Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 26, 1949

Who Selected The Books For Our Bible?

J. Early Arceneaux, Lovelady, Texas

The Nicene Council (325 A. D.) published a list of the 27 books we have in our New Testament. Before the Council met there had been some rather hot controversy about a few of the books in the list. Some thought they ought to be there; some thought they should not. It is well for us to know that the Council, in publishing its list of 27 books, did not accept just any book that was suggested. They had to know that the book came either from an apostle or from the co-laborer of an apostle. If Paul wrote it, or John, or Peter, or James, or Jude; or if some man closely associated with one of the apostles, as for example Luke was with Paul; if this was the origin of the book, it was recognized as having the necessary background and authorship. Otherwise, it was not even considered. For a while there was a hot controversy over II Peter, II John, III John, Jude, and Revelation. But once the question of authorship was settled, all question or dispute over these books was at an end. The doctrine of the books was not controverted, only the authorship.

A few years ago here in Texas a very sad thing happened for one man who tried to repudiate Mark 16:16 on the ground that it is not in the two oldest manuscripts of the New Testament. He made quite an argument on that score; but he back-tracked mighty fast when he was shown that every manuscript on earth that omits Mark 16:16 also omits the whole book of Revelation! And Revelation was the book in which this character lived, and moved, and had his being. The great Fort Worth debate became an utter debacle for this notorious premillennialist and his doctrine. Repudiating a few verses of Mark's gospel completely robbed him of the use of the whole book of Revelation- J. Frank Norris was the Baptist blunderer who made this mistake. He should have been a more careful student of the history of the manuscripts. For the last few verses of Mark have never been questioned by any reputable scholar as to their doctrine and inspiration. The only thing that has been questioned was whether Mark wrote them or not. And the evidence is such now that there is little controversy even over that.

Catholic Vs. Protestant Bibles

Sometimes the question is asked, Why did Protestants leave out some books that Catholics have in their Bible? The question is hardly proper. The right question should be, Why did the Catholics put some books into their Bible which are not in the Bible as it was originally written?

But how do we know these extra Catholic books ought not to be in the Bible? For the very simple reason that they were never included, even by the Jews themselves, in the Old Testament. Of course the Catholics have made no additions to the New Testament canon; all of their apocryphal books have been added to the Old Testament. And we know these books should not be in the Bible because they were not in the Bibles used by Christ and the apostles, to which they gave their sanction and approval. Thus, the Lord recognized as inspired the Bible which excluded these apocryphal books. The Catholic church is not greater in authority than the Son of God.

Let us trace the human linkage which brings our Bible up to the Council of Nice. Eusebius, the father of church history, was present at that historic meeting in 325 A. D. Jesus Christ was born in the year 1 of our calendar. Actually there is a little inaccuracy there, as Christ was really born about four years before the time we begin our dating. This was due to an error of calculation made in the year 532 A. D. when our present calendar was adopted. We now live in the year 1949; every atheist and infidel on earth writes that date on a letter when he wants to locate it in time. That simply means that no fact in all history has yet occurred to eclipse the birth of God's Son into this world.

Jesus lived through one-third of a century, let us say to the year 33 A. D. The apostle John died in the year 100 A. D. He was contemporary with Christ during his lifetime, and outlived him by two-thirds of a century. Polycarp was a disciple of John, and was born in 69 A. D., living till he reached the age of ninety years. Justin Martyr and Irenaeus were both contemporaries of Poly-carp, the former of them being martyred in 165 A. D. and the latter living on until 202 A. D. Tertullian, the great Christian scholar was born 160 A. D. and died in 230 A. D., just thirty years before the birth of Eusebius the church historian. Thus there were less than half a dozen men between Eusebius and Christ. These were the men who along with hundreds like them lived, and wrote down, and copied time and time again the words of the New Testament. They preached it night and day. They had every opportunity in the world to know exactly where these books came from. And they did know! That is why they were so positive in their contention for their inspiration.

The Old Testament Books

Just a brief word about the Old Testament. Since the Old Testament was a completed volume several centuries before one word of the New Testament was written, we have the strongest possible evidence that one mind was superintending and directing the writing of both. This is clearly seen in the attitude of the New Testament writers toward the old. Jesus and the apostles used it, read it, reverenced it, and quoted from it as being absolutely and unquestionably the word of God.

The Old Testament was translated out of the Hebrew into the Greek in the year 280 B. C. (the Septuagint Version). This is the Bible Jesus and the apostles used. This is the one from which they quoted. This is the one they recognized as being inspired of God. Naturally that Hebrew Bible had to exist for some little time before it could be translated into the Greek. So we are safe in saying that it was completed centuries before the New Testament was written. Catholics miss their chance completely in this respect. If they were going to add books to the Bible, they should have added them to the New Testament, not the Old. For we have the authority of Jesus himself as to the canon of the Old Testament. There can be no appeal from that.

There is no "church ordinance" in the sense in which denominationalists use the expression. The church is not a legislative body; it has no right to issue decrees, rules, laws, etc. Christ commands; the church obeys.