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WORD OF GOD
CANONIZATION OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
Victor M. Eskew
A. Today, we have a book called the Bible which contains 66 books, 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament.
B. These books are known as “the canon.”
1. Cannon: from a Greek term meaning “rule” or “measuring stick”
2. These are the books that are considered to be inspired of God. Thus, they are authoritative.
3. The books of the Bible form a “closed canon,” which means they cannot be added to or removed.
C. As we study this topic, we need to consider the canonization of the Old Testament, then the canonization of the New Testament.
D. We will also have two additional lessons, one on the Septuagint Version and one on The Apocrypha.
A. The word “scripture” is an important term in the Bible.
1. It is only found once in the Old Testament (Dan. 10:21).
But I will show thee that which is noted in the scripture of truth…
2. It is found fifty-two times in the New Testament.
B. When this term is used, it refers to the authoritative writings from God.
C. There are two Greek words that are translated “scriptures.”
a. A document, a writing
b. Holy writ or a section of Holy Scripture
a. Definition: a writing, a document, sacred writings (of the OT)
b. It is found twice referring to inspired writings (writings, John 5:47 and scriptures, II Tim. 3:15).
D. A few examples:
1. Jesus appealed to the authority of the Scriptures.
a. Matthew 21:42
Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the Scriptures…
b. John 5:39
Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.
2. Paul used the Scriptures to prove his message.
a. Acts 17:2
And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures.
b. Acts 18:28
And he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publically, showing by the Scriptures that Jesus was Christ.
3. The Old Testament Scriptures needed to the fulfilled and were being fulfilled in the life of Christ and during the first century (Matt. 26:54, 56; Mark 14:49; 15:28; Luke 4:21; John 13:18; 17:12; 19:24, 28, 36; Acts 1:16; James 2:23).
4. Interesting statements about the Scriptures:
a. The Scriptures cannot be broken (John 10:35).
b. The Scriptures were compared to what the apostles taught (Acts 17:11).
c. Holy Scriptures (Rom. 1:2).
d. Patience, comfort, and hope are found in the Scriptures (Rom. 15:4).
e. Death and resurrection of Jesus were according to the Scriptures (I Cor. 15:3-4).
f. The Scriptures are knowable (II Tim. 3:15).
g. The Scriptures were given by inspiration (II Tim. 3:16).
h. The Scriptures are not of any private interpretation (II Pet. 1:20).
i. The unlearned and unstable wrested the Scriptures to their own destruction (II Pet. 3:18).
5. What we learn:
a. A canon existed in the first century.
b. The canon, referred to as Scripture, was seen as an authority, a rule.
II. THREEFOLD DIVISIION OF THE OLD TESTAMENT CANON
A. Because Moses was the initial giver of the Law, the Old Testament is sometimes referred to as the Law of Moses (Josh. 8:32; 23:6; I Kings 2:3; Neh. 8:1; Dan. 9:11; Mal. 4:4; Luke 2:22; John 7:23; I Cor. 9:11).
And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate: and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded to Israel.
B. Moses wrote the first five books of the Old Testament, the Pentateuch or Torah. The other books were penned by prophets. Thus, the Old Testament is also referred to as the law and the prophets (John 1:45; Acts 13:15; 24:14; 28:23; Rom. 3:21).
Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.
C. The poetic books were unique in their style. Thus, they were separated into a division by themselves (Luke 24:44).
And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.
III. THE BEGINNING OF CANONIZATION AND NEAR THE END
A. The Law of Moses
1. A copy of the Law of Moses was placed into the ark of the covenant (Deut. 31:9, 24-26).
And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests the sons of Levi, which bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and unto all the elders of Israel…and it came to pass when Moses made an end of writing the word of this law in a book, until they were finished, that Moses commanded the Levites which bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, saying, Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there for a witness against them.
2. The kings of Israel were also ordered to write a copy of the Law of Moses, and they were to keep it with them (Deut. 17:18).
And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites.
3. NOTE: It was the tribe of Levi, the priestly tribe, that was responsible for the preservation of the Law of Moses.
B. The Septuagint version of the Bible was completed.
1. The Septuagint Version is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament.
2. The word “Septuagint” means 70, referring to the 70+ translators who completed this work.
3. The Greek King of Egypt, Ptolemy II Philadelphus was the one who authorized the translation.
4. It was begun in the third century B.C. and was fully completed by 132 BC.
5. The Septuagint contains the 39 books of the Old Testament that we have today.
6. It also contains numerous other works that have been rejected from the canon such as the Apocrypha.
7. The books of Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and Esther were the last to be recognized as canonical. The Jews regarded them as authoritative as early as 100 B.C.
C. Remember that Jesus and the New Testament writers often referred to “the Scriptures,” a body of Old Testament writings that were considered to be inspired (II Tim. 3:16) and authoritative (John 10:35).
1. Jesus quoted from 24 Old Testament books.
2. The New Testament quotes from 29 Old Testament books.
3. The Old Testament is quoted 855 times in the New Testament (See www.blueletterbible.org/study/pnt/pnt08.cfm).
4. The total number of New Testament references and allusions to the Old Testament has been numbered as high as 4,105.
5. Twenty-one New Testament books quote the Old Testament. Four of the six that do not quote the Old Testament allude to Old Testament personalities or passages.
6. All 39 books of the Old Testament are connected to one of the three divisions we discussed earlier: law, prophets, and psalms.
a. When a book from one of the divisions is quoted, it confirms the entire section.
b. All three sections are confirmed by the New Testament.
A. Because the Old Testament is confirmed so well by Jesus and the New Testament writers, Christians can easily accept the authority of the Old Testament.
B. The criteria for the canonization of the Old Testament books are similar to that of the New Testament. We will get into the specifics of criteria in the canonization of the New Testament.