The Canon of Scripture
The Canon of Scripture
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Table of Contents

1. Debates, conundrums, and essential principles

…To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

– Isaiah 8:20

The thesis of this book - the Bible is self-authenticating

It is the thesis of this volume that the Bible should be the axiomatic1 starting point and ending point for all Christian doctrine,2 including the doctrine of canon.3 It will seek to prove the Protestant doctrine that “only God can identify His word,”4 and that He did so through the very prophets who gave us the Scriptures. In other words, if God’s Word is the highest authority in our lives, there can be no higher authority to which we can appeal in order to prove the doctrine of canon. I will seek to prove that the Bible’s self-referential statements are sufficient to completely settle the question of canonicity and that this presuppositional approach to canonicity is the only adequate approach that will stand up against all criticism. Too many modern approaches to canonicity have unwittingly eviscerated the Bible of its ultimate authority.

The study of canon is not a neutral subject. It either flows from a faithful commitment to the Bible’s total authority or it of necessity substitutes another competing authority (such as Tradition, Councils, Pope, Koran, imam, personal opinion, etc) with disastrous consequences.

The Reformation position

The church has no authority to determine the canon

The thesis just stated has been the historic position of Protestantism.5 The Westminster Larger Catechism crystallizes the issue at stake when it states that the Bible is “the only rule of faith and obedience.”6 Consistent Protestants have applied this rigid criterion to the doctrine of canon as well as textual criticism.7 This means that the Scriptures must be self-authenticating in some way, not determined or approved by the church. This is the fundamental difference between the Reformation Churches on the one hand and both the Roman Catholic Church8 and the Eastern Orthodox Church9 on the other hand. Rome and Eastern Orthodoxy say that the church determines the canon of Scripture and that the church has authority over Scripture. But as J.I. Packer responded,

The church no more gave us the New Testament canon than Sir Isaac Newton gave us the force of gravity. God gave us gravity, by His work of creation, and similarly He gave the New Testament canon, by inspiring the individual books that make it up.10

There can be no higher authority by which Scripture is judged or the Scripture would cease to be the highest authority.

The doctrine of canon must not contradict the doctrine of Sola Scriptura

This stance on canon is the only position that is consistent with the Reformation teaching on Sola Scriptura. The doctrine of Sola Scriptura is perhaps the most foundational doctrine of the Protestant Reformation, and as the Reformers themselves demonstrated, it was the most foundational teaching of the catholic (or universal) church of the first few centuries.11 Sola Scriptura is a Latin phrase that means “Scripture alone,” and refers to the Reformation doctrine that the Bible is the only infallible authority for any area of life and that it is a sufficient revelation to know how to fully glorify God in every area of life - including how to recognize the canon. As Scripture words it, the Christian is called “not to think beyond what is written” in the Bible (1 Corinthians 4:6), and this Bible gives us “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3) and is sufficient for doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness and gives to us all other necessary information needed to make the man of God “complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:15-17). After listing the sixty-six books of the Bible, the Westminster Confession of Faith stated the doctrine of Sola Scriptura this way:

The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture; unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. (WCF I.6)

This statement claims that:

  1. The Bible contains all the divine words needed to know how to glorify God in every area of faith and life.
  2. That nothing beyond the Bible (whether traditions of men or claims to new revelation from God) can be used to settle doctrine or to authoritatively show how to glorify God in faith and life.
  3. That the use of logical deduction from the Scripture is not a violation of the previous two principles (since logic itself is embedded in the Bible).
  4. That the canon of Scripture has already been closed.

Modern Protestant approaches to canon are inadequate

Modern Protestants have often abandoned Sola Scriptura in their defence of Scripture

But while historic Protestants have held that we must not abandon Sola Scriptura while defending the canon, many modern Protestants have been at a loss on how to exegetically defend this presuppositional12\ approach to canonicity. The moment they begin to appeal to evidence that is outside the Bible to demonstrate that a book belongs in the Bible, they are inconsistently acting as if there is a higher standard by which that book can be judged. We Protestants believe that the 39 books of the Jewish Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament are the only books that belong in the Bible. We reject the apocrypha and claim that this official list of 66 Biblical books is our completed “canon.”

But it is precisely at this point that Roman and Eastern Orthodox apologists insist that Protestants are inconsistent. Indeed, the modern Protestant failure to use Scripture alone to defend the canon of the Scripture is said to be the Achille’s Heel13 of Protestantism. I have listened to dozens of debates between Roman Catholics and Protestants and I have sadly watched the Protestant leaders go down in flames. Why? Because they abandoned the Reformation principles of Sola Scriptura in their debate on canon. When Christians appeal to an authority outside of Scripture for canon, textual criticism, hermeneutics, ethics, church polity, etc., they have already lost the battle. It is my contention that Protestants need to return to the ancient doctrine of Sola Scriptura or they will be vulnerable to the apologetics of Romanists and/or the Eastern Orthodox.

The primary purpose of this book is to show how the first two summary statements on Sola Scriptura (see above) can consistently be applied to the study of canon. Indeed, it is only as we do so that anyone can have an adequate basis for the topic of canon. But before I demonstrate the exegetical basis for this, there are several objections to Sola Scriptura that I will seek to refute:

Some have had misguided reasons to reject the use of Sola Scriptura in the defense of canon

Is an appeal to logic an appeal to an authority outside of Holy Scripture?

It is sometimes assumed that an appeal to logic is an appeal to an authority or a philosophy outside of Scripture and therefore contradicts the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. Specifically with regard to canon, it might be thought that the logical deductions14 that will be employed in this book are inconsistent with Sola Scriptura. However, that is clearly not the case since logic is embedded in the Scripture and cannot be avoided without avoiding the Scriptures themselves.15 Because logic is embedded in Scripture itself, the Westminster Larger Catechism saw failure to use logic as a form of ethical rebellion.16 Scripture also assumes that God made logic to be part of man’s innate reasoning powers. John Frame has shown how it is impossible to do theology, to apply Scripture to our lives, to understand the reasoning of Scripture, to communicate or even to have assurance of salvation apart from logic. To quote him at length.

One may not, however, do theology or anything else in human life without taking account of those truths that form the basis of the science of logic. We cannot do theology if we are going to feel free to contradict ourselves or to reject the implications of what we say. Anything that we say must observe the law of noncontradiction in the sense that it must say what it says and not the opposite…

When we see what logic is, we can see that it is involved in many biblical teachings and injunctions.

(i) It is involved in any communication of the Word of God. To communicate the Word is to communicate the Word as opposed to what contradicts it (1 Tim. 1:3ff; 2 Tim. 4:2f.). Thus the biblical concepts of wisdom, teaching, preaching, and discernment presuppose the law of non-contradiction.

(ii) It is involved in any proper response to the Word. To the extent that we don’t know the implications of Scripture, we do not understand the meaning of Scripture. To the extent that we disobey the applications of Scripture, we disobey Scripture itself. God told Adam not to eat the forbidden fruit. Imagine Adam replying, “Lord, you told me not to eat it, but you didn’t tell me not to chew and swallow!” God would certainly have replied that Adam had the logical skill to deduce “You shall not chew and swallow” from “You shall not eat.” In such a way, the biblical concepts of understanding, obeying, and loving presuppose the necessity of logic.

(iii) Logic is involved in the important matter of assurance of salvation. Scripture teaches that we may know that we have eternal life (1 John 5:13). The Spirit’s witness (Rom 8:16ff.) plays a major role in this assurance; but that witness does not come as a new revelation, supplementing the canon, as it were. So where does the information that I am a child of God come from - information to which the Spirit bears witness? It comes from the only possible authoritative source, the canonical Scriptures. But how can that be, since my name is not found in the biblical text? It comes by application of Scripture, a process that involves logic. God says that whosoever believes in Christ shall be saved (John 3:16). I believe in Christ. Therefore I am saved. Saved by a syllogism? Well, in a sense, yes. If that syllogism were not sound, we would be without hope. (Of course, the syllogism is only God’s means of telling us the good news!) Without logic, then, there is no assurance of salvation.

(iv) Scripture warrants many specific types of logical argument. The Pauline Epistles, for instance, are full of “therefores.” Therefore indicates a logical conclusion. In Romans 12:1 Paul beseeches us, “Therefore, by the mercies of God.” The mercies of God are the saving mercies that Paul has described in Romans 1-11. Those mercies furnish us with grounds, reasons, premises for the kind of behavior described in chapters 12-16. Notice that Paul is not merely telling us in Romans 12 to behave in a certain way. He is telling us to behave in that way for particular reasons. If we claim to obey but reject those particular reasons for obeying, we are to that extent being disobedient. Therefore Paul is requiring our acceptance not only of a pattern of behavior but also of a particular logical argument. The same thing happens whenever a biblical writer presents grounds for what he says. Not only his conclusion but also his logic is normative for us. If, then, we reject the use of logical reasoning in theology, we are disobeying Scripture itself…

(v) Scripture teaches that God himself is logical. In the first place, His Word is truth (John 17:17), and truth means nothing if it is not opposed to falsehood. Therefore His Word is noncontradictory. Furthermore, God does not break His promises (2 Cor. 1:20); He does not deny himself (2 Tim. 2:13); He does not lie (Heb. 6:18; Tit. 1:2). At the very least, those expressions mean that God does not do, say, or believe the contradictory of what He says to us. The same conclusion follows from the biblical teaching concerning the holiness of God. Holiness means that there is nothing in God that contradicts His perfection (including His truth). Does God, then, observe the law of noncontradiction? Not in the sense that this law is somehow higher than God himself. Rather, God is himself noncontradictory and is therefore himself the criterion of logical consistency and implication. Logic is an attribute of God, as are justice, mercy, wisdom, knowledge. As such, God is a model for us. We, as His image, are to imitate His truth, His promise keeping. Thus we too are to be noncontradictory.

Therefore the Westminster Confession of Faith is correct when it says (l, vi) that the whole counsel of God is found not only in what Scripture explicitly teaches but also among those things that “by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture.” This statement has been attacked even by professing disciples of Calvin, but it is quite unavoidable. If we deny the implications of Scripture, we are denying Scripture…

I would therefore recommend that theological students study logic, just as they study other tools of exegesis. There is great need of logical thinking among ministers and theologians today. Invalid and unsound arguments abound in sermons and theological literature. It often seems to me that standards of logical cogency are much lower today in theology than in any other discipline. And logic is not a difficult subject. Anyone with a high school diploma and some elementary knowledge of mathematics can buy or borrow a text like I.M. Copi, Introduction to Logic and go through it on his own…17

In several of his books, Gordon Clark has shown that this innate power to logically reason and discourse is the “image of God” in man.18 It is not something alien that we impose on Scripture. Christ the Logos19 (John 1; 1 John 1:1) is the common Author of both since He not only gave Scripture, but also “gives light to every man who comes into the world” (John 1:9). It is this innate grasp of logic that enables man (with effort) to perceive Scriptural argument just as the rules of language are innate and enable us (with effort) to perceive the grammatical forms of the text.20 It is true that the noetic effects of sin make us very prone to error in our use of logic. But this just makes our study of logic that much more important if we are to grow in our understanding of ethics.

In any case, if logic is both innate and embedded in Scripture, there is no violation of Sola Scriptura to appeal to those Scriptural rules of logic.

Is this book engaged in the fallacy of circular reasoning?

Others have objected that the Reformation’s approach to canonicity was an example of the fallacy of circular reasoning.21 While this is technically not an example of petitio principii (since the terms in the premises are not identical to the terms in the conclusion), it still gives the appearance of circularity. My response to this non-technical use of circularity is twofold: First, ultimate authority is always circular by nature or it ceases to be the ultimate authority.22 As Hebrews 6:13 says, “For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself.” God’s swearing by Himself is a form of circularity, but it is an unavoidable characteristic of any claim to ultimate authority.

Second, to make an argument for canon that implicitly makes the creature the ultimate authority is not only self-defeating, but also irrational. It is self-defeating in that it is seeking to prove that a canon of Scripture is the ultimate authority while appealing to another source of authority as more ultimate. It is irrational not only because of the inconsistency of the previous point, but also because it jettisons the consistency of a coherent “circle.” This is the difference between arguing in a coherent circle and arguing in a vicious circle.23 Thus, to fully appreciate the significance of this volume, it is helpful to study Presuppositional Apologetics.24

Some have abandoned Sola Scriptura by using additional criteria by which to reject the apocryphal and pseudepigraphal books

But even those who agree with the previous paragraphs might still be puzzled about how we know which books are truly canonical. If archaeologists found the “lost” letter mentioned in 1 Corinthians 5:9, should it be included in the Bible? And if so, who would make that determination? How do we know that Esther is part of Scripture? What should we think about the Apocryphal books in the Roman Catholic Bible? Is the canon closed? How do we know? How do we know that any of the books of the Old and New Testaments are really Scripture?

Some Protestant theologians have felt the pressure of these questions and have developed elaborate criteria by which to judge whether a book should be included in the canon, but almost all of these criteria have come under serious criticism.25 For example, if the “antiquity” rule is correct, how could people have accepted the writings of Moses the moment they were written? Obviously no book of the Bible met the “antiquity” rule for the first people who used those books as Scripture. Furthermore, this rule assumes without proof the closing of the canon. While this book will exegetically defend the closing of the canon in AD 70, it is the Scripture alone which can grant such an assumption. One arbitrary rule often given is that all New Testament books must have been written by an apostle or approved by an apostle. But how can it be proved that the non-apostolic books of Mark, Luke, Acts, Hebrews,26 James, and Jude were approved by an apostle? And for that matter, how could the text be said to be inspired if it was uninspired while it was being written by Luke and then subsequently inspired when the apostle approved it? That violates the Biblical definition of inspiration that we will look at later in this book and contradicts this book’s evidence that inscripturation was tightly connected with the prophetic office. Another objection that has been raised is that it seems strange to apply different criteria to the New Testament than would be applied to the Old Testament, and vice versa. Who has the right to answer these questions? Why were so many inspired books excluded from the canon of Scripture during Old Testament times, even though these books were clearly written by inspired contemporary prophets like Samuel (1 Sam. 10:25), Solomon (1Kings 4:32), and many others?27 Obviously inspiration is not the sole criterion for canonicity, or many more books would have been included in the canon. Again, abandoning Sola Scriptura by adding man-made tests complicates the situation rather than resolving it. Once the reader understands the self-referential statements given in the Bible, they will instantly recognize that no additional tests are needed.

False dilemma of individual judgment versus corporate judgment

But our application of Sola Scriptura to the issue of canonicity should not be taken as an individualistic decision. This is frequently the charge brought against Protestants by both Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox. However, the Reformers believed that to leave the judgment of canonicity to each individual person would be both unbiblical and self-destructive. For an individual to determine what they think is (or is not) Scripture would be to place man as a judge of Scripture and ultimately as a judge of God. Though Luther was troubled by the book of James, he seemed to recognize that his personal opinions could not be the criteria for what is or is not canonical.

On the other hand, if the decision is a corporate decision, we need to ask the question, “Which group gets to decide?” The Samaritans and Sadducees28 only accepted the first five books of the Old Testament. The Alexandrian Jews may have added some apocryphal books,29 while the Essenes may have added some and excluded others.30 The Pharisees accepted the same books that the Protestants now accept, but what makes their view authoritative? Even if we agreed with the Pharisees because the vast majority of Jews did so, what would make them right and others wrong? Surely there must be a more authoritative standard than an appeal to the very Pharisees whom Christ opposed! This book will show how God anticipated debates such as these and gave sufficient information to completely bypass the individual versus corporate false dilemma.

Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox approaches inadequate

Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox apologists have recognized these Protestant inconsistencies and have presented an alternative answer - that the authority of the church over the canon avoids circularity and provides a sufficient answer. Their argument is that the church is “the pillar and ground of the truth”31 (1Tim. 3:15), and as such it provides an authoritative church or tradition to establish the question of canonicity.

Inconsistencies of their church traditions

Setting aside for the moment their misinterpretation of that verse,32 we might ask the following questions: Which claims to an authoritative tradition or church should we follow? Should we follow the authoritative tradition of Rome,33 the Greek Orthodox Church,34 The Slavonic Orthodox Church,35 the Coptic Church,36 the Ethiopian Orthodox Church,37 the Armenian Church,38 or some other Orthodox Church?39 As the footnotes demonstrate, “Church tradition” has been fractured. Furthermore, how can this so-called tradition be infallible or in any way authoritative when these non-Protestant churches have changed the content of their canon? For example, in AD 600 the Pope declared the Apocrypha to not be Scripture40 (as did the translator of the Latin Vulgate, Jerome). However, in 1546 (at the Council of Trent), the Roman Catholic Church officially declared the apocrypha to be part of the canon. This does not seem like an infallible tradition. It seems like changing church policy.

As will be demonstrated later, the church has held to the Protestant canon all the way up until it was changed by Rome at the Council of Trent. Likewise, we will see that while there were numerous church fathers from the second through fourth centuries who endorsed the shorter Protestant canon, and while even Jerome (the translator of the Latin Vulgate used by Rome) agrees book-for-book with the Protestant canon, there is no document during the same period that matches the canon of Trent book-for-book. That is significant since it means that the only precedent for a universally accepted canon at earlier periods of church history is the Protestant canon. Roman apologists continually appeal to the late fourth-century councils of Hippo and Carthage as including some apocryphal books, but those two councils only list 43 of the 46 books of Trent. They omit Lamentations and Baruch and mention five books of Solomon (which Trent excludes). Those councils were not ecumenical councils, but local, and as Cajetun mentions, used the term “canon” in two senses - a church canon of uninspired books approved for reading and God’s canon of inspired books that were authoritative in the Scripture.

An unbiblical view of church authority

A close study of the debates on canon shows that their appeal to church authority presents even more problems and internal inconsistencies. The Romanists and the Reformers had quite different views of authority related to the canon. The following is a summary of the teachings of Rome since the Council of Trent in contrast to the Reformation (and early church):

  1. Rome said the church is the determiner of the canon; the Reformers said the church recognizes the canon based on its own self-witness. There is a big difference between determining and recognizing.
  2. Rome said the church is the mother of the canon; the Reformers said that the church is the child of the canon, or that the canon produces everything in the church. The idea that Rome is the mother of the canon shows that they believe the church is an authority above the canon. The idea that the church is the child of the canon shows the opposite.
  3. Rome claims authority to infallibly teach beyond what even their own canon addresses; the Reformers said that the only voice that should be heard in the church is the voice of God speaking through the Scriptures.41
  4. Rome claimed the church is the magistrate of the canon and has magisterial power; the Reformers said that the church is the minister of the canon and only has ministerial power.

Of course, Rome has been attracting Protestants because Protestants have abandoned the Reformation doctrine of authority long ago. Here are some of the competing views on authority that have the potential to negatively impact canonical studies:

  • Sola Scriptura was the view of the Reformation and church fathers and the view of this book.
  • Church as the authority is the view of the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Coptic Church, and some Protestants.
  • Science is the ultimate authority of textual critics, some historians, those who insist on scientific tests of canonicity.
  • The individual is the ultimate authority is the view of authoritarian teachers and cults.
  • No authority tends to be the view of many postmodernists; though ultimately this leads to individualism or some authority filling the gap.

This book will demonstrate that the ancient church rejected the last four views of authority. Theirs was a Sola Scriptura approach to canon. They (along with the Reformers) believed that Scripture is the only infallible authority, and any authority that church officers have is a Scripture-delegated authority. All other approaches can be demonstrated to have substituted a man-made authority or to give up in cynicism (the “no authority” view).

This book defends the first point not only on canon, but on all theology. I have no authority as a pastor except the authority of the Word of God. I am a minister of the Word; a steward of the mysteries of God. As to canon, Protestants said that God alone can determine His Word, and He did so by the prophets and apostles who wrote the Scriptures, and they canonized the Scriptures the moment they were written - not centuries later. Unlike modern Protestants, they presented a view of canon that was 100% consistent with the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. They claimed that the Bible was self-authenticating and its own internal testimony gave all the information we need to be able to know with certainty which books belong in the Bible.

Modern Protestants don’t know how to do that anymore. We have already seen that some Protestant theologians have felt the pressure of coming up with rational arguments as to which books belong in the canon, and they have developed elaborate criteria by which to judge a book (science as authority). But Rome rightly points out that these criteria are contradictory, and they end up putting the individual higher than the Bible. Rome also points out that there is no good reason for making the criteria for the Old Testament different than the criteria for the New Testament. And they ask, “And by the way, who gave you the right to ask or to answer these questions? Without an infallible church, there is no way you can infallibly answer such questions.” They claim that the church has the highest authority and church members must submit to church teachings that go beyond the Scriptures. For example, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, #88 says, “the Church… does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.” For them the traditions of the church are equal to Scripture. But ultimately it is the church’s interpretation of Scripture and tradition that is the highest authority. So when they claim that the church is the mother of the Bible and has the full authority to add books to the canon, it is logically asserting an authority over the Bible.

Which viewpoint on authority does the Scripture side with? We have already seen that the Christian is called “not to think beyond what is written” in the Bible (1 Corinthians 4:6), and that the Bible gives us “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3) and is sufficient for doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness and gives to us all other necessary information needed to make the man of God “complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:15-17). Nothing more than the Scripture is needed - not even to determine the canon. The rest of this book will give detailed proof of this principle.

Of course, the Romanist’s first retort is to ask, “Well, were there any books added to the Bible after 2 Timothy 3:16-17 was written?” Of course the answer is “yes,” so they think they have you trapped. Their logic is that if more books were added after Paul made that statement, there is no reason to question the addition of books in 1549 at the Council of Trent.

But to anticipate a later chapter, the Bible gives several axioms that completely rule out 100% of the apocrypha and pseudepigrapha. For example, Amos 8:11-14 prophesied a complete absence of any God-given prophecy from the time of Malachi/Ezra to the time of the Messiah. This rules out 100% of the Old Testament apocrypha and pseudepigrapha since those books were written in the first and second centuries BC. Likewise, we will show that Isaiah 8:16-20, Daniel 9:24, and other passages prophesied the closing of the canon and the complete cessation of all inspired prophecy in AD 70 (when temple was destroyed and Israel was cast into exile - see context of those passages). This rules out 100% of the New Testament apocrypha and pseudepigrapha, since all of those books were written long after AD 70. It also rules out Mormonism, Islam, and any others who claim to have ongoing inspired prophetic ability to add or subtract from the canon. By using the authority of these passages (which are recognized as Scripture in all Christian traditions), we rule out any additional authority beyond the Scripture. In other words, this book will exegetically demonstrate a view of Biblical authority that is 100% consistent with the doctrine of Sola Scriptura.

An unbiblical view of epistemology

Furthermore, this appeal to church authority as the highest authority violates Biblical epistemology, which shows that justified knowledge is found in Scripture and that which can be deduced from Scripture.42 Epistemology is simply a ten dollar word for how we know that we know anything (including what is in the canon). Gordon H. Clark has given devastating critiques of non-Biblical epistemologies43; something I do not intend to do here. But he accurately summarizes Biblical epistemology in one sentence: “A rational life is impossible without being based upon a divine revelation.”44 Because the Scriptures are the infallible “word of God” (John 10:35), and the “word of truth” (Ps. 119:43; Eph. 1:13; 2 Tim. 2:15; James 1:18) they are also said to be “the key of knowledge” (Luke 11:52). The Bible clearly states that God’s Word is the ultimate standard by which all other truth-claims are judged (John 17:17; Ps. 11:7; 119:89,151,160; Numb. 23:19). Christ’s statement, “Your Word is truth” (John 17:17), has profound implications for epistemology. If Jesus had simply said, “Your Word is true,” it would imply that the Word was being judged for its truthfulness by an outside standard. But by saying, “Your Word is truth,” Jesus was affirming that the Bible is the standard of truth and the measure of all truth claims. Nothing in man is the standard, whether that be emotions, experience, tradition, science, human authority, etc. John Frame summarizes the claims of Biblical epistemology by saying,

The only way to find truth is to bow before God’s authoritative Scripture… The very essence of knowledge is to bring our thoughts into agreement with God’s revealed Word. Thinking God’s thoughts after him is to be the rule not only in narrowly religious matters, but in every sphere of human life… history, science, psychology, sociology, literary criticism… business, sports, family life, worship, politics… God calls us to ‘presuppose’ him in all our thinking. This means that we must regard his revealed truth as more important and more certain than any other, and find in it the norms or criteria that all other knowledge must meet.45

An unbiblical view of implicit faith

It might be thought that Rome has an answer to this objection by saying that God has two streams of revelation (tradition and Scripture) and that both streams are mediated through the church. Therefore, they call for implicit faith in the church and its traditions alongside of Scripture.46 Chapters 6-8 will deal with the faulty assumption of ongoing authoritative revelation, but let us now consider the two conflicting views of implicit faith: Rome teaches the need for implicit faith in the church while the Reformers called their people to have implicit faith in the Scripture alone. The word “alone” was key to the Reformation.

Which view of implicit faith is taught in Scripture? Scripture clearly teaches the view of implicit faith that is consistent with Sola Scriptura. For example, Paul praised the Bereans in Acts 17:11 for being more excellent than the Thessalonians. What made them differ from the Thessalonians? It was precisely this issue of implicit faith. The Thessalonians had an implicit faith in the church fathers of Judaism and stood emotionally against anything that contradicted their rabbinic teachers. That’s why they persecuted Paul. In contrast, the Bereans did not have implicit faith in any man - not even the apostle Paul himself. Instead, “they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (v. 11, NIV). The Bereans were consistently applying the Biblical maxim, “Your Word is truth” (Psalm 119:16) as a standard by which to judge all truth claims.

A failure to understand Biblical tradition

Apologists for the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox communions will claim that the Bible itself mandates the preservation of apostolic oral traditions (1 Cor. 11:2; 2 Thes. 2:15; 3:6), and therefore the Bible is opposed to Sola Scriptura. However, biblical tradition is simply apostolic teaching, which was itself the systematization of Scripture. If all apostolic teaching was tested against the Scriptures to see if it was true (Acts 17:11) and if all apostolic teaching was “saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come” (Acts 26:22), then one would expect that apostolic tradition did not add anything to the Scripture. Instead, it would be equivalent to Protestant confessions of faith, like the Westminster Confession of Faith. The Reformation was not opposed to “tradition” as the early church defined tradition, because that view was consistent with Sola Scriptura.47

So we have two radically different conceptions of tradition. The Reformation sided with the church of the first millennium48 in believing that not one word of tradition should be believed unless it was grounded in the Scriptures. In contrast to the church fathers,49 the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church both teach that tradition includes a vast body of information that cannot be found in the Bible.50 In contrast to the church fathers,51 the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church both teach that tradition is equally authoritative with the Scriptures.52 In contrast to the church fathers,53 the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church both deny the sufficiency of Scripture and say that Scripture must be supplemented with church tradition.54 Chapter 10 will give an extensive collection of quotes from church fathers to show that it is not the Reformation that left the true catholic faith but it is Rome that has deviated from the catholic faith on several major issues related to canonicity.

I bring up the church fathers because both Rome and Eastern Orthodoxy claim to be in continuity with the catholic faith of the first millennium, and nothing could be further from the truth. The early church fathers themselves claimed that nothing could be considered catholic or to be apostolic tradition unless it was proved from the Bible. As Melanchton worded it in 1519, “It is not necessary for a Catholic to believe any articles of faith than those to which Scripture is a witness.”55

So which of these competing views on tradition is Biblical? It is clear that every positive reference to the tradition (or deposit) that the apostles gave to the churches by way of teaching was 100% based on Scripture. The tradition that Paul received from Christ in 1 Corinthians 11:1-2 is explicitly laid out in written Scripture in the rest of the chapter. Thus, though Paul imposes “tradition” on the churches (1Cor. 15:3-4), he twice makes clear that the tradition is “according to the Scriptures” (see verse 4 and 5). Paul was not opposed to tradition (2Thes. 2:15; 3:6) since tradition is simply apostolic teaching. What he was opposed to was “the tradition of men” (Col. 2:8). Everything Paul taught could be proved from the Scriptures (Acts 17:11) and he insisted that the church “not think beyond what is written” (1Cor. 4:6). It would be impossible to obey that command if Paul’s “tradition” went beyond the Scripture.

In stark contrast to apostolic teaching (tradition), the Scriptures categorically condemned “the tradition of the elders” (Matt. 15:2) because it “went beyond the commandment of God” (v. 3) and “made the commandment of God of no effect” (v. 6) and because it was “teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (v. 9). The Jewish conception of the traditions of the elders is almost identical to the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox conception of the tradition of the fathers. Both Rome and Judaism have an unbiblical tradition that goes beyond the Bible.

But beyond that issue, the New Testament indicates that the deposit (tradition) of truth that was given to the church cannot be added to after the apostolic age. Jude says: “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered (παραδοθείσῃ) to the saints.” (Jude 3) If this body of truth has already been “once for all delivered” in the first century, it logically precludes the deliverance of apostolic tradition in later periods of church history. As F. F. Bruce worded it, “Therefore, all claims to convey an additional revelation… are false claims… whether these claims are embodied in books which aim at superseding or supplementing the Bible, or take the form of extra-Biblical traditions which are promulgated as dogmas by ecclesiastical authority.”56

Rome and Eastern Orthodoxy have abandoned the catholic faith by adding to the Protestant canon

If what we have already seen is true, then one would expect that the Protestant view on canon would have been held by the early church. And it was. The reason the Council of Trent had to claim authority to add new books to the canon was because the vast majority of the church fathers prior to Trent held to the Protestant canon.57 This of course contradicts their definitions of what constitutes the catholic faith - namely, universality, antiquity, and consent of the church.58 Indeed, my study of the church fathers has convinced me that none of Rome’s distinctive doctrines has had the universal consent of the church. That is why all the Reformers (without exception) said that Protestantism is the catholic faith and that the Romanists had abandoned the catholic faith. They demonstrated that the church of the first twelve centuries was Protestant. And this was certainly the case when it came to what books should be in the canon. In fact, that was true all the way up to the Council of Trent.

Jerome, the translator of their Latin Vulgate Bible, translated the apocrypha because it was useful background history (just like we treat it as useful history), but he denied that the apocrypha was inspired, inerrant, or part of the canon of Scripture. He distinguished between a church-made canon of uninspired books that were useful for study and a God-made canon of inspired books that are authoritative for faith and practice.59 As we will see, this was the view that predominated until it was changed by the Council of Trent, which purportedly rendered an infallible decision to include the Apocrypha.

My response to that is to ask, “Why was Trent’s vote to include the apocrypha an infallible vote when it was a minority vote?” The vote was 24 in favor, 15 opposed, and 16 uncertain and abstaining. So why were 24 of these church leaders infallibly guided in their “yes” vote while 31 of these church leaders were not infallibly guided in either their “no” vote or their abstentions? And furthermore, what makes their voted opinion more infallible than the opinion of the majority of the church fathers in previous centuries?60 What makes their voted opinion more official than the official marginal notes in the official Latin Vulgate Bible as late as 1498? We call these marginal notes the “Glossa Ordinaria.” Though the Latin Vulgate Bible contained the apocrypha as useful background material (just like many Protestant Bibles did), it emphatically declared that the apocryphal books were not inspired Scripture. That was the official catholic Bible up through the time of Trent. When commenting on Apocryphal books, these marginal notes clearly distinguish them from canonical Scripture. At the beginning an apocryphal book it says, “Here begins the book of Tobit which is not in the canon,” or “Here begins the book of Judith which is not in the canon,” etc. The Prologue to the Glossa ordinaria (written in AD 1498) maintained a distinction between canonical and apocryphal books, stating that though both are included in the Bible, the canonical books are inspired and the apocryphal books are not.61

This represented the views of a huge number of the most influential and well-known scholars of the previous twelve centuries. Even Cajetan, the most famous Romanist scholar at the time of the Reformation, said that the Church of his day followed Jerome in believing the Bible only had 66 books.62 He also insisted that any earlier references to the apocrypha being in the church’s canon as edifying were not a reference to God’s canon of Scripture but to the church’s rule of which extra-Biblical writings had been approved as edifying. As mentioned earlier, this two-canon distinction of Cajetan was a distinction made by Jerome and it completely explains some of the disparate information in earlier ages - there was an inspired canon given by God and there was an uninspired but useful canon given by non-ecumenical councils on which books are useful for study. Cajetan’s admission was a huge admission that Trent’s view is not the catholic view (small c catholic).

Even the Cardinal Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros, the Archbishop of Toledo, and Grand Inquisitor against Protestants, did not believe the apocryphal books were inspired. Cisneros in collaboration with the leading theologians of his day, produced an edition of the Bible called the Biblia Complutensia or the Complutensian Polyglot Bible. There is an admonition in the Preface that states that the books of Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, the Maccabees and the additions to Esther and Daniel are not canonical Scriptures and therefore could not be used to confirm any fundamental points of doctrine, though the church used them for reading and edification. No wonder it was a minority vote. This all looks more like changing church policy than an infallible decision.

Nor does the Orthodox Church tradition fare any better. Unless we believe (as I do) that the Eastern church also held to the “two canon concept,” there is no way of showing a consensus tradition in the East. While all of these Eastern church councils are agreed on the canonicity of the 66 books of the Protestant canon, they were not agreed on which apocryphal books should be published for the church. If publishing the apocrypha proves that the apocrypha were believed to be part of the inspired canon (as opposed to simply being useful reading), there are wildly different canons in different branches of the Orthodox Church.63 As an ad hominum argument, this is sufficient testimony to demonstrate that the Orthodox Tradition is not a unified tradition. The only way to rescue it from that charge is to agree with Cajetan’s analysis of the early church and to say that there was a God-given canon of inspired books and a church-given canon of uninspired but useful books. But that would be to concede our point and admit to the Protestant canon of Scripture.

Furthermore, within the history of individual Orthodox communions there has been change in the number of books published (canonical?) over history. The early Syriac Bible (the Peshitta) was translated in the first or second century AD, and is a ringing endorsement of the Protestant canon. Likewise, the first list of canonical Old Testament books was written in Syria by Melito, the Bishop of Sardis, around 170 AD. It too is a ringing endorsement of the Protestant canon of the Old Testament. It was not until the fourth century that the Syriac Bible contained the apocrypha and it was not until the synods of Constantinople (1638), Jaffa (1642), and Jerusalem (1672) that these books were declared to be canonical. However, the term “canonical” meant different things, and it is significant that the apocrypha was explicitly left out of the Catechism of 1839 on the grounds that it was not in the Hebrew Bible. This hardly gives confidence in the authority of the church to determine the canon.

The development of the Armenian canon is quite complex. But when one studies the canonical lists of Anania Shirakatsi (610-685), Mechitar of Ayrivank (1230-1300), Erznka Bible (1269), Gregory Tat’ew (14th century), Cilicia (1319), and Lvov Baberdatsl (1619),64 one finds that the books common with our Protestant canon remained constant, while the other books varied widely.

The point is that it is hard to pinpoint a “corporate decision” in any of the Orthodox communions that could be cited as the standard definition of canon for orthodoxy beyond the Protestant listing of books. Tradition or “the church” is not a good substitute for the authority of Scripture that will be presented in this book.

Other questions that may be asked about this “corporate decision” approach to the “canon problem” are as follows:

  1. Can an “infallible” church change its position?
  2. What makes the “later” Catholic (or Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopic, etc.) canons more authoritative than the early canon of the church (which Protestants follow)?
  3. Does judging the canon not elevate the church as an authority over God? Another way of phrasing this would be to ask, “If any human organization decides which books are Scripture and which books are not, does this lessen the authority of the Scripture?”
  4. Since both individuals and churches make mistakes, how do we know that some uninspired books weren’t included in the canon by mistake, or that truly inspired books weren’t accidentally left out?

This chapter has outlined some of the vexing questions that trouble some Christians. The rest of this book is intended to help answer those questions in more exegetical detail and give the believer a confidence that we have the exact canon of Scripture that God intended us to have, without addition or subtraction. It will show how this knowledge of canonicity is given to us by the Bible’s own self-referential statements as well as predictions of periods when no Scriptures would be written. If it can be demonstrated clearly that the Bible itself rules out any prophetic writings in the “inter-testamental period” and “post AD 70” then this proof automatically rules out all apocrypha and restricts us to the Protestant canon. Of course, applying Sola Scriptura to canonical studies is more complicated than that, but we will demonstrate that (contrary to the claims of Romanists and Eastern Orthodox) we do not have to stray from the doctrine of Sola Scriptura in order to defend the canon of Scripture. On every doctrine, Scripture is our highest authority.

2. Who may canonize scripture?

…The revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began but now made manifest so that by the Scriptures of the prophets according to the commandment of the everlasting God it might be made known to the nations

– Romans 16:20

…the prophecy of this book…

– Revelation 22:7,10,18

…hear the words of this prophecy, and keep the things which are written in it…

– Revelation 1:3

It is the position of this book that prophets alone could canonize the Scriptures. The Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox recognize that apart from an infallible or authoritative determination, we cannot know what is canonical and what is not. However, we have already seen that neither church has an infallible tradition or even a non-changing viewpoint on canon. But there is another option:

It is the Protestant position65 that the same inspired prophets who gave a revealed text that was infallible also gave canonical status to that text the moment it was written. The formation of every facet of the Scriptures was a prophetic task. Christ used the phrase “the prophets” to refer to every book of the Old Testament (Luke 24:25-2766), and Paul used the phrase “the prophetic Scriptures” to refer to all the New Testament Scriptures that were giving “the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began” (Rom. 16:25-26). Peter speaks of the New Testament Scriptures as being “the prophetic word confirmed” (2Pet. 1:19 with vv 19-21). According to Scripture all prophecy was inspired and all Scripture was prophecy.67 Only the prophets could add to the canon and only the prophets could close the canon.68 The whole canonization process was prophetic.

One must not think of canonization as the church giving its imprimatur to a book that was not previously recognized as canonical. Even as a book was being written it was recognized as being prophetical (Rev. 1:3; 22:7,9,10,18,19; see Ex. 17:14; 24:4; 34:27; Numb. 33:2; Is. 34:16; etc). Chronicles repeatedly makes mention of the Scriptural status of Samuel-Kings. But the histories also refer to the Prophets and vice versa. 2 Chronicles 36:21 quotes Jeremiah 25:11 as authoritative. Daniel 9:2 quotes the same passage as being one of “the books” of the Bible. Jeremiah 26:18 quotes Micah 3:12. The Old Testament prophets frequently recognized previous prophetic writing as part of Scripture.69 For example, Zechariah 7:12 accuses the people saying, “Yes, they made their hearts like flint, refusing to hear the law and words which the LORD of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets.” He is referring to a body of writing that was already composed of law and prophets, but the phrase “former prophets” implies an ongoing prophetic inscripturation that was happening even with the book of Zechariah.70 The Bible is seen as either “the book” (Psalm 40:7), “the book of the LORD” (Is. 34:16), “the book of the Law” (Neh. 8:3; Gal. 3:10), “the Law of the Lord” (Ps. 1:2; Is. 30:9) or other titles showing the unity of Old Testament Scriptures. Each of these references implies a canonical status that the Scriptures already had.

As we will see in chapters 6 and 7, the Bible anticipated the prophetical writings of the New Testament and gave a beginning and an ending point to those writings (Is 8-9; Dan 9:24-27; Zech. 13; Joel 2:28-32). The prophet Moses anticipated the coming of Christ and His revelation. (cf. e.g. Deut. 18:15,18 with John 1:21,25,45; 5:46; 6:14,7-40; Acts. 3:22-26; 7:37). Thus the Old Testament ends by anticipating the Revelation of Christ (Malachi 3-4) and the New Testament begins by referring to Malachi (Luke 1:17) and other connections with the Old Testament (Matt. 1-3; etc.).

New Testament prophets also recognized and upheld other prophetic Scriptures. For example, they treated the Old Testament as being a fixed canon of Scripture made up of the Law, the Writings and the Prophets (cf. e.g. Matt. 5:17; 7:12; 22:29,40; Luke 16:16; 24:44; John 10:34-35; 19:36; Acts 18:24; 28:23; Rom. 1:2; 1Cor. 14:21; 2Tim. 3:15). The whole canon of the Old Testament together is called the Scripture (John 10:35; 2Tim. 3:15; Matt. 5:17; 7:12; 22:29,40; Luke 16:16; 24:44; John 10:34-35; 19:36; Acts 18:24; 28:23; Rom. 1:2; 1Cor. 14:21; 2Tim. 3:15) and the New Testament writers quoted the Old Testament over 1600 times, with many more allusions. Even the very order of the books in the Jewish Bible is implied in Matt. 23:35 and Luke 11:51. These last references are very significant because 1) they endorse the Hebrew canon, which excludes the apocrypha found in the Septuagint,71 2) and they imply the then-current view that prophetic revelation ceased in the Ezra/Malachi period.72 This second implication also excludes the pre-Christian apocryphal writings.

Even the New Testament canon was determined by first century prophets.73 We will see that the apostles were indeed prophets when writing or speaking infallibly and thus called the New Testament writings “the prophetic Scriptures” (Rom. 16:26). John’s apostolic book of Revelation was “the prophecy of this book” (Rev. 22:7,10). Paul said, “If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual,74 let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord” (1Cor. 14:37). Recognizing 1 Corinthians as a canonical text was obviously a duty of New Testament prophets, not of uninspired churchmen. These prophets were present in every city of the empire (Acts 20:23) in order to confirm the “mystery” of New Testament revelation (see Eph. 3:2-7; Rev. 10:7; Heb 2:3; Rev. 19:10).75 Thus it wasn’t just Paul who was commissioned to help others to “see the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden” (Eph. 3:9; see v. 3), but this was the function of all God’s “holy apostles and prophets” (Eph. 3:5 in context). Paul prophetically revealed Luke to be Scripture (1Tim. 5:18). Peter by inspiration lumped all of Paul’s letters in with “the rest of the Scriptures” (2Pet. 3:15-16), and as a representative of the inspired prophets (see 2Pet. 1:19-20) said, “And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place” (2Pet. 1:19). It is possible that Peter and John had a role in finalizing the gathering of canonical books, much like Ezra by inspiration finalized the canon of the Old Testament. Ernest L. Martin hypothesizes,

The Second Epistle of Peter is actually the key to the first canonization of the New Testament. It is an official statement to show how he and John (not long before Peter’s death) gathered together some written records which the apostles themselves either wrote, or authorized to be written, or sanctioned already existing works into a position of canonicity. Peter’s second epistle was written, among other things, for the express purpose of showing that the apostle John and himself were the ones ordained of God to leave Christians with the canon of the New Testament. It is not the later church who collected the 27 books of the New Testament… it was the apostles themselves who canonized the New Testament. Probably with Paul’s writings in hand, Peter then wrote his second epistle… sending it along with the writings he and Paul had collected to John… who would be the last remaining apostle…and who would perform the final canonization.76

But though a canon was being pulled together and would be completed with the book of Revelation when “the mystery of God would be finished” (Rev. 10:7),77 it is still clear that the books were canonical the moment they were written. For example, Paul quoted Luke 10:7 as already being a portion of Scripture (1 Timothy 5:18). Peter quoted all of Paul’s writings as having already been added to “the rest of the Scriptures” (2Pet. 3:16). Jude assumed that his readers would have 1Peter in their canon already when he quoted 1Peter 3:3 in Jude 18. Paul treated his own writings as being “the word of the Lord” (1Thes. 4:15) and praised the Thessalonians that they welcomed Paul’s words, “not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe” (1Thes. 2:13). Obviously the recipients of these books received these books as canonical Scripture. The very juxtaposition of the Old Covenant with the “New Covenant” Scriptures (see 2Cor. 3:6,14) implies that the new should be read like the Old – as a canon of books given by inspiration of God through prophets.

We will later demonstrate that the canon was closed by AD 70. If this is true, there would have been no confusion in the early church as to what was Scripture and what was not. There was no wait of years before the churches read the New Testament books as Scripture. Instead, the New Testament books were read as already being part of the Scriptures as soon as they were written (1Thes. 5:27; Col. 4:16; Rev. 1:3), and were immediately copied and circulated to other churches to be so read (Gal. 1:2; Col. 4:16; 1Thes. 5:27; 2Pet. 3:15-18; Rev. 1:4,11), and the copies of the growing canon were archived in every church (see 2Pet. 3:15-18). All of this flies in the face of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox theories of canonization and supports the Protestant view that the books of the Bible became canonical the moment they were written. It should be pointed out that many books have been written to demonstrate the falsity of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox theories on a historical basis,78 but this is seeking to show that the Protestant presupposition is a Biblical one.

But two more points need to be made with respect to the prophetic function of canonization before we dig deeper into the exegetical evidence. First, the prophetic vision was anticipating a time when God would “seal up vision and prophet” (Dan 9:24) and thus close the canon. Once the law and testimony was sealed in 70 AD79 (Is. 8:16), the Scriptures would be sufficient, and the only authority for the church would be the infallible Bible: “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Is. 8:20). If the canon was closed in 70 AD (as we will clearly prove below), then all post-70 AD apocryphal writings are also ruled out. Likewise, since God commanded us to live “by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4; Deut. 8:3), and since He promised to preserve the canonized Scriptures to all generations so that they could live by it (Deut. 29:29; Ps. 111:7-8; 119:160; Is. 8:16; 40:8; 59:21; Dan. 12:4; Matt. 4:4; 5:17-18; Mark 13:31; Luke 16:17; Heb. 2:2; 1Pet. 1:25), it rules out the possibility that we might find a lost book of the Bible in our own day.

The second point is that Old Testament prophets self-consciously realized that the Scriptures were being “written for the generation to come; and the people that shall be created shall praise the Lord” (Ps. 102:18). In other words, God was selecting books for the canon based on the needs of the New Covenant community, not just the needs of the Old Covenant community. Peter says, “To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel” (1Pet. 1:12).

This means that the canon was developed to give the Kingdom generations all the information they would need until eternity. Paul said, “Now all these things …were written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the ages have come” (1Cor. 10:11; cf. 9:10 and Rom. 15:4). Though the Old Testament saints were commanded to live by the progressively unfolding Scriptures (as well as by other revelation from God [cf. Heb. 1:1]), God always had in mind His purpose for a completed canon when he inspired and gave Scripture. If God excluded and included details within books with deliberate purpose (as we have seen) and if that purpose is for our present kingdom generation “on whom the ends of the ages have come” (as we have also seen) then it logically follows that God must preserve every book in the canon, and do so in every age, if His purpose for canon is to succeed. This rules out the discoveries of any newly found apocryphal Gospels, and it rules out the addition of books to the canon by the Roman Catholic Church at the Council of Trent (1545-1563 AD).

3. Prophetic canonization illustrated in the Old Testament

…write this for a memorial in the book…

– Exodus 17:14

Then Joshua wrote these words… in the Book of the Law of God

– Joshua 24:26

We will now dig deeper into this concept of a canonical book being canonized the moment it was written. If the Scripture itself refers to passages and books being canonical the moment they were written, then the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox views discussed in chapter 1 are clearly shown to be false.

Prophetic canonization illustrated in the Pentateuch

The Pentateuch was instantly recognized as Scripture

The first five books of the Bible were recognized as being the word of the Lord right from the time that they were written. Moses wrote the words of the Pentateuch80 at God’s command (Ex. 17:14; 24:4,7; 34:27; Numb. 33:2; Deut. 28:58,61; 29:20-29; 30:10; 31:9-26) and expected the people to treat these Scriptures as the authoritative words of God (Deut. 29:29; 30:2,8,10-14; 31:9,12; etc). He said, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deut. 29:29). And the people responded to such declarations, “All the words which the Lord has said, we will do” (Ex. 24:3; see also 19:8; 24:7). Thus the Pentateuch had full authority as the word of God from the time it was written by Moses. It did not have to be canonized by any later Jewish council.

As Moses wrote, he was writing Scripture into “the book” or canon

A second important thing to note about this initial canon was that as Moses added “books” (and portions of books) by God’s inspiration, he was said to be writing them into “the book.” This “book” that was being added to was the book (or canon) of the Scriptures. For example, God commanded Moses, “write this for a memorial in the book” (Ex. 17:14). This growing “book” was initially called “the book of the covenant” (Ex. 24:7) and “the book of the Law” (Deut. 28:61; 29:21; 30:10; 31:26) and continued to be called “the book of the Covenant” (2Kings. 23:2,21; 2Chron. 34:30) and “the book of the Law” (Josh 1:8; 8:34; 2Kings 22:8,11; 2Chron. 34:15; Neh. 8:3; Ga. 3:10) long after Moses had died. Other names for this canon of five books was “the book of Moses” (2Chron. 25:4; 35:12; Ezra 6:18; Neh. 13:1; Mark 12:26), “the book of the Law of the Lord (1Chron. 17:9; 2Chron. 34:14; Neh. 9:3), “the book of the Law of Moses” (Josh. 8:31; 23:6; 2Kings 14:6; Neh. 8:1), “the book of the law of God” (Josh. 24:26; Neh. 8:18) or simply “the book” (Exodus 17:14; Neh. 8:8 in context of 8:18). In each case, the entire corpus of Scripture was referred to as “the book.” This is a clear demonstration that canonical status was given to the five books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy almost immediately. The concept of canonicity is thus rooted in the Pentateuch.

There has never been a time when God’s prophets and people did not recognize the Pentateuch as canonical

Third, there never has been a time when God’s faithful people did not acknowledge the canonical status of the first five books of the Bible. On at least four occasions Israel swore to submit to this law: under Moses (Exodus 24), at the end of Moses’ life (Deut. 27-29), during the reign of Josiah (2Kings 23; 2Chron. 34:29-33) and during the post-exilic period (Neh. 8:1-10:39). It would be a mistake to think that a later recognition of the canon (such as in 2Chron. 34:29-33) was a canonization of those five books. It is clear that when they “found” the original of the book of the Law in 2 Chronicles 34, they recognized it to already be “the book of the Law of the Lord given by Moses” (vv. 14-15). Thus, the evidence is clear that God, Moses, and the people treated the initial canon of five books as being Scripture from the time that it was written.

This canon was faithfully copied as Scripture

The fourth important thing to note about this canon of five books was that provision was made for its multiplication through a careful copying process. This was different from the treatment of other books, which remained in archives. The originals of the canonical books were stored beside the Ark of the Covenant (Deut. 31:24-26),81 but copies were distributed throughout Israel so that the people could obey it. We find that the king was commanded to make accurate copies of the Pentateuch (Deut. 17:18-20) and it needed to be checked against “the one before the priests and Levites” (v. 18). This process started with the copy that Joshua read (Josh 1:7-8; see 11:15) but can also be seen in later kings (1Kings 2:3; 2Kings 11:12; 2Chron. 23:11).

But God wanted every believer to live out the whole word (Deut. 8:3; 29:29; 32:45-47), so He ensured that copies would be multiplied amongst the priests and Levites who were scattered throughout Israel (see 2Chron. 17:9; Ezra 7:6,10,14). We know that these Levites had copies of the sacred Scriptures because their primary duty was to teach the Scripture in every village where they were scattered (2Chron. 17:9; 35:2; see also Lev. 10:11; Deut. 31:10-13; 33:10; 2Chron. 34:30; Ezra 3:2; 6:16-18; Neh. 8:1-8; 13:1-3). Thus, it is not surprising to find that by the time of the Maccabees, many Jews had their own copies of the Scriptures.82 The Jews did not have to wait till 90 AD for the Council of Jamnia to make a determination of canon.

Prophetic canonization Illustrated in the canon’s expansion

The Book of Joshua is Self-Authenticating

It is also clear that all the rest of our present canonical books were inserted into the canon the moment they were written, and were treated by believers as being canonical from the moment they were written. For example, Joshua did not write a book and wait for it to be determined as canonical by the church. As a prophet of God, He was directed by the Lord to make the book of Joshua canonical while he was writing. Joshua 24:26 says, “Then Joshua wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God.” Since “the Book of the Law of God” was a reference to the entire Pentateuch,83 it is clear that Joshua wrote these words into the existing canon and Joshua was canonical as it was being written. And indeed, Joshua did write the last chapter of Deuteronomy (chapter 34), so it was literally true. Thus Moses wrote Gen. 1:1 through Deut. 33 and Joshua wrote Deut. 34:1 through Josh. 24:28. The canon now had six sections, which comprised one “book.”

The reason this point is so critical is that it demonstrates the Protestant principle that only God can determine canonicity and it disproves the Romanist and the Eastern Orthodox views that the church determined canonicity. There is no evidence that Joshua had to wait for any church or any group of people to evaluate the book of Joshua. At the very moment the book of Joshua was being written, it was being added to the canon (Josh 24:26). If the church determines canonicity, then there is a higher authority than the Bible. But if God’s very prophetic inspiration of the prophets determined which books would be canonical and which ones would not, then it was God Himself who determined canonicity by His self-authenticating word. Nor can it be objected that the prophet represented a human authority over the canon, since “no prophecy of Scripture ever comes by the prophet’s own imagination, for no prophecy was ever borne of human impulse; rather, men carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Pet. 1:20-21 NET).

Each of the Historical Books is Connected

The fact that the rest of the historical books follow the example of Moses and Joshua reinforces what we have already said. For example, the “colophon principle” of having a successor prophet write the ending of his predecessor’s book is followed.84 This well-known literary technique made a tight connection within the sections of the canon. Joshua (the prophetic successor of Moses) wrote the end of Deuteronomy, giving the account of Moses’ death (Deut. 34:1-12). The author of Judges (Samuel) wrote the last five verses of Joshua, giving the account of Joshua’s death (Josh. 24:29-33 – see Judges 2:7-9). The genealogies of David were added to the end of Ruth (Ruth 4:18-22) after David became king. Compare the last four verses of Samuel-Kings (2Kings 25:27-30) with the last four verses of Jeremiah (Jer. 52:31-34). Though many scholars question the traditional view that Jeremiah wrote Kings, this is one of many lines of evidence to support the traditional view.

This tight-knit integration of books would be impossible if books were just written and much later determined to be canonical or not canonical. The historical books bear the imprint of canonicity by the very way they were written. Only God can make a book canonical, and His supervision is abundantly evident throughout the process.

Compare the last two verses of 2 Chronicles and the first three of Ezra:

2 Chronicles 36:22-23 Ezra 1:1-3
Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying, Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. Who is among you of all His people? May the LORD his God be with him, and let him go up! Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying, Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. Who is among you of all his people? May his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel (He is God), which is in Jerusalem.

This may indicate the same author penned both books85, but it certainly places a verbal linkage connecting both books. Similar verbal links can be seen between other books.

That writing a book into an already existing body of canonical Scriptures was deliberate can be seen from Joshua 24:26 (already quoted) and 1 Samuel 10:25. The latter verse says, “then Samuel told the people the ordinances of the kingdom, and wrote them in the book and placed it before the LORD.” This indicates that what Samuel wrote, he wrote “in the book” in much the same way that Joshua did (Josh. 24:26). Samuel added the writings of Judges through Ruth (cf. Judges 1:1) by forming a fitting conclusion to the book of Joshua (Josh 24:29-33).

The story of the kings of Israel was written by a succession of prophets, each adding a piece to the canon. David’s story was written by Samuel, Nathan, and Gad (1Chron. 29:29); the history of Solomon was written by Nathan, Ahijah, and Iddo (2Chron. 9:29); the history of Rehoboam was written by Shemaiah and Iddo (2Chron. 12:15); the history of Abijah was written by Iddo (2Chron. 13:22); the history of Jehoshaphat was written by Jehu the son of Hanani (2Chron. 20:34); the history of Uzziah and Hezekiah was written by Isaiah (2Chron. 26:22; 32:32). These histories were written over 400 years, and the next book could not be added without the clear recognition that it was Scripture since it was woven with the rest.

Canon Developed Verse by Verse, Not Book by Book

This process of later prophets adding to the writings of earlier prophets may at first seem strange, but the truth of the matter is that Scripture treats canonization as occurring even at the chapter and verse level.86 As each chapter of a book of Scripture is written, that chapter is considered to be part of the canon. For example, Isaiah 34:16 says, “Seek from the book of the LORD, and read…” and he proceeds to give his own prophecy (the very chapter he is writing!) as being part of the book of the Lord. This verse not only reinforces the point already made (that Scripture alone can judge Scripture – it is self-authenticating), but it shows how the chapter that Isaiah had just finished writing was already being treated by him (and by God) as part of the canon of Scripture.87 The book of Isaiah was being added to the canon verse by verse. The church did not have to wait for the whole book of Isaiah to be written before it could treat Isaiah’s writings as Scripture. God inspired and canonized the Scriptures at the same time!

The Pentateuch developed the same way. Moses included in his account of Genesis, the earlier writings of Adam (Gen. 5:1), of Noah (Gen. 6:9), of Shem (Gen. 11:10), etc.88 God had preserved the canonized portions of these ancient prophets’ writings. Likewise, the moment Moses wrote a new verse or chapter, it was being written “in the book.” Thus Moses is told to write some words “in the book” in Exodus 17:14. Later he wrote more words in Exodus 24:4, still more in Exodus 34:27, continued writing in Numbers 33:2, wrote an extended portion in Deuteronomy 31:9 and added a song in Deuteronomy 31:22. At each stage he “wrote all the words of the LORD” (Ex. 24:4). They were seen as God’s Word at the moment of writing, not when the book was finished. Thus, for the books of Genesis through Joshua the canon was being increased verse by verse, not simply book by book.

The final ordering and editing of the Old Testament canon was also done by prophets

The fact that the canon was being developed as it was written verse by verse also helps to explain the inspired editing of books by later prophets. Solomon not only wrote many proverbs, he also edited the order of previously written proverbs.89 The inspired prophet Hezekiah did further arranging of the book of Proverbs.90 Hezekiah not only composed an inspired Psalm (see Isaiah 38:9-21), but was also one of three prophets who were involved in editing and arranging the Psalter in its present canonical form.91 He also appears to have been responsible for the initial use of the “tri-grammaton” symbol that prophets placed at the end of every book except for the “Megilloth” (i.e., the Festival Scrolls: Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and Esther).92 Those five scrolls were given a special place in the temple liturgy by the prophet Ezra, but were placed before 2 Chronicles. The significance of this is that 2 Chronicles has a longer and stronger form of the “tri-grammoton” symbol, indicating the complete closing of the Old Testament canon. We will see that this closing of the Old Testament canon with 2 Chronicles is affirmed by Christ when he refers to the Jewish canonical order of Genesis to 2 Chronicles in Matthew 23:35.93 Thus, no section of the Old Testament is without prophetic signature.

An early Jewish tradition (also supported by Jerome) says that Ezra edited the Torah in ten places, bringing explanation to contemporaries who would not have understood certain historical statements.94 Whether this is true or not has been vigorously debated, but even if it were true, it would be no more irreverent for an inspired prophet Ezra to make ten minor additions to the Torah than it would have been for the inspired prophet Joshua to write the last verses of Deuteronomy.95 In both cases it is God Himself adding to His canon since “prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men … were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21).

The bottom line is that the inclusion or exclusion of any inspired writing was not the arbitrary decision of a church council, but the inspired and inerrant work of a prophet of God. Ezra also finalized the ordering of the Hebrew Bible, and Ezra’s final canon contained the same books that the Protestant Old Testament contains.

One more contribution that Ezra made was to change the style of the Hebrew letters from the old Phoenician script used by the early prophets to the “square script” of more modern Hebrew. This enabled the people of Ezra’s day to quickly distinguish the heretical Samaritan manuscripts (written in the old script) from the established canonical text of the Hebrews.96 Ernest L. Martin says that Jesus upheld the right of Ezra to do this when he referred to the abiding character of every “jot and tittle” of the Old Testament (Matt 5:18), a reference to the small horn-like projections that were used in the more modern square script, but which were absent from the older text. These jots and tittles made it more difficult to confuse some letters with each other. This illustrates that every facet of canonization down to the minutiae of the script to be used was determined by God Himself through the revelation of His inspired prophets. Thus the whole question of cessation of prophecy (which will be more fully addressed in the second half of this book) is a critical question. Prophets alone could arrange or add to the text.

The order and categorization of the books that Ezra gave to the Jews of his day is follows:

  1. THE LAW (TORAH)
    1. Genesis
    2. Exodus
    3. Leviticus
    4. Numbers
    5. Deuteronomy
  2. THE PROPHETS
    1. Joshua/Judges
    2. The Book of Kingdoms (Samuel/Kings)
    3. Isaiah
    4. Jeremiah
    5. Ezekiel
    6. The Twelve (Hosea to Malachi)
  3. THE HOLY WRITINGS (or THE PSALMS)
    1. Psalms
    2. Proverbs
    3. Job
    4. Song of Songs
    5. Ruth
    6. Lamentations
    7. Ecclesiastes
    8. Esther
    9. Daniel
    10. Ezra/Nehemiah
    11. The Book of Chronicles

If this is an inspired order, it may be prudent for the church to once again return to that order in our Bibles. Certainly Jesus upheld this order of books when He spoke of “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). Zechariah was definitely not the last prophet murdered when viewed by date, but he was the last martyr mentioned in the Hebrew canon. Abel’s murder is recorded in the first book of the Canon (Genesis) and Zechariah’s murder was recorded in the last book of the Old Testament Canon (Chronicles). This is similar to our saying, “from Genesis to Revelation,” but using the existing canonical order of that day Jesus was in effect saying, all murders of prophets from Genesis to 2 Chronicles.

4. Prophetic canonization illustrated in the New Testament

The authoritative teachers sent forth by Christ to found his church, carried with them, as their most precious possession, a body of divine Scriptures, which they imposed on the church that they founded as its code of law… The Christian Church was never without a ‘Bible’ or a ‘canon.’

– Benjamin B. Warfield

The New Testament builds on the Old Testament, it does not replace the Old Testament

Many Christians reject the Old Testament as being irrelevant to our own culture. But when Paul deals with the sufficiency of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16-17), it was precisely the Old Testament Scripture which he was talking about (see v. 15). Nor did he pick and choose, but said that “all Scripture is… profitable” (2 Tim. 3:16). The Bible of the early church (before the New Testament was written) was the Old Testament,97 and the apostles constantly proved their doctrines from its pages (Acts 17:2,11; 18:28; etc). When the New Testament was written, it cited the Old Testament as authoritative more than 1600 times and had several thousand more allusions to the Old Testament.98 But as we will shortly see, the Old Testament anticipated and depended upon the New Testament in ways that make the two Testaments inseparably linked. It is safe to say that one cannot understand the New Testament without seeing the Old Testament as being part of the authoritative canon of Scripture. Indeed, the two Testaments are inseparably bound together as one tightly woven fabric as is so well illustrated by the following graphic of 340,000 cross-references between books of the Bible.99

openbible.info Visualization
openbible.info Visualization

So the New Testament did not replace the Old Testament canon, but was added to it. The Old Testament canon was called “the law and the prophets” (Mt. 5:17; 7:12; 11:13; 22:40; Luke 16:16,29,31; 24:27; John 1:45; Acts 13:15; 24:14; 26:22; 28:23; etc). Christ Himself said that “until heaven and earth passes away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law” (Matt 5:18), and He went on to insist that even the least of the Old Testament commandments continued to be binding (v. 19). Without the Old Testament, we do not have a complete blueprint for any area of life. The New Testament was designed to fill out the Old Testament, not to replace it (Matt. 4:4; 5:17-19; 2 Tim. 3:15-17; Romans 15:4; Psalm 119:160; etc).

Likewise, the Old Testament is not complete without the New Testament. God revealed to the Old Testament saints that the developing Old Testament canon was being crafted for the New Covenant age (1 Pet 1:12). “And all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” (1 Cor. 10:11) If the Old Testament was being crafted with an eye to a completed canon in the New Testament, then we would expect that the Old Testament would speak about this completion process. And it does. We will spend an entire chapter discussing this later. Isaiah 8:16-20, Daniel 9:24, and other passages prophesied the closing of the canon and the complete cessation of all inspired prophecy in AD 70.

But more to the point, the Old Testament looked forward to the coming of the Messiah, who would be the Prophet of all prophets (Deut. 18:18f). This Messiah would be the culmination of progressive revelation and thus would come at “the consumation of the ages” (Heb. 9:26 NASB), “the fullness of the time” (Gal. 4:4), “the ends of the ages” (1 Cor. 10:11), and “these last times” (1 Pet. 1:20). Christ’s words and acts formed the central core for both Testaments. As Hebrews 1:1-2 words it, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things…” Ned Stonehouse says, “The divine messiahship of Jesus is then the basic fact behind the formation of the New Testament.”100

The oral “tradition” (deposit) given from Father to Son, from Son to apostles, and from apostles to prophets and church has exactly the same content as Scripture

If the Messiah, Jesus Christ, was to be the Prophet of all prophets, how did He speak to the church? He wrote no books Himself. The New Testament speaks of itself as being a one-time deposit (παράδοσιν) of inspired teaching. The word for “deposit” is usually translated as “tradition” and represents something handed down with authority. These inspired “traditions” stand in sharp contrast with the traditions of man (Matt 15:2,3,6; Mark 7:3,8,913; Gal. 2:8). This deposit was first delivered from the Father to the Messiah:

All things have been delivered (παράδωσει) to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.
Matt 11:27; see Luke 10:22

Christ in turn “revealed” the “all-things” deposit to the apostles (Matt. 11:27; John 14:26; 16:12-13; 15:15; 20:21-23). By prophetic revelation the apostles gave this “tradition” of truths to the church (Luke 10:22; 1Cor. 11:2,23; 15:3; 2Thes. 2:15; 3:6; 1Pet. 2:21; Jude 3). Initially the “all-things” deposit (John 15:26-27) was given by an oral apostolic witness (Acts 1:21-22; 2Thes. 2:14; etc). The Spirit reminded them of “all things” in this deposit of truth as they wrote the Scriptures (John 14:25-26; 16:13-15). Anything beyond the “all things” that Christ authorized was part of the secret things of God (cf. Deut 29:29), and even if the apostles knew some of those secrets (as for example Paul’s vision in 1 Corinthians 12) they were forbidden to reveal them to the church since they are “inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter” (1Cor. 12:4). From the time the first New Testament book was added to the Canon till the book of Revelation was written, only those things were included which would be useful and necessary for the community that would use the finished canon.

Paul was the “last” of these apostolic witnesses (1Cor. 15:7-8), and as an apostle “born out of due time” (1Cor. 15:8), had to receive His commission and the “all things” from Christ as well. Thus he went to Arabia for three years to be taught of Christ (Gal. 1:16-18) and over and over again reminded his hearers that the things he taught were received (παράδωσει) from Christ and not from man (1Cor. 11:1,23; 15:3; Gal. 1:12,16-18). This makes Christ the final revelation of God to man. This is why Hebrews 1 says, “God who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son” (1:1). The final deposit for the canon was completely made in Jesus Christ. Even the non-apostolic prophets Luke, James, and Jude wrote from this “all-things” deposit that the apostles had already given to the church. For example, Jude says:

Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered (παραδοθείση) to the saints.
Jude 3

If this body of truth has already been “once for all delivered” in the first century, it logically precludes the deliverance of apostolic tradition in later periods of church history. As F. F. Bruce worded it,

Therefore, all claims to convey an additional revelation… are false claims… whether these claims are embodied in books which aim at superseding or supplementing the Bible, or take the form of extra-Biblical traditions which are promulgated as dogmas by ecclesiastical authority.101

This means that New Testament “tradition” is utterly different from the “Tradition” of Rome and Eastern Orthodoxy, both of which contain many things not found in Scripture. The oral teachings of the apostles were the infallible transmission of the “all-things” tradition with no admixture by man. Thus Paul could say, “when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe” (1Thes. 2:13). Likewise the written Scriptures were the infallible transmission of the “all-things” tradition. Paul said, “Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or epistle” (2Thes. 2:14).

The early church did not see apostolic tradition as in any way going beyond the 27 books of the New Testament.102 They saw the New Testament as being the written form of the “all-things” tradition and totally sufficient for faith and practice.103 The church was commanded to hold fast to the oral apostolic teachings, but the only way they could do so (since those being told to do so were not inspired) was to hold fast to the written teachings of the New Testament. Thus, though Paul imposes “tradition” on the churches (1Cor. 15:3-4), he twice makes clear that the tradition is “according to the Scriptures” (see verse 4 and 5). Paul was not opposed to tradition (2Thes. 2:15; 3:6) since tradition is simply apostolic teaching. What he was opposed to was “the tradition of men” (Col. 2:8). Everything Paul taught could be proved from the Scriptures (Acts 17:11) and he insisted that the church “not think beyond what is written” (1Cor. 4:6). For both the apostles and the early church, tradition was a once-for-all deposit of truth given from the Father to Jesus, from Jesus to the apostles, from the apostles to the prophets and church, and then finally this orally transmitted deposit of inspired prophecy was inscripturated in the New Testament canon. Since God’s tradition was apostolic, we have yet another reason not to expect Scriptures to be written beyond the age of the apostles. In chapters 6 and 7, we will give definitive evidence that the canon was closed before AD 70, thus ruling out all so-called “New Testament apocrypha.”

This Protestant concept of Tradition also rules out the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox insistence that Tradition is broader and greater than Scripture. The reality is that apostolic doctrine flowed out of the Old Testament, and everything the apostles taught could be found in the Old Testament (Acts 26:22; 17:11). This is why every word of oral Tradition that the apostle Paul gave was rightfully tested for its truthfulness against the Old Testament Scriptures (Acts 17:11), and he didn’t teach anything that was not already anticipated in the Old Testament Scriptures (Acts 26:22). Likewise, 2 Timothy 3:14-17 shows that the Old Testament Scriptures (see v. 15) are sufficient to make the man of God “complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (v. 17). If there is even one good work that Tradition calls us to that we can’t find in the Old Testament, then Paul was wrong in that statement. So it is clear that Old Testament Scripture produced Tradition, and the New Testament records that Tradition (apostolic doctrine) in its entirety. We will later see that this was the view of the early church.

How this deposit of Christ was written down in canonical books

Instant canonization illustrated in the Pauline and Petrine epistles

The internal evidence shows that the New Testament treated itself as Scripture the moment it was being written in exactly the same way that the Old Testament treated itself as being Scripture the moment it was written. As already noted, Paul quotes Deuteronomy 25:4 and Luke 10:7 as both being equally Scripture and both being equally authoritative when he declares:

For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages”
1 Tim. 5:18

But to quote Luke as “Scripture” so soon after Luke was written completely contradicts the notion that the church later canonized Luke.104 This quote assumes as a truism that the Gospel of Luke was already universally seen as part of the canon when Paul wrote the book of 1 Timothy (AD 65). Likewise, in AD 66, 2 Peter 3:15-16 speaks of Paul’s writings as “Scriptures” and declares “all his epistles” as being canonical with “the rest of the Scriptures.” The “all” indicates that Peter considered not only Paul’s oldest writings (1 and 2 Thessalonians) to be Scripture, but also 2 Timothy, an epistle written earlier in the same year that 2 Peter was written (AD 66).

Nor should it be assumed that Peter canonized Paul’s writings. Long before Peter treated all Paul’s writings as Scripture, Paul insisted that the church treat his writings as God’s word - once in AD 51 (1 Thes. 2:13; 4:15) and again in AD 54 (1 Cor. 14:37). This illustrates that canonization was a prophetic function of the inspired writer himself. Even as the words were coming off of Paul’s pen and onto the writing material, Paul insisted that the prophets in Corinth (if they were true prophets) acknowledge that the words he was writing in 1 Corinthians 14 were “the commandments of the Lord” (v. 37). This means that the very moment Paul was penning 1 Corinthians 14 Paul was treating those words as canonical. This parallels our discussion of Moses and Isaiah in chapter 3.

Instant canonization illustrated in the book of Revelation

The context of inscripturated canon

This is also seen in the last book of the Bible, Revelation. One of the major themes of the book of Revelation is the opening of the already existing biblical canon by Christ (5:2-7,9) and the subsequent closing of the canon of Scripture in AD 70 (10:7) after the last book of the Bible had been written (10:8-11; 22:7,9,10,18-19). The vision of the big scroll of Revelation 5 shows that the sealed canon of the Old Testament (Rev. 5:3)105 continues to be the prophetic basis for judgments upon both Israel and Gentile nations (Rev. 6ff).106 That canon had been closed and could not be opened until the Lamb of God Himself authorized its opening (Rev. 6:2-7,9). Once that canon was re-opened after the ascension of Christ in AD 30 (Rev. 5:5-7,9), Christ sent forth numerous prophets (10:7,11; 11:1-13,18; 16:16; 18:20,24; 19:10; 22:6,7,9-19) who witnessed to His revelation until such time as the New Testament canon would be finished (10:7 Greek). Though these prophets were killed, they formed the revelational foundation for the New Testament church.

John’s own prophetic witness to the truth (cf. Rev. 1:2) involved the writing of the little scroll of Revelation (10:8-11). The Greek word for the “little scroll” is βιβλιδάριον (cf. Rev. 10:8,9,10 in MT and 10:9,10 in USB) and is distinguished from the βιβλίον or big scroll of Revelation 5. The βιβλιδάριον is the book of Revelation and the βιβλίον is the growing canon of Scripture. John’s eating of the little scroll parallels Ezekiel’s eating of the little scroll in Ezekiel 2-3 on many levels.107 The vision showed that before either prophet could prophesy the contents of his prophetic volume, he would need to be inspired (likened to eating an already written book). But what was eaten by both prophets was the content of their respective books that were to be added to the canon. In Ezekiel 2:9 the prophet is given what is called the “scroll of a book.” In other words, the whole book is not handed to Ezekiel, but only one scroll of that “book” or collection of scrolls (migilath sepher - ְמְגִלַּת־סֵֽפֶר). The Jewish translators of the Septuagint render that Hebrew expression as κεφαλὶς βιβλίου, or “volume of the book.” So Ezekiel’s prophecies comprise one of the volumes of a much larger book - the canon. In much the same way, the “little book” of Revelation (the βιβλιδάριον) is the last volume or scroll of this growing book of canon.

What John writes is Scripture the moment he writes it

When this distinction between βιβλιδάριον (little book) and βιβλίον (canon) is kept in mind, then it is clear that the moment John wrote down his prophecies, they were being written into the canon of Scripture. Just as Joshua and Samuel wrote into the book of the law (the canon) John is commanded, “What you see, write in a book (βιβλίον or canon)” (Rev. 1:11). In Revelation 22:18-19 God does not just forbid adding to or subtracting from the smaller scroll of Revelation. On the contrary, the canon itself was being closed:

For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book (βιβλίον or canon): If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book (βιβλίον or canon); and if anyone takes away from the words of the book (βιβλίον or canon) of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book (βιβλίον or canon).
Revelation 22:18-19

It is significant that John did not use the word that described the smaller scroll of Revelation when giving these warnings. He used the word βιβλίον. Certainly John wrote all of his prophetic words into the scroll of Revelation as well (Rev. 10:8-11), but in doing so he was writing them immediately into the canon of Scripture. This is confirmed by the fact that his words did not take on Scriptural authority only after the church declared them to be Scripture. John’s written words had immediate Scriptural (“written”) authority (Rev. 1:13,19; 2:1,8,12,18; 3:1,7,14; 14:13; 19:9). As we have seen, this is consistent with the way all the Old and New Testament prophets had been writing the previous books of the Bible.

A later chapter on the cessation of prophecy will dig into the exegetical details of canon in the book of Revelation in much more detail. But this chapter has sought to demonstrate the immediate canonization of all Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation the moment it was written. The reason Revelation is Scripture is because a prophet (John is characterized as a prophet and his writings as prophecy in Rev. 1:3; 10:11; 19:10; 22:6,7,9,10,18,19) canonized the prophecies as they were being written (Rev 1:11; 22:18-19). Revelation 10-11 anticipated the imminent time (Rev. 10:7) when both the canon and all other prophetic revelation would cease. So Revelation 10 is preoccupied with the imminent ending of prophetic Scripture and Revelation 11 is preoccupied with the imminent ending of oral prophecies (with the death of the last two prophets).108

5. Apocrypha written before Christ?

Any inspired writer was ipso facto a prophet.

– F.F. Bruce

For the children of Israel shall abide many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar, without ephod or teraphim.

– Hosea 3:4

‘Behold the days are coming,’ says the LORD GOD, ‘that I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD. They shall wander from sea to sea and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the LORD, but shall not find it.’

– Amos 8:11-14

Having established the immediate inscripturation of the 66 books of the Protestant canon, what are we to make of the apocryphal109 and pseudepigraphal110 books written in the three centuries prior to Christ? Some non-Protestant churches accept some or all of the apocryphal books and some cults even accept some pseudepigraphal books. This chapter will seek to clearly show why no “Old Testament apocryphal book” can possibly be part of Scripture. Though there are some additional criteria people have used to rule out these books,111 the Bible’s own claim that there would be a complete cessation of prophecy during the four hundred years prior to Messiah is sufficient evidence to rule out all non-prophetic literature. As William Whitaker worded it,

The entire syllogism is this. All canonical books of the Old Testament were written by prophets: none of these books was written by a prophet: therefore none of these books is canonical.112

In light of the information that will be presented in this chapter, it is significant that no apocryphal book claims to be written by a prophet.113 Some of the authors even deny that they are inspired prophets.114 Why would non-Protestants canonize such books when their own Apocrypha’s internal testimony is against their being prophetic?

It was an axiom among Jews that all Scripture was prophetic. Second, it was an axiom among Jews that the Scripture foretold the cessation of all prophecy from 400 BC until the Messiah should arise as the Great Prophet. If these two claims can be backed up by Scripture, then 100% of the apocrypha found in the Roman Catholic canon can be automatically ruled out. We will examine both of these statements in more detail.

All canonical Scripture was considered to be prophetic

According to Jews, every Old Testament book was considered to have been written by a prophet.115 Thus, Josephus distinguished between the historical writings that were canonical and those that were not canonical based upon whether they were prophetic or not.116 The Jewish Encyclopedia summarizes the view of Jews through history when it says, “Every Biblical book was said to have been written by a prophet… There is thus an unbroken chain of prophets from Moses to Malachi.”117 F. F. Bruce summarizes the conclusive evidence by saying, “Any inspired writer was ipso facto a prophet.”118 As an ad hominum argument this information is enough to prove that the apocrypha were not treated as Scripture in the first century.

But more importantly, the Scriptures agree. The Bible calls itself “the prophetic Scriptures” (Rom. 16:26). If every portion of Scripture was not written by a prophet, that would be a difficult statement to understand. 2 Peter 1:20-22 claims that the entire Scripture was prophetic and therefore reliable, since “prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” Hebrews 1:1 contrasts the finality of revelation that came through Jesus in the New Covenant with the revelation that came through a variety of means and ways in the Old Testament, and describes that entire Old Testament corpus as God speaking “to the fathers by the prophets.” Indeed, the whole Old Testament is referred to as “the prophets” (Luke 24:25,27; John 6:45; Heb. 1:1) or “the Scriptures of the prophets” (Matt. 26:56), or God speaking “through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures” (Rom. 1:2).

Nor is this view contradicted by the Jewish two-fold division of the Old Testament. When the New Testament divides the Old Testament Scriptures into “the law and the prophets” (Matt. 7:12; 22:40; 16:16; John 1:45; Acts 13:15; 24:14; 28:23; Rom. 3:21) or “Moses and the prophets” (Luke 16:29,31; cf. 24:27,44; John 1:45; Acts 26:22; 28:23), it is not claiming that Moses was not one of the prophets. He is clearly called a prophet (Deut. 34:10; Acts 3:22; 7:37). This is simply a division Jews used to distinguish the foundational law found in the Pentateuch from the application and enforcement of the law by all the rest of the Old Testament prophets. But it is crystal clear that the two-fold division of the Old Testament into “Moses and all the Prophets” encompassed “all the Scriptures” (Luke 24:27) and therefore all the Old Testament Scriptures were given by prophets.

Nor is this thesis (that only a prophet could write an Old Testament canonical book) contradicted by the three-fold division of “the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms” (Luke 24:44). This is clear since the authors of the Psalms are called prophets. For example, Asaph wrote twelve Psalms (Psalm 50, 73-83) and he is clearly called a prophet (2 Chron. 29:30; Matt. 13:35). David has all the descriptors of a prophet given to him119 because his inspired writings were the very words of God - “The Spirit of the LORD spoke by me, and His word was on my tongue. The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spoke to me.” (2 Sam. 23:2-3). But more to the point, the Psalms are quoted as being the words of a prophet (Ps. 132:11 quoted in Acts 2:30), equivalent to the law (see Psalm 82:6 quoted in John 10:34), as being the very words of the Holy Spirit (eg., see Psalm 95:7-11 quoted as words of the Spirit in Heb. 3:7-11), and as being Scripture (Ps. 118:22-23 quoted in Matt. 21:42). Thus, the three-fold division is not a denial of the prophetic authorship of the Psalms and Proverbs, but is simply a convenient literary division of the Old Testament.

We will have much more to say about the foundational role of prophets in even the New Testament Scriptures in a later chapter, but for now it is sufficient to notice that the Old Testament Scriptures were prophetical. If, therefore, prophecy ceased in 400 BC (as we will shortly demonstrate), then by definition the apocrypha cannot be Scripture since it was written after 400 BC and before the coming of Christ.

All prophecy ceased in 400 BC

This was the standard Jewish view of Christ’s day

But did all prophecy cease between 400 BC and the coming of Christ? This was certainly the view of the Jews in the first century. As already stated, it was an axiomatic principle for Jews that prophecy ceased with the writing of Malachi and 2 Chronicles. Fisher summarizes Josephus’ views by saying that he believed “all the inspired books were completed between the time of Moses and Artaxerxes, successor to Esther’s husband Xerxes, at which time the prophetic succession ceased, no one daring to add, take away, or alter the contents of those writings ever after.”120 Josephus’ view was the uniform Jewish view of the time121 and before.122 Even the Babylonian Talmud expresses this view in several places.123

Hosea’s witness

Hosea prophesied that following the exile there would be a long period without prophetic revelation.

Hos. 3:2 So I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver, and one and one-half homers of barley. 3 And I said to her, “You shall stay with me many days; you shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man—so, too, will I be toward you.” 4 For the children of Israel shall abide many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar, without ephod or teraphim. 5 Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God and David their king. They shall fear the LORD and His goodness in the latter days.

This inspired prophecy foretold six things that Israel would be without for a long period of time. What period is it referring to?

Context = intertestimental period

That this is a reference to the inter-testamental period can be seen from several exegetical considerations.

First, what happens “afterward” in verse 5 is Messianic, since seeking Yehovah is equivalent to seeking “David their king.” It is not simply seeking a son of David, but it is a person who is both Yehovah and “David.”124 So verse 5 must be anchored in the first century AD.

Second, Gomer leaving Hosea symbolizes northern Israel being cast into exile in 722 BC because of her unfaithfulness (v. 1). So verse 1 should be anchored no earlier than 722 BC.

Third, the whole point of Hosea restoring Gomer to himself and ensuring that she remain faithful to him was a prediction of God restoring the scattered tribes of Israel to the land and ensuring that they remain faithful to Him. When did the tribes get restored? The restoration occurred in the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and the post-exilic prophets. So verse 2 should be anchored in approximately 537 BC.

Fourth, Hosea speaks of Gomer being faithful to Hosea for “many days” (v. 3) as a prophetic symbol of Israel’s faithfulness to God for “many days” (v. 4). The fact that Zechariah (520 BC and after) prophecies against people who use teraphim125 (Zech. 10:2), shows that the period being anticipated as without teraphim must be somewhat later than Zechariah’s prophecy. But was there a time when at least outwardly, the use of idols was completely rejected by Israel? Yes. The restored Israel did remain faithful to God for most of the time between 400 and 5/4 BC.

So verse 4 has to occur some time after the post-exilic prophets and sometime before 5/4 BC (when Jesus was born).126 This window of time is what has been traditionally spoken of as the “four hundred years of silence.”127

Cessation of revelation from 400 BC - 5/4 BC

Hosea 3:4 says that there are six things that Israel would be without during these four hundred years, and they are grouped into three sets of couplets:

  1. Neither king nor prince - contrasted with Christ’s office of King
  2. Neither pagan worship nor pagan idols - contrasted with Christ’s office of Priest
  3. Neither divine revelation or demonic revelation - contrasted with Christ’s office of Prophet

Were these three couplets fulfilled during the period of 400-5/4 BC? Yes. Each one of these couplets stands as a wonderful contrast to Jesus being the final King, Priest, and Prophet. Let’s consider the fulfillment of each one:

It is a fact of history that Israel was “without king or prince” from the line of David until the final representative of David (Jesus - see v. 5) appeared on the scene in 5/4 BC. Commentators point out that the Messiah is called “David,” which would be impossible if He was not from the line of David. So this sets up a strong contrast between the Davidic kings and those Hasmonean rulers that were clearly not Davidic. The Hasmoneans (or Maccabbees) were from the tribe of Levi and were never considered to be from the tribe of Judah or from the line of David. Thus, they could never qualify as true kings of Israel or even princes of Israel. In contrast, Jesus is over and over said to be a son of David who sits on the throne of David. The Hasmoneans acted more like the judges in the book of Judges. So this was a period in which God alone was seen as King and lawgiver. The Intertestamental “Judges” simply implemented Biblical law, and as can be seen from 1 Maccabees, were faithful in doing so.

It is a fact of history that Israel was “without sacrifice or sacred pillar” to false gods during this same period.128 As David Baron words it,

…since then [the exile] they have manifested the greatest abhorrence of everything bearing the remotest resemblance to idolatry. Of course there is another kind of idolatry: there are the ‘idols of the heart’ (Ezek. xiv. 4), which are quite as hateful in the sight of God as images of wood and stone, but with this our passage does not deal.129

Why would Jesus as the final Priest be contrasted with pagan worship rather than with the priests of Israel? I believe it is because these couplets are dealing with things that Israel was “without” in order to anticipate the need for a Messiah who would encompass all three offices. Since Israel was not without a priesthood from 400-5/4 BC, the only thing that could be contrasted with is pagan worship. That pagan worship is in view can be seen from the fact that the “sacred pillar” is always seen as idolatrous (Ex. 23:24; 34:13; Lev. 26:1; etc.) God is not denigrating the intertestimental Jews. They were foretold to be saints (Dan. 7:18) who would be mighty in exploits because they knew their God (Dan. 11:32).

The last couplet was also fulfilled during the years of AD 400-5/4 BC. Israel was clearly “without ephod or teraphim” during the same period. Both of these articles were used to receive revelation, and are being contrasted with Jesus being the final Prophet. The ephod was a godly source of revelation (Numb. 27:21) and the teraphim was an unauthorized and ungodly source of revelation from demons (2 Kings 23:24; Ezek. 21:21).130

The ephod was a special garment worn by the High Priest that had stones embedded in it (Ex. 28:12, 39:7,21) including the Urim and Thumim (Ex. 28:30; Lev. 8:8), which somehow gave detailed prophetic guidance from the Lord (see 1 Sam. 23:9-12; 30:7-8 for examples). The post-exilic community did not have access to the Urim and Thumim (Ezra 2:61-63).131 That community was waiting for a priest to hopefully find those articles, but they apparently never did get discovered. The Talmud states that the Urim and the Thummim and the spirit of prophecy were among the five things missing from the Second Temple.132

As to the idolatrous teraphim, we have already noted that the Hasmoneans completely eliminated idolatry even among pagans in the area. Bleich says,

But at the time of the second temple, in the days of the Hasmoneans, they rose again to a great degree, and rooted out the worship of idols. Then all those who came from the Babylonian exile recognized and knew that the Lord is God.133

So Hosea 3:4 is a text that anticipates not only an interregnum134 but also a long interruption of prophetic revelation. It might be thought that this was due to unfaithfulness on the part of God’s people, but Scripture denies that. Daniel says of these future (to him) people: “…the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits” (Dan. 11:32). This means that it was possible for these Maccabees to “know” God without ongoing prophetic revelation because they clung to what Daniel elsewhere describes as the “Scripture of Truth” (Daniel 10:1). The Maccabees anticipated a time when the Messiah would come and when “a prophet should arise” (I Macc. 4:46; cf. 9:27; 14:41), but until that time they stuck to the Scriptures alone. The reason is clear: if there were no prophets to write Scripture, then the apocryphal books that were written during that time could not be Scripture.

Amos’ witness

Amos provides us clear instruction that completely rules out any form of prophecy whatsoever in the years 400-5/4 BC. Amos says,

‘Behold the days are coming,’ says the LORD GOD, ‘that I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD. They shall wander from sea to sea and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the LORD, but shall not find it.’ (Amos 8:11-14)

Hints of the timing of this absence of prophecy
Amos chapter 8 comes historically after chapter 7

The sequence of these chapters makes it clear that the subject matter of 8:11-12 occurs during the same period that Hosea 3:4 did, namely 400-5/4 BC. Much of the message of Amos deals with the imminent scattering of the northern tribes by Assyria. Their predicted exile happened in 722 BC. However, Amos also has concerns with the sins of the southern tribes (see explicit references to Judah in 2:4,5). It is my belief that chapter 7 ends with the exile of the northern tribes in AD 722. But chapter 8 moves on to Judah’s own sins and predicts a similar exile of Judah under Nebuchadnezzar in 607 BC. Chapter 9 then moves on to an even more distant exile of all Israel in AD 70, followed by a building of the New Covenant135 tabernacle of David among the Gentiles (9:11-12) followed at some point by the millennial success of the Great Commission (9:13-15).

So that is the broad sequence of Amos 7-9. We will now begin to examine the timing of Amos 8:11-12 in more detail. That Judah is in view in chapter 8 can be seen from the fact that judgment is connected with the temple (v. 2), Sabbath observance is at least nominally followed (v. 5 - not true of the north), and that people are keeping the temple feasts (v. 10 - חַג). Commentaries sometimes slide over the indicators that a switch to Judah has occured. The confusion often comes from the mention of Samaria in verse 14, but we will see that this reference actually fits a post-exilic time period far better.

8:1-10 is 607 BC and 8:11-12 is after 607 BC

The next time hint is seen in the contrast between an imminent judgment that was already upon them and a distant prophecy of what will happen in the days to come. Verse 2 says, “The end has come upon My people Israel; I will not pass by them anymore…” This indicates an imminent destruction of temple and people (v. 3) that will not wait any longer. In contrast, the first phrase of verse 11 says, “Behold, the days are coming…” Since the judgment of verses 1-10 was already upon them, the days of verses 11-12 must be subsequent to Judah’s exile in verses 9-10. And of course, the flow of the text itself would indicate that. Since judgment on the temple (v. 3) and an ending of temple festivals (v. 10 - חַג) is in view, verses 1-10 should be seen as referring to the exile of Israel in 607 BC.

Ezekiel-Malachi is non-stop prophetic activity, therefore 8:11-12 comes after Malachi.

But since 607-400 BC had non-stop giving of prophecies by exilic and post-exilic prophets from Ezekiel to Malachi, and since verses 11-12 predict a complete absence of prophecy (vv. 11-12), verses 11-12 must come after the last post-exilic prophet wrote his prophecies in 400 BC.

Samaria and the tribe of Dan were both still in existence (v. 13)

However, the fulfillment cannot be in our distant future because Samaria and the tribe of Dan are still in existence when this prophecy is fulfilled, something impossible in our day. There are Samaritans, but no Samaria today. Likewise, there are no tribal distinctions among Jews anymore. As Fred Gilbert words it,

For nearly two thousand years there have been no tribal distinctions. The tribe of Judah has passed away, and has lost its distinctively tribal standard ever since the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem, and since then the Jews have been scattered. Since then, no Jews can really prove to which tribe he belongs.136

But during the years of 400-5/4 BC, Samaria and Dan did exist. And Samaria had a mongrel religion that stood in opposition to the true Scriptures. The Samaritan religion started in 2 Kings 17:24-41 as a mixture of paganism and the law of God. The syncretism they engaged in is “the sin of Samaria.” And the Samaritans took over the territory of Dan, also referred to in verse 14. Because it was a false religion, verse 14 records them saying, “As your god lives, O Dan!” Dan and Samaria are implied to be in a hostile relationship to the true religion of the Bible. And history tells us that this was indeed the case. There was constant animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans, beginning in Nehemiah 6:1-14 and continuing into the time of Jesus (cf. John 4:6-26; 8:48).

All of the details perfectly fit the time period of 400-5/4 BC, and some of the details can only fit that period.

How Amos 8:11-12 rules out the existence of any prophecy in any form during the years 400-5/4 BC
It mentions a total absence of the word of the Lord.

First, unlike the days of Eli when “the word of the LORD was rare in those days” and when “there was no widespread revelation” (1Sam. 3:1), Amos predicts a time when there would be no revelation (“shall not find it”). Even if one were to misunderstand this as a tragic withholding of prophecy (i.e., as a judgment), the fact should not be missed that there was a total absence of “hearing the words of the LORD.” Even those seeking revelation diligently would not find it. Neither the godly nor the ungodly had prophetic insight.

God Himself sends this absence of prophecy

Second, it was God Himself who sent the famine of revelation. God says, “I will send a famine… of hearing the words of the LORD.” God has the freedom to give or to not give revelation, and we cannot bind His hand if He has so chosen. The concept of cessation of prophecy is not a limitation of God. Rather it is God’s sovereign freedom to give or not to give. The question is not “What can God do?” but rather, “What has he chosen to do?” The accusation of many Romanists, Eastern Orthodox, and other Continuationists is that Cessationists are binding the hand of God. But this passage (and others like it) are simply showing what our free God has chosen to do, not making us doubt what He can do. Some argue that the lack of prophecy is not because God is not speaking, but rather because we are not listening. But this passage clearly shows that their failure to receive revelation was because of God’s lack of giving (“I will send a famine”).

The absence of prophecy is not because people fail to seek for it

Third, this absence of revelation was not because God’s people were failing to seek prophetic insight. Amos describes passionate searching for revelation: “They shall wander from sea to sea and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the LORD, but shall not find it.” Once again, the cessation of revelation cannot be entirely blamed upon a lack of desire for prophecy.

The absence of prophecy is universal

Fourth, Amos speaks of a cessation of revelation that was universal. The phrase, “from sea to sea” is also used to describe the universal reign of the coming Messiah (see for example Psalm 72:8; Zech. 9:10; Mic 7:12). Since the Mediterranean bordered Israel on the West, the phrase, “from north to east” would include all the other pagan lands to the north and east.137 The famine of revelation was everywhere in the world; it was universal.

This particular cessation of prophecy is temporary and not final

Fifth, it is admitted that the lack of revelation in this passage is framed in negative terms (“famine”) rather than positive terms (“no need for revelation”). Continuationists might argue that all Cessationism is a curse or a famine. This argument will be countered when we consider a command from God to no longer seek prophet or vision after 70 AD (see discussion of Isaiah 8 in the next chapter). But for now it is helpful to note that prior to the time of Christ, revelation was not complete. God was preparing people to long for the coming of the Great Prophet, Jesus Christ. Cessationists too believe that there was need for more revelation after Malachi was written. There was every reason to seek for more from God and to long for more from God.

We have seen that both Hosea and Amos predicted a complete cessation of prophecy in the years 400-5/4 BC. Therefore the apocrypha cannot be Scripture because all the apocrypha was written between 300 and 50 BC. Furthermore, none of the apocrypha in the Roman Catholic Bible make any claim to be prophetic (understandably so, since they were written after the age of the prophets). Geisler says that the apocryphal books

… lack any claim to divine inspiration… There is indeed a striking absence in the Apoc of the “thus saith the Lord” found hundreds of times in the prophetic books of the Hebrew canon. Indeed, there is neither an explicit nor implicit claim to inspiration in any of the apocryphal books.138

In the following paragraphs we will outline the apocrypha that is listed in each non-Protestant canon, will then date them, and using those dates will prove definitively that they are not canonical.

The previous information rules out 100% of the apocrypha of Rome, Eastern Orthodoxy, Coptic, and Ethiopic church

The different canons of non-Protestant churches

The Romanist canon

In 1546 (at the Council of Trent) Rome officially added the following books (or portions of books) to the canon: Tobit, Judith, the Greek additions to Esther, the Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, Baruch, the Letter of Jeremiah, three Greek additions to Daniel (the Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Jews, Susanna, and Bel and the Dragon), and 1 and 2 Maccabees.

The Eastern Orthodox canons

The Greek Orthodox Church added 1 Esdras, the Prayer of Manasseh, Psalm 151, and 3 Maccabees to the books accepted by the Roman Catholic Church. The Slavonic (Russian) Orthodox Church adds to the Greek Orthodox canon the book of 2 Esdras, but designates 1 and 2 Esdras as 2 and 3 Esdras. Some Orthodox churches add the book of 4 Maccabees as well. The Armenian Bible includes the History of Joseph and Asenath and the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, and the New Testament included the Epistle of Corinthians to Paul and a Third Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians

The Coptic canon

The Coptic Church adds the two Epistles of Clement.

The Ethiopian canon

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church has the largest canon of all. To the apocryphal books found in the Septuagint Old Testament, it adds the following: Jubilees, 1 Enoch, and Joseph ben Gorion’s (Josippon’s) medieval history of the Jews and nations. To the 27 books of the New Testament they add eight additional texts: namely four sections of church order from a compilation called Sinodos, two sections from the Ethiopic Book of the Covenant, Ethiopic Clement, and Ethiopic Didascalia. It should be noted that for the New Testament they have a broader and a narrower canon. The narrower canon is identical to the Protestant and Catholic canon.

The apocrypha of ancient Greek manuscripts

It is important to note that though the ancient manuscript tradition clearly testifies to all of the books in the Protestant canon, no Uncial manuscript contains all the books of any non-Protestant tradition.

Vaticanus (B) contains 1 Esdras, Wisdom, Eccesiasticus/Sirach, Judith, Tobit, Baruch, and the Epistle of Jeremiah. Sinaiticus (א) contains Tobit, Judith, 1 Maccabees, 4 Maccabees, Wisdom, and Ecclesiasticus/Sirach.

Alexandrinus (A) contains Baruch, Epistle of Jeremiah, Tobit, Judith, 1 Esdras, 1 Maccabees, 2 Macabees, 3 Macabees, 4 Macabees, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus/Sirach, and Psalms of Solomon.

Only four apocryphal books are found common to all three of the earliest Greek manuscripts (Judith, Tobit, Wisdom, and Ecclesiasticus/Sirach), and, as Geisler words it, “No important Greek MS has the exact number of books accepted by Trent.”139 Aquila’s Greek translation of the Old Testament did not contain any apocrypha. Likewise, the fact that the Vulgate translation contains the apocrypha does not prove that the church of that era saw them as having canonical status any more than Protestant Bibles that contain the apocrypha prove that Protestants accept the apocrypha.

When Jerome translated the apocryphal books, “he was careful to indicate by Prefaces those books and parts of books not found in the Hebrew canon,”140 and he clearly taught that the apocrypha were not canonical and even to some degree dangerous.141

Names and dates of contested inter-testamental apocrypha and pseudepigrapha

But it is when we date the apocrypha that it becomes crystal clear that they were written during a time when God’s inerrant word says that no prophets would prophecy. Notice the dates of the following books:

Tobit (225-175 BC)

The Book of Tobit is a work of fiction that has been very popular among Jews and early Christians. This book was considered an ecclesiastical book (i.e., church reading canon but not Scriptural canon) by fathers such as Rufinus of Aquilelia. The book tells the story of Tobit, a righteous Israelite who had been deported to Assyrian in 721 BC. Raised by his maternal grandmother to be faithful to Yehovah, he experiences adventures and romance. It’s worth a read as fiction, but based on date is ruled out by Hosea and Amos as being outside the canon.

Ecclesiasticus (200-175 BC)

The same is true of Ecclesiasticus. This book is sometimes called Sirach, or “The Book of the All-Virtuous Wisdom of Yeshua ben Sira.” Ben Sira was a Jewish scribe. Scholars say that he wrote down this book of proverbs and sayings somewhere between 200-175 BC, and that his book was translated into Greek by his grandson in 132 B.C. He made no claim to prophetic abilities, and indeed apologized for the poorness of his writing: “Wherefore let me intreat you to read it with favour and attention, and to pardon us, wherein we may seem to come short of some words, which we have laboured to interpret.”142

1 Maccabees (175-135 BC)

This is a very useful history book (especially for the period from 175-135 BC), but it makes no claim to be Scripture and indeed claims to be written after the age of the prophets (see 9:27; 4:46; 14:41). It gives wonderful background information to festivals and the formation of the community into which Christ was born.

Judith (150 BC)

The Book of Judith is a historical novel that shows God’s people winning against their enemies through the intervention of a woman, Judith. This Jewish widow outwits and slays a great Assyrian general, thus bringing deliverance to her oppressed people. It was written by a Pharisee in Palestine sometime in the late second century BC.

Additions to Esther (114 C)

This work, likely written about 114 BC, consists of a number of additions to the Biblical book of Esther. There is an unusual colophon attached to the book at 11:1, which has made many scholars date the “Additions to Esther” to 114 BC. The note says that the Additions were brought from Jerusalem during the fourth year of Ptolemy and Cleopatra. Depending upon which Ptolemy and Cleopatra, this would be dated as 114 BC, 77 BC, or 48 BC.

1 Baruch (200-100 BC)

Most of this book was written between 200 and 100 BC. It was written under the assumed name of Baruch, who was the private secretary of Jeremiah. As such, it is Pseudepigraphal, like some others are.

The Prayer of Manasses (150 BC)

Most scholars believe this prayer was written sometime in the first or second century BC, though perhaps 150 BC is a good guess. Though Rome does not accept this as canonical, it is accepted by the Orthodox church. It also appears in the late fourth-century Vulgate, Martin Luther’s Bible, in the Roman Rite Liturgy, the Matthew Bible of 1537 and the Geneva Bible of 1599. Again, the date is a giveaway that it is not canonical.

2 Maccabees (100 BC)

This book is not nearly as useful as the first book of Maccabees, since it combines history with fiction. Though it has useful information related to the Maccabean Revolt against Antiochus IV, it also contains bad Pharisaic traditions. The author wrote this as an abridgment of a five volume work by Jason of Cyrene. We no longer have the longer work, and it is uncertain how much of this was directly copied from it. In any case, it makes no claim to inspiration and was written in Greek somewhere around 100 BC (though some extend this to 170-110 BC). The author’s statements about his own writing indicate that he did not think of himself as a prophet. For example, he says, “If it is well told and to the point, that is what I myself desired; if it is poorly done and mediocre, that was the best I could do.” (15:38) Indeed, he claims simply to be abridging five volumes written by a Jason of Cyrene (cf. 2:23ff) and admits that this has been painful labor (2:26ff).

Bel and the Dragon (100 BC)

This story comprises chapter 14 of the extended book of Daniel. It mocks idolatry and especially opposes the dragon god. But Hosea and Amos would rule this out as not belonging in the canon. No prophets were authorized to add it to Daniel since no prophets existed in 100 BC.

The Prayer of Azariah and Song of the Three Holy Children (100 BC)

This appears after Daniel 3:23 in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Bibles. This does not appear in any Hebrew or Aramaic Bibles.

1 Esdras (100 BC)

This Greek verson of the canonical Book of Ezra was written sometime around 100 B.C. Some of the subject matter added is from the book of Nehemiah. It is considered apocryphal in the West and canonical in the East.

2 Esdras (100 BC?)

Though this book is considered apocryphal by Roman Catholics and most Orthodox, it is accepted by the Slavonic (Russian) Orthodox church. They re-label 1 and 2 Esdras as 2 and 3 Esdras. This book is a Jewish apocalyptic writing. There is debate on the dating, with some placing it after AD 70 (as a book of consolation after the Jewish exile) while others date it somewhere between 150-11 BC. If it is dated after AD 70, then the principles of the next chapter apply.

The History of Susanna (1rst century BC)

The History of Susanna is sometimes called Susanna and the Elders. This is included in Daniel 12 in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. However it is not in the Hebrew Bible and is not mentioned in any Jewish literature. This is another 1st century B.C. addition to the book of Daniel.

Wisdom of Solomon (65 BC)

The Wisdom of Solomon or the Book of Wisdom was written in Alexandria by a first century Jew. His goal was pastoral - to bolster the faith of the Jewish community in a hostile environment. Though a handful of church fathers thought that this book was canonical,143 I will simply point to the date that it was written - 65 BC.

Concluding statement

God has not left us in the dark concerning His Old Testament canon. In addition to Christ’s endorsement of the Hebrew canon (which is identical to the Protestant canon) God has given us sufficient information to clearly rule out anything written between 400-5/4 BC. Every one of the apocryphal books listed above was written during the period that God guaranteed no prophecy would happen. So even if there was a claim to prophecy in the apocrypha (which there is not), the Bible’s self-referential statements would have excluded the apocrypha. So when Rome canonized the books at the Council of Trent, they were not only changing the majority of church opinion (see chapter 1), but they were ignoring the apocryphal books’ self-referential statements, and failing to heed the prophecies of Hosea and Amos. The Protestant canon of the Old Testament has been vindicated using presuppositional arguments.

6. Closing of the canon in AD 70

to seal up vision and prophet

– Daniel 9:24

Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples… To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak acccording to this Word, it is because there is no light in them.

– Isaiah 8:16,20

In that day… I will cause the prophets… to depart from the land. It shall come to pass that if anyone still prophecies,… [they] shall thrust him through when he prophecies And it shall be in that day that every prophet will be ashamed of his vision when he prophesies…

– Zechariah 13:2-6

What are we to make of the apocryphal and pseudepigraphal books that were written in the two centuries after Christ? Some of these claim to be written by apostles and claim to be Scripture. Should we accept those claims? Many cults have added to the canon over the last two thousand years. Islam added144 the Quran in the 7th century AD and claims that it is the very word of God.

But as with all additions to God’s Word, the additions eventually took precedence over the established canon and then completely replaced the true canon. The same was true of modern cults like the Church of the Latter Day Saints, which adds the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. While they acknowledge the canonicity of the Bible, their so-called new revelations have taken precedence over the Bible. The same has happened with the Tradition of the Roman Catholic Church and the similar Tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church. As Jesus worded it, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition… making the Word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down.” (Mark 7:9,13)

This chapter will seek to demonstrate that the Old Testament (which we have already established as being canonical) talks about the addition of new revelation to the canon in the first century and also speaks of the complete closing of the canon in AD 70. Typically the historic faith has held that the canon was closed in the age of the apostles and that no new revelations can be authoritative. Cults on the other hand typically say that the canon continues to be open to new additions or at least is not sufficient for faith and practice. But this chapter will give one guiding principle that rules out 100% of all non-canonical additions to the New Testament. Since we have already established the Old Testament canon as authoritative and complete, we should bow to its pronouncements about how and when the canon would be added to in New Covenant times.

OT predictions of the closing of the New Testament canon

While there are legitimate differences of interpretation on New Testament Cessationist passages such as 1 Corinthians 13:8, the interpretive options of that passage would be narrowed if it would be interpreted in light of the clear Old Testament passages predicting a new covenant cessation of prophecy. Paul made it clear that he was “saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come” (Acts 26:22; cf. Heb. 3:5; Acts 17:11). The only doctrine which needed clarification by new revelation was the “mystery” of Jew and Gentile both being in “Israel” (see Ephesians 2-3).

However, everything else that Paul taught, he taught from the Old Testament. After all, the only Bible that the church had for several years was the Old Testament (Acts 8:32,35; 17:2,11; 18:24,28; Rom. 16:26; 2Tim. 3:15-17). If Cessationism (or non-Cessationism) is true, it will be able to be demonstrated to be true from the Old Testament. This is why Paul could praise the Bereans when they “searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things [the teachings of Paul] were so” (Acts 17:11). In the spirit of being a Berean (Acts 17:11) I will seek to prove from the Old Testament that there was a permanent Cessationism of prophecy and prophetic Scriptures in AD 70. Only then will I move to the New Testament proofs in later chapters.

Isaiah’s witness

Isaiah 8 prophesies about a time when God’s people will be forbidden from going to any other revelation than to “the law and to the testimony” (v. 20), and speaks of all other revelation-seeking as disobedient (v. 19) because the “testimony” and “the law” would be bound up and sealed (v. 16) by the time of the war that verses 19-22 discuss (the war of AD 66-73. This is a very important prediction, and bears some careful study.

Context points to a window from the birth of Jesus to AD 70.

First, the entire context of this passage in Isaiah 8-9 is repeatedly quoted in the New Testament as having a first century fulfillment. The whole of Isaiah 8:11-9:7 is clearly Messianic (Matt 4:13-16; 21:44; Luke 2:34; 20:17; Rom. 9:33; Heb. 2:13; 1Pet 2:8), but with a terminus point of Israel’s first century expulsion from the land (see Romans 10-11; Luke 20:9-19). Note that Isaiah 8:14-15145 is specifically applied to the casting away of Israel (see Rom. 9:31-33; 11:9-11; Luke 2:34; 20:17; 1Pet 2:8), verse 18146 is interpreted by Hebrews as referring to Jesus in the midst of His people (Heb. 2:13), and Isaiah 8:21-22147 describes the anguish of the Jewish war of 66-73 AD (see Luke 21:11-12,23,24; 23:28-31). Thus the bookends of Isaiah 8:11-22 are clearly the life of Christ on the one side and AD 70 on the other. Isaiah 9:1-7 recapitulates this same time period by contrasting the Jewish war (see verses 1-5, which describe an oppression that was to occur “afterward” – v. 1) with the earlier (“at first”) revelational judgment that Jesus brought against Israel (v. 1 with Matt. 4:16). Thus the bookends of Isaiah 9 are the incarnation of the Messiah on the one side (vv. 6-7) and His destruction of Israel on the other side (9:1-5), with a reference to His three-year ministry in the middle (v. 1 with Matt 4:13).

The revelation that ceases is both oral and written

The second thing to notice is that this short window of history (5BC-70AD) is predicted to be a time of both written and oral revelation. This revelation is described variously as “the law,” (8:16,20), “the testimony” (8:16,20), “this word,” (8:20), and “light” (8:20; 9:2). It might be objected that the revelation that ceases only has reference to the closing of the canon of Scripture (“the law” and “testimony”). But while the canon is certainly involved, it should be pointed out that the “light” of revelation that Jesus brought in 9:1 (see Matt. 4:12-17 for interpretation) was almost exclusively oral prophetic revelation, not written. Furthermore, this revelation that came from God during the first century is also contrasted with an oral prophetic revelation of demons (Is. 8:19).148

That there were a multitude of false prophets in the first century can be seen not only from the numerous warnings in the New Testament itself (Matt 7:15; 24:11,24; Mk 13:22; Acts 13:6; 1Tim. 4:1; 2Pet 2:1), but also from the descriptions of the demonic that can be found in Josephus’ history of the war against Jerusalem. Thus, this is a period that is dealing with both oral revelation and written revelation from God.

An AD 70 ending of prophecy and prophet

It is in this AD 70 context that Isaiah 8:16 refers to the cessation of inspired revelation. God said, “Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples” (v. 16). The word translated “bind up” (צוֹר) has a semantic range of meaning from to be narrowed, to bind up, to tie up, to wrap up, to shut up, to restrict something, to be constricted, to be cramped or restricted.149 But however it is translated, the entire semantic range of meaning expresses “the opposite idea from that conveyed by those words that denote spaciousness” (NIDOTTE). This first word vividly describes the contrast between the widespread revelation prior to AD 70 and the narrow source of revelation found after AD 70, the narrow source being the Biblical revelation alone (v. 20).

The next word used is to “seal up.” This word (חֲתוֹם) means to close up or to seal. The New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis says, “Sealing was a means of closing something from interference… Something sealed is closed, so the term was transferred to denote shutting inside a house (Job 24:16), a blocked spring (Song of Songs 4:12), the obstruction of a bodily discharge (Lev.15:3)” etc. The dictionary also says, “What is sealed may be taken as ended, so sins are sealed (Dan. 9:24), and sealed in a bag, not to be reopened (Job 14:17).” Applied to revelation, this word means that the stream of revelation is sealed up, the receptacle of revelation is closed off, and the giving of revelation is blocked.

These two Hebrew words could hardly be stronger in describing a complete cessation of God’s revelation. Yet God further strengthened the doctrine of Cessationism by pitting the unfaithful Jews of that war who would seek revelation from spirits (v. 19) against the faithful Jews who appealed to the closed canon of Scripture alone (v. 20). It is a very stark contrast between the continuing revelation of demons and the completed revelation of God. From AD 70 and on, God’s people were to subscribe to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura: “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (v. 20) This is a categorical affirmation of one authority, one judge of truth, and one source for speaking truth. From AD 70 and on, there should never be an appeal to other authoritative sources. Yet the apostate Jews going through this war would ignore this command and seek alternative revelation (v. 19), and thus end up actually cursing God (v. 21) and walking in darkness (v. 22). We would expect that if the New Testament speaks of a time when prophecy will cease, it should be interpreted in light of this clear passage.

Daniel’s witness

A first century AD ending of prophecy and prophet

Though the seventy weeks of Daniel 9 are notoriously controversial and difficult to understand, the first century Cessationism of this passage is still quite clear.

The first verse of this passage says,

Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city, to finish transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy.

The phrase, “to seal up vision and prophecy” clearly speaks of a cessation of prophetic revelation at some point in history. The word for “to seal up” is the same Hebrew word that was already discussed in Isaiah 8, and should be interpreted in parallel with that passage. Interestingly, the Hebrew word is used twice in this verse, earlier being translated as “to make an end of” in the phrase “to make an end of sins.” So this passage predicts an end to prophetic revelation some time after the New Covenant starts. The following points amplify upon this concept.

The New King James Version translates the Hebrew phrase, וְלַחְתֹּם חָזוֹן וְנָבִיא, as “to seal up vision and prophecy.” The Hebrew word translated “vision” is used of the dream of Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 8:1,2,13), the oral prophecies of prophets (1Sam. 3:1; 1Chron. 17:15) as well as the recorded messages of the Scriptures (2Chron. 32:32; Is. 1:1; Obadiah 1; etc.). It is a word that seems to cover all infallible revelation. The Hebrew word translated “prophecy” is נָבִיא (“prophet”), not נְּבוּאָה (“prophecy”). And thus it is more literally translated as “to seal up vision and prophet” in many versions (DRBY, Yng, NRSV, ESV). Elsewhere in Scripture נָבִיא always has reference to the person who prophesies, not to the prophecy itself. Of the over 300 times this word occurs, it is never translated “prophecy” except here. Always its consistent meaning is “prophet.” Likewise the word נְּבוּאָה is never translated “prophet.” Rather it refers to the revelation of the prophet. So there are two distinct things that were promised to cease. God was going to make an end of both the vehicle of inspired revelation (“prophet”) and the inspired revelation itself (“vision”). This is not dealing with a fulfillment of prophecy, but an ending of prophetic revelation and office.

What is the terminal point of this cessation? There are two considerations that help us to understand this. The first is the meaning and duration of the 70 weeks. The second is the timing of the last event recorded in the chapter, a war which “shall destroy the city and the sanctuary” and make an “end of it” (vv. 26-27).

There is little consensus on the answer to the first question. However, in light of the fact that the New Testament clearly refers to the desolation of abomination referred to in verse 27 as occurring during the time period of the Roman war against Jerusalem and the Jews throughout the empire150 (66-73AD), the cessation of vision and prophet should also occur before Jerusalem’s destruction in AD 70. Thus, whether there will ever be agreement on the nature of the seventy weeks being discussed below, verses 26-27 should be seen as the terminus point for vision and prophet. Those who do not want to work through the tedious detail of the interpretive options of the weeks can skip over the next section.

Interpretive options

It is worthwhile to work through some interpretive options with regard to the seventy weeks themselves. Even if the “week” mentioned in verse 27 is not tied to the length of the war mentioned in verses 26-27, it is clear that the war should be the latest terminus allowed for the sealing up of vision and prophet. Nevertheless, it may be helpful to articulate two interpretations of the 70 weeks that could credibly fit a first century cessation of vision and prophet.

Almost all commentaries agree that there are both weeks of days (with a Sabbath day) and weeks of years (with a Sabbath year). If Daniel were talking about 70 weeks of days, it would amount to 490 days (70 weeks = 70 x 7 days = 490 days). I know of no author who believes this is talking about what would happen within 490 days. Most commentators take a second option and see this as a reference to 70 weeks of years (or 70 x 7 years = 490 years).

Beyond that, there is little agreement with many different interpretations being offered by scholars. The two most likely interpretations are:

  1. The last week of years ends 3½ years after Jesus was crucified, with the ending of sacrifice and offering in verse 27 referring not to a literal ending of sacrifices at the temple, but Christ making all sacrifices null by his death. Though verse 27 awkwardly seems to indicate that the last week occurs during the war against Jerusalem, there are a number of scholars who hold that it represents the three and a half years of Christ’s ministry plus the first three and a half years of post-Pentecost history. It just so happens that Paul, the “last” of the apostles and one “born out of due time” (1Cor. 15:8), was commissioned three and a half years after Christ was crucified. This could literally refer to a closing off of prophets commissioned by Christ.
  2. The last week of years ends in AD 73 after a literal seven year war that lasted from AD 66-73. This view has several strengths. First, it reconciles with the timing that Isaiah 8 gave for prophetic revelation being sealed up during the war. Second, the week mentioned in verse 27 happens to be the length of the hostilities against the Jews throughout the Roman Empire (lasting from 66-73 AD). Third, sacrifice and offering ended exactly in the middle of the seven-year war, just as verse 27 says. Fourth, this interpretation not only accounts for the second half of the week (the second 1290 days),151 but also accounts for the 1335 days mentioned in Daniel 12:12 (the exact number of days from the day that the temple was burned until Masada fell).152 Fifth, this interpretation makes better sense of the word “after” in verse 26, which describes Messiah being cut off “after the sixty-two weeks” but not during the seventieth week. Sixth, on this interpretation, verse 24a can be taken literally when it gives the number of years left “for your people and for your holy city,” whereas both people and city continued to exist for almost forty years after the seventieth week on the previous interpretation.

The choice between these two views hinges on at least three issues. First, can there be gaps in the 490 years or must they run consecutively? In favor of gaps are the following considerations:

  1. The text does not say 490 years, but 70 weeks.
  2. If the “command” of verse 23 is the same as the “command” in verse 25, then the countdown for 490 would start in 537 BC (Cyrus, year 1). This would make the first option impossible to justify, but fits the chronology being proposed in the second option perfect to the year.153
  3. The weeks are grouped into three parts: seven weeks” (v. 25), “sixty-two weeks” (vv. 25,26), and “one week” – v. 27. Why list them in three sections? At least one theory is that there are gaps between those three groupings.
  4. Making gaps in the predicted 70 weeks makes the prophecy parallel to the gaps that everyone acknowledges were in place for the 70 weeks that led up to Israel’s exile.

Keep in mind that this promise of 70 weeks flows out of Daniel’s calculation of Jeremiah’s prophecy about the 70 years of exile (see Daniel 9:2). This means that there were seventy Sabbath-year violations by Israel that led to the 70-year exile.154 No matter how those Sabbath violations are calculated, there are large gaps of time when Israel did indeed keep the Sabbath year mandate. It just so happens that when the recorded years in which the “land had rest” are subtracted from the time between Cyrus and 73AD, you have an exact calculation of years that amounts to 70 weeks of Sabbath violations.155 The last unfaithful, Sabbathless week of years were the years from 66-73 AD. The final gap occurred as John the Baptist turned the hearts of the fathers to the children and of the children to the fathers and averted (for forty years) God’s curse on the land (Mal. 4:6). Any Jew living in the time of Christ who counted the previous three forty year periods would have been able to know the time of this war against Jerusalem to the year.

The second issue that divides between these two options is the word “after” in verse 26. When the Messiah is said to be cut off “after the sixty-two weeks” (v. 26), how far “after” the sixty-two weeks is He cut off? One view holds that it is 3½ years after the sixty-two weeks, and the second view holds that it is 40 years after the sixty-two weeks. Both views take the “after” seriously. The first view can account for “after” by saying that half way through the last week is indeed “after the sixty-two weeks.” It is an odd way of phrasing the question, but it can work. But if we take the second interpretation, Christ’s crucifixion does not happen either within the sixty-two weeks or within the seventieth week. The only way to speak of Christ’s crucifixion would have been by placing it after the sixty-two weeks but before the seventieth week, which is exactly the way the text lays the plan out.

The last interpretive issue is what is being referred to as happening during the “middle of the week” in verse 27? Does the “middle of the week” refer to the time Jesus is cut off or the time that the literal sacrifices and offerings are cut off? Though it could fit the first interpretation, the most natural reading of the week in verse 27 is to take it as the length of the war. This is strengthened when it is realized that verse 24 gives seventy weeks of countdown “for your people and for your holy city.” It appears that the last week will end when the “holy city” ends and when Israel is sent into yet another exile. This doesn’t make sense on the first interpretation, but it makes a great deal of sense on the second interpretation. This gives a smooth parallelism between the reason for the first exile that Jeremiah mentions and the reason for the second exile found in Daniel’s 70 weeks.

Concluding statement

Though there may be other options for interpreting the weeks, it is helpful to note that this interpretation makes the sealing up of vision and prophet consistent with the interpretation already given in Isaiah 8. But again, the seventy weeks controversy can be swept aside if the terminus can be seen to be somehow prior to the exile of the Jews in AD 70 (vv. 26-27). Vision and prophet are clearly said to end before AD 70.

Zechariah’s witness

Zechariah also prophesies a cessation of true prophecy in New Covenant times. And interestingly, it indicates that the same penalty dictated in the Pentateuch for false prophets will continue to apply in New Covenant times. Whatever other issues are unclear about this passage, those two themes come through loud and clear.

First century context

There are several indications that Zechariah 13 will be fulfilled in the time of the New Covenant. First, chapter 12:10 refers to both the piercing of Christ’s side and the subsequent pouring out of the Spirit at Pentecost (see John 19:34-37; Rev. 1:7; Matt 24:30). Second, Zechariah 12:11-14 must be fulfilled in a period of history when Israel is still distinguishable by tribes and families (impossible after the scattering of Israel in the first century). This gives a clear first century context. Third, chapter 13:1 refers to Christ’s redemption (see John 19:34; Rev. 21:6,7; 1John 1:7; Ezek. 47:1-5). Fourth, Zechariah 13:7 is quoted in Matthew 26:31,56 and Mark 14:27 as being fulfilled in AD 30. Fifth, Zechariah 13:8-9 is a reference to AD 70 when two-thirds of Israel is destroyed. This parallels each of the other Old Testament Cessationist passages.

Finally, all of the above sections are linked by the time indicator “in that day” (12:4,8,9,11; 13:1,2,4). Therefore (whatever the ambiguities some might see in one or two of the points above), the context should not be stretched beyond the first century.

A first century ending of prophecy

It is in this context that God not only begins a glorious advancement of the Gospel (“cut off the names of idols…unclean spirits”) but also ends the age of prophets (“I will also cause the prophets… to depart from the land”). Zechariah 13 as a whole says,

In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness. It shall be in that day, says the LORD of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, and they shall no longer be remembered. I will also cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to depart from the land. It shall come to pass that if anyone still prophesies, then his father and mother who begot him will say to him, ‘You shall not live, because you have spoken lies in the name of the LORD.’ And his father and mother who begot him shall thrust him through when he prophesies. And it shall be in that day that every prophet will be ashamed of his vision when he prophesies; they will not wear a robe of coarse hair to deceive. But he will say, “I am no prophet, I am a farmer; for a man taught me to keep cattle from my youth.” And one will say to him, “What are these wounds between your arms?” Then he will answer, “Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.”

Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd,
Against the Man who is My Companion,
Says the LORD of hosts.
Strike the Shepherd,
And the sheep will be scattered;
Then I will turn My hand against the little ones.
And it shall come to pass in all the land,
Says the LORD,
That two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die,
But one-third shall be left in it:
I will bring the one-third through the fire,
Will refine them as silver is refined,
And test them as gold is tested.
They will call on My name,
And I will answer them.
I will say, “This is My people”;
And each one will say, “The LORD is my God.”

That this cessation of the prophetic office is a cessation of true New Testament prophets can be seen by the following considerations: First, the context is the first century. Second, God is the cause of Cessationism (“I will also cause… to depart” – v. 2). Third, true prophetic revelation is contrasted with the demonic (“the prophets and the unclean spirit”). Fourth, false prophets do continue to exist for a time after God causes the “prophets” to depart from the land. This can be seen by the words “It shall come to pass that if anyone still prophecies” (v. 3). The word “still” indicates that there are some prophetic claims even after God causes “the prophets and the unclean spirit to depart from the land,”156 so obviously it is not the false prophets whom God causes to depart; it is the true prophets.

Fifth, this Cessationism (“I will cause… to depart”) makes false prophets reticent and even ashamed to claim to be prophets (“every prophet will be ashamed of his vision” see also the context of verses 4-6) and makes God’s people unwilling to receive new prophecies from others (“if anyone still prophecies…[they] will say to him…you have spoken lies”).

Sixth, this reluctance to receive new prophecies after the time of cessation is with regard to any prophecy, whether in the name of the Lord or not (“if anyone still prophecies… in the name of the LORD… every prophet”).

Seventh, New Testament prophecy is treated just like Old Testament prophecy, and the prophets are judged according to the standard of Deuteronomy by being put to death (v. 3). This last point is a critical one in critiquing Continuationism because Continuationists do not believe New Testament prophets should be judged by the same standard as Old Testament prophets.157

Finally, this parallels Daniel 9 in making both the vehicle of revelation (“prophet”) and the message of revelation (“prophesies”) to cease. This answers those who claim that there is no office of prophet today, but that there is a manifestation of prophecy. The passage appears to discredit both.

However, even if the timing of the above interpretation is not accepted, one still has to deal with the clear statement that at some point in history God Himself will remove prophets from the land. This is not at the end of history (see “still” in v. 3, and the progress of history in verses 1-6). So regardless of one’s interpretation of the Zechariah 13 time period, the standard Continuationist interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13 and Ephesians 4 (which says that prophecy will continue until the end of history) is contradicted. This also contradicts the interpretation that concedes that the office of prophet will cease in the first century, but insists that the occasional act of prophesying will continue, because this rules out both office and prophetic revelation at some point in history.

Joel’s witness

Joel 2 details a time of God’s marvelous presence and blessing with His people (vs. 18-27) followed by a later time in which people would prophesy and dream dreams and see visions.

And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions; and also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, as the LORD has said, among the remnant whom the LORD calls. (Joel 2:28-32)

The first point relevant to Cessationism is that the church can have God’s full favor, blessing, and presence (vs. 18-27)158 without having this pouring out of charismatic gifts. Note that the pouring out of revelation comes after God’s Inter-Testamental blessing. To speak of a lack of ongoing prophecy as a sign of God’s curse is not consistent with Scripture.

Second, these revelatory gifts come after the Inter-Testamental period mentioned in verses 18-27 but “before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD” when God’s wrath is poured out upon Jerusalem in the war of AD 66-73 (vv. 30-32). This makes this passage on New Testament gifts occur during the same time period that the previous Old Testament Scriptures do - the last days leading up to AD 70. To stretch the application of Joel beyond that is not only unnecessary, it violates the immediate and broader context.

Third, when Acts interprets this passage as being fulfilled in the “last days” of the Old Covenant, it is interpreting this consistently with each of the Old Testament passages on Cessationism. Every reference to “last days” in the Bible refers to the time period of foreign domination of Israel that culminates in Israel’s destruction as a nation in AD 70. Thus Jesus was born in the last days (1 Pet 1:20), spoke in the last days (Heb. 1:1), and the Spirit was poured out at Pentecost on the last days (Acts 2:16-17). These are the last days of Israel, temple, sacrifices, priesthood, Old Covenant, etc. Hebrews uses the present tense when it says “Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away” (Heb. 8:13). The final “shaking” and evidence of the new kingdom was to be the destruction of Jerusalem (Heb. 12:25-29 with Haggai 2:6).

Fourth, connected to these spiritual gifts are miraculous signs in verses 30-31. These signs in some way confirm the revelatory gifts of God. (The New Testament indicates that this is not the exclusive function of miracles, but it was certainly a significant function of miracles.159)

All “New Testament” apocrypha and later cultic writings were written after AD 70 and therefore are not canonical

The gnostic gospels and miscellaneous other writings that cults have claimed as Scripture were all written after AD 70. The following books have been thoroughly discredited on many other grounds, but the presupposition of cessationism given in this book automatically rule every one of them out.

  • The Gospel of Thomas
  • Oxyrhynchus 1224 Gospel
  • The Egerton Gospel
  • The Gospel of Peter
  • Secret Mark
  • The Gospel of the Egyptians
  • The Gospel of the Hebrews
  • The Apocalypse of Peter
  • The Secret Book of James
  • The Preaching of Peter
  • The Gospel of the Ebionites
  • The Gospel of the Nazoreans
  • The Oxyrhynchus 840 Gospel
  • The Traditions of Matthias
  • The Gospel of Mary
  • The Dialogue of the Savior
  • The Gospel of the Savior
  • The Epistula Apostolorum
  • The Infancy Gospel of James
  • The Infancy Gospel of Thomas
  • The Acts of Peter
  • The Acts of John
  • The Acts of Paul
  • The Acts of Andrew
  • The Acts of Peter and the Twelve
  • The Book of Thomas the Contender
  • The Acts of Thomas

Conclusion

The preceding information makes it clear that the Old Testament anticipated the complete closing of the canon in AD 70. This rules out all writings that were produced after that time as being counterfeits to true Scripture. This rules out not only Gnostic literature of the second and third centuries AD, but also the writings of all cult leaders since then. Nothing more is needed than these Old Testament prophecies to rule out the Koran, the Book of Mormon, and other claims to continuing inspired revelation.

7. More on closing the canon in AD 70

whether there are prophecies, they will come to an end

– 1 Corinthians 13:8

And it shall come to pass in the last days… your sons and your daughters shall prophesy

– Acts 2:17

…but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God will come to an end, as He declared to His servants the prophets

– Revelation 10:7

The importance of interpreting the New Testament in light of the Old (Acts 17:11)

I will once again remind the reader that the New Testament should be read in light of the Old Testament prophecies and vice versa. The Bible is a seamless whole, and the New Testament adds to the Old Testament, it does not replace it. Otherwise the church would have been without a canon for decades, but as I proved in chapter 4, the Bible of the early church (before the New Testament was written) was the Old Testament, and the apostles constantly proved their doctrines from its pages (Acts 17:2,11; 18:28; etc).160 The New Testament cannot be fully understood apart from the Old Testament and vice versa. The Old Testament prophets excluded inspired books that were not intended for the New Testament audience161 and were instructed that they were writing a canon “not to themselves, but to us” (1 Pet. 1:12) in New Covenant times. Of the Old Testament, Paul said, “all these things…were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Cor. 10:11). This means that we are not “New Testament Christians” who can ignore the Old Testament.

When the apostles speak of the appearance of prophets and prophecy in New Covenant times, they were not saying anything that the Old Testament had not already predicted. When Paul affirmed that ongoing prophecies at Corinth would come to an end (καταργέω162 - 1 Cor. 13:8) he was simply affirming something that the Old Testament had affirmed over and over again - the appearance and then permanent ending of prophecy (see previous chapters). When the apostle John said that two things were about to happen in AD 70, namely, 1) the seventh angel was “about to (μέλλῃ) sound” and 2) prophetic mystery was about to be brought to an end (τελέω - Rev. 10:7), he adds that this was not a new revelation, but something that had been anticipated and “declared to His servants the prophets” (v. 7). Where did the prophets (plural) anticipate an ending of prophetic mystery in AD 70? The answer is, In the Old Testament passages that we looked at in the previous chapter, and in the New Testament passages that will be listed below.

When the apostles indicate that these prophets would only exist in the “last days” of the Old Covenant (ending in AD 70) they were not saying anything that the Old Testament had not already clearly predicted. The point is that everything in this chapter should be seen in light of the previous chapters. Just as the New Testament builds on the Old Testament, this chapter needs to be read in light of the previous chapters.

And this was the way the apostles expected all Christians to interpret their writings. The Bible of the early church (before the New Testament was written) was the Old Testament, and the apostles constantly proved their doctrines from its pages (Acts 17:2,11; 18:28; etc). Everything Paul taught could be proved from the Old Testament (Acts 17:2,11; 18:28; etc) and he taught “no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come” (Acts 26:22). So when passages like 1 Corinthians 13:8 are interpreted in a way that would be totally foreign to Old Testament theology, we are violating the oft-stated interpretive principle that “The New is in the Old concealed; the Old is in the New revealed.”163

So as the reader thinks through the New Testament passages dealing with the cessation of prophecy listed below, those passages should not be interpreted in a way that is inconsistent with the Old Testament prophecies. If your alternative interpretation cannot be proved from the Old Testament, it is likely false. To receive Paul’s praise of the Bereans, you too should search the Old Testament Scriptures to verify whether any given interpretation of each New Testament passage is true (Acts 17:11).

New Testament passages that say the same thing as Isaiah, Daniel, Zechariah, and Joel

Acts 2:17-21

Acts 2 gives an inspired interpretation of the Joel prophecy, but it does so in a much broader prophetic context. Just as God promised to establish a new Israel and a new temple in Babylon from the remnant of exiles (see Ezekiel 10),164 God promised a much later time when He would pour forth the Spirit and establish a new Israel and a new temple during New Covenant times. Luke crafts the books of Luke and Acts in such a way that it shows that the Spirit was indeed poured forth to establish a new Israel from the remnant of the Old Israel. God formed a new “nation” (see Matt 21:43) and bestowed on it the kingdom (Luke 22:29). He established twelve apostles “to sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:30). As to apostles, it was symbolically essential that Matthias replace Judas as one of those princes (Acts 1:15-26).165 As to twelve tribes it is important to remember that the early church was exclusively Jewish in makeup and was composed of Jews from all twelve tribes.166 It very literally was the remnant of Israel into which the Gentiles would be grafted (Rom. 12:17-24). In addition to the twelve princes and twelve tribes, there was also a new eldership of seventy on whom the Spirit would rest in prophetic revelation (see Luke 10:1-24) that corresponds to the seventy Spirit-anointed elders who prophesied at the first formation of Israel (Numb 11:25). The twelve plus the seventy is the core of the 120 in the upper room. But since a synagogue had to have a minimum of ten males, and God was symbolically establishing leadership among twelve tribes, God had 120 male “names” (Acts 1:15) ready to establish the new Israel, the minimum number to establish a new community. And this whole group of 120 was charismatically endowed. These additional prophets would provide guidance to churches all over the empire on the issue of the “mystery” of Gentiles being allowed into Israel without circumcision (see discussion of Ephesians 2-3 below).

Why did Jesus go out of His way to rename Simon as Peter (Peter means Rock) in Matthew 16:17-19? Was it because Peter was so strong? No. He was weak and as “Simon” had betrayed Christ (Luke 22:31-34). Several Reformed writers have pointed out that what made Simon a “Peter” (a rock) was the foundational revelation that had been given to him in the previous verses (Matt. 16:13-17). However, it is important to note that it was not only Peter who would be a foundation rock for the church. God established “twelve foundations” (Revelation 21:14) and added prophets to this foundation so that it became the “foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief Cornerstone” (Eph. 2:19-21). In Acts 1-2 God is laying a revelational foundation for the church by establishing a body of apostles, charismatically endowed elders, and prophets. Once that foundation was laid, no more foundational revelation would be needed.

There are three Cessationist facts relative to this foundation. First, if Paul is considered to be an apostle appointed “out of due time” (1Cor. 15:8-9), and was eschatologically the “last” of the apostles,167 then it argues that Acts 1-2 truly was foundational, and by implication within the “due time” that the foundation was laid. Second, this is reinforced when Peter interprets this charismatic endowment as taking place in the last days of the Old Covenant (“And it shall come to pass in the last days … prophesy … see visions … dream dreams … in those days; and they shall prophecy.”). The last days is not a period of time at the end of history, but is the last days of the Old Covenant, of the temple, the priesthood, the ceremonial law, the holy land, etc. The last days are the days leading up to 70 AD, when Israel would be scattered in judgment among the nations.168 Third, this is reinforced by the fact that this charismatic endowment is followed by a description of the last days of Israel as a nation (vv. 19-20) and salvation to all, both Jew and Gentile (v. 21). The implication is that the charismatic endowments would not necessarily go beyond the last days. Like the Old Testament passages predicted, the extraordinary gifts would be only for the last days of the Old Covenant to ease the transition.

Ephesians 2-3

Ephesians 2:19-21 is a very important text on the doctrine of Cessationism, and even Continuationist, Wayne Grudem, agrees that it is teaching some kind of Cessationism. Paul says, “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”

Paul is saying that the foundation of the church was being laid in the first century, and that this revelational foundation is made up of three parts: 1) Jesus Christ, who is the chief cornerstone of the foundation, 2) the apostles, who are part of the foundation and 3) the prophets, who are also part of the foundation. Even Wayne Grudem sees the significance of this passage as indicating that the apostles have indeed passed away. Just as you can’t have multiple cornerstones and multiple Christ’s in every century, you can’t have multiple foundations in every century. This is why Paul said that he was the “last”169 of the Apostles (1Cor. 15:7-8) and an apostle “born out of due time” (Gal. 1:16-18). The very nature of apostleship necessitated an ending of that office. Since the apostles were the direct representatives of Christ on earth (Luke 10:16; Jn. 13:20) and since they were the only human foundation for the church (Eph. 2:20; Matt. 16:18-19), and since the foundation can never be laid again (1Cor. 3:11), it follows that there cannot be apostolic succession.170 However, if apostles have ceased, then so have the prophets who are just as foundational. If chief cornerstones cannot be multiplied over 2000 years, then neither can the prophets grouped with that foundational cornerstone. But it is clear that whatever this passage is talking about was clearly intended only for the first century.

Wayne Grudem seeks to avoid the force of this passage with respect to prophets by wrongly applying the Granville Sharpe rule to this phrase. Thus, he interprets it to mean that “the apostles who are also prophets” have ceased in the first century, but not all prophets. His thesis is that only apostolic prophets have passed away. We will deal with this interpretation in the next chapter. Here it is sufficient to note three things: First, the phrase, “apostles and prophets” speaks of something intended to only continue for the first century. Second, though the term “prophets” may include Old Testament prophets in its purview, it is clear that Paul especially had New Testament prophets in mind. This can be seen by his repetition of the phrase “apostles and prophets” in chapter 3:4-5, where Paul says that the “mystery… which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men,” “has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets.” The word “now” indicates that Paul was including New Testament prophets in the phrase. Third, the whole section of 2:19-3:21 makes it clear that this was a revelational foundation to equip the church (see especially 3:3-6,9,10). All that was needed for the church to be built in succeeding generations was completely laid in the first century.

1 Corinthians 13:8-13

1 Corinthians 13:8 says, “Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (ESV)

This is a notoriously difficult passage to interpret, with numerous nuances of interpretation.171 It is not the goal of this study to settle on one of those interpretations. Instead, we would note several objections that can be made to any Continuationist interpretation. First, the passage is clear that prophecy will cease sometime. While Non-Cessationists argue that the cessation occurs at the Second Coming, the fact that cessation is even mentioned is significant.

Second, the very mention of cessation should engage us in the hermeneutical principle of the analogy of Scripture. In light of Paul’s claim that he had been “saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come” (Acts 26:22), and in light of Paul’s praise for the Bereans for checking everything he taught against the Old Testament Scriptures (Acts 17:11), and in light of how much the rest of the Bible speaks about cessation of prophecy, it is wise to interpret this unclear passage in light of the Old Testament passages that we have already examined. Any interpretive options that bring this passage into conflict with first century Cessationism flies in the face of clearly established Old Testament doctrine.

Third, while both Cessationists and Non-Cessationists172 have often taken the “perfect” in verse 10 as the terminus point for the Cessationism of verse 8, it is by no means a necessary conclusion. Verse 10 can just as easily be taken as the terminus point of the partial nature of all prophetic revelation (verse 9), including the Scripture. Thus, it really does not matter what interpretation of “perfect” one takes in verse 10; one can still argue Cessationism and keep this passage consistent with the rest of the Scriptures we have looked at.173

Fourth, note the following problems with the Continuationist position that the three gifts of verse 8 cease at the Second Coming. Verse 8 says, “if there is knowledge, it will vanish away.” This is a reference to supernaturally given knowledge. But does this special God-given knowledge pass away in heaven? That will be the time when we “will know” more than ever (John 14:20; Matt 10:26; Luke 8:17; 12:2). That is precisely the time when we are given knowledge we do not presently possess!!

Related to this is the knowledge of mysteries that prophets receive (13:2). The word “mystery” is simply the word “secret.” Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of the law.” If a knowledge of a mystery is an opening of our understanding to something God has not chosen to reveal to the church in the Scripture (see God telling Paul that he is not authorized to tell the church about the mysteries he learned about heaven in 2 Corinthians 12:4), then surely the terminus of a knowledge of mysteries cannot be when we get to heaven! That is precisely the time that knowledge of mysteries will be given to everyone, not the time that they will cease being given. Prophets are given mysteries (1 Cor. 13:2) while on earth. But at the Second Coming we will be ushered into a time when the secret things of God will no longer be secret. Thus, interpreting “perfect” as heaven or the Second Coming may do justice to the contrast between the partial knowledge (vv 9-12) and the perfect knowledge (v. 10), but it does not do justice to the phrase in verse 8, “As for prophecies, they will pass away… if there is knowledge, it will pass away.” Does knowledge really pass away in heaven or at the Second Coming?

We could apply the same logic to tongues. When does the gift of tongues cease? It cannot cease at the Second Coming because that is precisely the time when every man, woman and child will not only be able to understand the “tongues of angels”, but will also be given a new tongue of their own. Zephaniah 3:9 says “For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language (literally “tongue”) that they all may call upon the name of the LORD…” If eternity ushers in the gift of tongues par excellence, then the ceasing that is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13:8 must refer to a cessation of miraculous tongues in history rather than at the end of history. The tongues mentioned in the New Testament were a temporary stopgap measure of breaking the language barriers. Just as Adam and Eve were given a gift of instantly knowing how to speak in a new language, eternity will usher us into an instantaneous ability to speak a new language that we had not known previously.

Fifth, the temporariness of the three gifts of prophecy, tongues, and knowledge is contrasted with the abidingness of the three fruits of the Spirit, faith, hope and love. Verse 13 says, “But174 now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” This statement would make no sense if knowledge, prophecy, and tongues only ceased at the Second Coming because that is precisely the time when faith will give way to sight, and hope will give way to receiving. No contrast could be sustained between the abidingness of these graces and the non-abidingness of the gifts. Romans 8:24 says, “But hope that is seen is not hope.” Moffat paraphrases: “Now when an object of hope is seen, there is no further need to hope.” Knox paraphrases, “Hope would not be hope at all if its object were in view.” 2 Corinthians 5:7 and Hebrews 11:1-3 show that faith by its very definition will cease when we receive what we have had faith in. Now “we walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7), but in heaven faith as “the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1) will give way to seeing the things we have longed for. Thus, if faith and hope do not abide forever, but if they abide longer than the other gifts mentioned in the chapter, then those other gifts logically must cease before faith and hope cease; they must cease before the Second Coming.

It is granted that there are many interpretive difficulties for everyone in this passage. But this is precisely why this unclear passage must be interpreted in light of the clear. If it has been demonstrated in this passage that prophecy and tongues cease before the Second Coming, and if other passages indicate that prophecy will cease in the first century, then one of the interpretive options that allows for a first century interpretation should be given preference. We will not dive into the question of whether tongues cease at the same time as prophecy (versus petering out over time), nor the distinction between the gift of tongues and an occasional ability to speak in tongues. In this book I am seeking to stick to what is exegetically clear.

Revelation 10:7 and 22:18-19 with 2:20; 10:7-11; 11:1-14; 16:14; 19:20; 20:10; 22:18-19 and with 1:1; 2:16; 3:11; 22:7,9,12,20; 22:6.

The last proof for the cessation of prophecy comes from the book of Revelation. Revelation 22:18-19 says, “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: ‘If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”

There are several Cessationist considerations in this passage, and its immediate context of the book of Revelation. First, the book of Revelation is repeatedly called a “prophecy” (Rev. 1:3; 22:7,10,18,19), as are oral prophecies given in New Testament times (Rev. 11:6). Continuationist efforts to make a huge distinction between inspired Old Testament prophecy and so-called uninspired New Testament prophecy, simply do not stand. Nor do distinctions between written prophecy (1:3) and oral prophecy (11:6). The book of Revelation consistently uses the term “prophecy” to refer to authoritative revelation from God to man.

Second, God had previously used similar words to indicate the completeness of His moral code: “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take anything from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.” (Deut 4:2) Subsequent books expounded upon the moral law, but did not add new laws. The moral law was complete with the Pentateuch. But in Revelation the context seems to be broader than adding to God’s laws. There is good reason to believe that John is talking about adding to the revelation of Scripture. There are two reasons for thinking this:

First, there has been an earlier theme related to cessation of revelation. Throughout the book there is a conflict between true prophecy and false prophecy (Rev. 2:20; 16:14; 19:20; 20:10). There is also a reference to the cessationist passages already referenced in this paper when God says, “…in the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets” (Rev. 10:7). This mystery is the New Testament revelation of the relationship between Jews and Gentiles, “which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets…” Eph. 3:3-5; cf. Rom. 16:25; 1Cor. 2:7; 15:51; Eph. 1:9; 6:19; Col. 1:26; 4:3; 1 Tim. 3:9). This mystery revealed through the New Testament apostles and prophets was about to cease, but it could not cease until the last judgment on Jerusalem.

Thus Revelation 10:7 introduces God’s commission to John to continue writing (10:8-11) and a description of the last two prophets (11:1-14) to prophesy in Jerusalem, “the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.” This terminus of prophecy (by divine judgment on Jerusalem) was not 2000 years away but “must shortly take place” (1:1; 22:6), and must happen “soon” (2:16; 3:11; 22:7,12,20) in fulfillment of O.T. references to AD 70 (10:7). Notice also that Revelation is preoccupied with Jerusalem being judged for the blood of all the prophets slain (18:20,24; 16:6). Christ similarly says that “upon you [the generation then living] may come all the righteous blood shed upon the land … all these things shall come upon this generation… behold your house is left unto you desolate” (Matt. 23:35-37).

Thus the first reason to see Revelation 22:18-19 as a reference to cessation of revelation is that it matches earlier references to cessation of prophecy and the need for God’s people to be warned about following Satanic revelation.

The second reason is that the book of Revelation uses the word “book” in a broader way than merely the scroll of Revelation (5:2f.; 10:1-11; 22:7,9.10). For example, before Revelation was completed, and certainly before it was distributed to the churches, the messenger tells John, “I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who are keeping the words of this book” (22:9). How could the saints be keeping the words of Revelation when it hadn’t been given to them yet? On the other hand, if “book” includes the whole canon to which Revelation was being added, then the passage makes sense. John’s own prophetic witness to the truth (cf. Rev. 1:2) involved the writing of the little scroll of Revelation (10:8-11). The Greek word for the “little scroll” is βιβλιδάριον (cf. Rev. 10:8,9,10 in MT and 10:9,10 in USB) and is distinguished from the βιβλίον or big scroll of Revelation 5. The βιβλιδάριον is the book of Revelation and the βιβλίον is the growing canon of Scripture. Once Revelation 22 is finished, the author forbids anyone from adding to the canon (βιβλίον). For more details on this distinction, see the section in chapter 4 labeled “Instant canonization illustrated in the book of Revelation.”

Of course, we have already demonstrated in the first part of this book that the word “book” is used over and over again in the Bible to refer to everything God had written (Gal. 3:10). Thus, scribes who taught the Scriptures were said to teach “the book of the Law of the LORD” (2Chron. 17:9). Psalm 40:7 refers to the “volume of the Book” when it refers to Scripture generally. Isaiah tells people to “search from the book of the LORD, and read: not one of these shall fail.” Often the individual books of the Bible are referred to as the scroll of the Book (cf. e.g. Ezek. 2:9). Thus the singular word “book” was often applied to a body of scrolls (cf. e.g. Acts 7:42). Christ said that all the Scriptures wrote about Him, and Hebrews 10:7 words the same truth this way: “In the volume of the Book it is written of Me.” When Revelation 22 says that no one may add to the words of this book, it is doing something revolutionary. The “Book” of Scripture had been added to for thousands of years. But now God was saying, “No more. The canon is closed.” And that would not have surprised godly Jews since the Old Testament had repeatedly prophesied such a cessation of prophecy. As Revelation 10:7 says, “…in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets.” This present thesis has already outlined the various prophets who had predicted the cessation of the mystery of God in AD 70. Since the book of Revelation was written prior to AD 70,175 the Biblical self-referential statements with regard to canon have been fulfilled completely.

8. Objections raised by continuationists

Scriptures of the prophets

– Romans 16:20

…having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.

– Ephesians 2:20

when you received the word of God which you heard from us you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also works effectively in you who believe.

– 1 Thessalonians 2:13

…the prophecy of this book…

– Revelation 22:7,10,18

…hear the words of this prophecy, and keep the things which are written in it…

– Revelation 1:3

Charismatics are bound to have further objections to the interpretation I have given in the previous chapters, and to prepare my response I have read an extensive bibliography of the best of the first-, second-, and third-wave charismatics. The charismatic scholar that I have the most respect for is Wayne Grudem.176 I will use him as a foil in this chapter for two reasons: 1) He has had more influence in promoting a Continuationist theology within Reformed circles than just about any other author. 2) He is a Cessationist on apostleship, and as such has done a great service in moving Charismatics away from a shaky foundation on the canon of Scripture. However, his position on prophets is still problematic.

Though Wayne Grudem is a champion of inerrancy, many of his readers are not. Just as one example, an influential pastor in Omaha has recently reasoned that if what Scripture terms “prophecy” can be in error (as Grudem says it can), then why cannot Scripture (which is also called “prophecy”) have error?177 If a mixture of divine and human means a mixture of truth and error in congregational prophecy, why can’t a mixture of divine and human in Scripture also mean a mixture of truth and error in what 2Peter 1:20 speaks of as the “prophecy of Scripture”?178

We believe that when Cessationism is affirmed for both apostleship and prophecy a credible case can be made for the cessation of all authoritative revelation intended to guide the church as a whole. It is not the intention of this paper to demean Wayne Grudem or other continuationists who hold to a dual kind of prophecy. Great men have done so. It is the intention of this paper to indicate that there is no credible exegetical basis for making two kinds of prophet, one errant and the other inerrant. All prophecy was inerrant and infallible (the very word of God - 2 Peter 1:21) and all prophetic offices and functions have ceased.

Wayne Grudem has many arguments against this viewpoint, but I will try to interact with most of them by dealing with his two most fundamental assertions: First, that Ephesians 2:19-3:7 is not referring to a cessation of prophecy, but only a cessation of the foundational office of apostle. Second, Grudem’s assertion that New Testament prophecy is totally different from Old Testament prophecy, and was never intended to be an inerrant disclosure of God’s will. His discussion of Acts 21 has been very influential in convincing Reformed people that New Testament prophecy always has the potential mix of truth and error, and that New Testament prophets should not be judged on the standard that Old Testament prophets were judged by in Deuteronomy.

The claim that New Testament prophecy is different from Old Testament prophecy refuted

Grudem makes a number of distinctions to preserve the inerrant authority of Scripture over against the supposedly errant but useful ministry of a New Testament prophet. First, he insists that there are two kinds of prophet in the Bible: Old Testament prophet and New Testament prophet. Second, he insists that unlike an Old Testament prophet “who speaks God’s very words,”179 the New Testament prophet cannot claim to be communicating the very words of God.180 Thus, while Old Testament prophecy is inerrant, New Testament prophecy is not.181

This further leads to the conclusion that while Old Testament prophecy has “absolute divine authority,”182 New Testament prophecy was “something quite different… [since it] had only the authority of the merely human words in which it was spoken.”183 Thus New Testament prophecy is not a communication of God’s words to man, but is a dimmer revelation that is understood in varying degrees of accuracy by the prophet and put into human words.

However, Grudem does acknowledge that the New Testament occasionally uses the term “prophecy” to describe an inerrant revelation. In order to counter the implications of this, and in order to preserve the inerrancy of the book of Revelation (which is also called a prophecy), Grudem distinguishes between two kinds of prophetic utterance in the New Testament.

Though in an earlier work, Grudem argued for two kinds of prophet in the New Testament,184 he now argues that inspiration only comes to apostles. He speaks of inerrant prophecy by apostles (who are also prophets) and errant prophecy in the New Testament by all others. He says, “When the prophecy is spoken (or written) by an apostle, then the words have unique authority – absolute divine authority… To disbelieve or disobey a prophecy spoken by an apostle is to disbelieve or disobey God… But such absolute authority simply does not apply to the words of ordinary prophets in local New Testament congregations… Their prophesying is different in this sense.”185

He appeals to Ephesians 2:20 to describe the foundational character of (as he translates it) “apostles who are also prophets.” Thus Grudem is able to preserve the unique character of Scripture as a final revelation from God that is absolute, inerrant, propositional truth. However, as brilliant as his position shows itself to be at places, it is the view of this author that Grudem is exegetically inaccurate, and opens the way for the very attacks against the inerrancy and authority of Scripture that we are seeing today.

There are many evidences that the New Testament authors saw no difference between prophetic speech and prophetic writing other than the fact that the latter was committed to paper, and some (but not all) of the prophetic writings were also included by God in the canon.186 2 Peter 1:21 is clear when it says, “prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke [notice this is not just writing – they “spoke”] as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21). Thus it was not simply Paul’s writings that are the very Word of God. Even Paul’s prophetic speech was the Word of God. 1 Thessalonians 2:13 says the same thing: “when you received the word of God which you heard from us [this is speech here], you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.” Even Paul’s oral prophecies were considered to be the very words of God every bit as much as Old Testament prophecies were. So in addition to apostolic writings, apostolic prophecies were also inspired.

Continuationists often assert that the New Testament does not use the word “prophecy” with respect to any New Testament writing. Grudem recognizes that Revelation is called a prophecy (Revelation 1:3; 2:19; 22:7,10,18,19), so he spends some pages explaining why this is an anomaly, and simply an illustration of Ephesians 2:20 (see below) where an apostle is writing an inspired book which also happens to have prophetic elements to it. But he insists,

It is safe to say that in authority, in content, and in scope, no other prophecy like this has ever been given to the New Testament church.

In conclusion, the book of Revelation shows that an apostle could function as a prophet and record a prophecy for the New Testament church. But because its author was an apostle, and because it is unique, it does not provide information which is directly relevant to the gift of prophecy as it functioned among ordinary Christians in first century churches.187

But this is simply not true. We have already cited 2Peter 1:20-21 to show that all prophecy, both oral and written, has equal authority and is labeled “prophecy.” Romans 16:25-26 is another passage that also helps to define the meaning of the term prophecy. This passage refers to the New Testament Scriptures as “the Scriptures of the prophets” (NASB). Grudem insists that this cannot be a reference to New Testament Scripture since “Paul always (thirteen of thirteen other times) uses ‘scripture’ (Greek graphe) to refer to Old Testament Scriptures.”188

However, the following considerations prove that this is indeed a reference to New Testament Scriptures. First, the New Testament does indeed refer to itself as Scripture. 2Peter 3:16 lumps Paul’s writings in with “the rest of the Scriptures.” Paul himself quotes Luke as “Scripture” in 1Timothy 5:18.

Second, Paul speaks of these “Scriptures” as being a “revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began” (v. 25). This is parallel to Ephesians 3, which speaks of the recent “revelation” of the “mystery” “which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ…” etc (Eph. 3:1-7). Ephesians excludes any knowledge of the mystery in the Old Testament Scriptures (and thus the need for new prophecy).

Third, Romans 16 makes clear that this mystery is “now made manifest.” It was not partially made manifest in the Old Testament.

Fourth, this mystery is specifically “by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for the obedience of faith” (v. 26). If the mystery wasn’t revealed in the Old Testament (clear from Ephesians 3:8-21), and “from the beginning of the ages has been hidden” (v. 9), and “in other ages was not made known to the sons of men” (v. 5), it is difficult to see how Paul can say that the Old Testament Scriptures are in any way the means of making the mystery known. Though there are commentaries that differ with this interpretation, they fly in the face of these stubborn facts.189

There is a great deal of other evidence showing that the New Testament knows of no distinction between Old Testament inspired prophets and New Testament uninspired prophets. For example, the New Testament very fluidly moves between Old Testament prophets/prophecies and New Testament prophets/prophecies, all the while using the same term to describe them. An examination of the following Scriptures will show that Luke shows no understanding of the distinction that Grudem is making: Luke 1:67,70,76; 2:36; 3:4; 4:17,24,27; 6:23,26; 7:16,26,28, 39; 9:8,19; 10:24; 11:29,47,49,50; 13:28,33,34; 16:16,29,31; 18:31; 20:6; 22:64; 24:19,25,27; 24:44; Acts 2:16,17,18,30; 3:18,21,22, 23,23,25; 7:37,42,48,52; 8:28,30,34; 10:43; 11:27; 13:1,6,15,20,27,40; 15:15,32; 19:6; 21:9,10; 24:14; 26:22,27; 28:23,25.

Luke uses the term prophet indiscriminately to describe the pre-charismatic Zacharias and prophetess Anna (Luke 1:67; 2:36), canonical and pre-canonical prophets (Luke 1:70; Acts 3:18,21,24), John the Baptist (Luke 1:76; 7:26,28; 20:6), individual canonical prophets like Isaiah (Luke 4:17; Acts 8:28,30,34; 28:25; ), Jonah (Luke 11:29), Joel (Acts 2:16), David (Acts 2:30), Amos (Acts 7:42), Samuel (Acts 13:20), the author of Kings (Acts 7:48), all the Old Testament canonical prophets (Luke 11:47,50; 13:28,34; Acts 7:52; 10:43), Scripture in general (Luke 16:16,29,31; 24:25,27,44; Acts 7:52; 13:15,27,40; 15:15; 24:14; 26:22,27; 28:23), as well as non-canonical prophets like Elisha (Luke 4:27), Jesus (Luke 4:24; 24:19; Acts 3:22,23; 7:37,42), the New Testament prophets that Jesus would “send” (Luke 11:49; Acts 11:27; 13:1,6; 15:32; 19:6; 21:9-10), and false prophets (Acts 13:6).

Note that the only references in Acts to “prophecy,” “prophesy,” or “prophesied” are in Acts 2:17-18 (OT quote of NT prophecy), Acts 19:6 and 21:9. As to references to “prophet” and “prophets,” you will notice that in 28 of these verses from Acts the word is referring to an inspired, inerrant prophet either in the Old Testament or prophesied in the Old Testament. There are only seven verses where the word describes what Grudem calls a New Testament congregational prophet. But those references are intermixed with references to Old Testament prophets as if Luke thinks that they are exactly the same thing.

For example, in Acts 13 we have two references to prophets in the Antioch church mixed in with four references to “the Law and the Prophets,” “Samuel the prophet,” “the Prophets which are read every Sabbath,” and a quotation from Old Testament prophets. That’s four references to Old Testament prophets mixed in with two references to New Testament prophets. This list is overwhelming evidence that there is not a hair’s breadth of difference between an Old Testament prophet and a New Testament prophet in the books of Luke or Acts. If the New Testament authors had intended to make such a distinction as Wayne Grudem advocates, surely a different word would have been used. It therefore appears to be a legitimate definition of New Testament prophecy to say with Saucy that it is “speech which is inspired by the Spirit and therefore totally true and authoritative.”190

One more side note is the reference to “false prophets” in Acts 13:6. Given the presence of error in all modern “prophets,” how could the expression “false prophets” be a useful designation if all New Testament prophets had the possibility of falsehood in their prophecy? The evidence clearly stands against any bifurcation between Old Testament prophet and New Testament prophet.

Grudem’s exegesis of Ephesians 2-3 refuted

Wayne Grudem objects to our interpretation of Ephesians 2-3 with the following arguments:

He argues the Granville Sharpe rule should be applied to this passage

Grudem’s first argument is that the Granville Sharp Rule should be191 applied to the Greek of Ephesians 2:20 and 3:5, so that it “means that the church is ‘built upon the foundation of the apostles who are also prophets.’”192 According to Grudem, Paul was not talking about apostles plus New Testament prophets (as two different people), but about apostles who are also prophets. In other words, on his view, the apostles and prophets are exactly the same people. Of course, if the Granville Sharp Rule applies here, then he is right.

However, several Greek scholars have shown that his reading violates the Granville Sharp Rule. For example, Daniel B. Wallace, in his advanced Greek Grammar, gives extensive discussion of this Greek rule and states,

in the TSKS construction, the second noun refers to the same person mentioned with the first noun when:

(1) neither is impersonal; (2) neither is plural; (3) neither is a proper name.

Therefore, according to Sharp, the rule applied absolutely only with personal, singular, and non-proper nouns. The significance of these requirements can hardly be overestimated, for those who have misunderstood Sharp’s principle have done so almost without exception because they were unaware of the restrictions that Sharp set forth.193

Wallace spends 20 pages discussing this Greek rule, and demonstrates how Grudem’s reading is impossible. His concluding observations with regard to this text are pertinent to our argument. He says,

This text has become something of a theological lightning rod in conservative circles in America in the past several years, largely due to the work of Wayne Grudem. Grudem argues that the apostles and prophets are identical here. This is essential to his view of NT prophecy: on the one hand, he holds to a high view of scripture, viz., that the autographs are inerrant; on the other hand, he believes that non-apostolic prophets both in the early church and today mixed error with truth. If in Eph 2:20 the Church is built on the foundation of the apostles and other prophets, then it would seem that Grudem either has to deny inerrancy or affirm that non-apostolic prophets only spoke truth (and were thus on par with OT prophets). Hence, he spends much ink arguing that in the NT the prophets are a separate class of individuals. This distinction allows him the luxury of embracing an inerrant NT while admitting that today’s prophets (as well as first century non-apostolic prophets) can commit error in their predictions.

We must refrain from entering into the larger issues of charismata and fallible prophecy in our treatment of this text. Our point is simply that the syntactical evidence is very much against the ‘identical’ view, even though syntax has been the primary grounds used in behalf of it.194

Grudem’s claim that the mystery of Jew and Gentile was never revealed through New Testament prophets

Grudem’s second objection is that the mystery of Jew and Gentile together in one body was revealed through the apostles, but not through prophets. After listing several New Testament passages that describe this mystery, he says, “The remarkable thing about all of these passages is that there is no suggestion anywhere that this revelation… was ever made to any ‘prophets’ in the New Testament.”195

However, eight of the passages that he cites are from Luke, who was not an apostle. Indeed, non-apostles wrote several books of the Bible: Mark, Luke, Acts, Hebrews, Jude, and James. If only apostles could give inspired, inerrant revelation, then how did those books come into existence?196 Some argue that they wrote those books under the oversight of an apostle, and that since the apostle approved the book, it was inspired. But supervision to prevent mistakes is an altogether different thing from inspiration. It would have to be Mark, Luke, Jude, James, and the writer of Hebrews themselves who were inspired and “moved by the Holy Spirit,” “for prophecy never came by the will of man” (2Pet. 1:20-21). Secondly, we have already demonstrated from Romans 16:25-26 that the “prophetic Scriptures” show this mystery. Third, Revelation 10:7 explicitly ties the “mystery” together with all the prophets. It says, “but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets.” These first three points are overwhelming evidence that Grudem is wrong. Fourth, Ephesians 3:5 explicitly says that both prophets and apostles had this mystery revealed to them (assuming that our argument against the Granville Sharp rule applying is true).

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles— if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.

Ephesians 3:1-7

His objection that the metaphor of a foundation refers to something that is complete, whereas prophets continued to give new prophecies around the empire.

A third objection Grudem brings up is that the metaphor of a foundation shows something complete, but “if the foundation consists of apostles plus all those who had the gift of prophecy in all the New Testament churches in the entire Mediterranean world, then it would have to be a ‘foundation’ that is continually being changed and added on to.”197 But a repetition and constant reinforcement of the message in Ephesians 3 is not a constantly changing foundation. It is giving the same foundational revelation of the one mystery repeatedly.

His objection that Paul could have addressed Gentile prophets as proof that they were one in Christ.

A fourth objection given by Grudem is that since “there were certainly many Gentile prophets in that foundation… then it is hard to understand why Paul would not emphasize that fact to prove the equality of Jews and Gentiles in the church.”198 But this does not logically follow. Anyone that questioned the decision of Acts 15 could also question the legitimacy of a prophet. Second, where is the evidence of Gentile prophets?199

His claim that prophets didn’t speak with authority

A fifth objection given: “To my knowledge, nowhere in the New Testament is there a record of a prophet who is not an apostle but who spoke with absolute divine authority attaching to his very words.”200 But on the contrary, Peter insists that “prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2Pet 1:21). Note that Peter’s description is not simply to written Scripture. It includes that which was spoken. In addition to this spoken prophecy was the written “prophecy of Scripture,” none of which had any admixture of “private origin” (v. 20). If only apostles could write Scripture, how else did Luke, Acts, James, Jude, and Hebrews come into existence? The previous points give plenty of evidence that all prophets spoke with authority.

Why the need for inspired prophets in every church?

Finally, it is objected that there would be no need for the “tens of thousands” of prophets in every church to be inspired since very few of them would be able to write Scripture. Continuationists insist that prophets and prophesying were far too universal to require inspiration. F.F Bruce grossly exaggerates the ubiquity of prophesying when he said, “Prophesying appears to be as common an exercise as praying.”201 While some of the passages that are cited to prove universal and constant prophesying may refer to other phenomena, this is an important criticism.

In response it could be said that nowhere are we told about the numbers of prophets. We are told that Paul witnessed testimony from the Holy Spirit in every city of his last journey (Acts 20:23). But could prophets in every city be stretched to more than a hundred or so? We simply are not told the numbers.

Second, we could counter-argue, “Why was there a need for twelve apostles if only four of them wrote Scripture?” Obviously an office that gives inspiration is not just required for the writing of Scripture.

Furthermore, there was an enormous need for infallible guidance in every congregation. Acts 15 shows an almost church-destroying issue of whether Gentiles could come into the church and be considered part of Israel without getting circumcised. It was a controversy that ravaged the church. Every church in the empire had this major issue and every church needed prophetic revelation to remind them of this mystery. And according to Ephesians 3, this was the very purpose for the apostles and prophets: Judaizers questioned this “mystery of Christ, which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.” (Eph. 3:4-7). The Judaizers argued the opposite - that Gentiles had to become Jews via circumcision before they could join the church.

Apostles and prophets were both ministers of the same mystery. They were needed to settle this mystery for all time in the first century. And both were equally up to the task because both were infallible representatives of God. That didn’t mean they couldn’t also reveal other things beyond their three primary tasks. For example, Samuel wrote Scripture and helped Saul find his donkeys by prophetic insight. Though prophets had a high calling of bringing covenant lawsuits, revealing this amazing mystery, and protecting believers from the deception of the Great Apostasy, they could also do mundane things like warn Paul of danger. But prophets were equally part of the revelational foundation with the apostles.

Questions raised about the nature of prophecy in Acts 21

But the biggest argument that Grudem raises is his assertion that New Testament prophets made mistakes, whereas Old Testament prophets did not. Old Testament prophets were judged as false if even one prophecy proved wrong, whereas New Testament prophets could have numerous mistakes, and yet still be used by God in a fallible way to bless the church. His most credible proof texts come from Acts 21, so this chapter will restrict its arguments to that chapter.

Acts 21:4 says, “And finding disciples, we stayed there seven days. They told Paul through the Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem.” Grudem says,

But if this really is a report of prophesying, as it certainly seems to be, then it is very significant for understanding the nature of prophetic authority in ordinary New Testament congregations. It is significant because Paul simply disobeyed their words, something he would not have done if he had thought that they were speaking the very words of God…

In short, this passage indicates a type of prophecy which was not thought by Paul to possess absolute divine authority in its actual words: the prophets at Tyre were not speaking ‘words of the Lord.’

…There is a revelation from the Holy Spirit to the disciples at Tyre, and in response to that revelation, they tell Paul not to go to Jerusalem. The difference in our viewpoints is that I would call the response or report of that revelation a ‘prophecy’, and Dr Gaffin would not. But whatever term is used, it is significant that we would both say that there can be a ‘revelation’ from the Holy Spirit to a person or persons, and also a spoken response to that revelation which can have ‘impaired validity’ and ‘unreliability.’ That is really the essence of what I am arguing for in this book, and what – it seems to me – the New Testament usually calls ‘prophecy’.202

Did the Spirit tell Paul not to go up to Jerusalem or did the disciples?

Note the “they” (in contrast to Acts 8:29; 10:19; 11:12)

Grudem’s main mistake is calling both what is revealed and what they say as “prophecy.” Since the text does not, I think we should be cautious. Here are some questions: First, did the Spirit tell Paul to stay out of Jerusalem or did the disciples or was it both? Both Grudem and I agree that the Spirit did not say that, or there would be a contradiction in the sacred text. Verse 4 says, “They told Paul…” There was something that the Spirit enabled as well, and we will look at that. But it was the disciples who were said to speak. There are other prophecies in Acts where the Spirit is said to speak. Acts 13:2 – “And the Spirit said…” But here it says, “They told Paul.”

Note that the Spirit clearly led Paul to go to Jerusalem earlier (19:21; 20:22-25)

It is clear that the Spirit of God has already led Paul to go to Jerusalem. Acts 19:21 says that “Paul purposed in the Spirit” to go to Jerusalem. In Acts 20:22-25 Paul said, “I go bound in the Spirit for Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me.” It is clear that the Spirit was telling the apostle Paul that he would be in Jerusalem and would be chained there. Every city had similar revelations of the Spirit. Those would be false prophecies if Paul didn’t head to Jerusalem.

Note that by inspiration the Spirit said Paul would be in Jerusalem and authorized his bringing the Gentile donation (Rom. 15:25; 1 Cor. 16:3; Rom. 15:30-33; etc).

Third, the inspired writings of Paul are exceptionally clear that Paul had to go to Jerusalem. Over and over Paul said that he would be there to bring the offerings of the Gentile churches. Romans would not be an inerrant book if Paul did not end up in Jerusalem (Rom. 15:25; 1Cor. 16:3; Rom. 15:30-33).

Note that Jesus approves of what Paul did (Acts 23:11)

Acts 23:11 shows that Jesus approved of what Paul did. “But the following night the Lord stood by him and said, ‘Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome.”

Note that Luke and the disciples are finally convinced this really was “the will of the Lord” (Acts 21:14).

And in Acts 21:14 Paul finally convinces the others that going to Jerusalem was indeed the will of the Lord. “So when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, ‘The will of the Lord be done.’” If the Spirit really told Paul not to go to Jerusalem, then He would have contradicted Himself. On this Grudem and I are agreed, so I won’t belabor it.

Then what did the Spirit do (note the words “through the Spirit”)?

Why did Luke say that they told Paul “through the Spirit”? What does “through the Spirit” mean? Grudem says that it expresses “a rather loose relationship between the Holy Spirit and the prophet, since it allows room for a large degree of personal influence by the human person himself.”203 But I don’t see how that could be if the only thing reported here is what the Spirit Himself did not say. It may refer to a general influence of the Spirit, yes, but I don’t see how the part Grudem sees as wrong could be attributed to the prophecy in any way.

Furthermore, the term “through the Spirit” can refer to inerrant prophecy. For example, Acts 1:2 says about Jesus, “until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen.” That appears to be quite strong – moral imperatives from the mouth of Jesus. Grudem doesn’t want the phrase to have that strong of a meaning, yet it is certainly a possible meaning.

The same phrase “through the Spirit” is used in Acts 11:28 when it speaks of a previous prophecy of Agabus that was fulfilled. So it could refer to prophecy.

In 1Corinthians 2:10 it clearly refers to inspiration given to the apostles. But Grudem doesn’t want to go there. He wants it to mean an uninspired prophecy.

On the other hand, 1 Corinthians 12:8 indicates that it wouldn’t even have to be a prophecy. It says, “…for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit.”

The following Scriptures would support Grudem’s thesis of general influence of the Spirit: Eph. 3:16; 6:18; Rom. 5:5; 2Tim. 1:14. However, those aren’t helpful for his position because those are clearly not called prophecy. That’s the key point.

Or was this a previous inerrant revelation about the coming danger (see parallel in verse 11) that enabled them to warn Paul and tell him not to go to Jerusalem? Did Paul disobey a prophecy? Or was he ignoring something lesser? Or is this verse parallel to verses 10-14?

I don’t want to be dogmatic on this verse, but it is my view, and the view of the vast majority of commentaries that the saints got a previous prophetic revelation about the dangers that Paul would face quite parallel to verse 11. By means of this supernatural knowledge (that’s the “through the Spirit” portion), they approached Paul and not only told him about the danger, but added that Paul should not go. Without the supernatural knowledge they wouldn’t have even known to make this logical conclusion. So they make an OK conclusion (but it’s not the right conclusion) based on this Spirit-given knowledge.

But there was a distinction between the advice that they gave and the former revelation that the Spirit gave. Luke leaves it vague because he is going to amplify in verses 10-14 how all these examples of previous prophecy worked out. He gives four examples of prophecy to Paul in these chapters and then amplifies only one to illustrate. There have been other attempts to reconcile this verse204 with those in which the Spirit told Paul to go to Jerusalem. But this is the most likely one. In any case, the passage does not prove Grudem’s thesis.

Questions raised on the daughters who prophesied in verse 9.

Are Luke’s brief accounts of prophets (Luke 20:23; 21:4,9) being thematically explained by 21:10-14?

Grudem’s next objection to all prophets being inspired comes from verse 9: “Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied.” I agree with Grudem that they likely prophesied the same things that chapter 20 has said happened in every city, and probably the same thing that the saints in verse 4 and Agabus in verse 11 prophesied. We are not told that, but in terms of how Luke crafts the story, that seems reasonable.

Does this verse show “that these prophecies did not have the authority of words of the Lord”?205

But I fail to see how Grudem can get from the text that this verse shows “that these prophecies did not have the authority of words of the Lord.” He concludes this by saying 1) first, that women don’t have authority over men, and certainly not over apostles, 2) second, that if their prophecies were infallible, their prophecies would be on a par with those of the apostles and this would give them authority over the apostles when they prophesied to them.

But that does not logically follow. It is not that women can’t have apostolic authority over men. They can’t have any authority over men (1 Tim. 2:12). On the other hand, if the prophecies that they gave fit the description of 2 Peter 1:21, then their prophesying is not any more exercising authority over the apostles than Balaam’s donkey was exercising authority over Balaam when God spoke through the donkey. They are merely vehicles for the direct work of God. Otherwise we get into trouble in many places in Acts. For example, prophets in Acts 13 command Paul and Barnabas to go as missionaries. Does that mean that they have authority over apostles? No. They are simply giving direct revelation from the Lord. Keep in mind that 2 Peter 1:21 says, “for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”

So I don’t have any problem with the idea of women prophets speaking to men as Deborah did. I do have a problem with women teaching men or exercising authority over men because this is clearly forbidden in the New Testament. But when it comes to prophecy it is God speaking, not Deborah or the virgins. And notice that Peter isn’t just talking about written prophecies of the Bible. He is talking about spoken prophecies – all prophecies. So again, Grudem is reading into the text something that is not there. It simply says that they prophesied, and that should be interpreted as any Hebrew would – in light of Old Testament prophecy – inerrant prophecy.

Another problem arises if prophecy involves God’s revelation mixed with man’s words and opinions (as Grudem affirms) - it then appears to be more akin to teaching since her words, opinions, and will could potentially be imposed on an apostle along with God’s revelation. This truly would be a violation of 1 Timothy 2:12 where the inspired apostle said, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man…” On Grudem’s definition, how could a woman prophet avoid mixing her will (authority), opinions (guidance), and words (teaching). If anything of her own will is mixed in, then prophecying over men violates Paul’s prohibition of exercising authority and teaching over men.

But on our definition of prophecy this is not a problem since 2 Peter 1:21 says that no prophet (whether male or female) had their will involved in the giving of prophecy at all - “for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” Inspiration enabled them to receive the revelation infallibly and to communicate it infallibly.

Questions raised about Agabus.

Is there a distinction between an Old Testament prophet “who speaks God’s very words” and a New Testament prophet “who speaks on the basis of some external influence”206 and with “no absolute divine authority”207. Grudem asserts that there is, and uses Agabus to prove that the function of New Testament prophets was to be “speaking merely human words to report something God brings to mind”?208

The questions revolving around Agabus in Acts 21:11 come to the heart of Grudem’s thesis. Speaking of Agabus, Luke says

When he had come to us, he took Paul’s belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.”

Because there aren’t any so-called modern prophets who get their prophecies correct 100% of the time (the best ones boast of a 60% accuracy rate), it is imperative that Grudem find error in New Testament prophecy as well. Otherwise you don’t have a parallel. He knows that Old Testament prophecy was inerrant and infallible.

But he says that whereas an Old Testament prophet “speaks God’s very words,” a New Testament prophet “speaks on the basis of some external influence” and has “no absolute divine authority”209 because he is “speaking merely human words to report something God brings to mind [emphasis mine].”210 I don’t have a problem with saying that the Spirit brings things to mind for Grudem and other Charismatics. I am not in any way denying their experience. What I am denying is that their experience is Biblical prophecy. Let’s look at the evidence for infallible prophecy in Agabus:

But one of the problems with Grudem’s thesis that there is a sharp distinction between Old Testament prophets and New Testament prophets is Luke’s usage of the word “prophet.” Agabus is called a prophet in a book that frequently calls writers of the Old Testament books “prophets.” We have already examined every reference to prophecy and prophets in the books of Luke and Acts, and there is not the slightest hint that Luke did not think of prophets as inspired and infallible.

Acts 15:32 says, “Now Judas and Silas, themselves being prophets also, exhorted and strengthened the brethren with many words.” Notice the word “also.” If they were “also” prophets, who are the other prophets that Judas and Silas are being compared to? I see only two alternatives: Either this is referring to the inspired decree of Jerusalem which was written by James and was said to be from the Holy Spirit in verse 28 (that’s the immediate context), or it is comparing them to the only other prophets mentioned in chapter 15 - the Old Testament prophets quoted in verses 15-17.

Either way, Judas and Silas are being compared to inspired prophets. There were inspired prophets; Judas and Silas were also prophets. Again, there is not a hair’s breadth of difference between an Old Testament prophet and a New Testament prophet like Judas or Silas.

Furthermore, notice that in Acts 21:11 Agabus is not only called a “prophet,” but he also acts with prophetic authority even with Paul. No one would dare to walk up to a man like Paul and remove his belt unless God told him to do so and unless he had already been recognized to be a prophet, as Agabus had in Acts 11:28.

Third, just as Ezekiel and other prophets had prophetic acting in connection with their prophecies, Acts 21:11 says that Agabus “took Paul’s belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said.” This is prophetic acting. This is such a strong parallel to Old Testament prophetic acting that several commentaries point it out.211

Fourth, Agabus begins his prophecy with a “Thus says the Holy Spirit.” The phrase, “thus says the [followed by some title of God]” is used 448 times in the Old Testament to precede an Old Testament prophecy. Any Jew reading this would take Agabus to be doing exactly what Old Testament prophets did. And numerous commentaries agree.212

Fifth, just as Old Testament prophets were tested before they were officially recognized (Deut. 13; 18), Agabus had already been tested in Acts 11:28. As we will see, the New Testament commands the testing of prophets in the same way that the Old Testament does (Matt 7:15-23; 1 Cor. 14:29; 1 Thes. 5:19-22). Luke records, “Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar.” This indicates an evaluation of a prophet. Let’s consider the whole subject of evaluation.

Grudem says that while individuals were responsible to evaluate the content of individual prophecies, they weren’t called to judge each prophet as true or false (as they did in the Old Testament).213 In other words, Grudem wants Christians evaluating each prophecy on whether they think it is right or not, but he doesn’t want them categorizing someone as a false prophet simply because 40+% of what he prophesies is incorrect. He knows that if he used that kind of criteria, it would pretty much wipe out the prophetic ministry of charismatics in the USA.

Again, he is trying to distance New Testament prophets from Old Testament prophets. When prophecies did not come true in the Old Testament, no one was supposed to ever listen to such a prophet again. In fact, he was in danger of being stoned. But with modern Charismatics, prophets are constantly mixing error with truth (as Grudem freely admits). After reading Grudem, I would get the impression that (definitionally) there could be no such thing as a false prophet in the New Testament. I know he doesn’t believe that because the New Testament speaks of false prophets eleven times,214 but when more than 40% of what a prophet says is false and the prophet can still be considered by Grudem to be a “true prophet,” it makes it difficult to understand how anyone can be a “false prophet.” It’s not just the prophecy, but the prophet himself who is judged as “false.” That’s identical to the Old Testament.

So here’s my question: “Why is Agabus not a false prophet if Grudem is correct that Agabus made two mistakes that are at the heart of his message? We have already demonstrated that Zechariah 13 insists that New Covenant prophets will be judged by the same standard that Old Testament prophets were. Now we turn to some New Testament evidence that shows this was indeed practiced. In Matthew Jesus promised to send apostles and prophets to His church. But He gave warnings about false prophets who would creep into the church.

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.
Matthew 7:15-16

Notice that he is warning about the prophets, not just the individual prophecies. He says you will know them, not just which individual prophecies are correct. Matthew continues:

Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. (Matt. 7:16b-17)

Notice that it is the tree itself that is being judged, not just the fruit. Certainly judging the fruit is part of judging whether the tree is bad or whether the prophet is false, but it is both the fruit and the tree that is in view. Grudem’s thesis about New Testament prophets does not hold up. Continuing in verse 18 to describe the tree illustration of the prophets, Jesus says,

A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.

He is not talking about individual Christians in their sanctification or you would have perfectionism. Do Christians bear any bad fruit of sin in their lives? Yes. Regrettably they do. All of us do. But the context is talking about false prophets and the bad fruit of false prophecies. True prophets are infallible and never bear bad fruit. They never have any error mixed with truth when they prophesy: “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit…” And a bad tree (a false prophet) can never bear good fruit (or prophesy by the Holy Spirit). Jesus is saying that the Holy Spirit will never use a fallible prophet to communicate His will. It is 100% bad fruit (i.e., not given as prophecy by the Holy Spirit) or it is 100% good fruit (i.e., inerrant and fully the Word of God). Verse 19:

Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Is this not quite parallel to the Old Testament? Deuteronomy 13 and Deuteronomy 18 both command Israelites to ignore a prophet if something he says does not come to pass. And he is to be cut off from his people. God took prophecy very seriously in the New Testament too. Remember that the trees are prophets: “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” It’s not just the content of the prophecy that is discarded. The prophet himself is judged and discarded. And Jesus is talking about prophets in the New Testament church age.

Therefore by their fruits you will know them. Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ (Matt. 7:20-22)

So we are not just talking about prophets from other religions. We are talking about people who thought they were prophesying in the church and serving Jesus.

And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matt. 7:23)

Those were obviously false prophets. I think this passage is determinative of how we treat prophets. Christ is giving instructions for the church in advance. This means that there are no prophets in the church today since no modern prophet that I know of has a 100% accuracy rate.

Does that mean that what Charismatics are experiencing is not from the Spirit? No. I am not saying that. I think that God is indeed giving at least some of them illumination (or what Milne calls “mediate revelation”).215 But illumination is a far cry from inspired revelation, and I believe that this is one among many passages that teach that all prophets gave inspired revelation. Further, they were judged like OT prophets were. Grudem’s thesis that it is just the content of a prophecy that is evaluated, not the prophet himself, is not true.

In this connection, it is interesting that 1Corinthians 14 describes judgment of prophets.

Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge.
1Corinthians 14:29

Is it just the message that is subject to other prophets, or is the prophet himself subject to their judgment? The context indicates that it is both/and: “And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets” (v. 32). That judging of prophets happens is certain.

But there is a division of opinion about who the “others” are who do the judging. There are five main opinions: 1) Grudem’s position that it is all those present at the meeting,216 2) others assert that it is the leaders of the assembly,217 3) still others think it is those specially gifted with the gift of discernment,218 and 4) my position is that it is the other prophets.219 However, even if one of the first three theories is correct, it is still the case that false prophets are determined by the criteria given in the Old Testament.220 But in my opinion, the context (which is speaking about prophets) shows that the other prophets did the judging. There could be established and trusted prophets who would help to weed out false prophets. This is why verse 32 says, “And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.” But however that phrase is understood, there is clearly a judging activity that is happening.

Excursus - The charge that Cessationism is a violation of 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20

Sometimes the charge is made against Cessationists that they are in violation of 1Thessalonians 5:19-20 and are guilty of despising prophecy. But nothing could be further from the truth. On the contrary, it is the Continuationists who are despising true prophecy by degrading prophecy in its character, message, authority, and inerrancy. We honor true prophecy and elevate it to the highest level. It would be profitable to spend some time evaluating this passage since it has troubled the souls of some.

Verse 19

Verse 19 says, “Do not quench the Spirit.” That is an important admonition, and I never want to quench the Spirit or grieve the Spirit by rejecting anything that the Spirit may want to give. Some of the Cessationist Puritans experienced the same kinds of things that Third Wave Charismatics talk about while rejecting the idea that prophecy continued. For example, John Maynard said, “For I cannot conceive, but that the good Angels should as well suggest good thoughts, as the evil Angels do evil thoughts…As for the godly, I am perswaded, they are many times directed strongly, by the secret suggestions of the Angels, for the avoiding of dangers, and the obtaining of good.”221

Likewise John Hacket believed that God continues to give dreams, he seemed to think that since there is no longer any inspired prophet to interpret the dreams, we ought to be hesitant about the interpretation. Nevertheless, he endorsed the dream of Augustine’s mother Monica as being genuine.222

Appendix A gives an introduction to the astonishingly wide diversity of experiences that the Westminster Divines had of the Holy Spirit’s guidance through dreams and visions and premonitions. But it also shows just as strongly that they all endorsed a cessation of inspired prophecy. While I disagree with some of the Puritan exegesis, I have no problem with their experiences and their sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. I have experienced remarkable guidance and providences, but I would never dare to call them prophecy. It is not experience that we are questioning in this chapter, but the theological framework of Continuationism.

Consider the implications of some interpretations of this verse. To quench the Spirit is to suppress His convictions. It is parallel in thought to grieving, resisting, and rebelling against the Spirit. But how is that done? According to Continuationists, it is by ignoring modern prophecy. According to the Bible, such quenching, resisting, grieving, and rebelling is always framed in terms of rebellion against God’s revelation in the Bible. It is here where some Charismatics begin to deny the sufficiency of Scripture. They insist that by ignoring new prophecies we could be disobeying the directives of the Holy Spirit. But the moment a person goes to moral imperatives, this ceases to be an academic question, and it begins to be an attack against the sufficiency of Scripture. Furthermore, it completely undermines Wayne Grudem’s desire to keep prophets from making their prophecies authoritative. But if they are not authoritative, how could not believing in them be quenching the Holy Spirit?

I believe we have made tremendous progress when third wave Charismatics like Wayne Grudem can affirm the sufficiency of Scripture for life and ethics.223 The sufficiency of Scripture was a foundational doctrine for the Reformation, and the Reformers recognized that every Protestant doctrine was up for grabs when the sufficiency of Scripture was denied.224 Reformed people have insisted that if we think we need225 any more revelation than the Bible provides, we contradict Paul who said that the Scriptures are enough so “that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17). Paul asserts not only that Scripture is sufficient, but he also says that it is abundantly sufficient (“thoroughly”).

The obvious question is, “Why seek new revelation when the old is abundantly adequate?” Some possible answers might be:

  1. We are slow to study and understand the Scriptures226
  2. People in some lands don’t have the Scriptures227
  3. During emergency situations, we don’t have time to research answers228
  4. New revelation gives information which is not needed for Christian living, but which can be helpful in Christian living229

While the footnotes on this paragraph suggest that these answers are not adequate in reconciling the doctrine of sufficiency with the teaching of new revelation, it is primarily the rhetoric of the Charismatics that makes me wonder if they have really embraced the doctrine of sufficiency with any degree of zeal.

For example, am I living a substandard Christian life when I do not seek or follow new revelation? Does new revelation give me a more personal dimension with the Lord than Scripture does? Am I opening myself to a deeper walk with the Spirit when I pursue such gifts? Does a “Word of Knowledge” about a person’s past, present, or future bring inner healing that the Bible could not bring? If you answer yes to those questions, then it seems to me that you are denying that the information in Scripture is enough to make us “complete.” Surely you would agree that a substandard walk, or a lack of closeness or even a lack of depth in my walk implies a lack of completeness? Certainly a lack of inner healing apart from a word of knowledge implies that Spirit-applied Scripture is not sufficient. The Westminster divines were united in saying that any continuing work of the Spirit is always grounded and anchored in the Scriptures.

Or is this new revelation only an option that is neither needed nor mandated? That position might be consistent with sufficiency, but it does not seem to fit the language of Scriptures such as Luke 21:14-15 which commanded the apostles to not make the ordinary preparations required by Scripture to answer adversaries: “Therefore, settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist.” If that passage applies today, then following new revelation seems to be more than just an option. It is a command. And this seems to be recognized by Charismatics instinctively. The rhetoric often implies that we “should” seek such revelation, we “need” it, we “must not neglect it,” etc. Is the need an ethical need? Then it is a “good work” and becomes a denial of 2 Tim. 3:17.

I cannot think of any definition of “need” for revelation that does not violate either the words “complete,” “thoroughly equipped” or “good work” of 2 Timothy 3:17.230 So I believe that third wave Charismatics need to be more consistent with their position on the sufficiency of Scripture.

Verse 20

Verse 20 says, “Do not despise prophecies.” If God continued to give prophecies I would receive them. One of the prophecies that Paul didn’t want them rejecting was this uncomfortable book of 1Thesalonians that was rebuking them for their sin. He wanted them to cherish that book and not despise it, since the book was a prophecy. We are in deep water when we despise any prophecy of the Scriptures. Why? Because it is the inerrant word of God.

These congregations in Thessalonica were also despising prophets that had been sent to them to teach them three things: 1) The mystery of Jew and Gentile being in one body (Eph. 3:1-6), 2) bringing warning of God’s covenant lawsuit against Israel (Luke 11:49-51; Matt 23:29-38; Rev. 1:3; 10:7,11; 11:3,6,10,18; 16:6; 18:20,24; 22:6,7,9,10,18,19), and 3) warning of the coming apostasy (2 Thes. 2:1-12; Acts 20:28-29; 1 Tim. 4:1-3; Matt 24:10-14,24-25). The prophets God sent to the various congregations were trying to keep them from falling, yet despite their valiant efforts, a massive apostasy was happening even in the days of the apostles. The people were despising the prophets who had been sent to them. In fact, the falling away prior to AD 70 was the Great Apostasy.

So when Continuationists ask, “Why would God put a temporary command in the Bible when it cannot apply to us?” we would reply that it was desperately needed in the first century, and also that it continues to apply in three ways: First, it continues to stand as a rebuke to those who despise any portion of Scripture. Second, it continues to apply to those who seek to promote a racial divide between Jew and Gentile (one of the main purposes for those prophets). It continues to apply to those who need to heed the covenant lawsuits that such prophets would have brought. There are enough of the covenant lawsuits recorded in the Bible that they can apply to any new situation. And finally, the general equity of this passage would continue to apply for our need to avoid apostasy.

Verses 21-22

But it is important that we not stop reading at verse 20. Verses 20-21 say, “Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” The amplified Bible has, “Abstain from evil [shrink from it and keep aloof from it] in whatever form or whatever kind it may be.” He’s talking about the bad tree and the bad fruit. He’s saying, “Stay away from it. Don’t even listen to them.” When you’ve tested a prophet to be false, avoid him altogether and avoid his prophecies altogether. If Charismatic prophets are self-confessed false prophets (at least 40% of their prophecies are false), then in obedience to this Scripture, we should avoid them. Thus, this passage actually works against Continuationists like Wayne Grudem.

The point is, Agabus had been evaluated just as every prophet should. In chapter 11 he was evaluated based on the fulfillment of a prophetic prediction. To evaluate the Charismatic movement as false on prophecy is to obey this command, not to disobey it.

Did Agabus predict two events which ‘did not come to pass’ Deut 18:22?

With that as further background, let’s look at Grudem’s analysis of Agabus. On page 100, Grudem says,

strictly speaking, Agabus predicted two events which ‘did not come to pass’ Deut 18:22.231

I find it shocking that Grudem would be willing to admit that Agabus would have been judged as a false prophet in Deuteronomy. Grudem is admitting that if Agabus had lived in the Old Testament, he would have been stoned as a false prophet! Yet ironically, the supposedly mistaken Agabus has now become a model for New Testament prophecy! On the same page he says,

Luke so clearly describes the non-fulfillment of the two parts of the prophecy in the immediately subsequent narrative.232

Earlier he also approvingly quotes D.A. Carson as saying about Agabus’ prophecy, “I can think of no reported Old Testament prophet whose prophecies are so wrong on the details.”233 Based on what we have seen about prophecy, if Grudem and D.A. Carson are right about these mistakes, then we would have to treat Agabus as a false prophet rather than accepting Grudem’s conclusion that it’s OK for modern prophets to make mistakes. But was Agabus wrong? Absolutely not!

What’s the first purported error? Grudem claims that Agabus makes a mistake by saying that the Jews will “deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles” (v. 11) when what actually happened is that “the Jews do not ‘deliver’ Paul over to the hands of the Gentiles…. [but] tried to kill him themselves (Acts 21:31). He had to be forcibly rescued from the Jews by the tribune and his soldiers (Acts 21:32-33).”234 Grudem calls this a “mistake” that is at “the heart of his prophecy” and that “on these two key elements, he is just a bit wrong.”235

My answer is that Paul’s own language recorded in Acts 28:17 actually affirms nearly every detail of Agabus’ words in 21:11, while in no way contradictory to it. Consider the parallels in the following chart:

Agabus (Acts 21:11) Paul (Acts 28:17)
“So shall the Jews in Jerusalem bind (Greek = deo) the man…” “I was arrested (Greek = deo) in Jerusalem”
“and deliver him over (Greek = paradidomi)” “and handed over (Greek = paradidomi
“into the hands of the Gentiles” “to the hands of the Romans”

Let’s further examine these details. Agabus says, “So shall the Jews in Jerusalem bind the man,” using the Greek word deo for bind. Paul said, “I was arrested in Jerusalem” using the same Greek word deo for “arrested.” So whether you translate it as bind or as arrest, Paul said that what Agabus prophesied actually happened to him.

Agabus says, “and deliver him over,” using the Greek word paradidomi. Paul said, “and handed over” using the same Greek word.

Agabus said, “into the hands of the Gentiles,” and Paul says “to the hands of the Romans.”

With these close parallels, it is premature to declare Agabus in error. Paul certainly does not seem to see him as being in error. The following scenario is one plausible explanation of what happened: We know the crowds were trying to kill Paul. Verse 27 speaks of “the whole crowd,” verse 28 of the “men of Israel,” and verse 30 of “the people.” But we aren’t told what the Jewish leaders were trying to do. This arrest takes place in the temple. The Sadducees controlled the temple. The Sadducees were in bed with Rome, and the High Priest was appointed by Rome. So ordinarily the Sadducees tried to cooperate with the Romans in order to save their jobs. They would no doubt have been trying to keep the crowd from killing Paul when there were Roman soldiers around. So perhaps they handed Paul over to the Romans while the crowds were trying to do a lynching. We simply aren’t told. But with Paul himself saying that he was handed over to the Romans, and using the same language as Agabus, I am comfortable in saying that every detail of this part of the prophecy was fulfilled.

The second supposed mistake: Grudem contrasts the statement in verse 11, “So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt” with verse 33 – “the commander… commanded him to be bound with two chains.” The claim is that it was the Romans, not the Jews who bound Paul, making this “an inaccurate prophecy.”

But you cannot call it an error if there is a plausible explanation. This is the point conservatives make when liberals claim there are mistakes in the Bible. If you can give two or three plausible explanations, you cannot say it was an error. Here is a plausible explanation: There were no doubt two bindings: one with a belt and one with chains. Notice that Agabus used the belt from Paul’s robe to bind Paul (or, as some interpret it, to bind his own hands).

Paul’s belt was something that would have been readily available to the Jews when they “laid hands on him” (v. 27), cried for “help” (v. 28), “seized Paul” (v. 30), took him out of the temple (v. 30), and beat him (v. 32). It is very likely that they used a restraint of some sort during that time lapse. The Romans did not use a belt, but used chains (v. 33). Though the text does not say it, it makes perfect sense to say that the Jews bound Paul with a belt (perhaps even his own belt) in order to beat him, the Romans then come on the scene, the Sadducees (being nervous about a confrontation with Rome) handed Paul over to the Romans, and the Romans then used chains for imprisonment. But it is clear that Grudem has not demonstrated any error.

Is Grudem right when he says that New Testament prophets should not say, “Thus says the Lord”?

Another difference that I see between Grudem and our text is that Grudem frequently tells people not to say, “Thus says the Lord.”236 It bothers him when Charismatic “prophets” do that. With the degree of fallibility that he believes exists with prophecy, he believes that it is presumptuous to say, “Thus says the Lord” as if the “prophet” is communicating the very words of God. I applaud him for his cautions. But it would achieve the same goal and be much more Biblical if he told modern so-called “prophets” not to call what they are doing “prophecy,” but instead to speak of it as a word of knowledge, illumination, guidance or something like that.

The fact of the matter is that Agabus does indeed say, “Thus says the Holy Spirit,” and then gives the very words of the Spirit. To me that argues strongly against Grudem’s position.

Is Grudem right that the phrase “Thus says the Holy Spirit” can refer to an approximation of what God has revealed?

Grudem tries to explain this away. He says,

“Thus says the Holy Spirit” means here not that the very words of the prophecy were from the Holy Spirit, but only that the content generally had been revealed by the Spirit.237

On the next page he says,

“Thus says the Holy Spirit” means “The Holy Spirit was saying ‘approximately this’ or ‘something like this.’”238

My answer is twofold. First, the phrase, “‘Thus says the [with a divine title]” is used 448 times in the Old Testament to precede prophetic utterances that carried the very words of God. It is arbitrary to assign a different meaning to a very familiar Hebrew phrase – a technical phrase. This is a phrase that Hebrews would immediately have associated with infallible prophecy from the Old Testament. Luke himself quotes two of those Old Testament occurrences in Acts 7:49 and 15:17. More and more it looks like the text is being made to fit a conclusion rather than inductively deriving a conclusion from the text.

My second response is that the New Testament uses similar phrases to introduce Scripture (Rom. 12:19; 14:11; 1Cor. 14:21; 2 Cor. 6:17,18; Heb. 3:7; 8:8,9,10; 10:16; 10:30; Rev. 1:8; 2:7,11,17,29; 3:6,13,22; 14:13). Agabus was an inspired prophet just like the Old Testament prophets were. Some people have said that this trivializes the nature of inspiration by making it relate to things like predicting persecution. But it no more trivializes prophecy than Paul’s inspired statement, “Greet Mary,” in Romans 16 trivializes Romans, or “Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas,” in 2 Timothy 4:13 trivializes the book of 2 Timothy, or Samuel’s prophesying about where Saul could find his donkey trivializes the inspiration of Samuel the prophet.

The fact of the matter is that their inspired gift could be used by the Spirit for anything that the Spirit desired.

What difference does it make?

It makes a difference on how we view the canon of Scripture.

I think you can see that it does make a huge difference what we believe about these things. It makes a difference on how we view the canon of Scripture. If the only people who were inspired in the New Testament were Apostles, then how did the Gospel of Mark get in the Bible? He wasn’t an apostle. How did the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts get in the Bible? Luke was not an Apostle. What about the books of Hebrews, James, and Jude? Grudem’s answer is that these men must have been associated with the apostles, and the apostles must have reviewed their books. However, something doesn’t become Scripture simply because an apostle read it and approved it. There were thousands of people associated with the apostles. What about every elder that the apostles had established in the churches? It is not a good enough argument. 2 Peter 1:20 says that “no prophecy of Scripture is of any private origin.” It is the origin that is at stake, not whether an apostle read what Mark wrote. The next verse says, “for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”

I am grateful that Grudem is one of the leading defenders of the authority of Scripture. He’s an able combatant on this important issue. But it would be so much simpler to say that apostles and prophets wrote the New Testament. Instead of spending a hundred pages defending canon, you could spend a dozen. It would be so much clearer. This present book has been much longer than it needed to be precisely because of the confusion caused by those who believe in continuing prophecy. We have demonstrated in a previous chapter that both the Old and New Testaments tightly link all Scripture to prophets and call all New Testament Scripture “the Scripture of the prophets” (Romans 16:26).

It makes a difference on how we evaluate “prophecies” today. Is the revelation simply guidance, or is it prophecy?

Second, it makes a difference on how we evaluate purported prophecies today. Is the revelation simply guidance, or is it prophecy? Grudem is doing a valiant job of getting Charismatics to not treat prophecy abusively by giving it more authority than he believes it should have. But he goes beyond the Scripture in telling modern Agabuses that they can’t do what Agabus did. It would be so much simpler to say, “All the gifts of the Spirit are at work in the church except for Apostleship and Prophecy.” Those two are sealed up in the Scripture (as Daniel 9 and Isaiah 8 say).

It affects our confidence in Scripture.

Third, it affects our confidence in Scripture. There are pastors who excuse their mistakes in “prophecy” by trying to say not only that Agabus made mistakes, but by trying to say that Old Testament prophets made mistakes too. One pastor said that when Paul had the prophetic Macedonian call in Acts 16, he thought it was a man calling him over to Macedonia, and it ended up being Lydia, a woman who called him. He said that Paul’s chauvinism made his ability to receive the message slightly messed up. And my response is, “There were men like the Philippian jailor in Macedonia too.”

These people are using Grudem’s proof texts for errors in prophecy to undermine all Scripture. Grudem is trying to correct such misguided attitudes, but there isn’t sufficient grounds to be able to do so on his terms. It would be so much easier to accept the teaching of Scripture that apostleship and prophecy were inspired and foundational gifts that we have with us until the Second Coming, but we only have those gifts as they are preserved in the Bible. I receive every word of prophecy that God has preserved for me. I do not despise any true prophecy.

I have personally had many of the experiences that charismatics call “prophecy,” but I label them as guidance, illumination, God-given wisdom, etc. It is not an issue of experience, but an issue of theology. I believe the theology laid out in this book is quite clear - all prophets and prophecy ceased in AD 70.

Though even some Westminster Assembly scholars disagree with me on that point, they all agreed that all authoritative revelation ceased and we are bound to one rule for life - the Bible. I will end this chapter by quoting the fine summary of the historic Protestant position on cessationism found in the Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 1.

I. Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence, do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of his will, which is necessary unto salvation; therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his Church; and afterwards for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which maketh the holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God’s revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.

VI. The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word; and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and the government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.

X. The Supreme Judge, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.

May we never relinquish the one sure word of prophecy that continues to be in our possession today – the Bible. It contains all the prophecy that we need. May we trust it, follow it, and evaluate all teaching based upon it.

9. What about the “lost books of the Bible”?

The words of the LORD are pure words… You shall keep them, O LORD, You shall preserve them from this generation forever

– Psalm 12:6-7

‘My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendant’s descendants,’ says the LORD, ‘from this time and forevermore.’

– Isaiah 59:21

those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

– Deuteronomy 29:29

But one other objection that has often come up is, “What about the lost books of the Bible?” It is clear that not all the writings of the apostles and prophets were included in the canon. 1 Corinthians refers to a previous letter that Paul had written to the Corinthians (see 1 Cor. 5:9-11). 2 Corinthians 10:10-11 refers to “letters” (plural) that Paul had written, and some believe that 2 Corinthians 2:3-11 and 7:8 may also refer to a lost letter. The apostles also apparently wrote letters of introduction to traveling missionaries. We have one recorded in 3 John, but Paul apparently wrote some as well (2 Cor. 3:1; 1 Cor. 16:3).

Likewise, we have already mentioned numerous books that were deliberately excluded from the Old Testament canon by the prophets themselves even though they were written by prophets and contained “prophecies” and “visions” (See 2 Chron. 9:29). These include the Book of The Wars of Jehovah (Numb. 21:14), the Book of Jashar (Josh 10:13; 2 Sam. 1:18), another Book of Samuel on the Kingdom (1 Sam. 10:25), the Book of the Chronicles of David (1Chron. 27:24), the Book of the Acts of Solomon (1Kings 11:41), Solomon’s three thousand proverbs and 1005 songs (1Kings 4:32), the book of Solomon’s Natural History (1Kings 4:32,33), the Book of Shemaiah the Prophet (2Chron. 12:15), the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite (2Chron. 9:29), the Visions of Iddo the seer (2Chron. 9:29; 12:15), “the annals of the prophet Iddo” (2Chron. 13:22), a full history of king Uzziah written by Isaiah (2Chron. 26:22), the Book of Jehu the Son of Hanani (2Chron. 20:34), and an extrabiblical (but reliable) history of the Kings (1Kings 14:19,25; Chron. 20:34; 33:18).

All of these are labeled by some as “lost” books of the Bible. But this chapter will show that they were never lost because they were never intended to be in the canon. The following presuppositions are deductions from the Bible’s own self-referential statements:

Inspiration alone is not the criteria for canonicity

First, inspiration is not the sole criterion for canonicity. In chapters 1 and 2 I pointed out that an additional act of prophetic canonization had to take place for an inspired work to be included in the Scriptures. Otherwise many more books would have been included in the canon.

We have already demonstrated that God was developing the canon of “all Scripture” with an eye to the New Covenant community (1 Pet. 1:12; 1 Cor. 10:11). Nothing was included except that which would be needed for “the end of the ages” or the New Covenant kingdom. And God included sufficient material to make the man of God thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Those “lost” writings were not really lost for the New Covenant church because 1) they were only intended for a local audience and 2) the prophet himself did not canonize them.

Furthermore, if the Biblical presuppositions of the previous chapters are applied, no apocryphal or pseudepigraphal work would be considered to be canonical. There are over three hundred apocryphal gospels, acts, apocalypses, and epistles, mostly in fragments or isolated manuscripts.

Below we will look at more Biblical presuppositions that rule out these books, but the most fundamental presupposition of this book is sufficient: these books are by definition not prophecies because they were written after AD 70 when all prophecy ceased. In other words, these books fall outside the dates that the Bible itself says a canonical book must be written in. And the early church recognized this. Geisler and Nix point out that other than a few isolated individuals who stood outside the mainstream of church history, “Virtually no orthodox Father, canon, or council considered these books to be canonical.”239 Eusebius reflects the view of the church when he calls them “totally absurd and impious.”240

God promised that His Providence will preserve every word of His canon in every age

But there are other presuppositions that rule out the possibility of any “lost books.” For example, God promised to preserve every word of His canon in every age (Matt. 5:17-19; Mark 13:31; Luke 16:17; 21:33; Psa. 12:6-7; cf. also Deut. 29:29; Psa. 19:9; 102:18; 111:7-8; 119:89-91,152,160; Is. 40:8; 59:20-21; Dan. 12:4; Matt. 4:4; Rom. 15:4; 1Cor. 9:10; 10:11; 1Pet. 1:25).

To lose books for over fifteen hundred years is a contradiction of these verses. Yet most of the apocryphal books have only recently been discovered. At the beginning of the Bible He promises that “those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever” (Deut. 29:29), and at the end of the Bible God promises severe vengeance upon anyone who adds to or takes away from the Bible:

If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book
Rev. 22:18-19

While the last Scripture anticipates people who would indeed add to and take away from Scripture, God assures us that this attempt will not be successful. For example, the Psalmist writes: “The words of the LORD are pure words… You shall keep them, O LORD, You shall preserve them from this generation forever” (Psalm 12:6-7). Obviously this is a promise that His providence is sufficient to preserve every chapter241 of Scripture and every word242 of Scripture in every age. This detailed providential preservation of every word is repeatedly promised in the Bible (Matt. 5:17-19; Mark 13:31; Luke 16:17; 21:33; Psa. 12:6-7; cf. also Deut. 29:29; Psa. 19:9; 102:18; 111:7-8; 119:89-91,152,160; Isa. 40:8; 59:20-21; Dan. 12:4; Matt. 4:4; Rom. 15:4; 1Cor. 9:10; 10:11; 1 Pet.1:25).

For example, Christ said, “it is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for one tittle of the law to be deleted”243 On another occasion Jesus assures us (“Assuredly I say to you”) that “till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” (Matt. 5:18).

Since God has promised to preserve His Word (this point) so that every generation can live by every word (next point), it logically follows that His protective Providence over this Book will be entirely different than over non-inspired books. Contrary to modern textual criticism, higher criticism, and liberal canonical studies, God has indeed promised to intervene in unique ways for the preservation of the Scriptures (Deut. 29:29; Psa. 111:7-8; 119:160; Isa. 40:8; 59:21; Dan. 12:4; Matt. 4:4; 5:17-18; Mark 13:31; Luke 16:17; Heb. 2:2; 1Pet. 1:25; cf. also Psa. 102:18; cf. eg. Rom. 15:4; 1Cor. 9:10; 10:11) We simply cannot treat the Bible like we would the Iliad or other literature of man. This is the eternal Word of God which He must preserve for the integrity of His name. If books have been “lost” for a thousand years, it means that they were never part of God’s Word which He promised to preserve.

God holds us accountable to every word of Scripture

Yet another Biblical presupposition that we hold to is that God must preserve every word of Scripture if He intends to hold us accountable to live by every word. And that He intends to hold us accountable to live by every Word of Scripture is clearly stated in the Bible (Matt. 5:17-19; Luke 16:17-18; Deut. 29:29; Psa. 19:7-11; 102:18; Isa. 59:20-21; Matt. 4:4; Rom. 15:4; 1Cor. 9:10; 10:11). He would not be true to His Word if even one chapter of a book was lost, let alone an entire book of the canon.

After stating that the smallest letter in the Greek (iota = “jot”) and the smallest difference between a letter in the Hebrew (kereia = “tittle”) would be preserved till heaven and earth pass away, Christ then makes an application:

Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Matt. 5:18-19

The preservation of the jots and tittles was for the purpose of holding men accountable to keep all God’s word. Unless the jots and tittles are preserved, no one can fulfill this injunction. So a theoretical preservation in God’s mind, or in the sands of Egypt, does not suffice. It is not enough to say that a newly discovered book was preserved for fifteen hundred years so that we could live by it today. The Scriptures cited require a continually preserved canon.

Isaiah 59:20 speaks of the coming of Jesus Christ and then follows with verse 21:

‘My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendant’s descendants,’ says the LORD, ‘from this time and forevermore.’

In order for that to be fulfilled, God would have to preserve His Word from generation to generation from that time and forever. God commands us to live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4). Deut. 29:29 says,

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

God preserves His word from generation to generation precisely because He wants us to keep it - “every word” of it. But this necessitates His Providential preservation of every chapter of His Word in every age.

God promised to ensure faithful transmission of the text

But of course, books are copied by men, so God must somehow Providentially work through men to faithfully transmit His Word. And He did indeed promise to do so. Since the church was ordained by God to be the “pillar and ground of the truth” (1Tim. 3:14-15), and since God gave many careful warnings to care for the Scriptures (Rev. 22:18-19, Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:5-6 and 2Pet. 3:16), and warnings about heretics who would corrupt the text (Rev. 22:18-19; 2Pet. 3:16), it is natural to assume two things: 1) the church would have been careful in accurately copying the Bible 2) heretics who had a low view of Scripture would have been less careful and would have had no issue with adding their own books to their canon.

And of course, this is what we find in history. The heretics were loose with Scripture and the orthodox fathers castigated them for it. The church fathers were very zealous to guard against even the slightest deviation from Scriptural usage. Polycarp said, “Whoever perverts the sayings of the Lord… that one is the firstborn of Satan.”244

Justyn Martyr claimed that the heretic Marcion had changed the text of both Luke and Paul’s epistles. As a result of this perverting of Scripture, the church was even more careful to check the manuscripts (Apol. i.58). Gaius in the later 100’s named four heretics who altered the text and then had multiple copies of these altered texts prepared by their disciples. Dionysius (bishop of Corinth from 168-176) complained that heretics not only tampered with his writings, they also tampered with the Scriptures. He insisted that the church had received a pure tradition.

Irenaeus said, “True knowledge consists in a very complete tractatio of the Scriptures, which has come down to us by being preserved without falsification”245 He was not only concerned about careful transcription of Scripture, but also of his own writings so he put at the close of his treatise: “I adjure you who shall copy out this book, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by his glorious advent when he comes to judge the living and the dead, that you compare what you transcribe, and correct it carefully against this manuscript from which you copy; and also that you transcribe this adjuration and insert it in the copy”246

Church history tells us that those from the third century were no less certain of the transmission of the text. Tertullian (early 200’s) says, “I hold sure title-deeds from the original owners themselves… I am the heir of the apostles. Just as they carefully prepared their will and testament, and committed it to a trust… even so I hold it.”

In “On Prescription Against Heretics” 36, he tells people that if they want to know the exact wording of some other epistles, the original autographs could still be found. He said that Corinthians could be found in Achaia, Philippians and Thessalonians in Macedonia; Ephesians in Asia and Romans in Italy. Therefore, at least five New Testament books had autographs still in existence. Since the church fathers state that the Scriptures of the apostles were read in every church, there must have been hundreds of copies already at this early time.

The fourth century continues this claim to a pure tradition of copies. Jerome complained of copyists who “write down not what they find but what they think is the meaning; and while they attempt to rectify the errors of others, they merely expose their own”247 Bishop Spyridon (350 A.D.) took on the distinguished Triphyllios of Ledra who used the more refined Attic Greek word for bed when he quoted, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” Spyridon “sprang up and indignantly called to him before the whole assembly, “Are you, then, better than He [Jesus] who uttered the word κρᾶββατος, that you are ashamed to use His word?”248 Even slight changes simply were not tolerated. Many other quotes have been multiplied in books to illustrate the fact that the church was indeed careful.

If this was the case, why are there so few copies of the apocrypha and pseudepigrapha in the early church? If the church copied all the Scriptures with care and zeal, surely they would not have missed one. If the apocrypha and pseudepigrapha were indeed Scripture, surely there would be just as many copies of those books as of the books currently in our canon.

God promised to preserve the text within the church, which is the “pillar and ground of the truth” (1Tim. 3:14-15). If books were not preserved and copied as Scripture, it is a strike against their authenticity.

Isolated texts should be seen as suspect

Yet another presupposition that I have is that non-canonical texts would tend to become more localized and time bounded. This is not only a logical deduction of the previous presuppositions, but also a logical deduction from the fact that the Scripture authors used great care in identifying themselves. The church was warned to avoid those who distort the Scriptures (2Thes. 2:2; 3:17; 2Pet. 3:16-17; Rev. 22:18-19; Gal. 1:8) and to be careful of using letters that did not bear the marks of authenticity (2Thes. 3:17; cf. also 1Cor. 16:21; Col. 4:18). If this command was followed, faulty texts by gnostics and other heretics would not be copied frequently in the church and the main source of those texts would be in the local areas where the heretics taught and worked. If a heretical group died out, the manuscripts would have the tendency to die out as well.

Interestingly, much of the pseudepigrapha come from Egypt, which was a hot-bed for heretics. These books also died out early. Thus, the canonical text used by the faithful church would have tended to be in the majority of manuscripts. So even though there is not much danger of people adopting the New Testament pseudepigraph, which are heretical and silly on the surface,249 it is important to reason through these things Biblically. The Bible itself rules them out based on a number of presuppositions.

10. The church fathers doctrine of canon

The role of the church in the formulation of the canon was passive in that the church served merely as the community in which the Sacred Writings authenticated themselves by their inherent power to convince God’s people that they are His Word. A Biblical book did not become authentic because the church accepted it; the church accepted it because it was authentic and commended itself to the church as an inspired, prophetic, or apostolic writing. God led the church to recognize and preserve certain writings as His Word because they speak with prophetic and apostolic authority and are vehicles of divine power… Throughout its history only prophetic and apostolic writings… have authenticated themselves to the church as canonical. This fact precludes the possibility that the writings of later Christians will be included among the canonical books.

– J. I. Packer

In chapter one we saw that there was a wide divide between Rome and Protestants on the nature of the canon. Where Rome claims to have determined the canon, Protestants claimed the church recognized and received the canon from apostles and prophets and that therefore “the Word of God is both temporally and regulatively prior to the church.”250 Where Rome said that it is the mother of the canon and produced everything in the canon, Protestants said that the canon produced everything in the church and so the church is the child of the canon. Where Rome claimed to teach infallibly beyond the canon, Protestants claimed that the only voice that should be heard in the church is the voice of God speaking through the Bible. Where Rome claimed magisterial power, Protestants claimed only ministerial power. So the question comes up: which view represents the early church? This chapter will seek to show that the church fathers and councils of the first few centuries held to the Reformation view of tradition, authority, sufficiency of Scripture, sole infallibility of the Bible, rejection of the apocrypha from the canon, and the definitive first-century closing of the canon. It is Rome that left the catholic faith, not the Reformers. Eastern Orthodoxy soon followed Rome.

The early church’s view of tradition = Sola Scriptura

Summary statement on tradition

In chapters one and four I dealt extensively with the faulty views of non-Reformational thinking on tradition. We saw that Biblical tradition is Sola Scriptura tradition. Likewise we saw that Protestant tradition (like the Westminster Confession) seeks to be Sola Scriptura tradition. In this chapter we will see that the same was true for the early fathers who appealed to the Bible for their doctrines, not to some secondary source. They were not always accurate in their interpretation of Scripture (anymore than we are), but their modus operandi was to see the Scriptures as the only foundation for their “Rule of Faith,” which was another term for their doctrine or their tradition. (The church fathers tended to use “tradition” and “rule of faith” as synonyms.)

Cyril of Jerusalem (AD 313-386) was a bishop in one of the most distinguished sees of the church. He speaks a great deal about tradition, but insists that every word of this tradition must be proven from the Scripture. He said,

For concerning the divine and sacred Mysteries of the Faith, we ought not to deliver even the most casual remark without the Holy Scriptures: nor be drawn aside by mere probabilities and the artifices of argument. Do not then believe me because I tell thee these things, unless thou receive from the Holy Scriptures the proof of what is set forth: for this salvation, which is of our faith, is not by ingenious reasonings, but by proof from the Holy Scriptures… In these articles we comprehend the whole doctrine of faith… For the articles of the Faith were not composed at the good pleasure of men, but the most important points chosen from all Scriptures, make up the one teaching of the Faith… This Faith, in a few words, hath enfolded in its bosom the whole knowledge of godliness contained both in the Old and New Testaments. Behold, therefore, brethren and hold the traditions (2 Thes. 2:15) which ye now receive, and write them on the table of your hearts… Now heed not any ingenious views of mine; else thou mayest be misled; but unless though receive the witness of the prophets concerning each matter, believe not what is spoken; unless thou learn from Holy Scripture… receive not the witness of man.251

How could any statement of Sola Scriptura be any more clear than what Cyril stated? Nor was Cyril alone. The church of the first few centuries held the same view.

Summary statements by patristics and church history scholars showing that the early church held to a Sola Scriptura view of tradition

Hanson says, “It is certain that all the fathers believed that the rule of faith was in its contents identical with the contents of the Bible, and that they all regarded the rule as open to being proved from the Bible.”252 Thus, tradition was not something in addition to Scripture, but a summary of Scripture. J.N.D Kelly, one of the foremost scholars of church history and patristics says,

The clearest token of the prestige enjoyed by [Scripture] is the fact that almost the entire theological effort of the Fathers, whether their aims were polemical or constructive, was expended upon what amounted to an exposition of the Bible. Further, it was everywhere taken for granted that, for any doctrine to win acceptance, it had first to establish its Scriptural basis.253

William Webster states,

When the Fathers speak of a tradition handed down from the apostles independent of Scripture, they are referring to ecclesiastical customs and practices,254 never to doctrine. Tradition was always subordinate to Scripture as an authority, and the Word of God itself never teaches that tradition is inspired. The Scriptures give numerous warnings against tradition, and the Fathers rejected the teaching of an apostolic oral tradition independent of Scripture as a gnostic heresy. For the church Fathers apostolic tradition or teaching was embodied and preserved in Scripture. The teaching of the Fathers is this: What the apostles initially proclaimed and taught orally, they later committed to writing in the New Testament. Irenaeus succinctly states it in these words: ‘We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith.’

How is one to know what the apostles taught orally? It has been handed down to us in the Scriptures, and they in turn are the ground and pillar of our faith. The historical circumstances that prompted Irenaeus’ words are important to understand. He was writing against Gnostics who claimed to have access to an oral tradition handed down from the apostles, which was independent of the written Word of God. Irenaeus, as well as Tertullian, explicitly repudiates such a concept.255

What this is saying is that all the distinctives of Rome that come exclusively from a supposed oral tradition rather than from the Bible are more akin to Gnosticism than to Christianity. The Council of Trent would have been reprimanded by the early church fathers. Ellen Flesseman-Van Leer summarizes the views of Irenaeus on this subject, stating, “For Irenaeus, the church doctrine is never purely traditional; on the contrary, the thought that there could be some truth transmitted exclusively viva voce (orally) is a Gnostic line of thought.”256

Nor was it the early church alone that held to the Protestant views of tradition that we outlined in early chapters. The Reformers claimed that they were restoring the church to the catholic view of tradition - a view of tradition that was consistent with Sola Scriptura. Brian Tierney says the same thing:

Such texts were often quoted and discussed by medieval theologians. But, before the thirteenth century, there is little trace in their works of the view that Tradition constituted a source of divine revelation separate from Scripture and little inclination to set up a distinction—still less an opposition—between Scriptural revelation and church doctrine. One modern author has observed that, for twelfth century theologians (as for the Fathers themselves), church and Scripture ‘co–inhered.’ This seems true in the sense that the teaching of the church and the teaching of Scripture were conceived of as essentially one. ‘The men of the Middle Ages lived in the Bible and by the Bible.’ When twelfth century theologians observed—as they sometimes did—that many things were held by the church that were not to be found in Scripture they seem to have had in mind only liturgical customs or pious practices. An extra–Scriptural source of faith like the Apostles’ Creed (which was commonly regarded as a work of the apostles themselves) was held to define various tenets of Christian doctrine with absolute fidelity; but it was not considered to be a body of revealed truth supplementary to sacred Scripture. Rather the Creed could be called in the twelfth century a ‘summary’ of the contents of Scripture. In this view Scripture recorded divine truth once and for all and the living voice of the church, guided by the Holy Spirit, interpreted that truth and proclaimed it anew to each succeeding generation.257

F.F. Bruce shows how tradition was always teaching based upon the Bible:

When the summary of the apostolic tradition is called the rule of faith or the rule of truth, the implication is that this is the church’s norm, the standard by which everything must be judged that presents itself for Christian faith or claims to be Christian doctrine, the criterion for the recognition of truth and exposure of error. If at times it is formally distinguished from Scripture in the sense that it is recognized as the interpretation of Scripture, at other times it is materially identical with Scripture in the sense that it sums up what Scripture says. Plainly what was written down by the apostles in their letters and what was delivered by them orally to their disciples and handed down in the church’s tradition must be one and the same body of teaching. As R.P.C. Hanson puts it, the rule of faith invoked by the church fathers is ‘a graph of the interpretation of the Bible by the Church in the second and third centuries, a statement of what was generally believed to be the essence of Scripture.’258

J.N.D. Kelly again:

The whole point of his teaching was, in fact, that Scripture and the Church’s unwritten tradition are identical in content, both being vehicles of the revelation. If tradition as conveyed in the ‘canon’ is a more trustworthy guide, this is not because it comprises truths other than those revealed in Scripture, but because the true tenor of the apostolic message is there unambiguously set out.259

Oberman writes much the same:

As regards the pre–Augustinian Church, there is in our time a striking convergence of scholarly opinion that Scripture and Tradition are for the early Church in no sense mutually exclusive: kerygma, Scripture and Tradition coincide entirely. The Church preaches the kerygma which is found in toto in written form in the canonical books. The Tradition is not understood as an addition to the kerygma contained in Scripture but as the handing down of that same kerygma in living form: in other words everything is to be found in Scripture and at the same time everything is in the living Tradition…This coinherence implies the explicit denial of the extrascriptural Tradition. ‘To appeal to revelatory truth apart from Scripture is [for Irenaeus] heretical gnosticism’260

Ellen Flesseman-van Leer said,

Tradition is the revelation which reaches us by way of the apostles in the living preaching and teaching of the church; that what the church believes and proclaims is identical with the revelation message which the apostles brought. This original message has been faithfully preserved and transmitted from generation to generation through the succession of bishops. However, this same message has also been preserved in writing. That is to say, the unadulterated apostolic teaching is to be known from Scripture.261

Fuller and Hanson weigh in:

There are, of course, plenty of references in the Fathers to the ‘tradition of the Church’ and ‘the Church’s rule of faith’, and similar phrases, but what they mean in each instance is ‘the Scriptures as interpreted by the Church’, because to the Fathers the Scriptures are the Church’s tradition. That is all we can conclude from the fact that they constantly refer back to the Bible for their doctrine, and that they mention no other source of doctrine, except common sense and the rules of logic. Even when they are interpreting the Bible in opposition to the teaching of heretical sects, and claim that their interpretation is the Church’s interpretation (as they often do), they cannot reasonably be understood as referring to an oral tradition not written, and separate from Scripture, but rather to the way in which the Church has always interpreted its tradition. Had such an independent oral tradition existed, it would have been a secret one, inaccessible to any except to the initiated, in contrast to the written tradition which was available to everybody. But this secret tradition is just the tradition which Irenaeus (fl. 150-180) attributes to some of the heretical sects against which he is writing, and which on behalf of the Church he disavows.262

Roman Catholic scholar George Tavard says,

The greatest centuries of the Middle Ages—twelfth and thirteenth—were thus faithful to the patristic concept of ‘Scripture alone’263

G.L. Prestige said of Clement (and with him the other fathers)

The Bible was associated, and largely identified, with the tradition as early as Clement of Alexandria, at the turn of the century. He claims the authority of scriptural texts with the new phrase ‘as the Scripture has traditioned’ (strom. I.21, 142.2; ib. 7.18, 109.2), and speaks of the ‘spiritual knowledge traditioned through the Scriptures’, by which Christ makes a man truly great–minded (strom. 7.16, 105.1)…The genuine “Gnostic”—that is to say, the devout and intelligent Christian, the man of real enlightenment—will grow old in the Scriptures, preserves the apostolic and ecclesiastic orthodoxy in his doctrines, and lives according to the Gospel; for his life ‘is nothing else than the deeds and words conforming to the Lord’s tradition’ (ib. 104.1 & 2). In his maintenance of such an attitude, basing a deep reverence for the Bible on the unique character of the tradition which it contained, Clement is not singular. He merely gives expression in words to the spirit which animated all the Fathers, who repudiated with horror the idea of possessing any private or secret doctrine, and supported all their arguments with the most painstaking exegesis of the text of Holy Writ.264

It was really not until the fourteenth century that a two-source theory of revelation began to develop that ascribed to tradition revealed truths that could not be found in Scripture. William Webster states

A shift took place in the teaching of the later Middle Ages, however, which Heiko Oberman has documented in his book The Harvest of Medieval Theology. He writes of two opposing views on tradition that developed after the fourteenth century which he calls Tradition I and Tradition II. Tradition I is the historic position of the patristic and early Middle Ages, that Scripture contains all the truths necessary for salvation. Scripture is the materially sufficient source of all doctrine for the Church and tradition the authoritative ecclesiastical interpretation of that standard. Tradition II, however, made tradition more than the authoritative interpretation of Scripture. It became a source of revelation, supposedly containing truths which were handed down orally from the apostles and independent of Scripture. This meant that Scripture was not materially sufficient.265

Letting the church fathers speak for themselves

I will seek to give a sample representation of the fathers so that they can speak for themselves. You will see that they tightly connected “tradition” to Scripture just as Protestants tightly connect doctrine and creeds to Scripture. It was Scriptural tradition or Scriptural doctrine.

Irenaeus, (AD 130-202)

Against the Gnostics who claimed an oral tradition from the apostles, Irenaeus insisted that if the tradition was not found in Scripture, it had no authority and was speculative.

Such, then, is their [the heretics’] system, which neither the prophets announced, nor the Lord taught, nor the apostles delivered, but of which they boast that beyond all others they have a perfect knowledge. They gather their views from other sources than the Scriptures266

In contrast, he claimed that the tradition of the true church was 100% contained in the Scripture.

We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith.267

He complained of heretics,

When, however, they are confuted from the Scriptures, they turn round and accuse these same Scriptures, as if they were not correct, nor of authority, and [assert] that they are ambiguous, and that the truth cannot be extracted from them by those who are ignorant of tradition. For [they allege] that the truth was not delivered by means of written documents, but vivâ voce”.268

Since the word translated “handed down” is the verbal form of “tradition,” Ireneaus was saying that apostolic teaching was traditioned through the Scripture. This is the Protestant view of tradition. Protestants have insisted that their doctrinal statements are authoritative only insofar as they accurately reflect the Scripture. Many scholars have demonstrated that this was Ireneaus’ view.269

Hippolytus (AD 170-235)

There is, brethren, one God, the knowledge of whom we gain from the Holy Scriptures, and from no other sourceWhatever things, then, the Holy Scriptures declare, at these let us look; and whatsoever things they teach, these let us learn; and as the Father wills our belief to be, let us believe; and as He wills the Son to be glorified, let us glorify Him; and as He wills the Holy Spirit to be bestowed, let us receive Him. Not according to our own will, nor according to our own mind, nor yet as using violently those things which are given by God, but even as He has chosen to teach them by the Holy Scriptures, so let us discern them.270

Note the categorical rejection of anything doctrinal from any other source than Scripture.

Tertullian (AD 155-240)

Tertullian demanded Scriptural proof for everything.

Of course nothing is ‘too hard for the Lord.’ But if we choose to apply this principle so extravagantly and harshly in our capricious imaginations, we may then make out God to have done anything we please, on the ground that it was not impossible for Him to do it. We must not, however, because He is able to do all things suppose that He has actually done what He has not done. But we must inquire whether He has really done it. God could, if He had liked, have furnished man with wings to fly with, just as He gave wings to kites. We must not, however, run to the conclusion that He did this because He was able to do it! It will be your duty, however, to adduce your proofs out of the Scriptures as plainly as we do271

Commenting on the authority to dictate the ethics of marriage, he said,

What Scripture does not note, it denies.272

J.N.D. Kelly summarizes many other such passages in Tertullian with these words: “Scripture has absolute authority; whatever it teaches is necessarily true, and woe betide him who accepts doctrines not discoverable in it.”273

Dionysus of Alexandria (AD ? - 264)

Eusebius the historian approvingly quotes Dionysus as stating that Scripture alone was the guide in all church debates.

“Now when I came to the nome of Arsinoë, where, as thou knowest, this doctrine had long been prevalent, so that schisms and defections of whole churches had taken place, I called together the presbyters and teachers of the brethren in the villages (there were present also such of the brethren as wished), and I urged them to hold the examination of the question publicly. And when they brought me this book as some invincible weapon and rampart, I sat with them and for three successive days from morn till night attempted to correct what had been written. On that occasion I conceived the greatest admiration for the brethren, their firmness, love of truth, facility in following an argument, and intelligence, as we propounded in order and with forbearance the questions, the difficulties raised and the points of agreement; on the one hand refusing to cling obstinately and at all costs (even though they were manifestly wrong) to opinions once held; and on the other hand not shirking the counter-arguments, but as far as possible attempting to grapple with the questions in hand and master them. Nor, if convinced by reason, were we ashamed to change our opinions and give our assent; but conscientiously and unfeignedly and with hearts laid open to God we accepted whatever was established by the proofs and teachings of the holy Scriptures. And in the end the leader and introducer of this teaching, Coracion, as he was called, in the hearing of all the brethren present, assented, and testified to us that he would no longer adhere to it, nor discourse upon it, nor mention nor teach it, since he had been sufficiently convinced by the contrary arguments. And as to the rest of the brethren, some rejoiced at the joint conference, and the mutual deference and unanimity which all displayed.…”274

Origen (AD 185-252)

…we must, in order to establish the positions which we have laid down, adduce the testimony of Holy Scripture.275

Therefore, in proof of all the words we utter when teaching, we ought to produce the doctrine of Scripture as confirming the doctrine we utter. For as all the gold that is without the temple is not sanctified, so every doctrine that is not in the divine Scripture, although it may seem admirable to some, is not sacred, because it is not comprehended within the doctrine of Scripture, which sanctifies that doctrine alone which it contains within itself as the temple renders sacred the gold that is in it. We ought not therefore for the confirmation of our instructions to swear by and take as evidence our own notions which we individually hold and think to be agreeable to truth, unless we are able to show that they are sacred as being contained in the divine Scriptures as in some temples of God.276

Cyprian (AD 200-258)

Whence is that tradition? Whether does it descend from the authority of the Lord and the Gospel, or does it come from the injunctions and Epistles of the Apostles? For that we are to do what is written, God testifieth and admonisheth, saying to Joshua: ‘The book of this law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein.’…If then it is commanded in the Gospel, or is contained in the Epistles or Acts of the Apostles…let this divine and holy tradition be observed… Nor ought custom, which had crept in among some, to prevent the truth from prevailing and conquering; for custom without truth is the antiquity of error.

But there is a brief way for religious and simple minds, both to put away error, and to find and to elicit truth. For if we return to the head and source of divine tradition, human error ceases… And this it behooves the priests of God to do now, if they would keep the divine precepts, that if in any respect the truth have wavered and vacillated, we should return to our original and Lord, and to the evangelical and apostolical tradition; and thence may arise the ground of our action, whence has taken rise both our order and our origin.277

Eusebius of Caeserea (AD 265-340)

Eusebius the historian commented on the same meeting cited with Dionysus of Alexandria (above), saying,

And we abstained from defending in every manner and contentiously the opinions which we had once held, unless they appeared to be correct. Nor did we evade objections, but we endeavored as far as possible to hold to and confirm the things which lay before us, and if the reason given satisfied us, we were not ashamed to change our opinions and agree with others; but on the contrary, conscientiously and sincerely, and with hearts laid open before God, we accepted whatever was established by the proofs and teachings of the Holy Scriptures.278

Anthony of Egypt (AD 251-356)

One day when he had gone forth because all the monks had assembled to him and asked to hear words from him, he spoke to them in the Egyptian tongue as follows: ‘The Scriptures are enough for instruction, but it is a good thing to encourage one another in the faith, and to stir up with words.’279

Gaius Marius Victorinus (AD 290-364)

That such is the faith, with the permission of God and Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, we shall affirm. Let no one say, understanding me in a blasphemous way, that it is my own teaching. Indeed, all that I say is said by Holy Scripture and comes from Holy Scripture.280

Though Victorinus inconsistently retained his Neoplatonic philosophy, he still thought that he was operating in the realm of Sola Scriptura. Either this was a blind spot on his part (like we all tend to have) or he realized that the doctrine of Sola Scriptura was so pervasive in the church that his teachings would not be accepted without affirming the doctrine. The question is not whether church fathers mixed error with truth. All men do. The question is, “Did they attempt to operate by the principle of Sola Scriptura?”

Hilary of Poitiers (AD 310-367)

I would not have you flatter the Son with praises of your own invention; it is well with you if you be satisfied with the written word.281

Those things which are not contained in the book of the law, we ought not even to be acquainted with.”282

Hilary goes so far as to say that going beyond the Scripture to develop doctrine is treason against Christ:

Their treason involves us in the difficult and dangerous position of having to make a definite pronouncement, beyond the statements of Scripture, upon this grave and abstruse matter. The Lord said that the nations were to be baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. The words of the faith are clear; the heretics do their utmost to involve the meaning in doubt. We may not on this account add to the appointed form, yet we must set a limit to their license of interpretation. Since their malice, inspired by the devil’s cunning, empties the doctrine of its meaning while it retains the Names which convey the truth, we must emphasise the truth which those Names convey. We must proclaim, exactly as we shall find them in the words of Scripture, the majesty and functions of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and so debar the heretics from robbing these Names of their connotation of Divine character, and compel them by means of these very Names to confine their use of terms to their proper meaning.283

This faith, and every part of it, is impressed upon us by the evidence of the Gospels, by the teaching of the Apostles.284

…Therefore let private judgment cease; let human reason refrain from passing barriers divinely set. In this spirit we eschew all blasphemous and reckless assertion concerning God, and cleave to the very letter of revelation. Each point in our enquiry shall be considered in the light of His instruction, Who is our theme.285

Athanasius (AD 296-373)

Far from seeing a need for a body of knowledge outside of the Bible, Athanasius said, “…the sacred and inspired Scriptures are sufficient to declare the truth…”286. However, he recognized that the ignorant man needs teachers to systematize the teachings of Scripture into a systematic theology. He called these systematic teachings the traditions of the apostles, but he insisted that only traditions found in Scripture can be followed:

For the true and pious faith in the Lord has become manifest to all, being both ‘known and read’ from the Divine Scriptures… But our faith is right, and starts from the teaching of the Apostles and tradition of the fathers, being confirmed both by the New Testament and the Old. For the Prophets say: ‘Send out Thy Word and Thy Truth,’ and ‘ Behold the Virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which is being interpreted God with us.’ But what does that mean, if not that God has come in the Flesh? While the Apostolic tradition teaches in the words of blessed Peter, ‘Forasmuch then as Christ suffered for us in the Flesh;’ and in what Paul writes, ‘Looking for the blessed hope and appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, Who gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a people for His own possession, and zealous of good works’.287

Vainly then do they run about with the pretext that they have demanded Councils for the faith’s sake; for divine Scripture is sufficient above all things; but if a Council be needed on the point, there are the proceedings of the Fathers, for the Nicene Bishops did not neglect this matter, but stated the doctrine so exactly, that persons reading their words honestly, cannot but be reminded by them of the religion towards Christ announced in divine Scripture.288

Concerning speculation about the Trinity that is not found in Scripture, Athanasius said,

Since, therefore, such an attempt is futile madness, nay, more than madness, let no one ask such questions any more, or else let him learn only that which is in the Scriptures.289

Concerning some of the finer points of discussion on the Trinity, Athanasius said,

…there ought to be no mention of any of these at all, nor exposition of them in the Church, for this reason and for this consideration, that in divine Scripture nothing is written about them, and that they are above men’s knowledge and above men’s understanding.290

After listing the books of the canon, Athanasius says,

These are the fountains of salvation, that he who thirsteth may be satisfied with the words they contain. In these alone is proclaimed the doctrine of godliness. Let no man add to them, neither let him take ought from them. For on this point the Lord put to shame the Sadducees, saying, Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures. And He reproved the Jews, saying, Search the Scriptures, for they testify of Me.291

Basil of Caesarea (330-379)

Many Roman Catholics quote Basil of Caesarea as holding the dual authority of Scripture and of non-written tradition. It is true that he speaks of tradition as authoritative in his treatise on the Holy Spirit. But in the same treatise he said,

But as for us, what the fathers said, we repeat… But we are not content simply because this is the tradition of the fathers. What is important is that the fathers followed the meaning of Scripture, beginning with the evidence which I have just extracted from the Scriptures and presented to you.292

Is this any different than Reformed Presbyterians who speak of the Westminster Confession of Faith and Shorter and Larger Catechisms as being our “standards”? They are authoritative standards for Presbyterians insofar as Presbyterians believe that those creeds faithfully reflect the teaching of Scripture. But they are subordinate standards that acknowledge that they could err. In the same way, Basil was quite clear that custom/tradition was not infallible and must be corrected by Scripture. In describing one debate, he said,

They are charging me with innovation, and base their charge on my confession of three hypostases, and blame me for asserting one Goodness, one Power, one Godhead. In this they are not wide of the truth, for I do so assert. Their complaint is that their custom does not accept this, and that Scripture does not agree. What is my reply? I do not consider it fair that the custom which obtains among them should be regarded as a law and rule of orthodoxy. If custom is to be taken in proof of what is right, then it is certainly competent for me to put forward on my side the custom which obtains here. If they reject this, we are clearly not bound to follow them. Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favour of that side will be cast the vote of truth.293

This quote shows that for Basil, only Scripture was the ultimate standard of truth. Tradition (=historical theology) was a helpful tool by which to evaluate private interpretation so that each generation did not have to reinvent the wheel of interpretation or re-argue each debate with heretics. Historical theology shows the humility of listening to God’s teachers of the past. But historical theology must still be Scriptural theology. So Basil balances that by insisting that each generation be Bereans who evaluate tradition and reject what is not Scriptural: “The hearers taught in the Scriptures ought to test what is said by teachers and accept that which agrees with the Scriptures but reject that which is foreign.” (Moralia, 72:1)

The fact of the matter is that Basil vigorously refuted those who claimed authority for their unwritten apostolic tradition if that tradition could not be backed up by Scripture. He told Eustathius the Physician, “Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favour of that side will be cast the vote of truth.”294 Several years earlier he said,

We ought carefully to examine whether the doctrine offered us is conformable to Scripture, and if not, to reject it. Nothing must be added to the inspired words of God; all that is outside Scripture is not of faith, but it is sin.295

Could anything be a more clear statement of a Protestant view of tradition than this? In another place he said,

The hear­ers taught in the Scrip­tures ought to test what is said by teach­ers and accept that which agrees with the Scrip­tures but reject that which is for­eign… Plainly it is a falling away from faith and an offense chargeable to pride, either to reject any of those things that are written or to introduce things that are not written.296

Again, this is a thoroughly Protestant view of tradition/doctrine. The following are other quotes from Basil showing that his received tradition (doctrinal standards) were able to be proved from the Bible:

Believe those things that are written. What is not written inquire not into.297

When, by the grace of God, I learned of your piety’s command, worthy as it is of the love you bear God in Christ, whereby you sought from us a written profession of our holy faith, I hesitated at first as to my answer, sensible as I am of my own lowliness and weakness…At any rate, you yourselves know that a faithful minister must preserve unadulterated and unalloyed whatever has been entrusted to him by his good master for dispensation to his fellow servants. Consequently, I also am obliged in the common interest to place before you, in accordance with God’s good pleasure, what I have learned from the Holy Scriptures…But if ‘the Lord is faithful in all his words’ and ‘All his commandments are faithful, confirmed for ever and ever, made in truth and equity,’ to delete anything that is written down or to interpolate anything not written amounts to open defection from the faith and makes the offender liable to a charge of contempt. For our Lord Jesus Christ says: ‘My sheep hear my voice,’ and, before this, He had said: ‘But a stranger they follow not but fly from him because they know not the voice of strangers.’ And the Apostle, using a human parallel, more strongly forbids adding to or removing anything from Holy Writ in the following words: ‘yet a man’s testament if it be confirmed, no man despiseth nor addeth to it.’ So, then, we have determined in this way to avoid now and always every utterance and sentiment not found in the Lord’s teaching…I have neither the leisure nor the skill at present, however, to collect from the Holy Scripture, even at your urging, all the references made throughout to the Father and Son and Holy Spirit, but I think it will satisfy even your conscience if I place before you a few selected passages to show how our thoughts derive from the Scriptures and to provide grounds for certainty both for you yourselves and any others who desire to place their confidence in us; for, just as many proofs declare to us only one divine doctrine, so also, a fair–minded person will recognize in the few proofs I have give the divine character which is in all.298

Enjoying as you do the consolation of the Holy Scriptures, you stand in need neither of my assistance nor of that of anybody else to help you to comprehend your duty. You have the all-sufficient counsel and guidance of the Holy Spirit to lead you to what is right.299

The novice was required not merely to read Scripture but to learn passages from it by heart that he may have full assurance in his piety and may not form his conduct according to the traditions of men.300

What is the mark of a faithful soul? *To be in these dispositions of full acceptance on the authority of the words [of the Scripture], not venturing to reject anything nor making additions. For, if ‘all that is not of faith is sin,’ as the Apostle says, and ‘faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God,’ everything outside Holy Scripture, not being of faith, is sin.301

Cyril of Jerusalem (AD 313-386)

Have thou ever in thy mind this seal, which for the present has been lightly touched in my discourse, by way of summary, but shall be stated, should the Lord permit, to the best of my power with the proof from the Scriptures. For concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures; nor must we be drawn aside by mere plausibility and artifices of speech. Even to me, who tell thee these things, give not absolute credence, unless thou receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures. For this salvation which we believe depends not on ingenious reasoning, but on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures.302

Now mind not my argumentations, for perhaps you may be misled but unless thou receive testimony of the Prophets on each matter, believe not what I say: unless thou learn from the Holy Scriptures concerning the Virgin, and the place, the time, and the manner, receive not testimony from man. For one who at present thus teaches may possibly be suspected: but what man of sense will suspect one that prophesied a thousand and more years beforehand? If then you seek the cause of Christ’s coming, go back to the first book of the Scriptures.303

It is clear that Cyril’s view of tradition was the systematic doctrine of Scripture, and only Scripture:

But in learning the Faith and in professing it, acquire and keep that only, which is now delivered to thee by the Church, and which has been built up strongly out of all the Scriptures. For since all cannot read the Scriptures, some being hindered as to the knowledge of them by want of learning, and others by a want of leisure, in order that the soul may not perish from ignorance, we comprise the whole doctrine of the Faith in a few lines. This summary I wish you both to commit to memory when I recite it, and to rehearse it with all diligence among yourselves, … For though we or an angel from heaven preach to you any other gospel than that ye have received, let him be to you anathema. So for the present listen while I simply say the Creed, and commit it to memory; but at the proper season expect the confirmation out of Holy Scripture of each part of the contents. For the articles of the Faith were not composed as seemed good to men; but the most important points collected out of all the Scripture make up one complete teaching of the Faith. And just as the mustard seed in one small grain contains many branches, so also this Faith has embraced in few words all the knowledge of godliness in the Old and New Testaments. Take heed then, brethren, and hold fast the traditions which ye now receive, and write them on the table of your heart.304

What else is there that knoweth the deep things of God, save only the Holy Ghost, who spake the Divine Scriptures? But not even the Holy Ghost Himself has spoken in the Scriptures concerning the generation of the Son from the Father. Why then dost thou busy thyself about things which not even the Holy Ghost has written in the Scriptures? Thou that knowest not the things which are written, busiest thou thyself about the things which are not written? There are many questions in the Divine Scriptures; what is written we comprehend not, why do we busy ourselves about what is not written?305

Let us then speak concerning the Holy Ghost nothing but what is written; and whatsoever is not written, let us not busy ourselves about it. The Holy Ghost Himself spake the Scriptures; He has also spoken concerning Himself as much as He pleased, or as much as we could receive. Let us therefore speak those things which He has said; for whatsoever He has not said, we dare not say.306

And it is enough for us to know these things; but inquire not curiously into His nature or substance: for had it been written, we would have spoken of it; what is not written, let us not venture on…307

We have already quoted Cyril at length in the introduction. He also said,

Not even the least of the divine and holy mysteries of the faith ought to be handed down without the divine Scriptures. Do not simply give faith to me speaking these things to you except you have the proof of what I say from the divine Scriptures. For the security and preservation of our faith are not supported by ingenuity of speech, but by the proofs of the divine Scriptures…308

So for the present listen while I simply say the Creed, and commit it to memory; but at the proper season expect the confirmation out of Holy Scripture of each part of the contents. For the articles of the Faith were not composed as seemed good to men; but the most important points collected out of all the Scripture make up one complete teaching of the Faith. And just as the mustard seed in one small grain contains many branches, so also this Faith has embraced in few words all the knowledge of godliness in the Old and New Testaments. Take heed then, brethren, and hold fast the traditions which ye now receive, and write them on the table of your heart.309

Gregory of Nyssa (AD 335-395)

Whatever is not supported by the testimony of Scripture we reject as false.310

Gregory approved of the following remarks by his sister Macrina:

we are not entitled to such licence, I mean that of affirming what we please; we make the Holy Scriptures the rule and the measure of every tenet; we necessarily fix our eyes upon that, and approve that alone which may be made to harmonize with the intention of those writings.311

They allege that while we confess three Persons we say that there is one goodness, and one power, and one Godhead. And in this assertion they do not go beyond the truth; for we do say so. But the ground of their complaint is that their custom does not admit this, and Scripture does not support it. What then is our reply? We do not think that it is right to make their prevailing custom the law and rule of sound doctrine. For if custom is to avail for proof of soundness, we too, surely, may advance our prevailing custom; and if they reject this, we are surely not bound to follow theirs. Let the inspired Scripture, then, be our umpire, and the vote of truth will surely be given to those whose dogmas are found to agree with the Divine words. (On the Holy Trinity, and of the Godhead of the Holy Spirit)312

Gregory said that even the slightest addition to Scripture in our doctrine was blasphemy.

The Christian Faith, which in accordance with the command of our Lord has been preached to all nations by His disciples, is neither of men, nor by men, but by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, Who being the Word, the Life, the Light, the Truth, and God, and Wisdom, and all else that He is by nature, for this cause above all was made in the likeness of man, and shared our nature, becoming like us in all things, yet without sin. He was like us in all things, in that He took upon Him manhood in its entirety with soul and body, so that our salvation was accomplished by means of both:—He, I say, appeared on earth and “conversed with men,” that men might no longer have opinions according to their own notions about the Self-existent, formulating into a doctrine the hints that come to them from vague conjectures, but that we might be convinced that God has truly been manifested in the flesh, and believe that to be the only true “mystery of godliness,” which was delivered to us by the very Word and God, Who by Himself spake to His Apostles, and that we might receive the teaching concerning the transcendent nature of the Deity which is given to us, as it were, “through a glass darkly” from the older Scriptures,—from the Law, and the Prophets, and the Sapiential Books, as an evidence of the truth fully revealed to us, reverently accepting the meaning of the things which have been spoken, so as to accord in the faith set forth by the Lord of the whole Scriptures, which faith we guard as we received it, word for word, in purity, without falsification, judging even a slight divergence from the words delivered to us an extreme blasphemy and impiety. We believe, then, even as the Lord set forth the Faith to His Disciples, when He said, “Go, teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” This is the word of the mystery whereby through the new birth from above our nature is transformed from the corruptible to the incorruptible, being renewed from “the old man,” “according to the image of Him who created” at the beginning the likeness to the Godhead. In the Faith then which was delivered by God to the Apostles we admit neither subtraction, nor alteration, nor addition, knowing assuredly that he who presumes to pervert the Divine utterance by dishonest quibbling, the same “is of his father the devil,” who leaves the words of truth and “speaks of his own,” becoming the father of a lie. For whatsoever is said otherwise than in exact accord with the truth is assuredly false and not true.313

What shadow of such a notion did he find in Scripture that he ventures upon this assertion?314

We will adopt as the guide of our reasoning, the Scripture.315

Ambrose (AD 340-397)

For how can we adopt those things which we do not find in the holy Scriptures?316

It is proper and necessary that each one should learn that which is useful from the inspired Scripture, both for the establishment of piety, and that he may not be accustomed to human traditions.317

Believe those things that are written. What is not written, inquire not into.318

Every word and deed should be ratified by the testimony of Holy Scripture.319

Epiphanius (AD 310-403)

I cannot give the answer to any question with my own reason, but I can with a conclusion from scripture.320

For since none of the ancient apostles or prophets in the old and new testaments held this opinion, you are asserting your superiority to God himself and your unshakebility.321

John Chrystostom (AD 347-407)

These then are the reasons; but it is necessary to establish them all from the Scriptures, and to show with exactness that all that has been said on this subject is not an invention of human reasoning, but the very sentence of the Scriptures. For thus will what we say be at once more deserving of credit, and sink the deeper into your minds.322

When we receive money, we do not trust to those who give it to us; we wish to count it ourselves: and when there is a question of Divine things, would it not be a folly rashly and blindly to receive the opinions of others, when we have a rule by which we can examine everything? I mean the Divine law. It is for this reason that I conjure you all, without resting in the slightest degree on the judgment of others, to consult the Scriptures.323

When you shall see the wicked heresy, which is the army of Antichrist, standing in the holy places of the church, then let those who are in Judea head for the mountains, that is, those who are Christians should head for the Scriptures. For the true Judea is Christendom, and the mountains are the Scriptures of the prophets and apostles, as it is written: “Her foundations are in the holy mountains.” But why should all Christians at this time head for the Scriptures? Because in this period in which heresy has taken possession of the churches there can be no proof of true Christianity nor any other refuge for Christians who want to know the truth of the faith except the divine Scriptures. Earlier we showed in many ways which is the church of Christ, and which heathenism. But now there is for those who want to know which is the true church of Christ no way to know it except only the through the Scriptures. Why? Because heresy has everything just like the church. How, then, will anyone who wants to know which is the true church of Christ know it in the midst of this great confusion resulting from this similarity, except only through the Scriptures? The Lord, therefore, knowing that there would be such a great confusion of things in the last days, commands that Christians who… want to gain steadfastness in the true faith should take refuge in nothing else but the Scriptures.

Otherwise, if they look to other things, they will be offended and will perish, because they will not know which is the true church, and as a result they will fall into the abomination of desolation which stands in the holy places of the church.324

Regarding the things that I say I should supply even the proofs, so I will not seem to rely on my own opinions, but rather, prove them with Scripture, so that the matter will remain certain and steadfast.325

Wherefore I exhort and entreat you all, disregard what this man and that man thinks about these things, and inquire from the Scriptures all these things; and having learned what are the true riches, let us pursue after them that we may obtain also the eternal good things.326

If anything is said without Scripture, the thinking of the hearers limps. But where the testimony proceeds from the divinely given Scripture, it confirms both the speech of the preacher and the soul of the hearer.327

Everything in the divine Scriptures is clear and straightforward; they inform us about all that is necessary.”328

Isidore of Pelusium 412AD

To ascertain these things are so, let us inspect the rule of truth - I mean the Holy Scriptures.329

Theophilus of Alexandria (AD 385-412)

It would be the instigation of a demoniacal spirit to follow the conceits of the human mind, and to think anything divine, beyond what has the authority of the Scriptures.330

Note that this church father would consider the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions that are not found in the Bible to be “demoniacal” just as Christ considered the traditions of the Jewish fathers to be (Matt. 15:1-20 with 1 Tim. 4:1-4).

Nicetas of Remesiana (AD 335-414)

These things being so, beloved, persevere in the tradition which you have learned. Be true to the pact you made with the Lord, to the profession of faith which you made in the presence of angels and of men. The words of the Creed are few—but all the mysteries are in them. Selected from the whole of Scripture and put together for the sake of brevity, they are like precious gems making a single crown. Thus, all the faithful have sufficient knowledge of salvation, even though many are unable, or too busy with their worldly affairs, to read the Scriptures.331

My single appeal will be to the Holy Scriptures.332

Jerome (AD 347-420)

For all questions, let us seek for suitable beams from the testimonies of the Scriptures, and cut them down, and build the house of wisdom within us.333

The other things, also, which they find and feign, of themselves, without the authority and testimonies of the Scriptures, as if by apostolical tradition, the sword of God strikes down.’334

That which does not have authority from the Scriptures, we may as readily disdain (contemn), as well approve…335

Those things which they make and find, as it were, by apostolical tradition, without the authority and testimony of Scripture, the word of God smites.336

As we deny not those things that are written, so we refuse those things that are not written. That God was born of a virgin we believe, because we read it; that Mary did marry after she was delivered we believe not, because we do not read it…337

These statements are as explicit a rejection of Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox views of tradition as one can get. But similar ones can be multiplied. The following represent only a sampling:

The doctrine of the church which is the house of God may be found in the fulness of the divine books.338

They that prattle without the authority of the Scriptures, they have no faith.339

The sword of God smites whatever they draw and forges from a pretended ‘apostolic tradition’ without the authority and testimony of the Scriptures.340

Everything we say, we ought to confirm from Sacred Scripture.341

Prove your claim from Sacred Scripture, for we must not make an assertion unless it has been adduced from and confirmed by Scripture.342

Salvian the presbyter (AD ?-429)

Condemn me if I shall not bring proofs. Condemn me if I shall not demonstrate that the Sacred Scriptures have also said what I have asserted.343

Augustine (AD 354-430)

…in the plain teaching of Scripture we find all that concerns our belief and moral conduct.344

Since tradition concerns belief and moral conduct, Augustine is saying that the plain teaching of Scripture gives us everything we need for belief and moral conduct. The following three quotes show that Augustine was unwilling to believe anything the church taught if it was not backed by Scripture:

Neither dare one agree with catholic bishops if their opinion is against the canonical Scriptures of God.345

For the reasonings of any men whatsoever, even though they be Catholics, and of high reputation, are not to be treated by us in the same way as the canonical Scriptures are treated. We are at liberty, without doing any violence to the respect which these men deserve, to condemn and reject anything in their writings, if perchance we shall find that they have entertained opinions differing from that which others or we ourselves have, by the divine help, discovered to be the truth. I deal thus with the writings of others, and I wish my intelligent readers to deal thus with mine.346

However, if you inquire or recall to memory the opinion of our Ambrose, and also of our Cyprian, on the point in question, you will perhaps find that I also have not been without some whose footsteps I follow in that which I have maintained. At the same time, as I have said already, it is to the canonical Scriptures alone that I am bound to yield such implicit subjection as to follow their teaching, without admitting the slightest suspicion that in them any mistake or any statement intended to mislead could find a place.347

Notice that he embraces an implicit faith in Scriptures and rejects an implicit faith in tradition (doctrine passed down).

Let us treat scripture like scripture, like God speaking; don’t let’s look there for man going wrong. It is not for nothing, you see, that the canon has been established for the Church. This is the function of the Holy Spirit. So if anybody reads my book, let him pass judgment on me. If I have said something reasonable, let him follow, not me, but reason itself; if I’ve proved it by the clearest divine testimony, let him follow, not me, but the divine scripture.348

The testimony of so great an apostle using in his own writings an oath as a confirmation of their truth is of more weight with me than the opinion of any man, however learned, who is discussing the writings of another.349

I do not want you to depend on my authority, so as to think that you must believe something because it is said by me; you should rest your belief either on the canonical Scriptures, if you do not see how true something is, or on the truth made manifest to you interiorly, so that you may see clearly.350

What more shall I teach you than what we read in the apostles? For Holy Scripture fixes the rule for our doctrine, lest we dare be wiser than we ought. Therefore I should not teach you anything else except to expound to you the words of the Teacher.351

But if it is supported by the evident authority of the divine Scriptures, namely, of those which in the church are called canonical, it must be believed without any reservation. In regard to other witnesses of evidence which are offered as guarantees of belief, you may believe or not according as you estimate that they either have or have not the weight necessary to produce belief.352

For the reasonings of any men whatsoever, even though they be Catholics and of high reputation, are not to be treated by us in the same way as the canonical Scriptures are treated.353

Especially as in writings of such authors I feel myself free to use my own judgment (owing unhesitating assent to nothing but the canonical Scriptures)…354

Whoever dissents from the sacred Scriptures, even if they are found in all places in which the church is designated, are not the church.355

For whenever a question arises on an unusually obscure subject on which no assistance can be rendered by clear and certain proofs of the Holy Scriptures, the presumption of man ought to restrain itself, nor should it attempt anything definite by leaning to either side.356

They must show it by the canonical books of the divine Scriptures alone, for we do not say that we must be believed because we are in the Church of Christ, because Optatus of Milevi, or Ambrose of Milan or innumerable other bishops of our communion commended the church to which we belong, or because it is extolled by the councils of our colleagues or because through the whole wonderful answers to prayers or cures happen.357

Note this quote completely rules out implicit faith in councils, bishops, or even miracle workers. Scripture alone can command such implicit faith. This means that for creeds to be believed, the Scripture that supports them must seem cogent. This again is as clear a testimony as one can get to a Sola Scriptura definition of tradition/doctrine. The following quotes say much the same:

It is to the canonical Scriptures alone that I am bound to yield such implicit subjection as to follow their teaching, without admitting the slightest suspicion that in them any mistake or any statement intended to mislead could find a place.358

You are wont, indeed, to bring up against us the letters of Cyprian, his opinion, his Council; why do ye claim the authority of Cyprian for your schism, and reject his example when it makes for the peace of the Church? But who can fail to be aware that the sacred canon of Scripture, both of the Old and New Testament, is confined within its own limits, and that it stands so absolutely in a superior position to all later letters of the bishops, that about it we can hold no manner of doubt or disputation whether what is confessedly contained in it is right and true; but that all the letters of bishops which have been written, or are being written, since the closing of the canon, are liable to be refuted if there be anything contained in them which strays from the the truth, either by the discourse of some one who happens to be wiser in the matter than themselves, or by the weightier authority and more learned experience of other bishops, by the authority of Councils; and further, that the Councils themselves, which are held in the several districts and provinces, must yield, beyond all possibility of doubt, to the authority of plenary Councils which are formed for the whole Christian world; and that even of the plenary Councils, the earlier are often corrected by those which follow them, when, by some actual experiment, things are brought to light which were before concealed, and that is known which previously lay hid, and this without any whirlwind of sacrilegious pride, without any puffing of the neck through arrogance, without any strife of envious hatred, simply with holy humility, catholic peace, and Christian charity?.359

The Sola Scriptura statement made by Augustine in the previous paragraph is very close to the statements made by the Westminster Confession of Faith on the infallibility of Scripture and the fact that councils and creeds are subject to error.360

This shows that the established authority of Scripture must outweigh every other; for it derives new confirmation from the progress of events which happen, as Scripture proves, in fulfillment of the predictions made so long before their occurrence.361

In the matters of which we are now treating, only the canonical writings have any weight with us.362

For the reasonings of any men whatsoever, even though they be Catholics, and of high reputation, are not to be treated by us in the same way as the canonical Scriptures are treated. We are at liberty, without doing any violence to the respect which these men deserve, to condemn and reject anything in their writings, if perchance we shall find that they have entertained opinions differing from that which others or we ourselves have, by the divine help, discovered to be the truth. I deal thus with the writings of others, and I wish my intelligent readers to deal thus with mine.363

This too parallels statements on liberty of conscience in the Westminster Confession of Faith.364 Here is Augustine’s classic demarcation between Scripture and all other writings and sayings:

As regards our writings, which are not a rule of faith or practice, but only a help to edification, we may suppose that they contain some things falling short of the truth in obscure and recondite matters, and that these mistakes may or may not be corrected in subsequent treatises. For we are of those of whom the apostle says: “And if ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.” Such writings are read with the right of judgment, and without any obligation to believe. In order to leave room for such profitable discussions of difficult questions, there is a distinct boundary line separating all productions subsequent to apostolic times from the authoritative canonical books of the Old and New Testaments. The authority of these books has come down to us from the apostles through the successions of bishops and the extension of the Church, and, from a position of lofty supremacy, claims the submission of every faithful and pious mind. If we are perplexed by an apparent contradiction in Scripture, it is not allowable to say, The author of this book is mistaken; but either the manuscript is faulty, or the translation is wrong, or you have not understood. In the innumerable books that have been written latterly we may sometimes find the same truth as in Scripture, but there is not the same authority. Scripture has a sacredness peculiar to itself. In other books the reader may form his own opinion, and perhaps, from not understanding the writer, may differ from him, and may pronounce in favor of what pleases him, or against what he dislikes. In such cases, a man is at liberty to withhold his belief, unless there is some clear demonstration or some canonical authority to show that the doctrine or statement either must or may be true. But in consequence of the distinctive peculiarity of the sacred writings, we are bound to receive as true whatever the canon shows to have been said by even one prophet, or apostle, or evangelist. Otherwise, not a single page will be left for the guidance of human fallibility, if contempt for the wholesome authority of the canonical books either puts an end to that authority altogether, or involves it in hopeless confusion.365

John Cassian (AD 360-435)

For, as you know, a Creed (Symbolum) gets its name from being a ‘collection.’ For what is called in Greek suvmbolo is termed in Latin ‘Collatio.’ But it is therefore a collection (collatio) because when the faith of the whole Catholic law was collected together by the apostles of the Lord, all those matters which are spread over the whole body of the sacred writings with immense fullness of detail, were collected together in sum in the matchless brevity of the Creed, according to the Apostle’s words: ‘Completing His word, and cutting it short in righteousness: because a short word shall the Lord make upon the earth.’ This then is the ‘short word’ which the Lord made, collecting together in few words the faith of both of His Testaments, and including in a few brief clauses the drift of all the Scriptures, building up His own out of His own, and giving the force of the whole law in a most compendious and brief formula. Providing in this, like a most tender father, for the carelessness and ignorance of some of his children, that no mind however simple and ignorant might have any trouble over what could so easily be retained in the memory.366

Cyril of Alexandria (AD 376-444)

That which the divine Scripture has not spoken, how shall we receive it, and reckon it among verities?367

Sufficient, sufficient for this [i.e. for obtaining a knowledge of the faith] are the Scriptures of the holy Fathers, [i.e., the inspired writers] which if any one would diligently study and vigilantly attend to, he would immediately have his mind filled with divine light. For, they did not speak of themselves, but ‘all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable.368

Therefore the inspired Scripture is abundantly-sufficient, even so that those who have been nourished by it ought to come forth wise and very prudent, and possessed of an understanding abundantly instructed in all things… What that is profitable to us is not spoken by it? For, first, (what is also more excellent than all other things,) any one may see in it the glorious doctrine of the true knowledge of God… Moreover, in addition to this, it teaches us how to order aright our life and conversation, and by its divine and sacred laws directs us in the way of righteousness, and makes the path of all equity clear to us.369

Paul requires us to prove every thing, and says, Be wise money-changers. But an exact and scrupulous knowledge of each particular matter we can obtain from no other source than from divinely–inspired Scripture…370

unless you should prove to us that the volumes of the sacred writers agree with what you have spoken? For we shall not follow those who desire and are accustomed to speak from their own imaginations alone but those who speak from the mouth of the Lord according to that which is written.371

It is best not to love to be moved by the bold assertions of others since they carry us away to incorrect views, but to make the words of the inspired writers the correct and exact rule of faith.372

It is necessary that we should follow the sacred Scriptures, in nothing going beyond what they sanction.373

It is impossible for us to say, or at all think anything concerning God, beyond what has been divinely declared by the divine oracles of the old and new testaments.374

But an exact and scrupulous knowledge of each particular matter we can obtain from no other source than from divinely inspired Scripture.375

What divine Scripture does not state very clearly must remain unknown and be passed over in silence.376

All things, therefore, that have been delivered to us by the Law, and Prophets, and Apostles, we receive, and acknowledge, and confess; and beyond these, we seek not to know anything. For it is impossible for us to say, or at all think anything concerning God, beyond what has been divinely declared by the divine oracles of the Old and New Testament.377

How can we prove and certify as true something which Sacred Scripture does not attest?378

Vincent of Lerins (AD ?-445?)

Here, it may be, someone will ask, Since the canon of Scripture is complete, and is in itself abundantly sufficient, what need is there to join to it the interpretation of the Church? The answer is that because of the very depth of Scripture all men do not place one identical interpretation upon it. The statements of the same writer are explained by different men in different ways, so much so that it seems almost possible to extract from it as many opinions as there are men. Novatian expounds in one way, Sabellius in another, Donatus in another, Arius, Eunomius and Macedonius in another, Photinus, Apollinaris and Priscillian in another, Jovinian, Pelagius and Caelestius in another, and latterly Nestorius in another. Therefore, because of the intricacies of error, which is so multiform, there is great need for the laying down of a rule for the exposition of Prophets and Apostles in accordance with the standard of the interpretation of the Church Catholic.379

The previous quote explains why a doctrinal statement (tradition) that is based upon the Bible is needed. It systematizes in an easy to understand format what is already given in the Bible. The Bible itself commands us to hold to Scriptural doctrine (2 Tim. 3:16; cf. John 7:16; Acts 2:42; Rom. 6:17; 16:17; 1 Tim. 4:6,13,16,17) and reject the non-Scriptural “doctrines… of men” (Matt. 15:9; cf. Matt. 16:12; Eph. 4:14; Col. 2:22). Since tradition is a synonym for doctrine, the same admonitions apply. The Bible commands us to hold to Scriptural tradition (1 Cor. 11:1-2; cf. 2 Thes. 2:15; 3:6) and to shun the traditions of the elders not found in the Bible (Matt. 15:2-20; cf. Mark 7; Gal. 1:14; Col. 2:8; 1 Pet. 1:18)

Salvian the Presbyter (AD 400?-450?)

I could answer with reason and sufficient constancy: ‘I do not know,’ because I do not know the secret councils of God. The oracle of the heavenly Word is sufficient proof for me in this case. God says, as I have proved in the previous books, that He regards all things, rules all things and judges all things. If you wish to know what you must believe, you have Holy Scripture. The perfect explanation is to hold with what you read.380

Theodoret of Cyrrhus (AD 393-466)

Orth: Do not, I beg you, bring in human reason. I shall yield to scripture alone.
Eran: You shall receive no argument unconfirmed by Holy Scripture, and if you bring me any solution of the question deduced from Holy Scripture I will receive it, and will in no wise gainsay it.
Orth: You know how a moment ago we made the word of the evangelist clear by means of the testimony of the apostle; and that the divine apostle showed us how the Word became Flesh, saying plainly “for verily He took not on Him the nature of angels but He took on Him the seed of Abraham.” The same teacher will teach us how the divine Word was seen upon the earth and dwelt among men.
Eran: I submit to the words both of apostles and of prophets. Shew me then in accordance with your promise the interpretation of the prophecy.381
Orth: This agrees with what we have said, for we have learnt the rule of dogmas from the divine Scripture.382

For us the divine writings are sufficient383

They will find that by God’s grace I hold no other opinion than just that which I have received from holy Scripture.384

The impiety of Sabellius, Photinus, Marcellus, and Paulus, we refute by proving by the evidence of divine Scripture that the Lord Christ was not only man but also eternal God, of one substance with the Father.385

I would not so say persuaded only by human arguments, for I am not so rash as to say anything concerning which divine Scripture is silent.386

We have learnt the rule of dogmas from the divine Scriptures.387

They will find that by God’s grace I hold no other opinion than just that which I have received from holy Scripture.388

Cosmas of Indicopleustes (6th century)

It behoveth not a perfect Christian to attempt to confirm anything from those [writings] that are doubted of, the canonical and commonly received Scriptures explaining all things sufficiently…every doctrine received by Christians.389

Cesarius of Arles (AD 468-542)

Sacred Scripture has said nothing about this, and it is wrong to violate the divine silence. Since God did not think that this should be indicated in His writings, He did not want you to question or to know this through idle curiosity.390

Gregory the Great (AD 540-604)

As servants that serve well are ever intent upon their masters’ countenances, that the things they may bid they may hear readily, and strive to fulfill; so the minds of the righteous in their bent are upon Almighty God, and in His Scripture they as it were fix their eyes on His face, that whereas God delivers therein all that He wills, they may not be at variance with His will, in proportion as they learn that will in revelation. Whence it happens, that His words do not pass superfluously through their ears, but that these words they fix in their hearts.391

Gregory certainly contradicted the supposed “tradition” of Trentian Rome when he wrote that 1 Maccabees was not inspired Scripture. In his Book of Morals (basically a commentary on the Book of Job) which he completed after becoming Pope, he writes:

With reference to which particular we are not acting irregularly, if from the books, though not Canonical, yet brought out for the edifying of the Church, we bring forward testimony. Thus Eleazar in the battle smote and brought down an elephant, but fell under the very beast that he killed.392

John of Damascus (AD 675-749)

Moreover, by the Law and the Prophets in former times and afterwards by His Only-begotten Son, our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, He disclosed to us the knowledge of Himself as that was possible for us. All things, therefore, that have been delivered to us by Law and Prophets and Apostles and Evangelists we receive, and know, and honor, seeking for nothing beyond these…393

Thomas Aquinas (AD 1225-1274)

Even Thomas Aquinas, the founder of Roman Catholic systematic thought, was still so surrounded by the view that 100% of tradition was in the Bible, that he affirmed it himself, saying, “The canonical scriptures alone are the rule of faith.”394

The Glossa Ordinaria (last revision c. AD 1498)

As late as the Reformation, the official study Bible of the Roman Catholic Church continued to be the Glossa Ordinaria. It’s comments claimed to represent the historic church, and contained comments by church fathers going all the way back to Origen.395 Yet this commentary affirmed the ancient teaching that tradition is not independent of Scripture, but is the systematized teaching of Scripture. Furthermore, nothing but the Scripture has absolute authority. Thus, the following quote not only reflects the Protestant view of the canon, but also the Protestant view of tradition.

Many people, who do not give much attention to the holy scriptures, think that all the books contained in the Bible should be honored and adored with equal veneration, not knowing how to distinguish among the canonical and non-canonical books, the latter of which the Jews number among the apocrypha. Therefore they often appear ridiculous before the learned; and they are disturbed and scandalized when they hear that someone does not honor something read in the Bible with equal veneration as all the rest. Here, then, we distinguish and number distinctly first the canonical books and then the non-canonical, among which we further distinguish between the certain and the doubtful. The canonical books have been brought about through the dictation of the Holy Spirit. It is not known, however, at which time or by which authors the non-canonical or apocryphal books were produced. Since, nevertheless, they are very good and useful, and nothing is found in them which contradicts the canonical books, the church reads them and permits them to be read by the faithful for devotion and edification. Their authority, however, is not considered adequate for proving those things which come into doubt or contention, or for confirming the authority of ecclesiastical dogma, as blessed Jerome states in his prologue to Judith and to the books of Solomon. But the canonical books are of such authority that whatever is contained therein is held to be true firmly and indisputably, and likewise that which is clearly demonstrated from them. For just as in philosophy a truth is known through reduction to self-evident first principles, so too, in the writings handed down from holy teachers, the truth is known, as far as those things that must be held by faith, through reduction to the canonical scriptures that have been produced by divine revelation, which can contain nothing false. Hence, concerning them Augustine says to Jerome: To those writers alone who are called canonical I have learned to offer this reverence and honor: I hold most firmly that none of them has made an error in writing. Thus if I encounter something in them which seems contrary to the truth, I simply think that the manuscript is incorrect, or I wonder whether the translator has discovered what the word means, or whether I have understood it at all. But I read other writers in this way: however much they abound in sanctity or teaching, I do not consider what they say true because they have judged it so, but rather because they have been able to convince me from those canonical authors, or from probable arguments, that it agrees with the truth.396

The early church’s view of authority = Sola Scriptura

Summary statements by patristics and church history scholars

Ellen Flesseman–van Leer makes these observations about the Apologists’ writings:

The only formal authority the Apologists call upon…is Scripture. Aristedes gives first a summary of the main points of the Christian creed and then an exposition of Christian morality, i.e., of the commandments of the Lord Jesus Christ. The source of knowledge of this Christian faith is the Scriptures of the Christians.397

J.N.D Kelly said of Tertullian’s works, “Scripture has absolute authority; whatever it teaches is necessarily true, and woe betide him who accepts doctrines not discoverable in it.”398 William Webster states that for the fathers of the first several centuries, “Tradition was always subordinate to Scripture as an authority.”399

Against the Gnostics, who claimed to have secret information from the apostles not found in the Bible, Irenaeus insisted that any “tradition” gathered “from other sources than the Scriptures…”400 had no authority and was speculative. Hanson says, “The whole purpose of Irenaeus, at least, as we can reliably collect it from the prefaces and endings of each of the books of Adversus Heareses, was to refute the Gnostics from Scripture… Irenaeus will allow Scripture alone as his source of information about God, and if Scripture tells us nothing, then we can know nothing.”401 A perusal of the discussions on Tradition given in the previous section clearly show that the church’s only infallible authority was the Bible.

The following sample quotes from the fathers demonstrates that this view of authority was the pervasive view of the church fathers.

Letting the fathers speak for themselves on the ultimate authority of Scripture

As we have seen in chapter 1, if anything (whether church, councils, popes, bishops, archeology, etc.) helps to determine the canon of Scripture, that thing becomes a greater authority than the Bible. It is a logical necessity.

So when Rome asserts that the Church is the mother of the canon and has the authority to determine the canon, it is declaring the authority of the Church to be greater than the authority of Scripture.

Justin Martyr (AD 100-165)

But Justin Martyr argues the opposite, saying that there is nothing greater than God or His Word. Thus, he insists that even proofs of the Bible would make the proof greater than the Bible, which is impossible, since it is the Word of God. Like this present book, Justin insists that just as God is self-authenticating, so too is Scripture self-authenticating. As Hebrews 6:13 words it, “For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself…” The Bible’s authority (this section) is thus tightly connected to its self-authentication (to be discussed later in this chapter). Justin Martyr’s argumentation on authority is the same as the Protestant Reformation’s argument - they had a “Sola Scriptura” view of authority.

The word of truth is free, and carries its own authority, disdaining to fall under any skilful argument, or to endure the logical scrutiny of its hearers. But it would be believed for its own nobility, and for the confidence due to Him who sends it. Now the word of truth is sent from God; wherefore the freedom claimed by the truth is not arrogant. For being sent with authority, it were not fit that it should be required to produce proof of what is said; since neither is there any proof beyond itself, which is God. For every proof is more powerful and trustworthy than that which it proves; since what is disbelieved, until proof is produced, gets credit when such proof is produced, and is recognised as being what it was stated to be. But nothing is either more powerful or more trustworthy than the truth; so that he who requires proof of this, is like one who wishes it demonstrated why the things that appear to the senses do appear.402

Irenaeus, (AD 130-202)

In chapter II of “Against Heresies,” Irenaeus complains that the Gnostics reject the “written documents” of the Scripture and insist on an oral (vivâ voce) tradition. When Irenaeus says that church tradition is based on the Bible, they reject church tradition because it misses out on information that Christ and apostles did not have at their disposal. In all of this they put their authority over against the authority of the Scripture.

When, however, they are confuted from the Scriptures, they turn round and accuse these same Scriptures, as if they were not correct, nor of authority, and [assert] that they are ambiguous, and that the truth cannot be extracted from them by those who are ignorant of tradition. For [they allege] that the truth was not delivered by means of written documents, but vivâ voce…403

We have known the method of our salvation by no other means than those by whom the gospel came to us; which gospel they truly preached; but afterward, by the will of God, they delivered to us in the Scriptures, to be for the future the foundation and pillar of our faith.404

Clement of Alexandria (AD 150?-213?)

But those who are ready to toil in the most excellent pursuits, will not desist from the search after truth, till they get the demonstration from the Scriptures themselves.405

Tertullian (AD 155-222?)

What Scripture does not note, it denies.406

In the following quote, Tertullian insists that even the apostles did not have any authority except the authority of divine revelation given to them by Christ. The Father delivers revelation to the Son, Who delivers it to the apostles, who deliver it to the church. The church loses authority when it deviates from this divine revelation.

We, however, are not permitted to cherish any object after our own will, nor yet to make choice of that which another has introduced of his private fancy. In the Lord’s apostles we possess our authority; for even they did not of themselves choose to introduce anything, but faithfully delivered to the nations (of mankind) the doctrine which they had received from Christ. If, therefore, even “an angel from heaven should preach any other gospel” (than theirs), he would be called accursed by us.407

In the following quote Tertullian shows again that the only authority that the Church possesses is a delegated authority that comes from Christ through the apostles. For heretics to introduce new writings, they would have to prove that Christ came again and had made new apostles.

Let them show me by what authority they come! If it be some other God they preach, how comes it that they employ the things and he writings and the names of that God against whom they preach? If it be the same God, why treat Him in some other way? Let them prove themselves to be new apostles! Let them maintain that Christ has come down a second time, taught in person a second time, has been twice crucified, twice dead, twice raised!408

On issues of Faith Tertullian insisted on “recalling all questions to God’s inspired standard.”409

J.N.D. Kelly summarizes many other such passages in Tertullian with these words: “Scripture has absolute authority; whatever it teaches is necessarily true, and woe betide him who accepts doctrines not discoverable in it.”410

Dionysus of Alexandria (c. 250)

…we were not ashamed to change our opinions and agree with others; but on the contrary, conscientiously and sincerely, and with hearts laid open before God, we accepted whatever was established by the proofs and teachings of the Holy Scriptures.411

Origen (AD 185?-252)

Over and over Origen appeals to “the authority of the Scripture” or “the authority of the Gospels” or “the authority of the apostles” to prove His doctrines, always quoting the Bible. He did not appeal to any other authorities for doctrine:

No man ought, for the confirmation of doctrines, to use books which are not canonized Scriptures.412

…we must, in order to establish the positions which we have laid down, adduce the testimony of Holy Scripture.413

Therefore, in proof of all the words we utter when teaching, we ought to produce the doctrine of Scripture as confirming the doctrine we utter. For as all the gold that is without the temple is not sanctified, so every doctrine that is not in the divine Scripture, although it may seem admirable to some, is not sacred, because it is not comprehended within the doctrine of Scripture, which sanctifies that doctrine alone which it contains within itself as the temple renders sacred the gold that is in it. We ought not therefore for the confirmation of our instructions to swear by and take as evidence our own notions which we individually hold and think to be agreeable to truth, unless we are able to show that they are sacred as being contained in the divine Scriptures as in some temples of God.414

Cyprian of Carthage (AD 200-258)

Whence is that tradition? Whether does it descend from the authority of the Lord and the Gospel, or does it come from the injunctions and Epistles of the Apostles? For that we are to do what is written, God testifieth and admonisheth, saying to Joshua: ‘The book of this law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein.’… If then it is commanded in the Gospel, or is contained in the Epistles or Acts of the Apostles…let this divine and holy tradition be observed… Nor ought custom, which had crept in among some, to prevent the truth from prevailing and conquering; for custom without truth is the antiquity of error.415

Rather than seeing tradition as producing Scripture, Cyprian said that Scripture is “the head and source of divine tradition.”416

Gaius Marius Victorinus (AD 290-364)

Victorinus insisted that any doctrine that did not come from Scripture alone was blasphemous.

That such is the faith, with the permission of God and Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, we shall affirm. Let no one say, understanding me in a blasphemous way, that it is my own teaching. Indeed, all that I say is said by Holy Scripture and comes from Holy Scripture.417

Athanasius (AD 296-373)

Athanasius insisted that the church had no authority to go beyond the Scripture in its faith and practice.

The Catholic Christians will neither speak nor endure to hear anything in religion that is a stranger to Scripture; it being an evil heart of immodesty to speak those things which are not written.418

After listing the books of the Bible, Athanasius says

In these alone is proclaimed the doctrine of godliness. Let no man add to these, neither let him take ought from these. For concerning these the Lord put to shame the Sadducees, and said, ‘Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures.’ And He reproved the Jews, saying, ‘Search the Scriptures, for these are they that testify of Me.419

Many quotes can be shown that indicate that the Creeds had authority only as they faithfully communicated the truth of Scripture. Here is one sample:

Vainly then do they run about with the pretext that they have demanded Councils for the faith’s sake; for divine Scripture is sufficient above all things; but if a Council be needed on the point, there are the proceedings of the Fathers, for the Nicene Bishops did not neglect this matter, but stated the doctrine so exactly, that persons reading their words honestly, cannot but be reminded by them of the religion towards Christ announced in divine Scripture.420

Basil of Caeserea (330-379)

If Basil did not believe in a Sola Scriptura authority, the following exhortations would make no sense:

“Believe those things that are written. What is not written inquire not into.421

The hear­ers taught in the Scrip­tures ought to test what is said by teach­ers and accept that which agrees with the Scrip­tures but reject that which is for­eign.422

But if ‘the Lord is faithful in all his words’ and ‘All his commandments are faithful, confirmed for ever and ever, made in truth and equity,’ to delete anything that is written down or to interpolate anything not written amounts to open defection from the faith and makes the offender liable to a charge of contempt. For our Lord Jesus Christ says: ‘My sheep hear my voice,’ and, before this, He had said: ‘But a stranger they follow not but fly from him because they know not the voice of strangers.’ And the Apostle, using a human parallel, more strongly forbids adding to or removing anything from Holy Writ in the following words: ‘yet a man’s testament if it be confirmed, no man despiseth nor addeth to it.’ So, then, we have determined in this way to avoid now and always every utterance and sentiment not found in the Lord’s teaching.423

Enjoying as you do the consolation of the Holy Scriptures, you stand in need neither of my assistance nor of that of anybody else to help you to comprehend your duty. You have the all-sufficient counsel and guidance of the Holy Spirit to lead you to what is right.424

The novice was required not merely to read Scripture but to learn passages from it by heart that he may have full assurance in his piety and may not form his conduct according to the traditions of men.425

I do not consider it fair that the custom which obtains among them should be regarded as a law and rule of orthodoxy. If custom is to be taken in proof of what is right then it is certainly competent for me to put forward on my side the custom which obtains here. If they reject this we are clearly not bound to follow them. Therefore let God inspired Scripture decide between us and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favor of that side will be cast the vote of truth.426

Cyril of Jerusalem (AD 313-386)

Cyril believed that the church’s authority could never go beyond the Scripture.

Let us then speak concerning the Holy Ghost nothing but what is written; and whatsoever is not written, let us not busy ourselves about it. The Holy Ghost Himself spake the Scriptures; He has also spoken concerning Himself as much as He pleased, or as much as we could receive. Let us therefore speak those things which He has said; for whatsoever He has not said, we dare not say.427

And it is enough for us to know these things; but inquire not curiously into His nature or substance: for had it been written, we would have spoken of it; what is not written, let us not venture on428

For concerning the divine and sacred Mysteries of the Faith, we ought not to deliver even the most casual remark without the Holy Scriptures: nor be drawn aside by mere probabilities and the artifices of argument. Do not then believe me because I tell thee these things, unless thou receive from the Holy Scriptures the proof of what is set forth: for this salvation, which is of our faith, is not by ingenious reasonings, but by proof from the Holy Scriptures… In these articles we comprehend the whole doctrine of faith… For the articles of the Faith were not composed at the good pleasure of men, but the most important points chosen from all Scriptures, make up the one teaching of the Faith… This Faith, in a few words, hath enfolded in its bosom the whole knowledge of godliness contained both in the Old and New Testaments. Behold, therefore, brethren and hold the traditions (2 Thes. 2:15) which ye now receive, and write them on the table of your hearts… Now heed not any ingenious views of mine; else thou mayest be misled; but unless though receive the witness of the prophets concerning each matter, believe not what is spoken; unless though learn from Holy Scripture… receive not the witness of man.429

Now mind not my argumentations, for perhaps you may be misled but unless thou receive testimony of the Prophets on each matter, believe not what I say: unless thou learn from the Holy Scriptures concerning the Virgin, and the place, the time, and the manner, receive not testimony from man. For one who at present thus teaches may possibly be suspected: but what man of sense will suspect one that prophesied a thousand and more years beforehand? If then you seek the cause of Christ’s coming, go back to the first book of the Scriptures.430

For though we or an angel from heaven preach to you any other gospel than that ye have received, let him be to you anathema. So for the present listen while I simply say the Creed, and commit it to memory; but at the proper season expect the confirmation out of Holy Scripture of each part of the contents. For the articles of the Faith were not composed as seemed good to men; but the most important points collected out of all the Scripture make up one complete teaching of the Faith. And just as the mustard seed in one small grain contains many branches, so also this Faith has embraced in few words all the knowledge of godliness in the Old and New Testaments. Take heed then, brethren, and hold fast the traditions which ye now receive, and write them on the table of your heart.431

What else is there that knoweth the deep things of God, save only the Holy Ghost, who spake the Divine Scriptures? But not even the Holy Ghost Himself has spoken in the Scriptures concerning the generation of the Son from the Father. Why then dost thou busy thyself about things which not even the Holy Ghost has written in the Scriptures? Thou that knowest not the things which are written, busiest thou thyself about the things which are not written? There are many questions in the Divine Scriptures; what is written we comprehend not, why do we busy ourselves about what is not written?432

Gregory of Nyssa (AD 335-395)

Whatever is not supported by the testimony of Scripture we reject as false.433

Gregory approved of the following remarks by his sister Macrina:

We are not entitled to such license, I mean that of affirming what we please; we make the Holy Scriptures the rule and the measure of every tenet (dogma); we necessarily fix our eyes upon that, and approve that alone which may be made to harmonize with the intention of those writings.434

Let the inspired Scripture, then, be our umpire, and the vote of truth will surely be given to those whose dogmas are found to agree with the Divine words.435

We will adopt as the guide of our reasoning, the Scripture” NPNF2 V5 soul and resurrection.436

Ambrose (AD 340?-396),

For how can we adopt those things which we do not find in the holy Scriptures?437

Believe those things that are written. What is not written, inquire not into.438

Every word and deed should be ratified by the testimony of Holy Scripture.439

It is proper and necessary that each one should learn that which is useful from the inspired Scripture, both for the establishment of piety, and that he may not be accustomed to human traditions.440

Epiphanius (AD 310-403)

I cannot give the answer to any question with my own reason, but I can with a conclusion from scripture.441

Epiphanius insisted that any doctrine that did not arise from the Old or New Testaments was a declaration of a competing authority and infallibility - something he rejected.

For since none of the ancient apostles or prophets in the old and new testaments held this opinion, you are asserting your superiority to God himself and your unshakebility.442

John Chrystostom (AD 347-407)

These then are the reasons; but it is necessary to establish them all from the Scriptures, and to show with exactness that all that has been said on this subject is not an invention of human reasoning, but the very sentence of the Scriptures. For thus will what we say be at once more deserving of credit, and sink the deeper into your minds.443

When we receive money, we do not trust to those who give it to us; we wish to count it ourselves: and when there is a question of Divine things, would it not be a folly rashly and blindly to receive the opinions of others, when we have a rule by which we can examine everything? I mean the Divine law. It is for this reason that I conjure you all, without resting in the slightest degree on the judgment of others, to consult the Scriptures.444

In the following passage, Chrysostom understands the confusion of those who hear competing claims to truth. He tells them to use the Scriptures to discern false authority from true authority.

But why should all Christians at this time head for the Scriptures? Because in this period in which heresy has taken possession of the churches there can be no proof of true Christianity nor any other refuge for Christians who want to know the truth of the faith except the divine Scriptures. Earlier we showed in many ways which is the church of Christ, and which heathenism. But now there is for those who want to know which is the true church of Christ no way to know it except only the through the Scriptures. Why? Because heresy has everything just like the church. How, then, will anyone who wants to know which is the true church of Christ know it in the midst of this great confusion resulting from this similarity, except only through the Scriptures? The Lord, therefore, knowing that there would be such a great confusion of things in the last days, commands that Christians who… want to gain steadfastness in the true faith should take refuge in nothing else but the Scriptures. Otherwise, if they look to other things, they will be offended and will perish, because they will not know which is the true church, and as a result they will fall into the abomination of desolation which stands in the holy places of the church.445

Wherefore I exhort and entreat you all, disregard what this man and that man thinks about these things, and inquire from the Scriptures all these things; and having learned what are the true riches, let us pursue after them that we may obtain also the eternal good things.446

Isidore of Pelusium 412AD

To ascertain these things are so, let us inspect the rule of truth - I mean the Holy Scriptures.447

Theophilus of Alexandria (AD 385-412)

It would be the instigation of a demoniacal spirit to follow the conceits of the human mind, and to think anything divine, beyond what has the authority of the Scriptures.448

Nicetas of Remesiana (AD 335-414)

My single appeal will be to the Holy Scriptures.449

Jerome (AD 347-420)

They that prattle without the authority of the Scriptures, they have no faith.450

For all questions, let us seek for suitable beams from the testimonies of the Scriptures, and cut them down, and build the house of wisdom within us.451

The other things, also, which they find and feign, of themselves, without the authority and testimonies of the Scriptures, as if by apostolical tradition, the sword of God strikes down.452

That which does not have authority from the Scriptures, we may as readily disdain (contemn), as well approve… (Commentariorum in Evangelium Matthaei, Liber Tertius, PL 26:173).453

Everything we say, we ought to confirm from Sacred Scripture.454

Prove your claim from Sacred Scripture, for we must not make an assertion unless it has been adduced from and confirmed by Scripture.455

Augustine (AD 354-430)

Augustine too had a Sola Scriptura view of authority. No one had authority unless it was an authority derived from Scripture and where Scripture’s authority vanishes, all authority vanishes. As he worded it, “Faith will totter, if the authority of Sacred Scriptures wavers.”456 Here are more quotes on his views:

I do not want you to depend on my authority, so as to think that you must believe something because it is said by me; you should rest your belief either on the canonical Scriptures, if you do not see how true something is, or on the truth made manifest to you interiorly, so that you may see clearly.457

For the reasonings of any men whatsoever, even though they be Catholics, and of high reputation, are not to be treated by us in the same way as the canonical Scriptures are treated. We are at liberty, without doing any violence to the respect which these men deserve, to condemn and reject anything in their writings, if perchance we shall find that they have entertained opinions differing from that which others or we ourselves have, by the divine help, discovered to be the truth. I deal thus with the writings of others, and I wish my intelligent readers to deal thus with mine.458

However, if you inquire or recall to memory the opinion of our Ambrose, and also of our Cyprian, on the point in question, you will perhaps find that I also have not been without some whose footsteps I follow in that which I have maintained. At the same time, as I have said already, it is to the canonical Scriptures alone that I am bound to yield such implicit subjection as to follow their teaching, without admitting the slightest suspicion that in them any mistake or any statement intended to mislead could find a place.459

Note that Augustine explicitly rejects the Greek Orthodox idea that the writings of the fathers can be authoritative in any sense apart from Scripture.

Your design clearly is to deprive Scripture of all authority, and to make every man’s mind the judge what passage of Scripture he is to approve of, and what to disapprove of. This is not to be subject to Scripture in matters of faith, but to make Scripture subject to you. Instead of making the high authority of Scripture the reason of approval, every man makes his approval the reason for thinking a passage correct. If, then, you discard authority, to what, poor feeble soul, darkened by the mists of carnality, to what, I beseech you, will you betake yourself? Set aside authority, and let us hear the reason of your beliefs. Is it by a logical process that your long story about the nature of God concludes necessarily with this startling announcement, that this nature is subject to injury and corruption? And how do you know that there are eight continents and ten heavens, and that Atlas bears up the world, and that it hangs from the great world-holder, and innumerable things of the same kind? Who is your authority? Manichæus, of course, you will say. But, unhappy being, this is not sight, but faith. If, then, you submit to receive a load of endless fictions at the bidding of an obscure and irrational authority, so that you believe all those things because they are written in the books which your misguided judgment pronounces trustworthy, though there is no evidence of their truth, why not rather submit to the authority of the Gospel, which is so well founded, so confirmed460

Note in the following passage that Augustine uses the Protestant argument that nothing can be higher than God’s truth or testify to God’s truth. If it is God’s Word, it is self-attesting and the highest authority.

What sort of a man this Nathanael was, we prove by the words which follow. Hear what sort of a man he was; the Lord Himself bears testimony. Great is the Lord, known by the testimony of John; blessed Nathanael, known by the testimony of the truth. Because the Lord, although He had not been commended by the testimony of John, Himself to Himself bore testimony, because the truth is sufficient for its own testimony.461

In the following passage Augustine says that the only reason people should follow him is if they are following the Scriptures he is teaching. Again, this is an issue of authority.

Let us treat scripture like scripture, like God speaking; don’t let’s look there for man going wrong. It is not for nothing, you see, that the canon has been established for the Church. This is the function of the Holy Spirit. So if anybody reads my book, let him pass judgment on me. If I have said something reasonable, let him follow, not me, but reason itself; if I’ve proved it by the clearest divine testimony, let him follow, not me, but the divine scripture.462

He believed there was no need for another authoritative source of revelation:

…in the plain teaching of Scripture we find all that concerns our belief and moral conduct.463

The testimony of so great an apostle using in his own writings an oath as a confirmation of their truth is of more weight with me than the opinion of any man, however learned, who is discussing the writings of another.464

What more shall I teach you than what we read in the apostles? For Holy Scripture fixes the rule for our doctrine, lest we dare be wiser than we ought. Therefore I should not teach you anything else except to expound to you the words of the Teacher.465

But if it is supported by the evident authority of the divine Scriptures, namely, of those which in the church are called canonical, it must be believed without any reservation. In regard to other witnesses of evidence which are offered as guarantees of belief, you may believe or not according as you estimate that they either have or have not the weight necessary to produce belief.466

This shows that the established authority of Scripture must outweigh every other; for it derives new confirmation from the progress of events which happen, as Scripture proves, in fulfillment of the predictions made so long before their occurrence.467

Especially as in writings of such authors I feel myself free to use my own judgment (owing unhesitating assent to nothing but the canonical Scriptures)468

Whoever dissents from the sacred Scriptures, even if they are found in all places in which the church is designated, are not the church.469

For the reasonings of any men whatsoever, even though they be Catholics, and of high reputation, are not to be treated by us in the same way as the canonical Scriptures are treated. We are at liberty, without doing any violence to the respect which these men deserve, to condemn and reject anything in their writings, if perchance we shall find that they have entertained opinions differing from that which others or we ourselves have, by the divine help, discovered to be the truth. I deal thus with the writings of others, and I wish my intelligent readers to deal thus with mine.470

They must show it by the canonical books of the divine Scriptures alone, for we do not say that we must be believed because we are in the Church of Christ, because Optatus of Milevi, or Ambrose of Milan or innumerable other bishops of our communion commended the church to which we belong, or because it is extolled by the councils of our colleagues or because through the whole wonderful answers to prayers or cures happen.471

Cyril of Alexandria (AD 376-444)

That which the divine Scripture has not spoken, how shall we receive it, and reckon it among verities?472

Paul requires us to prove every thing, and says, Be wise money-changers. But an exact and scrupulous knowledge of each particular matter we can obtain from no other source than from divinely–inspired Scripture…473

It is necessary that we should follow the sacred Scriptures, in nothing going beyond what they sanction.474

What divine Scripture does not state very clearly must remain unknown and be passed over in silence.475

All things, therefore, that have been delivered to us by the Law, and Prophets, and Apostles, we receive, and acknowledge, and confess; and beyond these, we seek not to know anything. For it is impossible for us to say, or at all think anything concerning God, beyond what has been divinely declared by the divine oracles of the Old and New Testament.476

How can we prove and certify as true something which Sacred Scripture does not attest?477

Vincent of Lerins (AD ?-445)

Vincent argues that Scripture is the sole authority for doctrine, and any authority that the church exercises must come from Scripture.

And therefore, as to the more ancient schisms or heresies, we ought either to confute them, if need be, by the sole authority of the Scriptures, or at any rate, to shun them as having been already of old convicted and condemned by universal councils of the Catholic Priesthood. CHAPTER XXVIII, paragraph 71.

But then he goes on to discuss how we know which interpretations of Scripture are correct. He appeals to consensus and then to historical theology to validate the interpretation. But an interpretation can only have authority as it correctly interprets the Scripture.

In his discussion of what constitutes the catholic faith, Vincent insists that the catholic faith 1) starts with the sufficiency of the Bible alone as the foundation for teaching, 2) that the teaching of Scripture is not inerrant but has varied through time, 3) that if a bad theology infects the whole church, then we should look to antiquity to see if it can be corrected, 4) and if even in antiquity we should find no consensus, then we should approach the subject with real care.

(1) I have continually given the greatest pains and diligence to inquiring, from the greatest possible number of men outstanding in holiness and in doctrine, how I can secure a kind of fixed and, as it were, general and guiding principle for distinguishing the true Catholic Faith from the degraded falsehoods of heresy. And the answer that I receive is always to this effect; that if I wish, or indeed if anyone wishes, to detect the deceits of heretics that arise and to avoid their snares and to keep healthy and sound in a healthy faith, we ought, with the Lord’s help, to fortify our faith in a twofold manner, firstly, that is, by the authority of God’s Law, then by the tradition of the Catholic Church.

(2) Here, it may be, someone will ask, Since the canon of Scripture is complete, and is in itself abundantly sufficient, what need is there to join to it the interpretation of the Church? The answer is that because of the very depth of Scripture all men do not place one identical interpretation upon it. The statements of the same writer are explained by different men in different ways, so much so that it seems almost possible to extract from it as many opinions as there are men. Novatian expounds in one way, Sabellius in another, Donatus in another, Arius, Eunomius and Macedonius in another, Photinus, Apollinaris and Priscillian in another, Jovinian, Pelagius and Caelestius in another, and latterly Nestorius in another. Therefore, because of the intricacies of error, which is so multiform, there is great need for the laying down of a rule for the exposition of Prophets and Apostles in accordance with the standard of the interpretation of the Church Catholic.

(3) Now in the Catholic Church itself we take the greatest care to hold that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all. That is truly and properly ‘Catholic,’ as is shown by the very force and meaning of the word, which comprehends everything almost universally. We shall hold to this rule if we follow universality [i.e. ecumenicity], antiquity, and consent. We shall follow universality if we acknowledge that one Faith to be true which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is clear that our ancestors and fathers proclaimed; consent, if in antiquity itself we keep following the definitions and opinions of all, or certainly nearly all, bishops and doctors alike.

(4) What then will the Catholic Christian do, if a small part of the Church has cut itself off from the communion of the universal Faith? The answer is sure. He will prefer the healthiness of the whole body to the morbid and corrupt limb. But what if some novel contagion try to infect the whole Church, and not merely a tiny part of it? Then he will take care to cleave to antiquity, which cannot now be led astray by any deceit of novelty. What if in antiquity itself two or three men, or it may be a city, or even a whole province be detected in error? Then he will take the greatest care to prefer the decrees of the ancient General Councils, if there are such, to the irresponsible ignorance of a few men. But what if some error arises regarding which nothing of this sort is to be found? Then he must do his best to compare the opinions of the Fathers and inquire their meaning, provided always that, though they belonged to diverse times and places, they yet continued in the faith and communion of the one Catholic Church; and let them be teachers approved and outstanding. And whatever he shall find to have been held, approved and taught, not by one or two only but by all equally and with one consent, openly, frequently, and persistently, let him take this as to be held by him without the slightest hesitation.478

Cosmas of Indicopleustes (6th century)

It behoveth not a perfect Christian to attempt to confirm anything from those [writings] that are doubted of, the canonical and commonly received Scriptures explaining all things sufficiently…every doctrine received by Christians.479

Cesarius of Arles (AD 468-542)

Sacred Scripture has said nothing about this, and it is wrong to violate the divine silence. Since God did not think that this should be indicated in His writings, He did not want you to question or to know this through idle curiosity.480

John of Damascus (AD 675-749)

Moreover, by the Law and the Prophets in former times and afterwards by His Only-begotten Son, our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, He disclosed to us the knowledge of Himself as that was possible for us. All things, therefore, that have been delivered to us by Law and Prophets and Apostles and Evangelists we receive, and know, and honor, seeking for nothing beyond these…481

Thomas Aquinas (AD 1225-1274)

We have already quoted Thomas Aquinas as saying, “The canonical scriptures alone are the rule of faith (Sola canonica scriptura est regula fidei).482 This statement not only denies the Roman Catholic view of Tradition (given in the previous section), but it also denies that there is any other authority than a Scripture delegated authority. This is the Protestant view that Scripture alone is the ultimate authority. It is sad to see him become more and more inconsistent with this viewpoint over his lifetime.

The Glossa Ordinaria (last revision c. AD 1498)

As late as the Reformation, the official study Bible of the Roman Catholic Church continued to be the Glossa Ordinaria. It likens the Bible to the “first principles” or presuppositions beyond which you cannot go. In other words, the Bible is the ultimate authority.

But the canonical books are of such authority that whatever is contained therein is held to be true firmly and indisputably, and likewise that which is clearly demonstrated from them. For just as in philosophy a truth is known through reduction to self-evident first principles, so too, in the writings handed down from holy teachers, the truth is known, as far as those things that must be held by faith, through reduction to the canonical scriptures that have been produced by divine revelation, which can contain nothing false. Hence, concerning them Augustine says to Jerome: To those writers alone who are called canonical I have learned to offer this reverence and honor: I hold most firmly that none of them has made an error in writing. Thus if I encounter something in them which seems contrary to the truth, I simply think that the manuscript is incorrect, or I wonder whether the translator has discovered what the word means, or whether I have understood it at all. But I read other writers in this way: however much they abound in sanctity or teaching, I do not consider what they say true because they have judged it so, but rather because they have been able to convince me from those canonical authors, or from probable arguments, that it agrees with the truth.483

The early church’s view of inerrancy and infallibility = Sola Scriptura

Definition of infallibility and inerrancy

Infallibility means incapable of error while inerrancy means without error. For purposes of brevity, I will use the two as synonyms, even though they are distinguishable. Inerrancy can be defined this way:

Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching, no less in what it states about God’s acts in creation, about the events of world history, and about its own literary origins under God, than in its witness to God’s saving grace in individual lives.484

In sum, everything the Bible says, it says without error, and the Bible speaks to everything. The following syllogism is a simple way of demonstrating inerrancy from the Scripture.

  1. God cannot lie (Tit. 1:2) or be mistaken (Heb. 4:13)
  2. All Scripture is God’s Word (2 Tim. 3:16; 1 Thes. 2:13)
  3. Therefore, Scripture cannot lie or be mistaken (i.e., it is inerrant)

But the Bible’s own self-referential statements are replete with affirmation’s of its truthfulness. Peter affirms that no portion of Scripture came from private origin and that “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).

Since the Bible is God’s Word being communicated to us through the prophets, it should exhibit the characteristics of God’s attribute of truthfulness. The Bible speaks of itself as “the Scripture of truth” (Dan. 10:21), and insists that “the Scriptures must be fulfilled” (Mark 14:49). Jesus affirmed that “the Scriptures cannot be broken” (John 10:35) and insisted that “it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail” (Luke 16:17).485

This reliability of Scripture is affirmed down to the very forms of words and sentences. For example, the Scriptures base doctrine on the tense of a verb,486 the voice of a verb,487 a singular versus a plural noun,488 the sequence of a historical narrative,489 a tiny phrase,490 one single word,491 and individual letters.492 No wonder Daniel 10:21 calls the Bible the “Scripture of Truth” and Jesus affirmed to the Father, “Your word is truth” (John 17:17). All these statements affirm the inerrancy of Scripture.

For further Biblical information on inerrancy, see my booklet, “How to Deal with Objections to Inerrancy.”493

Summary statement on the Bible alone being inerrant and infallible

Unlike Rome and Eastern Orthodoxy, who both attribute infallibility and inerrancy to the church under certain circumstances, the early church affirmed that the Bible alone was infallible and inerrant. Rome claims infallibility when the pope speaks ex cathedra,494 or when the church speaks through the ecumenical church councils,495 or when it speaks through the episcopal college in union with the pope.496 Eastern Orthodoxy says, “The Church is infallible… [And] The Church’s infallibility is expressed chiefly through Ecumenical Councils.”497 This section will show how out of touch both modern apostate churches are from the catholic faith of the first thousand years.

Luther translated Augustine as saying, “I have learned to hold the Scriptures alone inerrant.”498 In that same letter to Jerome, Augustine said, “…if an angel from heaven should preach to you anything besides what you have received in the Scriptures of the Law and of the Gospels, let him be anathema.”499 This is as absolute a denial of any other authoritative source for doctrine as one could get.

It was this belief that the Scriptures alone were inerrant that led the church fathers to hold to the other presuppositions of this book. Church fathers would not yield to the authority of a church council unless the church council backed up what they said by the inerrant Scriptures. As Theodoret of Cyrrhus said, “I shall yield to scripture alone.”500 In his book, The Church of Rome at the Bar of History, William Webster traces the decisions of church councils that were contradicted by popes and of official decrees of popes that were contradicted by ecumenical councils, and shows how the church of the first millennium held that Scripture had an exclusive claim to infallibility and inerrancy in the minds of the church fathers. Just speaking of one such conflict - that between Pope Honorius (AD 625-638) and the Sixth Ecumenical Council (AD 680-681), he says,

The significance of these facts cannot be overstated. An ecumenical council, which is considered infallible by the Roman Catholic Church, as well as Pope Leo II, have condemned and anathematized an ‘infallible’ pope for heresy. In the light of this historical evidence, the theory of papal infallibility is bankrupt, as Roman Catholic historian Johann von Dollinger admits:

This one fact - that a Great Council, universally received afterwards without hesitation throughout the Church, and presided over by Papal legates, pronounced the dogmatic decision of a Pope heretical, and anathematized him by name as a heretic - is a proof, clear as the sun at noonday, that the notion of any particular enlightenment or inerrancy of the Popes was then utterly unknown to the whole Church.

Roman Catholic apologists generally attempt to salvage the dogma of papal infallibility by claiming that Honorius was not giving an ex cathedra statement but merely his opinion as a private individual. He was therefore not condemned in his official capacity as the pope. However, the text of the official decrees of the Sixth Ecumenical Council proves that it thought otherwise. It condemns Honorius as a heretic in his official capacity as a pope, not as a private individual, for being used by Satan for actively disseminating a heresy which would be a stumbling block for all orthodox people. In other words, it condemns the pope as heretic on the basis of pronouncements which the Church would later define as meeting the conditions of ex cathedra statements.501

So strong was this viewpoint (that the Scriptures alone are infallible and inerrant) that as late as Thomas Aquinas theologians dared not profess any other viewpoint. Aquinas said, “The canonical scriptures alone are the rule (measure) of faith (Sola canonica scriptura est regula fidei).”502

J.N.D. Kelly said of the early fathers, “Scripture has absolute authority; whatever it teaches is necessarily true, and woe betide him who accepts doctrines not discoverable in it.”503 The idea that the church was the mother of the canon would run completely contrary to the idea that the Bible alone was inerrant. The idea of an independent source of authoritative tradition would also undermine this doctrine. No tradition, statements of church councils, or opinions held by fathers were considered trustworthy by Origen unless they were backed by Scripture.504 All other standards were considered subordinate to Scripture.505

So all the sections of this chapter are intertwined with this concept, and the quotes from other sections would also buttress this view that the Bible alone is inerrant. Irenaeus’ chief objection to the heretics he confronted was that “They gather their views from other sources than the Scriptures…”506 Thus every quote under the “authority” section of this chapter is a quote that buttresses this idea that the Bible has an exclusive claim to infallibility and inerrancy.

Summary statements by patristics and church history scholars showing that the early church held that the Bible alone was inerrant

But since liberal scholars have recently tried to show that the fathers did not believe in inerrancy at all,507 I will seek to show that the doctrine of inerrancy is also the ancient catholic doctrine. Since the doctrine of inerrancy is a presupposition that is essential to this book, it is helpful to show that it was also a foundational presupposition for the early church.

The following summaries represents experts in patristics from both conservative and liberal backgrounds. The significance of this is that if even experts who are hostile to the doctrine of inerrancy admit that the ancient church held to inerrancy, it gives added weight.

B.B. Warfield

It would be pointless to call into question that Biblical inerrancy in a rather absolute form was a common persuasion from the beginning of Christian times, and from Jewish times before that. For both the Fathers and the rabbis generally, the ascription of any error to the Bible was unthinkable… If the word was God’s it must be true, regardless of whether it made known a mystery of divine revelation or commented on a datum of natural science, whether it derived from human observation or chronicled an event of history.508

The Church has always believed her Scriptures to be the book of God, of which God was in such a sense the author that every one of is affirmations whatever kind is to be esteemed as the utterance of God, of infallible truth and authority.509

Geoffrey Bromily

Geoffrey Bromily sums up the entire early church by saying, “there can be no mistaking that they held to divine, inerrant inspiration.”510

Gregg Allison

This all-encompassing notion of the truthfulness of Scripture resulted in Augustine affirming the divine creation of the universe out of nothing; the origin of humanity no more than six thousand years before his time; the great age of people who lived before the flood; and the scientific possibility of the worldwide flood and of Noah’s ark to save eight people and the animals on board. Clearly, he believed that biblical inerrancy extended to matters of cosmology, human origins, genealogy, and the like. Scripture’s infallibility also meant that no contradictions exist in the Bible. Accordingly, Augustine underscored that ‘we are bound to believe’ everything in Scripture.511

Hans Küng

…the Spirit alone decided the content and form of the biblical writings, with the result that the whole Bible was free of contradictions, mistakes, and errors, or had to be kept free by harmonizing, allegorizing, or mysticizing. St. Augustine’s influence in regard to inspiration and inerrancy prevailed throughout the Middle Ages and right into the modern age.512

Herman Sasse

During all these [fifteen] centuries no one doubted that the Bible in its entirety was God’s Word, that God was the principal author of the Scriptures, as their human authors had written under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit, and that, therefore, these books were free from errors and contradictions, even when this did not seem to be the case. The Middle Ages had inherited this view from the Fathers who had established it in numerous exegetical and apologetical writings.513

R. Laird Harris

It is safe to say that there is no doctrine, except those of the Trinity and the deity of Christ, which has been so widely held through the ages of Church history as that of verbal inspiration.514

J.N.D. Kelly

…it goes without saying that the fathers envisaged the whole Bible as inspired. It was not a collection of desperate segments, some of divine origin and others of merely human fabrication… their general view was that Scripture was not only exempt from error but contained nothing that was superfluous.515

Bruce Vawter

It would be pointless to call into question that Biblical inerrancy in a rather absolute form was a common persuasion from the beginning of Christian times, and from Jewish times before that. For both the Fathers and the rabbis generally, the ascription of any error to the Bible was unthinkable . . . . If the word was God’s it must be true, regardless of whether it made known a mystery of divine revelation or commented on a datum of natural science, whether it derived from human observation or chronicled an event of history.516

Harold Linsell

There is no evidence to show that errancy was ever a live option in the history of Christendom for eighteen hundred years in every branch of the Christian Church that had not gone off into aberrations.517

William G.T. Shedd

The theory of plenary inspiration has been the generally received doctrine of the Church… [It] prevailed in the Patristic, Mediaeval, and Reformation Periods.518

John Woodbridge

Augustine, Calvin, and Luther did not restrict the concept of potential errors in the Bible to purposeful deceits; they did not define biblical infallibility in terms of the Bible’s capacity to lead us infallibly to salvation; they did not make a disjunction between the imperfect words of Scripture and its perfect message, basing this distinction upon a form/function dichotomy; they did not discuss the concept of accommodation as a means to explain why there were ‘technical errors’ or other errors in the Scripture; they did not propose that Scriptural teachings have no bearing on the natural world or ‘science’; they did not argue that the Bible has ‘technical errors’ or other errors in it due to humanness and limited understanding of the biblical authors; they did not associate the authority of the Bible primarily with its capacity to lead us to salvation. If Augustine, Calvin, and Luther do represent the central-church tradition regarding biblical authority, then Rogers and MicKim have seriously misunderstood benchmark features of that tradition.519

New Catholic Encylopedia

The inerrancy of Scripture has been the constant teaching of the Fathers, theologians, and recent Popes in their encyclicals on Biblical studies.520

Letting the church fathers speak for themselves on inerrancy

But it is impossible to read through the quotes under the first “authority” section and deny that those fathers held to any other infallible source than the Bible. Here are additional quotes to prove that they held to the inerrancy of every portion of the Bible.

Clement of Rome (AD 35-99?)

Look carefully into the Scriptures, which are the true utterances of the Holy Spirit. Observe that nothing of an unjust or counterfeit character is written in them.521

Justin Martyr (AD 103-165)

…since I am entirely convinced that no Scripture contradicts another, I shall admit rather that I do not understand what is recorded, and shall strive to persuade those who imagine that the Scriptures are contradictory, to be rather of the same opinion as myself.522

But when you hear the utterances of the prophets spoken as it were personally, you must not suppose that they are spoken by the inspired themselves, but by the Divine Word who moves them.523

…the Scriptures are indeed perfect, since they were spoken by the Word of God and His Spirit.524

Theophilus of Antioch (c. AD 180)

But men of God carrying in them a holy spirit and becoming prophets, being inspired and made wise by God, became God-taught, and holy, and righteous. Wherefore they were also deemed worthy of receiving this reward, that they should become instruments of God, and contain the wisdom that is from Him, through which wisdom they uttered both what regarded the creation of the world and all other things. For they predicted also pestilences, and famines, and wars…and they all have spoken things consistent and harmonious with each other, both what happened before them and what happened in their own time, and what things are now being fulfilled in our own day: wherefore we are persuaded also concerning the future things that they will fall out, as also the first have been accomplished.525

One can see how consistently and harmoniously all the prophets spoke, having given utterance through one and the same spirit concerning the unity of God, and the creation of the world, and the formation of man… the multitude of prophets, who are numerous, and said ten thousand things consistently and harmoniously? For those who desire it, can, by reading what they uttered, accurately understand the truth, and no longer be carried away by opinion and profitless labour526

How much more, then, shall we know the truth who are instructed by the holy prophets, who were possessed by the Holy Spirit of God! On this account all the prophets spoke harmoniously and in agreement with one another, and foretold the things that would come to pass in all the world. For the very accomplishment of predicted and already consummated events should demonstrate to those who are fond of information, yea rather, who are lovers of truth, that those things are really true which they declared concerning the epochs and eras before the deluge: to wit, how the years have run on since the world was created until now, so as to manifest the ridiculous mendacity of your authors, and show that their statements are not true.527

Scripture is being used here as the judge of all truth claims by historians and philosophers. Scripture is presuppositionally true even in describing creation events that no man can examine.

Ireneaus (AD 130-202)

“We should leave things [of an unknowable] nature to God who creates us, being most assured that the Scriptures are indeed perfect, since they were spoken by the Word of God and His Spirit.528

Clement of Alexandria (AD 150-215)

But we, who have heard by the Scriptures that self-determining choice and refusal have been given by the Lord to men, rest in the infallible criterion of faith, manifesting a willing spirit, since we have chosen life and believe God through His voice. And he who has believed the Word knows the matter to be true; for the Word is truth. But he who has disbelieved Him that speaks, has disbelieved God.529

It will naturally fall after these, after a cursory view of theology, to discuss the opinions handed down respecting prophecy; so that, having demonstrated that the Scriptures which we believe are valid from their omnipotent authority, we shall be able to go over them consecutively, and to show thence to all the heresies one God and Omnipotent Lord to be truly preached by the law and the prophets, and besides by the blessed Gospel. Many contradictions against the heterodox await us while we attempt, in writing, to do away with the force of the allegations made by them, and to persuade them against their will, proving by the Scriptures themselves.530

I could adduce ten thousand Scriptures of which not “one tittle shall pass away” without being fulfilled; for the mouth of the Lord the Holy Spirit hath spoken these things.531

He who believeth then the divine Scriptures with sure judgment, receives in the voice of God, who bestowed the Scripture, a demonstration that cannot be impugned. Faith, then, is not established by demonstration. “Blessed therefore those who, not having seen, yet have believed.”532

Notice the presuppositional approach to Scripture. The truth of Scripture is not established by an outside source. It is believed, and that belief is rewarded since the Scriptures are a sure judgment that cannot be impugned by anyone.

Tertullian (AD 155-222?)

The statements, however, of holy Scripture will never be discordant with truth.533

it is as incredible [inconceivable] to every man of sense that we should seem to have introduced any corrupt text into the Scriptures.534

Now the Scripture is not in danger of requiring the aid of any one’s argument, lest it should seem to be self-contradictory. It… is consistent with itself.535

Hippolytus of Rome (AD 170-235)

Therefore they [the followers of Artemon’s heresy] have laid their hands boldly upon the Divine Scriptures, alleging that they have corrected them… But how daring this offense is, it is not likely that they themselves are ignorant. For either they do not believe that the Divine Scriptures were spoken by the Holy Spirit, and thus are unbelievers, or else they think themselves wiser than the Holy Spirit, and in that case what else are they than demoniacs?536

Origen (AD 185?-252/3)

there is in the Divine oracles nothing crooked or perverse, for they are all plain to those who understand. And because to such an one there is nothing crooked or perverse, he sees therefore abundance of peace in all the Scriptures, even in those which seem to be at conflict, and in contradiction with one another. And likewise he becomes a third peacemaker as he demonstrates that that which appears to others to be a conflict in the Scriptures is no conflict, and exhibits their concord and peace, whether of the Old Scriptures with the New, or of the Law with the Prophets, or of the Gospels with the Apostolic Scriptures, or of the Apostolic Scriptures with each other. For, also, according to the Preacher, all the Scriptures are “words of the wise like goads, and as nails firmly fixed which were given by agreement from one shepherd;” and there is nothing superfluous in them. But the Word is the one Shepherd of things rational which may have an appearance of discord to those who have not ears to hear, but are truly at perfect concord. For as the different chords of the psalter or the lyre, each of which gives forth a certain sound of its own which seems unlike the sound of another chord, are thought by a man who is not musical and ignorant of the principle of musical harmony, to be inharmonious, because of the dissimilarity of the sounds, so those who are not skilled in hearing the harmony of God in the sacred Scriptures think that the Old is not in harmony with the New, or the Prophets with the Law, or the Gospels with one another, or the Apostle with the Gospel, or with himself, or with the other Apostles. But he who comes instructed in the music of God, being a man wise in word and deed, and, on this account, like another David—which is, by interpretation, skilful with the hand—will bring out the sound of the music of God, having learned from this at the right time to strike the chords, now the chords of the Law, now the Gospel chords in harmony with them, and again the Prophetic chords, and, when reason demands it, the Apostolic chords which are in harmony with the Prophetic, and likewise the Apostolic with those of the Gospels. For he knows that all the Scripture is the one perfect and harmonised instrument of God, which from different sounds gives forth one saving voice to those willing to learn, which stops and restrains every working of an evil spirit, just as the music of David laid to rest the evil spirit in Saul, which also was choking him. You see, then, that he is in the third place a peacemaker, who sees in accordance with the Scripture the peace of it all, and implants this peace in those who rightly seek and make nice distinctions in a genuine spirit.537

It is necessary to take the Holy Scriptures as witnesses; for our comments and statements without these witnesses are not trustworthy.538

We, however, in conformity with our belief in that doctrine, which we assuredly hold to be divinely inspired, believe that it is possible in no other way to explain and bring within the reach of human knowledge this higher and diviner reason as the Son of God, than by means of those Scriptures alone which were inspired by the Holy Spirit.539

their statements were true and divinely inspired…540

…who believe that the sacred books are not the compositions of men, but that they were composed by inspiration of the Holy Spirit.541

The following shows that he believed in plenary inspiration - every word of Scripture.

the divine inspiration of holy Scripture, which extends throughout its body…542

Novation (c AD 200-258)

…we ought to pass over no portion of the heavenly Scriptures, since indeed also we ought by no means to reject those marks of Christ’s divinity which are laid down in the Scriptures… the heavenly Scriptures, which never deceive…543

Dionysius the Great of Alexandria (AD ?-264)

And let us not suppose that the evangelists disagree or contradict each other…544

Hilary of Poitiers (AD 300-368)

The Scripture is accurate and consistent…545

Athanasius (AD 296-373)

…the tokens of truth are more exact as drawn from Scripture, than from other sources.546

Speaking against heretics who denied inerrancy, Athanasius said,

or that God, Who gave the commandment, is false. But there is no disagree- ment whatever, far from it, neither can the Father, Who is truth, lie.

Now it is the opinion of some, that the Scriptures do not agree together, or that God, Who gave the commandment, is false. But there is no disagreement whatever, far from it, neither can the Father, Who is truth, lie; ‘for it is impossible that God should lie,’ as Paul affirms.547

Basil the Great (AD 330-379)

…all Scripture is God inspired and profitable, and there is nothing in it unclean…548

Cyril of Jerusalem (AD 313-386)

For the things concerning Christ are all put into writing, and nothing is doubtful, for nothing is without a text. All are inscribed on the monuments of the Prophets; clearly written, not on tablets of stone, but by the Holy Ghost.549

Gregory Nazianzen (AD 329-390)

We however, who extend the accuracy of the Spirit to the merest stroke and tittle, will never admit the impious assertion that even the smallest matters were dealt with haphazard by those who have recorded them, and have thus been borne in mind down to the present day: on the contrary, their purpose has been to supply memorials and instructions for our consideration under similar circumstances, should such befall us, and that the examples of the past might serve as rules and models, for our warning and imitation.550

Gregory of Nyssa (AD 331-395)

…the Scripture does not lie.551

John Chrysostom (AD 349-407)

For the Scripture by no means speaks falsely.552

Chrysostom comments on John’s quotation of Isaiah, saying,

He desires hence to establish by many proofs the unerring truth of Scripture, and that what Isaiah foretold fell not out otherwise, but as he said.553

As a trusty door, Scripture shuts out heretics, securing us from error554

Not only did Chrysostom affirm inerrancy, he affirmed that every word and syllable was inspired:

let us act so as to interpret everything precisely and instruct you not to pass by even a brief phrase or a single syllable contained in the Holy Scriptures. After all, they are not simply words, but words of the Holy Spirit, and hence the treasure to be found in even a single syllable is great.555

And these declarations, though they seem contrary to one another, have yet an entire agreement.556

Jerome (AD 347-420)

Each and every speech, all syllables, marks and periods in the divine scriptures are full of meanings and breathe heavenly sacraments.557

The error, neither of parents nor ancestors, is to be followed; but the authority of the Scriptures, and the government of God as our teacher.558

Whatever we read in the Old Testament we find also in the Gospel; and what we read in the Gospel is deduced from the Old Testament. There is no discord between them, no disagreement.559

I am not, I repeat, so ignorant as to suppose that any of the Lord’s words is either in need of correction or is not divinely inspired560

Holy Scripture, I reply first of all, cannot contradict itself.561

I know that a difference must be made between the apostles and all other preachers. The former always speak the truth; but the latter being men sometimes go astray.562

Augustine (AD 354-430)

Still, as I said awhile ago, it is only to the canonical Scriptures that I owe such a willing submission that I follow them alone, and believe of them that their authors were not in error anywhere at all in them, nor did they set down anything so as to deceive.563

This Mediator, having spoken what He judged sufficient first by the prophets, then by His own lips, and afterwards by the apostles, has besides produced the Scripture which is called canonical, which has paramount authority, and to which we yield assent in all matters.564

For Scripture, which proves the truth of its historical statements by the accomplishment of its prophecies, gives no false information.565

For it seems to me that most disastrous consequences must follow upon our believing that anything false is found in the sacred books: that is to say, that the men by whom the Scripture has been given to us, and committed to writing, did put down in these books anything false. It is one question whether it may be at any time the duty of a good man to deceive; but it is another question whether it can have been the duty of a writer of Holy Scripture to deceive: nay, it is not another question—it is no question at all. For if you once admit into such a high sanctuary of authority one false statement as made in the way of duty, there will not be left a single sentence of those books which, if appearing to any one difficult in practice or hard to believe, may not by the same fatal rule be explained away, as a statement in which, intentionally, and under a sense of duty, the author declared what was not true.566

For I confess to your Charity that I have learned to yield this respect and honour only to the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error. And if in these writings I am perplexed by anything which appears to me opposed to truth, I do not hesitate to suppose that either the MS. is faulty, or the translator has not caught the meaning of what was said, or I myself have failed to understand it.567

For it cannot be remotely possible that the authority of the Scriptures should be fallacious at any point.568

I have thought it my duty to quote all these passages from the writings of both Latin and Greek authors who, being in the Catholic Church before our time, have written commentaries on the divine oracles, in order that our brother, if he hold any different opinion from theirs, may know that it becomes him, laying aside all bitterness of controversy, and preserving or reviving fully the gentleness of brotherly love, to investigate with diligent and calm consideration either what he must learn from others, or what others must learn from him. For the reasonings of any men whatsoever, even though they be Catholics, and of high reputation, are not to be treated by us in the same way as the canonical Scriptures are treated. We are at liberty, without doing any violence to the respect which these men deserve, to condemn and reject anything in their writings, if perchance we shall find that they have entertained opinions differing from that which others or we ourselves have, by the divine help, discovered to be the truth. I deal thus with the writings of others, and I wish my intelligent readers to deal thus with mine.569

Your design clearly is to deprive Scripture of all authority, and to make every man’s mind the judge what passage of Scripture he is to approve of, and what to disapprove of. This is not to be subject to Scripture in matters of faith, but to make Scripture subject to you. Instead of making the high authority of Scripture the reason of approval, every man makes his approval the reason for thinking a passage correct.570

Let us treat scripture like scripture, like God speaking; don’t let’s look there for man going wrong. It is not for nothing, you see, that the canon has been established for the Church. This is the function of the Holy Spirit. So if anybody reads my book, let him pass judgment on me. If I have said something reasonable, let him follow, not me, but reason itself; if I’ve proved it by the clearest divine testimony, let him follow, not me, but the divine scripture.571

…the authority of the divine Scriptures becomes unsettled… if this be once admitted, that the men by whom these things have been delivered unto us, could in their writings state some things which were not true…572

…let all depart from me who imagine Moses to have spoken things that are false. But let me be united in Thee, O Lord, with them, and in Thee delight myself with them that feed on Thy truth, in the breadth of charity; and let us approach together unto the words of Thy book, and in them make search for Thy will, through the will of Thy servant by whose pen Thou hast dispensed them.573

The following classic statement by Augustine makes a huge demarcation between Scripture, which is inerrant, and all other statements or writings which can be subject to error:

As regards our writings, which are not a rule of faith or practice, but only a help to edification, we may suppose that they contain some things falling short of the truth in obscure and recondite matters, and that these mistakes may or may not be corrected in subsequent treatises. For we are of those of whom the apostle says: “And if ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.” Such writings are read with the right of judgment, and without any obligation to believe. In order to leave room for such profitable discussions of difficult questions, there is a distinct boundary line separating all productions subsequent to apostolic times from the authoritative canonical books of the Old and New Testaments. The authority of these books has come down to us from the apostles through the successions of bishops and the extension of the Church, and, from a position of lofty supremacy, claims the submission of every faithful and pious mind. If we are perplexed by an apparent contradiction in Scripture, it is not allowable to say, The author of this book is mistaken; but either the manuscript is faulty, or the translation is wrong, or you have not understood. In the innumerable books that have been written latterly we may sometimes find the same truth as in Scripture, but there is not the same authority. Scripture has a sacredness peculiar to itself. In other books the reader may form his own opinion, and perhaps, from not understanding the writer, may differ from him, and may pronounce in favor of what pleases him, or against what he dislikes. In such cases, a man is at liberty to withhold his belief, unless there is some clear demonstration or some canonical authority to show that the doctrine or statement either must or may be true. But in consequence of the distinctive peculiarity of the sacred writings, we are bound to receive as true whatever the canon shows to have been said by even one prophet, or apostle, or evangelist. Otherwise, not a single page will be left for the guidance of human fallibility, if contempt for the wholesome authority of the canonical books either puts an end to that authority altogether, or involves it in hopeless confusion.574

…let us understand that there is the most perfect agreement in them [the Scriptures], let us not follow the conceits of certain vain ones, who in their error think that the two Testaments in the Old and New Books are contrary to each other; that so we should think that there is any contradiction here575

John Cassian (AD 360-435)

How wonderfully consistent the Holy Scriptures always are!576

Cyril of Alexandria (AD 376-444)

That which the divine Scripture has not spoken, how shall we receive it, and reckon it among verities?577

But an exact and scrupulous knowledge of each particular matter we can obtain from no other source than from divinely–inspired Scripture…578

How can we prove and certify as true something which Sacred Scripture does not attest?579

Anselm of Canterbury (AD 1022-1109)

For I am sure that, if I say anything which is undoubtedly contradictory to Holy Scripture, it is wrong; and, if I become aware of such a contradiction, I do not wish to hold to that opinion.580

Thomas Aquinas (AD 1225-1274)

It is plain that nothing false can ever underlie the literal sense of Holy Writ.581

…other disciplines derive their certitude from the natural light of human reason, which can err, whereas theology derives its certitude from the light of the divine knowledge, which cannot be misled.582

It is unlawful to hold that any false assertion is contained either in the Gospel or in any canonical Scripture, or that the writers thereof have told untruths, because faith would be deprived of its certitude which is based on the authority of Holy Writ.583

The Glossa Ordinaria (last revision c. AD 1498)

The Glossa Ordinaria clearly affirmed the inerrancy, reliability, and infallibility of the Scriptures.

But the canonical books are of such authority that whatever is contained therein is held to be true firmly and indisputably, and likewise that which is clearly demonstrated from them. For just as in philosophy a truth is known through reduction to self-evident first principles, so too, in the writings handed down from holy teachers, the truth is known, as far as those things that must be held by faith, through reduction to the canonical scriptures that have been produced by divine revelation, which can contain nothing false. Hence, concerning them Augustine says to Jerome: To those writers alone who are called canonical I have learned to offer this reverence and honor: I hold most firmly that none of them has made an error in writing. Thus if I encounter something in them which seems contrary to the truth, I simply think that the manuscript is incorrect, or I wonder whether the translator has discovered what the word means, or whether I have understood it at all. But I read other writers in this way: however much they abound in sanctity or teaching, I do not consider what they say true because they have judged it so, but rather because they have been able to convince me from those canonical authors, or from probable arguments, that it agrees with the truth.584

The early church held to the sufficiency of Scripture for faith and practice

Roman Catholic apologists frequently claim that there is not a shred of evidence for the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture in the first thousand years of church history. The Second Vatican Council said, “the Church does not draw her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Hence, both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal feelings of devotion and reverence.”585 Karl Keating, a Roman apologist, wrote,

Fundamentalists say the Bible is the sole rule of faith. Everything one needs to believe to be saved is in the Bible, and nothing needs to be added to the Bible … Catholics, on the other hand, say the Bible is not the sole rule of faith and that nothing in the Bible suggests it was meant to be…. The true rule of faith is Scripture plus…586

Blosser boldly claims:

The doctrine that Scripture alone is sufficient to function as the regula fidei — the infallible rule for the ongoing faith and life of the Church—is of highly improbable orthodoxy since…it had no defender for the first thirteen centuries of the Church. It does not belong to historic Christianity…The proponent of sola scriptura must be able to show from Scripture that the whole content of God’s revelation for the ongoing instruction of His Church was committed wholly to writing without residue, and also that verses referring to the necessity of holding fast to oral as well as written apostolic traditions (such as 2 Th 2:15) are limited in their reference to the first century. Moreover, he must be able to show from history, that a preponderance of the data support sola scriptura but do not support the extrabiblical traditions of the Church…The Protestant insists that the deposit of faith is exhausted without residue in Scripture and, therefore, that only those doctrines that are “implicit” in Scripture can be “deduced” from Scripture as valid “developments”… Sola scriptura assumes no ultimate need for the larger context of the Church’s tradition and teaching. However, not only is the canon of Scripture incapable of being identified apart from tradition… but the meaning of Scripture cannot be fully grasped.587

This book has already taken up his exegetical challenge and has proven that this is not true. This chapter demonstrates that his claim of absolute silence on the sufficiency of Scripture among the church fathers is also incorrect. The Reformers demonstrated that they were seeking to Reform the church back to the catholic faith of the fathers.588

Summary statements from patristics and church history scholars

William Cunningham

I mean the constant maintenance, during the first three centuries, of the supremacy and sufficiency of the sacred Scriptures, and the right and duty of all men to read and study them. There is no trace of evidence in the first three centuries that these scriptural principles were denied or doubted, and there is satisfactory evidence that they were steadily and purely maintained… and the same may be said of the writings, without exception, of many succeeding centuries - there is not the slightest traces of anything like that depreciation of the Scriptures, that denial of their fitness, because of their obscurity and alleged imperfection, to be a sufficient rule or standard of faith, which stamp so peculiar a guilt and infamy upon Popery and Tractarianism. There is nothing in the least resembling this; on the contrary, there is a constant reference to Scripture as the only authoritative standard.589

Archibald Robertson

Robertson sums up Athanasius’ views of the sufficiency of Scripture in these words:

On the sufficiency of Scripture for the establishment of all necessary doctrine Athanasius insists repeatedly and emphatically (c. Gent. 1, de Incarn. 5, de Decr. 32, Vit. Ant. 16, &c., &c.); and he follows up precept by example. ‘His works are a continuous appeal to Scripture.’ There is no passage in his writings which recognises tradition as supplementing Scripture, i.e., as sanctioning articles of faith not contained in Scripture.590

H.E.W Turner

But did the Fathers maintain the principle of the sufficiency of Scripture in matters of faith? The inspiration and authority of the Bible are never for one moment in question, while the primacy of the Scriptures as a source of doctrine can easily be demonstrated from their writings. An example of this, at once early and decisive, may be cited from St. Irenaeus. At the beginning of his third book which contains his appeal to Tradition he can write: ‘For we know the Economy of our salvation through those through whom the Gospel reached us. This they proclaimed at that time, but afterwards through the Will of God handed down to us in Scripture to be the future foundation and column of our faith.’ The main point of the passage is the living voice of the Kerugma first embodied in the apostolic Scriptures and then handed down to the contemporary Church through the apostolic Ministry. The accent falls upon the continuity between the oral tradition of the first generation and the teaching office of the Christian bishop in later times. Yet, so accustomed is St. Irenaeus to the decisive role of the Bible that he introduces a phrase here to dovetail his argument more closely with the appeal to Scripture to which his second book is devoted… In contrast to the placita of the philosophers, Hippolytus can state that ‘as many of us as wish to study religion will not learn it elsewhere than from the Oracles of God.’…A clearer example, though still restricted to a particular point, is to be found in the polemic of Tertullian against Hermogenes, who maintained the view that God created the Universe out of preexistent matter: ‘I adore the plenitude of Scripture which reveals to me both the Creator and created things; in the Gospel, however, I find more — the Logos as the minister and servant of the Creator. But that all things were made from pre‑existent Matter I have so far never read. Let the factory of Hermogenes be shown to be in Scripture; if it is not in Scripture, let him fear the curse marked out for those who add and subtract’ (Rev. xxii, 18-19)

The first general statement of the principle of the sufficiency of Scripture occurs in Clement of Alexandria. For him the source of the teaching is the Lord through the prophets, the Gospel, and the Apostles. If any one supposes that another source is necessary, no other can be discovered. We use Scripture as a norm (criterion) for the discovery of things. Origen finds an allegory of the sufficiency of Scripture in the provisions of Leviticus vii, 16-17… The evidence becomes more explicit in the fourth century…The demand for a scriptural term at the Council of Nicea illustrates the temper of the times. Though evidently not ill–pleased to be asked for a theological exercise of his own, St. Athanasius reminds the recipient of the Contra Gentes that ‘the holy and inspired Scriptures are sufficient for the proclamation of the truth.’ The list of the Canonical Books contained in his Festal Letter concludes with the sentence: ‘These are the fountains of salvation that those who thirst may be satisfied with the living words which they contain. In these alone is proclaimed the doctrine of holiness. Let no man add to these, neither let him take anything from them.’ The allusion to the closing verses of the Apocalypse is also echoed by St. Basil. St. Gregory of Nyssa discovers in the three angelic visitors of Genesis xix, 1‑7 a reference to the Trinity. He indignantly rejects the obviously correct exegesis of the angels as ministering spirits. ‘Whatever is not supported by the testimony of Scripture we reject as false.’ If the application is unfortunate, the principle is clear. St. John Chrysostom compares the Scriptures to the door of the sheepfo1d: ‘He who does not use the Scriptures but climbs up some other way without following the appointed road, the same is the thief.’ Finally, Theodoret in his Dialogue requests his interlocutor to avoid human reasonings, ‘for I listen to Scripture alone.’

Nor are examples lacking in the West. St Ambrose asks how we can receive what we do not find in Holy Scripture, while St. Augustine uses language from which perhaps part of the eighth Anglican article is derived: ‘In these things which are plainly laid down in Scripture all things are found which embrace faith and morals.’ St. Vincent of Lerins has no hesitation in admitting that ‘the Canon of Scripture is perfect, sufficient in itself and more than sufficient for everything.’ There can be no doubt that the Bible is fundamentally an orthodox book, sufficient if its teaching is studied as a whole to lead to orthodox conclusions. Such was the experience of St. Hilary of Poitiers, who makes the surprising confession that he only discovered the Creed of the Council of Nicea on the very eve of his exile, although he had previously held the teaching which it contained on the basis of his study of the Bible.591

William Webster

The Cappadocians, while holding tenaciously to the primacy and sufficiency of Scripture, did not emphasize a slavish adherence to the literal words of Scripture but to its meaning. They employed logic and reasoning to express the truth of Scripture but both were always subject to the word of God. They reasoned from Scripture to Scriptural conclusions.592

Letting the fathers speak for themselves

Ireneaus (AD 130-202)

Ireneaus is often appealed to as supporting the Roman Catholic view of tradition. But Ireneaus was clear that 100% of apostolic tradition was committed to writing in the New Testament. For example, he said,

The apostles at that time first preached the Gospel but later by the will of God, they delivered it to us in the Scriptures, that it might be the foundation and pillar of our faith… Since, therefore, the tradition from the apostles does thus exist in the Church, and is permanent among us, let us revert to the Scriptural proof furnished by those apostles who did also write the Gospel, in which they recorded the doctrine regarding God, pointing out that our Lord Jesus Christ is the truth, and that no lie is in Him.593

He called the Gnostics heretics because “They gather their views from other sources than the Scriptures” (Against Heresies II.28.8; I.8.1) He claimed that anything thought to be “knowledge” that was not founded in Scripture was mere speculation.594

We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith.595

Hippolytus (AD 170-235)

There is, brethren, one God, the knowledge of whom we gain from the Holy Scriptures, and from no other sourceWhatever things, then, the Holy Scriptures declare, at these let us look; and whatsoever things they teach, these let us learn; and as the Father wills our belief to be, let us believe; and as He wills the Son to be glorified, let us glorify Him; and as He wills the Holy Spirit to be bestowed, let us receive Him. Not according to our own will, nor according to our own mind, nor yet as using violently those things which are given by God, but even as He has chosen to teach them by the Holy Scriptures, so let us discern them.596

Note again the categorical rejection of anything doctrinal from any other source than Scripture.

Tertullian (AD 155-240)

It will be your duty, however, to adduce your proofs out of the Scriptures as plainly as we do…597

Because Scripture was his source of doctrine, Tertullian insisted that nothing could later be added to apostolic doctrine. If the rule of faith (or tradition) was Scriptural, then it was fixed and cannot be added to. He said, “The rule of faith, indeed, is altogether one, alone immovable and irreformable.”598 Thus, he would have been opposed to many modern Roman Catholic doctrines such as the Assumption of Mary or her Immaculate Conception.

Origen (AD 185-252)

Therefore, in proof of all the words we utter when teaching, we ought to produce the doctrine of Scripture as confirming the doctrine we utter. For as all the gold that is without the temple is not sanctified, so every doctrine that is not in the divine Scripture, although it may seem admirable to some, is not sacred, because it is not comprehended within the doctrine of Scripture, which sanctifies that doctrine alone which it contains within itself as the temple renders sacred the gold that is in it. We ought not therefore for the confirmation of our instructions to swear by and take as evidence our own notions which we individually hold and think to be agreeable to truth, unless we are able to show that they are sacred as being contained in the divine Scriptures as in some temples of God.599

Cyprian (AD 200-258)

Cyrpian called the Bible “the head and source of divine tradition”600, and for this reason, his only authority was:

the authority of the Lord and the Gospel… and the Epistles of the Apostles… For that we are to do what is written… The book of this law shall not depart out of thy mouth… If then it is commanded in the Gospel, or is contained in the Epistles or Acts of the Apostles…let this divine and holy tradition be observed.601

Anastasius of Antioch (AD ?-302)

It is manifest that those things are not to be inquired into, which Scripture has passed over into silence. For the Holy Spirit has dispensed and administered to us all things which conduce to our profit.602

Anthony of Egypt (AD 251-356)

The Scriptures are enough for instruction.603

Gaius Marius Victorinus (AD 290-364)

Gaius insisted that any doctrine that did not come from Scripture alone was blasphemous.

That such is the faith, with the permission of God and Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, we shall affirm. Let no one say, understanding me in a blasphemous way, that it is my own teaching. Indeed, all that I say is said by Holy Scripture and comes from Holy Scripture.604

Hilary of Poitiers (AD 310-367)

Therefore let private judgment cease; let human reason refrain from passing barriers divinely set. In this spirit we eschew all blasphemous and reckless assertion concerning God, and cleave to the very letter of revelation. Each point in our enquiry shall be considered in the light of His instruction…605

I would not have you flatter the Son with praises of your own invention; it is well with you if you be satisfied with the written word.606

Those things which are not contained in the book of the law, we ought not even to be acquainted with.607

Their treason involves us in the difficult and dangerous position of having to make a definite pronouncement, beyond the statements of Scripture, upon this grave and abstruse matter. The Lord said that the nations were to be baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. The words of the faith are clear; the heretics do their utmost to involve the meaning in doubt. We may not on this account add to the appointed form, yet we must set a limit to their license of interpretation. Since their malice, inspired by the devil’s cunning, empties the doctrine of its meaning while it retains the Names which convey the truth, we must emphasise the truth which those Names convey. We must proclaim, exactly as we shall find them in the words of Scripture, the majesty and functions of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and so debar the heretics from robbing these Names of their connotation of Divine character, and compel them by means of these very Names to confine their use of terms to their proper meaning.608

I would not have you flatter the Son with praises of your own invention; it is well with you if you be satisfied with the written word.609

Athanasius (AD 296-373)

…the sacred and inspired Scriptures are sufficient to declare the truth…610

Vainly then do they run about with the pretext that they have demanded Councils for the faith’s sake; for divine Scripture is sufficient above all things; but if a Council be needed on the point, there are the proceedings of the Fathers, for the Nicene Bishops did not neglect this matter, but stated the doctrine so exactly, that persons reading their words honestly, cannot but be reminded by them of the religion towards Christ announced in divine Scripture.611

Since, therefore, such an attempt is futile madness, nay, more than madness, let no one ask such questions any more, or else let him learn only that which is in the Scriptures.612

Scripture is of all things most sufficient for us.613

Vainly then do they [the Arians] run about with the pretext that they have demanded Councils for the faith’s sake; for divine Scripture is sufficient above all things; but if a Council be needed on the point, there are the proceedings of the Fathers, for the Nicene Bishops did not neglect this matter, but stated the doctrine so exactly, that persons reading their words honestly, cannot but be reminded by them of the religion towards Christ announced in divine Scripture.614

…there ought to be no mention of any of these at all, nor exposition of them in the Church, for this reason and for this consideration, that in divine Scripture nothing is written about them, and that they are above men’s knowledge and above men’s understanding.615

These [canonical] books are the fountains of salvation, so that he who thirsts may be satisfied with the oracles contained in them: in these alone the school of piety preaches the Gospel; let no man add to or take away from them.616

Basil of Caesarea (AD 329-379)

Believe those things that are written. What is not written inquire not into.617

Their complaint is that their custom does not accept this, and that Scripture does not agree. What is my reply? I do not consider it fair that the custom which obtains among them should be regarded as a law and rule of orthodoxy. If custom is to be taken in proof of what is right, then it is certainly competent for me to put forward on my side the custom which obtains here. If they reject this, we are clearly not bound to follow them. Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favour of that side will be cast the vote of truth.618

What mind ought a prelate to have in those things which he commands or appoints? To which the reply is, Towards God, as a servant of Christ, and a steward of the mysteries of God, fearing lest he should speak or order anything beyond the will of God, as declared in the Scriptures, and be found a false witness of God, or sacrilegious, in either introducing anything foreign to the doctrine of the Lord, or omitting anything acceptable to God.619

Concerning the hearers: that those hearers who are instructed in the Scriptures should examine what is said by the teachers, receiving what is in conformity with the Scriptures and rejecting what is opposed to them; and that those who persist in teaching such doctrines should be strictly avoided.620

Rule Twenty–six: That every word and deed should be ratified by the testimony of the Holy Scripture to confirm the good and cause shame to the wicked.621

In the following lengthy quote Basil asserts that to neglect any part of what is written in Scripture or to introduce anything that is not written in it is 1) to fall away from the faith, 2) to fail to be a faithful minister, 3) and a proof of great presumption:

When, by the grace of God, I learned of your piety’s command, worthy as it is of the love you bear God in Christ, whereby you sought from us a written profession of our holy faith, I hesitated at first as to my answer, sensible as I am of my own lowliness and weakness…At any rate, you yourselves know that a faithful minister must preserve unadulterated and unalloyed whatever has been entrusted to him by his good master for dispensation to his fellow servants. Consequently, I also am obliged in the common interest to place before you, in accordance with God’s good pleasure, what I have learned from the Holy Scriptures…But if ‘the Lord is faithful in all his words’ and ‘All his commandments are faithful, confirmed for ever and ever, made in truth and equity,’ to delete anything that is written down or to interpolate anything not written amounts to open defection from the faith and makes the offender liable to a charge of contempt. For our Lord Jesus Christ says: ‘My sheep hear my voice,’ and, before this, He had said: ‘But a stranger they follow not but fly from him because they know not the voice of strangers.’ And the Apostle, using a human parallel, more strongly forbids adding to or removing anything from Holy Writ in the following words: ‘yet a man’s testament if it be confirmed, no man despiseth nor addeth to it.’ So, then, we have determined in this way to avoid now and always every utterance and sentiment not found in the Lord’s teachingI have neither the leisure nor the skill at present, however, to collect from the Holy Scripture, even at your urging, all the references made throughout to the Father and Son and Holy Spirit, but I think it will satisfy even your conscience if I place before you a few selected passages to show how our thoughts derive from the Scriptures and to provide grounds for certainty both for you yourselves and any others who desire to place their confidence in us; for, just as many proofs declare to us only one divine doctrine, so also, a fair–minded person will recognize in the few proofs I have give the divine character which is in all.622

The hear­ers taught in the Scrip­tures ought to test what is said by teach­ers and accept that which agrees with the Scrip­tures but reject that which is for­eign… Plainly it is a falling away from faith and an offense chargeable to pride, either to reject any of those things that are written or to introduce things that are not written.623

Enjoying as you do the consolation of the Holy Scriptures, you stand in need neither of my assistance nor of that of anybody else to help you to comprehend your duty. You have the all-sufficient counsel and guidance of the Holy Spirit to lead you to what is right.624

The novice was required not merely to read Scripture but to learn passages from it by heart that he may have full assurance in his piety and may not form his conduct according to the traditions of men.625

Cyril of Jerusalem (AD 313-386)

The quotes of Cyril already given in the first section (under tradition) are powerful testimonies to Sola Scriptura and the total sufficiency of Scripture. William Webster summarized the evidence of Cyril by saying,

Cyril taught that they are the ultimate authority for the Church and the sole source of doctrine and truth. Throughout his Lectures, Cyril defends each point of the Creed with Scripture, emphasizing repeatedly the necessity for every doctrine to be validated and proven from Scripture. He is emphatic that not the least point of doctrine is to be delivered without proof from the Scriptures.626

For concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures; nor must we be drawn aside by mere plausibility and artifices of speech. Even to me, who tell thee these things, give not absolute credence, unless thou receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures. For this salvation which we believe depends not on ingenious reasoning, but on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures.627

Now mind not my argumentations, for perhaps you may be misled but unless thou receive testimony of the Prophets on each matter, believe not what I say: unless thou learn from the Holy Scriptures concerning the Virgin, and the place, the time, and the manner, receive not testimony from man. For one who at present thus teaches may possibly be suspected: but what man of sense will suspect one that prophesied a thousand and more years beforehand? If then you seek the cause of Christ’s coming, go back to the first book of the Scriptures.628

For though we or an angel from heaven preach to you any other gospel than that ye have received, let him be to you anathema. So for the present listen while I simply say the Creed, and commit it to memory; but at the proper season expect the confirmation out of Holy Scripture of each part of the contents. For the articles of the Faith were not composed as seemed good to men; but the most important points collected out of all the Scripture make up one complete teaching of the Faith. And just as the mustard seed in one small grain contains many branches, so also this Faith has embraced in few words all the knowledge of godliness in the Old and New Testaments. Take heed then, brethren, and hold fast the traditions which ye now receive, and write them on the table of your heart.629

What else is there that knoweth the deep things of God, save only the Holy Ghost, who spake the Divine Scriptures? But not even the Holy Ghost Himself has spoken in the Scriptures concerning the generation of the Son from the Father. Why then dost thou busy thyself about things which not even the Holy Ghost has written in the Scriptures? Thou that knowest not the things which are written, busiest thou thyself about the things which are not written? There are many questions in the Divine Scriptures; what is written we comprehend not, why do we busy ourselves about what is not written?630

Let us then speak concerning the Holy Ghost nothing but what is written; and whatsoever is not written, let us not busy ourselves about it. The Holy Ghost Himself spake the Scriptures; He has also spoken concerning Himself as much as He pleased, or as much as we could receive. Let us therefore speak those things which He has said; for whatsoever He has not said, we dare not say.631

And it is enough for us to know these things; but inquire not curiously into His nature or substance: for had it been written, we would have spoken of it; what is not written, let us not venture on…632

Gregory of Nyssa (AD 335-395)

Whatever is not supported by the testimony of Scripture we reject as false.633

Gregory approved of the following remarks by his sister Macrina:

We are not entitled to such license, I mean that of affirming what we please; we make the Holy Scriptures the rule and the measure of every tenet (dogma); we necessarily fix our eyes upon that, and approve that alone which may be made to harmonize with the intention of those writings.634

They allege that while we confess three Persons we say that there is one goodness, and one power, and one Godhead. And in this assertion they do not go beyond the truth; for we do say so. But the ground of their complaint is that their custom does not admit this, and Scripture does not support it. What then is our reply? We do not think that it is right to make their prevailing custom the law and rule of sound doctrine. For if custom is to avail for proof of soundness, we too, surely, may advance our prevailing custom; and if they reject this, we are surely not bound to follow theirs. Let the inspired Scripture, then, be our umpire, and the vote of truth will surely be given to those whose dogmas are found to agree with the Divine words.635

The Christian Faith, which in accordance with the command of our Lord has been preached to all nations by His disciples, is neither of men, nor by men, but by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself….He, I say, appeared on earth and ‘conversed with men,’ that men might no longer have opinions according to their own notions about the Self–existent, formulating into a doctrine the hints that come to them from vague conjectures, but that we might be convinced that God has truly been manifested in the flesh, and believe that to be the only true ‘mystery of godliness,’ which was delivered to us by the very Word and God, Who by Himself spoke to His Apostles, and that we might receive the teaching concerning the transcendent nature of the Deity which is given to us, as it were, ‘through a glass darkly’ from the older Scriptures, — from the Law, and the Prophets, and the Sapiential Books, as an evidence of the truth fully revealed to us, reverently accepting the meaning of the things which have been spoken, so as to accord in the faith set forth by the Lord of the whole Scriptures , which faith we guard as we received it, word for word, in purity, without falsification, judging even a slight divergence from the words delivered to us an extreme blasphemy and impiety. We believe, then, even as the Lord set forth the Faith to His Disciples, when He said, ‘Go, teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.’ This is the word of the mystery whereby through the new birth from above our nature is transformed from the corruptible to the incorruptible, being renewed from ‘the old man,’ ‘according to the image of Him who created’ at the beginning the likeness to the Godhead. In the Faith then which was delivered by God to the Apostles we admit neither subtraction, nor alteration, nor addition, knowing assuredly that he who presumes to pervert the Divine utterance by dishonest quibbling, the same ‘is of his father the devil,’ who leaves the words of truth and ‘speaks of his own,’ becoming the father of a lie. For whatsoever is said otherwise than in exact accord with the truth is assuredly false and not true.636

What shadow of such a notion did he find in Scripture that he ventures upon this assertion?637

Let the inspired Scripture, then, be our umpire, and the vote of truth will surely be given to those whose dogmas are found to agree with the divine words.638

We will adopt as the guide of our reasoning, the Scripture.639

Ambrose (AD 339-397)

For how can we adopt those things which we do not find in the holy Scriptures?640

Epiphanius of Salamis (AD 310-403)

I cannot give the answer to any question with my own reason, but I can with a conclusion from scripture.641

John Chrystostom (AD 347-407)

These then are the reasons; but it is necessary to establish them all from the Scriptures, and to show with exactness that all that has been said on this subject is not an invention of human reasoning, but the very sentence of the Scriptures. For thus will what we say be at once more deserving of credit, and sink the deeper into your minds.642

When we receive money, we do not trust to those who give it to us; we wish to count it ourselves: and when there is a question of Divine things, would it not be a folly rashly and blindly to receive the opinions of others, when we have a rule by which we can examine everything? I mean the Divine law. It is for this reason that I conjure you all, without resting in the slightest degree on the judgment of others, to consult the Scriptures.643

When you shall see the wicked heresy, which is the army of Antichrist, standing in the holy places of the church, then let those who are in Judea head for the mountains, that is, those who are Christians should head for the Scriptures. For the true Judea is Christendom, and the mountains are the Scriptures of the prophets and apostles, as it is written: “Her foundations are in the holy mountains.” But why should all Christians at this time head for the Scriptures? Because in this period in which heresy has taken possession of the churches there can be no proof of true Christianity nor any other refuge for Christians who want to know the truth of the faith except the divine Scriptures. Earlier we showed in many ways which is the church of Christ, and which heathenism. But now there is for those who want to know which is the true church of Christ no way to know it except only the through the Scriptures. Why? Because heresy has everything just like the church. How, then, will anyone who wants to know which is the true church of Christ know it in the midst of this great confusion resulting from this similarity, except only through the Scriptures? The Lord, therefore, knowing that there would be such a great confusion of things in the last days, commands that Christians who…want to gain steadfastness in the true faith should take refuge in nothing else but the Scriptures.

Otherwise, if they look to other things, they will be offended and will perish, because they will not know which is the true church, and as a result they will fall into the abomination of desolation which stands in the holy places of the church.644

Regarding the things I say, I should supply even the proofs, so I will not seem to rely on my own opinions, but rather, prove them with Scripture, so that the matter will remain certain and steadfast.645

Wherefore I exhort and entreat you all, disregard what this man and that man thinks about these things, and inquire from the Scriptures all these things; and having learned what are the true riches, let us pursue after them that we may obtain also the eternal good things.646

Everything in the divine Scriptures is clear and straightforward; they inform us about all that is necessary.647

But when Scripture wants to teach us something like that, it interprets itself and does not permit the hearer to err. I therefore beg and entreat that we close our eyes to all things and follow the canon of Holy Scripture exactly.648

Isidore of Pelusium 412AD

To ascertain these things are so, let us inspect the rule of truth - I mean the Holy Scriptures.649

Theophilus of Alexandria (AD 385-412)

It would be the instigation of a demoniacal spirit to follow the conceits of the human mind, and to think anything divine, beyond what has the authority of the Scriptures.650

Nicetas of Remesiana (AD 335-414)

My single appeal will be to the Holy Scriptures.651

Jerome (AD 347-420)

For all questions, let us seek for suitable beams from the testimonies of the Scriptures, and cut them down, and build the house of wisdom within us.652

The other things, also, which they find and feign, of themselves, without the authority and testimonies of the Scriptures, as if by apostolical tradition, the sword of God strikes down.653

That which does not have authority from the Scriptures, we may as readily disdain (contemn), as well approve…654

We deny not those things which are written, so we refuse those which are not written. That God was born of a Virgin, we believe, because we read; that Mary married after she gave birth to him, we believe not, because we read not.655

Those things which they make and find, as it were, by apostolical tradition, without the authority and testimony of Scripture, the word of God smites.656

The sword of God smites whatever they draw and forges from a pretended ‘apostolic tradition’ without the authority and testimony of the Scriptures.657

Everything we say, we ought to confirm from Sacred Scripture.658

Prove your claim from Sacred Scripture, for we must not make an assertion unless it has been adduced from and confirmed by Scripture.659

Salvian the presbyter (AD ?-429)

Condemn me if I shall not bring proofs. Condemn me if I shall not demonstrate that the Sacred Scriptures have also said what I have asserted.660

Augustine (AD 354-430)

For among the things that are plainly laid down in Scripture are to be found all matters that concern faith and the manner of life.661

If anyone preaches either concerning Christ or concerning His church or concerning any other matter which pertains to our faith and life; I will not say, if we, but what Paul adds, if an angel from heaven should preach to you anything besides what you have received in the Scriptures of the Law and of the Gospels, let him be anathema.662

I do not want you to depend on my authority, so as to think that you must believe something because it is said by me; you should rest your belief either on the canonical Scriptures, if you do not see how true something is, or on the truth made manifest to you interiorly, so that you may see clearly.663

…owing unhesitating assent to nothing but the canonical Scriptures.664

They must show it by the canonical books of the divine Scriptures alone, for we do not say that we must be believed because we are in the Church of Christ, because Optatus of Milevi, or Ambrose of Milan or innumerable other bishops of our communion commended the church to which we belong, or because it is extolled by the councils of our colleagues or because through the whole wonderful answers to prayers or cures happen.665

Cyril of Alexandria (AD 376-444)

That which the divine Scripture has not spoken, how shall we receive it, and reckon it among verities?666

Sufficient, sufficient for this are the Scriptures…667

Therefore the inspired Scripture is abundantly-sufficient, even so that those who have been nourished by it ought to come forth wise and very prudent, and possessed of an understanding abundantly instructed in all things…668

Paul requires us to prove every thing, and says, Be wise money-changers. But an exact and scrupulous knowledge of each particular matter we can obtain from no other source than from divinely–inspired Scripture.669

It is necessary that we should follow the sacred Scriptures, in nothing going beyond what they sanction.670

It is impossible for us to say, or at all think anything concerning God, beyond what has been divinely declared by the divine oracles of the old and new testaments.671

But an exact and scrupulous knowledge of each particular matter we can obtain from no other source than from divinely inspired Scripture.672

What divine Scripture does not state very clearly must remain unknown and be passed over in silence.673

How can we prove and certify as true something which Sacred Scripture does not attest?674

Saint Vincent of Lerins (AD ?-445)

…since the canon of Scripture is complete, and sufficient of itself for everything, and more than sufficient…675

Theodoret of Cyrus (AD 393-458)

Do not bring me human reasonings and syllogisms, for I am governed only by the Divine Scriptures.676

Orth: Do not, I beg you, bring in human reason. I shall yield to scripture alone. Eran: You shall receive no argument unconfirmed by Holy Scripture, and if you bring me any solution of the question deduced from Holy Scripture I will receive it, and will in no wise gainsay it. Orth: You know how a moment ago we made the word of the evangelist clear by means of the testimony of the apostle; and that the divine apostle showed us how the Word became Flesh, saying plainly “for verily He took not on Him the nature of angels but He took on Him the seed of Abraham.” The same teacher will teach us how the divine Word was seen upon the earth and dwelt among men. Eran: I submit to the words both of apostles and of prophets. Shew me then in accordance with your promise the interpretation of the prophecy.677

…we have learnt the rule of dogmas from the divine Scripture.678

They will find that by God’s grace I hold no other opinion than just that which I have received from holy Scripture.679

for us the divine writings are sufficient.680

The impiety of Sabellius, Photinus, Marcellus, and Paulus, we refute by proving by the evidence of divine Scripture that the Lord Christ was not only man but also eternal God, of one substance with the Father.681

I would not so say persuaded only by human arguments, for I am not so rash as to say anything concerning which divine Scripture is silent.682

Salvian the Presbyter (AD 400?-450?)

If you wish to know what you must believe, you have Holy Scripture. The perfect explanation is to hold with what you read.683

The oracle of the heavenly Word is sufficient proof for me in this case. God says, as I have proved in the previous books, that He regards all things, rules all things and judges all things. If you wish to know what you must believe, you have Holy Scripture. The perfect explanation is to hold with what you read.684

Caesarius of Arles (AD 468-542)

You ask whether He [i.e. the Holy Spirit] was begotten or not. Sacred Scripture has said nothing about this, and it is wrong to violate the divine silence. Since God did not think that this should be indicated in His writings, He did not want you to question or to know through idle curiosity.685

Sacred Scripture has said nothing about this, and it is wrong to violate the divine silence. Since God did not think that this should be indicated in His writings, He did not want you to question or to know through idle curiosity.686

Cosmas of Indicopleustes (wrote around AD 550)

It behoveth not a perfect Christian to attempt to confirm anything from those [writings] that are doubted of, the canonical and commonly received Scriptures explaining all things sufficiently…every doctrine received by Christians.687

Gregory the Great (AD 540-604)

…in His Scripture they as it were fix their eyes on His face, that whereas God delivers therein all that He wills, they may not be at variance with His will, in proportion as they learn that will in revelation.688

John of Damascus (AD 675-749)

All things, therefore, that have been delivered to us by Law and Prophets and Apostles and Evangelists we receive, and know, and honor, seeking for nothing beyond these.689

…it is impossible either to say or fully to understand anything about God beyond what has been divinely proclaimed to us, whether told or revealed, by the sacred declarations of the Old and New Testaments.690

the early church’s view of canon = self-authentication (Sola Scriptura)

Summary statements by scholars

Many scholars who are experts on the councils have categorically insisted that no church council ever exercised authority to determine the canon. Leon Morris expresses the opinion of many of these scholars when he says,

The church never attempted to create or confer canonicity. The decrees of the councils dealing with the matter, never run in the form: “This Council decrees that henceforth such and such books are to be canonical.” The decrees rather run in the form: “This Council declares that these are the books which have always been held to be canonical.”…

The Synod always contents itself with saying which books are already accepted as canonical. It often speaks of the accepted books as those which have been “handed down.” It never attempts to confer canonicity on a book which lacked it, nor to remove from the list a book which was agreed to have had it…

Canonicity is something in the book itself, something that God has given it, not a flavored status the church confers upon it. The church made no attempt to do more than to recognize canonicity and it could do no more.691

F.F. Bruce agrees, stating,

One thing must be emphatically stated. The New Testament books did not become authoritative for the Church because they were formally included in a canonical list; on the contrary, the Church included them in her canon because she already regarded them as divinely inspired, recognizing their innate worth and generally apostolic authority, direct or indirect. The first ecclesiastical councils to classify the canonical books were both held in North Africa-at Hippo Regius in 393 and at Carthage in 397-but what these councils did was not to impose something new upon the Christian communities but to codify what was already the general practice of these communities.692

Even the New Catholic Encylopedia agrees that this was the case, stating, “St. Jerome distinguished between canonical books and ecclesiastical books. The latter he judged were circulated by the Church as good spiritual reading but were not recognized as authoritative Scripture. The situation remained unclear in the ensuing centuries…For example, John of Damascus, Gregory the Great, Walafrid, Nicolas of Lyra and Tostado continued to doubt the canonicity of the deuterocanonical books. According to Catholic doctrine, the proximate criterion of the biblical canon is the infallible decision of the Church. This decision was not given until rather late in the history of the Chruch at the Council of Trent. The Council of Trent definitively settled the matter of the Old Testament Canon. That this had not been done previously is apparent from the uncertainty that persisted up to the time of Trent (The New Catholic Encyclopedia, The Canon).

Herman Bavinck insists that the church fathers understood Scripture to be self-authenticating:

In the church fathers and the scholastics… [Scripture] rested in itself, was trustworthy in and of itself (αὐατοπιστος), and the primary norm for church and theology.693

Letting the fathers speak for themselves

Justin Martyr (AD 100-165)

Justin Martyr insists that there can be no external proof of Scripture since that would make the supposed proof of greater authority than the Scripture. Rather, the Scripture is self-attesting. This is the Protestant position on Scripture. (See discussion under Justin Martyr in the “authority” section of this chapter)

The word of truth is free, and carries its own authority, disdaining to fall under any skilful argument, or to endure the logical scrutiny of its hearers. But it would be believed for its own nobility, and for the confidence due to Him who sends it. Now the word of truth is sent from God; wherefore the freedom claimed by the truth is not arrogant. For being sent with authority, it were not fit that it should be required to produce proof of what is said; since neither is there any proof beyond itself, which is God. For every proof is more powerful and trustworthy than that which it proves; since what is disbelieved, until proof is produced, gets credit when such proof is produced, and is recognised as being what it was stated to be. But nothing is either more powerful or more trustworthy than the truth; so that he who requires proof of this, is like one who wishes it demonstrated why the things that appear to the senses do appear.694

Tatian (AD 120-180)

I was led to put faith in these [Scriptures] by the unpretending cast of the language, the inartificial character of the writers, the foreknowledge displayed of future events, the excellent quality of the precepts.695

Further, if any one ponders over the prophetic sayings with all the attention and reverence they deserve, it is certain that in the very act of reading and diligently studying them his mind and feelings will be touched by a divine breath. He will recognize that the words he is reading are not human utterances but the language of God; and so he will perceive from his own experience that these books have been composed not by human art or mortal eloquence but, if I may so speak, in a style that is divine.696

Clement of Alexandria (AD 150?-213?)

Clement of Alexandria cited Matthew 4:17 and Philippians 4:5, saying that it was easy to distinguish the words of men from the words of Scripture because “No one will be so impressed by the exhortations of any of the saints, as he is by the words of the Lord Himself.697

Origen (AD 185-252)

Therefore, in proof of all the words we utter when teaching, we ought to produce the doctrine of Scripture as confirming the doctrine we utter. For as all the gold that is without the temple is not sanctified, so every doctrine that is not in the divine Scripture, although it may seem admirable to some, is not sacred, because it is not comprehended within the doctrine of Scripture, which sanctifies that doctrine alone which it contains within itself as the temple renders sacred the gold that is in it. We ought not therefore for the confirmation of our instructions to swear by and take as evidence our own notions which we individually hold and think to be agreeable to truth, unless we are able to show that they are sacred as being contained in the divine Scriptures as in some temples of God.698

Cyprian

Rather than seeing tradition or church as producing Scripture, Cyprian said that Scripture is “the head and source of divine tradition” (ANF, Vol. 5, Cyprian, The Epistles of Cyprian, Epistle 73.2, 9, 10)

John Chrysostom (AD 349-407)

But when Scripture wants to teach us something like that, it interprets itself and does not permit the hearer to err. I therefore beg and entreat that we close our ears to all these things and follow the canon of the Holy Scripture exactly.699

Augustine (AD 354-430)

Augustine believed that if Scripture was God’s Word, no authority could bear witness to it. It would bear witness to itself since God can only bear witness to Himself. It is self-authenticating.

What sort of a man this Nathanael was, we prove by the words which follow. Hear what sort of a man he was; the Lord Himself bears testimony. Great is the Lord, known by the testimony of John; blessed Nathanael, known by the testimony of the truth. Because the Lord, although He had not been commended by the testimony of John, Himself to Himself bore testimony, because the truth is sufficient for its own testimony.700

Let us treat scripture like scripture, like God speaking; don’t let’s look there for man going wrong. It is not for nothing, you see, that the canon has been established for the Church. This is the function of the Holy Spirit. So if anybody reads my book, let him pass judgment on me. If I have said something reasonable, let him follow, not me, but reason itself; if I’ve proved it by the clearest divine testimony, let him follow, not me, but the divine scripture.701

The Prologue to the Glossa Ordinaria (AD 420-1458)

The Glossa Ordinaria of the Latin Vulgate Bible can be read in both Latin702 and English.703 The development of these comments on the text began with Jerome and was completed in the fifteenth century, but with references being inserted from earlier fathers like Origen. It represents the official teaching of the catholic church fathers from Jerome to the time of the Reformation. Nowhere does it speak of the church determining the canon. Instead, it speaks of the canonical books as having a self-authenticating character. While rejecting the Apocrypha as never having been Scripture, it speaks of the canonical books as being canonical the moment they were dictated by the Holy Spirit:

The canonical books have been brought about through the dictation of the Holy Spirit. It is not known, however, at which time or by which authors the non-canonical or apocryphal books were produced… But the canonical books are of such authority that whatever is contained therein is held to be true firmly and indisputably, and likewise that which is clearly demonstrated from them. For just as in philosophy a truth is known through reduction to self-evident first principles, so too, in the writings handed down from holy teachers, the truth is known, as far as those things that must be held by faith, through reduction to the canonical scriptures that have been produced by divine revelation, which can contain nothing false.704

The majority of the church took a stand against the apocrypha

Summary statements by patristics and church history scholars showing that the early church did not believe the apocrypha were Scripture

As we will see, the vast majority in the church prior to the Reformation held that the apocryphal books were useful devotionally and for background history, but did not treat them as inspired Scripture. But before we demonstrate that, we will look at the contrary evidence that is put forward by the Roman Catholic church.

Rome’s claim to early councils affirming the apocrypha - understanding the evidence

Perhaps the strongest case that the Roman Catholic Church can make is that there were at least some councils in the early church that did indeed accept the apocrypha in a canon.

These claims are accurate to a point: The council of Rome (AD 382) was the first council to affirm some Apocryphal books. The decree of Damasus (though its authorship is highly disputed), if authentic, is the decree of the bishop of Rome that articulated which books belonged in the canon, and included apocryphal books. This view was reiterated eleven years later at the Council of Hippo, in North Africa, and then again at the third council of Carthage in AD 397. Finally, this canon was reaffirmed under Boniface at a later Council of Carthage in AD 419.

The two-canon theory

There is debate on how these decisions should be interpreted by Protestants, with competing scholars citing evidence from the church fathers that could lead to two quite different conclusions. I lean towards the view which says that there was no contradiction between these councils and later councils on the canonicity of books.

I hold to the two-canon theory already articulated in chapter 1, and held to by numerous Romanist scholars at the time of the Reformation. For example, Cajetan (hardly a friend of the Reformation; more like the arch-enemy) held to the two-canon theory. He said,

Here we close our commentaries on the historical books of the Old Testament. For the rest (that is, Judith, Tobit, and the books of Maccabees) are counted by St Jerome out of the canonical books, and are placed amongst the Apocrypha, along with Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus, as is plain from the Prologus Galeatus. Nor be thou disturbed, like a raw scholar, if thou shouldest find anywhere, either in the sacred councils or the sacred doctors, these books reckoned as canonical. For the words as well of councils as of doctors are to be reduced to the correction of Jerome. Now, according to his judgment, in the epistle to the bishops Chromatius and Heliodorus, these books (and any other like books in the canon of the Bible) are not canonical, that is, not in the nature of a rule for confirming matters of faith. Yet, they may be called canonical, that is, in the nature of a rule for the edification of the faithful, as being received and authorised in the canon of the Bible for that purpose. By the help of this distinction thou mayest see thy way clearly through that which Augustine says, and what is written in the provincial council of Carthage.705

William Webster summarizes Cajetan’s views in these words:

The word ‘canon’, then, came to have two meanings—one broad and the other narrow. The books that were considered inspired and authoritative for the establishing of doctrine held a proto-canonical status. The apocryphal or ecclesiastical books, on the other hand, while not authoritative in defining doctrine were nonetheless valuable for the purpose of edification and held a secondary or deutero-canonical status. It is in this way that the Church historically has generally understood Augustine and the Council of Carthage.706

Thus, there was a canon established by God (the 66 books of our Bible) and there was a canon established by the church (varying from region to region, but consisting of the apocrypha and even writings of church fathers). The first canon was authoritative for doctrine and church, while the second was considered helpful for devotional life and historical background. The Reformers would have no problem with this view of the apocrypha.

Is there evidence that the church fathers saw this dual-canon distinction? Yes, I believe it is the only way to reconcile all the councils of the first millennium. It would take us too far afield to delve into all the contradictions that would arise if this two-canon theory were not true, but just consider the synod of Trullo (AD 692), which affirmed the canons of both the Council of Laodicea and the Council of Carthage.

On the one-canon theory, Laodicea and Carthage are at complete loggerheads and impossible to reconcile. Laodicea absolutely rejects the apocrypha from the authoritative canon, while Carthage includes the apocrypha in the readings of the church. There is no reconciling Carthage with Laodicea if Carthage includes Apocryphal books from the same canon that Laodicea explicitly excludes them. But on the two canon theory, there is no conflict whatsoever. Trullo can affirm that the apocrypha are approved for reading in the church and for devotion, and also affirm with Laodicea that nothing other than the 66 books of the Bible can be authoritative in settling any doctrinal issue. It is a perfect solution that meets all the quotes I have given in the pages above.

Roman Catholics object to this theory by citing a few fathers who speak of the Apocrypha as “Scripture.” But the word for “Scripture” simply means writings, and some of these same fathers distinguished between inspired writings of God’s prophets and uninspired writings of non-prophets. They were quite aware, after all, that the writer of Maccabees claimed not to be a prophet.707 They would not ascribe prophetic authority to a book that explicitly claimed to not be prophetic. Thus, this objection has no weight. Nor does it solve the tension that would exist between various councils if there was only one canon. But if the secondary canon was not given by God and was not authoritative, it would not matter that this canon could change or even be different from region to region.

Numerous church fathers seem to speak of two bodies of books that they use, one inspired and the other not. Even the New Catholic Encyclopedia admits that this two-canon view was the view of the church prior to Trent. It says,

St Jerome distinguished between canonical books and ecclesiastical books. The latter he judged were circulated by the Church as good spiritual reading but were not recognized as authoritative Scripture… The situation remained unclear in the ensuing centuries… According to Catholic doctrine, the proximate criterion of the biblical canon is the infallible decision of the Church. This decision was not given until rather late in the history of the Church at the Council of Trent… The Council of Trent definitively settled the matter of the Old Testament Canon. That this had not been done previously is apparent from the uncertainty that persisted up to the time of Trent?708

The only thing I would quibble about in this RC description is their claim that “uncertainty persisted up to the time of Trent.” Nothing could be further from the truth (as can be seen by the church fathers quoted under the next theory, as well as the church fathers quoted later, who reject the apocrypha as inspired.)

The contradictory councils theory

The second theory that you see Protestant scholars holding to is that the councils were hopelessly contradictory (and thus not to be trusted), and even the Roman Catholic Church does not submit to the councils of Hippo and Carthage (and are thus hypocritical in appealing to those councils as authoritative). Even though I don’t agree with this theory, I will include the evidence for two reasons. First, some of the quotes seeking to prove this view further substantiate the first theory that I have defended above. Second, even if the reader is not persuaded by the information above, this information can show that the Roman Catholic interpretation still doesn’t fit the evidence.

Why were the Councils of Hippo and Carthage not authoritative councils (on anyone’s view)? For several reasons. First, they were local councils and did not represent the church as a whole. Second, only a handful of bishops attended these councils. Third, the vast majority of the church ignored the conclusions of these councils and continued to follow the Hebrew canon recommended by Jerome (see more on geography below).

For example, the synod of Laodicea forbids reading any non-canonical books in the church and only allows the “canonical books of the old and new Testaments” (which list is identical with the Protestant list), and explicitly states that Tobit, Judith, Ecclesiasticus, Wisdom, and the two books of the Maccabees are not part of God’s canon of inspired books (see Canon 59.1).

Fourth, these councils were dominated by Augustine, who later changed his views on the canon, apparently being convinced by the majority opinion of the church. Geisler points out that Augustine “later,… recognized that the Septuagint was not inspired, and reverted to the authority of the Hebrew Scrip­tures.”709 In effect, he revoked the views that he promoted at the councils of Hippo and Carthage. Certainly his views did not change the church consensus of the time.

Sixth, Tim Dunkin shows710 that the vast majority of those who studied the issue and compiled a list of which books the church had always recognized, supported the Protestant canon, not the Romanist canon. These include the lists made by Melito of Sardis (AD 180), Hilary of Poitiers (AD 360), Athanasius (AD 367), Cyril of Jerusalem (AD 380), Gregory of Nazianzus (AD 380), Amphilocius of Iconium (AD 380), Ephiphanius of Salamis (AD 385), Jerome (AD 391), and John of Damscus (AD 730).

How extensive was this Protestant view among the church fathers? Cajetan claimed it was universally held, even by Augustine and the councils of Rome, Hippo, and Carthage. I tend to agree. Others disagree, but say that it was still the vast majority who held to the Protestant canon. For example, Harris says, “The single voice of antiquity in favor of the Apocrypha is that of Augustine and the Councils of Hippo (A.D. 393) and Carthage (397), which he dominated.”711

While I believe that is a slightly exaggerated conclusion, it is close to the truth (assuming the one canon theory for the moment) since the followers of Augustine who held to the Apocrypha were in the minority, were geographically isolated, and were contradicted by other councils on this very subject matter. This means that these councils have no claim to catholicity, and it is quite instructive that the Roman Catholic Church ignores several of the decrees of these councils, and even ignores some of their recommended apocryphal books. In his masterful treatment712 of several areas of canonicity that my book does not touch on, William Whitaker explains,

For there are some things in those canons which the papists can by no means approve; namely, that the bishop of Constantinople is equalled with the Roman, can. 36; that priests and deacons are not to be separated from their wives, can. 13; that the law of fasting is imposed on the Roman church, can. 55; and others of the same kind… It is, besides, a strong objection to the credit and authority of these canons, that eighty-five canons of the apostles are approved and received in them, can. 2. For pope Gelasius (in Gratian, Dist. 15. C. Romana Ecclesia) declares the book of the apostolic canons apocryphal.713

The fact of the matter is that these Councils were contradicted by universal councils not long afterwards and neither Rome nor Protestants follow them in all that they say. They thus have no claim to catholicity.

It is hypocritical to turn to these councils where they support your cause, and to ignore them where they do not. For example, Rome rejects some books that these councils accepted (Third Maccabees, Sirach) and Rome includes Apocryphal books which these councils rejected (Tobit, Judith). It hardly seems consistent for them to claim that these councils support their view of canon. They clearly do not.

But more needs to be said about one of the tests of catholicity714 - universal consent of the church. Tim Dunkin examines the claims of Rome on catholicity and says,

The acceptance of the apocryphal books fails the test of catholicity in geography, as well. Before the time that Europe fell under the dominion of Roman Catholicism and the Catholic Bible (Apocrypha included) became the sole approved version, the only places where the Apocrypha gained serious currency were in Egypt and North Africa, with patristics from Palestine later turning to it through the influence of Pamphilus and Eusebius. The general testimony from Greece, Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, Gaul, Syria, and even many in Italy was against the inclusion of these books.715

Nor does Rome’s inclusion of the apocrypha pass the two other tests of catholicity - antiquity and unanimity.716 Samuel Waldron concurs, saying,

Neither the Zadokite fragments, nor Philo, nor Josephus, nor the New Testament ever cite the Apocrypha as Scripture. On the contrary, as we have earlier seen, the Apocrypha are excluded in every early counting or listing of the Old Testament canon until Augustine… Neither the Jews, nor the early church till Augustine, nor the Greek church, nor the Protestant church received the Apocrypha as canonical. Even Augustine had his doubts later on. (17) The very council at which these books gained unquestionable canonical status for the Roman Catholic Church was the Council of Trent. It was that council in which from a Protestant point of view the Roman Catholic Church became officially apostate. Thus, departure on the subject of the canon by Roman Catholicism was accompanied by the official proclamation of serious, doctrinal error.”717

Roman Catholics often object that since the church had not yet settled the question of the canon at Trent, we should not be surprised at the lack of consensus on the Apocrypha. But Matthew McMahon does a marvelous job of discrediting this argument:

The fathers agree that the apocrypha is non-canonical and should not be included in the canon. Melito of Sardis, (Eusebius – Lib. IV. Cap. 26.) testifies he knew the OT canon. He took great pains in research, as we are told by Eusebius, and comes to the exact number of books as the protestants and Jews do. Origen (Eus. Lib. VI c. 25) acknowledges the same books as the protestants as canonical., and says that the number of them are two and twenty according to the Hebrew alphabet. (Remembering the combination of 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, etc.) Athanasius says “Our whole scripture is divinely inspired and hath books not infinite in number, but finite and comprehended in a certain canon.” There was, therefore a certain canon by the late 300’s. He then enumerates this, “The canonical books of the OT are two and twenty. Equal to the number as the Hebrew alphabet.” Then he says, “But besides these, there are also other non canonical books of the OT which are only read to the catechumens.” Then he lists the Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, the fragments of Esther, Judith, Tobit and the like. “These” he says “are the non-canonical books of the OT.” (Athanas. Opp. Ii. 126. sqq. Ed. Bened.) Hilary, bishop of Poitiers, says, “The law of the OT is considered as divided into twenty-two books, so as to correspond to the number of letters.” Nazianzen fixes the same number. Cyril of Jerusalem, in his 4th catechetical discourse says much, “Do thou learn carefully from the church what are the books of the OT, Read the divine Scriptures, the two and twenty books. (Cyril. Hiersol. Catech. IV. 33. p. 67. ed Tuttei.) Epiphanius counts twenty seven, or by the Hebrew doubling, twenty two, “delivered by God to the Jews.” And he says of the apocryphal books, “They are indeed useful books, but are not included in the canon, and were not deposited in the ark of the covenant.” Ruffinus, in his exposition of the Apostle’s Creed, says “But I should be known that there are other books also, which were called by the ancients not canonical but ecclesiastical, the Wisdom of Solomon and of Sirach, the book of Tobit, Judith, Macabees. These they would have to be read in the churches, but that nothing should be advanced from them for the confirming the authority of faith.” (Symb. Apost. In Appendix ad Cyprian. Ed. Fell. P. 26). (As with any good book.) Jerome plainly rejects all the apocryphal books from the canon. In his Prologus Galeatus he says “As there are twenty and two letters, so there are counted twenty and two books. Therefore the Wisdom of Solomon, and Jesus, and Judith, and Tobit, are not in the canon.” (See the introduction to the Vulgate in his own hand.) Gregory the Great, in his commentaries on Job, (Lib. XIX. Cap. 16.) expressly writes that the books of Macabees is not canonical, as well as the rest. Josephus also agrees. In his first book against Apion the grammarian “We have not innumerable books, inconsistent and conflicting with each other, but two and twenty books alone, containing the series of our whole history, and justly deemed worthy of our highest credit.” (Contra Apion. L. I. C. 8.)

Two objections are brought by the RCC: 1) these fathers spoke of the Jewish not the Christian canon. 2) the canon was not yet fixed. Both of these are nonsense.

Of the first objection, the councils and father were speaking of the Christian canon, not just the Jewish. It is ludicrous to assume they would exclude the OT from the Christian’s Bible. The synod of Laodicea prescribed the books which were to be accepted in the churches. Melito did not desire to find out what these books were for the Jew’s sake, but his own. Athanasius said the apocrypha was read by the catechumens, meaning those raised up in the church – Christian catechumens. Cyril forbids reading the apocrypha saying that the apostles rejected them. Ruffinus is speaking concerning the church, saying those books are not canonical but ecclesiastical – proving he spoke of the church. Jerome, writing to Paulinus (a Christian Bishop), makes none others canonical than the protestants. He acknowledges no other canon than I do now. He writes in his preface to the book of Chronicles, “The church knows nothing of the apocryphal writings; we must therefore have recourse to the Hebrews, from whose text the Lord speaks, and his disciples chose their examples. What is not extant in them is to be flung away from us.” (Preface to Ezra and Nehemiah) In his preface to the books of Solomon, “As therefore the church, while it reads Judith and Tobit and the book of Maccabees, yet receives them not among the canonical Scriptures; so she may read these two volumes (Wisdom and Sirach) for the edification of the people, not for affirming the authority of faith.” They are absurd who imagine a double canon. Jerome calls the Pelagians heretics (rightly so) for citing testimonies of the Apocrypha while attempting to prove something of heaven.

What shall the RCC then produce? Trullan? Except the Trullan council, the RCC has nothing at all to stand on. And this Trullan does not precisely affirm the Apocrypha canonical, but attributes the sanction of Carthage, which is no consequence since they also sanctioned Laodicea. And the RCC denies all credit to the Trullan canons themselves. Thus they are left without defense on any side.

Isidore, who lived in those times almost, (Lib. Isad. De Eccl. Offic. Lib. 1. c. 12.) says that the OT was settled by Ezra in two and twenty books, “that the books might correspond by the number of the letters.” John Damascus says (Lib. IV. C. 18) “It must be known that there are only two and twenty books of the OT, according to the alphabet of the Hebrew language.” So also Nicephorus, “There are two and twenty books of the OT.” Leotinus says in his book of Sects (act. 2.) that there are no more than twenty two canonical books as the churches receive. Rabanus Maurus (De. Institutes. Cler. C. 54) says that the whole OT was distributed by Ezra in two and twenty books, “that there may be as many in the law as in the letters.” Radalphus (Lib. XIV. in Lev. c. 1.), “Tobit, Judith and the Macabees, although they be read for instruction in the church, yet have they not authority.” They are not canonical. Hugo S. Victoris (Prolog. Lib. I. De Sacram. C. 7.) says “that these books are read indeed, but not written in the body of the text or in the authoritative canon; that is, such as the book of Tobit, Judith, Macabees, the Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiasticus.” And again in Didascal. Lib. IV. C. 8., “As there are twenty two alphabetic letters, by mean of which we write in Hebrew, and speak of what we have to say, and the compass of the human voice is included in their elementary sounds; so twenty-two books are reckoned, by means of which being the alphabets and doctrine of God…” Also the opinion of Richard de S. Victore (Exception. Lib. II. C. 9), Lyra (prolog. In Libros Aprocryph.) Dionysius Carthusianus (Comment in Gen. in Princip.) , Abulensis (in Matt. c. 1), Antonius (3 p. Tit. XVIII. C. 5.), Cardinal Hugo (Prologue to Joshua) says the apocryphal books are not a rule for faith. Cardinal Cajetan and Erasmus both declare the canon glossed by the apocryphal books being included in it in their time. (See Leo’s Epistle “Dilecto Filio Erasmo Roterd.” Prefixed to Erasmus’ Greek NT, Basil, 1535). Even Arius Montanus, who was himself present in the synod at Trent, and published vast biblical work, and called by Gregory XIII his “son”, in addition to the Hebrew Bible with an interlinear version declares that the orthodox church follows the canon of the Hebrews, and reckons apocryphal the books of the “OT” written in Greek: all those apocryphal books we have mentioned so far.718

Sometimes Roman Catholics will simply give a long list of church fathers who quoted the apocrypha. They claim that these quotes show a love for the Apocrypha and an unofficial treatment of the Apocrypha as Scripture. For example, one Roman apologists acknowledges that some of the fathers speak against the apocrypha as Scripture, yet quote it. Here is his strange conclusion:

All these declarations, more or less unfavorable to the Apocrypha, lose much of their importance from the fact that the men who excluded the Apocrypha from the canon use them in an impartial manner as though canonical; so Athanasius, Cyril, Epiphanius, and even Jerome, who in spite of his theory is not afraid to quote Ecclesiasticus as “Sacred Scripture.” Roman theologians have rightly laid great stress upon this fact; for it proves that, notwithstanding opposite theories, ecclesiastical practise on the whole was to use the Apocryphal like the canonical writings.719

But this does not follow at all. Take Jerome for example. He explicitly excludes the Apocrypha from the Biblical canon and even speaks of it as containing dangerous and silly errors.720 Yet he quotes from it approvingly when it suits his purposes. Was he being inconsistent? Not at all. Weldon gives a great response when he says,

But this does not prove the early writers considered the apocryphal books Scripture. Indeed, if they spoke against the Apocrypha, they could hardly have considered it Scripture. Even in modern books, Christian authors will, e.g., quote Scripture and a conservative theologian along side it with equal authority, at least as far as the reader could determine. All this means is that they accept the theologian’s statement because it is true, even as true as Scripture. But they would hardly accept the theologian’s declaration as inspired Scripture.721

Church fathers who stood strongly against the apocrypha span the centuries all the way to the Reformation

While there may722 be slim evidence that the Epistle of Barnabas, Justin Martyr, Ireneaus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Caius, Origen, Cyprian of Carthage, Eusebius of Caeserea, Methodius, Hillary of Poitiers, Ambrose, and Tyranus Rufinus quoted the Apocrypha, these handful of quotes do not overturn the thesis we are presenting here for two reasons:

Quoting the apocrypha proves nothing. Rufinus quoted the apocrypha, yet insisted that those books are not part of the canon.723 The same was true of other fathers listed above. The fact of the matter is that the apocrypha are useful for historical background and we Protestants quote the Apocrypha without in any way implying that those authors carry the same authority as Scripture. In one sense it would be no different than quoting from a modern theologian to show that he agrees with a given position. If you examine the writings of the aforementioned fathers, you will see that some of these fathers quoted the apocrypha approvingly while insisting that the apocrypha is not part of the canon (on my view, the God-given canon). For example,

Second, while a handful of these fathers may have treated the Apocrypha as Scripture, their viewpoint never prevailed in the Church. As I pointed out in chapter 1, the official catholic position all the way to the time of the Reformation was the same as the Protestant position. Even Cajetan, the most famous Romanist scholar at the time of the Reformation said that the church of his day followed Jerome in believing the Bible had only 66 books. Whether you accept the two-canon theory or not, his statements cannot be easily brushed aside.

That this was indeed the church’s official position for the millennium before the Reformation can be seen by the Glossa Ordinaria - the commentary on the official Vulgate Bible of the church. The Glossa Ordinaria represents the approved notes of the church fathers from Jerome through the next several centuries. They constitute an official church commentary on the meaning of the text. David Oritz says of these marginal notes,

The Ordinary Gloss, known as the Glossa Ordinaria, is an important witness to the position of the Western Church on the status of the Apocrypha because it was the standard authoritative biblical commentary for the whole Western Church. It carried immense authority and was used in all the schools for the training of theologians.”724

Since the Glossa Ordinaria explicitly rejects the Apocrypha, it was the church’s official position to reject the Apocrypha. The following translation of the Prologue shows the Church’s official position all the way to the time of the Reformation.

Many people, who do not give much attention to the holy scriptures, think that all the books contained in the Bible should be honored and adored with equal veneration, not knowing how to distinguish among the canonical and non-canonical books, the latter of which the Jews number among the apocrypha. Therefore they often appear ridiculous before the learned; and they are disturbed and scandalized when they hear that someone does not honor something read in the Bible with equal veneration as all the rest. Here, then, we distinguish and number distinctly first the canonical books and then the non-canonical, among which we further distinguish between the certain and the doubtful. The canonical books have been brought about through the dictation of the Holy Spirit. It is not known, however, at which time or by which authors the non-canonical or apocryphal books were produced. Since, nevertheless, they are very good and useful, and nothing is found in them which contradicts the canonical books, the church reads them and permits them to be read by the faithful for devotion and edification. Their authority, however, is not considered adequate for proving those things which come into doubt or contention, or for confirming the authority of ecclesiastical dogma, as blessed Jerome states in his prologue to Judith and to the books of Solomon. But the canonical books are of such authority that whatever is contained therein is held to be true firmly and indisputably, and likewise that which is clearly demonstrated from them. For just as in philosophy a truth is known through reduction to self-evident first principles, so too, in the writings handed down from holy teachers, the truth is known, as far as those things that must be held by faith, through reduction to the canonical scriptures that have been produced by divine revelation, which can contain nothing false. Hence, concerning them Augustine says to Jerome: To those writers alone who are called canonical I have learned to offer this reverence and honor: I hold most firmly that none of them has made an error in writing. Thus if I encounter something in them which seems contrary to the truth, I simply think that the manuscript is incorrect, or I wonder whether the translator has discovered what the word means, or whether I have understood it at all. But I read other writers in this way: however much they abound in sanctity or teaching, I do not consider what they say true because they have judged it so, but rather because they have been able to convince me from those canonical authors, or from probable arguments, that it agrees with the truth.725

The Prologue then gives an authoritative list of every book that belongs in the Old Testament canon (which equals the Protestant canon) and lists those books which are non-canonical (which includes the Apocrypha found in Rome and Eastern Orthodoxy).726 Throughout the book, when an apocryphal portion begins, there is a note that says, “Here begins the book of Tobit which is not in the canon,”727 or “Here begins the book of Judith which is not in the canon,”728 etc.

The significance of the Glossa Ordinaria is that even the New Catholic Encylopedia admits that it represents the official position of the church down through the previous centuries. This makes it crystal clear that it is Rome that abandoned the catholic position on canon, not the Protestants.

Even the Cardinal Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros, the Archbishop of Toledo, and Grand Inquisitor against Protestants, did not believe the apocryphal books were inspired. Cisneros in collaboration with the leading theologians of his day, produced an edition of the Bible called the Biblia Complutensia or the Complutensian Polyglot Bible. There is an admonition in the Preface that states that the books of Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, the Maccabees and the additions to Esther and Daniel are not canonical Scriptures and therefore could not be used to confirm any fundamental points of doctrine, though the church used them for reading and edification. No wonder the vote to include the apocrypha at the Council of Trent was a minority vote.729

The following is a brief list of famous churchmen who clearly stood against Rome’s views on the apocrypha: Melito of Sardis (died 180 AD), Origen (184-254), Athanasius (296-373), Cyril of Jerusalem (313-386), Gregory of Nazianzus (329-390), Hilary of Poitiers (310-367), Epiphanius, Basil the Great (330-379), Jerome (347-420), Rufinus, Primasius (died 560), Gregory the Great (590-604), The Venerable Bede (673-735), Agobard of Lyons (779-840), Alcuin (735-804), Walafrid Strabo (808-849), Haymo of Halberstadt (died 853), Ambrose of Autpert (730-784), Radulphos Flavicencius (1063-122), Hugh of St. Victor (1096-1141), Richard of St. Victor (died 1155), John of Salisbury (1120-1180), Peter Cellensis (1115-1183), Rupert of Deutz (1075-1129), Honorius of Autun (1080-1154), Peter Comestor (died 1178), Peter Maritius or Peter the Venerable (1092-1156), Adam Scotus (1140-1212), Hugo of St. Cher (1200-1263), Philip of Harveng (died 1183), Nicholas of Lyra (1270-1340), William of Ockham (1287-1347), Antoninus (died 1459), Alanso Tostado (1414-1455), Dionysius the Carthusian (1402-1471), Thomas Walden (1375-1430), Jean Driedo (condemned Luther’s teachings in 1519), John Ferus, and Jacobus Faber Stapulensis (1455-1536) could all be cited as contradicting Trent’s claim to represent tradition on the apocrypha.

Sample quotes that show the official catholic view of apocrypha was the Protestant view of apocrypha

Origen (AD 185?-252)

Origen does not support the apocryphal books of Rome or the Eastern Orthodox church.730

Council of Laodicea (AD 363)

As has already been mentioned, the Council of Laodicea’s list of books excludes the Roman Catholic apocrypha.731

Hilary of Poitiers (AD 300-368)

Hilary of Poitiers also rejected the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox apocryphal books.732

Athanasius (AD 296-373)

After listing the books of the canon, Athanasius proceeds to say that these Scriptures are sufficient. Then he lists a second class of books that the church has approved, but which are not in the canon: the apocrypha.

These are the fountains of salvation, that he who thirsteth may be satisfied with the words they contain. In these alone is proclaimed the doctrine of godliness. Let no man add to them, neither let him take ought from them. For on this point the Lord put to shame the Sadducees, saying, Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures.* And He reproved the Jews, saying, Search the Scriptures, for they testify of Me.

But for greater exactness, I add this also, considering it necessary so to write; that there are other books besides these, not indeed included in the Canon, but appointed by the Fathers to be read by those who are come of late, wishing for admonition and instruction in godliness. The Wisdom of Solomon, and the Wisdom of Sirachh, and Esther, and Judith, and Tobit, and that which is called the Doctrine of the Apostles, and the Shepherd. But the former, my brethren, are included in the Canon, the latter being [merely] read; nor is there any mention of apocryphal writings. But this is an invention of heretics, writing them to favour their own views, bestowing upon them their approbation, and assigning to them a date, and producing them as ancient writings, that thereby they might find occasion to lead astray the simple.733

Cyril of Jerusalem (AD 313-386)

Cyril’s list of canonical books also excludes the apocryphal books of Rome and the Eastern Orthodox Church,734 and he explicitly says, “read none of the apocryphal writings.”

Gregory of Nazianzus (AD 329-389)

Yet another father who rejected the apocrypha.735

Amphilochius of Iconium (AD 394-403)

Amphilochius clearly rejected the apocrypha in his list of books in the canon.736

Epiphenius (AD 310-403)

The list of canonical books that Epiphenius writes down does not line up with the canon of Rome or the Eastern Orthodox Church.737

Rufinus (AD 340-410)

Rufinus clearly did not include the apocrypha of the Roman Catholic Church or the Eastern Orthodox Church. Here is his canonical list:

  1. Of the Old Testament, “…therefore, first of all there have been handed down five books of Moses, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; Then Jesus Nave, (Joshua the son of Nun), The Book of Judges together with Ruth; then four books of Kings (Reigns), which the Hebrews reckon two; the Book of Omissions, which is entitled the Book of Days (Chronicles), and two books of Ezra (Ezra and Nehemiah), which the Hebrews reckon one, and Esther; of the Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel; moreover of the twelve (minor) Prophets, one book; Job also and the Psalms of David, each one book. Solomon gave three books to the Churches, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticles. These comprise the books of the Old Testament.

Of the New there are four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John; the Acts of the Apostles, written by Luke; fourteen Epistles of the Apostle Paul, two of the Apostle Peter, one of James, brother of the Lord and Apostle, one of Jude, three of John, the Revelation of John. These are the books which the Fathers have comprised within the Canon, and from which they would have us deduce the proofs of our faith.

But it should be known that there are also other books which our fathers call not “Canonical” but “Ecclesiastical:” that is to say, Wisdom, called the Wisdom of Solomon, and another Wisdom, called the Wisdom of the Son of Syrach, which last-mentioned the Latins called by the general title Ecclesiasticus, designating not the author of the book, but the character of the writing. To the same class belong the Book of Tobit, and the Book of Judith, and the Books of the Maccabees. In the New Testament the little book which is called the Book of the Pastor of Hermas, [and that] which is called The Two Ways, or the Judgment of Peter; all of which they would have read in the Churches, but not appealed to for the confirmation of doctrine. The other writings they have named “Apocrypha.” These they would not have read in the Churches.738

Note that he was willing to call the apocrypha “Eclessiastical” books, but not “Canonical” books.

Jerome, the translator of the Latin Vulgate (AD 347-420)

The translator of the Latin Vulgate (Jerome) said this about the apocrypha:

Let her avoid all apocryphal writings, and if she is led to read such not by the truth of the doctrines which they contain but out of respect for the miracles contained in them; let her understand that they are not really written by those to whom they are ascribed, that many faulty elements have been introduced into them, and that it requires infinite discretion to look for gold in the midst of dirt.739

This preface to the Scriptures may serve as a “helmeted” introduction to all the books which we turn from Hebrew into Latin, so that we may be assured that what is not found in our list must be placed amongst the Apocryphal writings. Wisdom, therefore, which generally bears the name of Solomon, and the book of Jesus, the Son of Sirach, and Judith, and Tobias, and the Shepherd are not in the canon.740

…the book of Daniel, which in Hebrew contains neither the history of Susanna, nor the hymn of the three youths, nor the fables of Bel and the Dragon…741

As, then, the Church reads Judith, Tobit, and the books of Maccabees, but does not admit them among the canonical Scriptures, so let it read these two volumes for the edification of the people, not to give authority to doctrines of the Church.742

Augustine (AD 354-430)

He speaks of “The fact that the canon of our Scriptures is definitively closed…”743

While he initially received the apocrypha as Scripture, in his retractions he seems to have changed his mind. For example, he says,

Moreover, I do not seem to have correctly called prophetic the words in this passage: “Why is earth and ashes proud?” for the book in which this is read is not the work of one of whom we can be certain that he should be called a prophet.744

Thus he at least repudiated Ecclesiasticus.

Pope Gregory the Great (AD 450-604)

What is particularly embarrassing for Rome’s view on tradition is that Pope Gregory the Great explicitly says that 1 Maccabees is not canonical. In his Book of Morals, which he completed after becoming Pope, he writes:

With reference to which particular we are not acting irregularly, if from the books, though not Canonical, yet brought out for the edifying of the Church, we bring forward testimony. Thus Eleazar in the battle smote and brought down an elephant, but fell under the very beast that he killed [1 Macc. 6, 46]…745

Rome claims that he wrote that portion before he was pope. But the fact of the matter is that he finished writing the book after he was pope and had it published after he was pope. So he clearly endorsed his earlier writing when he was pope.

Glossa Ordinaria (last revision c. AD 1498)

The Prologue to the Gloss Ordinaria gives a discussion of why the apocrypha are not canonical (see earlier quote in this section). It then gives an authoritative list of every book that belongs in the Old Testament canon (which equals the Protestant canon) and lists those books which are non-canonical (which includes the Apocrypha found in Rome and Eastern Orthodoxy).

These are the books that are not in the canon, which the church includes as good and useful books, but not canonical. Among them are some of more, some of less authority. For Tobit, Judith, and the books of Maccabees, also the book of Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus, are strongly approved by all. Thus Augustine, in book two of De Doctrina Christiana, counts the first three among canonical books; concerning Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus, he says they deserved to be received as authoritative and should be numbered among the prophetic books; concerning the books of Maccabees, in book 18 of the City of God, speaking of the books of Ezra, he says that, although the Jews do not consider them canonical, the church considers them canonical because of the passions of certain martyrs and powerful miracles. Of less authority are Baruch and Third and Fourth Ezra. For Augustine makes no mention of them in the place cited above, while he included (as I have said) other apocryphal works among the canonical. Rufinus as well, in his exposition of the creed, and Isidore, in book 6 of the Etymologies, where they repeat this division of Jerome, mentioned nothing of these other books. And that we might enumerate the apocryphal books in the order in which they appear in this Bible, even though they have been produced in a different order, first come the third and fourth books of Ezra. They are called Third and Fourth Ezra because, before Jerome, Greeks and Latins used to divide the book of Ezra into two books, calling the words of Nehemiah the second book of Ezra. These Third and Fourth Ezra are, as I have said, of less authority among all non- canonical books. Hence Jerome, in his prologue to the books of Ezra, calls them dreams. They are found in very few Bible manuscripts; and in many printed Bibles only Third Ezra is found. Second is Tobit, a very devout and useful book. Third is Judith, which Jerome says in his prologue had been counted by the Nicene Council in the number of holy scriptures. Fourth is the book of Wisdom, which almost all hold that Philo of Alexandria, a most learned Jew, wrote. Fifth is the book of Jesus son of Sirach, which is called Ecclesiasticus. Sixth is Baruch, as Jerome says in his prologue to Jeremiah. Seventh is the book of Maccabees, divided into first and second books…Further, it should be known that in the book of Esther, only those words are in the canon up to that place where we have inserted: the end of the book of Esther, as far as it is in Hebrew. What follows afterward is not in the canon. Likewise in Daniel, only those words are in the canon up to that place where we have inserted: The prophet Daniel ends. What follows afterward is not in the canon.746

Throughout the book, when an apocryphal portion begins, there is a note that says, “Here begins the book of Tobit which is not in the canon,”747 or “Here begins the book of Judith which is not in the canon,”748 etc.

Church fathers on the connection between prophecy and canon and the definitive closing of the canon

Summary statement

We will now examine whether church fathers agree with the prophecy-canon thesis that I have proposed. This will admittedly be the weakest section of this chapter since the early church fathers were almost as divided on the issue of continuing prophecy as the Reformers were at the time of the Reformation. So while a cessationist theology was common among early church fathers and became the dominant viewpoint in later centuries, charismatics can claim at least some church fathers (like Tertullian and Eusebius).

Nevertheless, we will see that Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox claims to an authoritative continuing revelation were absolutely rejected by the catholic church of the first thousand years. There is no basis in historical theology for the claim of Trent that the church had the authority to infallibly add books to the Bible by divine revelation. The catholic church believed in a closed canon that served as the exclusive authority and the sufficient authority for the church. The church fathers said “the canon of Scripture is complete” (see previous section for quotes).

Having said that, the thesis this book has set forth was a pervasive position in the church of the first thousand years and is not novel. I will now seek to show that historical theology substantiates my interpretation.

Summary of cessationist scholarship

Charismatics can appeal to a handful fathers like Eusebius,749 who mistakenly thought that prophecy would continue until the Second Coming of Christ. But even these church fathers differed rather markedly from modern charismatics like Wayne Grudem. For example, when a self-proclaimed prophet was determined to be in error, he was rejected en toto by the early church. There was no winnowing of good from bad prophecies within one prophet. Instead, he was either a good prophet or a false prophet.750 Epiphanius insisted that New Testament prophets like Agabus were 100% inerrant.751 Farnall shows how this viewpoint was pervasive: “In the early church any error in a prophecy indicated that a false prophet was prophesying.”752

Likewise, New Testament prophets (if they were thought to exist) were treated as identical to Old Testament prophets. For example, Eusebius cites an “Anonymous” church father who discredited the Montanists because they did not line up with the example of Old Testament prophets. He cites this as the way the church handled false prophets.

Thus the early church used Old Testament prophets and prophecy as a model for New Testament prophets and prophecy. If New Testament prophets did not conform to the pattern of Old Testament prophets, they were to be rejected as false. Here the understanding of a direct continuity between Old Testament and New Testament prophets is seen in the early church.753

Likewise Justin Martyr claimed that New Testament prophets were identical to Old Testament prophets,754 and their presence with the church (as witnessed by the New Testament writings) was proof that the Spirit had left Judaism and had come to the church. Farnall’s commentary on Martyr states,

By this statement one may infer that Justin Martyr viewed the New Testament prophetic gift as a direct continuation of the gift as it was practiced in the Old Testament. The same gift of prophecy seen in the Old Testament was transferred to the church with the advent of Messiah.755

So when Montanism began to claim new prophecies in AD 156, the church applied the standards laid out in the Old Testament and found Montanism to be false for three reasons: 1) They were not rational like Old Testament prophets. 2) They did not have accurate interpretations of Scripture like Old Testament prophets did. 3) Some of their prophecies did not come true. This was the criteria used in the Old Testament, and substantiates the thesis of prophecy set forth in my book. Farnell says,

In summary the early postapostolic church judged the genuineness of New Testament prophets by Old Testament prophetic standards. Prophets in the New Testament era who were ecstatic, made wrong applications of Scripture, or prophesied falsely were considered false prophets because such actions violated Old Testament stipulations regarding what characterized a genuine prophet of God (Deut 13:1–5; 18:20–22). This idea is reinforced by the belief among some in the early church that the Old Testament prophetic gift had been transferred to the church in light of the coming of Messiah (cf. Acts 2:17–21 and Joel 2:28–30). The early church affirmed the idea of a direct continuity between Old Testament and New Testament prophets and prophetic standards. Montanism’s “newness” as prophecy centered in its sharp departure from norms of prophecy seen in the Old Testament. Becoming alarmed by such a departure, the early church fought against and repudiated it.756

Just as happened with errors related to Theology, Christology, and Pneumatology, errors related to spiritual gifts led the church to study the issue of charismatic gifts more closely and to eventually embrace cessationism with regard to prophecy and apostleship. Bishops in Asia Minor excommunicated the Montanists in AD 177. Klawater summarizes this period, saying, “By about A.D. 177, the churches in Asia and Phrygia had rejected the New Prophecy. By the end of the second century, the New Prophecy was being combated also at Hieropolis (Phrygia), Antioch (Syria), and Ancyra (Galatia).”757 The Council of Constantinople declared the charismatic movement of Montanism to be a heresy that amounted to paganism. Hill claims that “the repudiation of Montanism marks the effective end of prophecy in the Church.”758 As happened with the doctrines of the Trinity and the nature of Christ, sincerely held errors forced the church to clarify the absolute cessation of any authoritative prophecy.

Letting the church fathers speak for themselves on a canon closed by the apostles and prophets

Clement of Rome (AD 35-99?)

Clement’s only references to “prophecy” or “prophets” is to the inspired Scriptures (1 Clem. 12:8; 17:1; 43:1). He uses the terms just as I have. In addition he only appeals to the authority of Scripture.759

Ignatius (AD 35-108)

Ignatius claims that New Testament prophets had the same Spirit as the apostles and that both prophets and apostles were vehicles of “the Author of knowledge.” He parallels the Spirit’s work as being the same in Moses, the prophets and the apostles.

I do also love the prophets as those who announced Christ, and as being partakers of the same Spirit with the apostles. For as the false prophets and the false apostles drew [to themselves] one and the same wicked, deceitful, and seducing spirit; so also did the prophets and the apostles receive from God, through Jesus Christ, one and the same Holy Spirit, who is good, and sovereign, and true, and the Author of [saving] knowledge. For there is one God of the Old and New Testament, “one Mediator between God and men,” for the creation of both intelligent and sensitive beings, and in order to exercise a beneficial and suitable providence [over them]. There is also one Comforter, who displayed His power in Moses, and the prophets, and apostles.760

Notice that Ignatius spoke in the past tense about these prophets and apostles. Second, the prophets are grouped with the apostles. Third, what they produced is the same as what all prophets have produced, for it is the same Author “of the Old and New Testament” who displayed His power in Moses, and the prophets, and apostles.” This is not continuationism. Elsewhere, he clearly distinguishes between the subsidiary authority of current bishops and the revelatory authority of the apostolic age:

I do not enjoin you in the manner of Peter and Paul. They were Apostles, I am a condemned man.761

Furthermore, Ignatius distinguishes between the “Apostolic age” and what continues after the apostolic age. Only the ordinary gifts continue:

Though there has been a change of title, the functions exercised by the threefold ministry of bishops, presbyters, and deacons are a continuation of the functions exercised in the Apostolic age by Apostles, presbyter-bishops, and deacons.762

Justin Martyr (AD 103-165)

Justin Martyr claims the absence of any prophet after the apostolic age.

But after the manifestation and death of our Jesus Christ in your nation, there was and is nowhere any prophet: nay, further, you ceased to exist under your own king, your land was laid waste, and forsaken like a lodge in a vineyard; and the statement of Scripture, in the mouth of Jacob, ‘And He shall be the desire of nations, ‘meant symbolically His two advents, and that the nations would believe in Him; which facts you may now at length discern. For those out of all the nations who are pious and righteous through the faith of Christ, look for His future appearance.763

Charismatics like to quote Justin as saying, “For the prophetical gifts remain with us, even to the present time.” (chapter LXXII). But if you read the whole discussion you will see that Justin is saying that the Jews have no more prophets bringing Scriptures but in contrast the church was given prophets and their “prophetic writings” are with us till today. God stopped revealing things to the Jews hundreds of years before Christ, but when the Messiah came, God revealed much about Him and about church conduct. Those are the “prophetical gifts” that the church has and which are absent from the Jews.

Secondly, Justin speaks of the “prophetic word” as being Scripture (see chapter LVI, LXXVII, LXXXV, CX, CXII). Justin Martyr repeatedly appeals to the authority of “prophetic writings,” and “prophetic passages,” and the “prophetic word,” and it is always Scripture that he is appealing to. This is quite contrary to Grudem’s thesis. For example, in Martyr’s Hortatory Address to the Greeks, Justin Martyr says,

To him [Moses] first did God communicate that divine and prophetic gift which in those days descended upon the holy men, and him also did He first furnish that he might be our teacher in religion, and then after him the rest of the prophets, who both obtained the same gift as he, and taught us the same doctrines concerning the same subjects. These we assert to have been our teachers, who taught us nothing from their own human conception, but from the gift vouchsafed to them by God from above.764

It is clear that though we possess the gifts of the revelation (that is, the Scriptures), these New Testament prophets were in the past tense “in those days.” It is also clear that for Justin, the New Testament prophetic gifts are identical to the prophetic gift that Moses received. It is also clear that he is including Moses and the later prophets as his teachers. Charismatics have taken Justin Martyr out of context. Speaking of the writers of Scripture, Justin says,

A long time ago, long before the time of those reputed philosophers, there lived blessed men who were just and loved by God, men who spoke through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and predicted events that would take place in the future, which events are now taking place. We call these men the Prophets. They alone knew the truth and communicated it to men, whom they neither deferred to nor feared. With no desire for personal glory, they reiterated only what they heard and saw when inspired by the Holy Spirit. Their writings are still extant, and whoever reads them with the proper faith will profit greatly in his knowledge of the origin and end of things, and of any other matter that a philosopher should know. In their writings they gave no proof at that time of their statements, for, as reliable witnesses of the truth, they were beyond proof; but the happenings that have taken place and are now taking place force you to believe their words. They also are worthy of belief because of the miracles which they performed, for they exalted God, the Father and Creator of all things, and made known Christ, His Son, who was sent by Him. This the false prophets, who are filled with an erring and unclean spirit, have never done nor even do now, but they undertake to perform certain wonders to astound men and they glorify the demons and spirits of error. Above all, beseech God to open to you the gates of light, for no one can perceive or understand these truths unless he has been enlightened by God and His Christ.765

Again, these prophets existed a long time ago, though we hear them through their writings. Justin affirms that without the prophets there can be no knowledge, and what prophets speak and write, they do so by inspiration. Prophets for Justin are men with divine inspiration who impart necessary knowledge of God and of true revelation.

From every point of view, therefore, it must be seen that in no other way than only from the prophets who teach us by divine inspiration, is it at all possible to learn anything concerning God and the true religion.766

Muratorian Fragment (AD 170)

The Muratorian Fragment767 was written during the period of the Montanist controversy, and it draws a clear line in the sand - anything written after the death of the apostles and the last of the prophets in the first century is automatically false prophecy and cannot be treated as canonical. Heine states that, “The Roman church did not argue with the Montanists about true or false prophecy, nor about rational versus ecstatic prophecy. It refused to grant the possibility of any prophecy after the apostles.”768 This document obviously reflects a broad church consensus that had developed by AD 170. The relevant portion of the text states:

Hermas wrote the Shepherd very recently, in our times, in the city of Rome, while bishop Pius, his brother, was occupying the [episcopal] chair of the church of the city of Rome. And therefore it ought indeed to be read; but it cannot be read publicly to the people in church either among the Prophets, whose number is complete, or among the Apostles, for it is after [their] time.769

Note the clear cessationism of both apostles and prophets. Note also the connection of prophecy to the inspired Scripture. This early church document attributes the writing of the New Testament to both “apostles” and “prophets.” Furthermore, the Muratorian Fragment explicitly says that the number of the prophets “is complete.” This is a clear rejection of continuing prophecy. It rejected “The Shepherd of Hermes” as non-canonical because prophecy had ceased. It rejected anything post-apostolic because even good books must be distinguished from “the Prophets, whose number is complete” and from “the apostles, for it is after their time.”

This is a strong affirmation that New Testament prophecy was normative and on a level with apostolic writings. We will be seeing many other church fathers making the same connection - canonicity is dependent on either apostolicity or propheticity.

Dionysius of Corinth (AD ?-171?)

Dionysius distinguished his letters from the “Scriptures of the Lord” lest anyone think that there were new canonical books. This phrase, “Scriptures of the Lord” speaks to a body of books distinct from the Old Testament that were already acknowledged as being a set canon. He was not waiting for the church to determine what was Scripture. He already knew it to be a closed body of literature.

Theophilus of Antioch (c. AD 180)

It would be acting according to demonic inspiration to follow the thinking of the human mind and to think there could be anything divine apart from the authority of the Scriptures.770

This is a clear rejection of any other form of revelation being authoritative in the church.

Anonymous critic of Montanism (c. AD 196)

Eusebius quotes an unknown father who was opposing Montanism:

For a long and protracted time, my dear Abercius Marcellus, I have been urged by you to compose a treatise against the sect of those called after Miltiades, but until now I was somewhat reluctant, not from any lack of ability to refute the lie and testify to the truth, but from timidity and scruples lest I might seem to some to be adding to the writings or injunctions of the word of the new covenant of the gospel, to which no one who has chosen to live according to the gospel itself can add and from which he cannot take away.771

This clear reference to Revelation 22:18-29 shows that this writer interpreted those words the same way this book has. He treats the canon as closed. Furthermore, he refers to the writings “of the new covenant” as if it is a body of literature in parallel to the writings of the old covenant.

Gaius (c. 200)

Eusebius also records a debate between Gaius and some Montanist heretics. The Montanists claimed to have new prophetic revelations from God and new prophetic writings. Gaius opposed these ideas, making the claim that “composing new Scriptures” was “recklessness and audacity.” Why would it be recklessness and audacity if both the canon and the office of prophet were open? But Gaius’ comments could be equally made against the decision of the Council of Trent.

And there has reached us also a Dialogue of Gaius, a very learned person (which was set a-going at Rome in the time of Zephyrinus), with Proclus the champion of the heresy of the Phrygians. In which, when curbing the recklessness and audacity of his opponents in composing new Scriptures, he mentions only thirteen epistles of the holy Apostle [Paul], not numbering the Epistle to the Hebrews with the rest;772 seeing that even to this day among the Romans there are some who do not consider it to be the Apostle’s.773

Irenaeus (AD 130-202)

In the same way, charismatics like to quote Irenaeus as saying,

In like manner we do also hear many brethren in the Church, who possess prophetic gifts, and who through the Spirit speak all kinds of languages, and bring to light for the general benefit the hidden things of men, and declare the mysteries of God, whom also the apostle terms ‘spiritual,’ they being spiritual because they partake of the Spirit, and not because their flesh has been stripped off and taken away, and because they have become purely spiritual.774

While Irenaeus may have been one of the handful of fathers who believed in tongues and some sort of ongoing prophecy (see my introductory comments to this section), such a position would still need to be reconciled with the numerous quotes from these same authors that show a completed revelation to which nothing can be added. For example, Irenaeus says,

Now, in the first place, it is loss to wander from the truth, and to imagine that as being the case which is not; then again, as there shall be no light punishment [inflicted] upon him who either adds or subtracts anything from the Scripture…775

In context he was dealing with the fact that it would be impossible to know anything about the Antichrist (even his name) by revelation when the Scripture did not provide it. So this would be a clear statement against any kind of authoritative revelation such as Rome or Eastern Orthodoxy claim to have.

But having said this, some commentators believe that Irenaeus himself was a cessationist. I am not strongly opinionated one way or the other, but they point out two interesting facts:

  1. As the editor points out, “The old Latin has ‘audivimus,’ have heard.”776 It is in the past tense as if these things used to be, not as if it was presently going on. While that conflicts with the Greek fragment of this section that we have, the past tense does indeed fit the whole flow of his argument, which is their next point:
  2. When taken in context,777 the larger quote is not documenting spiritual gifts, but is using a passage related to spiritual gifts to support his argument against the Gnostics on the importance of the body. Gnostics thought that to be spiritual one needs to escape the body, but Paul argues 1) that God created the body, so the body could not be bad; 2) that the body itself was “moulded after the image of God”; 3) that God used the body to minister spiritual gifts; 4) that being “perfect” in “wisdom” (“We speak wisdom among them that are perfect,”), can include spiritual things done with a body; 5) that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. The sub-argument is that “we heard” that even the spiritually mature who lived in the time of the apostles also exercised spiritual gifts in the body.

But whichever interpretation of Irenaeus is correct, he clearly did not mean what Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox mean by his statement - that the prophetic gifts continue to give inspired and authoritative guidance to the church after the apostolic age. Three things are crystal clear (as demonstrated in the first section of this chapter):

  1. As Kelly worded it, “The whole point of his (Irenaeus’) teaching was, in fact, that Scripture and the Church’s unwritten tradition are identical in content.”778
  2. Any purported revelation that added information to the Bible was considered heretical or speculative. As Irenaeus worded it, “Such, then, is their [the heretics’] system, which neither the prophets announced, nor the Lord taught, nor the apostles delivered, but of which they boast that beyond all others they have a perfect knowledge. They gather their views from other sources than the Scriptures…”779 Against the Gnostics, who claimed to have secret information from the apostles not found in the Bible, Irenaeus insisted that any “tradition” gathered “from other sources than the Scriptures…” had no authority and was speculative.780
  3. As we have previously shown, Irenaeus’ epistemology was that we can know nothing for sure without the Scripture. So even if Irenaeus believed in ongoing prophecy, it was not to gain new knowledge. As Hanson summarizes the evidence: “The whole purpose of Irenaeus, at least, as we can reliably collect it from the prefaces and endings of each of the books of Adversus Heareses, was to refute the Gnostics from Scripture… Irenaeus will allow Scripture alone as his source of information about God, and if Scripture tells us nothing, then we can know nothing.”781

Irenaeus said, “It is not possible that the Gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are.”782 Certainly the Gospel canon was closed or this statement would make no sense.

Origen (AD 185?-252/3)

Origen already spoke of a canon of Scripture in the mid-third century:

No man ought, for the confirmation of doctrines, to use books which are not canonized Scriptures…783

Rome believes that the canon was open-ended; Origen believed that canonization was a done deal, not a process.

Origin’s list of the final canon of the New Testament contains all twenty-seven books of the Protestant canon. He first lists them using the metaphor of trumpets blowing before the walls of Jericho:

So too our Lord Jesus Christ… sent his apostles as priests carrying well-wrought trumpets. First Matthew sounded the priestly trumpet in his Gospel, Mark also, and Luke, and John, each gave forth a strain on their priestly trumpets. Peter moreover sounds with the two trumpets of his Epistles; James also and Jude. Still the number is incomplete, and John gives forth the trumpet sound through his Epistles [and Apocalypse]; and Luke while describing the deeds of the apostles. Latest of all, moreover, that one comes who said, “I think that God has set us forth as the apostles last of all” (1 Cor 4:9), and thundering on the fourteen trumpets of his Epistles he threw down, even to their very foundations, the wall of Jericho, that is to say, all the instruments of idolatry and the dogmas of the philosophers. (Hom. Josh. 7.1)

His analogy implies an ending of canon with the last of the trumpets. He also lists the same twenty-seven books using the imagery of Isaac’s servants helping him dig wells:

Isaac, therefore, digs also new wells, nay rather Isaac’s servants dig them. Isaac’s servants are Matthew, Mark, Luke, John; his servants are Peter, James, Jude; the apostle Paul is his servant. These all dig the wells of the New Testament. (Hom. Gen. 13.2.)

In his homilies on Joshua Origen claims that the net of the canon was not completely filled when Christ came to earth but it was completely filled with the age of the Apostles. This shows that the canon was recognized to be a closed canon over a century before Athanasius’ famous Festal Letter.

…before our Savior Jesus Christ this net was not wholly filled; for the net of the law and prophets had to be completed… And the texture of the net has been completed in the Gospels, and in the words of Christ through the Apostles. (Comm. Matt. 10.12)

Anastasius of Antioch (AD ?-302)

It is manifest that those things are not to be inquired into, which Scripture has passed over into silence. For the Holy Spirit has dispensed and administered to us all things which conduce to our profit.784

This seems to be a clear statement of cessationism. Certainly no new truth can be given in his view.

Victorian of Petau (d. c. AD 304)

The apostles through signs, wonders and mighty deeds overcame the unbelievers. After this the faith of the Church was given the comfort of the interpreted prophetic scriptures.785

Note the phrase “prophetic scriptures.” Contrary to Grudem, most church fathers believed the New Testament Scriptures were given through prophets.

Eusebius (AD 260-340)

Though we have already mentioned that Eusebius seems to hold to some sort of continuing prophecy, he clearly judged the Montanist claims to prophecy by Old Testament standards. And because the prophecies did not meet the criteria, the prophets were rejected as false prophets. See Eusebius’ History, chapter 15.

This chapter calls the prophecies of Montanus “false prophecies” or “so-called prophecies.” Philip Schaff comments:

Montanism must not be looked upon as a heresy in the ordinary sense of the term. The movement lay in the sphere of life and discipline rather than in that of theology. Its fundamental proposition was the continuance of divine revelation… Two noble ladies (Priscilla and Maximilla) attached themselves to Montanus, and had visions and prophesied in the same way. These constituted the three original prophets of the sect, and all that they taught was claimed to be of binding authority on all. They were quite orthodox, accepted fully the doctrinal teachings of the Catholic Church, and did not pretend to alter in any way the revelation given by Christ and his apostles. But they claimed that some things had not been revealed by them, because at that early stage the Church was not able to bear them; but that such additional revelations were now given, because the fullness of time had come which was to precede the second coming of Christ. These revelations had to do not at all with theology, but wholly with matters of life and discipline. They taught a rigid asceticism over against the growing worldliness of the Church, severe discipline over against its laxer methods, and finally the universal priesthood of believers (even female), and their right to perform all the functions of church officers, over against the growing sacerdotalism of the Church. They were thus in a sense reformers, or perhaps reactionaries is a better term, who wished to bring back, or to preserve against corruption, the original principles and methods of the Church… They looked upon their prophets—supernaturally called and endowed by the Spirit—as supreme in the ChurchBut although it failed and passed away, Montanism had a marked influence on the development of the Church. In the first place, it aroused a general distrust of prophecy, and the result was that the Church soon came to the conviction that prophecy had entirely ceased. In the second place, the Church was led to see the necessity of emphasizing the historical Christ and historical Christianity over against the Montanistic claims of a constantly developing revelation, and thus to put great emphasis upon the Scripture canon. In the third place, the Church had to lay increased stress upon the organization—upon its appointed and ordained officers—over against the claims of irregular prophets who might at any time arise as organs of the Spirit. The development of Christianity into a religion of the book and of the organization was thus greatly advanced, and the line began to be sharply drawn between the age of the apostles, in which there had been direct supernatural revelations, and the later age, in which such revelations had disappeared.786

Athanasius (AD 300?-375)

Some (like Hermius Sozoman) have claimed that Athanasius “was endowed with the gift of prophecy.” However, Athanasius himself denied that, and claimed that prophecy had ceased in AD 70. He said,

But perhaps, being unable, even they, to fight continually against plain facts, they will, without denying what is written, maintain that they are looking for these things, and that the Word of God is not yet come. For this it is on which they are for ever harping, not blushing to brazen it out in the face of plain facts.

  1. But on this one point, above all, they shall be all the more refuted, not at our hands, but at those of the most wise Daniel, who marks both the actual date, and the divine sojourn of the Saviour, saying: “Seventy weeks are cut short upon thy people, and upon the holy city, for a full end to be made of sin, and for sins to be sealed up, and to blot out iniquities, and to make atonement for iniquities, and to bring everlasting righteousness, and to seal vision and prophet, and to anoint a Holy of Holies; and thou shalt know and understand from the going forth of the word to restore and to build Jerusalem unto Christ the Prince”
  2. Perhaps with regard to the other (prophecies) they may be able even to find excuses and to put off what is written to a future time. But what can they say to this, or can they face it at all? Where not only is the Christ referred to, but He that is to be anointed is declared to be not man simply, but Holy of Holies; and Jerusalem is to stand till His coming, and thenceforth, prophet and vision cease in Israel.
  3. David was anointed of old, and Solomon and Ezechias; but then, nevertheless, Jerusalem and the place stood, and prophets were prophesying: God and Asaph and Nathan; and, later, Esaias and Osee and Amos and others. And again, the actual men that were anointed were called holy, and not Holy of Holies.
  4. But if they shield themselves with the captivity, and say that because of it Jerusalem was not, what can they say about the prophets too? For in fact when first the people went down to Babylon, Daniel and Jeremy were there, and Ezechiel and Aggæus and Zachary were prophesying.

So the Jews are trifling, and the time in question, which they refer to the future, is actually come. For when did prophet and vision cease from Israel, save when Christ came, the Holy of Holies? For it is a sign, and an important proof, of the coming of the Word of God, that Jerusalem no longer stands, nor is any prophet raised up nor vision revealed to them, — and that very naturally.

  1. For when He that was signified was come, what need was there any longer of any to signify Him? When the truth was there, what need any more of the shadow? For this was the reason of their prophesying at all,—namely, till the true Righteousness should come, and He that was to ransom the sins of all. And this was why Jerusalem stood till then—namely, that there they might be exercised in the types as a preparation for the reality.
  2. So when the Holy of Holies was come, naturally vision and prophecy were sealed and the kingdom of Jerusalem ceased. For kings were to be anointed among them only until the Holy of Holies should have been anointed; and Jacob prophesies that the kingdom of the Jews should be established until Him, as follows: — “The ruler shall not fail from Juda, nor the Prince from his loins, until that which is laid up for him shall come; and he is the expectation of the nations.”
  3. Whence the Saviour also Himself cried aloud and said: “The law and the prophets prophesied until John.” If then there is now among the Jews king or prophet or vision, they do well to deny the Christ that is come. But if there is neither king nor vision, but from that time forth all prophecy is sealed and the city and temple taken, why are they so irreligious and so perverse as to see what has happened, and yet to deny Christ, Who has brought it all to pass? Or why, when they see even heathens deserting their idols, and placing their hope, through Christ, on the God of Israel, do they deny Christ, Who was born of the root of Jesse after the flesh and henceforth is King? For if the nations were worshipping some other God, and not confessing the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Moses, then, once more, they would be doing well in alleging that God had not come.
  4. But if the Gentiles are honouring the same God that gave the law to Moses and made the promise to Abraham, and Whose word the Jews dishonoured,—why are they ignorant, or rather why do they choose to ignore, that the Lord foretold by the Scriptures has shone forth upon the world, and appeared to it in bodily form, as the Scripture said: “The Lord God hath shined upon us;” and again: “He sent His Word and healed them;” and again: “Not a messenger, not an angel, but the Lord Himself saved them?”
  5. Their state may be compared to that of one out of his right mind, who sees the earth illumined by the sun, but denies the sun that illumines it. For what more is there for him whom they expect to do, when he is come? To call the heathen? But they are called already. To make prophecy, and king, and vision to cease? This too has already come to pass. To expose the godlessness of idolatry? It is already exposed and condemned. Or to destroy death? He is already destroyed.
  6. What then has not come to pass, that the Christ must do? What is left unfulfilled, that the Jews should now disbelieve with impunity? For if, I say,—which is just what we actually see,—there is no longer king nor prophet nor Jerusalem nor sacrifice nor vision among them, but even the whole earth is filled with the knowledge of God, and gentiles, leaving their godlessness, are now taking refuge with the God of Abraham, through the Word, even our Lord Jesus Christ, then it must be plain, even to those who are exceedingly obstinate, that the Christ is come, and that He has illumined absolutely all with His light, and given them the true and divine teaching concerning His Father.
  7. So one can fairly refute the Jews by these and by other arguments from the Divine Scriptures.787

Note that Athanasius gives exactly the same interpretation of Daniel 9 that I gave - that “seal up vision and prophet” means, “prophet and vision cease in Israel.” For Jews who are still awaiting prophecy to end, he says that there is no point in waiting: “To make prophecy, and king, and vision to cease? This too has already come to pass.”

Basil of Caesarea (330-379)

What is the mark of a Christian? Faith working by charity. What is the mark of faith? A sure conviction of the truth of the inspired words, not to be shaken by any process of reasoning, nor by the alleging of natural requirements, nor by the pretences of false piety. What is the mark of a faithful soul? To be in these dispositions of full acceptance on the authority of the words [of the Scripture], not venturing to reject anything nor making additions. For, if ‘all that is not of faith is sin,’ as the Apostle says, and ‘faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God,’ everything outside Holy Scripture, not being of faith, is sin.788

Epiphenius (AD 310-403)

Epiphenius argued strongly against the charismatic movement known as Montanism. He argued that true prophecy was inerrant, and said that Agabus’ prophecy was inerrant. He said,

A prophet always spoke with composure and understanding, and delivered his oracles by the Holy Spirit’s inspiration.789

He saw New Testament prophets as being the same as Old Testament prophets. He said,

We find then that every prophet, whether in the Old Testament or in the New, prophesies with understanding, as St. John said in Revelation: ‘The Lord revealed these things to his servants through his servant John, and, ‘Thus saith the Lord.’ The person who said this was sound of mind and understanding—see how he says the same thing as the Old Testament prophets who say, ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ and ‘the vision which he saw.’ But this Montanus, who has deceived his victims with his boast of being a prophet, describes things which are not consistent with sacred scripture.790

We see here a testing of supposed prophecy, and in fuller context a rejection of Montanus, not because of bad theology, but because his prophesied commands for life were legalistic and inconsistent with Scripture. Note too that Epiphanius believed that all true prophets spoke with authority - “Thus saith the Lord,” rather than tentatively, as Grudem claims.

Chrysostom (AD 347-407)

Chrysostom held that prophecy had completely ceased:

This whole place is very obscure: but the obscurity is produced by our ignorance of the facts referred to, and by their cessation, being such as then used to occur, but now no longer take place. And why do they not happen now? Why look now, the cause too of the obscurity hath produced us again another question: namely, why did they then happen, and now do so no more?791

Augustine (AD 354-430)

Therefore the prophecy of Haggai was not fulfilled in the rebuilding of that temple. For it can never be shown to have had so much glory after it was rebuilt as it had in the time of Solomon; yea, rather, the glory of that house is shown to have been diminished, first by the ceasing of prophecy, and then by the nation itself suffering so great calamities, even to the final destruction made by the Romans, as the things above-mentioned prove. But this house which pertains to the new testament is just as much more glorious as the living stones, even believing, renewed men, of which it is constructed are better. But it was typified by the rebuilding of that temple for this reason, because the very renovation of that edifice typifies in the prophetic oracle another testament which is called the new.792

In the same book he speaks of a “prophetic age,” “prophetic times,” and a “prophetic dispensation” as if those were a bygone age. In On the Trinity, chapter 19, Augustine says that the prophetic gifts are equally authoritative with apostolic gifts: “the one prophetic, the other apostolic; because both possess the authority of a divine utterance.793 In his work, On Catechizing the Uninstructed, Augustine speaks of Christ’s words in Matthew 10:16 as being “that prophetic word which the Lord spake.794

John Cassian (AD 360-435)

It is clear that John Cassian believed the canon was closed and that when the Apostles wrote the last book, God was “Completing His word…”

For, as you know, a Creed (Symbolum) gets its name from being a ‘collection.’ For what is called in Greek suvmbolo~ is termed in Latin ‘Collatio.’ But it is therefore a collection (collatio) because when the faith of the whole Catholic law was collected together by the apostles of the Lord, all those matters which are spread over the whole body of the sacred writings with immense fullness of detail, were collected together in sum in the matchless brevity of the Creed, according to the Apostle’s words: ‘Completing His word, and cutting it short in righteousness: because a short word shall the Lord make upon the earth.’ This then is the ‘short word’ which the Lord made, collecting together in few words the faith of both of His Testaments, and including in a few brief clauses the drift of all the Scriptures, building up His own out of His own, and giving the force of the whole law in a most compendious and brief formula. Providing in this, like a most tender father, for the carelessness and ignorance of some of his children, that no mind however simple and ignorant might have any trouble over what could so easily be retained in the memory (NPNF2, Vol. 11, John Cassian, On the Incarnation of Christ Against Nestorius, Book 6, Chapter 3).

Cyril of Alexandria (AD 376-444)

The following quotes of Cyril seem to indicate that the Scriptures are the only revelation the church now possesses.

That which the divine Scripture has not spoken, how shall we receive it, and reckon it among verities?795

It is necessary that we should follow the sacred Scriptures, in nothing going beyond what they sanction.796

It is impossible for us to say, or at all think anything concerning God, beyond what has been divinely declared by the divine oracles of the old and new testaments.797

What divine Scripture does not state very clearly must remain unknown and be passed over in silence.798

How can we prove and certify as true something which Sacred Scripture does not attest?799

Vincent of Lerins (AD ?-445)

the canon of Scripture is complete, and sufficient of itself for everything, and more than sufficient, what need is there to join with it the authority of the Church’s interpretation?800

Athanasius of Antioch (AD 594-631)

It is manifest that those things are not to be inquired into, which Scripture has passed over into silence. For the Holy Spirit has dispensed and administered to us all things which conduce to our profit.801

This seems to speak of a finality to the Spirit’s prophetic giving of information to the church. Where Scripture is silent, nothing more is given by the Holy Spirit.

Counter-evidence that some have raised

This is not to say that scholars have not tried to produced contrary evidence. Scholarly books have been written to show a kind of continuation of prophecy among the fathers802. Albert Sundberg claims that the church fathers did not see inspiration as anything unique to the canonical books, but saw their own writings as being inspired by the Spirit.803 Lee McDonald has recently said much the same in his massive work on the canon.804

Certainly some careless remarks by early writers could be taken in that way. For example the writer of 1 Clement said that his own letters were written “through the Holy Spirit.”805 But there is a vast difference between writing under the guidance and anointing of the Holy Spirit (something we all pray for) and writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

And the same writer made that distinction quite clearly in the same letter. Concerning Scripture, he said, “Look carefully into the Scriptures, which are the true utterances of the Holy Spirit. Observe that nothing of an unjust or counterfeit character is written in them.”806 He did not say that about his own writings. We have already seen that 1 Clement elsewhere distinguishes between the apostolic authority of the canonical books and his own writing. And other church fathers from the earliest times made a huge distinction between their own guidance by the Spirit (something that cessationists do not deny) and the inspiration of the apostles and prophets.

But it is clear that at least a handful of early authors spoke of both apostleship and prophecy as continuing. The Letter from the Church of Smyrna (probably late third century to early fourth century)807 is one such example. It describes the martyrdom of Polycarp in these words:

But the most admirable Polycarp, when he first heard [that he was sought for], was in no measure disturbed, but resolved to continue in the city. However, in deference to the wish of many, he was persuaded to leave it. He departed, therefore, to a country house not far distant from the city. There he stayed with a few [friends], engaged in nothing else night and day than praying for all men, and for the Churches throughout the world, according to his usual custom. And while he was praying, a vision presented itself to him three days before he was taken; and, behold, the pillow under his head seemed to him on fire. Upon this, turning to those that were with him, he said to them prophetically, “I must be burnt alive.”808

Later, when describing the change of execution from beasts to lions, the letter says,

Then it seemed good to them to cry out with one consent, that Polycarp should be burnt alive. For thus it behooved the vision which was revealed to him in regard to his pillow to be fulfilled, when, seeing it on fire as he was praying, he turned about and said prophetically to the faithful that were with him, “I must be burnt alive.”(p. 41)

Later the letter calls Polycarp “an apostolic and prophetic teacher.” (p. 42) So it is clear that this letter shows a belief in some kind of continuation of both apostleship and prophecy.

Yet the same church fathers that are quoted by charismatics as showing some continuation of prophecy give evidence of a sharp distinction between their guidance by the Holy Spirit and the authoritative revelation of Scripture. For example, Ignatius clearly distinguished his own authority from that of the apostles in many ways. He said, “I am not enjoining [commanding] you as Peter and Paul did. They were apostles, I am condemned.” (On Romans 4:4)

Irenaeus made it clear that the New Testament Scriptures were unique: “We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith.” Dionysius of Corinth (c. 17) seeks to make it crystal clear that his writings are different from “the Scriptures of the Lord” (Hist. eccl. 4.23.12). Indeed, dozens of quotes from the previous sections of this chapter make it crystal clear that they saw any post-AD 70 writings as being excluded from the canon.

So how are we to explain the evidences cited by the charismatics? I believe the fathers had definitional differences on this subject, not substantive differences. I too have experienced dreams, visions, premonitions, and other forms of remarkable guidance, and yet I believe that all apostleship and prophecy have ceased. I believe it because I am forced to that conclusion based on my exegesis of the Word of God. So I define the remarkable things Polycarp and I have experienced as one form of fallible non-authoritative guidance while some people define those same experiences as prophecy.

Just as we have shown that the African church of Augustine seemed to define the term “canon” differently from the majority of the church, there appears to be a minority of church fathers who defined the word “prophecy” differently. It is parallel to the definitional differences one sees in the Westminster Assembly on the same subject. A minority at the Westminster Assembly believed in ongoing prophecy, but they sharply distinguished that “prophecy” from the authoritative prophecies that produced the Scriptures and asserted that special revelation had ceased with the apostles and special revelation alone was authoritative.

One of the clearest books to delve into this muddied subject is The Westminster Confession of Faith and the Cessation of Special Revelation by Garnet Howard Milne.809 In appendix A I will seek to summarize some of his evidence on the differences of view at the Assembly and how it was that they were united in meaning, though holding to differences of definition. I provide that appendix because I believe it is parallel to the definitional differences that were held by the church fathers in the context of a united cessationism. Again, this shows that though Protestantism has been divided, it more closely parallels the ancient church than Rome does. The vast majority of church fathers in the first 1000 years would have been able to endorse the following statement from the Westminster Confession on the uniqueness of the canonical Scriptures:

I.1 ALTHOUGH the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence, do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet they are not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of his will, which is necessary unto salvation: therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his church; and afterwards, for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which maketh the holy scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God’s revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.

I.2. Under the name of Holy Scripture, or the word of God written, are now contained all the Books of the Old and New Testaments, which are these:810

And then it lists the 66 books of the Protestant canon. This was the faith of the true catholic church.

Cyril of Jerusalem, “The Catechetical Lectures of S. Cyril, Archbishop of Jerusalem,” in S. Cyril of Jerusalem, S. Gregory Nazianzen, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. R. W. Church and Edwin Hamilton Gifford, vol. 7, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1894), 26.

Appendix A - The Westminster Divines

Earlier in this book I mentioned that there were a minority of fathers in the early church who believed that prophecy had not passed away. Yet those same authors seem to affirm a kind of cessationism that parallels that held to by the delegates to the Westminster Assembly. This appendix is added lest Roman Catholics interpret this concession as a concession to any kind of authoritative revelation continuing. It is my belief that the catholic faith definitively rejected the idea of continuing authoritative revelation during the Montanist controversy (see chapter 10) just as all the delegates to the Westminster Assembly definitively rejected the idea of continuing authoritative revelation. It is my belief that the fathers of the first millennium would have been able to sign on to the following declaration:

I.1 ALTHOUGH the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence, do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet they are not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of his will, which is necessary unto salvation: therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his church; and afterwards, for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which maketh the holy scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God’s revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.

I.2. Under the name of Holy Scripture, or the word of God written, are now contained all the Books of the Old and New Testaments, which are these: (WCF 1:1-2)

And then comes a listing of the sixty-six books of the Bible.

With such a solid declaration of the cessation of authoritative revelation, one might suppose that all experiences of remarkable guidance that some early church fathers had would be dismissed. But not so. It appears that one can be a cessationist without denying these non-authoritative experiences of God’s guidance. This parallel between the delegates to the Westminster Assembly and the early fathers should help to explain why the affirmation of prophecy by a minority of church fathers does not in any way endorse the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox view of continuing revelation that is authoritative.

Cessationist author, Garnet Howard Milne, has written a groundbreaking book on the subject entitled, The Westminster Confession of Faith and the Cessation of Special Revelation: The Majority Puritan Viewpoint on Whether Extra-biblical Prophecy is Still Possible. The goal of his book is to argue that the Westminster divines were indeed Cessationist, and he seeks to answer claims to the opposite.

It is admitted by Milne that there were disagreements among the majority on the nature and scope of the Cessationism, with a small minority even using the term “prophecy”811 to describe non-authoritative illumination by the Spirit. Nevertheless, all the framers of the confession were very zealous to guard the integrity of the Scripture and to affirm the cessation of all authoritative revelation in any form. Milne argues that the majority also made a clear distinction between immediate revelation and mediate revelation:

Scott Murphy, in his dissertation on the Westminster doctrine of Scripture, defines “immediate” revelation as “an act occurring directly without an intervening agency and apart from all human means or cooperation.” “Mediate” revelation, on the other hand, is by definition, illumination through some means, understood by Reformed orthodoxy to involve at least human agency and the Scriptures. Westminster orthodoxy repeatedly denied that “immediate” revelation was still possible.812

However, even on this point, the Puritans were not always the most careful in their use of terms.

Puritan writings are also replete with mystical claims concerning the ‘immediate work’ of the Spirit, a term which potentially renders the ‘immediate/mediate’ distinction confusing. It appears that the Reformed orthodox generally understood the “immediate work” of the Spirit and “immediate revelation” to be two distinct processes.813

This book has sought to articulate a clearer exegetical basis for the Westminster’s Cessationism. It is admitted that it is only one possible defense of the Cessationism articulated in chapter 1 of the Westminster Confession of Faith. Nevertheless, what is beyond dispute is that all the divines believed that infallible inspiration had ceased with the apostles. They also denied that there could be any non-infallible revelation that purported to be authoritative, normative, or directive for the church. There are no authoritative revelations to be had today.

But beyond this consensus, there was a bewildering range of viewpoints at the Westminster Assembly.

  1. Though not representative of the divines as a whole, Westminster delegate, John Lightfoot not only said that the supernatural working of the Spirit had ceased, but also denied the need for “any work of the Spirit in the mind and heart for daily living,”814 and denied guidance beyond the propositional statements of Scripture.815 Most at the assembly took a more moderate position and distinguished between extraordinary and ordinary gifts, and affirmed at least that ordinary gifts continue to function.
  2. Of those who distinguished between ordinary and extraordinary, Lazarus Seaman would be representative of those who believed that there have been no apostles, evangelists, or prophets for sixteen hundred years (whether ordinary or extraordinary).816
  3. Others spoke of extraordinary apostles, prophets, and evangelists as having ceased, but not ordinary apostles, prophets, and evangelists.817
  4. Others like Thomas Baylie believed that the gift of faith ceased along with all other miraculous gifts.818 But there were many delegates who had various nuances of disagreement on miraculous gifts.
  5. Though not a delegate himself, John Owen is representative of at least some delegates in believing “that some gifts analogous to those miraculous gifts of the Spirit continue in the contemporary church,”819 and that God can even give premonitions and communications to believers through angels.820 This may be one of the reasons for the vigorous debates that occurred on 1Corinthians 14:3. Interestingly, during the debates for proof texts, only a minority of the delegates argued that “prophecy” in 1Corinthians 14:3 applied exclusively to extraordinary prophecy; most wishing a bit more fluidity.821 Thomas Manton might fit in this category, speaking of “secret suggestions,” “motions,” “instincts,” and “impulses,” but not being willing to speak of these as prophecy.822
  6. Some, like William Perkins, were “open but cautious” about extra-biblical revelation (mainly in the area of forewarning and guidance).823
  7. Others like William Strong, George Gillespie, Alexander Henderson, and Robert Blair believed strongly in predictive prophecy, and were willing to speak of Luther as an apostle and to speak of Knox, Wishart, and Scottish reformers as prophets, though of course going to great pains to distinguish such from the inspired prophets of the Bible.824 Samuel Rutherford said that “these extraordinary Prophets, and our ordinary Prophets and Pastors differ not in specie and nature,” and therefore the rules applying to prophets in the New Testament could with general equity be applied to ordinary gifts.825
  8. Finally, Milne cites William Bridge as an example of a Continuationist minority. However, there is evidence that even William Bridge considered himself a Cessationist. Milne himself points out that the Minutes of the debates show that Bridges believed that the “extraordinary” gifts of the Spirit had ceased.826 So it is clear that there was a wide range of opinion on how to interpret the gifts and offices listed in the New Testament.

Things get even more confusing when discussions are made of angelic communications, lots, visions, and miracles. Milne complains, “The question of ongoing prophecy in the seventeenth-century Puritan milieu is complicated by the prevalent idea that God communicated in a variety of ways that sometimes bordered on revelational prophecy and sometimes did not.”827 We will seek to give brief illustrations of some of these modes of guidance used by even some of the strictest Cessationists.

Milne says that “it is not hard to find examples of Westminster divines who admitted the ongoing ministry of revelation from the elect angels.”828 Obviously there were some like Lightfoot who would have rejected any communication from angels as the delusions of “enthusiasts.” Other Puritans were open but extremely cautious. They spoke of “secret suggestions” of angels as occurring, but pointed out that these suggestions were so hard to distinguish from our own imagination, that we ought to be cautious. For example, William Spurstowe describes in great detail the way in which both Satanic angels and elect angels can give “suggestions” and “motions” to man’s faculty, which man dimly picks up and uses.829 However, he warns that satanic suggestions often cannot be distinguished from heaven-sent “illapses,” and that it is also hard to distinguish the difference between demonic temptations and the temptations that arise from “the lustings and ebullations of depraved nature.”830 His exposition would tend to lead to a downplaying of these communications.

Others, while still cautious, were much more open to the communications of angels. John Maynard said, “For I cannot conceive, but that the good Angels should as well suggest good thoughts, as the evil Angels do evil thoughts… As for the godly, I am perswaded, they are many times directed strongly, by the secret suggestions of the Angels, for the avoiding of dangers, and the obtaining of good.”831 William Strong, who advocated the cessation of extraordinary prophets among men (though not ordinary prophets),832 saw angels as having a “spirit of Prophecy from Christ for the Churches sake.”833 Milne says, “The secret suggestion of angels, part of God’s special providence towards his church, was the usual and received explanation for the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot… Puritans frequently attributed the plan’s thwarting to angelic ”834 warnings of some sort. Yet many of those who affirmed angelic communication were among the most vigorous of Cessationists when it came to apostles, prophets, and evangelists. Milne summarizes their position as being that “The angels’ role in providence still continues, and even if angelic visions and appearances have ceased, angels still communicate with human beings.”

Of course, not all believed that angelic visions and appearances had ceased. This again illustrates that the Cessationism of the delegates cannot be simplistically evaluated.

Milne gives at least three quite different viewpoints among the Westminster divines on the subject of God-given dreams, though others have discerned a wider variation. Indeed, the quotations gathered by Milne suggest a wider variation of viewpoint:

  1. William Gouge and John Arrowsmith said that all revelatory dreams had ceased.
  2. William Carter was open to their continuation, but skeptical.835
  3. Though John Hacket believed that God continues to give dreams, he seemed to think that since there is no longer any inspired prophet to interpret the dreams, we ought to be hesitant about the interpretation. Nevertheless, he endorsed the dream of Augustine’s mother Monica as being genuine.836
  4. John Ley’s endorsement of the dreams of Jerome and Zwingli may fit into the previous category, but his statement that God can clarify doctrine by means of a dream,837 makes him less skeptical than Hackett. Nevertheless, Ley insisted that in comparison with the “light” of Scripture, these dreams are like smoke.
  5. Samuel Rutherford believed that dreams “provide sanctifying grace rather than revelation.”838
  6. Archibald Johnston (also called Lord Warriston), who took a leading part in drawing up the 1638 National Covenant, enthusiastically believed that God used dreams to provide guidance, and regarded dreams as both “providences” and “impressions” from God.839 Though he always tested dreams against the Scripture, and expected that God would confirm a dream through Scripture, yet he “was sure that God mediated his grace through dreams to provide concrete divine guidance.”840 Yet Milne argues that each of these positions was still consistent with Cessationism, “even though they continue to regard dreams as relevant for the contemporary Christian.”841
  7. Milne presents the views of William Bridge as being Continuationist rather than Cessationist, and says that “Bridge held a minority position in the debate concerning whether or not God still communicates his will through dreams, visions and voices.”842. Bridge saw eight “lights” in the Christian experience. “The ‘lights’ are respectively revelations or visions, dreams, impressions made upon the heart with or without the Word, experience, the law and light within, providence, reason and astrology.”843 Nevertheless, Bridge insisted that “there is no more light in them than what they do borrow” from the Scriptures.844 He also strongly warned that the Scriptures alone were authoritative, and cautioned about putting too much emphasis on these “lights.”845 Though Milne cites Bridges as a Continuationist, the Minutes of the debates show that Bridges believed that the “extraordinary” gifts of the Spirit had ceased.846 Also, it should be noted that for the next 100 years or so, there were many strict subscriptionist Scottish Presbyterians who believed that God continued to guide his people through dreams, and who did not see this as inconsistent with the Confession’s Cessationism. For example, Milne describes Thomas Gillespie (of a generation later) as “a strict Cessationist” Presbyterian,847 yet Gillespie affirmed that “divine dreams that excite to duty, and are premonitions of dangers to be avoided” are still available to contemporaries.848

A similar range of opinion can be found with regard to the use of lots. Some like Thomas Gataker saw the use of lots as completely passing away with the Urim and Thummim.849 But many (most?) Puritans regularly sought guidance by means of lots. Milne says, “Lots were generally held to be a more acceptable form of discerning God’s will…”850 Milne points out that Archibald Johnston used the casting of lots for guidance, “although the answers he obtained seldom helped to solve the perplexities of life, especially in matters that directly involved his family.”851 While this use of lots is mystifying to modern Cessationists, Milne does a good job of showing how the Westminster divines who used lots never divorced their use from the guidance of the sufficient Scripture.

A similar range of opinion can be found on miracles or signs.

  1. Francis Cheynell represents many when he limited miracles to the foundational stage of the church, calling both tongues and miracles “extraordinary gifts.”852 Thomas Baylie phrased it that “…miraculous faith ceased long ago.”853
  2. On the other hand, George Gillespie believed that miracles continued, but said that the “gift” of healing had ceased, and implied that the gift of miracles had ceased as well.854 In another place he describes this gift of miracles by the title “workers of miracles.”855 This distinction between a “gift” of miracles and/or healing and God’s occasional and sovereign giving of miracles may be one answer to the puzzlement Milne has expressed over why some delegates claimed to be Cessationist yet continued to believe in miracles.856 Perhaps they believed that no one is presently gifted to do miracles or healings on demand, but had no problem in affirming that a miracle could occur.
  3. But others like Samuel Rutherford, William Bridge, Alexander Henderson, and Robert Blair spoke unambiguously about miracles. They were self-proclaimed Cessationists even though they did not believe all miracles had ceased.

When one turns to current Reformed scholarship among self-proclaimed Cessationists, there is just as much variety.

  1. There are “Cessationists” who (like Lightfoot) have said that all spiritual gifts (whether ordinary or extraordinary) have ceased.857
  2. There are others who have argued that all “extraordinary gifts” or manifestations of revelation or miracles have ceased.858
  3. Others who might generally agree with the foregoing conclusion would be hesitant in ruling out all modern miracles or healing, though they would question any gift of miracles or gift of healing.859
  4. Like John Owen, some believe that the supernatural gifts and offices have ceased but they also affirm that God can do something analogous to those gifts.860
  5. Others have argued for “concentric Cessationism.”861
  6. Still others say that authoritative (infallible) revelation has ceased but not the five-fold gifts of Ephesians 4:11.862
  7. Others believe that apostleship has ceased but not prophecy.863
  8. Others affirm that both apostleship and prophecy have ceased, but not necessarily other miraculous gifts.
  9. There are yet others who believe that apostleship, prophecy, tongues, and anything analogous has ceased, but not necessarily miracles.

The literature is strewn with a bewildering variety of “Cessationists.”

Some have misused the emerging evidence from the writings of the Westminster delegates to argue for the acceptability of full-fledged charismatic experience. Others have ignored the evidence and argued that the Confession does not allow for anything other than a B.B. Warfield type of interpretation of the gifts. Milne does a magnificent job of sorting through the evidence and defending a core (and essential) Cessationism without forcing every Westminster delegate into the same box. While this book has presented one exegetical defense of the core Cessationism of the Westminster divines, it is by no means the only acceptable one. But the quotes from the fathers in chapter 10 shows that however the charismatic views of the Westminster divines are interpreted, they are closer to the church of the first thousand years than Rome is.

Appendix B - Prophets Quoting Prophets As Scripture

To get a picture of the enormous number of quotations of the first five books of the Bible in the Prophets, see Stanley Leathes, DD, The Law in the Prophets (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1891).

This table will just give a portion of the references to the books of Joshua and following:

Joshua

Verse Cited in
3:1,2-17 Micah 6:5
4:19ff Micah 6:5
15:15-19 Jude 1:11-15
16:10 Jude 1:29

1 Samuel

Verse Cited in
2:8 Psalm 113:7-8
23:19 Psalm 54:0-50

Numerous references in 1 Chronicles.

2 Samuel

Verse Cited in
1:20 Micah 1:10
22:1-51 Psalm 18:0

Numerous references in 1 Chronicles as well as Psalms.

1 Kings

Verse Cited in
8:47 Psalm 106:6
22:2ff Micah 1:2

Numerous references in 2 Chronicles.

2 Kings

Verse Cited in
25:1-12 Jeremiah 39:1-10
25:13-17 Jeremiah 52:17-23
25:18-21 Jeremiah 52:24-27
25:22-25 Jeremiah 40:5-41:3
25:27-30 Jeremiah 52:31-34

Ezra

Verse Cited in
1:1-2 2 Chronicles 36:22-23
2:1-70 Nehemiah 7:6-73

Psalms

Verse Cited in
2:4 Psalm 59:8
7:14 Isaiah 59:4
12:2 Micah 7:2
28:4 Lamentations 3:64
37:39 Nahum 1:7
42:3,10 Joel 2:17
72:8 Zechariah 9:10
77:17f Habakuk 3:10f
79:10 Joel 2:17
103:9 Isaiah 57:16
115:2 Joel 2:17

The quotes of Psalms from each other, and other prophets from the Psalms is too numerous to put into this table.

Proverbs

Verse Cited in
1:7 Psalm 111:110
1:16 Isaiah 59:7
1:20f Micah 6:9, 8:1-13
10:2 Micah 6:10
22:14 Micah 6:10
24:24 Micah 6:10

Isaiah

Verse Cited in
2:2-5 Micah 4:1-5
2:15 Zephaniah 1:16?
7:14 Micah 5:2-4
8:1 Habakuk 2:2
8:6 Psalm 46:5
8:7f Psalm 46:8,12
9:4 Psalm 46:10
9:5 Micah 5:2-4
10:23 Zephaniah 1:18; Nahum 1:8
10:27 Nahum 1:13
11:9 Habakuk 2:14
13:3 Zephaniah 1:7; 3:11
13:6 Nahum 3:10; Joel 1:15
13:7 Ezekiel 7:17; Ezekiel 21:12
13:8 Ezekiel 21:3; Joel 2:6
13:9,11 Habakuk 2:9
13:20-22 Zephaniah 2:13-15
13:21ff Zephaniah 2:14
14:4f Ezekiel 32:12ff; Jeremiah 50:51, Habakuk 2:6
14:13ff Habakuk 2:9
15:1-7 Jeremiah 48:5,36-37?
16:6 Zephaniah 2:8,10
17:12ff Psalm 46:3ff
18:1,7 Zephaniah 3:10
21:2 Habakuk 1:13
21:6,8 Habakuk 2:1
21:3 Nahum 2:11
21:6,8 Habakuk 2:1
21:9 Jeremiah 50:2,38; Jeremiah 51:33
21:10 Jeremiah 1:33f; Jeremiah 51:33
22:5 Nahum 2:11
24:1 Nahum 2:11
24:2,4 Jeremiah 23:10ff
24:17-18 Jeremiah 48:43-44
26:21 Ezekiel 24:8
28:22 Zephaniah 1:18
30:8 Habakuk 2:2
32:13ff Micah 3:12
33:9 Nahum 1:14
34:2 Jeremiah 25:33ff
34:3 Ezekiel 32:5f; Ezekiel 39:11
34:5-8 Jeremiah 46:10
34:6 Jeremiah 25:31; Jeremiah 51:30; Ezekiel 39:17-19; Zephaniah 1:7ff
34:7 Jeremiah 1:27
34:11 Zephaniah 2:14
34:14 Jeremiah 1:39
38:7 Micah 2:11
39:9-12 Micah 3:5-7
44:23 Jeremiah 48:18-22,26
47:2f Nahum 3:5
47:8,10 Zephaniah 2:15
48:22 Isaiah 57:21
50:2 Nahum 1:4
51:19f Nehemiah 3:4,7,10
52:1,7 Nahum 2:1
56:6 Jeremiah 51:55f
56:9 Jeremiah 12:14; Ezekiel 34
57:9 Ezekiel 23:40f
59:1-2 Jeremiah 5:25
66:16 Jeremiah 25:31,33
66:19f Zephaniah 3:10

Jeremiah

Verse Cited in
5:21 Ezekiel 12:2
10:25 Psalm 79:6-7
18:23 Nehemiah 4:5?
31:21 Ezekiel 18:2
32:20 Nehemiah 9:10

Daniel

Verse Cited in
9:4 Nehemiah 1:5
9:5 Psalm 106:6
9:18 2 Kings 19:16

Hosea

Verse Cited in
1:4 Jeremiah 9:12
2:23 Jeremiah 30:22
3:5 Jeremiah 13:4
4:2 Jeremiah 7:9
6:10 Jeremiah 5:30; Jeremiah 18:13; Jeremiah 28:14
8:13 Jeremiah 14:10
9:9 Jeremiah 14:10
10:12 Jeremiah 4:3
14:1,4 Jeremiah 3:27

Joel

Verse Cited in
1:15 Isaiah 13:6; Ezekiel 30:2f; Zephaniah 1:7
2:1-2 Zephaniah 1:14-15
2:3 Ezekiel 36:35
2:6 Nahum 2:10
2:10 Isaiah 13:10
2:11 Isaiah 13:3; Zephaniah 1:7; Zephaniah 3:11
2:13 Ezekiel 34:6
2:31 Malachi 4:5
3:10 Isaiah 2:4; Micah 4:3
3:16 Amos 1:2
3:17 Isaiah 52:1; Micah 4:3
3:18 Amos 9:13
4:14 Zephaniah 1:7
4:15ff Isaiah 13:13

Amos

Verse Cited in
1:2 Jeremiah 25:30?
1:3-5 Jeremiah 1:23-27
1:13 Zephaniah 2:8,10
1:13-15 Jeremiah 49:1-6
2:2 Zephaniah 1:16
2:5 Isaiah 8:14; Hosea 8:14
2:10 Hosea 12:9f
5:5 Hosea 4:15
6:12 Isaiah 10:4
8:8 Isaiah 4:3; Hosea 4:3

Obadiah

Verse Cited in
1-6 Jeremiah 49:9,10,14-16
10 Joel 3:19
11 Joel 3:3,17
15 Joel 3:4
17 Joel 2:32, 3:17

Jonah

Verse Cited in
3:9 Joel 2:14

Micah

Verse Cited in
3:10 Habakuk 2:12
3:12 Jeremiah 26:18
4:6f Zephaniah 3:19

Habakkuk

Verse Cited in
1:5f 2 Kings 21:12; 2 Chronicles 33:18
2:20 Zephaniah 1:7
3:10-11 Psalm 77:16-18

This list of Scriptures is a summary of a larger list given by David Lang.

Some scholars put many more allusions, but these are fairly strong allusions from one part of prophetic Scripture to another.

Appendix C - The supposed problem of Esther, Ezra, and Nehemiah

It is often alleged that Esther is utterly unconnected to other books, and Esther, Ezra, and Nehemiah are not alluded to by other books. However, if Esther is dated correctly to Darius rather than Xerxes (as I have clearly demonstrated in my Esther studies),864 then the book is no longer an orphan book that is utterly unrelated to other Old Testament books. Instead, Esther is inextricably woven together with the themes in Haggai, Zechariah, Ezra and Nehemiah. Once you realize that the Ahasuerus of Esther is Darius, that the queen of Nehemiah 2:6 is Esther, and that Mordecai had accompanied Ezra and Nehemiah to Israel seventeen years before the events of Esther (see Ezra 2:2; Neh. 7:7), then a huge problem that has plagued chronologists in Ezra/Nehemiah is solved.

On modern establishment views, there is a 90 year gap between Ezra and Nehemiah which means that there are two different Nehemiahs who were civil leaders, two Ezras who were priests, and numerous names on the genealogies that just happen to correlate but aren’t the same people. But Esther is a needed link that is thematically, chronologically, and canonically tied together with Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, and Zechariah. My studies on Esther show the allusions and interrelationships.

Further, once it is understood that Mordecai was an inspired prophet who composed the book of Esther and who composed the Hallel Psalms (Psalms 113-118), the further interrelationships and allusions can be seen. Psalm 118 references the disastrous events in Esther that almost resulted in the annihilation of Israel by “all the nations” (v. 10), but Mordecai affirms that “God has given us light” (v. 27; cf. Esther 8:16). Again, my studies in Esther demonstrate a remarkable inter-dependence of these Scriptures upon each other.

So even apart from the New Testament allusions to Esther (Mark 6:23 with Esth. 5:3,6; 7:2; Rev. 11:10 with Esth. 9:22; etc.), the tight way in which Esther is integrated into and interdependent with other Old Testament books shows that it is not an orphan. The same inspired prophet whose poems Ezra incorporated into the Psalter also wrote Esther.

As to Ezra and Nehemiah, they were part of one scroll that was co-authored by Ezra and Nehemiah. Nehemiah is quoted as Scripture by the Jews in John 6:31 who claimed that Moses gave them bread. Christ does not correct their idea that Nehemiah was Scripture, but he correctly points out that Nehemiah ascribes the giving of manna to God, not to Moses. Thus the Ezra-Nehemiah scroll is indeed quoted in the New Testament. But that is not what canonized those books. We have already demonstrated that Christ treated the Hebrew canon of Genesis to 2 Chronicles as already a canon of “Scriptures.” And Ezra’s work in finishing the canon with final edits has been well-documented in other chapters of this book.

Ecclesiastes may be quoted in Romans 8:20 and 1 Corinthians 15:32, but what about the Song of Solomon? Jamieson, Fausset and Brown say, “the Song seems to correspond to, and form a trilogy with, Psalms 45 and 72, which contain the same imagery; just as Psalm 37 answers to Proverbs, and the Psalms 39 and 73 to Job.”865 But furthermore, the bridal imagery throughout the prophets of the Old Testament, and found in Ephesians and Revelation, is intertwined with the symbols of the Song of Solomon.

As literalist, John MacArthur, states, “even a non-allegorical interpretation of Song of Solomon, (simply taking the love-song between Solomon and the Shulamite at face value) ultimately points us to Christ and his love for the church.”866 Thus it is not surprising to find commentators finding parallels between Song of Solomon 1:3 and the “fragrance” passages of the New Testament. An analysis of the graphic placed in chapter 4 shows that every book of the Bible has been woven together by God into a tightly knit fabric of 340,000 cross references.

To clarify, being quoted by a prophet does not make another person’s book Scripture. If this were the case, the last book of the Bible could never be quoted and therefore could not be canonized. That is a fallacious approach to canonization. We have already demonstrated that God made a book canonical the moment the canonical prophet wrote it. So the presence or absence of quotes is a secondary issue to canonization.

This is especially significant when considering alleged quotations from the apocrypha. Such would prove nothing unless the Scripture quoted an apocryphal book as “Scripture.” But it does not. Luke quotes the conversations of pagans, as does Paul in an ad hominem argument (1 Tit. 1:12), but this did not make those people prophets or Scripture. As Dr. Robert Fugate states,

Another interesting fact is that they [the apostles] were acquainted with at least some of the Apocrypha. This makes it all the more significant that the Lord Jesus Christ and the Apostles never once quoted from the Apocrypha, let alone quoted it as Scripture (or as authoritative in any sense)! This is more than an omission; they deliberately excluded the Apocrypha from the canon.867

About the author

In this fascinating work on canon, the author seeks to defend the Protestant canon of 66 books without recourse to extra-Biblical evidence. He begins the book by saying, “The Bible should be the starting point and ending point for all Christian doctrine, including the doctrine of canon.” And he demonstrates that the Bible does indeed thoroughly address this issue. Chapter 10 shows that the church of the first millennium took the same approach to canonization and clearly sided with the Reformation and against the reactionary Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox approaches to canon since the Reformation. This is a ground breaking book in presuppositional apologetics.

Founder and President of Biblical Blueprints, Phillip Kayser has degrees in education, theology, and philosophy. Ordained in 1987, he currently serves as Senior Pastor of Dominion Covenant Church, a conservative Presbyterian (CPC) church in Omaha, NE. He also serves as Professor of Ethics at Whitefield Theological Seminary and President of the Providential History Festival. He and his wife Kathy have 5 children and 12 grandchildren.

Notes

1An axiom is a statement, postulate, or presupposition that is taken as true and that serves as the premise or starting point for further reasoning and arguments. The New Testament word for axioms or “presuppositions” is στοιχεια. This word was used in classical Greek and by the Church fathers to mean the elementary or fundamental principles.

In geometry it was used for axioms, and in philosophy for elements of proof or the πρωτοι συλλογισμοῖ of general reasoning (Liddell and Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, s.v. ). Both of these definitions are synonyms with “presuppositions.”

The New Testament teaches that the στοιχεια are the “foundation” upon which our faith and practice rests (Heb. 5:12-6:3). We find our στοιχεια in the Word of God (Heb. 5:12) and most specifically in the person of Jesus Christ (Col. 2:8-10; Heb. 6:1) revealed in them. The στοιχεια of the world are the foundation of the non-Christian “philosophy” (Col. 2:8) and are diametrically opposed to the στοιχεια of Christ the God-Man (Col 2:8-10). Our thoughts and actions are a logical outworking of these στοιχεια in everyday life (Col. 2:20ff). We must recognize that the superstructure of our world-and-life view is antithetical to the superstructure of the heathen’s world-and-life view, not because the superstructures do not have any things in common, but because of the way in which these superstructures are completely committed to their foundation or presuppositions. Paul gives us an example of this concept when he vigorously opposed the Galatians’ succumbing to pressure to be circumcised and observe “days and months and times and years” (Gal. 4:10). Though the physical act of circumcision was not wrong (cf. 1 Cor. 7:19; Acts 16:3), the idea that lay behind it was destructive and led to syncretism, a denial of their presuppositions and an unintentional reversion to weak and pathetic presuppositions (Gal. 4:9).

2As the Westminster Confession of Faith words it,

“The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself; and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.” The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.” (WCF I.ix-x).

As we will see, this is just as true of the doctrine of canonicity as it is any other doctrine.

3“Canon” is a term that refers either 1) to a rule of faith and truth or 2) to the list of books which are considered to be part of Holy Scripture. In this book I will be using the latter definition. The canon of Scripture is the authoritative list of books that are considered to be Scripture. The Westminster Confession of Faith insists that God alone can determine canon. Otherwise man is the judge of God’s revelation. While there are many circumstantial evidences that God has orchestrated, “our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts” (I.v). It is God who determines the canon of Scripture.

4Greg L. Bahnsen, “The Concept and Importance of Canonicity,” an unpublished paper given to the author by Greg. L. Bahnsen. This seminal paper triggered a desire in me to be totally consistent with my presuppositional starting point of Scripture. Bahnsen has also applied this presuppositional approach to the question of whether the Bible is inerrant in, Greg. L. Bahnsen, “Inductivism, Inerrancy, and Presuppositionalism,” in The Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, volume 20, 1997. This is a brilliant response to opponents of inerrancy.

5Any number of quotes could be given to demonstrate this: John Calvin said, “God alone is a fit witness of himself in his Word… Scripture is indeed self-authenticated.” John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960), 1.7.4–5. Francis Turretin said, “Thus Scripture, which is the first principle in the supernatural order, is known by itself and has no need of arguments derived from without to prove and make itself known to us.” Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, trans. George Musgrave Giger, ed. James T. Dennison Jr., 3 vols. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1992–1997), 1:89 (2.6.11). Herman Bavink expresses the historic view of the fathers as corresponding to that of the Protestants: “In the church fathers and the scholastics… [Scripture] rested in itself, was trustworthy in and of itself (αὐατοπιστος), and the primary norm for church and theology.” Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 1, Prolegomena, ed. John Bolt, trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 452. Therefore, Bavinck argues that an ultimate authority like Scripture (a “first principle”) must be “believed on its own account, not on account of something else… Scripture’s authority with respect to itself depends on Scripture.” (p. 458).

6Westminster Larger Catechism #3, emphasis mine.

7For a presuppositional approach to textual criticism, see my book, Has God Indeed Said?: The Preservation of the Text of Scripture, available for free download from https://kaysercommentary.com/booklets.md

8Karl Keating represents Roman Catholicism when he says that “an infallible authority is needed if we are to know what belongs in the Bible and what does not. Without such an authority, we are left to our own prejudices, and we cannot tell if our prejudices lead us in the right direction… [The authority needed is] an infallible, teaching Church… The same Church that authenticates the Bible, that establishes inspiration, is the authority set up by Christ to interpret his word.” Karl Keating, Catholicism and Fundamentalism (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988), pp. 132,133.

9Bishop Kallistos (Timothy Ware) states the Eastern Orthodoxy position this way: “It is from the Church that the Bible ultimately derives its authority, for it was the Church which originally decided which books form a part of Holy Scripture.” Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Church (New York: Penguin Books, 1997), p. 199.

10James Packer, God Speaks to Man: Revelation and the Bible, Christian Foundations, 6 (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1965), p.81

11Calvin, Luther, Mornay, and many other Reformers demonstrated that Rome had abandoned the catholic faith on this and many other doctrines. When I deal with Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox objections to the Reformation view of the canon later in this book, I will document the pervasive belief in the doctrine of Sola Scriptura in the church of the first millennium. Cyril of Jerusalem (AD 313-386) is representative of many when he says,

For concerning the divine and sacred Mysteries of the Faith, we ought not to deliver even the most casual remark without the Holy Scriptures: nor be drawn aside by mere probabilities and the artifices of argument. Do not then believe me because I tell thee these things, unless thou receive from the Holy Scriptures the proof of what is set forth: for this salvation, which is of our faith, is not by ingenious reasonings, but by proof from the Holy Scriptures. Cyril of Jerusalem, The Catechetical Lectures IV.17 in A Library of the FAthers of the Holy Catholic Church (Oxford: Parker, 1845).

12For example, conservative scholar, Roland Kenneth Harrison, in his excellent book, Introduction to the Old Testament, agrees with the Protestant principle that the Scriptures are “self-authenticating” and “do not derive their authority either from individual human beings or from corporate ecclesiastical pronouncements” (p. 263). He rightly rejects the Roman Catholic assumption that the church is the “mother of the Bible” and denies that the church has authority to determine the canon (see p. 262). Yet he admits that he cannot defend this assertion from the Bible: “While the Bible legitimately ought to be allowed to define and describe canonicity, it has in point of fact almost nothing to say about the manner in which holy writings were assembled, or the personages who exercised an influence over the corpus during the diverse stages of its growth.” See Roland Kenneth Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969), p. 262. This major gap in understanding of the Bible’s self-referential statements is common among Protestants and leaves them vulnerable to the Roman Catholic apologetic. It is the purpose of this book to show that the Bible is actually full of self-referential information that speaks directly to the issue of canonicity.

13According to ancient Greek legend, the great warrior, Achilles, had been dipped in magical waters as a baby that would make him invulnerable to attack. Since Achilles was held by the heel, the heel was not immersed, and therefore the heel alone was vulnerable to wounds. That one weakness would be exploited near the end of the Trojan War by Paris. As the story goes, he shot Achilles in the heel with an arrow, killing his seemingly invincible foe. Thus, to have an “Achilles heel” is a metaphor of having a weak point in our defenses. Many Roman Catholic apologists claim that Sola Scriptura is not Protestantism’s greatest strength, but its greatest weakness.

14What the Confession calls “good and necessary consequence” ( Westminster Confession of Faith, I.6)

15Just as J.C. Keister, “Math and the Bible,” in The Trinity Review
(No. 27/Sept/Oct, 1992) has shown the axioms of mathematics to be embedded in the Scripture, John Robbins and others have demonstrated that all the axioms of logic are used in Scripture and thus show the divine warrant for a complete system of logic. Some might ask, “Which system of logic?” Actually there are not truly different systems of logic. Gordon Clark has shown that there is a problem with Bertrand Russell’s modification of Aristotelian logic, and cautions against it, However, the basic structure of logical thinking cannot be different. For proof of where Russell went wrong, see Clark’s book, Logic, pp. 83ff. For a marvelous college level course on logic using the Bible as the source, write to the Trinity Foundation in Jefferson, MD.

16For example, the Larger Catechism sees as a violation of the third commandment not only faulty exegesis (“misinterpreting” Scripture), but also faulty deductions (“misapplying” Scripture and theology) (LC. 113). It treats as a violation of the first commandment the following: “ignorance, forgetfulness, misapprehensions, false opinions…vain credulity, unbelief, heresy, [and] misbelief” (LC 105). In other words, these writers saw any form of irrationality as both a theological problem and an ethical problem. The irrationality may be deliberate rebellion or may be the secondary effects of Adam’s fall (noetic effects of the Fall). But it is clear that the Westminster Assembly believed that irrationality led to having other gods than the rational Jehovah (first commandment) and that irrationality led to inconsistencies with wearing the name of God as His followers (third commandment). If we are to think God’s thoughts after Him, then our thoughts will be and must be rational thoughts. Anything else does dishonor to God.

17John Frame, The Doctrine of The Knowledge of God (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Company, 1987), pp. 251-254.

18See for example Gordon Clark’s discussion in A Christian Philosophy of Education (Jefferson, MD: The Trinity Foundation, 1988), pp. 129-140.

19Which has in its meaning both logic and discourse. Christ is the Word of God. He is also the Logic of God.

20This of course does not mean that we do not need to study language. But linguistic analysis has demonstrated that children from every language group use the same “rules” to make sense out of the patterns of words that they hear. There is something innate (God-given) that enables them to learn a language. See Gordan Clark, Religion, Reason and Revelation. In the same way, God’s people must study logic to improve their understanding of Scripture. But this study is simply seeking to make our thoughts more and more consistent with the logic of Scripture and the God who gave Scripture and logic.

21Circular reasoning (sometimes called the fallacy of the petitio principii) is the fallacy of assuming what it is attempting to prove. It is a use of reason in which the premises depend on or are equivalent to the conclusion, a method of false logic by which “this is used to prove that, and that is used to prove this.” When it comes to the Reformation approach to canonicity, even Protestants have sometimes mistakenly claimed that the Reformation approach of using the Scriptures to establish the canon is the fallacy of petitio principii. For a Roman Catholic example of this accusation, see https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/according-to-scripture

22As William Alston words it, “There is no escape from epistemic circularity in the assessment of our fundamental sources of belief.” William Alston, “Knowledge of God,” in Faith, Reason, and Skepticism, ed. Marcus Hester (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1992), 41.

23Greg L. Bahnsen says, “The ‘circularity’ of a transcendental argument is not at all the same as the fallacious ‘circularity’ of an argument in which the conclusion is a restatement (in one form or another) of one of its premises. Rather, it is the circularity involved in a coherent theory (where all the parts are consistent with or assume each other) and which is required when one reasons about a precondition for reasoning. Because autonomous philosophy does not provide the preconditions for rationality or reasoning, its ‘circles’ are destructive of human thought – i.e., ‘vicious’ and futile endeavors.” Greg Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetics: Readings and Analysis (Phillipsburg, Presbyterian and Reformed, 1998), 518.

24There are two forms of Presuppositional Apologetics that (while competing with each other) have both offered very helpful insights about the nature of presuppositional reasoning. An excellent introduction to Van Tillian apologetics can be found in Greg L. Bahnsen, Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith (Texarkana, AR: Covenant Media Foundation, 1996). The second form of presuppositionalism can be found in the brilliant writings of Gordon H. Clark. An excellent and brief introduction to Clarkianism can be found in Gary W. Crampton, The Scripturalism of Gordon H. Clark (Jefferson, MD: Trinity Foundation, 1999). This book contains a comprehensive bibliography of all of Dr. Clark’s writings.

25I should clarify that while some of the criteria have validity (for example, agreement with the Torah, unity and self-testimony, preservation, etc), it is the purpose of this book to show that the Scripture has given us everything that we need to determine the canon of the Old and New Testaments. One Scriptural rule that will be used in the second half of this book is the Biblical doctrine of inerrancy. But this rule will primarily be used in an ad hominem way. We will introduce a few other Biblical rules by which other literature (such as the Koran) can be judged. But the first half of this book will restrict its discussion to the Biblical proofs for the Protestant canon.

26Though many people believe that Paul wrote Hebrews, there is abundant evidence that Luke wrote Hebrews. For an introduction to this subject, see David L. Allen, Lukan Authorship of Hebrews, (Nashville: B&H Publishing, 2010).

27See for example, the books written by prophets and that contained “prophecies” and “visions” in 2 Chron. 9:29. Other prophetic books include the Book of The Wars of Jehovah (Numb. 21:14), the Book of Jashar (Josh 10:13; 2 Sam. 1:18), another Book of Samuel on the Kingdom (1 Sam. 10:25), the Book of the Chronicles of David (1Chron. 27:24), the Book of the Acts of Solomon (1Kings 11:41), Solomon’s three thousand proverbs and 1005 songs (1Kings 4:32), the book of Solomon’s Natural History (1Kings 4:32,33), the Book of Shemaiah the Prophet (2Chron. 12:15), the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite (2Chron. 9:29), the Visions of Iddo the seer (2Chron. 9:29; 12:15), “the annals of the prophet Iddo” (2Chron. 13:22), a full history of king Uzziah written by Isaiah (2Chron. 26:22), the Book of Jehu the Son of Hanani (2Chron. 20:34), and an extrabiblical (but reliable) history of the Kings (1Kings 14:19,25; Chron. 20:34; 33:18).

28Though this is contested by some scholars, I believe the evidence favors the view that the Saduccees did not accept any books as authoritative beyond the Pentateuch. Since they were literalists in their interpretation, it is almost certain that they would have believed in the resurrection and in spirits (contra Matt. 22:23; Acts 23:8) if they took the rest of the Old Testament as authoritative.

Likewise, it seems unlikely that Christ would have appealed to such an obscure passage in the Pentateuch when arguing with them (Matt. 22:32 quotes Ex. 3:6), if the Sadducees had been willing to accept the authority of much more obvious texts on the resurrection, such as Isaiah 26:19; Job 19:25-26; Dan. 12:2; etc. Hippolytus of Rome (170-235 AD) said that the Sadducees “do not, however, devote attention to prophets, but neither do they to any other sages, except to the law of Moses only…” Origen also claimed that “the Samaritans and Sadducees… receive the books of Moses alone.” But I do grant that some scholars have concluded differently. For example, F.F. Bruce states,

It is probable, indeed, that by the beginning of the Christian era the Essenes (including the Qumran community) were in substantial agreement with the Pharisees and the Sadducees about the limits of the Hebrew scripture.

F.F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1988), p. 40.

29Though this conclusion is not shared by scholars such as F.F. Bruce, who says,

Philo of Alexandria (c 20 BC-AD 50) evidently knew the scriptures in the Greek version only. He was an illustrious representative of Alexandrian Judaism, and if Alexandrian Judaism did indeed recognize a more comprehensive canon than Palestinian Judaism, one might have expected to find some trace of this in Philo’s voluminous writings. But, in fact, while Philo has not given us a formal statement on the limits of the canon such as we have in Josephus, the books which he acknowledged as holy scripture were quite certainly books included in the traditional Hebrew Bible… he shows no sign of accepting the authority of any of the books which we know as the Apocrypha.

(Bruce, The Canon of the Scripture, pp. 29-30)

Beckwith says,

It is difficult to conceive of the canon being organized according to a rational principle, or of its books being arranged in a definite order, unless the identity of those books was already settled and the canon closed, still more is it difficult to conceive of those books being counted, and the number being generally accepted and well known, if the canon remained open and the identity of its books uncertain. Even if there were not (as in fact there is) evidence to show which books it was that were counted, sometimes alphabetically as 22, sometimes more simply as 24, the presumption would still hold good that the identity of the books must have been decided before they could be counted, and that agreement about their number implies agreement about their identity. And such agreement, as we have now seen, had probably been reached by the second century BC.

Roger Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), pp. 262-263.

30This too has been disputed by many. See chapters referenced in previous footnotes from F.F. Bruce and Roger Beckwith.

31The Reformers did not disagree with the statement that the church is the pillar and ground of the truth. But they insisted that the church has failed to be the pillar and ground of the truth when it fails to derive 100% of its teachings from the truth of the Bible. As Paul elsewhere stated, “that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written” (1Cor. 4:6). But this phrase, “the pillar and ground of the truth,” does help to distinguish between the errant deviation from Sola Scriptura sometimes known as Solo Scriptura. Solo Scriptura isolates the individual from the body of Christ and the growing body of information that God has enabled the church to mine from the Bible over the centuries. Solo Scriptura is sometimes facetiously described as “only me, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit.” But the word “only” in that phrase disobeys the many Biblical commands to listen to teachers (Matt. 10:24; Rom. 12:7; 1 Cor. 12:28-29; Eph. 4:11; 2 Tim. 4:2; Titus 2:3; Heb. 5:12; etc.) while being a Berean who checks their interpretations against the Bible (Acts 17:11; 1 Thes. 5:21; etc). Historical Theology (the study of how the church has gradually developed doctrinal ideas from the Bible) is a helpful corrective to an anarchical approach to Scripture. Where Sola Scriptura takes seriously God’s providential work through the church to preserve His doctrines, Solo Scriptura is so radically individualistic that it wants each individual to reinvent the wheel in every generation and fails to honor the teachers that God has given to the church. We believe that historical theology is a necessary check and balance to our exegetical and systematic theology. If no one in the church has ever held to our doctrine, it is likely that our new doctrine is wrong. We will be devoting an entire chapter to the Historical Theology of canon to show that our approach is consistent with the teachings of the church of the first millennium and that the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodoxy have left catholic doctrine behind and embraced what the early church considered heresy.

32For a a thorough rebuttal of the Roman Catholic interpretation of that verse, see J.N.D. Kelly, A Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981), p. 88. He writes, “We should note (a) that buttress is probably a more accurate rendering of the Greek heraioma (nowhere else found) that ‘foundation’ or ‘ground’ (AV), and (b) that the local church is described as a pillar, etc., not “the pillar, etc.’, because there are many local churches throughout the world performing this role.” In effect Paul was saying that the church should be a Scriptural church. Paul is not contradicting himself when he said in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that the Scriptures are “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” If there is even one good work that Roman Catholic tradition gives to us that is not found in the Bible, then the Bible is not sufficient to make us thoroughly equipped for every good work. Paul’s charge to Timothy was to “Preach the Word” (vv. 18-19), not something beyond the Word. The church should support the Word (pillar), not undermine it. The church should promote the Word (buttress), not go beyond it.

33In 1546 (at the Council of Trent) Rome officially added the following books (or portions of books) to the canon: Tobit, Judith, the Greek additions to Esther, the Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, Baruch, the Letter of Jeremiah, three Greek additions to Daniel (the Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Jews, Susanna, and Bel and the Dragon), and I and 2 Maccabees.

34The Greek Orthodox Church added 1 Esdras, the Prayer of Manasseh, Psalm 151, and 3 Maccabees to the books accepted by the Roman Catholic Church.

35The Slavonic (Russian) Orthodox Church adds to the Greek Orthodox canon the book of 2 Esdras, but designates I and 2 Esdras as 2 and 3 Esdras.

36The Coptic Church adds the two Epistles of Clement to the Protestant canon.

37The Ethiopian Orthodox Church has the largest canon of all. To the apocryphal books found in the Septuagint Old Testament, it adds the following: Jubilees, I Enoch, and Joseph ben Gorion’s (Josippon’s) medieval history of the Jews and nations. To the 27 books of the New Testament they add eight additional texts: namely four sections of church order from a compilation called Sinodos, two sections from the Ethiopic Book of the Covenant, Ethiopic Clement, and Ethiopic Didascalia. It should be noted that for the New Testament they have a broader and a narrower canon. The narrower canon is identical to the Protestant and Catholic canon.

38The Armenian Bible includes the History of Joseph and Asenath and the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, and the New Testament included the Epistle of Corinthians to Paul and a Third Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians

39Some Orthodox churches add the book of 4 Maccabees as well.

40Pope Gregory the Great said, “We shall not act rashly, if we accept a testimony of books, which, although not canonical, have been published for the edification of the Church.” Moral Treatises 19.21, citing a passage from Maccabees.

41As Kim Riddlebarger puts it so clearly: If true, this forces us to conclude that “the Word of God is both temporally and regulatively prior to the church,” no small point in such discussions. An important argument raised by Protestants based on the clear biblical statements about the inspiration of Scripture, and therefore the priority of the Word of God, is that the Holy Spirit moved the biblical writers, not the church (not even the “Spirit-led” church), to produce holy Scripture. Inspired Scripture, then, is the basis for the authority of the church, but only as the church is faithful to that inspired Word… The church has no authority apart from the prior written Word and no authority at all apart from a faithful proclamation of that Word - a standard that I as a Protestant would argue Rome cannot meet! Kimm Riddlebarger, “No Place Like Rome?” in John Armstrong (ed), Roman Catholicism: Evangelical Protestants Analyze What Divides and Unites Us. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), p. 236.

42This does not deny that men can “know” things beyond the Scripture ( such as the identity of their wife, an airplane taking off, etc.), but denies that such knowledge can be justified. It also denies that anything can be rightly interpreted without a Biblical worldview. Since the “fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov. 1:7; cf. 2:5) and since the “fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10) and since the Scriptures are “the key of knowledge” (Luke 11:52), no fact of this universe is rightly known as God would have us know it outside of a Biblical worldview. As Cornelius van Til worded it, since God created all things by, for and through Christ (Col. 1:16) and since He sustains all things (Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3) it would be “impossible to interpret any fact without a basic falsification unless it be regarded in its relation to God the Creator and to Christ the Redeemer.” Humanists and Biblicists look at a tree (and every cell of that tree) in an entirely different way. The humanist might see the tree as evolved and even as planted by random chance, whereas the Christian sees it as predestined, created, sustained, and serving a perfect purpose in God’s plan. Thus, what is known about the tree is quite different in each person.

43I especially recommend his, An Introduction to Christian Philosophy, Three Types of Religous Philosophy, and A Christian View of Men and Things. But his overview of the history of philosophy, Thales to Dewey is useful reading for those who want to dig deeper.

44Gordon H. Clark, Religion, Reason and Revelation (Jefferson, MD: Trinity Foundation, 1986), p. 152.

45John M. Frame, “Cornelius Van Til,” Handbook of Evangelical Theologians, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993), p. 163.

46For example, Catechism of the Catholic Church #182 says, “We believe all ‘that which is contained in the word of God, written or handed down, and which the Church proposes for belief as divinely revealed’” (Paul VI, CPG, § 20). Emphasis mine. This is a call for implicit faith in both Scripture and all church dogma.

47In the early AD 300s, Cyrile of Jerusalem said, “We ought not to deliver even the most casual remark without the Holy Scriptures; nor be drawn aside by mere probabilities and the artifices of argument. Do not then believe me because I tell you these things, unless you receive from the Holy Scriptures the proof of what is set forth…” He is interpreting 1 Corinthians 4:6 in exactly the same way that I did - “that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written.” Is that not a statement that apostolic tradition did not deviate in the smallest iota from Scripture? In fact, Cyril’s whole essay was defending this teaching that he had no authority and that no other human had authority beyond the Scripture. That is a Protestant view of tradition. William Webster said, “the Fathers rejected the teaching of an apostolic oral tradition independent of Scripture as a Gnostic heresy. For the church fathers, apostolic tradition or teaching was embodied and preserved in Scripture.” [in McGrath, Brown, et al, Roman Catholicism, p. 273]

Ireneaus is often appealed to as supporting the Roman Catholic view of tradition. But Ireneaus was clear that 100% of apostolic tradition was committed to writing in the New Testament. For example, he said, “The apostles at that time first preached the Gospel but later by the will of God, they delivered it to us in the Scriptures, that it might be the foundation and pillar of our faith… Since, therefore, the tradition from the apostles does thus exist in the Church, and is permanent among us, let us revert to the Scriptural proof furnished by those apostles who did also write the Gospel, in which they recorded the doctrine regarding God, pointing out that our Lord Jesus Christ is the truth, and that no lie is in Him.” Against Heresies in Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds., The Apostolic Fathers With Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ANF I; Accordance electronic ed. 9 vols.; (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1885), paragraph 5683, and 5699.

48I will seek to demonstrate this point more fully in chapter 10, but the following four quotes from the fathers will give the sense of that age. Saint Vincent of Lerins (AD 450) said, “the canon of Scripture is complete, and sufficient of itself for everything, and more than sufficient…” Athanasius said, “The holy and inspired Scriptures are fully sufficient for the proclamation of the truth.” (Athanasius; Against the Heathen, I:3) Chrystostom said, “Regarding the things I say, I should supply even the proofs, so I will not seem to rely on my own opinions, but rather, prove them with Scripture, so that the matter will remain certain and steadfast.” (John Chrysostom, Homily 8 On Repentance and the Church, p. 118, vol. 96 TFOTC)

Augustine said, “If anyone preaches either concerning Christ or concerning His church or concerning any other matter which pertains to our faith and life; I will not say, if we, but what Paul adds, if an angel from heaven should preach to you anything besides what you have received in the Scriptures of the Law and of the Gospels, let him be anathema.” (Augustine, Contra litteras Petiliani, Bk 3, ch. 6) (On Discerning the Apostolic Faith). William Cunningham spoke of “the constant maintenance, during the first three centuries, of the supremacy and sufficiency of the sacred Scriptures, and the right and duty of all men to read and study them. There is no trace of evidence in the first three centuries that these scriptural principles were denied or doubted, and there is satisfactory evidence that they were steadily and purely maintained… and the same may be said of the writings, without exception, of many succeeding centuries - there is not the slightest traces of anything like that depreciation of the Scriptures, that denial of their fitness, because of their obscurity and alleged imperfection, to be a sufficient rule or standard of faith, which stamp so peculiar a guilt and infamy upon Popery and Tractarianism. There is nothing in the least resembling this; on the contrary, there is a constant reference to Scripture as the only authoritative standard.” (Historical Theology, vol. 1, pp. 185-186) See also quotes in the previous footnote.

49Cyril of Jerusalem said, “We must not deliver anything whatsoever, without the sacred Scriptures, nor let ourselves be led by mere probability, or by marshalling of arguments. [but] proof from the sacred Scriptures.” Anastasius of Antioch said, “It is manifest that those things are not to be inquired into, which Scripture has passed over into silence. For the Holy Spirit has dispensed and administered to us all things which conduce to our profit.” Anagog. Contemp. in Hexem. lib 8 init.

Athanasius said, “The Holy and Inspired Scriptures are sufficient of themselves for the preaching of the Truth” Contra Gentiles, 1:1. He also said, “These [canonical] books are the fountains of salvation, so that he who thirsts may be satisfied with the oracles contained in them: in these alone the school of piety preaches the Gospel; let no man add to or take away from them.” Festal Letters 39

“Scripture is of all things most sufficient for us.” Ad Epis Aeg 4

“Divine Scripture is sufficient above all things.” De Synodis 6.

Anthony of Egypt said, “The Scriptures are enough for instruction.” Vita S. Antoni 16.

50E.O. Scholar, Timothy Ware (Bishop Kalistas) says, “Orthodox are always talking about Tradition. What do they mean by the word? … It means the books of the Bible; it means the Creed; it means the decrees of the Ecumenical Councils and the writings of the Fathers; it means the Canons, the Service of Books, the Holy Icons - in fact, the whole system of doctrine, Church government, worship, spirituality and art which Orthodoxy has articulated over the ages.” Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Church, New Edition (New York: Penguin Books, 1997), p. 196.

The Second Vatican Council declared, “includes everything which contributes towards the sanctity of life and increase in faith of the People of God; and so the Church, in her teaching, life and worship [the Creeds, the Sacraments, the Magisterium, and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass], perpetuates and hands on to all generations all that she herself is, all that she believes.” http://www.ewtn.com/library/councils/v2revel.htm

The same text indicates that this body of information keeps growing as God opens the churches eyes to tradition more and more - “For as the centuries succeed one another, the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in her.”

51Augustine said, “I have learned to hold the Scriptures alone inerrant.” (Letters to Jerome, 82 letter) In the same letter he said “…if an angel from heaven should preach to you anything besides what you have received in the Scriptures of the Law and of the Gospels, let him be anathema.” (Augustine, Contra litteras Petiliani, Bk 3, ch. 6) In his Preface on the Trinity, he said, “Do not follow my writings as Holy Scripture. When you find in Holy Scripture anything you did not believe before, believe it without doubt; but in my writings, you should hold nothing for certain.”

52Karl Keating, Roman Catholic apologist, wrote: “The Bible actually denies that it is the complete rule of faith… the Bible is not the sole rule of faith and that nothing in the Bible suggests it was meant to be… The true rule of faith is Scripture plus…” Karl Keating, Catholicism and Fundamentalism (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988), p. 134,136. The Second Vatican Council said, “the Church does not draw her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Hence, both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal feelings of devotion and reverence.” [Austin P. Flannery, ed., Documents of Vatican II (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), p. 755.

The Eastern Orthodox have a slightly different take. Rather than seeing tradition and Scripture as two streams of revelation, they see Scripture as one part of Tradition. Within tradition, the highest value is given “to the Bible, to the Creed, to the doctrinal definitions of the Ecumenical Councils: these things the Orthodox accept as something absolute and unchanging, something which cannot be cancelled or revised. The other parts of Tradition do not have quite the same authority. The decrees of Jassy or Jerusalem mdo not stand on the same level as the Nicene Creed, nor do the writings of Athansius, or a Symeon the New Theologian, occupy the same position as the Gospel of St. John.” Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Church, New Edition (New York: Penguin Books, 1997), p. 197. I should note that Timothy Ware is much more conservative (as a Protestant convert) than most Eastern Orthodox that I have read.

53As noted earlier, Athanasius said, “the holy and inspired Scriptures are fully sufficient for the proclamation of the truth.” Augustine said, “in the plain teaching of Scripture we find all that concerns our belief and moral conduct.” Notice how absolute their statements are. It is Sola Scriptura. The church historian, J.N.D. Kelly “almost the entire theological effort of the Fathers, whether their aims were polemical or constructive, was expended upon what amounted to the exposition of the Bible. Further, it was everywhere taken for granted that, for any doctrine to win acceptance, it had first to establish its Scriptural basis.”

54Roman Catholic apologist, Karl Keating, said, “…the Bible is not the sole rule of faith and that nothing in the Bible suggests it was meant to be… The true rule of faith is Scripture plus…” Karl Keating, Catholicism and Fundamentalism (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988), p. 134,136.

The Second Vatican Council said, “the Church does not draw her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Hence, both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal feelings of devotion and reverence.” Austin P. Flannery, ed., Documents of Vatican II (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), p. 755.

Bellarmine states, “We assert that the whole necessary doctrine either concerning faith or manners is not contained explicitly in the Scriptures; and that consequently beyond the written word of God is required also the unwritten word of God, that is, the divine and apostolical traditions…They (i.e. the Protestants) think that if there were any apostolical traditions they do not now exist, that is, that there cannot be any certain proof had of any apostolical tradition…We, on the contrary, assert that there are not wanting certain ways and methods by which apostolical traditions may be manifested…If the authority of an apostle when giving an oral precept is not less than when giving a written one, there certainly is no temerity in considering any thing unwritten equivalent to the written word…I assert that Scripture, although not composed principally with the view of its being a rule of faith, is nevertheless a rule of faith, not the entire rule but a partial rule. For the entire rule of faith is the word of God, or God’s revelation made to the Church, which is distributed into two partial rules, Scripture and tradition.” De Verb. Dei, lib. iv. c. 3, c. 12. Cited by William Goode, Vol. I, pp. 73, 77–78.

55Melanchton: Selected writings, Baccalaureate thesis, 1519, tr. C.L. Hill, Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1962, p. 18.

56Defence of the Gospel in the New Testament. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959), p. 80.

57The following is a brief list of famous churchmen who clearly stood against Rome’s views on the apocrypha: Melito of Sardis (died 180 AD), Origen (184-254), Athanasius (296-373), Cyril of Jerusalem (313-386), Gregory of Nazianzus (329-390), Hilary of Poitiers (310-367), Epiphanius, Basil the Great (330-379), Jerome (347-420), Rufinus, Primasius (died 560), Gregory the Great (590-604), The Venerable Bede (673-735), Agobard of Lyons (779-840), Alcuin (735-804), Walafrid Strabo (808-849), Haymo of Halberstadt (died 853), Ambrose of Autpert (730-784), Radulphos Flavicencius (1063-122), Hugh of St. Victor (1096-1141), Richard of St. Victor (died 1155), John of Salisbury (1120-1180), Peter Cellensis (1115-1183), Rupert of Deutz (1075-1129), Honorius of Autun (1080-1154), Peter Comestor (died 1178), Peter Maritius or Peter the Venerable (1092-1156), Adam Scotus (1140-1212), Hugo of St. Cher (1200-1263), Philip of Harveng (died 1183), Nicholas of Lyra (1270-1340), William of Ockham (1287-1347), Antoninus (died 1459), Alanso Tostado (1414-1455), Dionysius the Carthusian (1402-1471), Thomas Walden (1375-1430), Jean Driedo (condemned Luther’s teachings in 1519), John Ferus, and Jacobus Faber Stapulensis (1455-1536) could all be cited as contradicting Trent’s claim to represent tradition on the apocrypha.

Rome appeals to the local councils of Hippo (393) and Carthage (397) as proof that the apocrypha were accepted by the early church, but those councils prove too much since they included books that both Rome and the Eastern Orthodox church reject as canonical. It is better to take Jerome’s and Cajetun’s interpretations of those councils and treat them as having two levels of canon - a church canon of books acceptable to read, and God’s canon of books that are inspired and part of Scripture.

58Roman Catholic apologists frequently cite St. Vincent of Lerins’s definition of “catholic” as being an adequate definition. Lerins said,

In the Catholic Church itself we take the greatest care to hold that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all. That is truly and properly Catholic, as is shown by the very force and meaning of the word, which comprehends everything almost universally. We shall hold to this rule if we follow universality, antiquity, and consent. We shall follow universality if we acknowledge that one Faith to be true which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is clear that our ancestors and fathers proclaimed; consent, if in antiquity itself we keep following the definitions and opinions of all, or certainly nearly all, bishops and doctors alike. http://www.ancient-future.net/vcanon.html

59Even the New Catholic Encylopedia agrees that this was the case, stating, “St. Jerome distinguished between canonical books and ecclesiastical books. The latter he judged were circulated by the Church as good spiritual reading but were not recognized as authoritative Scripture. The situation remained unclear in the ensuing centuries…For example, John of Damascus, Gregory the Great, Walafrid, Nicolas of Lyra and Tostado continued to doubt the canonicity of the deuterocanonical books. According to Catholic doctrine, the proximate criterion of the biblical canon is the infallible decision of the Church. This decision was not given until rather late in the history of the Chruch at the Council of Trent. The Council of Trent definitively settled the matter of the Old Testament Canon. That this had not been done previously is apparent from the uncertainty that persisted up to the time of Trent (The New Catholic Encyclopedia, The Canon).

60There were numerous church fathers from the second through fourth centuries who endorsed the shorter Protestant canon, and even Jerome (the translator of the Latin Vulgate used by Rome) agrees book-for-book with the Protestant canon, there is no document during the same period that matches the canon of Trent book-for-book. Roman apologists continually appeal to the late fourth-century councils of Hippo and Carthage as including some apocryphal books, but those two councils only list 43 of the 46 books of Trent. They omit Lamentations and Baruch and mention five books of Solomon (which Trent excludes). Those councils were not ecumenical councils, but local, and as Cajetun mentions, used the term “canon” in two senses - a church canon of books approved for reading and God’s canon of books inspired and part of Scripture.

61The Prologue to the Glossa ordinaria (1498 AD), states,

Many people, who do not give much attention to the holy scriptures, think that all the books contained in the Bible should be honored and adored with equal veneration, not knowing how to distinguish among the canonical and non-canonical books, the latter of which the Jews number among the apocrypha. Therefore they often appear ridiculous before the learned; and they are disturbed and scandalized when they hear that someone does not honor something read in the Bible with equal veneration as all the rest. Here, then, we distinguish and number distinctly first the canonical books and then the non-canonical, among which we further distinguish between the certain and the doubtful.

The canonical books have been brought about through the dictation of the Holy Spirit. It is not known, however, at which time or by which authors the non-canonical or apocryphal books were produced. Since, nevertheless, they are very good and useful, and nothing is found in them which contradicts the canonical books, the church reads them and permits them to be read by the faithful for devotion and edification. Their authority, however, is not considered adequate for proving those things which come into> doubt or contention, or for confirming the authority of ecclesiastical dogma, as blessed Jerome states in his prologue to Judith and to the books of Solomon. But the canonical books are of such authority that whatever is contained therein is held to be true firmly and indisputably, and likewise that which is clearly demonstrated from them. For just as in philosophy a truth is known through reduction to self-evident first principles, so too, in the writings handed down from holy teachers, the truth is known, as far as those things that must be held by faith, through reduction to the canonical scriptures that have been produced by divine revelation, which can contain nothing false. Hence, concerning them Augustine says to Jerome: To those writers alone who are called canonical I have learned to offer this reverence and honor: I hold most firmly that none of them has made an error in writing. Thus if I encounter something in them which seems contrary to the truth, I simply think that the manuscript is incorrect, or I wonder whether the translator has discovered what the word means, or whether I have understood it at all. But I read other writers in this way: however much they abound in sanctity or teaching, I do not consider what they say true because they have judged it so, but rather because they have been able to convince me from those canonical authors, or from probable arguments, that it agrees with the truth. Translation by Dr. Michael Woodward from the following latin:

Quoniam plerique eo quod non multam operam dant sacrae Scripturae, existimant omnes libros qui in Bibliis continentur, pari veneratione esse reverendos atque adorandos, nescientes distinguere inter libros canonicos, et non canonicos, quos Hebraei a canone separant, et Graeci inter apocrypha computant; unde saepe coram doctis ridiculi videntur, et perturbantur, scandalizanturque cum audiunt aliquem non pari cum caeteris omnibus veneratione prosequi aliquid quod in Bibliis legatur: idcirco hic distinximus, et distincte numeravimus primo libros canonicos, et postea non canonicos, inter quos tantum distat quantum inter certum et dubium. Nam canonici sunt confecti Spiritus sancto dictante non canonici autem sive apocryphi, nescitur quo tempore quibusve auctoribus autoribus sint editi; quia tamen valde boni et utiles sunt, nihilque in eis quod canonicis obviet, invenitur, ideo Ecclesia eos legit, et permittit, ut ad devotionem, et ad morum informationem a fidelibus legantur. Eorum tamen auctoritas ad probandum ea quae veniunt in dubium, aut in contentionem, et ad confirmandam ecclesiasticorum dogmatum auctoritatem, non reputatur idonea, ut ait beatus Hieronymus in prologis super Judith et super libris Salomonis. At libri canonici tantae sunt auctoritatis, ut quidquid ibi continetur, verum teneat firmiter et indiscusse: et per consequens illud quod ex hoc concluditur manifeste; nam sicut in philosophia veritas cognoscitur per reductionem ad prima principia per se nota: ita et in Scripturis a sanctis doctoribus traditis veritas cognoscitur, quantum ad ea quae sunt fide tenenda, per reductionem ad Scripturas canonicas, quae sunt habita divina revelatione cui nullo modo potest falsum subesse. Unde de his dicit Augustinus ad Hieronymum: Ego solis eis scriptoribus qui canonici appellantur, didici hunc timorem honoremque deferre, ut nullum eorum scribendo errasse firmissime teneam; ac si aliquid in eis offendero quod videatur contrarium veritati, nihil aliud existimem quam mendosum esse codicem, vel non esse assecutum interpretem quod dictum est, vel me minime intellexisse, non ambigam. Alios autem ita lego, ut quantalibet sanctitate doctrinave polleant, non ideo verum putem quia ipsi ita senserunt, sed quia mihi per illos auctores canonicos vel probabiles rationes, quod a vero non abhorreat, persuadere potuerunt

(Biblia cum glosa ordinaria et expositione Lyre litterali et morali (Basel: Petri & Froben, 1498), British Museum IB.37895, Vol. 1, On the canonical and non-canonical books of the Bible. Translation by Dr. Michael Woodward).

62“Here we close our commentaries on the historical books of the Old Testament. For the rest (that is, Judith, Tobit, and the books of Maccabees) are counted by St Jerome out of the canonical books, and are placed amongst the Apocrypha, along with Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus, as is plain from the Prologus Galeatus. Nor be thou disturbed, like a raw scholar, if thou shouldest find anywhere, either in the sacred councils or the sacred doctors, these books reckoned as canonical. For the words as well of councils as of doctors are to be reduced to the correction of Jerome. Now, according to his judgment, in the epistle to the bishops Chromatius and Heliodorus, these books (and any other like books in the canon of the Bible) are not canonical, that is, not in the nature of a rule for confirming matters of faith. Yet, they may be called canonical, that is, in the nature of a rule for the edification of the faithful, as being received and authorised in the canon of the Bible for that purpose. By the help of this distinction thou mayest see thy way clearly through that which Augustine says, and what is written in the provincial council of Carthage.” In ult. Cap. Esther. Taken from A Disputation on Holy Scripture by William Whitaker (Cambridge: University, 1849), p. 48. See also Cosin’s A Scholastic History of the Canon, Volume III, Chapter XVII, pp. 257-258 and B.F. Westcott’s A General Survey of the Canon of the New Testament, p. 475.

63The following chart shows division of opinion on which apocryphal books were sufficiently beneficial as to include for the edification of the church. The fact that the following apocryphal books were included in various editions of their Bibles no more proves that they were treated as Scripture than the Protestant Bibles with the apocrypha proves that Protestants believed they were Biblical. Nevertheless, for purposes of argument, notice the variations of which apocryphal books were included:

Books Greek Slav Geor Arme Syri Ethi Assy
1Esdras Y Y Y N N Y N
2Esd. 13-14 N N Y N N? Y N?
5&6Ezra N N N N N N N
3Maccabees Y Y Y N Y N Y
4Maccabees N N Y N N N N?
Josephus N N N N Y? N Y?
12Patriarch N N N N? N N N
Psal 152-155 N N N N Y? N N?
Ps of Sol N? N N N N? N N?
2Baruch 1-77 N N N N Y? N N?
2Baruch 78-87 N N N N Y? N Y?

64See Vreg Nersessian, The Bible in the Armenian Tradition, (Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Musuem, 2001); Michael E. Stone, Armenian Canon Lists: The Council of Partaw [768 C.E.]”, Harvard Theological Review 66 (1973): pp. 479-486; Michael E. Stone, Armenian Canon Lists: the Stichometry of Anania of Shirak.”, Harvard Theological Review 68 (1975): pp. 253-260; Michael E. Stone, Armenian Canon Lists III: the Lists of Mechitar of Ayrivank [c. 1285 C.E.].”, Harvard Theological Review 69 (1976): pp. 289-300; Michael E. Stone, Armenian Canon Lists IV: The List of Gregory of Tat’ew [14th Century].”, Harvard Theological Review 72 (1980): pp. 237-294; Michael E. Stone, Armenian Canon Lists V: Anyonymous Texts.” Harvard Theological Review 83 (1990): pp. 141-161; The previous four articles can be purchased at https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/harvard-theological-review/article/armenian-canon-lists-ivthe-list-of-gregory-of-tatew-14th-century/549FA7C411E0B0338C479589937027EC Michael E. Stone, Selected Studies in Pseudepigrapha and Apocrypha With Special Reference to Armenian Tradition, (New York: E. J. Brill, 1991);

65As will be seen in the second half of this book, this was also the position of the early church and of pre-Christian Jews.

66See also Matt 26:56; Luke 18:31; John 6:45; Acts 3:18,21; 10:43; 26:27; Rom. 1:2; 16:26; Heb. 1:1.

67See chapter 8 for a critique of the charismatic assertion of the opposite.

68F. F. Bruce states, “Any inspired writer was ipso facto a prophet.” Canon of Scripture, p. 71. The Jewish Encylopedia states, “Every word of Holy Writ was inspired by the Divine Spirit… Every Biblical book was said to have been written by a prophet… There is thus an unbroken chain of prophets from Moses to Malachi… Only words regarded as having been inspired by the Holy Spirit were included in the canon.” Jewish Encylopedia, volume 3, p. 147.

69See Appendix A for a demonstration of prophets quoting prophets.

70Harrison and Robinson say that Zechariah 7:12 is the “locus classicus in the OT, teaching the inspiration of the prophets; it is the OT parallel to 2 Tim. 3:16.” R.K. Harrison, & G.L. Robinson, “Canon of the Old Testament,” G.W. Bromiley, gen.ed., International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, revised, Vol. 1. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979, p.593

71The murder of Zechariah is recorded in 2Chron. 24:20-21, the last book in the Jewish arrangement. This is clearly a reference to the order of canon found in the Hebrew canon since Uriah was chronologically the last to be murdered (cf. Jer. 26:23), but Zechariah is the last to be mentioned in the Jewish canon. Just as we cover all 39 books of the Old Testament with the phrase “from Genesis to Malachi,” Jesus covered the same books with the phrase “from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah.”

72The books in the Hebrew canon pre-date the apocrypha, and if inspired revelation ceased in the Ezra/Malachi period (see proof of this below), then ipso facto, the apocrypha are excluded from the canon. Josephus represents the almost universal view among Jews that the Old Testament canon was closed in the time of Malachi (445-432BC). G.L. Robinson and R.K. Harrison, in commenting on the Josephus passage, said, It is the uniform tradition of Josephus’ time that prophetic inspiration had ceased with Malachi (ca. 445-432 B.C.)… [for Josephus] …Prophecy had ceased, and the canon was accordingly closed.” See International Standard Bible Encylopedia: Fully Revised (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), volume 1, p. 598.

73In a Journal article, Robert Thomas points out that “apostolicity cannot account for the inspiration of all the books that the church eventually recognized as part of the NT canon” (p. 8) and “to limit the determination of canonicity to apostolic authorship alone is precarious” (p. 6). He adds, “The first test a work had to pass to gain recognition as inspired, then, was either apostolicity or propheticity” (p. 24). In Robert L. Thomas, “Correlation of Revelatory Spiritual Gifts and NT Canonicity,” The Master’s Seminary Journal 8, no. 1 (Spring 1997). We will deal with this subject in much more detail on chapter 8.

74This could be rendered “a prophet or inspired” or possibly “a prophet or spiritually gifted” (NIV; Weymouth; God’s Word; see TNIV) or “a prophet or to have the Spirit” (BBE), or “a prophet, or to have spiritual powers” (NRSV). The amplified version renders this verse: “If anyone thinks and claims that he is a prophet [filled with and governed by the Holy Spirit of God and inspired to interpret the divine will and purpose in preaching or teaching] or has any other spiritual endowment, let him understand (recognize and acknowledge) that what I am writing to you is a command of the Lord.”

75We will delve into this important subject in much more detail in part 2.

76Ernest L. Martin, The Original Bible Restored, unpublished class notes, 1984, p. 16.

77See my detailed treatment of Revelation’s closing of the canon later in this book.

78Leon Morris summarizes the overwhelming historical evidence when he says,

The church never attempted to create or confer canonicity. The decrees of the councils dealing with the matter, never run in the form: ‘This Council decrees that henceforth such and such books are to be canonical.’ The decrees rather run in the form: ‘This Council declares that these are the books which have always been held to be canonical.’ The Synod always contents itself with saying which books are already accepted as canonical. It often speaks of the accepted books as those which have been ‘handed down.’ It never attempts to confer canonicity on a book which lacked it, nor to remove from the list a book which was agreed to have had it… Canonicity is something in the book itself, something that God has given it, not a flavored status the church confers upon it. The church made no attempt to do more than to recognize canonicity and it could do no more.

Leon Morris, “The Canon of the New Testament,” Encyclopedia of Christianity, volume 2, edited by G.G. Cohen, Marshallton, Delaware: The National Foundation for Christian Education, 1968, pp. 337-338, as quoted by Dr. Robert Fugate in his doctoral thesis: The Bible: God’s Words to You (unpublished doctoral thesis at Whitefield Theological Seminary, 2008).

79I give detailed proof of this point later in the book.

80The word “Pentateuch” comes from the two Greek words: penta (meaning “five”) and teuchos (meaning “implement” or “book”), and refers to the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

81Greg L. Bahnsen points out the canonical significance of this fact, saying that the book of the covenant “was placed in the ark of the covenant in the Holiest Place of the tabernacle, thus setting it apart from the words and opinions of men. Moreover, the notion of a canon is at the theological foundation of the Christian faith. Without revealed words available to God’s people, there would be no exercise by God of Lordship over us as servants, and there would be no sure promise from God the Savior to save us as sinners.” Greg L. Bahnsen, “The Concept and Importance of Canonicity,” pp. 3-4.

82See for example the extensive personal possession of Scriptures mentioned in 1Macc. 1:56-57. Josephus alludes to this extensive possession of Scriptures in Antiquities of the Jews, 12:5:4 (The reference is 3:182 in William Whiston’s edition). After examining various lines of evidence, C.F. Keil says, “we find such an exact knowledge of the law, and so many references to it, that we must assume a great diffusion of the book of the law among the people. Nor can the writings of the prophets have been less widely spread, since we find those who lived later making so many references to the predictions of those who had lived before them.” Carl F. Keil, Manual of Historico-Critical Introduction, in Dr. Hermann Schultz, Introduction to the Old Testament, 2 vols. (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1869), vol. 2, p. 134.

83Note that we have already demonstrated that the corpus of Genesis-Deuteronomy was called “the book of the covenant” (Ex. 24:7; 2Kings. 23:2,21; 2Chron. 34:30), “the book of the Law” (Deut. 28:61; 29:21; 30:10; 31:26; Josh 1:8; 8:34; 2Kings 22:8,11; 2Chron. 34:15; Neh. 8:3; Ga. 3:10), “the book of Moses” (2Chron. 25:4; 35:12; Ezra 6:18; Neh. 13:1; Mark 12:26), “the book of the Law of Moses” (Josh. 8:31; 23:6; 2Kings 14:6; Neh. 8:1), “the book of the Law of the LORD” (1Chron. 17:9; 2Chron. 34:14; Neh. 9:3), “the book of the law of God” (Josh. 24:26; Neh. 8:18) or simply “the book” (Exodus 17:14; Neh. 8:8 in context of 8:18). To write in the book meant directly adding to those books.

84R. K. Harrison comments, “The catch-line attempted to insure the continuity of the narrative by repeating the first few words of the following tablet at the end of the previous tablet, so that, if a series of tablets became disarranged, there could be no doubt as to which word or words were to be read immediately after the conclusion of a tablet.” R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969), p. 544.

85The traditional view of the Jews and early Christians was that Ezra wrote both Chronicles and Ezra. I hold to that view, but do not want to get sidetracked into authorship debates.

86I am using the words “chapter” and “verse” loosely, as versification and chapter divisions did not occur until after the canon was closed. But the ancient Hebrews recognized distinct pericopes and units of thought long before versification was formalized. A study of the massive amount of quotations of one Scriptural book from another shows that any word or sentence was considered Scripture.

87As E. J. Young said,

Now men are commanded to read… the writing that is found upon the book. The immediate reference is to this particular prophecy. In commanding men to search the writing he desires that they look at the writing to see whether this prophecy is true. At the same time, in speaking of the writing or book of the Lord, as several commentators have pointed out, Isaiah has more in mind than this particular prophecy. He is in effect referring to this prophecy as part of a whole. It is part of an actual Scripture, of a book written down, so that men may turn to it and find therein the reference to this prophecy. Isaiah appeals to written words of God as the authority by which men are to judge the truthfulness of God as the authority by which men are to judge the truthfulness of His message. E. J. Young, The Book of Isaiah, vol. 2, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969). P. 442.

88See the excellent discussion in R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969), pp. 543-551. He argues that Genesis 1:1–37:2 is taken from “a series of tablets whose contents were linked together to form a roughly chronological account of primeval and patriarchal life written from the standpoint of a Mesopotamian cultural milieu… Such a view is based upon the conviction that this approach alone does the fullest justice to the literary phenomena of much of Genesis…” (p. 548) The eleven sources are described by Harrison as follows:

  1. Tablet 1: Gen. 1:1–2:4. The origins of the cosmos
  2. Tablet 2: Gen. 2:5–5:2. The origins of mankind
  3. Tablet 3: Gen. 5:3–6:9a. The histories of Noah
  4. Tablet 4: Gen. 6:9b–10:1. The histories of the sons of Noah
  5. Tablet 5: Gen. 10:2–11:10a. The histories of Shem
  6. Tablet 6: Gen. 11:10b–11:27a. The histories of Terah
  7. Tablet 7: Gen. 11:27b–25:12. The histories of Ishmael
  8. Tablet 8: Gen. 25:13–25:19a. The histories of Isaac
  9. Tablet 9: Gen. 25:19b–36:1. The histories of Esau
  10. Tablet 10: Gen. 36:2–36:9. The histories of Esau
  11. Tablet 11: Gen. 36:10–37:2. The histories of Jacob

89Ecclesiastes 12:9 says that “he pondered and sought out and set in order many proverbs.”

90Proverbs 25:1 says, “These also are the proverbs of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied…” The Hebrew word for “copied” (עתק) can mean “collected” or arranged.

91Many scholars conclude that this editing process was the work of David (1Chron. 15:16), Hezekiah (2Chron. 29:30; Prov. 25:1), and Ezra (Nehemiah 8). This editing work may have included the addition of inspired superscriptions as well as the notes of how a book of Psalms has just ended (see Psalm 72:20). Ezra also wrote the books of Ezra, Chronicles, and Psalm 119.

92Ernest L. Martin says,

One of the most striking evidences of Hezekiah’s canonization is his “sign-manual” … a series of three Hebrew letters (HZK) that occur at the end of every Old Testament book with the exception of the five books of the “Megilloth” (Festival Scrolls) … Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and Esther. These five books were positioned in a special section in the Temple liturgy by Ezra.

The “sign-manual” has not been translated in any of the English versions, but was Hezekiah’s means of “confirming” or “binding” the various Old Testament books.

When later writers (such as Jeremiah and Ezekiel) had their prophecies placed among the sacred writings of the Old Testament, the same sign-manual was affixed to the end of these books. And Ezra, at the final canonization, carefully placed the sign-manual on all books which he and the Great Assembly recognized, omitting it only from the five Festival Scrolls which were being regularly read by the priests in the Temple.

Of the sign-manual, E. W. Bullinger writes:

The use of this tri-grammaton is uniform and continuous at the end of each book, until we come to the death of Hezekiah … [after which] we find a different formula. Instead of the simple sign (HZK), we find two words, making a sentence – instead of forming the initials. At the end of Kings, we have “Be bound, and we will bind.” This looks as though the subsequent editors, whether Josiah, Ezra, or others, understood the tri-grammaton as a solemn injunction transmitted to them; and they took up the work and carried it out in the same spirit in which it had come down to them, and said, “Be bound,” and they responded. “We will bind.” The same form [of two words] is used after Ezekiel, at the end of the Minor Prophets, the Psalms, Proverbs and Job. We do not find it after the Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, or Esther. We meet with it again after Daniel, and after Ezra-Nehemiah.

(Bullinger – The Song of Degrees, Things To Come, XIII (1907), page 112.)

After the Book of Chronicles … the last book of the Hebrew Old Testament … we find the final, and longer form of the sign-manual … “Be bound. So we will bind. The Lawgiver is not straitened (or powerless)”.

Thus Ezra and the Great Assembly of priests, having concluded the writing of the Book of Chronicles, finalized the Old Testament canonization.

From Ernest L. Martin, The Original Bible Restored, unpublished class notes, 1984, p. 7.

93William Hendriksen comments on the phrase, “from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar”, saying:

The reason why Jesus says “from Abel to Zechariah” is that according to the arrangement of the books in the Hebrew Bible Genesis (hence “Abel”) comes first, Chronicles (hence “Zechariah”) last. William Hendriksen, The Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1975), p. 838.

94Nathan Wells gives examples of potential edits when he says,

Examples of possible modernization include the use of “Chaldees” in regard to Ur (Gen. 11:28, 31), and an update to the city name of Laish to Dan (Gen. 14:14). Possible explanatory glosses include the addition of “Damascus” to clarify Eliezer’s place of origin (Gen. 15:2), and the parenthetical comment that equates Israel’s dispossession of the land to the people of Esau’s dispossession of land of the Horites (Deut. 2:10-12), a fact that had yet to occur. Transitional updates include such as the death of Moses (Deut. 34), the death of Joshua (Josh. 24:29-33), as well as the arrangement and transitional verses between the books of the Psalms (Ps. 41:13; 72:19; 89:52; 106:48), including the phrase, “The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended” (Ps. 72:20). Apologetic commentary is seen in the text where an editor inserted information so as to prove the validity of the narrative or the continuing impact of an event. Examples include the previously mentioned archeological explanation regarding Og (Deut. 3:11), as well as the plentiful occurrences of the phrases, “until this day,” “to this day” and other variations (Gen. 32:32; Deut. 3:14; 10:8; 29:28; Josh. 7:26; 8:28; 9:27; et al.)

From an unpublished paper, A Defense of Textual Updating. I personally do not see the need for such explanations, but neither do I see them as out of accord with the prophetic crafting of the canon by God’s authorization.

95When Moses forbade anyone from adding to the law in Deuteronomy 4:2 and 12:32, he was not saying that Scripture could not be added to the canon. Otherwise he would have disobeyed his own injunction when adding several chapters to the end of Deuteronomy. God was forbidding any additions to the moral code laid down in the Pentateuch. Thus Jews held that the Pentateuch was a complete moral code, and that the Writings and Prophets merely applied that law rather than adding to it. If Ezra did indeed add inspired notes to the Pentateuch (a point still in question), it is clear that he did not add to the moral code of the Pentateuch, since no new laws were given by Ezra.

96Ezra’s last act was to form a group of 120 priests who would be responsible for reproducing authorized copies of the Bible, carefully counting each letter, and matching the copies to the authorized manuscripts stored in the temple.

97See the quote in the heading, taken from Benjamin B. Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible (Philadelphia, PA: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1948), p. 411.

98A good start for seeing these allusions is G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson’s massive book, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. The clear allusions they draw out on each book of the New Testament illustrate how every fiber of the New Testament is intertwined with the Old. ::asin|060150643|Van der Waal’s commentary:: has demonstrated about 1000 Old Testament allusions to the Old Testament in the book of Revelation alone, and if parallels are included, some recent computer research shows upwards of 1500 parallels and allusions. The point is, that unlike Siamese Twins (who can sometimes be surgically separated), separating the Old Testament from the New Testament kills both because of the myriad “blood veins” that pump between each Testament.

99http://www.openbible.info/blog/2010/04/bible-cross-references-visualization/ Shared under Creative Commons Attrbition License

100Ned B. Stonehouse, “The Authority of the New Testament,” in The Infallible Word, eds., N.B. Stonehouse and Paul Wooley, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1946), p. 109.

101Bruce, F.F., The Defence of the Gospel in the New Testament, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959), p. 80

102For example, Cyril of Jerusalem said, “In regard to the divine and holy mysteries of the faith, not the least part may be handed on without the Holy Scriptures. Do not be led astray by winning words and clever arguments. Even to me, who tell you these things, do not give ready belief, unless you receive from the Holy Scriptures the proof of the things which I announce.” (Catechetical Lectures 4,17) Anastasius of Antioch said, “It is manifest that those things are not to be inquired into, which Scripture has passed over into silence. For the Holy Spirit has dispensed and administered to us all things which conduce to our profit.” (Anagog. Contemp. in Hexem. lib 8 init.) Hundreds of others could be cited.

103For example, Saint Vincent of Lerins said, “the canon of Scripture is complete, and sufficient of itself for everything, and more than sufficient…” (On Discerning the Apostolic Faith)

William Cunningham spoke of “the constant maintenance, during the first three centuries, of the supremacy and sufficiency of the sacred Scriptures, and the right and duty of all men to read and study them. There is no trace of evidence in the first three centuries that these scriptural principles were denied or doubted, and there is satisfactory evidence that they were steadily and purely maintained… and the same may be said of the writings, without exception, of many succeeding centuries - there is not the slightest traces of anything like that depreciation of the Scriptures, that denial of their fitness, because of their obscurity and alleged imperfection, to be a sufficient rule or standard of faith, which stamp so peculiar a guilt and infamy upon Popery and Tractarianism. There is nothing in the least resembling this; on the contrary, there is a constant reference to Scripture as the only authoritative standard.” (Historical Theology, vol. 1. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1979), pp. 185-186)

104Though there is debate on the dating of some of Paul’s epistles, my dating of the books shows Paul as having quoted Luke 8 years after Luke was written. If Robinson is correct, Paul quotes Luke either the same year or the year after Luke was written. John A.T. Robinson, Redating the New Testament (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2000). My dating of the books is: 1 and 2 Thessalonians were written in AD 51, 1 Corinthians in 54, 2 Corinthians and Romans in 55, Luke was written in AD 57, Philippians, Philemon, Colossians, and Ephesians in 58, 1 Timothy and Titus in 65, and 2 Timothy in 66. Robinson places 1 Timothy in either AD 57 or 58. Either way, Luke is quoted as Scripture by Paul shortly after it was written.

105For a detailed discussion of all views of the big scroll of Revelation 5, see the sermon The Identity of the Scroll. Though there is obviously controversy on the identity of this scroll, the parallels with Ezekiel 2 make it clear that it is the heavenly basis for the earthly Scriptures. Both scrolls are written on front and back - such an unusual thing, that the connection with Ezekiel 2 is strong. Both scrolls involve revealing something to a prophet rather than hiding information, and thus they better reflect the idea of revelation rather than God’s secret decrees. Both scrolls were written revelation, and point to the inscripturation process.

106See exegetical studies on these sections at https://revelation.biblicalblueprints.org

107The parallels are as follows:

  • Both books were delivered by an angel.
  • Both prophets are commanded to eat the little book that is given to them.
  • Both books taste sweet and yet afterwards produce bitter judgments
  • Both books are connected with a commission to prophesy judgments
  • Both scrolls were written on the inside and outside
  • Both scrolls are little in comparison to the big scroll they are being added to.

108The exegetical basis for this cessation of revelation will have to wait for chapters 7 and 8. For more information on both Revelation 10 and 11, see the sermon transcripts at https://revelation.biblicalblueprints.org/sermons

109The origins of this word are debated. The English word is a transliteration of the Greek word ἀπόκρυφος, which means secret or hidden. There is debate on whether this originally was used to describe Gnostic books since they claimed secret knowledge and secret books or whether this refers to fathers who kept these books seperate from the Biblical books so as not to confuse Christians. For Protestants it has come to mean books that are not part of the canon. Thus, the Roman Catholics prefer to call the apocryphal books in their Bible, “deutero-canonical” (or belonging to the later-defined canon of Trent). Thus they have proto-canonical (the Protestant books) and deutero-canonical (equally authoritative books that were later canonized by the church).

110Pseudepigraphal books are those books that make a false claim to be written by an author who is not the true author. The English word comes from two Greek words: ψευδής, meaning false and ἐπιγραφή, meaning name, inscription, or ascription. Though this definition could technically be used to call all apocryphal books pseudepigraphal (with the exception of Ecclesiasticus), since the apocryphal books also pretend to be authored by Biblical characters who died long before the books were written, the term is usually reserved for those books claiming to be Scripture which have not been included in any of the main churches’ canons.

111Such as negative testimony of hundreds of church fathers, it’s exclusion from the Hebrew canon, Christ’s endorsement of the Hebrew canon, the failure of Jesus and apostles to quote from the apocrypha, heretical doctrines contained in these writings (such as justification by works, merits of saints, prayers for the dead, purgatory, magical rites to drive away demons, prayers to the saints, worship of angels, etc), historical errors of great magnitude, chronological errors that contradict the Scripture, unbiblical ethics (such as cruelty to slaves, hatred of Samaritans, commending suicide, etc), self-contradictions, no internal claim to prophetic inspiration, etc.

112William Whitaker, A Disputation on Holy Scripture, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, M.DCCC.XLIX), pp. 49-50.

113Geisler says that the Apocrhyphal books “lack any claim to divine inspiration… There is indeed a striking absence in the Apoc of the ‘thus saith the Lord’ found hundreds of times in the prophetic books of the Hebrew canon. Indeed, there is neither an explicit nor implicit claim to inspiration in any of the apocryphal books.” Norm Geisler, “Extent of OT Canon,” in Gerald F. Hawthorne (ed), Current Issues in Biblical and Patristic Interpretation (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), pp. 42f.

1141 Macc. 9:27 acknowledges that the succession of Old Testament prophets had already ceased. 1 Macc. 4:46 says that Israel was waiting till the Messiah when a prophet might arise to tell them what to do with the heap of stones. Apparently no prophet was in existence at the time of the writing. The absence of prophets can be seen in 1 Macc. 14:41; 2 Esdras 14:45; etc. Thus, in the Prologue to Sirach, the grandson makes clear that Sira was simply a wise man and he was simply translating. See the apology of the author in 2 Macc. 15:38 - “And if I have done well, and as is fitting the story, it is that which I desired: but if slenderly and meanly, it is that which I could attain unto.”

115See the discussion in Ludwig Blau, “Bible Canon,” Jewish Encyclopedia, Isidore Singer (ed), 12 volumes (New York: KTAV, 1901-1906), volume 3, p. 147. Edward J. Young has an extended discussion of the meaning of the Hebrew term for “prophet” (נְבִיא) in his book, My Servants the Prophets (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), pp. 56-66.

116He said “…every one is not permitted of his own accord to be a writer, nor is there any disagreement in what is written; they being only prophets that have written the original and earliest accounts of things as they learned them of God himself by inspiration; and others have written what hath happened in their own times, and that in a very distinct manner also.” Flavius Josephus and William Whiston, The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1987), p. 776. Thus, it is no suprise to find Josephus rejecting the apocrypha and only accepting the books of the Bible that are found in the Protestant canon. However, to be fair to the evidence, Josephus seems to contradict himself when he sees John Hyrcanus (who died 105 BC) as a man who had “the gift of prophesy, for the Deity was with him and enabled him to foresee and foretell the future…” Antiquities 13:299-300 and paralleled in Jewish Wars. 1:68-69.

117Ludwig Blau, “Bible Canon,” Jewish Encyclopedia, Isidore Singer (ed), 12 volumes (New York: KTAV, 1901-1906), volume 3, p. 147.

118F. F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1988), p. 71.

119On David as a prophet, see commentators on the language in 1 Chron. 14:14; 2 Sam. 23:2; Matt. 22:43; Mark 12:36; Acts 2:25-31; etc. Though he is not explicitly called a prophet, it is clear that he prophesies.

120Milton C. Fisher, “The Canon of the Old Testament,” in F.E Gaebelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, volume 1, p. 389. For the exact wording of Josephus, see Apion 1:40-46.

121See G. L. Robinson and R.K. Harrison, “Canon of the Old Testament,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, revised, volume 1, p. 598.

122David G. Dunbar, “The Biblical Canon,” in Hermeneutics, Authority, and Canon, by D.A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge (eds), (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986), p. 315. Roger Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), pp. 369-376.

123The Talmud taught that prophecy ceased after Malachi. See “Baba Bathra,” Babylonian Talmud, 12a, 12b, 14b-15c; “Sanhedrin,” 11a.

124The New American Commentary says, “The prophecy that they would seek “David their king” is messianic. The phrase does not mean simply that the Israelites would again submit to the Davidic monarchy and so undo Jeroboam’s rebellion. Had that been the point, we would expect the text to say that they would return to the “house of David.” Instead we see “David their king” set alongside of Yahweh as the one to whom the people return in pious fear. This “David” cannot be the historical king, who was long dead, but is the messianic king for whom he is a figure.” Duane A. Garrett, Hosea, Joel, vol. 19A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1997), 104. After quoting Keil - “Seeking Jehovah their God is connected with seeking David their king. For as the apostasy of the ten tribes from the kingdom of David was only the consequence and result of its inner apostasy from Jehovah, so the true return to God could not take place without a return to their king David, since God had promised the kingdom to David forever in his seed (2 Sam. 7:13, 16); thus David is the only true king of Israel—their king” (Keil). Lange agrees and says, “The family of David is probably primarily meant, and more strictly, a king of that family. The conclusion, ‘at the end of the days,’ alludes to the Messianic period, according to prophetic usage elsewhere; hence we are justified in assuming the Messiah to be also meant here.” John Peter Lange, Philip Schaff, et al., A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Hosea (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 47.

125Teraphim were household idols that were consulted by people for guidance/revelation. The New Bible Dictionary states, “These objects are mentioned in every OT period: the Patriarchs (Gn. 31:19); the judges (Jdg. 17:5–18:30); early and late Monarchy (1 Sa. 15:23; 19:13–16; 2 Ki. 23:24; Ho. 3:4; Ezk. 21:21; and post-exile (Zc. 10:2). When mentioned in Israelite contexts they are almost always condemned, directly (1 Sa. 15:23; 2 Ki. 23:24) or indirectly (Jdg. 17:6; Zc. 10:2). In their use, they are mostly associated with *DIVINATION: note the pairing of ephod and teraphim in the idolatrous religion of Micah (Jdg. 17:5, etc.); the association with divination by arrows and hepatoscopy (Ezk. 21:21), and with spiritist practices (2 Ki. 23:24). Nowhere are we told how they were consulted, nor even what their appearance was.” J. A. Motyer and M. J. Selman, “Teraphim,” ed. D. R. W. Wood et al., New Bible Dictionary (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 1163.

126For an extended discussion of the dating of Jesus’ birth, see Phillip Kayser, December 25 Jewish Style (Omaha: Biblical Blueprints, 2018), available as an ebook at https://leanpub.com/december-25-jewish-style/

127F. David Farnell, “The Gift of Prophesy in the Old and New Testaments,” Bibliothca Sacra, (October-December 1992): 389.

128That this is a reference to a pagan sacrifice and a pagan sacred pillar can be seen by the fact that this is a good thing to be “without” (parallel with Gomer leaving temple shrine and former lovers behind).

129David Baron, The Ancient Scriptures and the Modern Jews (Hodder and Stoughton, 1900), p. 26.

130“Apart from our passage there are only seven other scriptures in the Hebrew Bible where the teraphim are introduced, but these suffice to show that they were not only idols, the use of which is classed together by God with “witchcraft, stubbornness, and iniquity” (i Sam. xv. 23), but that they were a peculiar kind of idols, namely, those used for oracular responses.” David Baron, Ibid.

131Schoville states, “The reference here (and in the parallel passage in Neh 7:65) suggests that a high priest and sacred breastplate were lacking when the list was made. Since no further reference is made to Urim and Thummim in the Bible, we are left to wonder if or when these unrecognized priests ever had the opportunity to be proven legitimate.” Keith N. Schoville, Ezra-Nehemiah, The College Press NIV Commentary (Joplin, MO: College Press, 2001), 61. John Gill states, “…as yet there was not any priest that had them; they were not to be found at the return from Babylon; the governor might hope they would be found, and a priest appear clothed with them, when it might be inquired of the Lord by them, whether such priests, before described, might eat of the holy things or no; but since the Jews acknowledge that these were one of the five things wanting in the second temple; it is all one, as the Talmudists express it, as if it had been said, until the dead rise, or the Messiah comes; and who is come, the true High-priest, and with whom are the true Urim and Thummim, lights and perfections to the highest degree, being full of grace and truth; of the Urim and Thummim, see the note on Exod. 28:30.” John Gill, An Exposition of the Old Testament, vol. 3, The Baptist Commentary Series (London: Mathews and Leigh, 1810), 106.

132The Talmud says, “These five things [distinguish] between the first and second temple: the ark, the ark cover, the cherubim (which all count as one), the fire [from heaven], the Shekinnah, the spirit of holiness (i.e., of prophecy), and the urim and thummim.” (TB Yoma 21b)

133J. David Bleich, With Perfect Faith: The Foundations of Jewish Belief (New York: KTAV Publishing, 1983), p. 684.

134The Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines an interregnum as the period “between successive reigns or regimes.” Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson, eds., Concise Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004). In the case of Biblical theology, it is the time between the last Davidic king of Israel and Jesus, the final Davidic King.

135That this rebuilding of the tabernacle of David occurs during New Covenant times is proved by James’ use of the phrase in Acts 15. For a detailed exegesis of this, see Phillip Kayser, Musical Instruments in Worship (Omaha: Biblical Blueprints, 2018). This can be purchased as an ebook at https://leanpub.com/musical-instruments-in-worship/

136Fred Carnes Giblert, From Judaism to Christianity and Gospel Work Among the Hebrews (Lancaster, MA: Good Tidings Press, nd), p. 347.

137Hans Wolff comments: “If the intention here were to delimit the boundaries of Palestine, one would not expect ‘from the north to the east’ in the parallel colon. One must rather think here of the vast regions into which the people of God were scattered. The peculiar combination of north and east is most easily understood in this way.” Hans Walter Wolff, Joel and Amos (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977), p. 331. Douglas Stewart, in the Word Bible Commentary on Amos says, “…the mention of the other directions—north and east—in 12a completes the compass, saying in effect that people will wander/stagger “everywhere” without success.”

138Norm Geisler, “Extent of OT Canon,” in Gerald F. Hawthorne (ed), Current Issues in Biblical and Patristic Interpretation (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), pp. 42f.

139Norm Geisler, “Extent of OT Canon,” in Gerald F. Hawthorne (ed), Current Issues in Biblical and Patristic Interpretation (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), p. 39.

140Bruce M. Metzger, “Apocrypha,” in James Hastings (ed), Dictionary of the Bible, revised, p. 40.

141For example, in a pastoral letter he said, “Let her avoid all apocryphal writings, and if she is led to read such not by the truth of the doctrines which they contain but out of respect for the miracles contained in them; let her understand that they are not really written by those to whom they are ascribed, that many faulty elements have been introduced into them, and that it requires infinite discretion to look for gold in the midst of dirt.” Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, eds., Jerome: Select Works and Letters, NPNF-2 VI; Accordance electronic ed. 14 vols.; (New York: Christian Literature Publishing, 1890), paragraph 34691.

In a Preface he said, “…we may be assured that what is not found in our list must be placed amongst the Apocryphal writings. Wisdom, therefore, which generally bears the name of Solomon, and the book of Jesus, the Son of Sirach, and Judith, and Tobias, and the Shepherd are not in the canon. The first book of Maccabees I have found to be Hebrew, the second is Greek…” Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, eds., Jerome: Select Works and Letters, NPNF-2 VI; Accordance electronic ed. 14 vols.; (New York: Christian Literature Publishing, 1890), paragraph 41512.

On Daniel, Jerome said, “…in Hebrew contains neither the history of Susanna, nor the hymn of the three youths, nor the fables of Bel and the Dragon… such deeds were more the results of an able man’s forethought than of a prophetic spirit…” In another place he says, “As, then, the Church reads Judith, Tobit, and the books of Maccabees, but does not admit them among the canonical Scriptures, so let it read these two volumes for the edification of the people, not to give authority to doctrines of the Church.” Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, eds., Jerome: Select Works and Letters, NPNF-2 VI; Accordance electronic ed. 14 vols.; (New York: Christian Literature Publishing, 1890), paragraph 41529.

142N. Schmidt, ed., Ecclesiasticus, The Temple Bible (London; Philadelphia: J. M. Dent & Co.; J. B. Lippincott Co., 1903), 2.

143Melito of Sardis (2nd century), Augustine (c. 397 AD), and Pope Innocent (AD 405). But most fathers thought of it as worth reading or as an ecclesiastical book rather than as a Scriptural book.

144Islam is basically a Christian cult. Initially it accepted the Old and New Testaments, but later Muslims ignored it or destroyed it. This is typically what happens when anything is added to God’s word - the new addition supersedes the old. Yet early on, Islam accepted the whole Bible. Surah 5:46-48 says, “And in their footsteps we sent Jesus the son of Mary, confirming the Law that had come before him: we sent him the Gospel: therein was guidance and light, and confirmation of the Law that had come before him; a guidance and an admonition to those who fear Allah…. To thee we sent the Scripture in truth, confirming the scripture that came before it, and guarding it…” Surah 5:68 says, “Say: ‘O People of the Book! Ye have no ground to stand upon unless ye stand fast by the Law, the Gospel, and all the revelation that has come to you from Your Lord.’ It is the revelation that cometh to thee from thy Lord…” See also Surah 5.44

145“He will be a sanctuary, but a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, as a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many among them will stumble; they shall fall and be broken, be snared and taken.”

146“Here am I and the children whom the LORD has given me! We are for signs and wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, who dwells in Mount Zion.”

147“They will pass through it hard pressed and hungry; and it shall happen, when they are hungry, that they will be enraged and curse their king and their God, and look upward. Then they will look to the earth, and see trouble and darkness, gloom or anguish; and they will be driven into darkness.”

148“And when they say to you, ‘Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter, should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living?”

149Many Hebrew dictionaries show this range of meaning. TDOT says, “The verbal root ṣrr I is probably related to ṣwr I1 and derives from the Akkadian, where ṣarāru means “to wrap.”2 This group also includes Arab. ṣarra, “tie up, bind,”3 and OSA ṣr IV, “attack, advance,”4 while Ugar. ṣrrt (ṣpn)5 is extremely uncertain. In Hebrew, ṣrr I constitutes two semantically different qal formatives. The first is transitive, means “wrap up, envelop,” and seems commensurate with the etymological findings; the second is intransitive, means “be cramped for space, restricted,” and is semantically somewhat more removed from that etymology. Moreover, the intransitive form has generated a pual form meaning “patched together” and a transitive hiphil meaning “harass.”” Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament.

150Compare Mark 13:14 with Luke 21:20-24 for a clear case that this is referring to the past casting away of Israel (just as in Isaiah 8) rather than some speculated future war against Jerusalem. On the phrase, “shall destroy the city and the sanctuary see Matt. 22:2,7; 23:38; 24:2; Mark 13:2; Luke 19:43,44; 21:6, 24; Acts 6:13,14. On verse 26b-27 see Matt. 23:38 (“behold your house is left to you desolate”); Luke 21:20 (“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near.”). See Matt. 24:15; Mark 13:14 which quotes Daniel and applies to 70 A.D. See Luke 19:43-44 for the embankments brought against Jerusalem. See also Luke 21:24.

151From the day the temple was burned, hostilities would continue against the Jews throughout the entire empire for 1290 days. After that, the only hostilities against Jews anywhere would be Rome’s continuing war against the tiny group of Jews in Massada. (See next footnote.) The Hebrew date for the burning of the temple was Ab 9, 4070 AM. The Seleucid date is Loos 9, 381 SE. The Gregorian date was August 3, 70. Josephus records continuing hostilities after that date as Jews were sold into slavery, the fortresses of Machaerus and Herodian were conquered, the massacres of Jews in Alexandria, Cyrene and other cities were carried out, the Jewish temple in Egypt was looted and demolished, 3000 wealthy Jews were slain in Libya, the massacre of the last of the Sicarri took place, and other hostilities were carried out that “completely shattered” the Jews. Note that Gaalya Corrnfield, Josephus: The Jewish War, p. 505, note 409[a] shows that the massacre of the Sicarii occurred in late 73 AD rather than after the fall of Masada.

152

The date given by Josephus for the fall of Masada was Xanticus 15. The most recent scholarship dates the fall of Masada to 74 AD rather than to the traditional 73 AD. See Gaalya Cornfield, Josephus: The Jewish War, p. 505, note 409[a]. He says, “According to most modern Israeli scholars, among them the late M. Avi-Yonah (Atlas CartaII) and B. Mazar, the siege and fall of Masada took place in AD 74 and not in 73, as believed heretofore…” See also p. 502, note 401 [d]. See also the notes in the Anchor Bible Dictionary under “The Jewish War.” Xanticus 15 in the year 74 fell on March 30-31 (Hebrews noted time from sunset to sunset thus making a difference of a day depending on which portion of the day is being considered. But from Loos 9 of 70 to Xanticus 15 of 74 is exactly 1335 days.)

153See previous footnote. Of course, many scholars have ways in which they separate the “command” of verse 23 from the “command” of verse 25, and start the countdown under a later emperor.

154Jeremiah consigned Israel to 70 years of exile because there were seventy Sabbath years that Israel had failed to let the land lie fallow (see 2Chron. 36:21; Jer. 25:9-12; 27:6-8; 29:10). It is clear to all scholars that there were gaps in Israel’s earlier seventy Sabbathless weeks of years. This means seventy Sabbath years had been violated (with gaps of faithfulness here and there), and now God is predicting another seventy Sabbaths that would be violated before they are cast out of the land. If the seventy weeks deals with seventy violated Sabbaths, then there is no reason why they need to be without gaps.

155For a detailed analysis of this, see the sermon series by Phillip Kayser on Daniel.

156Whether this is a reference to the massive numbers of demons that Christ cast out, we are not sure. But it is significant that during the war against Jerusalem (66-73 AD) that is described in the first chapters of Revelation, millions of demons are once again released from the pit (Rev. 9:1-21). It may be that many of those demons had been consigned to the pit during the ministry of Jesus.

157See the discussion of Matthew 7:15-20 in the next chapter. Christ warns his disciples how to recognize false prophets: if they have any bad prophetic fruit whatsoever they are false. The reason is because New Testament prophets are just as inspired and inerrant as Old Testament prophets. Likewise, Christ calls for those false prophets to be executed (v. 19).

158“the LORD will be zealous for His land…satisfied…be glad and rejoice…the LORD has done marvellous things… rejoice in the LORD your God… He has given you…vats shall overflow with new wine and oil…So I will restore to you…the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you, and My people shall never be put to shame. Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel…” etc

159For example, 2 Corinthians 12:11-12 speaks of miracles as being “signs of an apostle” precisely because they were “unusual miracles” (Acts 19:11). If they had not been “unusual,” how would they have authenticated Paul as an apostle when some miracles, healings and tongues followed those who believe and thus could have been considered signs of a believer (Mark 16:17)? The phrase “unusual miracles” seems to be differentiating itself from “ordinary miracles.” Likewise, Scripture seems to distinguish between extraordinary apostles of Christ who were inspired and carried the authority of Christ, and apostles of the church like Barnabas (Acts 14:14) and Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25 Gk). Though there is much debate about miracles, this brief discussion should at least show that one of the functions of miracles (or at least unusual miracles) was to authenticate apostles and prophets.

160As Warfield worded it, “The authoritative teachers sent forth by Christ to found His church, carried with them, as their most precious possession, a body of divine Scriptures, which they imposed on the church that they founded as its code of law… The Christian Church was never without a ‘Bible’ or a ‘canon.’” Benjamin B. Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, (Philadelphia, PA: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1948), p. 411.

161See for example, the books written by prophets and that contained “prophecies” and “visions” in 2 Chron. 9:29. Other prophetic books include the Book of The Wars of Jehovah (Numb. 21:14), the Book of Jashar (Josh 10:13; 2 Sam. 1:18), another Book of Samuel on the Kingdom (1 Sam. 10:25), the Book of Shemaiah the Prophet (2Chron. 12:15), the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite (2Chron. 9:29), the Visions of Iddo the seer (2Chron. 9:29; 12:15), and “the annals of the prophet Iddo.”

162καταργέω means “to come to an end or to be no longer in existence, abolish, wipe out, set aside.” BDAG

163The more literal translation of Augustine’s “Novum Testamentum in Vetere latet, Vetus in Novo patet,” is “The New Testament is in the Old concealed, the old is in the New revealed.” For Latin, see Al Wolters, “The History of Old Testament Interpretation: An Anecdotal Survey,” in Hearing the Old Testament: Listening for God’s Address, ed. Craig G. Bartholomew and David J. H. Beldman (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2012), 26.

164In Ezekiel 10 the Spirit leaves the temple proper, goes over the threshold (10:18) and moves to the south side of the temple’s outer court (10:3-5, 18), and then goes out of the East Gate (10:19; 11:1ff) and moves away from Israel (which would be east) into the remnant of Israel in Babylon making a new sanctuary not of brick and mortar but of Spirit and people (11:16 calls that His “little sanctuary,” or as the margin says, “little holy place”). So even though the temple was about to be destroyed in Ezekiel’s day, God comforts them by saying that the remnant of Israel would become the new Israel and as they walked in the Spirit He would make a spiritual temple among them. Interestingly, just as the Spirit later fell upon believers at Pentecost, the Spirit fell upon Ezekiel at that time, and in the vision, made him prophesy to the crowds in the temple. So this first time that the Spirit leaves the temple is in chapters 10 and 11. And it parallels the second time in many details:

The second time Ezekiel describes a future reconstructed temple, and the Spirit being poured out it does so in much the same way, but it is clearly a reference to Pentecost. It mentions the upper rooms and then in chapter 44 says that after the God of Israel walks through this gate, it will be sealed up. In the next chapters Ezekiel continues to describe this temple and in chapter 47 says that the Spirit, symbolized by a river of water poured out, would leave the temple once again. The water starts as a trickle on the south side of the altar, but then flows out of the East gate and grows over time into a huge river that eventually brings healing to the world. This is exactly what happened at Pentecost. God took the Spirit from the temple and made the remnant of Israel into His tabernacle (as He promised in Ezekiel 37). And whether you hold that the house that Acts 2 refers to is the entire temple (as in Ezekiel 44:7), or a meeting place on the inner walls, or the Southern Porticos, it was on the south side of the temple. And as the Spirit-filled Christians left the temple, the trickle gradually grew deeper and deeper as the church grew, and it is destined to become a river so great that no one can cross it, and eventually so great that it brings healing to the whole world.

165That the selection of Matthias was proper can be seen from the following considerations:

  • Peter was following the Scripture’s authority - “this Scripture had to be fulfilled” (v. 16). Based on Psalm 109:8 Peter says, “therefore… one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.” This would be a witness against Israel by the new Israel, and the symbolism needed to be present when Pentecost came.
  • There is not the slightest hint from Luke that what they did was wrong.
  • Luke refers to Peter being “with the eleven” (2:14) after this. Compared with the same language in 1:26 it is clear that Luke considers Matthias to be part of the twelve.
  • Luke refers to “the twelve” (6:2) long before Paul’s conversion.
  • Paul was unique in his apostleship as one appointed “out of due time” (1Cor. 15:8-9). He sees his apostleship as being on a different plane than the others, though of equal authority.
  • The lack of mention of Matthias later in Acts is immaterial since the only mention of any apostles after this are Peter, James, John and Philip.

166Consider Revelation 7:4, which describes the first century church as being (either literally or symbolically) composed of 144,000 Jews, twelve thousand from each tribe: “One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed.” Thus James writing to the “brethren” (see 1:2,9,16; 2:1,5,14,15; 3:1,10,12; etc) can address them as “the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad” (James 1:1). Paul says, “not all Israel is Israel.” This is why Revelation 2:9 says, “I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.” That’s why Revelation 3:9 says, “Indeed, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not; but lie…” We need to get used to realizing that God does not have two brides, but one bride. He has one people, one temple, one olive tree, one vineyard, one field, one Israel, one church. Galatians can speak of the church as “the Israel of God”

167See Peter R. Jones, “1 Corinthians 15:8: Paul the Last Apostle,” in Tyndale Bulletin 36 (1985), pp. 3-34 for an excellent discussion of this being an eschatological “last.” He states that Paul “is conscious of being called to bring the apostolic gospel to completion.… The closure with Paul of the apostolic circle” reflects “a solemn claim concerning his apostolic ministry that is grounded … in revelation.…” (pp. 28,33).

168That the “last days” ended with the destruction of Israel in AD 70 can be seen by my detailed analysis of “last days” references at https://kaysercommentary.com/Blogs/Last%20Days%20BeginBC.md The chart on that page shows four different interpretations of “last days,” but also shows how only one can account for the numerous references to “last days” events that preceded the birth of Jesus. The following prophecies of things that would happen in the last days absolutely rule out the last days beginning at the birth of Jesus, the death of Jesus, or even beginning in AD 70. They had to begin earlier, and thus refer to the last days of Israel as a nation and the last days of the temple, the Levitical ceremonies, etc. Dueteronomy 31:29 (refers to an event in 605 BC), Deuteronomy 32:20 (605 BC), Jer. 23:20 (586 BC), Jeremiah 30:24 (539 BC), Jeremiah 49:39 (539 BC), Jeremiah 30:24 (539 BC), Jeremiah 48:47 (539 BC), Ezekiel 38:14 (511 BC), Ezekiel 38:16 (511 BC), Daniel 11:20 (187 BC), etc. Certainly the following verses show that the first century AD was in the last days:

God who at various times and in different ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son. (Heb. 1:1)

Christ’s ministry was in the last days.

But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh… (Acts 2:16-17)

i.e. Peter lived in the last days.

He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you. (1Pet. 1:20)

This indicates that Christ was born and lived in the last times.

James, rebuking the rich Jews who were persecuting the Jewish Christians predicts the destruction of their gold in 67-70 AD. In the middle of his denunciation he says

Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped [notice the past tense, they have already done it] up treasure in the last days. (James 5:3)

169As pointed out earlier, Peter R. Jones demonstrates that this was an eschatological “last” rather than a least.

170This conclusion is further strengthened when the Sheliach nature of apostleship is understood. An apostle was a Sheliach who was directly commissioned and spoke in the name of and with the full authority of the one who sent him (Luke 10:16; John 13:20; Gal. 4:14). There are many apostles of the church, but there were only 12 + 1 apostles of Christ (parallel to the 13 tribes). This is necessarily so since in Hebrew thought, because a Sheliach could not commission another Sheliach to take his place. There can be no apostolic succession in Hebrew thought. Furthermore, the qualifications for being the twelfth apostle are given in Acts 2:21-26.

  1. had to have witnessed Christ’s resurrection
  2. had to have been with Christ
  3. had to have been trained by Christ
  4. had to have been with the other apostles

Paul recognized that the last qualification was not met by him and even though he vigorously defends his apostleship, he says that he was one “born out of due time” and therefore “the least of the apostles and not worthy to be called an apostle” (1Cor. 15:8-9). Nevertheless, in a miraculous way, God helped Paul meet the other qualifications and to be counted as an apostle “born out of due time.”

  1. Paul was a witness of the resurrected Christ: “After that he was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.” (1Cor. 15:7-8)
  2. Before Paul met with the other apostles, he went to Arabia where he was with Christ for three years (Gal. 1:16-18).
  3. During those three years Paul is jealous to defend his position that he was not taught by any man but by Christ Himself over that three year period (Gal. 1:12,16-17).
  4. Thus Paul received his apostleship from Christ, not from apostolic succession (Rom. 1:5; Gal. 1:1,12,15-16)

171Some of the differences of interpretation revolve around whether the reflexive verb for “will cease” that is used for tongues indicates a gradual cessation of tongues over time, or whether it is a co-terminus cessation with prophecy and knowledge. Likewise there are differences of opinion on whether the three gifts cease or whether the in-part-ness of the gifts ceases. Some see the “perfect” as the terminus point for the gifts, and others strongly disagree. And there are certainly differences of opinion about the meaning of “that which is perfect.” Some say the “perfect” has reference to the death of the believer and his transfer to heaven, others insisting that it is the Second Coming, still others the maturity of the church, others the maturity of the church in a given region (concentric Cessationism), and others to the completion of the New Testament canon. There are also differences on the linear relationship of faith, hope, and love to the gifts. Do faith, hope, and love all outlast the gifts, or does only love outlast the gifts? What is the point of Paul’s example of immaturity in verse 11? Is prophecy and tongues an evidence of immaturity, or is immaturity only a metaphor for the great difference between our in-part revelation and the great revelation we will receive in heaven? What point is Paul making with the unclear mirror metaphor? Is it a reference to the unclarity of God’s revelation or the unclarity we have without revelation? What connection is there (if any) between “putting away childish things” doing away with that which is in part (v. 10), and the ceasing of prophecy, tongues and knowledge (v. 8)? It is beyond the scope of this book to argue these and other such questions.

172

Some Cessationists have agreed with Charismatics that the terminus point for the charismatic gifts of verse 8 is the “perfect” of verse 10, but they argue that the “perfect” is either 1) the maturity of the church universal, 2) the maturity of the church in a region, 3) the completion of the canon, or 4) a cessation of the partial knowledge of first century Charismatics when they die and go to heaven.

173While the Greek word for “perfect” can technically be interpreted in the ways listed in the previous footnote, for the sake of the argument, the author of this book is quite willing to concede the point that the “perfect” is the Second Coming (whether that is true or not). However, he ties the “done away” of verse 10 only with the “partial” of all revelation in verse 9, whether that revelation is oral or Scriptural. However, it should be pointed out that the conclusions of this book are not dependent upon taking any position on “perfect.” I am indebted to my friend Dr. Robert Fugate for bringing to my attention that almost all scholars take the word “perfect” as a reference to the Second Coming:

  • Donald A. Carson, Showing the Spirit (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1987), p. 71
  • F. F. Bruce, 1 & 2 Corinthians, NCB, p. 128
  • Gordon Fee, 1 Corinthians, NIC, pp. 643, 646, 649
  • Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians, pp. 260, 262f
  • Archibald T. Robertson and Alfred Plummer, 1 Corinthians, ICC, p. 297
  • George G. Findlay, St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians, EGT [n.d.; reprinted, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970], 2:900
  • Charles K. Barrett, 1 Corinthians, HNTC, p. 306
  • Frederic L. Godet, 1 Corinthians, pp. 678, 680
  • David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, pp. 662f.
  • Henry Alford, Alford’s Greek Testament [Alf], 4 vols. (1844–1877; reprinted, Grand Rapids, MI: Guardian Press), 2:588
  • Charles J. Ellicott, St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians (1887; reprinted, Minneapolis, MN: James Family Christian Publ.), p. 259
  • Clarence T. Craig, 1 Corinthians, IB, ed. George A. Buttrick, 12 vols. (New York, NY: Abingdon, 1953), 10:188, 193
  • Heinrich A. W. Meyer, Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the Epistles to the Corinthians (New York, NY: Funk & Wagnalls, 1884), p. 305
  • F. W. Grosheide, Commentary on The First Epistle to the Corinthians, originally in NIC (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1953), pp. 309f
  • R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s First & Second Epistles to the Corinthians (1937; reprint, Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg, 1963), pp. 565f
  • Charles Hodge, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Geneva, p. 272
  • John Calvin, Commentary on The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians, 2 vols. (reprint, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1984), 1:428
  • Leon Morris, The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, TNTC (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1958), p. 7:187.

174It should be noted that the Greek word translated “So” (ESV), “And” (NKJV, NIV), and “But” (ASV, NASB) is the mild contrastive, δὲ. It puts what follows in contrast to what has been discussed.

175More and more scholars are seeing that the evidence is overwhelming for a pre-70 dating of all the books of the New Testament. A conservative work that demonstrates this is Ken Gentry’s book, Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (Tyler, TX: ICE, 1989). But even many liberals (who have tended to date all New Testament books very late) have conceded that the evidence is forcing them to a pre-70 AD dating for all the New Testament books. For a liberal work that demonstrates this quite convincingly, see John A.T. Robinson, Redating the New Testament (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1976).

176His views on New Testament prophecy being different from Old Testament prophecy and Apostles being equivalent to Old Testament prophets, see Wayne A. Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy in 1 Corinthians, (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1999); Wayne A. Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today, (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1988, 1990); Wayne A. Grudem (ed), Are Miraculous Gifts for Today: Four Views, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996); Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, Michigan: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004); Grudem, “A Response to O. Palmer Robertson, The Final Word (Edinburgh, Scotland and Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Banner of Truth, 1993)” (unpublished paper); “1 Corinthians 14:20-25: Prophecy and Tongues as Signs of God’s Attitude,” in Westminster Theological Journal 41:2 (Spring, 1979), pp, 381-396; “Prophecy, Prophets,” in New Dictionary of Biblical Theology (2000); “Why Christians Can Still Prophesy,” in Christianity Today 1988-09-16.

177This pastor pointed to Paul’s Macedonian call and claimed that Paul made an error in thinking it was a man who called him to Macedonia rather than the woman, Lydia. He also said that Jonah made a mistake. This strikes at the inerrancy of Scripture.

178Another prominent charismatic pastor held to this particular heresy, claiming that because Scripture is prophecy, it must include both fallible man’s reasoning and the infallible word of God. Thus he held to limited inerrancy - that Scripture is only inerrant on what God intends to say through fallible humans who also communicate truth but also communicate error. His faulty view of prophecy led to a faulty view of Scripture.

179Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy, p. 40

180This claim is repeated over and over in his books. As one example, Grudem says, “So it seems that the prophecy uttered by women at Corinth could not have claimed the extremely high authority of speech with a ‘divine authority of actual words’. Thus, 1Corinthians 11:5 is one more indication that prophets at Corinth were not thought by Paul to speak with a divine authority of actual words.” Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy, p. 87.

181For example, Grudem says, “the prophet could err, could misinterpret, and could be questioned or challenged at any point.” Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy, p. 87.

182Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy, p. 87.

183Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy, p. 87.

184Wayne Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy in 1Corinthians (University Press of America, 1982), pp. 3-5, 110-113.

185Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy, pp. 63-64.

186Old Testament saints were constantly being referred to accurate information in other inspired (but non-canonical) books. Until the canon was finished they not only needed supplemental revelation by way of dreams, visions, oral prophecies, etc. (see Heb. 1:1), but they were also given temporary (non-canonical) books that were written by prophets. Scripture refers contemporary readers to the following non-canonical (though inspired) books as being trustworthy for further research by contemporaries. See for example, the books written by prophets and that contained “prophecies” and “visions” in 2 Chron. 9:29. Other prophetic books includeBook of The Wars of Jehovah (Numb. 21:14), Book of Jashar (Josh 10:13; 2 Sam. 1:18), another Book of Samuel on the Kingdom (1 Sam. 10:25), Book of the Chronicles of David (1 Chron. 27:24), Book of the Acts of Solomon (1 Kings 4:32; 11:42), Book of Solomon’s Natural History (1 Kings 4:32,33), History of the Kings (1 Kings 9:1; 2 Chron. 20:34; 33:18), Book of Samuel the Seer (1 Chron. 29:29), Book of Nathan the Seer (1 Chron. 29:29; 2 Chron. 9:29), Book of Shemaiah the Seer (2 Chron. 12:15), Book of Gad the Seer (1 Chron. 29:29), Book of the Sayings of the Seers (2 Chron. 9:29), Book of Ahijah the Shilonite (2 Chron. 9:29), Book of the Visions of Iddo (2 Chron. 9:29; 12:15), Book of Jehu the Son of Hanani (2 Chron. 20:34).

Why were those inspired books not included in the canon? Scripture indicates that the canon was being developed to give the Kingdom generation (our generation) all the information they would need until eternity. Scripture explicitly affirms this: (“Now all these things… were written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Cor. 10:11; cf. 9:10 and Rom. 15:4). Peter says, “To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel” (1 Pet. 1:12). Or to use Old Testament language, “This will be written for the generation to come, that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord” (Psalm 102:18). Though the Old Testament saints were commanded to live by the progressively unfolding Scriptures (as well as by other revelation from God [cf. Heb. 1:1]), God always had in mind His purpose for a completed canon when he inspired and gave Scripture.

187Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy, p. 45.

188Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy, p. 104.

189Godet points out, “these writings are represented as the means of propagating a new revelation, and should consequently designate new prophetical writings. I think that the only explanation of this term in harmony with the apostles’ thought is got from the passage which we have already quoted, Eph. iii. 3-6: ‘For God by revelation made known unto me the mystery, as I wrote afore in few words, whereby when ye read ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ, which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit, that the Gentiles are fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel.’ The apostles are here called prophets, inasmuch as they are bearers of a new revelation. What then are their writings, if not prophetical writings?” (p. 505).

C.K. Barrett points out, “the combination of ‘now’ and ‘prophetic writings’ is curious in itself” if those prophetic writings refer to the Old Testament since it was precisely Paul’s point that the revelation of the mystery was now, not then. “The following people believe the “prophetic Scriptures” was NT Godet, 504–5; Corssen, “Überlieferungsgeschichte,” 33–34; Schmithals, Römerbrief, 121–22; Lührmann, Offenbarungsverständnis, 123–24; Schlier, 454; Wilckens, 3:150, referring to 2 Pet 1:19, which speaks of Christian writings as “the prophetic word” (τὸν προφητικὸν λόγον). See also Horst Balz and Gerhard Schneider, eds., “προφητικός,” EDNT 3 (1993) 186. See Clement of Alexandria Stro. 5.14.126.3; Clement of Alexandria Ex. The. 3.50.3.4; Justin Martyr 1 Apol. 32.2.10f. According to Clement of Alexandria Pro. 8.77.1, the expression προφητικαὶ γραφαί can also refer to pagan hexametric oracles; see also Stro. 1.21.148.1.” Robert Jewett and Roy David Kotansky, Romans: A Commentary, ed. Eldon Jay Epp, Hermeneia—a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2006).

190Robert L. Saucy, “Prophecy Today? An Initial Response,” in Sundoulos [Spring 1990]. p. 5.

191Sharp stated the rule this way:

When the copulative και connects two nouns of the same case, [viz. nouns (either substantive or adjective, or participles) of personal description, respecting office, dignity, affinity, or connexion, and attributes, properties, or qualities, good or ill], if the article ὁ, or any of its cases, precedes the first of the said nouns or participles, and is not repeated before the second noun or participle, the latter always relates to the same person that is expressed or described by the first noun or participle: i.e. it denotes a farther description of the first-named person . . .

192Wayne Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1988), pp. 53-63.

193Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), p. 272. If one examines Wallace’s detailed list of Scriptures where the Granville Sharpe Rule does indeed appear, the stark difference between those examples and the one Grudem gives becomes quickly apparent.

194Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, p. 272.

195Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy, p. 53.

196In a Journal article, Robert Thomas points out that “apostolicity cannot account for the inspiration of all the books that the church eventually recognized as part of the NT canon” (p. 8) and “to limit the determination of canonicity to apostolic authorship alone is precarious” (p. 6). He adds, “The first test a work had to pass to gain recognition as inspired, then, was either apostolicity or propheticity” (p. 24). In Robert L. Thomas, “Correlation of Revelatory Spiritual Gifts and NT Canonicity,” The Master’s Seminary Journal 8, no. 1 (Spring 1997).

197Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy, p. 54.

198Grudem, Gift, p. 55.

199Recent studies in Luke and Acts shows that the Hebraisms of those two books are not borrowed from the Septuagint, but rather show an author who was thoroughly Hebrew in his thinking and background. Consider the following points:

Paul said that all Scriptural revelation was given through the Jews. (Romans 3:12).

Luke appears to have been an eyewitness of Paul’s last trip to Jerusalem and of his arrest in the temple. Paul was arrested because they thought he had brought Trophimus into the temple as a Gentile. When the Jews accuse Paul, why do they use Trophimus as evidence rather than Luke (if Luke was a Gentile)?

Luke shows intimate knowledge of the temple and its liturgy and of its liturgical priests. In fact, his descriptions are so vivid, that many have assumed that Luke was a Levite.

Luke was so close to Mary that he knows that she “hid these things in her heart” (Luke 2:19,51)?

Some early church fathers thought that Luke wrote Hebrews. Anyone who wrote Hebrews was clearly Jewish. David L. Allen, dean of the school of theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas, has written a book defending the Lukan authorship of Hebrews.

It is generally recognized that Luke used Jewish time in describing the Passion week (along with Matthew and Mark), whereas John (writing to Gentiles) used Roman time. Many other indicators show that he was writing to Jews with their methods of calculating in mind. For example, in Acts 1:12 he refers to the distance they traveled as “a Sabbath day’s journey.” It wasn’t on the Sabbath. The point of the reference is to precisely indicate distance, a measurement method that would have been totally lost on a Gentile audience. The fact that Luke was writing with the Jewish mind in view shows that Theophilus must have been a Jewish reader. In any case, Luke is writing with a Jewish mindset.

Luke uses many Hebraic forms of speech known as Semitisms that a non-Hebrew Greek speaker simply would not use. Some examples of Semitisms follow:

  • redundant uses of “saying” (Luke 14:3; 24:6-7)
  • On “contrast by extremes,” Hebraic scholar Michael D. Marlowe said, “Luke’s version preserves the Hebraic style, Matthew’s the Greek
  • Another idiom, “the use of positive adjective for the comparative or superlative” in Luke 5:39 (“good” = “better”)
  • on the introductory, “it came to pass,” Marlowe says, “This Semitism appears far more frequently in Luke’s writings than elsewhere (Mark has only four examples of it). An example is Luke 2:6, “And it came to pass (egeneto de) that while they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.” Recognizing the unnaturalness of the expression, most modern translations begin simply, “While they were there” (see GNB, NIV, JB, NEB, RSV). For other examples of this idiom, see Luke 2:1, 2:6, 2:15, 3:21, 5:1, 5:12, 5:17, 6:1, 6:6, 6:12, 7:11, 8:1, 8:22, 9:18, 9:28,9:37, 9:51, 11:1, 11:27, 14:1, 17:11, 18:35, 20:1, 22:24, 24:4
  • Adjectival substitutes (Luke 10:6)
  • Future indicative used as an imperative (Luke 1:13)
  • verb and cognate noun expressing emphasis (Luke 22:15)
  • Parallelism (Luke 1-2 – though this could simply be an example of faithful reporting of Hebraism)
  • the use of idou (behold) in Luke 1:20,31,36; 2:25; Acts 12:7)
  • the use of pleonasms (Luke 15:18; Acts 5:17)
  • transliterations

So clear is the Hebrew thinking of the person writing Luke-Acts, that those who think Luke was Gentile have to scramble to explain the Jewishness. One explanation is that Luke was so used to reading the Septuagint, that Hebraisms began to affect his speech and writing unconsciously. Though J. Munk claims that the Semitisms in Luke-Acts are actually Septuagintisms, R. Steven Notley (of the Jerusalem School) responded by saying, “If the Semitism of Luke 11:20 is a result of Luke’s imitation of the Septuagint’s style, as most scholars claim, then how is it that Luke’s idiom is more Hebraic than the Septuagint upon which he supposedly relies? The evidence suggests that this is not a Septuagintism but, in Blass and Debrunner’s words, a “translation-Semitism.” Luke’s text seems to rest upon a literal translation of a Hebrew source.” Another writer said, “Their only argument against the plethora of Semitisms in Luke is that Luke is “Septuagintalizing” his Greek, never mind the fact that many of the Semitisms don’t even occur once in the Septuagint.”

There are fascinating grammatical and stylistic similarities between the book of Hebrews and Luke-Acts. Westcott remarks, “It has been already seen that the earliest scholars who speak of the Epistle notice its likeness in style to the writings of St Luke; and when every allowance has been made for coincidences which consist in forms of expression which are found also in the LXX. or in other writers of the N. T., or in late Greek generally, the likeness is unquestionably remarkable. No one can work independently at the Epistle without observing it.” Brooke Foss Westcott, ed., The Epistle to the Hebrews the Greek Text with Notes and Essays, 3d ed., Classic Commentaries on the Greek New Testament (London: Macmillan, 1903), lxxvi.

The point is that if Luke wrote Hebrews, he was clearly a Jew.

200Grudem, the Gift of Prophecy, p. 56.

201F.F. Bruce, 1 & 2 Corinthians, NCB (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), p. 134.

202Grudem, the Gift of Prophecy, pp. 94-95.

203Wayne Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2000), p. 72.

204The following are the three most common interpretations:

  1. The interpretation I have given.
  2. The interpretation that says that the Spirit did indeed tell Paul to go to Jerusalem to see if Paul would be steadfast to his previous revelation. In other words, this is a kind of “Word test” to see if Paul will begin to question the previous clear revelation. [This interpretation is ethically difficult for me to accept because it appears to make the Holy Spirit contradict himself just to test (confuse?) Paul.]
  3. The Spirit did not want Paul to go to Jerusalem and Paul disobeyed an explicit order of God.

205Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy, p. 96.

206Grudem, Bible Doctrine, p. 409

207Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy, p. 110.

208Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy, p. 89.

209Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy, p. 110.

210Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy, chapter heading on p. 67.

211As an example, John B. Pohill says, “In a symbolic act much like the acted-out prophecies of the Old Testament prophets, Agagus predicted Paul’s coming arrest in Jerusalem.” The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 2001), p. 435.

F. F. Bruce says, “The mode of his prophecy is reminiscent of much Old Testament prophecy: it is conveyed in action as well as in word. As Ahijah the Shilonite tore his new cloak to show how Solomon’s kingdom would be disrupted (1 Kings 11:29–39), as Isaiah went about naked and barefoot to show how the Egyptians would be led into captivity by the Assyrians (Isa. 20:2–4), as Ezekiel mimicked the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem by laying siege himself to a replica of the city (Ezek. 4:1–3), so Agabus foretold the binding of Paul by tying himself up with Paul’s girdle. The action was as much part of the prophecy as the spoken word: both together communicated the effective and self-fulfilling word of God (cf. Isa. 55:11).” F. F. Bruce, The Book of the Acts, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1988), 401.

Fitzmyer says, “As did certain OT prophets, Agabus acts out his message.” Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Acts of the Apostles: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, vol. 31, Anchor Yale Bible (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2008), 689.

Barrett says, “Agabus, binding himself hands and feet, performs an acted parable, a prophetic sign comparable with those of the OT prophets.” C. K. Barrett, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2004), 995.

Numerous others make the same point.

212Marshall says, “Thus says the Holy Spirit corresponds to ‘Thus says the Lord’ on the lips of Old Testament prophets.” I. Howard Marshall, Acts: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 5, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1980), 359.

Bruce says, “The action was as much part of the prophecy as the spoken word: both together communicated the effective and self-fulfilling word of God (cf. Isa. 55:11).” F. F. Bruce, The Book of the Acts, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1988), 401.

Fitzmyer says, “Agabus … introduces his warning with a borrowed OT phrase; compare ‘Thus says Yahweh’ (Ezek 14:6).” Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Acts of the Apostles: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, vol. 31, Anchor Yale Bible (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2008), 689.

Polhill says, “Then, just like an Old Testament prophet, he gave the interpretation of the act, introduced by the usual, ‘Thus says the Lord,’ here expressed in terms of revelation through the Holy Spirit… This was all the more certain when one considers the nature of such prophetic acts in the Old Testament. The act itself set into motion the event it foretold. It established the reality of the event, the certainty that it would occur.” John B. Polhill, Acts, vol. 26, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 435.

213Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy, p. 74-78.

214Matt 7:15; 24:11,24; Ma4k 13:22; Luke 6:26; Acts 13:6; 2Pet 2:1; 1John 4:1; Rev. 16:13; 19:20; 20:10. Grudem does say, “… the possibility of false prophets coming and speaking under the influence of some demonic spirit certainly existed (cf. 1 Jn 4:1,3). Though Paul did not discuss such a possibility explicitly in 1 Corinthians, it is fair to conclude from what Paul does say that he no doubt expected that false prophets would have been detected by those with the ability to distinguish between spirits (1 Cor 12:10), and they would have betrayed themselves by their blatantly aberrant doctrine (1 Cor 12:3; 1 Jn 4:2-3).” (p. 78).

215Garnet Howard Milne, The Westminster Confession of Faith and the Cessation of Special Revelation: The Majority Puritan Viewpoint on Whether Extra-biblical Prophecy is Still Possible (Waynesboro, GA: Paternoster, 2007).

216Those who agree with Grudem would include Barrett, C. K. A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians. Harper‘s New Testament Commentaries, edited by Henry Chadwick. New York: Harper & Row, 1968; Fee, Gordon D. The First Epistle to the Corinthians. The New International Commentary on the New Testament, edited by F. F. Bruce. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987; Kistemaker, Simon J. Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians. New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1986.

217Thiselton, Anthony C. The First Epistle to the Corinthians. The New International Greek Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000.

218Godet, F. L. The First Epistle to the Corinthians. Translated by A. Cusin. 1886. Reprint. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1971; Morris, Leon. The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians. 2d ed. The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985.

219Findlay, G. G. St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians. In the Expositor’s Greek Testament, edited by W. Robertson Nicoll. Vol. 2. 1900. Reprint. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970

Lenski, R. C. H. The Interpretation of St. Paul’s First and Second Epistles to the Corinthians. Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1963

MacArthur, John. 1 Corinthians. MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Chicago: Moody, 1984

Grosheide, F. W. Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians. The New International Commentary on the New Testament, edited by F. F. Bruce. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953

Alford, Henry. The Greek Testament. Vol. 2. 1865. Revised by Everett F. Harrison. Chicago: Moody, 1968; etc.

Meyer says, “We see from this that the charisma of judging the spirits was joined with that of prophecy, so that whoever could himself speak prophetically was qualified also for the διάκρισις; for οἱ ἄλλοι (comp. ἄλλῳ, ver. 30) cannot be taken (with Hofmann) universally, without restriction to the category of prophets, seeing that in fact the διάκρισις was no universal χάρισμα. The article is retrospective, so that it is defined by προφήται. At the same time, however, it must not be overlooked that even such persons as were not themselves prophets might still be endowed with the διάκρισις (12:10), although not all were so.” Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer, ed. William P. Dickson, trans. D. Douglas Bannerman and David Hunter, Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1879), 27–28.

220One commentary that takes this view is that of Oster. While holding to the absolute authority of the prophecies, he believes everyone was responsible to evaluate or be Bereans: “Paul’s imperative to weigh carefully what these two or three prophets spoke is certainly no indication that these prophecies were just pious insights granted to particular believers. Neither Luke nor Paul believed that Paul’s gospel was merely the result of spiritual insight. Rather both Luke and Paul affirmed that Paul’s message was a result of direct revelation and had the imprimatur of God himself, yet both acknowledged that Paul’s preaching should be evaluated (Acts 17:11; Gal 1:8–9). John Calvin addressed this theological and exegetical issue by noting “that the teaching of God is not subjected to the judgment of men, but their [i.e., the others] task is simply to judge, by the Spirit of God, whether it is His Word, which is declared or whether, using this as a pretext, men are wrongly parading what they themselves have made up.”

There are two main schools of thought in the matter of identifying “the others” (οἱ ἄλλοι, hoi alloi). Some scholars identify these as the other prophets or saints with the gift of the discernment of spirits (1 Cor 12:10). The other school of interpretation concludes, in my opinion, correctly, that “the others” refers to the collective congregation.” Richard Oster, 1 Corinthians, The College Press NIV Commentary (Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co., 1995), 1 Co 14:29.

221John Maynard, the Beauty and Order of the Creation (London: Henry Eversden, 1668), pp. 208,209), as cited in the text of Milne, p 185, and in footnote 46, p. 185.

222Garnet Howard Milne, The Westminster Confession of Faith and the Cessation of Special Revelation: The Majority Puritan Viewpoint on Whether Extra-biblical Prophecy is Still Possible (Waynesboro, GA: Paternoster, 2007), pp. 156-157.

223See especially his Systematic Theology.

224Modern Roman Catholic apologists (especially debaters from Catholic Answers in California) recognize that this doctrine is critical to the divide between the Protestant faith and the Roman Catholic Church. Most of the debates that Catholic Answers has sponsored with Protestants has been on the question, “Are the Scriptures sufficient for faith and practice?”

225The bulk of this paper has dealt with the issue of whether continuing prophecy exists, but here I am addressing simply the question, “Do we need such prophecy?” Charismatics often imply that we need new revelation, an assertion that logically contradicts the sufficiency of Scripture.

226All that is needed for understanding the Scripture is the Holy Spirit’s illumination. To suggest an easy channel to revelation that bypasses study seems to promote further laziness in studying Scripture. We are commanded to “Search the Scriptures,” to seek for wisdom in Scripture “as for hidden treasures.” Proverbs speaks of those who neglect the word as “the simple” and gives no shortcut to Spirit illumined study of the Bible.

227Romans 10 indicates that without preachers they will not receive revelation. “…how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?… So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom. 10:14,17). Paul did not consider an ongoing third way by which people could come in contact with the Gospel.

228That again can be the role of illumination.

229The doctrine of sufficiency teaches that Christian living is Biblical living. Since Scripture gives us “all things that pertain to life and godliness” and everything we need to know to glorify and enjoy God forever, then it seems that anything beyond Scripture is not really distinctively Christian living. We need to know specifics of when additions to Scripture are helpful for Christian living, and what makes them helpful. Further, we need to reconcile this statement with the commands not to add to Scripture or to take away, not to go to the right hand or to the left hand.

230It might be objected that the need to follow such prophecy flows out of Scripture (1 Cor. 14:1; etc.), and therefore, even though it is an ethical need, it is an ethics of the Scripture. Of course, all interpreters recognize the nature of time-bounded commands (like Christ’s command to fetch a donkey), and whether the commands to seek prophetic gifts fall into that category. We must also distinguish between a view that says prophecy only brings old revelation (Scripture) to our mind (a view of prophecy that is similar to illumination) and a view that says prophecy is new propositional truth. The objection in the text is directed to those who say we need more propositional truth than Scripture provides, or we need to follow such propositional truth when it is given to us.

231Grudem, Gifts, p. 100.

232Grudem, Ibid.

233Grudem, Ibid., p. 98.

234Wayne Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1988), p. 97.

235Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy, p. 97-98.

236See Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy, chapters 4 and 5. Sam Storms says, “We must avoid prefacing our prophetic utterances with ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ a declaration which implies infallibility and morally obligatory revelation.”

237Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy, p. 100. Note that though he gives three possible interpretations, he rejects the other two as being improbable and says, “After considering the three solutions I tend to think the second is most likely” (p. 102).

238Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy, p. 101.

239N.L. Geisler and W.E. Nix, General Introduction to the Bible, (Chicago: Moody, 1986), p. 301.

240The full quote is “Wherefore they are not to be placed even among the rejected writings, but are all of them to be cast aside as absurd and impious. Let us now proceed with our history.” (3Eusebius 25:7 EUSEB-E)

241If we believe the doctrine of Providence to be true, then we cannot believe the apocryphal additions to chapters in the Bible to be Scripture. This includes the apocryphal additions to chapters of Esther, the Prayer of Manassess, Bel and the Dragon, The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Holy Children, or the History of Susanna were chapters lost for centuries and then added back into the canon by Rome in 1546 at the Council of Trent.

242For a detailed presuppositional defense of every word of Scripture having been preserved in every age, see Phillip G. Kayser, Has God Indeed Said? (Omaha: Biblical Blueprints, 2018). It can be purchased at https://leanpub.com/has-god-indeed-said/

243The word is πιπτω, and is defined as to fall, to fall away, to fall down, to experience a loss of status, to be destroyed (see BDAG).

244Francis X. Glimm, “The Letter of St. Polycarp To The Philippians,” in The Apostolic Fathers, trans. Francis X. Glimm, Joseph M.-F. Marique, and Gerald G. Walsh, vol. 1, The Fathers of the Church (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1947), 139.

245Massuet’s rendering of his Latin in footnote 8 page 508. “True knowledge consists [in] a very complete tractatio of the Scriptures, which has come down to us by being preserved (‘custoditione’ being read instead of ‘custodita’) without falsification.” Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds., The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885).

246Metzger. The Text of the New Testament, p. 21.

247As cited by Metzger, The Text of the New Testament, p. 195

248Cited by Metzger in Ibid., p. 196.

249It doesn’t take much reading in the pseudepigrapha to discover that they contain the heretical teachings of docetics, ebionites, gnostics, and other heretical groups. These writings contradict the established Scriptures. They have historical errors and even nonsensical statements. Metzger says, “The most cogent proof that these books are intrinsically on a different plane from the books of the New Testament is afforded merely by reading them side by side with the books of the New Testament and allowing each to make its own impression. Then, in the words of M.R. James, ‘It will very quickly be seen that there is no question of anyone’s having excluded them from the New Testament: they have done that for themselves.” Bruce M. Metzger, Canon of the New Testament: It’s Origin, Development, and Significance, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), p. 262. The quote he gives is from M.R. James, Apocryphal New Testament, pp. xi-xii.

250Richard A. Muller, Holy Scripture: The Cognitive Foundation of Theology, vol. 2 of Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993), p. 373.

251Cyril of Jerusalem, The Catechetical Lectures IV.17, V.12, XII.5, in A Library of the FAthers of the Holy Catholic Church (Oxford: Parker, 1845) Emphasis on this and subsequent quotes have been supplied by me to highlight certain statements that might otherwise be lost.

252R.P.C. Hanson, Tradition in the Early Church (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1962), p. 125

253J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1978), p. 46.

254These were customs or conventions similar to Roberts Rules of Order used in many churches.

255William Webster, “Did I Really Leave the Holy Catholic Church,” in John Armstrong (ed), Roman Catholicism: Evangelical Protestants Analyze What Divides and Unites Us. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), pp. 273-274.

256Ellen Flesseman-Van Leer, Tradition and Scripture in the Early Church (Assen: Van Gorcum, 1953), p. 133.

257Brian Tierney, Origins of Papal Infallibility 1150-1350 (Leiden: Brill, 1972), pp. 16-17.

258F.F. Bruce, Tradition Old and New (Paternoster: Devon, 1970), pp. 117–118

259J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, Fifth, Revised (London; New Delhi; New York; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 1977), 39.

260Heiko Oberman, The Harvest of Medieval Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967), pp. 366–367.

261Ellen Flesseman–van Leer, Tradition and Scripture in the Early Church (Assen: Van Gorcum, 1953), p. 128

262R.H. Fuller and R.P.C. Hanson, The Church of Rome: A Dissuasive (Greenwich: Leabury, 1948), p. 69

263George Tavard, Holy Writ or Holy Church (London: Burns & Oates, 1959), p. 20.

264G.L. Prestige, Fathers and Heretics (London: SPCK, 1958), p. 14.

265William Webster, “The Church Fathers and the Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture,” unpublished essay.

266Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 326.

267Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 414.

268Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 415.

269Ellen Flesseman—van Leer says, “The entire book of Adversus Haereses is broadly speaking but a demonstration from Scripture that the Church doctrine is right and the gnostic doctrine false…If Irenaeus wants to prove the truth of a doctrine materially, he turns to Scripture, because therein the teaching of the apostles is objectively accessible. Proof from tradition and Scripture serve one and the same end: to identify the teaching of the Church as the original apostolic teaching. The first establishes that the teaching of the Church is the apostolic teaching, and the second, what this apostolic teaching is.” Ellen Flesseman–van Leer, Tradition and Scripture in the Early Church (Assen:Van Gorcum, 1953), p. 130, 144. Kelly says, “His real defence of orthodoxy was founded upon Scripture.” J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (San Francisco: Harper, 1960), pp. 38–39. Hanson says, “The whole purpose of Irenaeus, at least, as we can reliably collect it from the prefaces and endings of each of the books of Adversus Heareses, was to refute the Gnostics from Scripture…Irenaeus will allow Scripture alone as his source of information about God, and if Scripture tells us nothing, then we can know nothing.” R.P.C. Hanson, Tradition in the Early Church (Westminster: Philadelphia, 1962), pp. 109, 119.

270Hippolytus of Rome, “Against the Heresy of One Noetus,” in Fathers of the Third Century: Hippolytus, Cyprian, Novatian, Appendix, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. S. D. F. Salmond, vol. 5, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1886), 227.

271Tertullian, “Against Praxeas,” in Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. Peter Holmes, vol. 3, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 605.

272Tertullian, “On Monogamy,” in Fathers of the Third Century: Tertullian, Part Fourth; Minucius Felix; Commodian; Origen, Parts First and Second, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. S. Thelwall, vol. 4, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 62.

273J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (Harper: San Francisco, 1960), p. 39

274Lake Kirsopp, “Preface,” in The Ecclesiastical History and 2: English Translation, ed. T. E. Page et al., trans. Kirsopp Lake and J. E. L. Oulton, vol. 2, The Loeb Classical Library (London; New York; Cambridge, MA: William Heinemann; G. P. Putnam’s Sons; Harvard University Press, 1926–1932), 193–197.

275Origen, “De Principiis,” in Fathers of the Third Century: Tertullian, Part Fourth; Minucius Felix; Commodian; Origen, Parts First and Second, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. Frederick Crombie, vol. 4, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 349.

276Mattheum Commentarium Series 18. V3. Translated by William Goode, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, vol. 2 (Philadelphia: Herman Hooker, 1842), p. 236.

277Cyprian of Carthage, “The Epistles of Cyprian,” in Fathers of the Third Century: Hippolytus, Cyprian, Novatian, Appendix, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. Robert Ernest Wallis, vol. 5, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1886), 379-389.

278Eusebius of Caesaria, “The Church History of Eusebius,” in Eusebius: Church History, Life of Constantine the Great, and Oration in Praise of Constantine, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. Arthur Cushman McGiffert, vol. 1, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1890), 309.

279As recorded in Athanasius of Alexandria, “Life of Antony,” in St. Athanasius: Select Works and Letters, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. H. Ellershaw Jr., vol. 4, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1892), 200.

280FC, Vol. 69, Marius Victorinus, Theological Treatises on the Trinity, Reply of Victorinus, Book IA, p. 165.

281Hilary of Poitiers, “On the Trinity,” in St. Hilary of Poitiers, John of Damascus, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. E. W. Watson et al., vol. 9a, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1899), 69.

282Psalmus CXXXII Canticum graduum 6 PS 9:749, as translated by John Edmund Cox. The Latin is, “Quae enim libro legis non continentur, ea nec nosse debemus.”

283Hilary of Poitiers, “On the Trinity,” in St. Hilary of Poitiers, John of Damascus, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. E. W. Watson et al., vol. 9a, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1899), 53.

284Hilary of Poitiers, “On the Trinity,” in St. Hilary of Poitiers, John of Damascus, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. E. W. Watson et al., vol. 9a, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1899), 58.

285Hilary of Poitiers, “On the Trinity,” in St. Hilary of Poitiers, John of Damascus, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. E. W. Watson et al., vol. 9a, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1899), 75.

286Athanasius of Alexandria, “Against the Heathen,” in St. Athanasius: Select Works and Letters, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. Archibald T. Robertson, vol. 4, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1892), 4.

287Athanasius of Alexandria, “Personal Letters,” in St. Athanasius: Select Works and Letters, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. Archibald T. Robertson, vol. 4, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1892), 567,576–577.

288Athanasius of Alexandria, “Councils of Ariminum and Seleucia,” in St. Athanasius: Select Works and Letters, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. John Henry Newman and Archibald T. Robertson, vol. 4, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1892), 453.

289“The Letters of Saint Athanasius Concerning the Holy Spirit to Bishop Serapion”, Ad Serapion 1.19, Translation by C.R.B. Shapland (Epworth Press, 1951), p. 42. Available here: http://thegroveisonfire.com/books/Athanasius/Athanasius-Letters-to-Serapion-CRB-Shapland.pdf

290Athanasius of Alexandria, “Councils of Ariminum and Seleucia,” in St. Athanasius: Select Works and Letters, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. John Henry Newman and Archibald T. Robertson, vol. 4, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1892), 466.

291Athanasius of Alexandria, The Festal Epistles of S. Athanasius, trans. Henry Burgess (Oxford; London: John Henry Parker; F. and J. Rivington, 1854), 139.

292St Basil the Great, On the Holy Spirit, translated by David Anderson, (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1980), p. 34.

293Basil of Caesarea, “Letters,” in St. Basil: Letters and Select Works, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. Blomfield Jackson, vol. 8, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1895), 229.

294Basil of Caesarea, Letter 189.

295Basil of Caesarea, work 3 Ascetic, as quoted in https://archive.org/stream/St.BasilLettersAndSelectedWorks/St_basil_lettersAndSelected_works_djvu.txt

296Basil of Caesarea, Moralia, 72.

297Homilia Adversus Calumn. S. Trinitatis. Translation by William Goode, The Divine Rule of FAith and Practice, (Philadelphia: Herman Hooker, 1842), vol. 2, p. 297.

298Basil of Caesarea, Saint Basil: Ascetical Works, ed. Roy Joseph Deferrari, trans. M. Monica Wagner, vol. 9, The Fathers of the Church (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1962), 57, 59, 63.

299Basil of Caesarea, “Letters,” in St. Basil: Letters and Select Works, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. Blomfield Jackson, vol. 8, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1895), 312.

300ST BASIL, Basil Reg. Brev. 95, as quoted by Ernest Fredrick Morison, St. Basil and His Rule: A Study in Early Monasticism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1912), p. 72.

301Basil of Caesarea, Saint Basil: Ascetical Works, ed. Roy Joseph Deferrari, trans. M. Monica Wagner, vol. 9, The Fathers of the Church (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1962), 203–204.

302Cyril of Jerusalem, “The Catechetical Lectures of S. Cyril, Archbishop of Jerusalem,” in S. Cyril of Jerusalem, S. Gregory Nazianzen, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. R. W. Church and Edwin Hamilton Gifford, vol. 7, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1894), 23.

303Ibid., Catechetical Lecture 12.5.

304Cyril of Jerusalem, “The Catechetical Lectures of S. Cyril, Archbishop of Jerusalem,” in S. Cyril of Jerusalem, S. Gregory Nazianzen, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. R. W. Church and Edwin Hamilton Gifford, vol. 7, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1894), 32.

305Cyril of Jerusalem, “The Catechetical Lectures of S. Cyril, Archbishop of Jerusalem,” in S. Cyril of Jerusalem, S. Gregory Nazianzen, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. R. W. Church and Edwin Hamilton Gifford, vol. 7, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1894), 67.

306Cyril of Jerusalem, “The Catechetical Lectures of S. Cyril, Archbishop of Jerusalem,” in S. Cyril of Jerusalem, S. Gregory Nazianzen, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. R. W. Church and Edwin Hamilton Gifford, vol. 7, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1894), 115.

307Cyril of Jerusalem, “The Catechetical Lectures of S. Cyril, Archbishop of Jerusalem,” in S. Cyril of Jerusalem, S. Gregory Nazianzen, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. R. W. Church and Edwin Hamilton Gifford, vol. 7, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1894), 121.

308Catechetical Lectures 4 as translated by Charles Elliott (D.D.) and John S. Stamp, The Delineation of Roman Catholicism (London: John Mason, 1814), p. 49.

309Cyril of Jerusalem, “The Catechetical Lectures of S. Cyril, Archbishop of Jerusalem,” op cit, p. 32.

310The latin is, “Cum id nullo Scripturæ testimonio fultum sit, ut falsum improbabimus.” (De Cognitione Dei, PG 46:1115. Though listed in the Greek Series of fathers, this particular treatise is only in Latin.

311Gregory of Nyssa, “On the Soul and the Resurrection,” in Gregory of Nyssa: Dogmatic Treatises, Etc., ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. William Moore, vol. 5, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1893), 439.

312Gregory of Nyssa, “On the Holy Trinity, and of the Godhead of the Holy Spirit,” in Ibid., 326–327.

313Gregory of Nyssa, “Gregory of Nyssa against Eunomius,” in Ibid., 101.

314Gregory of Nyssa, “Gregory of Nyssa against Eunomius,” in Ibid., 129.

315Gregory of Nyssa, “On the Soul and the Resurrection,” in Ibid., 439.

316Ambrose of Milan, “On the Duties of the Clergy,” in St. Ambrose: Select Works and Letters, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. H. de Romestin, E. de Romestin, and H. T. F. Duckworth, vol. 10, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1896), 18.

317Ambrose, Regulae Brevius Tractate Interrogatio et Responsio XCV as translated by Fr. Joseph Gleason of the Western Rite Orthodoxy https://theorthodoxlife.wordpress.com/about/

318Homilia Adversus Calumn S Trinitatis. V3 as translated by William Goode, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice (Philadelphia: Herman Hooker, 1842), p. 297.

319Basil of Caesarea, Saint Basil: Ascetical Works, ed. Roy Joseph Deferrari, trans. M. Monica Wagner, vol. 9, The Fathers of the Church (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1962), 106.

320Epiphanius, The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis (Leiden: Brill, 1994), Book II, Section V, “Against Paul the Samosatian,” “Heresy” 65.5,3, p. 213.

321Epiphanius, Panarion, B2-3 S6 Heresy 41,2. Translated by Frank Williams, The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Books II and III. De Fide (Leiden, Netherlands, Brill, 2013), p. 562.

322John Chrysostom, The Homilies of S. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, on the Statues, or to the People of Antioch, A Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church (Oxford; London: John Henry Parker; J. G. F. and J. Rivington, 1842), 13–14.

323St. John Chrysostom c. 347-407, Homil. xiii. in 2 Cor. As quoted by Adolphe Monod, Lucilla; or, the Reading of the Bible (New York: Thomas Carter, 1843), pp. 138-139.

324Traditionally ascribed to St. John Chrysostom, glossa ordinaria 49th Homily, on Mat. 24. Also cited in Chemnitz’ Examen I:156 as belonging to Chrysostom.

325John Chrysostom, On Repentance and Almsgiving, ed. Thomas P. Halton, trans. Gus George Christo, vol. 96, The Fathers of the Church (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1998), 118.

326John Chrysostom, Homilies on Second Corinthians, Homily 13, in John Chrysostom, The Homilies of S. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, on the Second Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians, A Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church (Oxford; London: John Henry Parker; F. and J. Rivington, 1848), 171.

327John Chrysostom, commenting on Psalm 95. As quoted at http://catholicismhastheanswer.com/quotes-on-sacred-scripture/

328John Chrysostom, Father and Doctor of the Church, Epis 2 ad Thess 3,4. As quoted at http://catholicismhastheanswer.com/quotes-on-sacred-scripture/

329Original Greek in Epistolarium Lib 4 Epist 114, found in volume 78 of Migne’s Patrologia Graeca. Translated by William Goode, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice (Philadephia: Herman Hooker, 1842), p. 338.

330As translated by William Goode from Greek in The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, vol 2, (Philadelphia: Herman Hooker, 1842), p. 313.

331Nicetas of Remesiana, Gerald G. Walsh S.J., Sulpicius Severus, Bernard M. Peebles, Vincent of Lerins, Rudolph E. Morris, FC, Vol. 7, Writings of Niceta of Remesiana, “Explanation of the Creed,” section 13, p. 53. Available as pdf here: https://muse.jhu.edu/chapter/739974.

332Niceta of Remesiana et al., “Writings of Niceta of Remesiana,” in Writings; Commonitories; Grace and Free Will, ed. Bernard M. Peebles, trans. Gerald G. Walsh, vol. 7, The Fathers of the Church (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1949), 23.

333As translated by William Goode, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, vol 2, (Philadelphia: Herman Hooker, 1842), p. 310.

334As translated by William Goode, Ibid., p. 310.

335Commentariorum in Evangelium Matthaei, Liber Tertius, PL 26:173 as quoted by Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Volume One: First Through Tenth Topics, (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1992), pp. 139-140.

336ad Aggai 1, as quoted by Bishop Taylor in Enchiridion Theologicum Anti-Romanum, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, MDCCCXXXVI), p. 211.

337Adv. Helvidium as translated by James Ussher, Archbishop Usher’s Answer to a Jesuit, (Cambridge: Cambridge Univesity Press, M.DCCC.XXXV), p. 35.

338Epistola XXX Ad Paulum 6, as translated by William Goode, p. 415.

339Commentariorum In Epstolam Ad Titum Cap I vs 10,11 as translated by Jeremy Taylor and George Rust, The Whole Works of the Right Rev. Jeremy Taylor, volume II (London: Henry G. Bohn, MDCCCLIV), p. 867.

340From Jerome’s Commentary on Haggai, Chapter 1 - Commentariorum In Aggaeum Prophetam 1:11 PL 25:1398 as translated by William Goode in The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, 2nd ed., (London: John Henry Jackson, 1853), Vol. 3, p. 151.

341Jerome, The Homilies of Saint Jerome (1–59 on the Psalms), ed. Hermigild Dressler, trans. Marie Liguori Ewald, vol. 1, The Fathers of the Church (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1964), 205.

342Jerome, Homily 43, in The Homilies of Saint Jerome (1–59 on the Psalms), ed. Hermigild Dressler, trans. Marie Liguori Ewald, vol. 1, The Fathers of the Church (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1964), 326.

343Salvian, The Writings of Salvian, the Presbyter, ed. Ludwig Schopp, trans. Jeremiah F. O’Sullivan, vol. 3, The Fathers of the Church (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1947), 113.

344Augustine, De Doct. Christ, 2,14, as translated by J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, (London & New York: Continuum, [1958], 2000) p. 43.

345As translated by the Celtic Orthodox Church. James White translates it, “Neither dare one agree with catholic bishops if by chance they err in anything, with the result that their opinion is against the canonical Scriptures of God.” James White, “Chapter Two: Sola Scriptura and the Early Church,” in Sola Scriptura: The Protestant Position on the Bible, ed. Don Kistler (Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2009), 25.

346Letter CXLVIII 15 in Augustine of Hippo, “Letters of St. Augustin,” in The Confessions and Letters of St. Augustin with a Sketch of His Life and Work, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. J. G. Cunningham, vol. 1, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1886), 502.

347Augustine of Hippo, “Letters of St. Augustin,” in The Confessions and Letters of St. Augustin with a Sketch of His Life and Work, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. J. G. Cunningham, vol. 1, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1886), 358.

348John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Part 3, Vol. 11, trans. Edmund Hill, O.P., Newly Discovered Sermons, Sermon 162C.15 (New York: New City Press, 1997), p. 176.

349Augustine of Hippo, “Letters of St. Augustin,” in The Confessions and Letters of St. Augustin with a Sketch of His Life and Work, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. J. G. Cunningham, vol. 1, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1886), 358.

350Augustine of Hippo, Augustine of Hippo: Selected Writings, ed. John Farina, trans. Mary T. Clark, The Classics of Western Spirituality (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1984), 366.

351Augustine, Of the Good of Widowhood cited by James White, “Chapter Two: Sola Scriptura and the Early Church,” in Sola Scriptura: The Protestant Position on the Bible, ed. Don Kistler (Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2009), 24–25.

352Augustine of Hippo, Letters (131–164), ed. Roy Joseph Deferrari, trans. Wilfrid Parsons, vol. 20, The Fathers of the Church (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1953), 173.

353Augustine of Hippo, “Letters of St. Augustin,” in The Confessions and Letters of St. Augustin with a Sketch of His Life and Work, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. J. G. Cunningham, vol. 1, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1886), 502.

354Augustine of Hippo, “A Treatise on Nature and Grace,” in Saint Augustin: Anti-Pelagian Writings, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. Peter Holmes, vol. 5, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1887), 146.

355For trans., See Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 3 Vols., trans. George Musgrave Giger and ed. James T. Dennison (Phillipsburg: reprinted by Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1992), Vol. 3, pp. 109-110. Latin text: Quicumque de ipso capite, ab Scripturis sanctis dissentiunt, etiamsi in omnibus locis inveniantur in quibus Ecclesia designata est, non sunt in Ecclesia. De Unitate Ecclesiae, Caput IV, §7, PL 43:395-396.

356Merits and forgiveness of sins Book 2 in Augustine of Hippo, “A Treatise on the Merits and Forgiveness of Sins, and on the Baptism of Infants,” in Saint Augustin: Anti-Pelagian Writings, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. Peter Holmes, vol. 5, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1887), 68.

357De Unitate Ecclesiae Caput 19.50 as translated by William Goode, vol. 2, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, vol. 2 (Philadelphia: Herman Hooker, 1842), p. 322.

358Augustine, Letter 82.3.24 in Augustine of Hippo, “Letters of St. Augustin,” in The Confessions and Letters of St. Augustin with a Sketch of His Life and Work, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. J. G. Cunningham, vol. 1, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1886), 358.

359Augustine, On Baptism, Against the Donatists 2.3 in Augustine of Hippo, “On Baptism, against the Donatists,” in St. Augustin: The Writings against the Manichaeans and against the Donatists, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. J. R. King, vol. 4, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1887), 427.

360“The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.” (WCF I.x) “All synods or councils, since the apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred. Therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith, or practice; but to be used as a help in both.” (WCF XXI.iv)

361Augustine, Reply to Faustus the Manichaean 13.5 in Augustine of Hippo, “Reply to Faustus the Manichæan,” in St. Augustin: The Writings against the Manichaeans and against the Donatists, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. Richard Stothert, vol. 4, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1887), 201.

362Augustine, Reply to Faustus the Manichaean 23.9 in Augustine of Hippo, “Reply to Faustus the Manichæan,” in St. Augustin: The Writings against the Manichaeans and against the Donatists, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. Richard Stothert, vol. 4, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1887), 315.

363Augustine of Hippo, “Letters of St. Augustin,” in The Confessions and Letters of St. Augustin with a Sketch of His Life and Work, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. J. G. Cunningham, vol. 1, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1886), 502.

364“God alone is Lord of the conscience, and has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in any thing, contrary to His Word; or beside it, in matters of faith, or worship. So that, to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commands, out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience: and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also.” (WCF XX.ii)

365Augustine of Hippo, “Reply to Faustus the Manichæan,” in St. Augustin: The Writings against the Manichaeans and against the Donatists, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. Richard Stothert, vol. 4, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1887), 180.

366John Cassian, On the Incarnation of Christ Against Nestorius, Book 6, Chapter 3 in John Cassian, “The Seven Books of John Cassian on the Incarnation of the Lord, against Nestorius,” in Sulpitius Severus, Vincent of Lérins, John Cassian, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. Edgar C. S. Gibson, vol. 11, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1894), 592–593

367Glaphyrorum In Genesim, Lib. II, PG 69:53. Translation by William Good, Vol. 3, op cit., p. 181.

368De SS. Trinitate Dialogus I, PG75:665. Translation by William Goode, Vol. 3, pp. 281–282.

369Contra Julian, Lib. VII, PG76:852–853. Translation by William Goode, Vol. 3, pp. 282–283.

370Commentary on the Gospel of Saint Luke, trans. R. Payne Smith (Studion Publishers, 1983), Homily 55, p. 240.

371Translated by Goode, volume 2, op cit, p. 335.

372De SS Trinitate Dialagous 4 in Goode, Ibid, p. 336.

373Ad Reginas De Recta Fide Oratio Altera in Goode, Ibid, p. 337.

374De Sacrosancta Trinitate Cap 1 in Goode, Ibid., pp. 337-338.

375Saint Cyril, A Commentary Upon the Gospel According to S. Luke, Part I, translated by R. Payne Smith, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, M.DCCC.LIX), p. 248.

376Doctrinal questions and answers #2 in Cyril of Alexandria, Select Letters Edited and Translated by Lionel R. Wickham (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983). Also available for free here: https://vdocuments.mx/select-letters-oxford-early-christian-texts.html

377Cyril of Alexandria, De Sacrosancta Trinitate 1 in Goode, A Divine Rule of Faith and Practice vol. 2, pp. 337-338.

378Glaphyra on Genesis, as translated by Yves Congar, Tradition and Traditions: An Historical and Theological Essay, (California: Burns & Oates, 1966), pp. 111-112.

379Vincent of Lérins, “The Commonitory of Vincent of Lérins,” in Sulpitius Severus, Vincent of Lérins, John Cassian, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. C. A. Heurtley, vol. 11, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1894), 132.

380Salvian, The Presbyter, The Governance of God, Book 3, section 1, in Salvian, The Writings of Salvian, the Presbyter, ed. Ludwig Schopp, trans. Jeremiah F. O’Sullivan, vol. 3, The Fathers of the Church (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1947), 68.

381Theodoret of Cyrus, “Dialogues: The ‘Eranistes’ or ‘Polymorphus’ of the Blessed Theodoretus, Bishop of Cyrus,” in Theodoret, Jerome, Gennadius, Rufinus: Historical Writings, Etc., ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. Blomfield Jackson, vol. 3, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1892), 165–166.

382Ibid., p. 228.

383Ibid., p. 258.

384Ibid., p. 278.

385Theodoret, Letter 151 in Ibid., p. 327.

386Dialogue II in Theodoret of Cyrus, “Dialogues: The ‘Eranistes’ or ‘Polymorphus’ of the Blessed Theodoretus, Bishop of Cyrus,” in Theodoret, Jerome, Gennadius, Rufinus: Historical Writings, Etc., ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. Blomfield Jackson, vol. 3, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1892), 199.

387Theodoret of Cyrus, “Dialogues: The ‘Eranistes’ or ‘Polymorphus’ of the Blessed Theodoretus, Bishop of Cyrus,” in Theodoret, Jerome, Gennadius, Rufinus: Historical Writings, Etc., ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. Blomfield Jackson, vol. 3, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1892), 228.

388Letter 82 to Eusebius, in Theodoret of Cyrus, “Letters of the Blessed Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrus,” in Theodoret, Jerome, Gennadius, Rufinus: Historical Writings, Etc., ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. Blomfield Jackson, vol. 3, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1892), 278.

389Topographiae Christianae Liber VII, PG 88:373. Translation by William Goode, Vol. 3, p. 208.

390Caesarius of Arles, Saint Caesarius of Arles: Sermons (1–238), ed. Hermigild Dressler and Bernard M. Peebles, trans. Mary Magdeleine Mueller, vol. 3, The Fathers of the Church (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press; Consortium Books, 1956–1973), 107.

391A Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, (Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1844), Vol. 2, Morals on the Book of Job: Parts 3 & 4, Book XVI, Chapter 35, p. 252.

392Pope Gregory the Great, Book 19, Chapter 34, in Pope Gregory 1, translated by members of the English Church, A Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church (London: Oxford, John Henry Parker, J.G.F. and J. Rivington, MDCCCXLV), p. 424.

393John Damascene, “An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith,” as cited by St. Hilary of Poitiers, John of Damascus, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. S. D. F. Salmond, vol. 9b, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1899), 1.

394Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on John XXI. 24-25, paragraph 2656. See Weiseipl and Larcher, trans., Commentary on the Gospel of John, available at https://web.archive.org/web/20080225165726/http://www.diafrica.org/kenny/CDtexts/SSJohn.htm. The Latin is available at St. Thomas, Super Evangelium S. Joannis Lectura, cap.21, lect.6, n.2656, ed. R. Cai (Turin: Marietti 1952), p. 488 - “Sola canonica scriptura est regula fidei.”

395On the history of this fascinating document, see Lesley Smith, The Glossa Ordinaria: The Making of a Medieval Bible Commentary (Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2009).

396Translation by Dr. Michael Woodward of the following Latin, which can be found online: “Quoniam plerique eo quod non multam operam dant sacrae Scripturae, existimant omnes libros qui in Bibliis continentur, pari veneratione esse reverendos atque adorandos, nescientes distinguere inter libros canonicos, et non canonicos, quos Hebraei a canone separant, et Graeci inter apocrypha computant; unde saepe coram doctis ridiculi videntur, et perturbantur, scandalizanturque cum audiunt aliquem non pari cum caeteris omnibus veneratione prosequi aliquid quod in Bibliis legatur: idcirco hic distinximus, et distincte numeravimus primo libros canonicos, et postea non canonicos, inter quos tantum distat quantum inter certum et dubium. Nam canonici sunt confecti Spiritus sancto dictante non canonici autem sive apocryphi, nescitur quo tempore quibusve auctoribus autoribus sint editi; quia tamen valde boni et utiles sunt, nihilque in eis quod canonicis obviet, invenitur, ideo Ecclesia eos legit, et permittit, ut ad devotionem, et ad morum informationem a fidelibus legantur. Eorum tamen auctoritas ad probandum ea quae veniunt in dubium, aut in contentionem, et ad confirmandam ecclesiasticorum dogmatum auctoritatem, non reputatur idonea, ut ait beatus Hieronymus in prologis super Judith et super libris Salomonis. At libri canonici tantae sunt auctoritatis, ut quidquid ibi continetur, verum teneat firmiter et indiscusse: et per consequens illud quod ex hoc concluditur manifeste; nam sicut in philosophia veritas cognoscitur per reductionem ad prima principia per se nota: ita et in Scripturis a sanctis doctoribus traditis veritas cognoscitur, quantum ad ea quae sunt fide tenenda, per reductionem ad Scripturas canonicas, quae sunt habita divina revelatione cui nullo modo potest falsum subesse. Unde de his dicit Augustinus ad Hieronymum: Ego solis eis scriptoribus qui canonici appellantur, didici hunc timorem honoremque deferre, ut nullum eorum scribendo errasse firmissime teneam; ac si aliquid in eis offendero quod videatur contrarium veritati, nihil aliud existimem quam mendosum esse codicem, vel non esse assecutum interpretem quod dictum est, vel me minime intellexisse, non ambigam. Alios autem ita lego, ut quantalibet sanctitate doctrinave polleant, non ideo verum putem quia ipsi ita senserunt, sed quia mihi per illos auctores canonicos vel probabiles rationes, quod a vero non abhorreat, persuadere potuerunt (Biblia cum glosa ordinaria et expositione Lyre litterali et morali.” (Basel: Petri & Froben, 1498), British Museum IB.37895, Vol. 1, On the canonical and non-canonical books of the Bible.

397Ellen Flesseman–van Leer, Tradition and Scripture in the Early Church (Assen: Van Gorcum, 1953), pp. 68–69

398J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (Harper: San Francisco, 1960), p. 39.

399William Webster, “Did I Really Leave the Holy Catholic Church,” in John Armstrong (ed), Roman Catholicism: Evangelical Protestants Analyze What Divides and Unites Us. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), pp. 273.

400Against Heresies II.28.8; I.8.1.

401R.P.C. Hanson, Tradition in the Early Church (Westminster: Philadelphia, 1962), pp. 109, 119.

402Justin Martyr, “Fragments of the Lost Work of Justin on the Resurrection,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. M. Dods, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 294

403Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 415.

404Adv. H. 3:1, quoted by Chemnitz in Eugene F. A. Klug, From Luther to Chemnitz (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1971), p. 167.

405Clement of Alexandria, “The Stromata, or Miscellanies,” in Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire), ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 2, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 550.

406Tertullian, “On Monogamy,” in Fathers of the Third Century: Tertullian, Part Fourth; Minucius Felix; Commodian; Origen, Parts First and Second, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. S. Thelwall, vol. 4, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 62.

407Tertullian, “The Prescription against Heretics,” in Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. Peter Holmes, vol. 3, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 246.

408Tertullian, “The Prescription against Heretics,” in Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. Peter Holmes, vol. 3, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 257.

409Tertullian, “A Treatise on the Soul,” in Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. Peter Holmes, vol. 3, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885),