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A History of the Bible

Dr. William S. Sadler

3. Christian Sacred Writings—The New Testament


  • 1. ORIGIN OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
    • 1. The early church started out with the present day Old Testament and the Old Testament Apocrypha as its Bible.
    • 2. The early New Testament collections were written in Greek and consisted of a half dozen separate books.
    • 3. Paul's letters to the churches--seven--were directed to meet certain definite situations.
    • 4. The churches were at:
      • Rome
      • Corinth
      • Galatia
      • Ephesus
      • Philippi
      • Colossae
      • Thessalonica
    • 5. Paul wrote ten letters to these seven churches. They were circulated in one book--Ephesians as the introduction.
    • 6. In A.D. 95 Clement, of Rome, wrote a letter to the church at Corinth.
    • 7. The three gospels, later four, were in a separate book. Dates of writing, according to the Urantia Book: Mark A.D. 68, Matthew A.D. 71, Luke A.D. 82, and John A.D. 101.
    • 8. About A.D. 125 Marcion, a Pontus layman, used the gospel of Luke and Paul's letters as a new Bible.
    • 9. Athenagoras, of Athens, used the four gospels and Paul's ten letters as "all but Scripture."
    • 10. Theophilus, of Antioch, (A.D. 180) used the gospels and Paul's letters as "Christian scriptures."
    • 11. The First New Testament. The appearance of heretical sects in the second and third centuries demanded that the Christian churches establish an authoritative Scripture.
    • 12. These sects were:
      • a. Docetism. Teaching that the humanity of Jesus was a "phantasm."
      • b. Marcionism. An over-rigid and drastic church organization.
      • c. Montanism. Exaggerated claims for prophetic gifts.
      • d. Gnosticism. Denial of Jesus' humanity and other errors.
    • 13. Content of the first New Testament:
      • a. Irenaeus of Lyons (A.D. 180) says the New Testament contained the four gospels, Acts, Paul's letters, the Peter and John epistles, and the Shepherd of Hermas.
      • b. Tertullian of Carthage (A.D. 197-223) added Jude, but later on rejected the Shepherd of Hermas.
      • c. Hebrews was the last book to gain general acceptance.
      • d. The Alexandrian New Testament also contained I Clement and Barnabas.
    • 14. The times of Origen.
      • Serious persecution in A.D. 202 forced Christian leaders out of Alexandria. Origen, 18 years old, became head of the Christian seminary. For fifty years he wrote and taught first in Alexandria and later on at Caesarea. A rich friend published his writings.
    • 15. Origen accepted Hebrews, but also included Hermas and Barnabas.
    • 16. Eusebius of Caesarea. He attended the Council of Nicaoa in 325. He finished his great church history in 326. He followed Origen, accepting Barnabas, and building up a New Testament just about as we have it today. He rejected Hermas and was doubtful about the book of Revelation.
    • 17. Athanasius of Alexandria. In 367 he prepared a li . st of New Testament books: Four gospels, Acts, fourteen letters of Paul, seven general letters, Hebrews, and Revelation. This is just the New Testament as we have it today. But he did not wholly give up the Shepherd of Hermas until he was seventy years old.
    • 18. Other early versions. Among these were the Coptic, Syriac, Rabulla, and the Peshitta.
  • 2. THE WORK OF THE COUNCILS
    • 1.The councils did mt so much form the New Testament canon, as to give official recognition to its existence.
    • .The synod of Laodicea, 363, recognized the canon as we have it today, except Revelation. It forbade the reading of other writings in the church.
    • 3.The council of Hippo, 393, accepted Revelation--giving us our present New Testament.
    • 4.The synod of Carthage, 397 (also 419), confimed the completed New Testament canon.
    • 5.Chrysostom, 407, presbyter of Antioch--later patriarch of Constantinople-rejected the general letters and Revelation.
    • 6.Gregory later accepted the general letters, but not Revelation.
    • 7.The eastern church was divided by Revelation; the western church, by Hebrews.
    • 8.Even today, the Greek church never reads Revelation at church services.
    • 9.Finally, Jerome (382) put both Hebrews and Revelation into his Latin Vulgate translation.
    • 10.Since Pope Damasus of Rome accepted Jerome's Bible, the New Testament of 27 books was finally settled for the western church.
    • 11. So we enter the Middle Ages with the New Testament canon settled in three translations:
      • a.Greek--Latin
      • b. Syriac
      • c. Ethiopic
    • 12. St. Augustine supported the Jerome New Testament.
    • 13. During the Middle Ages many New Testament versions in Germany, Spain, and England presented minor variations.
    • 14. Council of Trent (1546) took final action. Once and for all the New Testament canon was adopted.
    • 15. The rejected books became the New Testament Apocrypha.
    • 16. All along, the three controversial books were Revelation, Hebrews, and Hermas.
  • 3. NEW TESTAMENT VERSIONS
    • 1. Remember: The early Christians had no printed books. Also, the original documents are all gone.
    • 2. The copy of Mark in St. Mark's church at Venice is from Jerome's Vulgate Bible of the fourth century.
    • 3. No two hand-copied manuscripts ever agree completely. These differences are called "variant readings."
    • 4. A gospel of Mark at the University of Chicago contains 181 variants not found in other manuscripts.
    • 5. Two gospels of Mark differ in 873 passages. Two manuscripts of the four gospels disclose 14,040 differences.
    • 6. Some manuscripts present an average of 50 differences per page.
    • 7. These differences are caused by:
      • a. Skill of scribes.
      • b. Efforts to hamonize.
      • c. Removal of heresy.
      • d. Attempts at clarification.
      • e. Mistakes.
    • f. Editorializing.
    • g. Skipping lines.
    • h. Omissions by error.
  • 8. Illustration of hamonization:
    • Matt. 12:13. The man with a withered hand. Matt. reads: "Then he said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.? And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, whole like the other."
    • Early copies of Mark and Luke do not contain "whole like the other." But increasingly, later copies contain this addition.
    • NOTE.- The Urantia Book (p. 1665) follows the early Mark and Luke--does not contain the later addition.
  • 9. Illustration of removing heresy:
    • Matt. 24:36. "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only."
    • A scribe, believing that Jesus was omniscient, was sure someone had made mistake, so he changed the text--omitting the words-"nor the Son."
    • NOTE.- Jesus, in making this statement on p. 1915 of the Urantia Book, likewise omits "nor the Son." He says: "But the times of the re-appearing of the Son of Man are known only in the councils of Paradise; not even the angels of heaven know when this will occur."
  • 10. Illustration of unification:
    • Luke 23:32. "Also other criminals, two, were led away to be put to death with him. "
    • The scribes resented the implication that Jesus was a criminal, so they changed it to read: "Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him."
    • NOTE:This passage does not appear in the Urantia Book.
  • 11.Ambiguity:
    • Concerning the Lord's Supper in Matt. 26:27, it originally read: "Drink ye all of it." The scribe changed it to "Drink of it, all of you," as now in the Revised Version.
    • The Urantia Book (p. 1941) reads: "Take this cup, all of you, and drink of it."
  • 12.Prejudice against revised versions:
    • One bishop burned over 200 copies of a new version of the Bible.
  • 13. Remember: At the Council of Trent, the Bible was standardized by majority vote.
  • 14. Custom:
    • I Cor. 13:12. "For now we see as in a mirror darkly." The early church fathers did not like "darkly." It meant "riddles," mystery, "dark sayings," etc. So they just omitted it. But the King James version retains "darkly." Revised Standard Version uses "dimly."