Can I Trust The Bible? (Part 17)
When Satan tested Jesus in the desert by saying, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread,’ Jesus responded to him by saying, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” Think about that – the Son of God told the devil that people should live by every Word of God. So, since God has spoken and said every Word from Him should be our spiritual food, we need to make sure we have every Word of God available to us to read, study, memorize, and meditate. That is my primary motivation to knowing which Bible is the complete, finished Word of God.
In our last study, we saw that Jesus gave no authority to any other writings as Holy Scripture than those in the Masoretic Text. That includes the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms or Writings. Even though other writings were available to quote from during the time Jesus ministered on earth, He did not quote from those writings. Some of them include the books of Tobit, Judith, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, 1 Esdras, 2 Esdras, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, Baruch, Epistle of Jeremiah, Susanna, Baruch, Prayer of Azariah (and the Three Young Men), Prayer of Manasseh, and Bel and the Dragon. These books were part of the Old Testament Apocrypha included in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. The question is whether any of the books should be included in the Biblical Canon as the actual Word of God – which Jesus said every human should live by.
The “protocanonical” (meaning “belonging to the first canon”) Books of the Old Testament are the ones you will find in the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh). The Hebrew Bible has 24 Books, while most English Bibles divide those into 39 Books. The Hebrew Bible has one Book for the 12 minor prophets, while the English Bible divides it into 12 individual Books (e.g. Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah). The Hebrew Bible has one Book for Samuel, one Book for Kings, one Book for Chronicles, and one Book for Ezra and Nehemiah. English Bibles have 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah as separate Books.
The “deuterocanonical” (meaning “belonging to the second canon”) books of the Old Testament are those not included in the Hebrew Bible. The term, deuterocanonical, has been used since the 16th century AD by the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches for those books that had been contested for centuries by Christians. Even though the apocryphal books were included in the original King James Version (1611 AD) of the Bible, those books were dropped from the KJV after 1666 AD. Most Protestant versions of the Bible today do not include the apocryphal books of the Old Testament, but Catholic and Eastern Orthodox versions of the Bible include the deuterocanonical books as part of the canon of Scripture.
So, we’re back to the original question. Should I, should we as Christians, include the deuterocanonical books as the Word of God that believers should use as spiritual food for life? It’s good to remember that when Jesus and His disciples talked about the Scriptures they were referring to the Old Testament. It wasn’t until the second half of the 1st century AD that the Holy Spirit began inspiring the Apostles to write Books of the New Testament. When Peter, James, John, and Paul quote from Scripture, it is the Books of the Old Testament. That’s important to note because we can look to see if they quoted from the deuterocanonical books and referred to them as “Scripture.” They did not. While there are some quotes from deuterocanonical books that use similar words to New Testament writings, Jesus and His Apostles did not quote directly from nor mention any of them by name.
One exception that some people will bring up is 1 Enoch. Jude, a half-brother of Jesus and author of a canonical New Testament Book, did not say he was quoting from the book of 1 Enoch, but the quotes are very close.
“Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.” Jude 1:14-15
“And behold! He comes with ten thousand of His holy ones (saints) to execute judgment on all, and to destroy all the ungodly (wicked); and to convict all flesh of all the works of their ungodliness which they have ungodly committed, and of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.” 1 Enoch 1:9
My friend and fellow faith defender Joseph Lumpkin published The First and Second Books of Enoch in 2009 . Here’s what he wrote about 1 Enoch:
“Most scholars date the First Book of Enoch to sometime during the second century B.C. We do not know what earlier oral tradition, if any, the book contains. Enoch was considered inspired and authentic by certain Jewish sects of the first century B.C. and remained popular for at least five hundred years. The earliest Ethiopean text was apparently derived from a Greek manuscript of the Book of Enoch, which itself was a copy of an earlier text. The original was apparently written in the Semitic language, now thought to be Aramaic (The First and Second Books of Enoch, pg. 11, Fifth Estate Publishing, 2009)
One of the questions one might ask about 1 and 2 Enoch is who wrote it. Fragments of Enoch manuscripts found among the Dead Sea Scrolls are dated to the 2nd century BC, but no name is attached to it as the human author. According to Genesis 5, Enoch walked with God and “he was not, for God took him.” Genesis 5:22 says that Enoch walked with God 300 years after he became the father of Methuselah. Enoch had a special closeness with God during those years and God blessed Enoch by taking him to Heaven early in his life. Enoch did not have to suffer old age, disease, or death.
Enoch was for real. God revealed to Moses the Book of Genesis and in that Book Enoch is highlighted as the 7th from Adam in the lineage of Seth. The Gospel of Luke mentions Enoch in the human lineage of Jesus (Luke 3:37). The Book of Hebrews says this about Enoch: “By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, “and was not found, because God had taken him”; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God.” (Hebrews 11:5) No question about it, Enoch was for real.
The fact that Jude, being inspired by the Holy Spirit to write his letter, mentions the prophesy of Enoch demonstrates that Enoch said it because Jude presents it as a fact. It may be that Methuselah passed along the prophesy to his son Lamech and grandson Noah. Noah may have passed Enoch’s prophecy along to his children and grandchildren who passed it along to their children and grandchildren until it was finally written for people outside their families to read. Jude gave the prophesy credibility when he included it in his Letter in the context of past and future apostates.
Historically speaking, the Church has been divided about the issue of deuterocanonical books for centuries – long before the Protestant Reformation. We’ll look at that in more depth in the next part of our study and see how it impacts our decision about which Books should be included in our Bible.
In Christ’s Love and Grace,
Building Confidence Through Evidence
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”