Church columnist: Bible Q&A — What are ‘Bible books’?
An interesting point was brought to my attention in a recent conversation. We were discussing differing perspective on what should and should not be considered Christian doctrine.
From my perspective – based on biblical teaching – only those things found in the New Testament of Christ should be held as Christian doctrine. I have pointed out, in many past articles, the importance of basing or faith and practice solely on the inspired word of God (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16, 17).
The question was raised, “yes, but whose Bible?” Whose Bible? What does that mean? There’s only one Bible, right? Well, technically, no.
Different religious groups include books that most protestant denominations and evangelicals would not recognize as “canonical books of the Bible.” A “canon” means “an authoritative list of books accepted as holy scripture.” So, maybe the question being raised would have been better put as, “whose canon”?
There are things that I do not accept as biblical truth because they cannot be established from the inspired scriptures according to what has been established to be the genuine, authoritative, Holy Spirit inspired, writings of the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20). That is, the most commonly available Bible found in most any bookstore worldwide.
Just to be clear, that is not the “canon” I accept because it is so widely available. Rather, it is so widely available because it has been so definitively established as genuine. That being the 66 books — 37 Old Testament and 29 New Testament — we most commonly refer to as the Holy Bible.
It is not within the scope of this short article to discuss all that is involved with canonical determinations. One of the most important principles, though, is biblical harmony of teaching.
There are books that are indisputably Holy Spirit inspired biblical books. Where there have been “apocryphal books,” i.e. doubtful or disputed books, that determination has been made on, among other things, the basis of contradiction and/or lack of harmony with other universally accepted books, or the “homologoumena.”
Different religious groups have often sought to establish their divergent doctrinal views based on, what most protestants or evangelicals, would consider either apocryphal, non-canonical, or outright heretical, books. If the only place a particular doctrine can be established is from such a book, then I have no problem labeling it “false.”
Of course, it is understood that I’m talking about matters of essential doctrine and not matters of nonessential judgments or opinions. Many times such “additional books of the Bible” have been written for the express purpose of introducing or defending new, unbiblical, religious systems.
Jesus, the apostles and New Testament prophets quoted extensively from nearly all of the Old Testament as we understand it, i.e. the currently accepted 37 books from Genesis to Malachi. In the New Testament, Jesus promised the apostles the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit in establishing New Testament doctrine (John 14:26; 16:13-15; Acts 2:42; 2 Peter 3:14-16).
We have — both New Testament and Old Testament — promises that the true word of God would never disappear from the earth (1 Peter 1:22-25). Shouldn’t our confidence and trust in God be that He has preserved His word for us in the form which He wants us to have it? And, we are told that we have all we need “for life and godliness” within the pages of the undisputed books of the Holy Bible (2 Peter 1:3; 2 Timothy 3:16, 17).
Here is an important question I would like to ask any who would appeal to “other” books of the Bible for their religious authority. Can I, or can I not, be saved and live the faithful Christian life by following the 66 books of the most commonly accepted Bible?
If the answer is “yes,” then why do I need any other books? If the answer is “no,” then does that mean the promised blessings contained within those books, to be received by following those book, are false?
So, in answer to the question “whose Bible” — God’s Bible! I’m going to follow God’s Bible. Nothing more, nothing less. Only in doing that can I be free from all doubt about my work and worship to the glory of my God.
One final note, I have made reference to protestant denominations and evangelicals in this article. I just want to be clear that I am not claiming to be either protestant or evangelical. The New Testament church of Christ is not protestant, Roman Catholic, evangelical, or any other “pigeon-holed” classification of Christianity.
The church of Christ is just simple, but beautiful, New Testament Christianity. Nothing more, nothing less.