As we began our 2016 focus on the Bible this year, twice already, I have emphasized that we believe, or said that the Bible only consists of, 66 books.
Our FIEC statement of faith says: God has revealed himself in the Bible, which consists of the Old and New Testaments alone.
An older chapel confession of faith emphasised this same fact more explicitly. The Westminster Confession, Chapter 1.2 titled “The Holy Scriptures” states:
Under the name of Holy Scripture, or the Word of God written, are now contained all the Books of the Old and New Testaments, which are these:
[after naming the 66 books that make up the Old and New Testaments it ends by saying]
All which are given by inspiration of God, to be the rule of faith and life.
Chapter1. 3 goes on to say:
The Books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the canon of the scripture; and therefore are of no authority in the Church of God, nor to be any otherwise approved, or made use of, than other human writings.
The apocrypha are books that appeared in history between the Old and New Testament. Discerning whether they are part of the canon of the Bible (that which the Church sees as from God and therefore beneficial and authoritative for His Church) is an important issue. For example the matter of purgatory can only be held by Roman Catholics because they appeal to one verse from the Apocrypha. Catholics endorsed the Apocrypha as canonical at the Council of Trent in 1546.
Evangelicals, however, while acknowledging the historical and literary values of these books (1 & 2 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, Additions to Esther, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, the Letter of Jeremiah, Song of the Three Holy Children, Susanna, Bel and the Dragon, the Prayer of Manasseh, and 1 & 2 Maccabees), have rejected them as canonical for the following basic reasons:
- They were never quoted by Jesus or the Apostles;
- Most of the Church Fathers regarded them as uninspired;
- They were not part of the Ancient Hebrew canon; and
- The inferior quality of most of the writings compared with the canonical books, mark them as unworthy of a place in Scripture.
What is canon becomes very important when we ask, what is truth?, in our post-modern age. Is it to be found in the Bible, the apocrypha, gnostic Gospels, other holy books, books of human wisdom, all of the above?
Where does the Lord want us to look for truth and where can we confidently know where to turn to be instructed in how to know Him and walk in His ways. The 66 books of the Bible, that is where, no more and no less.
If issues of why we believe the Bible are of importance you may want to click here for an additional resource.
The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,