Archive for the ‘Cannon’ Category

Recently in my area, I have run into several cults. These cults such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Church of God are teaching to worship on Sunday is a sin, and this sin is punishable by Hellfire. They say that we must keep the Sabbath, and failure to do so means we are part of the great whores church. I tell you this as someone who has had several 2-3 hour debates with a Jehovah Witness and have had no success changing their minds. To them, we are not part of the Lord’s church, and one of the reasons is because we are not keeping the Sabbath.

The Church of God also teaches this, but they do not like to come right out and tell you. On one occasion I was in a heated debate and I kept asking if the couple attempting to convert another fellow if they thought I was going to Hell for not keeping their Saturday Sabbath. After saying the same question 4 or 5 times, I told them I would no longer listen to them unless they gave me an answer. They reluctantly told me I was Hell bound for worshipping on the wrong day.

But who are you to tell me that if I worship on a Sunday I am going to Hell? Only the authority of the Bible could tell me that, so to the Bible we will go.

Rev 1:10 I (John) was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day

John, the early church leader, one of the 12 disciples, received the Revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ on what day? A Sunday! Sunday is the Lord’s Day. Why would Jesus come to John on a Sunday, when the Holy day is on a Saturday? Because it is not the Holy day any longer? Or is Jesus confused as to which day He should have came? Or is John confused as to which day it is?

So you say that this is not evidence of church on Sunday, and that Constantine was the one who switched the Holy day in the fourth century? Ok, Let’s look into church services in the New Testament after the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Acts 20:7 On the first day of the week, we assembled to break bread. Paul spoke to them, and since he was about to depart the next day, he extended his message until midnight.

On what day? Sunday! They assembled to have communion and Paul taught a sermon until midnight because he was leaving soon. Sounds like a church service to me! Here’s another one.

1 Cor 16:2 On the first day of the week, each of you is to set something aside and save in keeping with how he prospers, so that no collections will need to be made when I come.

On what day? Sunday! When were they meeting together? Sunday! When were they collecting an offering for Paul? Sunday! Sunday! Sunday! Was the writer of half the NT sinning by holding a service and worshiping and praying and teaching on a Sunday? Certainly not. We can meet on any day of the week, but the early church meet on a Sunday.

Ok, you say that there is no proof outside of the Bible until Constantine switched the date, and your sticking with that eh? Well let me tell you friend, that Constantine, or any other Pope for that matter, does not have the right to switch God’s laws, or change anything. He is a mere man who is claiming to be perfect, and that right there is a sin. I do not give a rip that Constantine said we ought to change the date from Saturday to Sunday. Nor do I care that Gregory invented Purgatory along with Augustine, nor do I care that the Papacy thinks they are infallible, nor do I care that they teach the Virgin Mary is divine, nor do I care that they added the Apocrypha to their cannon of scripture, nor do I care that they invented the doctrine of free will, nor do I care about anything they do, I do not give a crap what they teach. I care about what the Bible says, and about what history bears witness to, and history bears witness to the fact that long before Constantine took office, the early church was celebrating their church services on Sunday.

Pliny the younger (61-113 AD) was a Roman historian who wrote a letter to the emperor. In his letter (that is severely slanted against the Christians by the way) he wrote some of the things he observed about the early Christians, one of which was the fact that they worshipped and had a service on the Lord’s day, Sunday. This is 200+ years before Constantine “switched” the “Sabbath” which by the way as I have already said who cares, he does not have authority to switch anything.

Justin Martry (105-165 AD) was a Christian apologist who wrote his now famous First Apology. Here’s what he wrote about when they held a church service:

On the day commonly called Sunday all the believers… gather in their meetings… (and) read the memoirs of the apostles and the prophets (OT and NT)… after this we stand as one and pray…take communion… and take up offerings. We hold this meeting on Sunday because it is the first day in which God created the world, and also the day which Jesus, our Savior, rose from the Dead.

It is obvious, from the three examples provided in scripture and the two examples of early church formation, that the early church worshipped on a Sunday.

Having said that, there is no need to only worship on Sunday, you can worship any day you like. Sunday was just the day they had service. Let no one tell you otherwise, the early church, right after Jesus left and in the Bible, worshipped corporately on Sunday.

I might add that if you truly believe that those who worship on Sunday are Hell bound, you do not believe that Jesus died for every sin. If Jesus died for every sin (and he did) and we are under the new covenant of grace (which we are) and grace forgives trespasses (which it does) then even if we were all deceived and worshipping on the wrong day (which were not) then Jesus would forgive us anyways. We could worship on the wrong day our whole life and Jesus would forgive us. Jesus forgives sins, past present and future. He died for every sin right? So the people who are worshipping on the “wrong day” are not forgiven? Well did not our Lord Jesus Christ die for all sins? Then how can we say these “wrong” worshippers are Hell bound? Clearly using this logic Jesus could not have died for all sins, if there is a sin in which He cannot forgive right?

But there is no wrong day friends. We can worship on ANY old day of the week.

Col 2:8-17 Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elemental forces of the world, and not based on Christ. For the entire fullness of God’s nature dwells bodily in Christ, and you have been filled by Him, who is the head over every ruler and authority. You were also circumcised in Him with a circumcision not done with hands, by putting off the body of flesh, in the circumcision of the Messiah. Having been buried with Him in baptism, you were also raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And when you were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive with Him and forgave us all our trespasses. He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and disgraced them publicly; He triumphed over them by Him.
 Therefore, don’t let anyone judge you in regard to food and drink or in the matter of a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of what was to come; the substance is the Messiah.

Rom 14:5-10 One person considers one day to be above another day. Someone else considers every day to be the same. Each one must be fully convinced in his own mind. Whoever observes the day, observes it for the honor of the Lord. Whoever eats, eats for the Lord, since he gives thanks to God; and whoever does not eat, it is for the Lord that he does not eat [it], yet he thanks God. For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Christ died and came to life for this: that He might rule over both the dead and the living. But you, why do you criticize your brother? Or you, why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before the tribunal of God.

There is no set day to keep a Sabbath, in fact Jesus, nor Paul, nor Peter, nor any of the apostles tell us we have to keep a Sabbath. Jesus reintegrated all of the commandments, except the Sabbath day commandment! I dare you to find me a scripture that tells us we have to keep the Sabbath in the NT… I double dog dare you!

Whatever day you worship, whatever day you want to hold as Holy, do it to the Lord, and leave these old practices behind you. We might as well begin reciting food laws and sacrificing pigs if we really want to be under the Old Covenant. Jesus freed us from that, we can now Live a free life in Christ. Not to abuse this great gift, but to live for Him daily and not get so wrapped up in what someone thinks about a Sabbath or a Holy Day.

God bless,
Dan Fogarty.

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Heresy Compels Orthodoxy

Posted: February 24, 2012 in Cannon, School papers, Truth

The canon of the New Testament has been a topic of struggle for the church and its members for many years. Critics of the Bible say that there were dozens of gospels that were not included in the New Testament, and should have been. Some professing Christians will even admit that they wonder if we have the right books included in our Bible, especially in the New Testament. Although the content of the Bible was widely recognized to have divine inspiration by the early church, influential heretic sects forced the early Church to canonize their scriptures. One thing should be acknowledged before the Bible is scrutinized; the Jews and the church always had a method of recognizing which books belonged in the pulpit and which books did not. When new sects arose (Gnostics) they started writing other gospels and letters that were contrary to scripture and replacing or altering (Marcions) books of the Bible. This forced the church to come out with a list of books that were divinely inspired, where as before they relied on other methods that will be discussed in further detail.

The Jew’s had a manner in which they recognized a text into their canon that was rather straightforward and immediate. Once the prophet gave the revelation and the secretary wrote it down, the Jew’s would add the scroll to their canon automatically. The historian Josephus wrote a letter in AD 90 confirming that this was the manner in which the Jew’s canonized their scripture. Josephus wrote that the Jew’s had a collection of books that agreed with each other unlike the Greeks that had many books that conflicted with one another. The Hebrew Bible or Old Testament came to a close around 400-350 BC when there was no voice of a prophet in the land. Although much later, writings dated around 550 AD from the Babylonian Talmud agree with Josephus. The Rabbinical literature says, “(the) Holy Spirit had departed from the land,” after the last prophets (Haggia, Zechariah and Malichai) entered their scrolls into the canon. Thus, the Old Testament was set in stone long before the birth of Christ.

The early Christian church had no issue utilizing the Hebrew Bible in their gatherings. There are several deductions that can be made to come to this conclusion. The early Christian’s were not seen as a new religion; they were seen as a new sect of Judaism. Only Jew’s were included at first, and they knew which books were in the Old Testament for reasons mentioned in the previous paragraph. An example of their willfulness to quote the Hebrew Bible comes immediately after the appearance of the Holy Spirit when Peter stands up and quotes several Old Testament passages. When Stephan gave his discourse before the Jew’s stoned him, he gave them a run down of the entire Old Testament. Also, Jesus quoted the Hebrew Bible many times in the New Testament, and that alone gives the Old Testament books authority. A new Christian would have, at first, been an old Jew who followed the law. He or she would have known that the Hebrew Bible was scripture, and surely a good Jew would never have been involved in a religious movement that did not recognize the Septuagint as divinely inspired.

New Testament writings were not immediately canonized for legitimate reasons. First, they did not think Christ would be gone long. In fact in Acts 1:5 the disciples say to Jesus, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” They thought He was going to come back almost immediately, so why would they bother canonizing their scriptures. Second, there was no universal church or bishop to exert authority, and make decisions referring to canonizing their Gospels and epistles. Third, the letters were immediately sent out to the churches, which were scattered all over the empire. An example of this is found in fragment 7Q5. Many papyrologists’ agree that fragment 7Q5 contains a portion of Mark’s Gospel. Papyrologist Jose O’Callaghan is among those who confirm 7Q5 to be Mark 6:52-53. This fragment was found in a cave that most scholars believe was sealed before the year 68 AD. If the death of Jesus took place around 30 AD (probably between 27-35 AD), and this fragment from Mark is dated around 68 AD, that is enough to say that the letters of the Apostles were written, copied, and immediately sent out to the other churches. No church had all of the originals manuscripts either, since the leaders were scattered all over and were writing the letters from where they were located in the empire. However, just because the writings were not canonized immediately, does not mean they were not widely accepted by the Christian churches immediately.

An early church Bishop named Irenaeus wrote a discourse titled Against Heresies, around the year 180 AD. In this book he quotes 22 of the New Testament books and refers to them as the Holy Scriptures. Irenaeus wrote, “There are only four gospels because there are four zones of the world, and four principle winds.” His logic, though flawed, does prove that the church was only using the same four gospels we have now. Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp, and Polycarp was a disciple of John. He was only two generations removed from the original apostles, and he is referring to a collection of books as the Holy Scriptures. The testimony of Irenaeus confirms that the churches were using most of the same books that we have in our New Testament today in their congregation before the year 200 AD, with the exception of Philemon, Second and Third John, Second Peter, Jude, and possibly James. Irenaeus does not utilize those books, but that does not mean that he did not count them as Divine, he simply may not have needed to use them in his book. It was not until certain heretical groups arose to challenge the church, that the church decided to get together and make a list of books. Up until that point, they generally agreed that God inspired the writings of the apostles as just stated by the testimony of Irenaeus.

The Gnostics believe that Jesus was not the Son of God, that all matter is evil, that the God of the Old Testament was evil, that the God of the New Testament was good. They believed that Heaven is found through secret knowledge, hence the name Gnostic. This new religious sect referred to themselves as Christians, and had a rather large movement. The Gnostics began writing their own gospels like the gospel of Thomas, and the now famous gospel of Judas. In the gospel of Judas, Jesus is a shape shifter who comes to the 12 disciples as a small child. Also, in the gospel of Judas, Judas is made out to be a hero, and Jesus actually wanted Judas to turn Him in. The entire book is contrary to scripture and was wrote at least 100 years (probably 2-300 years) after the death of Judas. It was popular in those days to write a book in someone else’s name that had credibility. This is why in the Bible Paul began to write his signature on his letters, or even pick up the pen himself and begin writing. When the Gnostics needed a popular name to place on a book, they choose names like Thomas, Peter or Judas. The Gnostics needed to write their own scriptures, because the Bible did not make sense to a Gnostic. Proof of this is found in the Nag Hammadi Codex. Portions of the Nag Hammadi Codex are found in the newest publication of the gospel of Judas. These books include an apocalypse supposedly wrote by James, a letter from Peter to Philip and a book of James. This was just one group that influenced the early Orthodox Church to form the canon of the New Testament.

The Marcion church was a great threat to the early church, even greater than the Gnostic movement. Marcion (a second century heretic) began teaching that the material world was evil. He attracted a crowd, and started his own church. He believed that Yahweh was a different God than the God of Jesus Christ. Marcion taught that Yahweh was either evil, or incompetent or both, and that Yahweh created the world and placed man on it. Unlike the Gnostics, the Marcion’s began forming their own canon of scripture. Marcion began by taking books out of the Septuagint, and took most of the New Testament away except for the writings of Paul and portions of Luke. He did not use Luke and Paul’s writings entirely, he chopped them up to fit his own gospel. Marcion took the Old Testament out because he believed Yahweh was an evil God, and that the God of Jesus Christ would never punish His people. He had a completely different Jesus as well. Jesus could not have born of Mary, because then Jesus would have received the darkness that he believed all material had. Instead, Marcion taught that Jesus just appeared one day as a full-blown man. Because Marcion began creating his own canon, the early church was compelled to respond and become more orthodox in their ways.

Without a collection of books that was unable to be added to or taken away from, the authority of what we now consider scripture would always be open to interpretation by the local congregation. If the Marcion and Gnostic sects had their own scripture or canon of scripture, the new sects would be able to enter a local church and preach a false gospel rather easy. But, if the church had a completed list of books that alone had authority, then the false writings would be dismissed immediately. Such was the case, and the church decided to officially announce their canon of scripture, which nothing could be added to or taken away from. Of course there had to be rules on what kind of writings would be considered divinely inspired. The Orthodox church came to the conclusion that in order for a letter to be canonized, it must adhere to the following; the writing in question must have been wrote by an apostle, or an apostolic man. The author must have been alive during the life of Jesus, and have a certain type of connection with Jesus or an apostle. The letter must not contradict the testimony of the Septuagint, and it must be verified that the listed author was the one who wrote it. Once the Apostles and the apostolic men were no more, the scriptures were sealed, thus preventing any writings after the first century to creep into the canon. Of course before the canon of scripture was finally set around the close of the fourth century at the Council of Carthage, the Orthodox church was using the same books, or very close to the same books that we now see in our table of contents in the New Testament. The list of books from the Council of Carthage was not the first list of Christian books one can find when searching for the truth about the canon of scripture. The very first list was written around 150 AD and is now titled the Moratorian fragment. The Moratorian Canon contains a list of books that were accepted by the church, a list of books that were being debated about as to if they should belong, a list of books that did not belong (but could be read for personal use) and a list of books that were clearly heresy.

When looking back at the way that the New Testament canon was shaped, it should come to no surprise that the process took hundreds of years to unfold. One should now know that the early church had a collection of writings they considered to be inspired, and that the church was in no real hurry to make a formal list. It was not until religious sects like the Marcions came along, that the church realized they needed to become orthodox. The Jewish canon had long been sealed when Jesus came, and the New Testament gives an account that the apostles and Jesus held to the Septuagint as scripture. Men like Irenaeus leave a clear testimony to the fact that the Christian churches generally agreed upon what was divinely inspired, and what was not. The early Christians were not concerned with building a list of books; they expected the immediate return of Christ. Why would they waist time making a list of books when Jesus could come back any day? Furthermore, the Church did not have any reason to say exactly what was in and what was out, until the false religions rose up and began compiling their own lists. If it was not for groups like the Marcion’s and the Gnostic’s, one could suppose that a canon for the New Testament may have never been needed.

References

ESV Study Bible: English Standard Version.. ESV text ed. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Bibles, 2008.

Evans, Craig A. “Understanding the Gospel of Judas.” Bulletin for Biblical Research, 20, Jan
2010, 561-574.

González, Justo L.. The story of Christianity. Rev. and updated, 2nd ed. New York: HarperOne,
2010.

Gundry, Robert H. “No NU in Line 2 of 7Q5 : A Final Disidentification of 7Q5 with Mark 6:52-
53.” Journal Of Biblical Literature, Vol 118, Dec 1999, p.698-707.

Irenaeus against heresies. Whitefish, Mont.: Kessinger Publishing, 2007.

Kloha, Jeffrey J. “Jesus and the Gnostic Gospels.” Concordia Theological Quarterly, Vol 71,
Apr 2007, p.121-144.

Newman, Robert C. 1976. “Council of Jamnia and the Old Testament Canon.” Westminster
Theological Journal, Vol 38, Mar 1976, p.319-349.

Roth, Dieter T. “Marcion’s Gospel and Luke: the History of Research in Current Debate.”
Journal Of Biblical Literature, Vol 127, Sep 2008, p.513-527.

Sheeley, Steven M. “From “Scripture” to “Canon” : The Development of the New Testament
Canon.” Review & Expositor, Vol 95, Sep 1998, p513-522.