Saturday, May 18, 2019


Someone in one of the online groups I am a part of asked a couple of questions about Christianity that I think lots of people struggle with:

1. Is Christ's death as a punishment for our sins ("penal substitutionary atonement") central to Christianity?

2. Is this teaching equal to "cosmic child abuse"?


Yes. Penal substitutionary atonement is central to the Gospel and therefore to Christianity. 

This is stated quite explicitly and emphatically in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4: 

"Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,...."

Note that Paul states that the Gospel is summed up as: Christ died for our sins, was buried and was raised again. And "Christ died for our sins" is clearly shorthand for PSA. And he does not merely say that this is the summary of the Gospel. He says that it is "of first importance" and that: "By this Gospel you are saved, IF you hold firmly" to it. "Otherwise you have believed in vain." This is all stated quite clearly and emphatically. And since is the Gospel, it is clear also that Paul declares the utmost condemnation on anyone who preaches another Gospel (Galatians 1:6-10).

So the fact that there are other implications of Christ's death that are taught in Scripture does not set aside the centrality of the penal substitionary atonement understanding of Christ's death. Only the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ's death brings cleansing of our sins; and if we are still in our sins, then our faith is useless. We are still condemned and separated from God for eternity. So yes the penal substitutionary atonement is absolutely central.


And the concept of penal substitutionary atonement is taught throughout the Scriptures:

Isaiah 53:4-6: Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him PUNISHED by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the PUNISHMENT that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:10-12: Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied[; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Matthew 26:28: This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Romans 3:25-26: God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

Romans 4:25: He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

2 Corinthians 5:21: God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Galatians 1:4: who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,

Ephesians 1:7: In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace

Hebrews 10:11-12: Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,

1 Peter 2:24: “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”

1 Peter 3:18: For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.

1 John 2:2: He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.


And No. The Scriptural teaching of Penal Substitutionary Atonement is not "cosmic child abuse." This is a very old slander brought against the Gospel by liberals/progressives who want to reduce the Gospel to moralistic deism (or in the last few decades panentheism....or any other worldview rather than Biblical theism). They bring this empty charge by divorcing the concept of penal substitutionary atonement from its context and cherry-picking only the details that serve their purpose.

First, Jesus is not a mere human child--powerless under the sway of a manipulative human father. He is God incarnate. He is co-eternal and equal and one with the Father, in the incomprehensible mystery of the Triune Godhead. And everything they do is done first out of love for each other and then out of love for their creation.

Second, Jesus is explicit when he says: "No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord" (John 10:18). And even as he is being arrested, he is clear that he has the power to back out at any moment: "Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?" (Matthew 26:53).

So this is clearly not child abuse of any kind or anything like it. This is more like a father sending his child off to war to defeat an evil foe and bring about justice--with tears of great sorrow in his eyes but knowing that it must be done. And the son goes off to war with the same conviction as the father and with a mixture of dread overcome by great courage and desire for justice. It is more like this, but much more so.


Consider the clear implications of Romans 3:25-26:

"God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus."

God is a just Judge because he requires punishment for lawbreakers. What kind of judge simply forgives everyone who comes before them? Such a judge would make a mockery of justice by ignoring all the harm done by every criminal.

But God is both just and justifier because he provides that punishment for all through the voluntary death of his eternal Son who took our punishment upon himself, once for all time.

Crucified Christ" (Viktor Vasnetsov, 1885-1896)

Saturday, April 20, 2019

THE VIRGIN BIRTH: The Messianic Prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 Defended

A response to Zvi Zaks' argument against Matthew's use of Isaiah 7:14 as a messianic prophecy.

(NOTE: I have quoted the relevant parts below,  precisely as he quoted them to me in a public Facebook conversation in the group "The Biblical Worldview Defended." And my response below is the one that I shared with him in the group.):

//Isaiah 7:14 (KJV) "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." Christians say this verse predicts the virgin birth of Jesus, who they maintain is the deity come down to earth to be with us. However, this citation has been poorly translated, taken out of context, and is not messianic in any event. (Note, by the way, how the book of Matthew in the Christian Bible misquotes this verse).//

//Poor Translation: The Hebrew word for virgin is "betula". The root of the word is so specific that the Hebrew scriptures mention it with reference to stained bedsheets. However, the word used in Is 7:14 is "alma" which most dictionaries translate as "young woman." The word "alma" is found only seven times in scripture. In some places, it could mean either "virgin" or "young woman" but two verses suggest that an "alma" need not be virginal (Proverbs 30:19 -- "the way of a man with an alma", which is usually sexual -- and Song of Songs 6:8 -- "queens, concubines, and almas", the first two clearly not virginal, which suggests the third also is not.) To think the prophet would have used "alma" rather than the unequivocal "betula" strains credulity.//

First, there is no reason to think that "young woman" would be a better translation of almah in Proverbs 30:18-19. The writer is speaking of things that are extremely amazing (v.18). And what is more amazing than the first time that a man and a woman make love together? To translate almah as "virgin" would be quite natural here.  Certainly, there is nothing here to indicate that "young woman" is preferable to "virgin."

The same is true of Song of Songs 6:8-9: "Sixty queens there may be, and eighty concubines, and virgins beyond number; but my dove, my perfect one, is unique, the only daughter of her mother, the favorite of the one who bore her." Here the contrast seems to be between his lover and all the other possible love interests, but his lover is the one who has his attention. It is certainly much more likely that almah would be translated as "virgin" here, since a Jewish writer of Scripture would not be seen as looking out on the whole field of women (including married women) for a wife. At any rate, there is absolutely nothing to favor a rendering of "young woman" over "virgin."

On the other hand, it is quite certain that when Isaac uses almah in Genesis 24:43 that he is looking for a virgin for his wife and not a young married woman. And that virgin is Rebekah. And in Exodus 2:8 there is every indication that Moses' sister is a virgin. And in Song of Songs 1:3 it is safe to assume that in the context of ancient Jewish Scripture it is virgins who are attracted to the subject of this play.

Furthermore, Isaiah 7:14 says that this will be a sign. When the LORD gives a sign, it is a miraculous sign. (See Numbers 14:22; 16:38; Deuteronomy 4:34; 6:22; 7:19; 11:3; 13:1-2; etc.)

See Isaiah 38:7-8 for Isaiah's use of the word "sign" in a similar context: "‘This is the LORD’s sign to you that the LORD will do what he has promised: I will make the shadow cast by the sun go back the ten steps it has gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.’ So the sunlight went back the ten steps it had gone down."

A "young woman" becoming pregnant and giving birth to a son would not be much of a sign, but a "virgin" conceiving and giving birth to a son is most certainly a sign.

But most importantly, the Jewish scholars who translated the Hebrew of Isaiah 7:14 into Greek when making the Septuagint (centuries before the Gospel of Matthew) chose the Greek word parthenos, which explicitly means "virgin." Do you really think that nearly 3000 years later you have a better understanding of the word almah than the elite Jewish scholars who lived in that ancient culture and who lived in much closer proximity to the time of Isaiah?

So your attempt to show that "virgin" is a "poor translation" completely fails on all accounts.


//Also, "will conceive" is unlikely. The Hebrew "hara" is most likely present tense and is better read "is pregnant."//

First, your "unlikely" and "most likely" are a matter of your own bias and not fact, and therefore of no substance. But more importantly, it really makes no difference, as Old Testament prophecy is often spoken in the present tense (as the prophets/"seers" were often seeing things in visions and speaking about them as they were happening in their visions).


//Context: This verse concerns a specific political problem of that era, and has no messianic significance at all. Isaiah writes in a highly flowery style, which makes it difficult to follow his point. However, if you read verses 1-15 slowly and carefully, you will see that Isaiah is telling his king, Ahaz, not to worry about two neighbors, Rezin and Pekah, who threaten the kingdom, because these two "firebrands" will be vanquished. How long will that take? A few years -- i.e. in the amount of time it takes a young woman to bear a child, and raise him to know the difference between good and evil.//

I agree that it is important that when reading the words of the prophets that you read them "slowly and carefully." Doing that, you will notice that God tells Ahaz to ask for a sign, but Ahaz refuses. God's response is to rebuke Ahaz and then announces a sign that is for "the house of David" (not Ahaz). The definitive proof that it is not Ahaz that the sign is given to is found in Isaiah 7:14: "Therefore the Lord himself will give you [plural] a sign...." The Hebrew word for "you" is plural (and also in the Greek Septuagint). So the sign of a virgin is a sign for the house of David, the line of the Messiah (and not for Ahaz--because Ahaz has refused to ask for a sign when the Lord tells him to do so).


//As for the name of the child, Emanuel, though Christians render it as "God with us," it should be rendered as "God is with us," a statement to King Ahaz that he will defeat his two neighbors because he, Ahaz, has a divine ally. The name is a comment about God, not a description of the person so named. (See also comments on Isaiah 9:6).//

First, either rendering of Emmanuel is acceptable, and both renderings bear the same meaning. Second, if this is meant to be a sign of God being with Ahaz in order to comfort and assure him, then why is it followed (7:17-25) with the prophecy that the Assyrians will leave his kingdom desolate? Third, who is this woman who bears a son as a sign to Ahaz and why is Emmanuel (which you say is a great sign to Ahaz) never mentioned in 2 Kings or 1 & 2 Chronicles? One would think that this son must surely be a member of Ahaz's own family, but the name never appears in any records of his lineage (the lineage of the kings being a focus of the writers of Kings and Chronicles). Since Isaiah is apparently written first, one would think that the writers of Kings and Chronicles would be especially interested in noting who this Emmanuel is. Fourth, throughout the Old Testament, the meanings of names usually bear significance for the child that is named (e.g., Genesis 3:20; 25:25-26; 35:10; 35:18).

The same things apply to the son spoken of in Isaiah 9:6-7. The son named in Isaiah 9:6-7 is clearly a king for whom "the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever." And yet, the writers of Kings and Chronicles never name him. And of course, none of the kings of Israel/Judah written about in Kings and Chronicles reign "forever" (except God).


//What the text says is simple. To paraphrase -- look, the young woman is pregnant and will give birth to a boy and she will call him "God is with us" he will be eating butter and honey before he knows to choose good from ill. Before he knows how to choose good from ill the lands of those people you fear will be forsaken.//

Perhaps there is a deeper meaning. Possibly even a double meaning. Perhaps what the text is actually saying is that these kings and their kingdoms will fade away. They won't even exist when the Messiah comes. Look for the coming of Messiah.

At first blush, the meaning that you have given seems more natural. But when one looks more closely, it becomes clear that there must be a very different meaning, as I believe I have shown conclusively above. Certainly, Matthew, a Hebrew scholar and First Century Jew, saw that deeper meaning and applied it to Jesus--whose miracles and prophecies, sinless life, transcendent teaching, fulfillment of many Old Testament Messianic prophecies, death and resurrection he witnessed and wrote about.


//Parenthetically, Jesus was never called "Emanuel".//

Well, actually he was. See Matthew 1:23....and billions of Christians since then! :)



(1) Your arguments against the interpretation of Isaiah 7:14 given in Matthew 1:23 fail. You fail to give any substantive argument against it. And you have failed to consider the considerable evidence for it.

(2) It remains true that the young woman spoken of in Isaiah 7:14 is an unmarried virgin. This is shown to be true by the use of the word almah in the Old Testament and by the fact that the ancient translators of the Old Testament chose to use the Greek word parthenos to translate it. Furthermore, it is shown to be so by the fact that this is given as the Yahweh's sign that he will fulfill his promise to the house of David (the messianic line): a  young woman conceiving and giving birth to a son is not a sign, but a virgin conceiving and giving birth to a son is most certainly a miraculous sign from the Lord.

Additionally, you find yourself caught in an "Catch-22" situation: If Matthew is simply making up stories about Jesus (as I assume you believe), then why would he make up a story about Jesus being born of a virgin and try to sell it as the fulfillment of a messianic prophecy to the Jews to whom he is writing--unless this was the well known meaning of Isaiah 7:14 among the Jews of the First Century? That would be a ridiculous thing to do. And it is hard to see how such ridiculous claims could become accepted unless there was evidence that they were true. And if the claim that Jesus was born of a virgin was simply to satisfy a prevalent contemporary interpretation of Isaiah 7:14, why does Luke never mention Isaiah 7:14 in his narrative of the virgin birth? If however, Jesus was truly born of a virgin, then this messianic prophecy and miraculous sign from Yahweh were truly fulfilled in him; and he is your Messiah.


Gustave Dore (1832-83), Wood Engraving

Tuesday, January 8, 2019


I wrote an article last July 2018 for the Growing Deeper Roots  titled: "The Beautiful Mind of Jesus." The article challenges the idea that being like Jesus can be reduced to showing grace to others. I invite you to check it out. 

Other Resources
*Groothuis, Douglas. "Jesus" Philosopher and Apologist" (Article)
*McDowell, Josh and Sean McDowell. Evidence That Demands A Verdict (2017 edition). "Introduction" Section I., third point: "Jesus the Apologist"
*Groothuis, Douglas. On Jesus (Wadsworth Philosophers Series). (Book: 112 pages)

Saturday, October 27, 2018

THE NEW TESTAMENT CANON: Human Invention or Divine Gift?

In the fall of 2018 I did a presentation on the New Testament Canon (which was a revision of a presentation I did in March 2014). We were not able to cover in 2 hours all the material that I had prepared at that time, and I have more now. Someday I would like to write a series of articles or perhaps a book on this topic. 

But in the mean time, I am leaving my presentation resources and a list of resources below. Below that you will find my notes to the presentations that I did. The notes are far from complete, but you may find them helpful.

I.  Resources from my presentation on the New Testament canon
II. RESOURCES FOR FURTHER STUDY on the New Testament canon
    A. General Resources on the Formation of the New Testament Canon
    B. PSEUDONYMITY: Are any New Testament books falsely attributed to apostles?
        1. The Gospels
        2. The Pastoral Epistles (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus)
        3. 1st & 2nd Peter
        4. General Resources on the alleged pseudonymity in the New Testament
    C. REJECTED BOOKS: Why did other "gospels" not make it into the canon?
III. NOTES from my presentation on the New Testament canon (incomplete)

I. RESOURCES from my presentation....
"THE NEW TESTAMENT CANON: Human Invention or Divine Gift?":
(NOTE: These may be printed and distributed in their unaltered form for non-profit use.)

*The outline of my presentation used as handouts
*PowerPoint slides for my presentation
*A Chart on Early Canon Lists to 240 AD
*Flow Chart: "Who Are The Apostolic Fathers & What Did They Recognize as Scripture?"
*Confirmation of New Testament Books


A. General Resources on the Formation of the New Testament Canon

*Kruger, Michael. "How Did the New Testament Canon Develop?(3 minutes)
*Kruger, Michael. "Why You Can Rely on The Canon" (9 minutes)
*An excellent series of short videos on the New Testament Canon by top experts like Darrell Bock and Dan Wallace being interviewed on the John Ankerberg Show.
*Blomberg, Craig. "The Formation of the New Testament Canon" (38 minutes)

*Kruger, Michael. Series of 4 Audio Lectures: (1) “The Definition of Canon,” (2) “The Origins of Canon,” (3) “The Artifacts of Canon,” and (4) “The Messiness of the Canon.” These are available for FREE online in MP3 format.

*Kruger, Michael. “Canon Fodder

*Davis, Glenn. “The Development of the Canon of the New Testament.” And don't miss his "Links to Other Sites" which provides many resources not in my list.
*Compilation of "Ancient Canon Lists" with dating and texts

 Articles (Online and Free)
**Cooper, Brad. "Why 1 Timothy Was Written No Later Than 55 AD & Why That Matters"
*Bruce, F.F. "The Canon of the New Testament" (Chapter 3 of Bruce's classic book, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?)
*Pratte, David E. "The Authority of the Apostles' Teaching"
*Hill, Charles E. "The New Testament Canon: Destructio Ad Absurdum?"
*Donner, Theo. "Some Thoughts on the History of the New Testament Canon"
*Leasure, Ryan. "Did We Really Not Have a New Testament Canon Till the Fourth Century?"
*Richards, E. Randolph. "The Codex and the Early Collection of Paul's Letters"
*Miller, Glenn. A series of technical articles on Clement of Rome's use of the New Testament. Part 2. Part 3.

Booklets and Book Chapters
*"The Canon of the New Testament: how and when formed" by  B.B. Warfield (1892), 12 pages. FREE! Also, here.
*McDowell, Josh and Sean McDowell. Evidence That Demands A Verdict (2017 edition). Chapter 2: "How We Got The Bible" is an excellent overview of this issue.

*Kruger, Michael. Canon Revisited. (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2012)
*Kruger, Michael. The Question of Canon (2013)
*Kruger, Michael. The Heresy of Orthodoxy (2010)
*Bruce, F.F. The Canon of Scripture (1988)
*Metzger, Bruce. The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance (1987)
*Geisler, Norman and Shawn Nelson. Evidence of an Early New Testament Canon. (2015)
*Hill, C.E. Who Chose The Gospels?
*Tregelles, Samuel Prideux. The Historic Evidence of The Authorship and Transmission of the Books of the New Testament. (London: Samuel Bagster & Sons, 1881). Available for FREE!
*Charteris, Archibald Hamilton. Canonicity: A Collection of Early Testimonies to the Canonical Books of the New Testament. (Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1880). Available for FREE!
*Westcott, B.F. A General Survey of the Historicity of the Canon of the New Testament. (London: Macmillan and Company, 1875). Available for FREE!
*Gamble, Harry A. The New Testament Canon: The Making and Meaning. A concise and helpful overview of the scholarly issues. A somewhat different perspective than mine, but by a top notch scholar in this field.
*McDonald, Lee Martin and James A. Sanders, editors. The Canon Debate. A large volume filled with essays of top notch scholars--though almost all of them are liberals and not conservatives (and none of the more important evangelical scholars who have done so much work in this field), so they are leaning strongly towards showing that the Bible is a human invention rather than a divine gift. So the title is quite misleading, but it is a great resource for a more in depth scholarly look at this subject.
*Gallagher, Edmon L. and John D. Meade. The Biblical Canon Lists from Early Christianity: Texts and Analysis. The authors' conclusions may be different than mine, but this is an excellent resource.
*Harnack, Adolf. The Origin of the New Testament. (1925). A formative thinker in the Liberal movement and driven by a liberal agenda yet a great historian from which many things can be gleaned if one uses discernment. It also gives one an understanding of where much of liberal ideas about the canon came from. Sadly, his agenda causes him to miss certain things in the New Testament and early church history that causes him to make serious errors. 
*Alexander, Archibald. The Canon of the Old and New Testaments Ascertained. (1851)
*Souter, Alexander. The Text and Canon of the New Testament. (1913)

B. PSEUDONYMITY: Are any New Testament books falsely attributed to apostles?

1. The Gospels
*McGrew, Timothy. "Who Wrote the Gospels?" (Audio and Video plus resources)
*Pitre, Brant. The Case for Jesus. (Chapters 2-4) This is the most thorough argument for the authenticity of the four canonical Gospels that I have seen...though still missing one very powerful piece of evidence that I have never seen anyone publish but that I hope to document soon. :)

2. Pastoral Epistles
*Cooper, Brad. "Who Wrote the Pastoral Epistles?" (An extensive article followed by a load of resources for further investigation)

3. 1st & 2nd Peter
The only real cause of doubt raised by critics concerning the authenticity of the letters of Peter focuses on the difference in language and style. But it should be noted that very early church fathers recorded that Mark was Peter's interpreter. It seems most likely that the explanation for this is that this fisherman from Galilee did not speak fluent Greek but was only fluent in Aramaic. That being the case, it should not be surprising that the two letters bearing his name are so different. They quite apparently were taken down and translated by two very different men.

*Kruger, Michael. "The Authenticity of 2 Peter"
*Warfield, B.B. "The Canonicity of Second Peter"
*Miller, Glenn. "Question...are 1st and 2nd Peter NOT by Peter, but by someone using his name?"
*Zahn, Theodor. "The Genuineness of Jude and The Two Epistles of Peter" (pdf file) excerpted from Introduction to the New Testament (1917, Revised 2nd Edition: "Three Volumes in One"), Volume 2, p..262-293.
*Richards, E. Randolph. "Will the Real Author Please Stand Up?: The Author in Greco-Roman Letter Writing." (Chapter 8, p. 113-136 in Come Let Us Reason: New Essays in Christian Apologetics, edited by Paul Copan and William Lane Craig). An excellent article on the authenticity of the New Testament letters, especially the pastorals and the letters of Peter.

4. Other Resources for Accusations of Pseudonymity
*Taylor, Justin. "Pseudonymity and the NT" (excellent brief article)
*Guthrie, Donald. "The Development of the Idea of Canonical Pseudopigraphy in New Testament Criticism" and "Dilemmas in New Testament Criticism" (excellent articles)
*Brown, Douglas E. "Pseudonymity and The New Testament" (article)
*Wilder, Terry. "Does the Bible Contain Forgeries?" Chapter 7 (Kindle Location 3636) of In Defense of the Bible: A Comprehensive Apologetic for the Authority of Scripture, edited by Steven Cowan and Terry Wilder
*Darrell Bock responds to Bart Ehrman.
*Witherington's series of reviews of Bart Ehrman's book Forged.
*Mike Licona's review of Bart Ehrman's book Forged(You have to click the link, then it downloads as a pdf.)
*Carson, D. A.; Moo, Douglas J.  An Introduction to the New Testament. (2009) Zondervan. My first go-to reference for these kinds of questions is Carson and Moo's Introduction to the New Testament. I've been using it for about 20 years now and I have never been disappointed. These guys are solid in theology and scholarship.
*Carson, D.A. "Pseudonymity and Pseudepigraphy" in the IVP Dictionary of New Testament Background, p.857-64. Carson is one of the greatest New Testament scholars of the past 40 years.
*Wilder, Terry. Pseudonymity, The New Testament and Deception: An Inquiry into Intention and Reception. (Note: As the one used copy is an astronomical price, you may want to borrow this one from a library.)
*Zahn, Theodor. Introduction to the New Testament (1917, Revised 2nd Edition: "Three Volumes in One"). Zahn was one of the great New Testament scholars of the early 20th Century. FREE!

C. REJECTED BOOKS: Why did other "Gospels" not make it into the New Testament canon?
*Cooper, Brad. "So-Called Lost Gospels" (Brief article & links to tons of resources)


2ND ED. (2018)


A. The DaVinci Code quote and its origins in The Lost Books of the Bible (SHOW BOOK)....The Forbidden Gospels and Epistles.... the Hancock's "The Suppressed Gospels and Epistles of the original New Testament of Jesus the Christ  (1863)"
....Which is a reprint of William Hone's Apocryphal New Testament (1821) with an introduction by Edward Hancock. Hone utilized translations by William Wake (for the Apostolic Fathers) and Jeremiah Jones (for the New Testament Apocrypha).
....NAG HAMMADI (1945)
B. The Effect of the DaVinci Code....
C. The Other Danger of the DaVinci Code....Makes liberal/mainstream views seem moderate or even conservative by comparison.
D. How many Gospels? 80? How about 12 pretenders. (MEYER BOOK)
E. Three quick points:
i. The Council of Nicea did not discuss the NT canon
ii. During the "Great Persecution" under Diocletian's reign, the persecution began by razing churches and burning the Christian Scriptures in 303 (22 years before Nicea).
iii. There is much evidence for a general consensus about the canon long before this time....which we will begin to explore in our time tonight.

A. The Mainstream View Is...
B. The Problems:
i. What the letter and councils actually say....confirm and do not decide
ii. Do bishops and church councils actually have the authority to decide what the canon should be?
iii. The Presence of earlier canon lists and other indicators of a New Testament canon: And what about the "disputed books"?
iv. How should the canon be determined? Who actually has the authority to determine the canon? What are we even looking for in a New Testament canon?

A. Jesus is the mediator of the New Testament (Covenant)
B. Jesus gave his authority to the apostles:
-Qualifications of an apostle
C. Did the apostles know they were writing Scripture?


1ST EDITION (2014):


1. Is the New Testament we have now the books God wanted us to have? 
*If these are the books that we depend on to know who God is and how we can be assured of forgiveness and eternal life, how do we know we have the right books? 
*Are there books missing from our canon?....Are some of the books in our canon forgeries? 
*Are the books we have now simply the result of early church politics? Or even Constantine's sanction? 
In recent years, there have been a large number of skeptics who have been raising these kinds of questions and challenges to the Biblical canon. The leading sources of this skepticism would probably be Bart Ehrman and Dan Brown's book and movie, The Davinci Code.
2. Bart Ehrman: Lost Christianities, Forged, etc.: 
3. The Davinci Code: "More than eighty gospels were considered for the New Testament and yet only a relative few were chosen for inclusion....The Bible, as we know it today, was collated by the pagan Roman emperor Constantine the Great....Constantine commissioned and financed a new Bible, which omitted those gospels that spoke of Christ's human traits and embellished those gospels that made him godlike. The earlier gospels were outlawed, gathered up, and burned....The modern Bible was compiled and edited by men who possessed a political agenda...."
4. The Council of Nicea (325 A.D.)....
a. NOT about the Biblical canon. Decided on 20 different matters of "canon law" (that is, church rules), but none of them had to do with what books would be considered Scripture. (Perhaps the term "canon law" is where the confusion about this comes from.)
b. The two major issues decided on at Nicea concerned Arianism and when to celebrate Easter. BTW, if the church prior to this time did not have the political power to solve a minor issue like when to celebrate Easter (which had been an issue for at least 150 years before Constantine's time), then how would they ever enforce something like the canon.
*NOTE: "Scholars disagree about the controversy's details. They do agree that its arguments revolved around whether the primary Christian spring festival should happen on Nisan 14 (the Passover day) or annually on a Sunday."
"The controversy involved three events: the controversy between Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, and Anicetus, the bishop of Rome, that occurred around a.d. 155; the more heated controversy between Polycrates, the bishop of Ephesus, and Victor, the bishop of Rome, that broke out around 195; and the decree of Constantine following the Nicene Council in 325."
**FROM the online article "The Passover-Easter-Quartodeciman Controversy" by Ralph Orr at:
c. So far as we know, NO ecumenical/universal council of the early church EVER ruled on what books belonged in the Bible. (There were rulings at local councils, but not universal councils. And none of these local councils were held during the time of Constantine.) Rather, the evidence shows that the early Church received and passed on those books that they knew were written by or under the authority of the apostles.

Before getting into the historical evidence for the New Testament canon, let's take a quick look at the way most Christians come to know and trust that the Bible contains the books that God wanted us to have. Most Christians do not even question the New Testament canon:
*They trust the judgment of their church leaders. 
*They sense the witness of the Spirit to their spirits when they read the Scripture that it is indeed the Word of God. 
*They see within the pages of the Bible many things that confirm that it is given by God--among other things: 
a. the fulfillment of so many detailed prophecies, 
b. the amazing unity of 66 books that have been written by over 40 different human authors over the course of about 1400+ years, 
c. its accurate prescriptions for life, and 
d. what J.B. Phillips calls: "the ring of truth"). 
Things that set it apart from all other books. 
And finally, they note within its pages the promises that it will endure as long as heaven and earth; and they trust God's power and sovereignty to fulfill those promises and preserve his Word for the sake of his people. 
1. The Spirit's Witness: "The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice." (John 10:2-5; see also 10:1-16, 25-27)
2. The Declarations of Scripture: 
"Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens....Long ago I learned from your statutes that you established them to last forever." (Psalm 119:89, 152)
"For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished." (Matthew 5:18)
"Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away." (Luke 21:33)
3. God's Sovereignty: Let me give you a brief outline for a cumulative argument by which we can come to trust the authenticity of the Biblical canon, even apart from the historical evidences. Theistic proofs prove God's existence. Creation--and especially the way we are made--give us good reason to expect that our Creator would desire to communicate with us. As already noted, the Bible is unique among the writings of the world in giving us good reason to believe that it is from our Creator. Messianic prophecies and Christ's death and resurrection (as the first among many other things) prove that Jesus Christ is who he claimed to be: God. Jesus' recognition of the OT and authorization of his apostles further ensures that the Bible is God's Word. And in light of the declarations of Scripture that it is eternal, God's sovereingnty guarantees the canon.
4. What I hope to do today is not so much to prove that our New Testament canon is the correct one. Rather it will be to show that the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of this verdict and that such evidence is consistent with what we believe concerning God's sovereignty and the canon.

1. 2 Peter 3:15-16: Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
a. "as they do the other Scriptures": So the apostle Peter considers Paul's letters to be  Scripture.
b. "in ALL his letters" (collection of Paul's letters)
c. in public circulation: Peter assumes his readers know about "ALL his letters" and     even the ignorant and unstable have access to them
d. According to Paul's own words in 1 Cor. 15:9, Paul is "the least of the apostles", so if Peter calls Paul's letters Scripture, then the writings of the other apostles would certainly have no lesser status.
2. 1 Timothy 5:18: 
a. "the Scripture says"....Q: Where does the Scripture say this? (Deut. 25:4; Lk. 10:7)
b. The Greek of this verse is nearly identical to the Greek in Luke 10:7 (vs. Mt. 10:10)
c. Paul's use of Luke: Compared to Matthew and Mark (John was not yet written), Paul only cites Luke. And he alludes to teaching distinctive to Luke more than to the others--including alluding to Luke 10: 7 in 1 Cor. 9:9, 14.

1. OT Canon established in First Century Judaism 
*Jesus and the apostles were Jews. So the NT Church already had a canon of Scripture, right?...which was what?
*Q: And why do we call it the Old Testament?
*See chapter 16 of In Defense of The Bible by Paul Wegner, et al
2. 2 Corinthians 3:14 & "Ministers of the New Covenant" (3:6)
*2 Cor. 3:14: ".... to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read."
*2 Cor. 3:6: "God  has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant...."
*Also see Hebrews (chapters 7-10)

*Eph 2:20: "....built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus as the chief cornerstone" (see also: Galatians 2:9; Revelation 21:14)
*Who are the apostles? (The Twelve and others: 1 Cor. 15:3-9)
1. Eyewitnesses of Jesus' Ministry, Death and Resurrection 
    *When declaring the need to replace Judas Iscariot to restore the full number of the Twelve, Peter said: "Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.” (Acts 1:21-22; see also Mark 3:13-14; Luke 24:46-48; John 15:27; Acts 1:9; 1 Cor. 9:1; 15:1-8)
2. Sent Out with Jesus' Own Authority
     *"Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me." (Matthew 10:40; see also Mk. 3:13-15; Mt. 10:14, 20; John 13:20; 14:26; 15:20; 17:18; 20:21)
     *"I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” (John 16:12-15)
       *The apostles understood the authority that had been given to them:  1 Cor. 7:12; 14:37; 2 Cor. 10:8; 13:20;                           1 Thess. 2:4, 6, 13; 4:2, 8; 2 Thess. 2:15; 3:14; 1 Tim. 5:18; 2 Peter 3:2, 16; Heb. 2:2-3; Rev. 1:1-3; 22:18-19
3. Confirmed Through Miraculous Signs
*2 Cor. 12:12; Matt. 10:1,7-8; Mark 3:13-15; Mark 3:13-15; Heb. 2:3-4
*The apostles' words carry the weight of Jesus' own authority; therefore, their written words     must be Scripture.
[Others who are apostles: 1 Cor. 15:1-9; Acts 14:14; Rom. 16:7?; 1 Cor. 9:5-6]

*We can see that the New Testament called the Gospels and the writings of the apostles Scripture. But we can also see that they considered them to be Scripture by the way they used them. We have already seen that they cited (quoted authoritatively) them. But there is another very important evidence that they considered them to be Scripture: they read them in public worship.
*"Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching." (1 Tim. 4:13)
*The Muratorian Fragment: “But 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.” 

*Luke 4:17-20; Acts 13:15; 1 Tim. 4:13; Col. 4:16; 1 Thess. 5:27; 2 Cor. 10:9; Rev. 1:3


*Okay....So the apostles' writings are Scripture, but how can we be sure that what we have are the apostles' writings? (Again: God's Providence and the witness of the Spirit....but    there is more!).....>>>
*Q: How many of you like to watch Antiques Roadshow or American Pickers....? (Provenance)
*Q: Who are the apostolic fathers?
*Q: And what is apostolic succession?: Tertullian (c.200):
"But if there be any [heresies] which are bold enough to plant themselves in the midst of the apostolic age, that they may thereby seem to have been handed down by the apostles, because they existed in the time of the apostles, we can say: Let them produce the original records of their churches; let them unfold the roll of their bishops, running down in due succession from the beginning, in such a manner that that bishop shall be able to show for his ordainer and predecessor some one of the apostles or of apostolic men,—a man, moreover, who continued stedfast with the apostles. For this is the manner in which the apostolic churches transmit their registers: as the church of Smyrna, which records that Polycarp was placed therein by John; as also the church of Rome, which makes Clement to have been ordained in like manner by Peter. In exactly the same way the other churches likewise exhibit, whom, as having been appointed to their episcopal places by apostles, they regard as transmitters of the apostolic seed." ("The Prescription Against Heresies, chapter 32; Coxe, Cleveland. Ante-Nicene Fathers, 3:258)
As Peter Holmes (the translator of this section of the Ante-Nicene Fathers) remarks in the footnote: "Our author had seen these registers, no doubt."
1. Clement of Rome: (handout)
2. Papias of Hierapolis, Polycarp of Smyrna & Ignatius of Antioch (handout)
3. Didache:  Cites Matthew and says it is contained in a gospel....
"Do not abandon the commandments of the Lord but keep what you have received, neither adding to them or taking away."
Deut. 4:2: "Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you.
6. Frequency of citation: The apostolic fathers cite the New Testament between 5 and 50 times more than the Old Testament....and they almost never cite apocryphal works. (Kruger, Canon Revisited, Kindle location 6198-6214)



*Tertullian (c.200) remarks that Marcion used a knife instead of a pen

*"Disputed" books, missionary strategy (Wycliffe Translators, Gideon NTs, the Gospel of John), & the snobbery of the underprivileged
*Ireneaus & Polycarp



*See Chapter 7 of Canon Revisited by Michael Kruger or Kruger's online lecture "The Artifact of Canon"

*Let me give you a couple of highlights to give you some idea what kind of MS evidence we have:

1. We have a MS that dates from c.250 (the Chester Beatty papyrus: P45) which contains Mt-Acts. Going back a little earlier (c. 175-225), we have P75 (Luke & John).... And a little earlier yet (c.175-200), we hae P64 & P67 (Mt) and P4 (Luke) which were probably originally bound together in the same codex (book). What we never have is one of the canonical gospels being bound together into a codex with an apocryphal gospel. (Kruger, Canon Revisited, Kindle location 7118-7158)


2. 2nd/3rd Cent. MSS of our NT books outnumber apocryphal books almost 4:1. We have more MSS of the Gospel of John than all apocryphal books put together. (Kruger, Canon Revisited, Kindle location 7088-7090)

*There is much much more, but most of it is very involved.



The evidence from the New Testament, the apostolic fathers, the sub-apostolic fathers, ancient canon lists, and early manuscripts all agree in confirming that the New Testament we have is the one that God intended us to have and that the politics of Constantine (or anyone else) were not a force in determining which books are in the New Testament canon that we uphold as God's Word today.