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||    Bible Study    ||    Biblical topics    ||    Bibles    ||    Orthodox Bible Study    ||    Coptic Bible Study    ||    King James Version    ||    New King James Version    ||    Scripture Nuggets    ||    Index of the Parables and Metaphors of Jesus    ||    Index of the Miracles of Jesus    ||    Index of Doctrines    ||    Index of Charts    ||    Index of Maps    ||    Index of Topical Essays    ||    Index of Word Studies    ||    Colored Maps    ||    Index of Biblical names Notes    ||    Old Testament activities for Sunday School kids    ||    New Testament activities for Sunday School kids    ||    Bible Illustrations    ||    Bible short notes

Which Books Belong in the Bible?





 Following is an introduction and definition of basic terms (canon, apocrypha, pseudepigrapha) the development of the Old Testament canon is treated, followed by an appraisal of Old Testament apocrypha. The second section treats the congealing of the New Testament canon, and the vast literature of New Testament apocrypha. The third section considers modern day questions of canon and apocrypha, both from the standpoint of deleting Scriptural books as well as from the viewpoint of adding "new scriptures" to the canon.



A person who is not yet a believer may offer a

challenge, "I heard that in the 4th Century it was de-

cided to leave some books out of the New Testament."

Or "Why did the Protestants decide to remove about

a dozen books from the Old Testament?"  Or even

worse, "You claim the Bible is the very Word of God,

and yet human beings decided which books should be

in the Bible! Why 66 books?  Why not 166 books, or

why not just 26 books? It seems to be the word of

man just as much as the Word of God!"

     We hope to answer these and other questions in

this paper.  We limit ourselves to this particular topic:

"Which books belong in the Bible?"  This means we

do not have latitude to explore another question of

great interest, "By what means did God's mind get

communicated into the minds of the men who wrote

the Scriptures?"  For our purposes, let us assume that

God succeeded in delivering his word authentically

and accurately through chosen men.  Let us assume the

inspiration of God's Word.  The question now before

us is:  How was the distinction made between books

WHICH  BOOKS  BELONG  IN  THE  BIBLE?              55b


given by the inspiration of God on the one hand, and

on the other hand the books that are hoaxes, forgeries,

or good human material but not meant to be included

as Scripture?

     Let us begin with two terms that are basic in a

discussion of "Which books belong in the Bible?"--



     A normative or regulative standard as to what should be

     included in sacred writings; straight (orthodox) teach-

     ings; the Scriptures viewed as a rule of faith and conduct

     (from the Greek kanon, from the phoenician qana', He-

     brew qaneh, meaning a rod, cane, or reed, usable for




     Books rejected as unauthentic, of hidden origin, or un-

     canonical (from the Greek apokryphos, hidden away).

     Closely related is the term pseudepigrapha, referring to

     books written under false (Greek pseudes) authorship

     (Greek epi + graphe, to write upon), such as Books of

     Enoch, Psalms of Solomon, etc.


A Consideration of the Old Testament

     Some argue1 that the Old Testament books, 39 in

the Protestant Bible, were established as a canon as

early as 444-400 B.C., in the time of Ezra, contem-

porary of the Persian King Artaxerxes (465-424 B.C.).

This view is supported by the writings of Flavius


Josephus (37-100? A.D.), Jewish soldier, statesman,

and historian, who in his "Against Apion" states "We

have but twenty-two books. . . . From the days of

Artaxerxes to our own times every event has indeed

been recorded; but these recent records have not been

deemed worthy of equal credit with those which pre-

ceded them. . ." (Those twenty-two books were the

same as our thirty-nine, since the twelve minor prophets

were on a single scroll, and thus counted as one book.

Ruth was attached to Judges, and Lamentations tacked

on to the Jeremiah scroll.  Likewise Ezra and Nehemiah

were together.  And each pair of Samuel, Kings, Chron-

icles were treated as one book.  This arrangement is

well-known and well-accepted.)

     This view, which may be oversimplified in dating

the canon closed at 400 B.C., has value in that it shows

how Josephus, a first century Jew, from a practical

point of view based on current usage, considered the

canon "well-jelled" by 400 B.C., after which Josephus

considered prophetic inspiration to have ceased.

     A more precise study reveals that the Pentateuch

(the law of Moses, the first five books) was in use

canonically as early as 400 B.C.; that the Prophets, a

second Jewish division of Scriptures, was closed canon-

ically by 200 B.C.; and that the third division, the

Writings, was closed in 100 B.C.2  (This three-fold

division of Jewish Scripture is commonly known, and

it has been designated by the acronym tanak, which

means torah (law), nabiim (prophets), and Kethubim

(writings) .

     An important date is 90 A.D. when the Council of

Jamnia convened under Johanan ben Zakkai, official-

ly congealing the Old Testament canon in its present

form of thirty-nine books without Apocrypha.3  Prior to

this the canon had been socially closed by usage and

practice, and discussions about Ezekiel, Daniel, Song

of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, and Esther, for example,

were academic and not of historical and theological

PAUL  M. McKOWEN                       56b


significance.  (Such discussions even continued after the

formal closing of the canon in 90 A.D.)  Perhaps the

development of Christian literature, which was coming

to the fore, made it prudent for the rabbis to take

official action in closing their canon.


Old Testament Apocrypha


 The Apocrypha (and Pseudepigrapha) were pro-

duced between 250 B.C. and the early Christian cen-

turies.  The Apocryphal books, found in the Douay

Version (Roman Catholic), can be roughly divided into

three groups:

     1. Books that are allegedly additions and comple-

tions of existing books of the Old Testament canon.

(II Esdras adds apocalyptic visions given to Ezra; "The

Rest of Esther" seeks to show God's hand in "Esther"

in clearer focus; and three additions to Daniel, the

first two of which are based on the lion's den setting:

Song of the Three Holy Children, Bel and the Dragon,

and History of Susanna, add to the heroic feats of

Daniel. )

     2. Books that can be called "wisdom literature",

similar to Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. These are

Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiasticus.

    3. Books that treat historical narrative, sometimes

with apparent forthrightness, as I and II Maccabees,

which relate the Jews' warfare for liberty (175-130

B.C.) against the Syrians under the ambitious and

outrageous Antiochus Epiphanes; on other occasions

the historical narratives appear legendary (I Esdras

regarding Zerubbabel), or infused with romantic love

(Tobit and Judith), or mere paraphrases from other

books (Baruch paraphrasing the prophets Jeremiah:

Daniel, etc.).

     What has been the fate of these assorted books?

The rabbis did not want to accept them in the Old

Testament canon because they appeared in Greek in

the Septuagint translation in 150 B.C., and God's

PAUL  M. McKOWEN                       56c


language is Hebrew! (Four were originally written in

Hebrew.)  It is important to emphasize that Jewish

usage rejected these books from their canon.  They

were definitely rejected at Jamnia in 90 A.D.

     On April 8, 1546 The Council of Trent of the

Roman Catholic Church declared some of these above-

mentioned apocryphal books to be canonical or deutero-

canonical, offering an anathema against any who ven-

tured a different view.  The books were Tobit, Judith

The Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch (with

the Epistle of Jeremy as Chapter 6) and I and II Macca-

bees.  The Rest of Esther was added to canonical Esther

and Daniel was expanded by The History of Susanna;

Song of the Three Holy Children, and Bel and the


     In the New English Bible the Apocrypha also in-

cludes I and II Esdras and the Prayer of Manasseh,

which were rejected by the Council of Trent.  It is

evident that this Apocrypha is about equal in length

to the New Testament.

     Martin Luther, the German reformer, felt that some

of these books favored papal doctrines.  He also re-

jected the Apocrypha.  Probably he was over-reacting,

as these books are not theologically radical and here-

tical.  More important is the principle that these books

were never part of the Jewish canon of the Scriptures.

They found their way into the Bible via the Greek

Septuagint version, and its translation into Latin in

the second century, and the Latin Vulgate which was

completed in 405 A.D. by Jerome.  Once included

alongside canonical Scripture, tradition tended to can-

onize these apocryphal books also.

     It is worth noting that Jesus is not recorded as

having quoted from these apocryphal books.  There is

no explicit reference to them in the New Testament

canon.  They are useful books in terms of understanding

the life and thought of Judaism in the intertestamental

period, as a bridge between Old and New Testaments.

PAUL  M. McKOWEN                       56d


We should not be threatened by these books or seek

to burn them thinking they are devilish tools.  But we do

not see sufficient evidence for accepting them as canon

material.  Likewise historical investigations show the

pseudepigraphal documents to be unauthentic and


     Representative reading samples from the Apocrypha

are offered as an introduction: (1) Additions and

Completions, see Daniel's vindication of Susanna's in-

nocence, in History of Susanna 49-64. (2) Wisdom

Literature, see Wisdom of Solomon 14:23-26 for rituals

of evil, and a passage to arouse Women's Lib, Eccle--

siasticus 25: 19-26. Also 26:9-12 on the loose woman. (3)

Historical Narrative, see I Maccabees 1:10, 20-24,

41-64 on the outrages of "that wicked man, Antiochus

Epiphanes" who set up the "abomination of desolation"

on the altar of the temple (175 B.C.).

WHICH  BOOKS  BELONG  IN  THE  BIBLE?              57a


A Consideration of the New Testament

     The Old Testament canon jelled between 400-

100 B.C. (first the Law in 400 B.C., then the prophets

in 200 B.C. and finally the Writings in 100 B.C.) with

a final definitive decision being made at the Council of

Jamnia in 90 A.D.  In like manner the New Testament

canon jelled, between about 75 A.D. and 400. A.D.

Again we observe three stages of development in the

New Testament canon, culminating in its congealing

at the synods of Hippo Regius (393 A.D.) and Carth-

age (397, 419 A.D.).

     (1) In the period of the apostolic church there

were hints and allusions that make us suspect that

authoritative Christian writings were in the making.

For instance, Jesus Christ was a person of authority

who spoke with authority, e.g., "You have heard that it

was said. . . but I say. . . ".  One would expect that

sooner or later such sayings would be recorded, along

with his memorable parables, and narratives of his

mighty deeds.  Paul the apostle claimed, in his letter

to the Galatians, to have received instructions directly

from the risen and ascended Christ concerning the

breadth of the gospel for both Jew and Gentile, and

concerning all men being made right with God by

faith; one would expect these apostolic revelations to

be written.  Indeed, Paul did develop his concepts in

letters, and instructions were given to Christian

churches to circulate these letters and read them.  Peter

referred to Paul's writings in his letters, comparing

them with "other scriptures" (II Peter 3:16).  Paul,

in his first letter to Timothy, quotes the words of Jesus

and refers to his source as "scripture".  All this gives

a feeling that there is developing a Christian canon,

even as there was a Jewish canon.

     As new false teachers arose here and there, Chris-

tian leaders in the generation following the apostles

wrote letters to combat these wrong ways and encour-

age the Christians.  In so doing, from 95 A.D. to 150

WHICH  BOOKS  BELONG  IN  THE  BIBLE?              57b


A.D. we find Clement of Rome quoting from half a

dozen sources that we presently have in our New Tes-

tament canon.  In like fashion the letters of Polycarp

and Ignatius, the Didache, Papias, the Epistle of Barn-

abas, Justin Martyr, and Tatian all quote freely from

authoritative sources that they had (although the

New Testament canon was far from being jelled), and

their sources read the same as they do in our New


     Two of the false movements are worthy of special

note.5  The heretic Marcion (about 140 A.D.) chal-

lenged the church with an assorted set of Christian

writings which he put forth as a canon.  They included

his own mutilated arrangement of Luke and ten of the

letters of Paul.  Needless to say, this made the church

ponder, as early as 140 A.D., just what should be the

correct limits for a New Testament canon.  The church

responded with a larger canon close to our 27 New

Testament books.  In the second place, we call atten-

tion to the school of the Montanists, who had exagger-

ted claims of inspiration in their own utterances, mak-

ing necessary written teachings from the apostolic era,

closer to the time of our Lord Jesus Christ.

     By the time of 180-200, things had jelled to a

degree that a "New Testament" was clearly and def-

initely present.  The church was conscious that it pos-

sessed documents from the apostolic age, and these

documents were regarded as canonical and of apostolic

authority.  Evidence for this comes from three great

writers of the period, Irenaeus (of Asia Minor and

Gaul), Tertullian (of North Africa), and Clement (of

Alexandria, Egypt).  There was discussion about wheth-

er Hebrews and Jude belonged in the canon, and also

about the status of James, II Peter, II and III John, and


     (2) During the years 200-325 A.D. discussion

about "fringe books" continued.  Origen of Alexandria

WHICH  BOOKS  BELONG  IN  THE  BIBLE?              57c


faced all the literature that claimed to be apostolic

and classified it "genuine", "doubtful", and "rejected".

The canon was beginning to solidify.  Eusebius, leader

from Caesarea and an historian, followed Origen, and

in 330 A.D. wrote that seven doubtful books had been

accepted (Hebrews, James, II Peter, II and III John,

Jude, and Revelation).  Other literature, such as The

Epistles of Barnabas, The Shepherd of Hermas, and

the Didache, which had been fringebooks, were ac-

cepted as useful but not included in the canon.  By

now the canon was becoming well-shaped, twenty-

seven books in all, just as our New Testament.

     (3) From 325-400 A.D. we see the church taking

an official position on the canon. Christianity was no

longer persecuted, for Emperor Constantine had em-

braced the Christian gospel.  It is reasonable to imagine

that leaders could breathe more easily.  Furthermore,

communication was opened more freely, making it

possible for church leaders to appreciate why certain

letters had been directed to churches in distant areas.

Authoritative pronouncements on the canon began on

local levels, by bishops of provincial churches.  Later

councils and synods endorsed the canon on a larger

geographical basis.  Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria,

in his Easter Letter of 367 A.D. listed our twenty-

seven books as canonical.  Then at the synods of Hippo

Regius (393 A.D.) and Carthage (397 A.D. and 419

A.D.) the same twenty-seven books were accepted.

(This canon was supported by Augustine (354-430

A.D.), bishop of Hippo, one of the great Latin church

fathers.)  The canon issue of the New Testament was

thus settled.

     Let us note these conclusions about the New

Testament canon.

     (1) In making its choices, the early church was

greatly influenced by "apostolic authority". They ac-

cepted the scriptures clearly attributed to apostles.

WHICH  BOOKS  BELONG  IN  THE  BIBLE?              57b


They screened out forgeries supposedly written by apos-

tles.  They accepted literature from sources that had

apostolic authority by approval or inference, such

as Luke's writings.

     (2) Although the collection of twenty-seven books

into one volume was slow, the belief in a written rule

of faith came very early.  Furthermore the time span

gave the church ample opportunity to sift out the pos-

sibilities.  It is perhaps better that we do not rely on

a hastily-made decision of one solitary church council,

say, from 100 A.D.

    (3) The proof on which we should accept the

PAUL  M. McKOWEN                       58a


books today is historical evidence.  We need not accept

blindly those church councils' decisions of 393-419

A.D.  Modern scholarship has been applied to the New

Testament canon, and these twenty-seven books fare

very well as authentic, when subjected to scientific


     (4) This scholarship which promotes our assent to

the credibility of the canon is added to our personal

certitude that Almighty God has been faithful and

not left himself without accurate witness. The certitude

of our faith in God is more important than our assent

to careful scholarship.


New Testament Apocrypha

     No Christian Bibles of today (Roman Catholic,

Orthodox, or Protestant) include New Testament apoc-

ryphal writings.  Pastoral experience indicates that lay-

men are less knowledgable about New Testament

Apocrypha than they are about the Old Testament

Apocrypha.  Yet the collection of such writings is huge,

comprised of false gospels, false Acts of the Apostles,

false epistles, and false Revelations.  Its content quick-

ly appears to be vastly inferior to the tone of the twen-

ty-seven books of the New Testament.

     An admirable collection of these documents has

been published by the Oxford Press, under the direc-

tion of Montague Rhodes James, editor and translator.6

Here are some excerpts.

     The Gospel of Thomas reports that the boy Jesus

went with his mother to the house of a dyer.  Various

pieces of cloth were here and there, brought by sundry

customers, waiting to be dyed different colors.  The boy

Jesus plunged them all into the black dye.  This "sore

vexed" the craftsman and irritated Jesus' mother who

had to "amend that which" the boy Jesus had done.

But "the beautiful child Jesus" pulled out the fabrics,

and each was dyed a different color. (Page 67).

PAUL  M. McKOWEN                       58b


     In the same Gospel of Thomas the boy Jesus

changed a group of children into goats for a short

time, and made this ethnocentric statement to the

amazed women onlookers:


    Verily the children of Israel are like unto the black

    folk among the natives, for the black ones seize the

    outer side of the flock, etc. (Page 68)


     The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew has Jesus get off

his mother's lap to be worshipped and adored by

dragons, lions, leopards, and wolves, once fearsome but

now docilized.  On the third day Jesus caused a very

tall palm tree to bend down to give Mary fruit; when

it rose again a spring issued from its roots. (Pages

74, 75)

     When Jesus was four he was playing by the Jordan

and arranged seven pools.  Another lad messed up the

pools.  He "was struck dead", but when his parents

complained Jesus resurrected him.  But when the son

of Annas the priest broke up the pools with a stick,

one word from the four year old Jesus sufficed to with-

er the bully, who was not raised up.  From the pools

he also made clay sparrows, "clapped his hands", and

twelve feathered birds took flight. (Page 76)

     At age eight he crossed the Jordan River whose

waters parted, in company with a group of docilized

lions, saying ". . . the beasts know me and are tame,

while men know me not". (Page 76)

     Concluding the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, we

make reference to Jesus' stretching a cut beam of wood

to a correct length, after it had been cut too short by

a lad working for Joseph who had a contract for a

bed nine feet long.  Then in school, on his second day,

the teacher demanded:  "Say Alpha".  Jesus replied that

the teacher must first tell him what Beta was, and then

Jesus would explain Alpha.  When the teacher struck

Jesus, the teacher died. (Page 78)

PAUL  M. McKOWEN                       58c


     The Arabic Gospel of the Infancy relates how Jesus,

when placed on the back of a mule, restored the mule

into a man.  Later Jesus carried water in his cloak

when his earthen jug had been broken.  And the ac-

count of the boy Jesus in the temple is enlarged to

specify his having been questioned about law, as-

tronomy, and philosophy, answering all questions per-

fectly. (Pages 81, 82)

     Passing now to spurious Acts accounts, we refer to

The Acts of John for a narrative in which beautiful

Drusiana, who had no sexual relations with her hus-

band Andronicus, due to John's directives, was almost

seduced by a man named Callimachus.  In sorrow she

died.  While John was trying to console the relatives

evil Callimachus was attempting to have intercourse

with the corpse of Drusiana.  Fortunately a serpent

appeared and slew him.  Later John and the unfor-

tunate widower went to the tomb.  First John raised,

the seducer Callimachus from the dead.  Then he raised

the wife Drusiana.  Callimachus instantly became a

believer and Drusiana forgave him.  Another man, in-

cidental to the plot, was also raised from the dead by

John, but he said he did not want to be raised, and

after John had prayed this man was bitten by a snake,

had blood poisoning, died, and the corpse turned

black. (Pages 243-250)

     In the Acts of Andrew, this apostle healed one

Maximilla of a fever and she was raised up and con-

verted.  Andrew instructed her to abstain from rela-

tions with her husband, with whom she had lived and

borne children.  Andrew told her that marriage is a

"foul and polluted way of life", and he encouraged her,

to resist the "artful flatteries" of her husband.  For this

Andrew was imprisoned, scourged, and crucified.  He

hung on the cross for three days preaching. When he

died, Maximilla embalmed his corpse and buried it.

(Pages 349, 352)

PAUL  M. McKOWEN                       58d


Of course a more extensive perusal of these apoc-

ryphal New Testament narratives will fill in the con-

texts of the selected passages listed above.  However

even in context these events appear fanciful, even ab-

surd and often purposeless, quite different qualitative-

ly from the blending of miracle and teaching in the

Gospel of John, or from the skillful composition of

the Gospel of Luke.  One is not surprised to know

these accounts were rejected by the early church.


Some Review Questions and Answers

     In drawing some modest conclusions, we return

to our original question, "Which books belong in the

Bible?" Let us evaluate our understanding by a few

review questions and answers.


   1. Did humanity receive the Old and New Testaments, bound

       in sixty-six books, directly from God in a once-and-forever

       package, as when a phone directory is brought to our door

       by a company representative? (Answer: No.)

   2. Are Biblical teachings and our understanding of God dis-

       torted more seriously by the Old Testament Apocrypha or

       by the New Testament Apocrypha? (Answer: The New

       Testament Apocrypha.)

   3. What were the dates when the Old Testament canon was

WHICH  BOOKS  BELONG  IN  THE  BIBLE?              59a


       firmed up?, (Answer: Pentateuch 400 B.C., Prophets 200

       B.C., Writings 100 B.C. All the thirty-nine books at the

       Council of Jamnia, officially, in 90 A.D.)

   4. Did the Roman Catholics, invent and add the Old Testa-

       ment Apocrypha to our Bibles about 1546? (Answer: No,

       the Old Testament Apocrypha found their way into the

       Scriptures as a caboose attachment by means of early

       translations into Greek and Latin, about 150 B.C. and

       150 A.D., long, before lines of disagreement were drawn

       between Catholics and Protestants.)

   5. Do the Jews recognize the Old Testament Apocrypha as

       canonical books? (Answer: No.)

   6. Did the Christian church have a definite New Testament

       of twenty-seven books at the time of Paul's life and min-

       istry? (Answer: No.)

   7. The New Testament canon was firm at twenty-seven books,

       the same books as are found in our New Testaments, by

       the year 325 A.D. (Answer: True.)

   8. It can be argued that the fixing of the canon over long

       periods of hundreds of years helped careful evaluation and

       helped avoid hasty and dogmatic determination. (Answer:


   9. The authenticity of New Testament books is based on a

        two-fold approach involving (1) apostolic authorship or

        apostolic approval, and (2) historical scholarship which de-

        termines if writings are genuine or forged. (Answer: True)

   10. Do we have certitude that God has given to the world a

         reliable written record of his actions in history, and that

         this record is a rule of faith and life?


Modern Opinions and Modern Apocrypha

     Here are some practical issues today.

     (1)  How do you evaluate a contemporary claim

that ecstatic words spoken under the anointing of

the Holy Spirit are directly the words of God himself,

and thus by implication, equal in authority to the

Bible's words?

    (2)  How do you evaluate the books of Mormon,

WHICH  BOOKS  BELONG  IN  THE  BIBLE?              59b


the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, or the scriptures of

Bahai, for example, in their claim to be authoritative

rules from God, intended to be added to the historic


     (3) How do you weigh the claims of a modern

scholar to the effect that the Gospel of John should be

removed from the Bible, for certain reasons expressed,

such as its difference from Matthew, Luke, and Mark,


     (4) How do you react on reading a newspaper

claim that the Epistle to Laodicea, mentioned by Paul

in Colossians 4:16, has been found in a cave in Pales-

ine (not far from where the Dead Sea Scrolls were

found)?  This discovery is sensational, because no one

has ever seen this letter.  The newspaper says it may

late from earlier than 200 A.D.  It is not known if it is

a copy or the original.

     (5) How would you respond to a friend who

quotes to you from "The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus

Christ"?  What questions would you ask?

    These vital questions are worthy of thought and

discussion.  Light is shed on their solutions from the

foregoing data on how the books of the Bible were

chosen and why the apocryphal books were rejected.


Rejection of Biblical Books

     From the sixteenth century, during the Reforma-

tion, a most interesting situation presents itself involving

the great German reformer, Martin Luther, to whom

we owe an enormous debt.  Luther's method will interest

the scientist because a principle was established as an

axiomatic foundation, from which all interpretation

Scriptures proceeded.  Thus he studied more by

deduction than by induction, more like our classical

study of Euclidean geometry than like the modern

physicist's gathering of bits and pieces of data.

     We are uneasy when theologians assert that they

WHICH  BOOKS  BELONG  IN  THE  BIBLE?              59c


have a "key", a basic center for interpreting Scripture.

For if one chooses his basic premise slightly off center,

the whole system will wobble.  We regard with appre-

ciable tentativeness such alleged keys as Darby's

dispensations, Bultmann's demythologizing, or Van

Til's philosophical argument for the inerrancy of the

original Biblical documents even in matters of astron-

omy, botany, mathematics, historical numbers, etc.

Our approach by inductive study frees us for fresh


     Yet who can fault Martin Luther for his choice of

the key principle?  Just as we are guided in our Bible

study by a profound underlying certitude of faith in

the God who revealed himself to us in Jesus Christ, and

we admit that this causes us to see the Scriptures

through the converted sensors of our new nature, even

so Luther chose as his great premise the gracious, re-

deeming, justifying Christ.  How could anything have

possibly gone wrong?

     The result was that Luther was not concerned to

stress the total range of the canon.  He wanted the

world to hear the heart-beat of Jesus Christ.  He ex-

pected that all Scriptures should be rejudged accord-

ing to whether or not they magnified the gracious,

redeeming and justifying Christ.  While this may appear

admirable and defensible, let us pause to remember

that this also means that Luther expected his own

principle to evaluate the authenticity of the canon.

     One would expect that Luther might have thrown

out the books of Proverbs, Song of Solomon, Esther,

among others, from the Old Testament.  But he left

the Old Testament alone.  It was in the New Testament

that he seriously questioned four books.  He discounted

Hebrews because it appeared to refuse a second for-

giveness to apostates, James because it seemed to teach

salvation by works rather than by faith, Jude because

it appeared to give no clear-cut witness to Jesus Christ

but merely to paraphrase some of II Peter, and Revela-

WHICH  BOOKS  BELONG  IN  THE  BIBLE?              59d


tion because it was so enigmatic and presented what

were apparently bizarre pictures of Jesus Christ.

     He placed these four books at the end of the New

Testament in his German translation.  First he listed

his twenty-three acceptable books in the Table of Con-

tents, numbering them from one to twenty-three.  Then

there was a blank space followed by "Hebrews",

"James", "Jude", and Revelation", unnumbered, and

apparently excluded as second-class documents.  This

was the outcome of Martin Luther's postulate of a

"key to interpretation".  It is ironical that he appeared

to remove something from the canon when the Roman

Catholic institution was busily putting too much in

(that is, along the lines of ecclesiastical traditions and

non-canonical authoritarianism)!  In the sovereignty of

the God of history, who is also the God of the church

and the God of the canon, the church has adhered to

a New Testament canon of twenty-seven books, while

at the same time appreciating Martin Luther and the

intensity of the struggles of his day.

PAUL  M. McKOWEN                       60a


Addition of Nonbiblical Books


1. 1926--Newspaper accounts of the "Unknown Life

     of Christ"

     This twentieth century hoax is one of sixteen mod-

ern apocryphal (hidden) books that have sprung up

rather recently.  This genre of uncanonical writings

specifically includes attempted additions to the canon.

They are described in a slim volume, Modern Apoc-

rypha, by Edgar J. Goodspeed, in which the noted

scholar, translator of the "Goodspeed translation"

(over one million copies sold) and the first scholar to

translate the Old Testament Apocrypha directly from

Greek to English, turns detective to expose these sen-

sational books that have attracted a lot of attention.7

     The Unknown Life of Christ was sensationalized

and popularized by newspapermen in 1926 in this

country.  It sold like hotcakes.  It originated from the

travels of a Russian war correspondent, Nicolas Noto-

vich, in 1887, to India and Tibet.  Notovich claimed he

was laid up with a broken leg in a monastery in Tibet.

The chief lama was persuaded to read him the "Life

of Saint Issa, Best of the Sons of Man", which Notovitch

published in fourteen chapters of 244 short paragraphs.

     The most fanciful part deals with the "silent years"

of Jesus' life, ages 13-30.  It is claimed that at age thir-

teen, instead of taking a wife, the divine youth took

a trip.  He went with a caravan of merchants to India

to study the laws of the Buddhas.  He spent six years

with the Brahmins and six years with the Buddhists in

India.  He also visited Persia and preached to the Zoro-

astrians before returning to Palestine at twenty-nine.

     How did this "Unknown Life of Christ" fare under

scrutiny?  The chief lama indignantly repudiated Noto-

vitch's visit.  The existence of the manuscript in the

monastery was described by the lama as "Lies, lies,

lies, nothing but lies."  No one could find the manu-

PAUL  M. McKOWEN                       60b


script claimed by Notovitch, either in the monastery or

in the Vatican library, where Notovitch claimed the

account was included here and there in sixty-three

Oriental manuscripts referring to this matter.  The

great Orientalist Friedrich Max Muller took an inter-

est in exposing this hoax, but claimed little credit for

the expose, since it was never taken seriously by schol-

ars of Buddhism, Sanskrit, or Pali.  Furthermore, stu-

dents of early Christian literature passed it by be-

cause it did not stand the test of literary and textual

criticism: its own internal content was obviously fraud-

ulent.  A lesson here is to hold all newspaper accounts

of sensational discoveries in abeyance, and patiently to

allow a few years of serious scholarship to evaluate

things.  The Dead Sea Scrolls, from Jordan, and the

Oxyrhynchus papyri from Egypt, for example, have

been scientifically studied and evaluated.  They have

stood the tests, both externally and internally, and have

been accepted as genuine.

2. 1911 -- The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ

     This "gospel" is of interest to us because of the

way Dr. Levi H. Dowling obtained it.  Unlike Nicolas

Notovitch's claim to some remote and mysterious orig-

inal document, Dr. Dowling claims to have received

his gospel by revelation.  Here in California Dr. Dow-

ling (1844-1911), chaplain, doctor, and Sunday School

worker, in the "quiet hours" between two and six in

the morning, by meditation came into harmony with

the rhythms and vibrations of truth preserved in the

Supreme Intelligence or Universal Mind, the "Akashic

Records," the imperishable records of life.

     The material is called "The Aquarian Gospel" from

an astrological teaching that with the life of Christ the

sun entered the sign Pisces and that it is now entering

the Sign Aquarius.  This is a new gospel for the Aquar-

ian age.  First published in Los Angeles in 1911, it

was in its twenty-first printing in 1954, and today it

should be selling just fine.

PAUL  M. McKOWEN                       60c


     In this "gospel", Mary and Elizabeth get lessons

in the history of religions, relating to Tao, Brahm,

Zarathustra, and Buddha, the entire content being flav-

ored strongly of Christian Science.  John the Baptist

is educated by an Egyptian priest for eighteen years.

Jesus first studies with the great Jewish teacher Hillel.

Then he goes to India, where he spends years among

the Brahmins and the Buddhists.  Then to Tibet where

he meets Meng-ste, the greatest wise man of the far

East.  Then to Persia to meet the Magi.  Then to Assyria

and Babylonia, everywhere learning sacred books and

talking to sages.  Then to Greece, first to Athens, then

to the Delphic oracle who declares its day is done.

Then to Egypt where he joins the sacred brotherhood

at Heliopolis.  Finally a council of the seven wisest men

of the world is held at Alexandria.  They formulate

seven great religious postulates and ordain Jesus for

his work. At the end of his life and after his resurrec-

tion Jesus appears in a fully materialized body to

friends in India, Persia, Jerusalem, Greece, Italy, Egypt,

and Galilee.  He declares himself to have been "trans-

muted to the image of the AM".

     Externally, this fanciful account turns out to be an

historical heresy, unsubstantiated by the customary

evidence of history demanded by scholars.  Internally,

potentially profound confrontations with eastern re-

ligions are artlessly treated, theosophy flavoring every-

thing, and as Dr. Goodspeed says, "The principal im-

pression is one of literary and religious commonplace".

Its origin, having to do with astrology and vibrations,

cannot be placed in the same ballpark with the docu-

ments of the Biblical canon and their God who works

in history.

     With these two modern attempts to add books to

the Bible we close this introduction to a fascinating

area of study, the Biblical canon, or "Which books be-

long in the Bible?", and we quote an appropriate pas-

sage from an appropriate book, the book of Jude:

PAUL  M. McKOWEN                       60d


     Beloved, being very eager to write to you of our common

     salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you

     to contend for the faith which was once for all delivered

     to the saints. (Jude 3)


     May the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, bless his

people and keep before them the written Word of God,

in its purest possible form, until the living Word of

God, Jesus Christ, comes again.  This is our prayer

and hope, and it is also our certitude and confidence.



1For example, see Henry H. Halley, Pocket Bible Handbook,

Henry H. Halley, Chicago, Ill. 1948 pp. 356-357

2John D. Davis and Henry Snyder Gehman, The Westminster

          Dictionary of the Bible, Westminster Press, Philadelphia

          1944 pp. 90-92



5Floyd V. Filson, Which Books Belong in the Bible?, West-

          minster Press, Philadelphia 1962 pp. 120-121

6Montague Rhodes James, The Apocryphal New Testament,

Oxford Clarendon 1955  594 pp.

7Edgar J. Goodspeed.  Modern Apocrypha, Beacon Press, Boston

1956  124 pp.




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