Why History Is Important

Throughout the process of researching, reading, praying, organizing, and writing this history of the Bible for you, I have become more and more convinced of its importance. As I have said many times, it started when a friend of mine asked me a few haunting questions.

Where does the Bible come from? How can we trust it? Why should I believe in Jesus? How can I trust that what Christians say is real if it is based on a book? Can you prove anything in it?

Like I said, these questions have been haunting me. How many people have been turned away from God because Christians could not answer these questions? Too many! Some Christians have a certain arrogance that they know something that everyone else doesn’t know and think that everyone else that doesn’t agree with them is ignorant.

When they are asked those haunting questions, they respond with “the Bible says…” or “I believe…” Yes, it is great that we know what the Bible says, but no one else accepts our beloved Bible as fact! We HAVE to be able to give a record of how the Bible came to be. Let’s face it. If someone told you that they derive all of their beliefs from a book but couldn’t tell you who wrote it or where it came from, you wouldn’t believe them either.

Christians desperately need to be able to have intellectual conversations with non-Christians. We need to be well versed in history, science, and philosophy. You had better believe that non-Christians are. We should be able to give arguments for the existence of God that are not totally dependent on Scripture. We should be able to trace our Holy Scripture back to the very beginning, because they will ask, “Why should I trust you?”

So why should they trust us?

We, the Church, have a profound history. Our Scripture, the Bible, is literally called “The Book” for a reason. Thousands of years of work have gone into writing and preserving the Bible. We have archaeology to prove many, many events in the Old and New Testament. Our theology is based on sound philosophy. We have a faith that has survived through mass persecution and years of political turmoil. We have something worth learning about and worth sharing, if we can but answer the questions that the world throws our way.

 

This project has been trying for me. Many times I became very frustrated because I wasn’t getting my normal amount of views, and frankly, this wasn’t the most thrilling thing to read and write about. However, I do firmly believe that it is CRUCIAL that we know this. You may not think that having a basic understanding of how Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Latin, English, and the rest have influenced the Bible, but it is very useful. The friend that asked me to write this thought that the Bible was found somewhere, because when she asked Christians questions about the Bible’s credibility, they became defensive instead of telling her what she needed to know. Please excuse my ranting for a moment. Sadly, I believe that Christians’ ignorance is the number one cause of people being turned away from the Church. Questions about the historicity of Scripture surface constantly. Instead of working to understand the proper meaning and context of Scripture in conversation with historical facts, Christians have closed themselves off to the intellectual world, claiming that their interpretation of Scripture is the truth.

Many “questionable” events in the Bible can be explained with archaeology and historical documents, but it may require some “out of the box” thinking to put together the pieces of the puzzle. For example, many scholars question the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt. There are several “models” of when it could have happened. The “conservative, biblical” view takes the late date of the Exodus, which uses biblical numbers from 1 Kings 6:1, which says that Solomon’s temple was built 480 years after the Exodus. Solomon was supposed to have assumed the throne in 961 BC, which would put the building of the Temple at 959-957 BC. If the number 480 is taken literally, the date of the Exodus would have been 1440 BC, which would be in the middle of the Hyksos period. The Exodus does not make sense in that time frame at all, and this is why people claim that there was no Exodus when talking to people who hold this view. However, there is another view that works in a historical context quite well. We know that the Canaanite conquest was in 1230 BC. Forty years earlier (because of the generation that had to stay in the wilderness) would be the date of the Exodus, 1270 BC. This works really well with what is happening in Egypt at the time. Exodus 12:40-41 says that the Israelites were in Egypt for 430 years, which would put Joseph in the reign of Ahmose I. Exodus 1:11 tells us that the Israelites were building stone cities for the pharaoh in PiRameses. In 1270, Rameses II was pharaoh and the city of Pithom or Rameses was the capital. The land of Goshen, which was the city where the Israelites lived, was Rameses. This was the only time that the city was called Rameses. There are documents that say the Egyptian police chased escaped slaves during the Ramecide period. The cities they went through on their journey to freedom match the biblical account of the Israelites’ journey to Canaan. Also, the Merneptah Stele claims that Merneptah defeated 4 things: Israel, Gezer, Ashkelon, and Minoam in 1220 BC. The stele makes it clear that Israel is a new settlement while the others are established “lands.” Archaeology of the “Hill Country” in 1220 BC shows that there was continual development of settlements until Israel was an established state.

So, you see. Sometimes the seemingly “biblical” interpretation does not work with history because numbers are often meant to be symbolic. When these symbolic numbers are taken literally, the event cannot be proven. This makes the Bible look like it is full of holes and unable to be trusted. I am not saying that we should not take Scripture literally. Much of it we can, but we should have wisdom in figuring out what to take literally and what to interpret as symbolic. Jewish literature is very symbolic. Certain numbers stand for certain things, like 40 years is one generation, when actually a whole generation could die out in 20 years. I would like to encourage all Christians to have wisdom before making claims that will turn non-Christians away if they don’t have all the facts. I know this can be hard to do. When I started college, I was convinced that I was right about absolutely everything, and my arrogance endangered other people’s views of Scripture.

Don’t be like me! We can use extra-biblical facts to validate Scripture. The Bible contains multiple genres and must be read in multiple ways. Be careful, and try not to jump to conclusions. We have a beautiful faith that has flourished throughout history. We should treat Scripture with respect and never read it out of context.

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:10-11

I have enjoyed learning and hopefully teaching you all a few new things about the history of the Bible, but I am happy to be moving on to new things. I have big plans for future topics!

 

(My beliefs about the Exodus do not originate with me. I have studied both arguments, and this is the side I have chosen. Research it for yourself!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Quick Look at the Nicene Creed

As we have discussed earlier, the Nicene Creed was created at the Council of Nicea in AD 325. In most Protestant churches, we have no concept of what the purpose of the creeds is or the history of them. Confessions have take the place of creeds in modern churches. The confessions are much longer and go into much more detail. They give reasons for what is to be believed instead of simply stating what the Church believes. The Creeds provide the simplest outline of what it means to be a Christian. The Nicene Creed came before the canon of Scripture was established.

Let’s take a quick look at the Nicene Creed and what it means:

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

This puts a stop to any polytheism, which was an issue in the Roman world. This also establishes God as the Creator of the world, not just the architect.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

This establishes Jesus Christ as the Son of God, not created but begotten. He was fully God and present in Creation with God.

Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man;

This establishes the humanity of Jesus, and recognizes the means of His humanity, the Virgin birth.

and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

This affirms the death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and second-coming of Jesus.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.

This proclaims the important role of the Holy Spirit and gives the model of the Trinity.

And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.

 

This speaks of our current life in the Church and its importance. It also ends with on a statement about the future resurrection.

 

Amen.

 

Amen is not just something that we say at the end of prayers because it sounds good to echo the speaker. Amen means, “so be it” or “so it is.” Amen takes the words of the prayer of another and makes them your own.

 

Sooooo…. Why am I telling you all of this? Why is the Nicene Creed such a big deal? Well, in the war between Confessions and Creeds, I am in the Creeds camp. There seems to be a very negative stigma involving “creedalism.” The idea that you HAVE to believe what the Church gives you in the form of a creed is seen as a very terrible thing. I have heard it said, “I believe the creed, but I won’t sign it!” So, basically what they mean is, “I believe everything that the Church believes, but betting my life on it is too far.” “No church can tell me what to believe.” Well, let me tell you why I believe not only what the Creed says but also in the function of the Creed.

You see. In the past, people have asked me to tell them what I believe and why I believe it. I would stumble around trying to give a synopsis of every doctrine I believe. They would soon write me off completely. When I found the Nicene Creed in its beautiful simplicity, I was delighted! Everything that I believe is summed up for me, created and confirmed by the Church in AD 325. Now, I can answer with confidence: I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth…

 

I’m not saying that Confessions are evil or that they are not useful. Confessions expound upon the Creed and explain the intricacies of what is believed. This is necessary, but try to recite it some day. I find that the Creed is the best way of telling someone what it means to be a Christian. It isn’t full of fancy church words; instead, it is precise in saying exactly what is needed to be a Christian and to fight heresy.

 

The Nicene Creed was created in the midst of Arianism and Gnosticism. It affirms the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ and every event in His life and the life of Christians through the ages. This profound piece of Christian history is still used in the Church every Sunday around the world. It is the perfect reminder of exactly what it means to be a Christian.

This is the end of my history of the Bible. Next week, I will sum up with why it is important that we know how the Bible came to be.

Faith as a Noun and a Verb (History of the Bible, part 13)

What do you think of when you hear the word, faith? Does it sound like what crazy people claim to back up their belief in God? Blind faith? A leap of faith? Kind of sounds like jumping off a cliff and hoping someone catches you, right?

Faith is characterized in many different ways in Scripture, but they make a cohesive picture of what our faith should look like.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

This word, substance, or hypostasis, is bursting with philosophical meaning. Substance is probably the most difficult philosophical word that is used and is regularly the point of disagreement between very intelligent people. In short, substance means, “that which stands under” something else, making it what it is. So faith is that which stands under our hope. How awesome is that?

Faith is our foundation.

Hypostasis is used in defending the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. It was the violation of the substance of Christ, either that He is not fully God or not fully Man. Both Arius and the Gnostics violated the “substance” of Christ. The Fathers of the Church took great pains to protect the doctrine of the Incarnation. Anyway! Faith is not blind. Think about it like this. You have heard the expression “a leap of faith” right? Well, in the context of Hebrews 11, faith is not our leaping but what we actually land on. Faith is what holds us up after we jump. God asks us to jump on faith and promises to catch us. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen! Abraham is the perfect example of this kind of faith, and the author of Hebrews uses him as a prime example. “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” Abraham’s faith in God led him to leave his home. He didn’t know where he would end up, but he went willingly. God rewarded him for his faith.

Faith is action.

Hebrews is not the only book that talks about Abraham’s remarkable faith. Romans 4:3, Galatians 3:6, and James 2:23 say, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” A lot of people, non-Christians and Christians alike, have trouble with faith. In my first paper at college, I decided to write about faith for my New Testament class. Of course, I always choose very personal topics for my paper writing. I wanted to know the definition of faith and how it is to be worked out in the life of a Christian. I found that faith is not only a noun (as we discussed earlier) but also a verb. The noun form of faith is pistis; the verb form is pisteuein. Pisteuein means to believe. What are we to do with this belief? Hang it up on our wall and notice how delightful it is? Occasionally call other people over to notice it?

No. This is not what faith is meant for. Let me paint you a picture.

Imagine that you are in a car on an interstate. What do cars need to be properly functioning vehicles of transportation? They need an engine with all of the necessary parts (sorry, I’m not a mechanic). They need a frame to hold the engine. They need wheels to roll when propelled by the thrust of the engine. They need a driver. They need a surface to drive on. They need fuel to make the engine fire. They need a cooling system so as to not over heat. They need an exhaust pipe to let out the toxic fumes.

Now, I know you are wondering why I just gave a semi-detailed description of a car…Let’s imagine that we are driving that car, but this is not a real car. This car is only propelled forward by our faith. Belief is the fuel that we put in the engine, and the direct product of that belief is action. The car begins to roll forward. Some people have all kinds of beliefs that they never put into action. A lot of Christians are just sitting at the gas station pumping fuel onto the ground. They go to church. They listen, and they believe! Those beliefs just have no impact on their actions. This is what we call “nominal Christianity.” Belief without faith. Having a tank full of gas, but never putting a foot to the petal.

James says, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” James 2:14-26

 

Wow. I don’t know about you, but this slaps me in the face every time I read it. How many times do we act this way? I know that I talk about some deep stuff, and I try to point out weaknesses that I see. But, I do not have my life together either. No one does, and that is okay! It is in our imperfection that we see God’s perfection. “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.” 1 Corinthians 1:27

In no respect does God expect us to be perfect or to somehow work enough to earn our salvation. He does, however, expect our faith to produce good works. This is the natural side effect of faith. It cannot be contained! Just like our little car needs fuel to move forward, we must maintain our core beliefs. Everything is interconnected and reliant upon the other parts to function properly.

Abraham displayed his faith by moving to Canaan when God told him and being willing to kill Isaac as a sacrifice. We know that Abraham had faith because it was evident in the way he lived. These “acts of faith” or “good works” were not what saved him or made him righteous. But we know that he had the necessary faith because of his works.

 

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10

 

Next week, I will take a look at those core beliefs as seen in the Nicene Creed. We are almost done with the History of the Bible! Until next time!

Heresy (History of the Bible, part 12)

You may not know what the word heresy means. I didn’t know it just from growing up in church. Of course, I heard expressions concerning “those heretics” or “blasphemers,” but no clear definition of what a heresy actually is was given to me. A heresy is any belief, teaching, or practice that contradicts orthodox belief. Now you ask, “what does orthodox mean?” Orthodox means following or conforming to the traditional set of beliefs of a religion or philosophy. We should also note the meaning of heterodox, which just means not conforming to the traditional set of beliefs.

Okay, so in the 4th century, the Christianity at the time, which was known as the Way, was absolutely booming! Constantine recently made Christianity legal and began promoting it within the Roman Empire. The empire converted very rapidly. Yeah, this is great right?

Well…. Rapid expansion has its issues. With the sudden safety of being a Christian, there were no martyrdoms. You would think that this would be a good thing for the Church, but it caused some doctrinal issues. Suddenly, the Christians had time to think, to organize their doctrines without the threat of instant death. New ideas began to surface, ideas that weren’t orthodox. In 367, St. Athanasius wrote his (AMAZING!!!) book On the Incarnation of the Word in defense of the Incarnation of Jesus against the heresy that had sprung up under Arius. Arius, in an attempt to safeguard God’s holiness and otherness, claimed that Jesus was not fully God. He affirmed that Jesus was fully man and that he was born of the Virgin Mary, but he taught that Jesus was God’s highest creation not His only begotten Son. This of course is a huge problem. If Jesus is not fully God and fully Man, He cannot save us. I know that I said this last week, but I will say it until I am blue in the face.

“That which is not assumed cannot be saved.” – St. Athanasius.

Now, the other major heresy of the early church is Gnosticism. You may recognize the word “gnostic” from the modern usage of agnostic. Gnosis simply means knowledge. Gnostics prescribed to the belief that there were two powers: Light and Dark. They were constantly at war with one another in the world. Sometimes Light won; sometimes Dark won. The world was created by the evil Demiurge, and everything physical was considered evil. They affirmed God as the supreme power and Jesus as His divine Son, but they did not affirm Jesus’ humanity. They claimed that Jesus only appeared to be a human being, but he was really just a spirit. The perfect, spiritual Son of God certainly would not enter into evil matter. St. Irenaeus fought this in AD 370, “He [Jesus] fought and conquered. On the one hand, he was man who struggled for his fathers and through his obedience cancelled their disobedience. On the other hand, he bound the strong one and freed the weak and bestowed salvation on his handiwork by abolishing sin. For he is our compassionate and merciful Lord who loves mankind … Had not man conquered man’s adversary, the enemy would not have been conquered justly. Again, had it not been God who bestowed salvation we would not possess it securely.” This is from his famous book, Against Heresies, which I have only partially read. It talks specifically about Gnosticism.

These heresies did not rise nor die instantly. They had their own churches. The Way was no longer exclusive enough to distinguish right doctrine from heresy. The Church who denied Arianism and Gnosticism called themselves Orthodox, and this name remains today in the Orthodox Church. They have managed to survive and thrive through centuries of attacks from within (heresy) and without (the Turkish Invasion).

You may be wondering why it is even remotely important for you to know anything about ancient heretical beliefs. But if you don’t know the issues of the Church in the past and how they overcame them, then you cannot defend yourself against heretical teaching now. What? Heretical teaching now? Yes! Within the last six months I have come into contact with real, live Arianism. And get this! The person who expressed those opinions was pastoring a local church. Ummmm…. I think this is a major issue. Not that Arianism is running rampant on the streets of our cities, but just the fact that no one in his church has been aware enough to dispute what he is preaching to them. If pastors have the autonomy to interpret Scripture for themselves, they can lead their congregations astray. Gnosticism is harder to pinpoint, but I have had conversations with people who displayed some gnostic thought. The idea that spiritual is good and physical is bad, if pushed to the extreme, is Gnosticism. When someone does as the gnostics did and say that physical is bad, this applies to Jesus Christ, our Lord, who became a Man. This creates major MAJOR theological issues. I see this suppression of all things physical in churches all the time.

Try to be vigilant. If someone tells you something, and it doesn’t have Church history to back it up, check the facts! I know I’m a cynic, and I’m super critical all the time. Experience has made me this way. I don’t trust people just because they can prove something with a few verses from the Bible. I will, however, check what they are saying against the entire context of Scripture and the historical interpretation of that specific Scripture. If it matches up with what the Church throughout history has deemed orthodox, I will happily endorse it!

 

O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge.” 1 Timothy 6:20

 

Guard yourself.

 

Jesus, The God Man (History of the Bible, part 11)

 

“And He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:17

“Jesus loves me. This I know for the Bible tells me so.” This is great, but what else do we know? Let’s talk about some basic, foundational beliefs about Jesus Christ. As Paul suggests above in Colossians, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, holds the world together. Why is this the case? Why is it necessary for our salvation?

It is absolutely crucial that Jesus be 100% man and 100% God. Without this, the world is lost. St. Athanasius says, “That which is not assumed cannot be saved.” Jesus had to sanctify humanity by entering into 100% humanity and living the perfect life that only 100% God could do. God and Man are naturally separated. God is uncreated; we are created. God is perfect. We are imperfect. Even Adam and Eve at their creation had to have been imperfect to have the ability to sin. Jesus, because He is both God and Man, is the only mediator between God and Man. “But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.’” Jesus received full manhood from his earthly mother, Mary, and He received full godhood from His Father through the Holy Spirit. Both were equally necessary for the Word of God to be Incarnate.

We are only allowed in communion with God through the person of Jesus.

“And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven…” Colossians1:21-22 Not only by His life, but by His perfect death, did He defeat sin and death. Because Jesus is 100% man, He was born with the human capability to die, but because He is 100% God, He rose from the dead, never to die again. It is through His resurrection that we can have the future hope of our resurrection and salvation. “And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.”

What else do we know about Jesus?

He was present at creation. “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” Colossians 1:16. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” John 1:1-3

He is the Word of God.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

This Word, Logos, is a word (giggles) that is exploding with philosophical meaning!!! I can’t go into it all today, but in short, one of the earliest Greek philosophers (I’m talking Pre-Plato here) named Heraclitus used this word first. Word is used over and over in the New Testament to refer to Jesus. Heraclitus used it to “designate the divine reason to plan which coordinates a changing universe.” Now, if our Lord Jesus Christ didn’t change our universe, I don’t know who can! John would have known this definition when he applied it to Christ. I will have to do a whole post on the Logos one day in the future.

Jesus is the Light of the World.

“In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it….(John the Baptist) came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” John 1:4-5,7-9

“He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.” John 5:35

“Jesus spoke to them saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

“As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” John 9:5

“’While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.’ When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them.” John 12:36

“I have come to the world as a light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” John 12:46

“Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him (Paul).” Acts 9:3

Jesus calling himself the light of the world was also super radical. Another school of thought, Gnosticism, emphasized the power struggle between Light and Dark (Good and Evil). Jesus personifying himself as the Light that cannot be overcome by any darkness sends a major message to the Gnostics. Once again, this is a topic for another day.

When Jesus ascends into heaven, He leaves the Holy Spirit with us, and Christians are depicted as having His light.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:14

“While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” John 12:36

“For so the Lord commanded us, saying ‘ I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” Acts 13:47

“…and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness…” Romans 2:19

“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.’”

2 Corinthians 4:6

“…for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light…” Ephesians 5:8

In my slightly educated, most likely narrow-minded thought process, I think that Christians have the light of Jesus through the person of the Holy Spirit, who Jesus left as our Comforter until He returns. Please do not think that I am reducing the Holy Spirit to only being a light bulb.

Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Paul says, “I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women.” This is what the early church called themselves, “The Way,” which referenced Jesus’ statement in John.

“You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth.” John 5:33

“…and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

“Then Pilate said to him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.’” John 18:37

“…assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus…” Ephesians 4:21

Folks, it is very important that we derive our truth from Jesus Christ, not from our own shallow, finite minds. It is perfectly okay to claim that there is absolute truth; everyone does it. Some claim to derive their truth from their own “experiences” or “feelings.” I choose to follow Jesus, not my own ability to discern truth from falsehood.

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” John 3:36

“For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” John 6:33 (a reference to Jesus as God’s manna perhaps? A topic for another day)

“For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:40 (a reference to Jesus as the bronze serpent that was lifted up? Lots of OT going on here…another topic for yet another day)

“I am the bread of life.” John 6:48

“So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:3-54 (mmmmm….controversy! J we shall discuss this later for sure)

“Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.’” John 6:68

Last but certainly not least, Jesus is the source of life. Not only was He our creator, but He is our Savior! We can have eternal life through His life, death, and ultimate resurrection. He is our resurrection, the Life.

What are the implications of this?

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27

“In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:4

We see here that Jesus is the image of God, and so are we.

“Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.” 1 Corinthians 15:49

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18

“Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” Colossians 3:9-10

I know that was a lot of Scripture and not much of my own words, but my own opinion is not necessary. Next week I will show you how interpreting Scripture outside of the protection of the Church leads to very dangerous heresies. We will discuss Gnosticism and Arianism in contrast to what we know is true about Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

 

For those of you who are curious about the image I chose for this blog, this icon, or image, of Christ is called Christ Pantocrator. Pantocrator is a translation of Yahweh from Hebrew into Greek for the Septuagint. It refers to Christ as the Lord Almighty. You will notice that Christ is holding a copy of Scripture, which is sometimes open to the verse that says “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” His clothing made of red and blue represent the two natures of Christ, God and Man. His fingers, the sign of the cross, represent both the Trinity (three fingers) and the two natures of Christ (two fingers). The gold represents heaven and Christ as the Light. There are countless other features I could point out, but I don’t know them all. I think it is the most perfect (that a mere human can create) representation of Christ and His attributes.

We are also referred to as “icons” of Christ, made in the image of God. I’ll talk more about this soon.

The Influence of the Early Church in the Formation of the Canon (History of the Bible, part 10)

Growing up,  I was under the impression that history was some far away place that could only be reached through books and grandfathers’ tales, but history is made every day. What we do may not be preserved in fancy books that will be read to children, copied, preserved through generations, and venerated, but it could be. Two thousand years ago twelve ordinary people doing ordinary everyday average things met a man who changed their lives and the life of the world. They were not spectacular. Most of them weren’t educated. They never set out to change history, and yet, we remember them. These ordinary people took the words of this extraordinary man, Jesus Christ, as gospel, The Gospel. They wrote books recounting their experiences with him. They made copies of these books and passed them around the known world! We know their names, these very ordinary people! Mary, Peter, Paul, James, Matthew, John and so so so many more! They formed a church, The Church. They read these books at every opportunity to celebrate the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They prayed, they lived, they died, most of them for their faith, and most importantly they passed on this history to their children and their neighbors. The Church lived on this way for over three hundred years: reading, praying, and breaking bread. (Acts 2:42)

In 313, Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan, which declared Christianity a legal religion of the state, and the empire converted. Christianity in the Roman Empire went from 15% to 70% of the population in 100 years. This rapid growth was also dangerous for the Church. Heresies began to spring up. In 325, Constantine called the Council of Nicea, the first Ecumenical Council of the Church, to discuss Arianism, the heresy that claimed that Jesus was created by the Father, not begotten. St. Athanasius (one of my personal heroes) combated Arianism in his book, On the Incarnation of the Word. The Council formed the Nicene Creed, which specifically defends against Arianism. “…And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages; Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten, not created, of one essence with the Father through Whom all things were made…” The Church was successful. They survived this heresy, but more would come. In 367, St. Athanasius wrote a list of the 27 books of the New Testament as we have them today. This was the first time these books were mentioned all together. There is no clear date for when the canon came together. There were certain requirements for a book to be accepted into the canon: the Vincentian rule for the canon says that they had to be read everywhere always by everyone. Basically, the book in question must be widely circulated among the churches, it had to have been read there for the entire history of the Church, and it had to be accepted by everyone in the Church. Many books did not make the cut, although, they were read kind of like a “devotional book.” There is a common misconception, one that I held for many years, that the Bible was read in completion by the early church, that it came together very quickly after Jesus’ death. This was not the case. The Church did read individual books, but they did not rely on the entirety of the Bible to hold their faith together. They heard from their mothers and fathers and grandparents, who had sat and talked to the apostle John in Ephesus or Peter or Paul in Rome. They had a living memory of the life of Jesus before they had any Scripture. The events in Acts obviously happened before Luke could write them down. Scripture relied on the witness and the tradition of the Church. Dr. Foakes-Jackson says, “The Church assuredly did not make the New Testament; the two grew up together.” You see, the Church did not suddenly sit down and decide to create the Bible one day. It took centuries of passing around Gospel books and Epistles before they had a complete book of Holy Scripture. They did, however, have the Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament. This is what Paul quotes in his epistles, because that is what the early church was reading.

So take heart in the news that your Bible comes from a long line of devoted Christians who gave their lives to preserve the word for three hundred years until it was legalized! They still obviously didn’t have a printing press, and making copies was difficult. Eventually, each church had a copy to be read in public worship, but the Church had a long journey ahead of them, none of which was smooth sailing.

Before the end of this series, I will revisit the heresies one by one and discuss modern sightings of each of them.  Also! I will be taking a closer look at the Nicene Creed.  Meanwhile, I will go through some basic theology that everyone needs to know. Welcome to apologetics class!

 

 

The Translation of the Bible into English (History of the Bible, part 9)

Hebrew…Greek…Latin…English! The Jews had Hebrew, the original Church has Greek, the Roman Catholic Church has Latin, and along with the first thoughts of the Protestant Reformation, the English Bible was born. So how did the English Bible come to be?

First, let me give a shout out to Erasmus, who compiled a complete Greek New Testament from six manuscripts in 1516. This Greek New Testament was used by Martin Luther and William Tyndale in their German and English Bibles. But first, John Wycliffe published the first English translation of the Bible in 1380. His translation was from Latin, which of course we know is a step removed from the original Hebrew and Greek. You can still purchase Wycliffe Bibles today; in fact, I grew up reading my dad’s copy of The Wycliffe Bible. Wycliffe pushed for the Bible to be written in the language of the people. Commoners could no longer read Latin, but the Catholic Mass was still in Latin. Wycliffe was a revolutionary. Following his lead, William Tyndale translated the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into English. His was the first English translation to be printed on a printing press. This technology enabled mass production of Bibles for the first time. When common people began to interpret scripture for themselves, the world changed. Along with the Reformation came the formation of the Anglican Church by Henry VIII. His descendants bounced back and forth between Catholicism and Protestantism. Finally, King James I ordered the translation of The King James Bible. This was seen as “THE” translation of the Bible, and many still see it this way today. However, the earlier Geneva Bible was more popular for many years.

In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s came the new English translations of the Bible, revisions of the King James Version. Up until this point, the Bibles still contained the Apocrypha. I’m not going to talk about every English Bible specifically, because there are way too many of them. In the 1970’s, along with other movements, the New International Version was published. The NIV was the first “phrase for phrase” translation. Instead of focusing on translating the Greek and Hebrew “word for word” into English, the translators focused on the overall meaning of each passage. They were willing to compromise the exact wording to retain the original meaning.

Scholars continue to translate the Scriptures in the hopes of doing it perfectly…eventually. Some translations are more academic and are translated word for word, and others are meant for easy understanding. These paraphrase the Scripture. With so many to choose from, how do you know which translation is best?

My recommendation, what has also been recommended to me, is to read multiple translations of the Bible. No one translation will be a perfect rendering of the original Hebrew and Greek. It is very important to be aware of the differences between the translations (and their commentary). Most Bibles, just like the original English Bibles, push a certain agenda ever so slightly into the mind of the reader. Commentary can be very useful and helpful, but be mindful of what the agenda is while reading it. So in your Bible study, grab an RSV, ESV, NIV, NLT, NASB, and the KJV! They each have unique features to offer their target audience. Make use of them! Remember to always keep Scripture in context. Drawing Scripture out of context leads to HUGE issues. Remember the culture as discussed in the post on the Greek New Testament. I will talk more about this next week when I discuss the early church.

 

The Latin Vulgate (History of the Bible, part 8)

As you now know, the Bible was written in two languages originally: Hebrew and Greek. As the Church spread, new languages became dominant. The church in Rome mainly spoke Latin, with less and less Greek speakers as time went on. They wanted a new translation of the Bible in their own language. It is only natural for people to want to read the Bible in their own language, but we must be careful to preserve the historicity and truth of the original texts.

With various strands of the Greek New Testament circulating in the early church by the 4th century, the Church decided that they needed to compile a complete Old and New Testament. Pope Damascus commissioned his secretary, Jerome, to do the job. Jerome began by revising the New Testament and then the Old Testament. He used a previously written Latin translation of the Gospels and compared them to Greek manuscripts. When this revision was completed, his work was compiled to form the Latin Vulgate in 405. Jerome’s revision was not a word for word translation of the text, but rather it was thought for thought translation. It read very differently from the original Greek text.

Some of the changes were not readily accepted. Jerome used a new order for the books (the order we use today), and followed the psalter of the Septuagint (The Greek Old Testament). Although not everyone loved the Latin Vulgate straight away, it soon became the most widely used translation of the Bible. Very few places in the West did not use the Vulgate. Of course, the church in the East still spoke and read Greek and had no need for the new Latin version. The difference in translation and language contributed to the future Schism. In 1546, The Council of Trent declared the Latin Vulgate to be the only acceptable translation of Scripture, completely disregarding the original Greek and Hebrew texts. This would lead to issues in the future.

With more and more expansion into the West, the Church encountered more needs of translating the Bible. Next would come German and English, and with these translations, the Church completely changed.

I apologize for how long it has taken me to get back to writing. The last few weeks of the trimester had me writing papers and studying for finals. I am working on something big, but it may take a while to complete. Meanwhile, I will finish the History of the Bible and begin my defense of  Jesus Christ. Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

The Greek New Testament (History of the Bible, part 7)

Over the past few months I have been writing a hopefully “easy to read and understand” history of the Bible. The past few weeks at school have proven to be extremely busy for me, and I have not had time to do the amount of research I need to write about the Greek New Testament. Here comes the surprise!!! I asked my friend, Van Parkman, to write an article for me on the Greek New Testament. Van is a recent graduate with a Bachelors in History and a minor in philosophy. I gave him my full permission to express his views and VERY strong opinions while covering the rich history of the Greek New Testament, (which he can read by the way).

I hope you enjoy hearing from another writer! Please share and like my new Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/onegirlshonestopinion

For more from Van, go visit his blog! http://justusvan.com/author/justusvan/

 

Here’s Van:

 

Many say that the Christ came at the fullest and most perfect of possible times. The Greek language itself was one of the elements which lead people to conclude thusly. Hellenistic Greek, was the lingua franca of the eastern half of the Roman Empire. Even in the west it was widely taught, spoken, and read. The greatest works of literature in the early Roman Empire, even in the west, were all Greek. Greek plays, epics, myths, philosophy, and poetry….even the most popular works in Latin were either mere translations or obvious spoofs of Greek literature. Most people don’t realize that even the official and preferred language of politics within the capital city itself, at the time of Christ, was Greek rather than the native Latin. No wonder then Paul’s epistle to the Romans was written in Greek! In fact, every book of the New Testament was originally written in Greek. This made the spread of Christianity all that much easier! What’s more is that the Greek language was very much philosophically inclined and both inherently and superbly savvy when it came to expressing new and complex ideas. Some theorize that the very structure of the language itself was crucial in the development of the infamous Greek schools of philosophy which helped give rise to modern western civilization. What better means and in what better tradition of thought through which the complex realities of the incarnation (analogous to the story of the god-man Hercules or the Greek notion of logos) should be expounded! Indeed, for the first few centuries after Christ, it was only through the help of the Greek language and Greek philosophy that Christianity was able to, on the one hand survive, on the other to resist becoming corrupted and unintelligible, and on a foot, to firmly establish the proper interpretation of the Incarnation’s message. The result of this process was the early Orthodox/right-thinking Church. The very establishment and defining of the New Testament canon came from that church and all modern day Christianity!

If the New Testament would have been written in any other language, and especially if that language had not been such a widespread lingua franca, Christianity itself might not even exist today! Some of course would respond to this statement by insisting that God would have “preserved his church somehow or another!” And thus conclude; “so the Greek language was no big deal.” To that I say that the Greek language and Greek philosophy, which go hand in hand, were two of the core elements that God DID use to do just that! These WERE God’s means by which he wished to both establish and build up his church and these elements were and ARE a big deal, if because of nothing else, then solely because they are the means by which God apparently chose to work. From this premise I can go on to argue that the early church that developed alongside the New Testament scriptures, and helped mold and fashion the New Testament scriptures, is in fact the best form of Christianity. *cough cough* Orthodoxy.

Now about the actual Greek… The Hellenistic Greek language used to write the New Testament was once thought by some to be a “Holy Ghost” Greek, which was given to the NT writers supernaturally to aid them in writing the NT. Few other examples of Middle Eastern Koine Greek were available to non-scholarly western laity until relatively recently so this was a way of explaining how much that particular style of Greek differed from Patristic Greek or Classical Greek. When I say “Classical Greek,” I mean the style of Greek used on mainland Greece from about relatively 550 to 300 B.C. This Greek was very sophisticated and highly suited for the expression of new and complex ideas. It was quite a marvelous language to read, speak, and write it but it was very complex, often very technical, and not the easiest language to learn. After Alexander the Great conquered pretty much all of the then known world, it had to be linguistically united. Greek was the language used but because it was being used as a second language for most people learning it, and mainly for only political and trade related functions at first, it was very much watered down from its mainland sophistication. However, by the time of Christ, people throughout the Hellenistic world had learned to embrace the Greek language relatively well. Greek was studied much like English is studied in the world today and many people were learning Greek in higher education. Schools of philosophy and science of various types were established and Greek became the preferred language of advanced education in many places much like Latin in Europe during the medieval period. The language began to morph in new and unique ways in its new environments and it developed its own sort of sophistication. So the Greek of Jesus’ time and place would still not have been as sophisticated as Classical Greek but it was even better for the spread of Christianity for it was a fantastic blend of two important elements. For starters, it was still Hellenistic Greek and therefore very conducive for an Empire wide “outreach.” Secondly, as I’ve stated earlier, it was also perfect for conveying the deep philosophical mysteries of the new faith. In fact, early Christian writers who did not read or write Greek found this to be a great stumbling block to their representation of the Christian faith and the world is still paying the consequences of their actions in the form of numerous heresies and over 41,000 Protestant denominations and a split right down the middle of the two Catholic churches. So much for church unity right? This language thing was a much bigger deal than most people take into account and was usually the underlying cause for most of the listed differences between East and West. Keep in mind that as the Roman Empire aged, Latin, unlike the early days of the Empire in the time of Chirst, was used more and more in the west as its own lingua franca so that the use of Greek began to wane and the differences of East and West grew sharper. As the language left, so too did Greek culture. Without a great sense of Greek culture, even those in the west who learned Greek, were only learning half of the language really. Knowing what words of a foreign language mean in your language is still not the same as knowing what they mean in that foreign language without the cultural connotations. This loss of a sense of Greek culture helped lead to the European Dark Age, which in turn severely crippled Western theology. From the time of the early church fathers up through the time of the reformation and possibly even up to today, the single most divisive factor between eastern and western churches (Eastern Orthodox and Catholic and Protestant) was the difference in language and culture. (which go hand in hand) That leads me to my next point.

The Hellenistic culture, that along with Jewish culture and others, that gave rise Christianity cannot be cut asunder from Christianity without that Christianity becoming something different altogether and the language of the Bible itself encapsulates that culture. The Catholic Erasmus and other figures important to the reformation recognized this in part. Indeed, even I as an Orthodox Christian agree that the move to read the Bible in its original languages was a good move. However, it was a move that was too hastily done. The reformers had Greek and they had Hebrew but they didn’t have the culture of the New Testament Christians. They thought they did in their arrogance and naivety, but they didn’t. They were able to pick up a lot of the culture in the language and the language did encapsulate the NT culture but their experience of the language was inadequate and second hand. This is an inevitable and unfortunate occurrence of the study of any ancient text. Even the Hebrew they read was not the Old Testament that the early Christians, including Jesus, would have read (except possibly in some of the synagogues but even then it wouldn’t have been quite the same Hebrew). Was this culture captured and preserved anywhere? Yes. In the liturgy of the Eastern and, to a lesser extent, the Western Catholic Church. But that is a different matter. The point is, culture, language, and “Biblical” Christianity go hand in hand and no amount of historical criticism can mend the gap. Only eastern tradition can.

So! How did the Greek of the New Testament differ within itself? The gospel writings were written in narrative form so they flow very nicely and are not too hard to read really for new learners of Greek, granted that you know your Bible fairly well. Writings like the epistles on the other hand were much more technical and addressed various issues within the church so they rarely follow a logically predictable narrative type style. This doesn’t necessarily mean that Paul or some of the other letter writers were smarter than the gospel writers, it just means that the different writing style makes for more difficult reading in itself. Now my experience in reading the epistles in Greek is that Paul is often more technical and therefore harder to read than other epistles are. 1, 2, and 3 John along with Revelation are the easiest reads by far (if you can get past Revelation’s ambiguity). This is because John’s style of Greek is very simple. This does not mean that John was unintelligent. He had to be intelligent enough to be able to write in what was probably two different languages at least, Aramaic and Greek. The biggest reason why John’s works are the easiest for native English speakers to read is that the subject to predicate structure in his syntax comes directly from his Semitic influences. What I’m saying is that he writes his Greek sentence structure as if it were a sentence in Hebrew or Aramaic, which happens to be a lot like English from what I hear. Greek itself requires no specific word order or subject to predicate structure but he writes as if it does. That’s why native English speaking teachers of Biblical Greek refer to John’s Greek as “baby Greek.” In my experience, here is the list of gospel books listed in order of hardest to easiest in terms of the Greek used: Luke, Matthew, Mark, John. Of these, Luke has by far the most unique words up his sleeve and he continues to show off his vocabulary in the book of Acts.

Now a little bit about the extant manuscripts. We have no surviving original New Testament books or letters. However, the same can be said for any other ancient work! The New Testament boasts about 6,000 manuscripts, which represent the New Testament and help us to form the scholarly editions of the Greek New Testament we enjoy today. Many of these I refer to date to the Late Middle Ages though and many of these later texts are in Latin or other languages so that number can be misleading. Still, the New Testament is by far the most thoroughly attested collection of books from antiquity. Not the writings of Plato, Homer’s Iliad, Virgil’s Aeneid, the writings of the Stoics, or even the Hebrew Bible can begin to compare in terms of the amount of textual witnesses, the quality of textual witnesses, nor to the proximity of the witnesses to the original writings they purport to represent. The New Testament was originally written in all capital letters because lower case did not exist. Punctuation, if you can imagine, did not exist in Greek either so there is something else for you to get your head around! Where these textual witnesses come from tend to be of two basic sources. The majority of what we have has been preserved by good ol’ monks in monasteries through copying and safe keeping. These witnesses are not always in the form of a copied book of the Bible though. A lot of it has been taken from songs or lectionaries, often in fragmentary form. The other source is generally just anything found outside of monasteries such as inscriptions, or surviving pieces of parchment or papyrus. The copies of papyri tend to be older than the parchment but this is not always the case. The papyri are more susceptible to destruction by the natural elements and have been almost exclusively found buried in the deserts of Egypt because its dry climate slows the deterioration process for “God’s word” just as it did ol’ King Tut. Almost all of those found in Egypt like that have been found just in the past century! Now the Eastern Orthodox Church has always had both a Greek Old Testament (the Septuagint), much older than the Masoretic text used by translators today, and the Greek New Testament. However, This “Byzantine” NT text is representative of only one of a handful of known textual traditions. Despite this, the relatively unbroken Byzantine textual family differs in arguably no significant or faith changing way from the modern scholarly editions of the New Testament text painstakingly pieced together like Frankenstein from representatives of all the various textual families. This is true even though the oldest of the manuscripts we have, have only been found in the past one hundred years. The same, “no life shattering surprises” story goes along with the comparison between Erasmus’ Greek New Testament and the King James New Testament despite the fact that they were only working with a handful of textual witnesses rather than 6,000! Evangelical scholars are quick to hop on the train of the latest found papyrical representative of the New Testament hoping that it will either date from the first century or even be an original. No such luck so far, although there is plenty of debate out there over ones we do currently have. The oldest manuscripts we have dating from the second century are still far closer to the material they represent than any other ancient work can boast. To further validate the close dating of some of the older manuscripts is the fact that, even though the text of the New Testament went abroad to many different places very quickly and created their own textual families, they all universally agree with one another as a collective unit with only minor variations begging the attention of scholars! Christians, or any other group of people for that matter, need not sit on the edge of their seats waiting for the next “earliest manuscript find ever” as if it could change Christian understanding of the Bible in a significant way. Based on the thorough and yet diverse yet fluid and varied nature of the manuscripts that we do have from all over the early Christian world, the chances of a find that would significantly change the reading of any concensored text of the GNT are astronomical. The spirit of the Bible and of early Christianity is preserved in the Orthodox Church from whence it came anyway, so there should never be any cause for alarm or suspense related to any such finding.

 

Now, like I said, he has some very strong opinions! If you aren’t familiar with the Orthodox Church, familiarize yourself! There are a ton of things that the East can teach us. I hope you have enjoyed hearing from someone else than me. Maybe you will see more guest writers in the further.

The Old Testament Apocrypha (The History of the Bible, part 6)

Now, I know that some of you may disagree with some of the things I say in this section. I will be talking about the Apocrypha. Gasp! Those of you who grew up in a Protestant church will have had little contact with these “extra books.” I’ve heard so many times, “those Catholics have extra books in their Bible.”

It’s true. Those Catholics do have extra books in their Bible, but that is because those reformers took them out of “our Bible.” The “extra books,” the Old Testament Apocrypha, were in the Septuagint originally. The Orthodox Church uses the Septuagint and the Greek New Testament. When Jerome translated the Latin Bible from the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament in the 4th century, he kept the Old Testament Apocrypha in it. The Catholic Church also uses the Apocrypha along with the Old and New Testaments. It wasn’t until the Reformation that it was taken out of the Bible, when the big push for Sola Scriptura hit.

I should probably explain my position on the Apocrypha now…. I respect it. I believe that the Apocrypha has value in the church, but I do not elevate it to the level of scripture. It should be read in the church just like we read any other extra-biblical text. Don’t we read quotes by modern theologians and pastors? How is this book of Christian history and instruction for the Christian life any different? The Apocrypha has history of the Jews between the time of their release from Babylon and where the New Testament picks up. I often wondered as a kid what happened in that space of time. We can use the Apocrypha as an authority on Jewish history, but I don’t think it should be used as the basis for any theology. Jesus references “The Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms” as scripture. I think we should trust The Word of God for what we use as the Word of God. So is the Apocrypha scripture? Eh…. Not in my opinion, but I will read it just like I read St. Irenaeus and St. Athanasius. They never claimed to be scripture, but we can read what they write in church because it contains some of the truths of scripture.