Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 9, 1956

A Brief History Of The Bible (II.)

Luther W. Martin, Rolla, Missouri

Concerning The Apocryphal Books

Of the two hundred and seventy-five quotations of Old Testament writings contained in the New Testament, not a single quotation was taken from any of the apocryphal books. Augustine stated, "Let us omit those fabulous books of scripture which are called apocryphal, because their secret origin was unknown to the fathers."

The apocryphal writings were added to the Greek version of the Old Testament and consequently were generally accepted by the Greek and Roman churches during the Middle Ages. In the Roman Catholic Church the question of the acceptance of the apocrypha was definitely settled by the fourth session of the Council of Trent (1546 A.D.). The apocryphal writings were proclaimed canonical . . . . although the mere proclamation does not so make them. Many of the translations of the Bible have included them in a separate section, usually between the Testaments

Part II. The New Testament

The New Testament is composed of twenty-seven separate books which have now been combined into one volume. All the books of the New Testament were written originally in the Greek language.

The twenty-seven books of the New Testament may be divided into the following classifications:

Biography — Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

History — Acts of Apostles.

Letters — (Epistles to certain persons, churches, nationalities).

Prophecy — Revelation of John. (Apocalypse)

Inasmuch as the Apostle Paul was the most prolific of the New Testament writers, it was to be expected that collections of his epistles and copies thereof would be among the very first of the New Testament books to be compiled. In fact, Peter's language in the New Testament itself leaves the inference that the Christians in Pontius, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia (1 Peter 1:1), to whom he wrote his second letter (2 Peter 3:1), and in which he stated: "Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things ...." (2 Peter 3:15-16.)

"And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea." (Col. 4:16.)

"I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren." (1 Thess. 5:27.)

"And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed." (2 Thess. 3:14.)

"The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle." (2 Thess. 2:17.)

The foregoing references to the New Testament are given merely to indicate the manner and extent to which the New Testament Christians were expected to respond to, and obey the WRITTEN instructions contained therein.

In regard to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John .... and possibly in reference to numerous spurious 'Gospels' that appeared, Luke wrote: "Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eye-witnesses, and ministers of the word; It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed." (Luke 1:1-4.)

"Many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book; But these are written, that ye might believe hat Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name." (John 20:30-31.)

Marcion's Bible

Marcion was the first early theologian who is known to have published a list or canon of New Testament writings which he, personally, considered to be authentic. Marcion had collected ten of the epistles of Paul and had part of the Gospel according to Luke. We mention Marcion in this connection, not because of any completeness of his efforts, but because he represents the very first recorded trend toward making a specific collection of New Testament books, comparable to the previously accepted books of the Old Testament. Marcion's collection of books was made about 150 A.D.

Other Early Writers Of The Church

Concerning the Gospels of Christ Several writers who had actual contact with the Apostle Paul, had occasion to mention various of our New Testament books in their writings. Barnabas, the companion of Paul wrote a letter in which the Gospel according to Matthew was described as 'Sacred Scripture.' Clement of Rome quotes both Matthew and Luke with the highest respect. Hermes, supposed o be the one mentioned by Paul, refers to Matthew, Luke, John and Acts of the Apostles. Papias, who had heard the Apostle John preach, spoke of Matthew and Mark, and mentions them in a manner which shows that their genuineness was a fact which had long been recognized. Justin Martyr, about twenty years after Papias, quotes all the four 'Gospels' as they are called, also Acts of. the Apostles; and refers to them as books of Holy Scripture. Irenaeus a student of Polycarp, who in turn had been a student of the Apostle John, affirms in the most positive and distinct manner the genuineness and the Divine authority of the four Gospels and of the Acts. (See pages 123-124, Gisborne's Survey of the Christian Religion, published 1800 A.D., by Thomas Gisborne.) Much of the above information is taken therefrom.

Some of the same writers mentioned above, also quote various ones of the letters of Paul and the other Apostles. In fact, the short epistle to Philemon is the only one, to which there is not a distinct reference in the writings of men who had actual contact with the apostles. However, within another generation, even Philemon was included among the Hagiographa or 'sacred writings.'

In the year 178 A.D., Melito of Sardis, by an incidental expression, indicated that the volume of Christian scriptures was then becoming known as the "New Testament." It had first been called the "Gospels and Apostles."