Who Wrote the Bible? 1st Edition


The Foundation of Orthodoxy and Canon

First Edition

 

INTRODUCTION

The foundation and bedrock of our existence in this world is found in Christian history. As believers in Christ Jesus, we know that our creator has made everything. The foundation of the Christian church was laid even before Jesus walked among us as a man. The covenants God made with man were to be fulfilled through His son Jesus. We will find the roots of the Old Testament shared amongst the Jews and new beginning found in Jesus in Christianity. The history of Christians is a Jewish history that is interwoven into the very fabric of all our lives. We will begin with a righteous man named Abram.

Abram

Abram held one of the most significant roles in Christian and Jewish history. Smith stated that, “He was the father of Jews. He was a righteous man with whom God personally made a pact, or covenant. God promised Abram a large family of descendants that became the nation of Hebrews, later called Israelites, and still later called the Jews. It was from his bloodline that the Messiah, the Christ, would come.”[1] In the first of the canonical gospels, the gospel of Matthew starts with the genealogy of Christ, “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”[2] Abraham had two sons, Isaac and Ishmael that hold major roles in Jewish, Christian, and the Muslim faiths. Most Christian and Jewish scholars believe that Isaac is the true heir to Abraham. Most Muslims believe that it was through Ismael that God would form a great nation and did so through Ishmael s descendant Muhammad. [3] When Abraham offered up Isaac as a sacrifice, it was through his works that his faith was made perfect, see James 2:21-24.[4] “The story of Abraham’s acquiescence to God’s command to sacrifice Isaac was used in the early Christian church as an example of faith (Heb. 11:17)[5] and of obedience (James 2:21)[6].”[7]

Jesus Christ

“Jesus was born during a time of Roman Peace, or Pax Romana.”[8] This time period of Roman rule was governed by military force. Gonzalez explains, “that Roman authorities had dealt with Judaism long enough to understand that for the most Jews their refusal to worship the emperor or the gods was not an act of rebellion against established authorities, and that such rebellion would only take place when those authorities sought to impose their gods on Jews.”[9] During this time of Roman occupation, the Jews were divided into several factions. The Zealots were a radical, warrior party that fought against Roman rule. They used violence and played an important role in the great rebellion that broke out in 66 CE.[10] The Essenes, were a monastic-like[11] group that lived in the wilderness and sought to obey the Law by withdrawing from the rest of society, of which many attribute the production of the Dead Sea Scrolls.[12] The Sadducees were the Jewish aristocracy[13] who controlled the highest Jewish governing council called the Sanhedrin.[14] The Sadducees were the political elite of the Jewish body that would be comparable in secular terms of congress to our American body of citizens. The Pharisees were the party of the populace, who did not enjoy the material benefits of Roman rule and Hellenistic civilization.[15] They were hardcore Jews that embraced the Jewish laws and rituals. “The Sadducees and Pharisees tested Jesus throughout His Ministry.”[16] In the gospel of Matthew (Matt 22:23-28) the Sadducees questioned Jesus and asked him if a woman had married her husband’s brother after her husband’s death in accordance with Mosaic Law, at resurrection whose wife shall she be?[17] Now in these verses the Sadducees did reference the wife having married seven brethren. “Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living (Matt 22:29-32).[18] This put everyone into shock, for who is this man that would silence the Sadducees? Now the Pharisees heard of this and they wanted to take their shot at challenging Jesus. In the gospel of Matthew (Matt 22:34-36) the Pharisees said, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?”[19] Jesus replied, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets (Matt 22:37-40).”[20] During this time Christ walked among us and His teachings were the foundation of the Christian church. Even though he answered the questions of the Sadducees and Pharisees and performed miracles that they could not refute nor explain they still did not believe Him to be the Son of God. The New Testament cannon was written from the acts of this time period. The people that lived then were blessed in their lives to have been witness to sermons preached from the lips of God.

Christianity begins to form

Jesus had twelve disciples who followed him and learned from his teachings. Matthew 10:2-4, “Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.”[21] There was also a thirteenth Apostle who took the place of Judas Iscariot, he is Matthias (Acts 1:15-26).[22] The New Testament canon was formed from the life of Christ and his Apostles who were commissioned to spread his teachings to the world. Lee Martin McDonald stated, “It was initially the words of Jesus in written and oral traditions that were cited and had a scripture-like status in the churches from the beginning of their circulation in the churches, but this does not mean that the Gospel containing these words or the Apostle to whom the book was attributed had reached canonical status – at least not at first. It was a word from Jesus that, when written down, became scripture-like.”[23] Christianity had to overcome major obstacles from the beginning. Gonzalez states, “The Lord whom Christians served had died on the cross, condemned as a criminal.”[24] The early Christians believed that the messianic age had begun. They believed Jesus was the Messiah and that was the main difference between Christians and the rest of Judaism. This difference in belief created a conflict in Judaism that escalated to the point that Jews persecuted Christians. Once this conflict became a nuisance and required the attention of the Romans, the Romans began to see that this Jewish sect called Christians had Gentiles among them. The Romans started to see the Christians as a new religion. “Although the Roman Empire began persecuting Christians from the time of Nero, throughout the first century the details of such persecution are scarce,” according to Gonzalez.[25] In the second century the persecution of Christians was viewed by many as acts of martyrdom. Emperor Trajan made a policy in response to correspondence with Pliny that was carried throughout the second century and part of the third, “not to seek out Christians, but still to punish them when they were brought before the authorities.”[26] The irony was that Christians were not being pursued for doing anything wrong, but if brought forward would be found in “contempt of Roman courts”[27] for not denouncing their faith and worshiping the emperor. Marcus Aurelius is seen as a refined man with an enlightened mind for his literary masterpieces[28], persecuted Christians in a very brutal and horrible way. According to George Long, “In A.D. 177, Attalus and others were put to death at Lyon for their adherence to the Christian religion. The Christians should be punished, but if they would deny their faith, they must be released. The Christians who were Roman citizens were beheaded; the rest were exposed to the wild beasts in the amphitheater. Sanctus was burnt with plates of hot iron till his body was one sore and had lost all human form; but on being put to the rack he recovered his former appearance under the torture, which was thus a cure instead of a punishment. He was afterwards torn by beasts, and placed on an iron chair and roasted. He died at last.”[29]

Christianity within the Roman Empire

In February 313 CE, Roman emperors Constantine I and Licinius formed a political agreement in Milan that permanently established religious toleration for Christianity within the Roman Empire called, the Edict of Milan.[30] This marked a huge change in Roman and Christian history. About five years after the Edict of Milan the Arian crisis began. John Hagan Jr. writes, “When Arius, a priest of Alexandria, began teaching that Jesus Christ is not God. He reasoned as follows: the biblical concept of ‘son,’ ‘begotten of the Father,’ implies a beginning of existence. Therefore the son is not eternal, but was created out of nothing – a being prior to other creatures, but a creature nevertheless, different in nature from God the Father, and adopted by God as we are.”[31] Arius was really good at promoting his ideas and persuading others to them. According to Hagan, “He set his ideas to popular drinking songs to facilitate their spread.”[32] Arias had spread his ideas like a plague and had many listening to his rhetoric, which created enough dissension amongst Christians that Emperor Constantine I started to take note. Constantine wanted to have unity and ensure that social order was maintained amongst his people, so he called a meeting and invited all the bishops of the world. This meeting was called the Council of Nicaea and was held in Nicaea (now Iznik, Turkey) in 325 CE.[33] According to Hagan, “Some 318 bishops appeared.”[34] Many of these bishops that had come to Nicaea had been persecuted years before this and still had the scars. In this group of bishops was a man named Eusebius of Nicomedia, “who was a politically powerful figure and the bishop of Constantine’s court city,” according to Hagen.[35] Hagen also points out that, when Eusebius proposed an Arian Creed, the whole council rose in furious protest against it, and tore up the heretical document. It was afterwards, when the orthodox Creed of Nicaea was placed before the council, only two Arians had the nerve to dissent.[36] Athanasius was the defender of Christian orthodoxy[37] who stood up and debated with Arius and Eusebius. Constantine I then stood up and voiced his support for the orthodox Creed of Nicaea. This was a political move by Constantine I, as his actions towards Athanasius and other Nicene leaders did not display his same support. After the Council of Nicaea had concluded Eusebius used his power of persuasion and had charges brought against Athanasius. Constantine I, had Athanasius exiled in; as did his son Constantius, Julian the Apostate, and emperor Valens. Athanasius eventually was allowed live out the remainder of his life living at the outskirts of Alexandria in peace.[38] In 318 CE, at the Council of Constantinople the Nicene Creed was reaffirmed and it also declared the Trinitarian doctrine.[39]

Closing

The New Testament canon was developed through time. The life of Jesus Christ and his teachings are now revealed to us in the Bible. We must never forget that history is real and that Jesus walked among us for us. During Jesus life, He created the New Testament and canon we now study. The Apostles that started the early church were preaching Jesus teachings as the continued to do his works that are now recorded in the canon. It took centuries before a written sacred text was to be affirmed into the form we now refer to as the Bible.

Footnotes

[1]. Carol Smith and Roddy Smith, Christian History Guidebook (Uhrichsville, OH: Barbour Publishing, 2001).

[2]. Oxford, The Holy Bible: Scofield Study Bible, KJV (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1909).

[3]. Encyclopedia Britannica Online, S.v.”Muhammad”, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/396226/Muhammad (accessed February 18, 2012).

[4]. Oxford, The Holy Bible: Scofield Study Bible, KJV.

[5]. Ibid.

[6]. Ibid.

[7]. Encyclopedia Britannica Online, S.v.”Isaac”, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/294933/Isaac (accessed February 18, 2012).

[8]. Smith and Smith, Christian History Guidebook.

[9]. Justo L. Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity: Volume 1 (New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers, 2010), 43.

[10]. Ibid., 16.

[11]. Smith and Smith, Christian History Guidebook, 43.

[12]. Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity: Volume 1, 17.

[13]. Ibid., 16.

[14]. Smith and Smith, Christian History Guidebook, 43.

[15]. Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity: Volume 1, 16.

[16]. Smith and Smith, Christian History Guidebook, 45.

[17]. Oxford, THe Holy Bible: Scofield Study Bible, KJV.

[18]. Ibid.

[19]. Ibid.

[20]. Ibid.

[21]. Ibid.

[22]. Ibid.

[23]. Lee Martin McDonald, Origin of the Bible: A Guide for the Perplexed (London, NY: T & T Clark International, 2011).

[24]. Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity: Volume 1, 16.

[25]. Ibid.

[26]. Ibid., 16.

[27]. Ibid.

[28]. Ibid., 16.

[29]. George Long, trans., Thoughts of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (http://www.gutenberg.org/files/15877/15877-h/15877-h.htm: Project Gutenberg E-book, 2005).

[30]. Encyclopedia Britannica Online, S.v.”Edict of Milan”, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/382119/Edict-of-Milan (accessed February 18, 2012).

[31]. John D Hagen Jr., The Real Story of the Council of Nicea, http://www.proquest.com/ (accessed February 18, 2012).

[32]. Ibid.

[33]. Encyclopedia Britannica Online, S.v.”Council of Nicaea”, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/413817/Council-of-Nicaea (accessed February 18, 2012).

[34]. Hagen, The Real Story of the Council of Nicea.

[35]. Hagen, The Real Story of the Council of Nicea.

[36]. Hagen, The Real Story of the Council of Nicea.

[37]. Encyclopedia Britannica Online, S.v.”Saint Athanasius”, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/40590/Saint-Athanasius (accessed February 18, 2012).

[38]. Encyclopedia Britannica Online, S.v.”Saint Athanasius”, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/40590/Saint-Athanasius (accessed February 18, 2012).

[39]. Encyclopedia Britannica Online, S.v."Council of Constantinople", http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/134014/Council-of-Constantinople (accessed February 18, 2012).

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