This is Part 3 of 9 parts answering the basic and very important question, “What does Canonicity mean and why is it important?” Parts 4-9 will be posted on succeeding days.
The Canon of the Old Testament.
Before we consider what made books of the Old Testament canonical or Canon, let’s review several notes regarding canonicity.
Canonicity is determined by God. It is the determination for authority in life. Both canonicity and authority are recognized by men of God. Men do not determine anything. All men can do is recognize what God has done. A book is canonical because it is inspired. Edward J. Young, an English Theologian, wrote,
When the Word of God was written it became Scripture and, in as much as it had been spoken by God, it possessed absolute authority. Since it was the Word of God, it was canonical. That which determines the canonicity of a book, therefore, is the fact that the book is inspired of God. Hence a distinction is properly made between the authority which the Old Testament possesses as divinely inspired, and the recognition of that authority on the part of Israel. Quoted in “The Canon of the Old Testament,” ”Revelation and the Bible” Carl F. H. Henry p. 156.
How do we understand what is the Old Testament Canon?
First, Jesus taught that God was the Originator of the Old Testament. He quoted from most of the twenty-two books of the Hebrew canon (The Old Testament, which has 39 books in our English Bible, but has 22 books in the Hebrew Bible as several books are grouped together and considered as one book). He considered every section as canon. For example, He used the term “Law and Prophets,” And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” (Luke 24:27 NKJ) The term “Moses and all the Prophets” refers to the Law of Moses (the first five books of the Old Testament) and the prophets who recorded Scripture. Jesus also used the term “Law, Prophets, and Psalms, “Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” (Luke 24:44 NKJ) He stated these were prophetic of Him signifying they were inspired by God and therefore authoritative as Truth.
The Lord Jesus also declared that inspiration extended from Genesis through Chronicles, “…that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.” (Matt. 23:35 NKJ) Abel is from the beginning of the book of Genesis and the death of the prophet Zechariah is recorded in 2 Chronicles 24, which is toward the end of the last book of the Hebrew Bible – 2 Chronicles. Hence, Jesus included the beginning of the Old Testament Bible to its end in His teaching.
The Lord Jesus used the Old Testament in order to open the minds of the disciples to understand Him, “Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” (Luke 24:44 NKJ) He taught that all of the Old Testament pointed to Him and that they were recorded for our learning about Him.
Secondly, the Lord Jesus asserted that the Old Testament was a whole unit and was unbreakable, that is, could not be divided into parts. He said,
Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, `I said, “You are gods “‘? 35 “If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken).” (John 10:34-35 NKJ)
Thirdly, the Lord Jesus authenticated people and events of the Old Testament. For example He quoted from Adam’s comment in the Garden of Eden, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?” (Matt. 19:5 NKJ) He declared the historicity of the prophet Jonah, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matt. 12:40 NKJ) He affirmed Daniel the prophet by quoting from Daniel’s prophecy, “Therefore when you see the `abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place ” (whoever reads, let him understand).” (Matt. 24:15 NKJ) He verified Noah as a real character and not a mystical story, “They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.” (Luke 17:27 NKJ) And He declared the real destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, “”…but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all.” (Luke 17:29 NKJ)
The Old Testament was declared inspired by the Lord Jesus, so let’s look next at the guidelines godly men chose which books of the Old Testament were Canon.
Part 4 will be posted tomorrow.