Misconceptions on the Origin of the New Testament

A primary attack against divine Bible origin is that the books of the New Testament were agreed upon (canonized) by men hundreds of years after the books were written. Actually, the fathers of the early Christian church reveal that most of the New Testament books were accepted as scripture almost immediately. For instance, in 2 Peter 3:16, the writer takes for granted that Paul’s letters were already considered inspired scripture on the same level as the Old Testament. In 1Timothy 5:18, Paul joins an Old Testament reference and a New Testament reference and calls them both Scripture. The need for official canonization of the New Testament scriptures only came about because of certain heresies that were being spread throughout the church starting in the mid to late second century. For instance, Marcion created his own religion by only teaching from ten of Paul’s letters and certain portions of Luke. In addition, the Gnostics, especially in Alexandria, were introducing new “secrets” to the standard Christian doctrine, including new gospel accounts altogether.

For the church leaders in the mid second century, the four Gospels were baseline authority in their teachings. In about 170 AD, Irenaeus cited 23 of the 27 New Testament books, omitting only Philemon, James, 2 Peter and 3 John. The Muratorian fragment, written about the same time, attests to the widespread use of all the New Testament books except Hebrews, James, 1 Peter and 2 Peter. However, other church fathers had already cited those omitted books in various writings defending against Gnostic doctrines. The Codex Barococcio from 206 AD includes 64 of the 66 books of today’s Bible. Esther and Revelation were omitted, but they had already been declared as inspired scripture by Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement, Tertullian and the Muratorian Canon. In 230 AD, Origen declared that all Christians acknowledged as scripture the four Gospels, Acts, the epistles of Paul, 1 Peter, 1 John and Revelation.

By the early 300’s, all of the New Testament books were being used in the mainstream church body. In 367 AD, Athanasius formally circulated the Easter Letter that listed all 27 books as canonical. The Synod of Hippo (393 AD) and the third Synod of Carthage (397 AD) also recognized these 27 books as canonical. In addition, during this time, the highly influential church fathers, Jerome (340-420 AD) and Augustine (354-430 AD) published their lists of 27 books completing the New Testament.

It’s important to remember that the canon of the New Testament was not the result of any pronouncement by any official of the church or any organizational body. Rather, the canon was determined by the authoritative use of these books right from the start by the rapidly expanding church of the first and second centuries. The New Testament canon was merely a process of formal recognition of already recognized scripture, to defend against the various forms of Gnosticism and heresy that were starting to creep throughout the ever-expanding church.

Another point to consider is that everyone has a choice as to whether they will accept what they see to be true and then act on that truth. The process is not difficult but the decision to follow the conclusion of the process can be difficult because often it means changing the direction on the path that we have been walking on. Recorded history teaches us that we (humanity as a whole) do not learn from the lessons that history teaches us because the very nature of man has remained constant to this very day. I cannot answer for all of humanity, I can only examine the evidence and come to a conclusion with respect to my own heart and then make a decision. Many years ago I did examine the evidence, considered the world as I then understood it and took into account the words recorded in the Bible, in concert with the witness I could see from Christians that I had come to know. Then one night I got down on my knees and accepted the unwarranted grace extended to me by God the Father and asked our Lord Jesus to do to me what He said He would do, live in me through His Spirit, forgive me, love me, and open my eyes and heart to His reality and His truth. I adhere to doctrine but doctrine is not the reason I have come to love His presence, His presence in me and in countless others who have opened their hearts to Him. It is my relationship with Him and His relationship with me that continues to draw me to Him to this very day. I have learned that just because we want something does not in itself make it an instant reality. Would I love world peace, who in their right mind would not but until humanity in total overcomes the characteristics of human nature (i.e. greed, mistrust, lust etc) that history has so often displayed, even to this day, that will not happen.

Remember Jesus said in Matthew 24:6, 13-14, “And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. 13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations: and then shall the end come.”

This is the reality that Jesus spoke of and the reality that I see today. Until the heart of man (collectively or individually) comes to the realization that our own attempts, as varied as they be (and Eckhart Tolle’s teachings are just one of many), are destined to fail because in essence, what we have is the blind leading the blind. Consider the following:

In the Book of Isaiah, we find these words in chapter 55, verses 8 and 9, spoken through Isaiah, the prophet:
“My thoughts are completely different from yours,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

When Jesus died on the cross, the curtain that separated the temple area from the Holy of Holies was rent from the top to the bottom. The Holy of Holies represented, among other things, our ability to have direct communion with God. Jesus’ death and resurrection was and is God the Father’s method of restoring that communion. Notice the direction of the tear. If it was possible and acceptable and fair for all, regardless of circumstances, it would not have been necessary for Jesus to die and the curtain that separated the temple area from the Holy of Holies would or could have been removed by us by tearing it from the bottom to the top. This revelation is God’s chosen way, Jesus is the way and I for one have examined, acknowledged and taken action to accept His offer. My wish, my hope is that all of humanity would do likewise, but there are many who would rather attempt it by methods conceived in their own minds.

Trust is a strange thing. When it all comes down to it, somewhere along the line we make a choice with trusting something or someone. When I sit in a chair I trust that it will support my weight. How do I know that, well I have examined the chair, it appears to be able to support my weight and when I have tested it and sat in it, it does support my weight. Therefore, I trust the chair to support my weight.

Likewise I have placed my trust in God’s Revelation about my nature, God’s remedy and God’s end plan. Do I understand it all thoroughly, nope, not even close, but, and this is the important part, what I have examined, what I have tested and what I have learned along the way gives me great confidence that He in whom I have placed my trust in, will honor His word.

When Jesus was teaching the disciples, little children came along and ran up to Jesus. The disciples went to send them away but Jesus stopped them and used this situation to teach them an important lesson.

Matt. 18:3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Mark 10:15 Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.

Luke 18:17 Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.

A little child’s trust is a beautiful thing to see (ask any parent or grandparent), but the reality of a child’s trust is relatively straight forward, they either do or they don’t. For a child, trust is not a complicated issue that must be considered every time they are given an opportunity to exercise it. Once again, they either do or they don’t. I am not saying it is wrong to examine, because it is not, but in the end, after examination, after consideration, there comes a moment of truth, do we act on it or do we not.

Consider this final quote…

As Paul penned it to the Corinthians:
“ The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.’ “Where is the wise” Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe.”