I am personally grateful for those devoted to the compilation of Scripture. This segment of our study is not intended to produce a lack of appreciation for such endeavors. It is a noble cause that has as its objective bringing the Word of God to the people. Notwithstanding this circumstance, we must exercise ourselves not to be unduly distracted by the efforts of men in the collection of sections of Scripture. That men played a role in this compilation cannot be denied--but it was not the key role. I will affirm that God Himself managed this process, working with men, but was not, by any means, utterly dependent upon them. The individual that cares to affirm God was completely dependent upon scholars and linguists to perpetuate His Word, stands on precarious ground. He cannot support his view with the Word of God. However, if his view is true, he must support it with the Scripture, else we will give no ear to his prattling!

I am here providing an excerpt on the canonization of Scripture. This refers to the process of gathering the books of the Bible together, from a human point of view. I precede this quotation with a reminder that we are everywhere discouraged from evaluating things from this perspective. World wisdom, and judgment according to appearance, are strictly forbidden by our Lord (1 Cor 1:20; 2:6; 3:19; John 7:24).

These quotations are not intended to cause alarm among the people of God. If they have this effect, they are to be ignored. They do provide an some interesting historical facts. They also confirm the need for a strong faith in our God.

"Among the Apostolic Fathers (about A.D. 96-150) there is no formulated doctrine of Scripture or canon.

In the middle of the second century Marcion of Sinope proposed the first canonical list. His canon rejected the Old Testament in its entirety and accepted ten Pauline Epistles and an edited version of Luke.

A similar picture is given by the Muratorian Canon, which probably originated in Rome about A.D. 200 or earlier. It recognizes the canonicity of all our present twenty-seven books except Hebrews, James, 1 and 2 Peter, and 3 John. In addition it accepts the Apocalypse of Peter and (strangely) the Wisdom of Solomon.

Little further movement occurs in succeeding years. The majority of the books of the New Testament are clearly recognized and accepted; questions remain about a few. A century or more later Eusebius of Caesarea (about 260 to about 340) describes the canon under a threefold classification: (1) the recognized books--the four Gospels, Acts, the Pauline Epistles (including Hebrews), 1 Peter, 1 John, and (perhaps) Revelation; (2) the disputed books: those generally accepted--James, Jude, 2 and 3 John--and those that are not genuine--The Acts of Paul, The Shepherd of Hermas, The Apocalypse of Peter, The Epistle of Barnabas, The Teachings of the Apostles, and (perhaps) Revelation; (3) heretical writings; pseudogospels or acts of some apostle.

In the latter part of the fourth and the beginning of the fifth centuries the majority of the church came to a consensus on the content of the New Testament. The first witness to specify the present twenty-seven books of the New Testament as alone canonical was Athanasias's Easter letter of A.D. 367. At the close of the century the Third Council of Carthage (A.D. 397) prescribed the same list. This was confirmed again at Carthage in 419.

During the fifth century the present canon became the general consensus of the church. The exceptions are the native (as distinct from the Greek-speaking) Syrian church, which acknowledges only twenty-two books (omitting 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, and Revelation). The Ethiopian church accepts the usual twenty-seven but includes another eight books that deal primarily with church order." (1)

You can see that such a process cannot be trusted to guarantee the integrity of the Word of God. Those that are willing to trust the testimony of men for what books belong in Scripture, and what manuscripts are the most precise, are placing their trust where it is not to be placed. Either we have faith in the working of God, or our hopes will be dashed upon the rocks of uncertainty.

While I am not given to extensive quotes--particularly in order to fortify Divine proclamation--there is one that is of particular interest. Cardinal Wiseman made the following statement with an acute awareness of thousands of manuscripts that had been critically examined by men in a search for flaws. "In all of this mass, although every attainable source has been exhausted; although the fathers of every age have been gleaned for their readings; although the versions of every nation, Arabic, Syriac, Coptic, Armenian and Ethiopian, have been ransacked for their renderings; although manuscripts of every age, from the sixteenth century upwards to the third, and of every country, have been again and again visited by industrious swarms to rifle them of their treasures; although, having exhausted the stores of the West, critics have traveled, like naturalists into distant lands, to discover new specimens, have visited, like Scholz or Sebastian, the recesses of Mount Athos, or the unexplored libraries of the Egyptian and Syrian deserts, yet nothing has been discovered, no, not a single various reading, which can throw doubt upon any passage before considered certain or decisive in favor of any important doctrine . . . " (2)

It is not possible for a literary work of the magnitude of Scripture to have survived copious copying and translating without the hand of God being upon the effort. That is what I am calling upon you to do--believe that God was in the process. I do not think it to be unreasonable from any spiritual point of view.

1. Holman's Bible Handbook

2. The Highest Critics Versus the Higher Critics, pp 21,21, L.M. Munhall, 1892.