Why is there not more of the Bible written?


(Hendrik Haueisen) #1

Hi all,
I have been having a lot of conversations with a couple of my soccer buddies for a few years now (including the occasional Bible Study). A question that came up by one of them was: “Why is there not more of the Bible written today (or at least since it was said to be completed)?” I gave him a brief answer at that time but promised him to looks into it a bit more, in order to give him a full response.

The problem is that I am currently so busy with family, sermon prep, main job, side job, personal bible studies, etc. that I have not been and am afraid won’t be able for at least another couple of weeks to find the time to sit down and give him some of the internal and external evidence to answer this question.

If anybody has a few bite sized notes that will help me carry the discussion further for now, please let me know!

Thanks in advance!


(Jimmy Sellers) #2

Before I attempt an answer. Are your friends concerned that the Bible does not address or answer all the questions that we face today or is the Bible we have somehow not complete because of issue beyond the control of the early church.
I read this the other day: All the writing in the cannon are scared but not all the scared writing are in the cannon. Is this what they mean? Sorry for more question but I feel that it will result in a better attempted answer.:grinning:


(Hendrik Haueisen) #3

Thanks for the clarification Jimmy. I am fairly certain that Paul’s question comes from a genuine interest of why there is not more written - As in does the Bible say that this is it and no more, or did we somehow conclude otherwise that what is written is sufficient.
I don’t think he is thinking about some specific concern that the Bible does not address. I conclude that because his knowledge about what is in the Bible is roughly speaking: The Gospel of John, Epistle to the Galatians and some of the basic concepts of Genesis. In addition to that he knows all sorts of things about the Bible which came out of our conversations where I often quote passages (after having given him a successful argument on XYZ) to show that I didn’t come up with what I am saying, but the Bible actually says that.


(SeanO) #4

The shortest answer I can think of is that Jesus is both the fullest revelation of God and the revelation for our time in history. We have the testimony about Christ - that is the message God has ordained until the end of the ages.

Hebrews 1:1-2 - Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

Some questions that might accompany that thought:

In what ways is Jesus’ life the greatest revelation mankind has received?

How has Jesus fulfilled the promises of the OT?

According to Jesus, what is the next stage in God’s revelation to mankind?

If, as @Jimmy_Sellers pointed out, part of his concern is that the Bible does not address modern questions, you might ask:

What is necessary beyond love God and love neighbor? How come you feel the need for the advice to be more specific?

In Paul’s letters to the Churches he addresses many issues we face in modern culture - in fact, many of the very same issues - sexuality, relationship to governing authorities, gender issues, taking care of the poor among us. What do you feel is lacking from Paul’s letters? What do you think a ‘letter to the citizens of New York’ would contain that would be different than the ‘letter to the Corinthians’?

One further thought after reading your reply:

No more books of the New Testament have been written because all of the eye witnesses of Christ have died. The NT was written by those who saw Jesus and experienced His life, death and resurrection or whom God called (like Paul) to be a witness while the eye witnesses still lived and could verify what was being taught.

So, no more is written because the eyewitnesses of Jesus, the fullest and final revelation of God to man until the end of ages, have died. That was one of the tests for canonicity - if the author walked with Christ (literally - on earth).


(SeanO) #5

A book recommendation if he is really interested in the canonization process would be The Canon of Scripture by F F Bruce.


(Jimmy Sellers) #6

Ok. I am not sure if this is helpful, but the Bible does list several books that we do not have in the modern cannon.

A list of these lost sources would be extensive; it would include at least the following: the Book of the Wars of Yahweh (Num 21:14), the Book of the Just (Josh 10:13, 2 Sam 1:18), the Book of the Acts of Solomon (1 Kgs 11:41), the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Israel (1 Kgs 14:19, 2 Chr 33:18; cf. 2 Chr 20:34), the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah (1 Kgs 14:29, 15:7), the Annals of Samuel the seer (1 Chr 29:29), the History of Nathan the prophet (2 Chr 9:29), the Annals of Shemaiah the prophet and of Iddo the seer (2 Chr 12:15), the Annals of Jehu son of Hanani (2 Chr 20:34), an unknown and untitled writing of Isaiah (2 Chr 26:22), the Annals of Hozal (2 Chr 33:18), and an unknown lament for Josiah by Jeremiah (2 Chr 35:25). In the Apocrypha (defined below) lost books also are mentioned; in particular, 1 Maccabees 16:24 refers to the Annals of John Hyrcanus. Within the Pseudepigrapha themselves there are references to “documents” now lost (cf. e.g. TJob 40:14, 41:6, 49:3, 50:3).
Charlesworth, J. H. (1985). Introduction for the General Reader. In The Old Testament pseudepigrapha and the New Testament: Expansions of the “Old Testament” and Legends, Wisdom, and Philosophical Literature, Prayers, Psalms and Odes, Fragments of Lost Judeo-Hellenistic Works (Vol. 2, p. xxi). New Haven; London: Yale University Press.

And from the new testament we are sure that not everything that Jesus did was recorded as we see in John:

25 Now there are also many other things that Jesus did, which—if they were written down one after the other—I suppose not even the world itself could contain the books that would be written. (Jn 21:25)

So all in all it is a fair question but I believe that we have what we need to reach a lost world.


(Hendrik Haueisen) #7

Thanks guys. I think you have given me a good starting point, after having ‘chewed’ on your responses for a while. I may go on with him by chatting about why the books of the N.T. are there at all in the first place.


(Randy Roach) #9

Several years ago Dr. Paul Trebilco, then head of the Dept of Theology at Otago University, wrote a very insightful article about this question. In his view Luke’s wrote the Acts of the Apostles based on the assumption that we would continue to tell the story.

Go back and read the last chapter of Acts. Treblico points out “that the ending of Acts is a non-Ending. It is not an ending at all. Why not? Because Luke intended a Volume 3. Not one that he would write – but one that the Holy Spirit would write in the life of the church. Like a movie where the movie writer ends with a sequel in mind.” According to Dr. Treblico, Luke’s Gospel is Vol 1, and the Book of Acts is Vol 2, and he expected us to write Vol 3.

I would go a step further. Read history, all of history, not just the history of the Christian church. Read the news of the day. Look beyond the boundaries of America. Wherever you look you will find the Hand of God moving in the lives of people in subtle and not so subtle ways. Ravi has used a variation of this theme in some of his presentations when he speaks of the hand of God in all of history and Christ as its central figure.


(Jimmy Sellers) #10

Could you post a link to the article mentioned. I would like to read it. Thanks


(Anthony Costello ) #11

@Hendrik_Haueisen

Canonicity is, like any historical doctrine of Faith, a topic that requires a lot of study to come up with a strong answer. I would echo @SeanO in recommending something like the F.F. Bruce book. The question I think your friends are asking, if I am following correctly, is why are the 27 books of the NT considered inspired and canonical, and later writings considered uninspired, or at least not inspired in the same prophetic sense of their being a divine Revelation from God. There are later post-apostolic writings that are considered important by Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox (e.g. The Shepherd of Hemas, the Didache, 1 Clement, etc.), but they are considered to be non-canonical. So, the question that needs to be answered is how do we know that one writing is divine Revelation, and thus “fully inspired,” while another writing (e.g. 1 Clement) is considered only valuable for teaching and reflection, but not as a source of prophetic Revelation? By what criteria did the early church determine some books were “in” and some others were “not in” the canon?

I think one of the best scholars to read on this issue is Lee Martin McDonald. Here is his most recent work on the subject:

I’m not saying I agree with McDonald 100% on all of his conclusions, and I haven’t read this newer work. I read his earlier book The Biblical Canon and that was already a while back. Still, McDonald is probably the scholar to go to on this particular question.

As far as a “quick answer” to a question that obviously doesn’t actually have a quick answer, I would echo @SeanO again. At some point the Apostles and those who knew them (e.g. Luke, Mark) were dead and, therefore, books or letters written by later disciples of the Apostles, or even later writers like the early Fathers, or even by other writers who clearly did not know the Apostles, were either chronologically, geographically, or thematically (e.g. the gnostic writings) too distant from the original events and their original meanings to be considered reliable testimony. This kind of historical argument should at least preclude later, gnostic and apocryphal writings from consideration of canonicity. It might not work as well, however, when you get to earlier sub-apostolic writings like the Didache or 1 Clement. There, however, there may be other reasons to not include those writings alongside Paul’s letters, the Gospels, etc. For example, they may make self-referential claims about not being inspired in the same way that the canonical scriptures are.

Any thoughts?

Tony


(Randy Roach) #12

Here’s a link –

http://www.dunedinmethodist.org.nz/archive/mind/theendingofacts.html


(Randy Roach) #13

I appreciate your point. Academic inquiry into “what makes scripture, scripture” is a very valuable and important discussion in any theological endeavor. And as you point out, there are many good books on the subject.
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However, when I go back to the question which started this discussion it seems that we should also consider all that the Holy Spirit has done since the establishment of the first century Christian Church. While that history is not scripture in the traditional, biblical sense, it is nonetheless rich with powerful stories which affirm the theological principles that are found in the Bible.

One example – the story of John Newton and the hymn “Amazing Grace”. He never heard it sung the way we sing it today. He wrote the words. No one knows who wrote the tune. Yet after he died a hymnist putting together a book of hymns found a popular tune of the day that matched the lyrics almost perfectly and published it.

Some might say it’s another example of how a living Savior moves in the hearts and minds of believers to bring comfort and healing to a hurting world. True.

But perhaps the meaning is also found in the answer to the “why” questions. Not just why did Newton write it, but why was he called to write it? Why did the hymnist match the words with the tune? Why did it become one of the most popular hymns of the 20th century? Why can music like this affect us the way it does?