Monday, May 16, 2011

Evidence: Chapter 2

And you thought I'd never finish this book didn't you?  My current intention is to do a chapter a week, read a chapter on Sunday and write about it on Monday. We'll see how closely I stick to that plan, it may turn into every other week depending on how long the chapters are.

Anyway, for those of you who missed the first post about chapter one I suggest reading it before this post. Though you can skip it if you'd like, chapter one isn't necessary to understand chapter two. I am not going to summarize the the chapter this time, that would be far too tedious and you would lose interest. Instead I'm going to touch on a few highlights from chapter two.

Chapter two was about how we got the Bible that we have today. McDowell starts out by discussing the materials used to write the original manuscripts. While that was interesting in and of itself, the real lesson from this section was that the original manuscripts have been lost. Seeing as man has a tendency to worship the creation instead of the creator this does not really surprise me.  What we do have though are many thousands of copies of the original manuscripts, enough to be statistically certain of what the original texts said.

The majority of the chapter was taken up by the question of who decided what books to include in the Bible? Immediately McDowell makes a few clarifications that I absolutely agree with. First of all, the Church does not decide what is canon and what is not, rather it recognizes what is canon. A book is not canon because the Church says it is, rather the Church says a book is canon because it is from God.

Of course then the question is raised how can you tell if a book is from God or not? McDowell gives five principles:
1) Was it written by a prophet of God?
2) Was the writer confirmed by acts of God?
3) Did the message tell the truth about God?
4) Does it come with the power of God?
5) Was it accepted by the people of God?

To elaborate on all five of these points is beyond the scope of this entry, if you want to know more about these I suggest you pick up a copy of Evidence for yourself. However let me say that I think point five is very important. The early church, being much closer to the teachings of the Apostles and of Christ himself, would have been in a much better position to filter out false doctrine. If a book never obtained popularity with the early church, chances are good it is not the inspired word of God.

McDowell then goes into great detail about the collection of the New Testament cannon. The most interesting part of this section was his comments on Church Councils. He says that the Synod of Hippo in A.D. 393 did not give any new authority to any of the 27 books of the New Testament, but rather simply recognized what was already generally accepted as the New Testament.

McDowell then goes into the same detail with the Old Testament canon, but I will not go into it.  The Jewish people had a clearly defined scripture even before the time of Christ and there has never been any serious challenge to it.

The last thing he talks about is the Hebrew Apocrypha. Seeing as this could easily be a blog entry in and off itself I'll not go into details. What I thought was most interesting is his claim the that Apocrypha did not receive full status as canon until the Council of Trent in 1545-63. McDowell holds that the Apocrypha, while worthy books, are not cannon. He cites Josephus, Philo, the Jewish scholars of Jamnia (A.D.90) and many others to back this up.

In conclusion he quotes David Dockery in a passage from Foundations for Biblical Interpretation: "No Christian, confident in the providential working of his God and informed about the true nature of canonicity of his Word, should be disturbed about the dependability of the Bible we now possess."

I continue to find this study an interesting and rewarding experience and would recommend that you checkout Josh McDowell's The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict.

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