If we are to trust and obey God absolutely, we must have a collection of words that we are certain are God’s own words to us. If there are any sections of Scripture about which we have doubts whether they are God’s words or not, we will not consider them to have absolute divine authority, and we will not trust them as much as we would trust God himself. WAYNE GRUDEM, SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY: AN INTRODUCTION TO BIBLICAL DOCTRINE, SECOND EDITION. (GRAND RAPIDS, MI: ZONDERVAN ACADEMIC, 2020), 39.
Canon – Literally means a rule or standard for testing straightness. The term is most closely associated with the collection of the 66 books of the Bible that the church has recognized as the written and inspired Word of God.
Therefore…to say we have the Canon of Scripture is to say we believe that the Holy Bible is all that God has intended us to have for His inspired Word. We will find no new letter, we will receive no new revelation, we should recognize no other books as from God Himself.
Curt Daniel, Basis Christian Doctrines, Conway AR: Free Grace Press, 2022), 55.
1. The Bible is a Unity.
Though it has many individual books in it, the Bible is a unity. It is both one book and many books. It has unity and diversity. It is basically one book, The Book. Though it has many human authors for its parts, it is primarily one book by God Himself. God used the many authors over a period of approximately 1500 years to write the Bible progressively, each building on what has already been given. Since it is an infallible unity, all parts agree. The individual authors and books ought not to be seen as contradictory, but complementary to each other.
2. The Bible Has Two Testaments.
The most obvious and significant division in the Bible is that it has two large sections known as testaments. A testament is a covenant, or holy contract between God and Man. The first is the Old Covenant. It makes up about three-fourths of the Bible, of which about a third is by Moses. It revolves around the special covenant which God made with Israel, described in the first 5 books. The rest of the O.T. shows how Israel broke that covenant and how God was preparing for a new and better covenant. The Old Testament consists of the Law, the Prophets and the Writings or Psalms (Luke 24:44). The New Testament revolves around the New Covenant which Jesus instituted to replace the Old Covenant. The N.T. consists of the 4 Gospels, Acts, the Epistles, and Revelation. The O.T. looked forward to Christ and the New Covenant, the N.T. presents Him and it.
3. The Bible Has Sixty-Six Books.
The O.T. contains 39 books, the N.T. 27. Psalms is the longest, then Isaiah. Some books are in pairs (1 and 2 Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, and several of the epistles), only 1 is a set of three (1,2,3 John). Luke and Acts form a unique pair. There is occasional overlap of content and matter (Samuel-Kings-Chronicles, the 4 Gospels, etc.). The books of the Apocrypha are not part of the Bible. Though Romanism accepts them, neither the ancient Jews nor Protestants have ever accepted them. Nor are any of the books of the Pseudepigrapha in the Bible, such as the Book of Enoch. And of course, not the Book of Mormon, or other pretended books. The canon is closed. There are no “lost books” to be found which belong in the Bible.
4. God Used Many Human Authors to Write the Bible.
Moses wrote more than any other individual, then David, Luke (Luke-Acts), Paul, John and Solomon. Other authors wrote only a single short book. Some of the most famous people in Scripture did not write a book in the Bible, such as John the Baptist, James the Apostle, Elijah, Mary, or the Lord Jesus. Some books are anonymous (such as Hebrews). All books were written by men, though two books are entirely about women (Ruth and Esther). The human authors were prophets, priests, kings, apostles, shepherds, generals, a doctor, court officials, and other occupations.
5. The Bible Was Written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.
Most of the Old Testament was written in Hebrew, the language of God’s Old Covenant people Israel. Hebrew is a Semitic language written from right to left, each word based around three consonants, with a grammar and vocabulary very different than English, but much in common with other ancient languages. Parts of Daniel and Ezra, and a few words and verses elsewhere, were written in Aramaic. Aramaic was the lingua franca of the ancient near east until superseded by Arabic. It was very similar to Hebrew. The N.T. was written in koine (common) Greek, more lofty in ideals. There are a few Latin words, too, and also a few Egyptian and others in Job.
6. God Has Preserved the Original Bible Text.
The actual original parchments and papyri have long ago perished, but the inspired Word has been preserved by God through the ages. Jesus promised that His Word would never pass away (Matt. 24:35. Cf. 5:18, 1 Pet. 1:23-25). We call this Providential Preservation. There are no lost books, sentences, words or even letters. Nor will any yet be found, otherwise they would have been lost until now. Scripture is the means of salvation and the main means of revelation in this age. Its very nature requires its preservation. Satan has tried to destroy it, but the Bible is an anvil that has worn out many hammers. There are over 5,000 Greek manuscripts and over 1000 Hebrew manuscripts of the Bible, plus ancient translations and quotations.
7. We Should Not Add to or Subtract from the Bible.
Since the Bible is a complete unity, it is very serious to tamper with it. God warns against this in Rev. 22:18-19, Deut. 4:2, 12:32, Pro.30:6. Some English translations are based on the minority of ancient manuscripts which are faulty. They tend to subtract portions such as Mark 16:9-20. A few ancient manuscripts tend to add to the real text, such as the Codex Bezae. But the vast majority of manuscripts agree almost in complete detail, so it is wisest to stick to the middle and neither add to on the right side or subtract from on the left side. Nor may we substitute other words.
8. The Bible Was First Translated into Ancient Languages.
Probably the first translation was when Jews in Egypt translated the Old Testament into Greek sometime around 200 B.C. This is known as the Septuagint. Other Greek translations followed. The Jews also produced paraphrased translations of most of the O.T. into Aramaic, known as Targums. Most were done after the time of Jesus. The Samaritans translated the Pentateuch into their language, with alterations. In the early church, there were early translations into Latin, Syriac, Coptic, Gothic, Armenian, Georgian, Ethiopic and Arabic. Some were better than others, and all are useful for study by scholars.
9. There Have Been Many English Translations of the Bible.
There have been more translations of the Bible into English than into any other language. First there were bits and pieces by Bede and medieval monks. Then John Wycliffe translated the Bible from the Latin in the 14th century. William Tyndale translated the NT from Greek and was working on the OT during the Reformation. The 16th century saw many other fine translations, especially the Geneva Bible. The Authorized Version of 1611, known as the King James Version, has been the most popular one in history, even with its various slight revisions. Major revisions included the Revised Version, the American Standard Version, the Revised Standard Version, the New American Standard Version, and the New Revised Standard Version, the New King James Version, and the New International Version. There have also been Jewish and Catholic translations. Overall, over 100 translations have appeared. (Pastor Beck’s Favorites – King James (KJV), New King James (NKJV), New American Standard (NASB), and the English Standard Version (ESV)
10. The Bible is God’s Word about Himself.
The Bible is the Book of God. It was inspired by God, written by God through the instrumentality of various human authors, and is primarily about God. It is God’s verbal revelation of Himself to us. It talks about Man, salvation, animals, the cosmos and other topics, but mainly about God. Its ethics come from God. Its stories tell how God has worked in history. Its songs sing to and about God. Specifically, it is a book about Jesus, the only mediator between God and Man. Praise God for His Word.