherd tend take care
Matthew 2:6 rule shepherd shepherd govern shepherd
Revelation 7:17 feed shepherd shepherd shepherd shepherd

* 7

To shepherd the flock is to tend, care for, and feed the flock. The model for a modern day shepherd is Jesus. Speaking of himself as the loving shepherd, Jesus says that he leaves the ninety-nine in the open country and goes in search of the lost one. “And he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home.” (John 10:5). The picture of a shepherd leaving the fold to seek the one lost sheep demonstrates in a vivid way one major function of a spiritual shepherd (Matthew 18:12-14; Luke 15:3-7). It is one thing to accept the return of a sinner, it is something else to go and look for him.

When the apostle Peter instructed church leaders on how to lead, he spoke of Jesus as “the Chief Shepherd.” (I Peter 5:4). The point being he is the blueprint for the way of modern leadership. Good spiritual shepherds today imitate the Chief Shepherd. The shepherding model revolves around the relationship between the shepherd and his flock. John 10:14: “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— Sheep follow the shepherd because they know his voice. Through hours and days and weeks and years spent with their shepherd, sheep come to know from experience that they can trust him. Trust is earned, not demanded, and it is built over time. First and foremost, elders are shepherds. And what is a shepherd? A shepherd is some one who has a flock already. The process of appointing elders is simply the process of formally acknowledging those who have been shepherding for a long time.

Conclusion

Jesus made it clear that his leadership style is based upon submission and service and sacrifice, not on human models of authority – (Matthew 20:25-28). 25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave– just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Elders must remember they are servants not masters. The church is not theirs – it belongs to Christ. What the church needs is spiritual shepherds and not a board of directors. But they must also remember that they are elders and not deacons. And they need to equip others to the work of service so that they can have more time to shepherd the flock.


1 F. LaGard Smith, Radical Restoration (Nashville: Cotswold Publishing, 2001) , 176.

2 Lynn Anderson, They Smell Like Sheep (West Monroe: Howard Publishing Co. 1997) , 125.

3 Jack P. Lewis, Leadership Questions Confronting the Church (Nashville: Christian Communications, 1985) , 23

4 Joseph Henry Thayer, Greek English Lexicon (Grand Rapids: Zondervon Publishing House, 1976) , 243

5 J.B. Myers, The Church and Its Elders (Fort Worth: Star Bible, 1981) , 19

6 Joseph Henry Thayer, Greek English Lexicon (Grand Rapids: Zondervon Publishing House, 1976) , 527

7 J.B. Myers, The Church and Its Elders (Fort Worth: Star Bible, 1981) , 27

Myths about Mary

Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, was a great person. She was a devout Jewish woman who miraculously conceived by the Holy Spirit gave birth to the world’s Savior, while she was still a virgin. (Matthew 1:18-25) Jesus obeyed his mother as a child and honored her, as he became a man. (Luke 2:51; John 19:26,27) All that the Bible says about her is true. However, some people through the years have come to believe many things about Mary which are purely fictional. In this paper I am going to examine the teachings of the Catholic church regarding Mary. They teach several doctrines about Mary that are not based upon the Bible but are based upon their own tradition. It is helpful to know that they believe that the teachings of the pope and the bishops (called the magisterium), are guided and protected from error by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, they believe that their words are infallible. Furthermore, the Catholics believe that God also speaks to the church through tradition. They believe these oral teachings began with Jesus and include the teachings of the 21 general (ecumenical) councils and the teachings of the “church fathers”. They believe like three legs on a stool that the bible, tradition, and the magisterium are all necessary to guarantee sound doctrine. However, those of us who simply want to follow the bible alone as sole authority disagree with their conclusions. They actually teach that the “bible alone theory” was not believed by any one in the early church. But that it is a new idea only since the Protestant Reformation. They actually believe that using the “Bible alone” is a false idea.

However, the Bible itself refutes this Catholic dogma. (Deuteronomy 4:2; Proverbs 30:5,6; Mark 7:1-23; Matthew 15:1-20; Colossians 2:8,9; Acts 17:11; Galatians 1:6-10; II Timothy 3:16,17; Jude 3; Revelation 22:18,19) The bible is sufficient to guide us to all truth. Therefore, I want to compare and contrast some traditions of the Catholic church about Mary with what the bible says about her.

The Perpetual Virginity of Mary

Catholic dogma: “Mary conceived and gave birth to her Son without any damage to her virginity and she remained a virgin also after the birth.”1 (Denzenger’s Enchiridion Symbolorum)

Scriptures:

The perpetual virginity of Mary is a major doctrine of the Catholic church. While the Scriptures clearly teach the virgin birth of Jesus, they do not support the idea that Mary was always a virgin. For example, in Matthew 13:55-56 we read:55 “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? 56 Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” According to the logical sense of the text it must be accepted that those brothers and sisters were children of Mary and Joseph. However, the theory of Jerome, followed by the Roman Catholic church is that they were simply cousins of Jesus. Aniceto M. Sparagna has done some worth while research in the original languages concerning the different words for brothers and cousins.

1Gerald Paden, Teachings of Catholism Examined , (Lubbock: Sunset Extension School) , 26.

“We do not deny that sometimes the Hebrew word for “brother” can have several meanings, but here the question of the language is excluded, because the evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and the apostle Paul have written in Greek, a language absolutely precise, and they have all called these supposed cousins “the brethren of the Lord.” Did not they understand the distinction between the Greek term “anepsious” (cousin) and “adelphos” (brother)? It is impossible to believe such a thing when we know that Paul writing about Mark called him a cousin of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10), while speaking about James called him the brother of the Lord (Galatians 1:19). How is it then that they were so confused about such an important matter? But, fortunately for the church of Christ, the confusion is only on the side of Jerome and Roman Catholics who wanted at all costs to build up the dogma of Mary’s perpetual virginity.”2

From what I have been able to discover, Jerome’s theory was his own private theory, unheard of until his time, and in later days declared even by himself to be doubtful. It needs to be said here that there is nothing unholy about Mary and Joseph having intercourse. How could there be? Marriage was designed by God, with sex as one of its blessings. (I Corinthians 7:1-5) The notion of marriage without sex is the opposite of what the Scriptures teach. In the Old Testament the Patriarch’s were married and had children (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob). The priest’s who served in the tabernacle and the temple were married and had children as well. (Luke 1:5-25)

2Aniceto M. Sparagna, Personal Evangelism Among Roman Catholics (Joplin: College Press, 1955), 184,85

However, the Bible is careful to point out that while Mary and Joseph lived together as husband and wife during her pregnancy with Jesus, they had no sexual relations until after Jesus was born. Here is the testimony of Matthew 1:24,25:

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.
25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Furthermore, according to the earliest “fathers of the church” Jesus did have physical brothers.

“Hegesippus, a Palestinian Christian Jew of the middle of the second century, in fragments of his writing preserved in Eusebius (Hist.Eccl.,2,23) speaks of James as the “brother of the Lord’ and of Jude “called his brother according to the flesh.” Likewise Tertullian (180) plainly affirmed that the “brethren of the Lord” signified sons of Joseph and Mary, born after Jesus.”3

Mary was a virgin before the birth of Jesus and she did conceive by virtue of the Holy Spirit. However, after Jesus’ birth she lived as a normal Jewish wife and she and Joseph had several other children. (Matthew 12:46-50; Mark 6:1-5; John 7:2,3,5,10; Galatians 1:18-20; I Corinthians 9:3-5) The Catholic Church can not defend its doctrine about the perpetual virginity of Mary from the Bible; it must go outside the word of God, and as a result it ends up with a doctrine that contradicts the word of God.

3Sparagna, Personal Evangelism. , 186

Immaculate Conception

Catholic dogma: On December 8, 1854, Pope Pius IX issued the following decree: “We, by the authority of Jesus Christ, our Lord, of the Blessed Apostles, Peter and Paul and by our Own, declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the first instant of her conception, by singular privilege and grace of the omnipotent God, in consideration of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of mankind was preserved free from all stain of original sin, has been revealed by God, and therefore is to be firmly and constantly believed by all the faithful.”4

The evidence that the Catholics use to support this position is Luke 1:28.

28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Scriptures:

They teach that the expression highly favored is an allusion to her sinlessness. Some translations rather than saying highly favored say full of grace. However, our relationship with God results from God being gracious to us. Therefore we are all-full of grace. (Ephesians 1:5-8) The Immaculate Conception set forth by Pope Pius IX was an unknown doctrine to his predecessors. Moreover, sin is not something inherited it is something done. The problem is not inheriting original sin but becoming lawbreakers ourselves. Ezekiel 18:20 says this:

20 The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him.

4Tony Coffee, Once A Catholic (Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 1993), 114.

Jesus upheld the purity and innocence of little children. (Matthew 18:3-6; Matthew 19:14) Furthermore, no verse of the Bible can be quoted to show that Mary was even conceived miraculously. The bible excludes any idea that any one with the exception of Jesus is without sin.

Romans 3:10

10 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one;

Romans 3:23

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

I John 1:8

8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

Add to this the testimony of Mary. It is important how she mentions the name of God in Luke 1:46,47:

46 And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

On the testimony of Mary’s own words, she acknowledges her need for a Savior. Therefore, the Immaculate Conception of Mary is a myth that was invented hundreds of years after Mary’s death. Teaching that Mary was sinless is an effort to raise her above human standards to the level of Deity. Exalting Mary above all of God’s creatures is a way to having Mary dispense graces in behalf of her devotees. These ideas contribute to some viewing her as a co-redeemer of the Human race, and participating with her Son in ruling the world.

The Bodily Assumption of Mary

Catholic Dogma: “Finally the Immaculate Virgin, persevered free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her by her son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death.”5

Scripture:

The resurrection of Jesus and his body being taken into heaven is where Christians of any generation need to find their hope. For example the apostle Paul said these words in I Corinthians 15:20-23:

20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.
22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.
23 But each in his own turn: Christ, the first fruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.

This is a provision established by God for all humanity. How can Mary be exempted? In reading the Scriptures, we find no mention of the Assumption of Mary’s body into heaven. Obviously it was not part of anything that Jesus ever taught, nor was it a doctrine ever believed by the apostles. If these dogmas about Mary are ordained by God for Christians, why did not Paul, or Peter or one of the other inspired writers not say something about them?

5Catechism of the Catholic Church (New York: Doubleday, 1995) , 274

However, on the day of Pentecost, Peter proclaimed that Jesus had risen in victory from the dead and had ascended to the Father’s right hand in heaven.

29 “Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day.
30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne.
31 Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. (Acts 2:29-31)

Unlike Christ’s body, all other human bodies will undergo decay when we die. Every doctrine of the early church is firmly rooted in Scripture. If Mary’s body was taken directly into heaven it would have been recorded in Scripture – like that of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. Moreover, this doctrine contradicts some old tradition in the Catholic church like that expressed by the Monk Sophronius when he wrote about Mary from Jerusalem: “Many of us doubt whether she was assumed together with her body or departed without her body. How, or when, or by whom her most holy body was taken there, or where it was taken, or whether it rose again, is not known.”6

It is obvious that the Roman church will contradict some of its own traditions. It is also obvious that there is some weaknesses in their arguments about “an unbroken chain of tradition all the way back to apostolic times.

6Sparagna, Personal Evangelism. , 204

Mary as a mediator

Catholic dogma: “Mary is the perfect Orans (prayer), a figure of the church. When we pray to her, we are adhering with her to the plan of the Father, who sends his Son to save all men. Like the beloved disciples we welcome Jesus’ mother into our homes, for she has become the mother of all living. We can pray with and to her. The prayer of the church is sustained by the prayer of Mary and united with it in hope.7

Scripture:

Catholics pray to Mary and believe that she is a Mediatrix between God and mankind. However, in I Timothy 2:5, the apostle Paul says:

5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

The Bible also tells us that Jesus is adequate to meet all of our needs as our Advocate. Hebrews 7:23-25 says:

23 Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office;
24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood.
25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

I John 2:1,2 should also be considered:

1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.
2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

7Catechism. , 706

When we pray we do not have to pray to Mary or any one else. To pray to any other mediator is false worship. There is nothing that Mary can do for us that Jesus has not already promised to do. Why do we need the intercession of Mary when we have the following promises from Jesus in Matthew 7:7-11?

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
9 “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?
10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?
11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

Jesus also had a lot to say about the traditions of men in Mark 7:1-8

7:1 The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and
2 saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were “unclean,” that is, unwashed.
3 (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders.
4 When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)
5 So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with ‘unclean’ hands?”
6 He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
7 They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’
8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.”

We should not simply accept traditions if they are not firmly backed by Scripture.

I have compared traditional Catholic dogmas about Mary with scripture in this paper.

It is my purpose to remind any one who reads this that we can not find in this world an authority greater than God and his inspired word. Titus 1:2 says that God can not lie. Therefore, if we find the Bible saying one thing and tradition saying something else, the only safe thing to do is rely on the sole authority of the word of God. The worship that some give Mary is nothing more than idolatry and detracts from the true worship that we must offer to heavenly Father and His Son.


Works Cited

The Bible. New International Version.

Catechism of the Catholic Church. (New York: Doubleday), 1995

Coffee, Tony. Once A Catholic. Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 1993

Paden, Gerald. Teachings of Catholism. Lubbock: Sunset Extension School

Pillar of Fire Pillar of Truth. San Diego: Catholic Answers, 1993

Sparagna, Aniceto. Personal Evangelism Among Catholics. Joplin: College
Press, 1955.

BY: Jim Crisp