This is Part 4 of 9 parts answering the basic and very important question, “What does Canonicity mean and why is it important?” Parts 5-9 will be posted on succeeding days.
Before we jump into the question regarding guidelines that men used to acknowledge what was Old Testament Canon, let’s review Canonicity: Canonicity Discovered and Distinctions.
- God determines Canon, the church discovers Canon.
- God is the Author of Canon, the church is the recipient of Canon.
- God is the Judge of Canon, the church is the witness of Canon.
- God is the Master of Canon, the church is servant of Canon.
We first noted how the Lord Jesus considered Scripture (see previous post from yesterday). Now let’s look at how men were involved in acknowledging what was true about Scripture. How did the church discover canonicity (What guidelines did they follow)?
The first major principle was – “Is it authoritative and did it come with the authority of God?” Could it be said of the book as was said of Jesus in Mark 1:22,” And they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” (Mark 1:22 NKJ) Does the book have the authority of Truth and absolute authority over behavior? Let’s note several thoughts.
First, does it come with a divine origin as in “Thus says the Lord…”? This is how many books were accepted. Other books were rejected by the absence of authority, like the Pseudepigrapha (For example, books like the book of Jubilee, the Letter of Aristeas, the Book of Adam and Eve, the Martyrdom of Isaiah, 1 & 2 Enoch, 3 & 4 Maccabees, Psalm 151,…). These were often magical and their shallow pretentions were not Sovereign intentions. These guidelines were used for books which were doubted like Esther. The book of Esther was doubted, because the name of God does not occur in the book.
Secondly, does it declare and reveal the work of God in people. The book of Joshua is a primary example of this,
7 “Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. 8 “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. (Josh 1:7-8 NKJ)
When Joshua knew that he was approaching his death, he continued this charge to the following generation,
Therefore be very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, lest you turn aside from it to the right hand or to the left, (Josh. 23:6 NKJ)
This charge was consistent with the charge that David gave to his son Solomon, “And keep the charge of the LORD your God: to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgments, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn.” (1 Kings 2:3 NKJ) Note also 2 Kings 14:6; 21:8; 23:25; Ezra 6:18; Neh. 13:1 Dan. 9:11; Mal. 4:4 for Moses. The point is that there is consistency throughout Scripture.
Thirdly, is it prophetic, that is was it written by a man of God? Peter recorded for us,
20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. (2 Pet. 1:20-21 NKJ)
God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, (Heb. 1:1 NKJ)
These men who were carried along by the Holy Spirit recorded Divine revelation of Truth and prophecies along with their fulfillment. Additionally, a book was judged as to whether or not it was genuinely written by the stated author in the mainstream of redemptive revelation.
24 So it was, when Moses had completed writing the words of this law in a book, when they were finished, 25 that Moses commanded the Levites, who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying: 26 “Take this Book of the Law, and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there as a witness against you; (Deut. 31:24-26 NKJ)
After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, it came to pass that the LORD spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying…”: (Josh. 1:1 NKJ) Joshua continued the Divine writing that Moses had begun giving us a thread of consistency.
So how did the gathered men see the Divine nature of the text? That will be posted tomorrow in Part 5.