A Canon Revisited for True Apostolicity
Immediately noticed within will be the absence of seven substandard pseudepigraphical writings of disciples, traditionally and erroneously attributed to apostles. These are: Ephesians, Hebrews, 2nd Peter, 2nd John, 3rd John, Jude and Revelation. Apart from Ephesians the majority of honest textual critics, both ancient and modern, are pretty much in agreement as to which works these are, regarding some to be so with more certainty than others — the others still being hotly disputed among some. The question to ask is not ‘how many books were left out of the Bible,’ but ‘how many books do not belong in the Bible.’ The cohesive agreement between the remaining New Testament documents tends to become more absolute when the uninspired pseudepigraphical documents and the commonly inspired disciplic documents are summarily removed from a canon which should have been revisited long ago. This action tends to eliminate many of the contradictions which have divided believers for far too long. For example, the Revelation of John was admitted into the canon of scripture over the Revelation of Peter about 500 years after it was written. It was so far removed from its source, and so disputed by many, that it was uncertain as to which John wrote it, and it alone teaches the millenium and the pre-tribulation rapture, which mess up the rest of the New Testament's eschatology when this so-called revelation is included in its study.
The only departure I made in this work from the decisive determination to preclude non-apostolic works is in the use of material from the three Synoptic Gospels and the Acts which I have not yet finished — these being the only remaining sources apart from John containing the principal life and sayings of the Lord Jesus and his apostles. These four disciplic works have been collated into a single coherent historical narrative in the same way that Luke, by his own admission, had done with materials which he then had at his disposal. He and I are alike disciples. This further eliminated even more comparative contradictions. Luke and Mark are both disciples with no more inspiration than you or I. The apostle Matthew originally wrote five bodies of the words of Jesus in an Aramaic or Hebrew work, but refused to make them public for fear they would be misused. Some disciple later incorporated the five groups of sayings Matthew wrote with a narrative in Greek which tends to be somewhat contradictory with Mark and Luke (two Gadarene demoniacs instead of one; two blind men at Jericho instead of one; two angels at the tomb instead of one, and I am almost sure that some historian besides the author of Matthew would have mentioned such a significant event as the bodies of the dead coming out of their tombs and appearing to many in Jerusalem upon Jesus’ crucifixion). In comparing section by section, verse by verse, the Gospel of Matthew is found to be too different from Mark to make the claim that many do today that the author of Matthew made use of Mark as a source for his narrative. The Gospel of Matthew would have been without error if it was totally apostolic.
Basically I followed the canons given by Eusebius, the historian of Caesarea. Again, both historical and contemporary critical scholarship has typically regarded the following seven disputed disciplic works to be more or less falsely attributed to apostolic authorship: Hebrews, James, 2nd Peter, 2nd and 3rd John, Jude and Revelation. With the exception of James, these have not been included in this work; since James was the Lord’s brother (Gal. 1:19), and he was also considered an apostle and pillar of the Church by many (Gal. 2:6, 9), and his work — among the earliest in the New Testament — rings true, though not accepted by the Church until much later — for these reasons I have included his work in this volume. I have substituted Ephesians in its place for removal, for reasons you will inevitably find below.
A simple example of good reason for summary rejection can be made here for 2nd Peter as a forgery: though it purports to be from Peter, in chapter 3 verses 15 and 16 the letters of Paul are spoken of as a collection of scripture that has been tampered with. This can only mean a much later date regarding its composition since Paul’s letters were not collected and treated as scripture until well after his death. Paul was killed in 62 A.D., and Peter was killed not long after, around 64 A.D. Therefore Peter did not write 2nd Peter. The style and language of the book of 2nd Peter, being different from 1st Peter, is very similar to that of Jude, thus revealing the same author’s hand. Names of apostles were commonly appropriated to bring false works “apostolic” authority in the early Church.
Another simple example of good reason for summary rejection can also be made here for Hebrews: the entire theme of the book, from beginning to end, is admonishment of weak believers against falling away from the Faith into unbelief through spiritual neglect, thus summarily losing their salvation without recourse. According to the rest of the legitimate New Testament documents — disclaimers taken into account — there is eternal security for the genuine believer saved by grace through faith. Logic says that if it is eternal, it can’t be lost. Though Hebrews has the most beautifully executed Greek in the New Testament, and it beautifully lays out the types and shadows of the Old Testament regarding Christ, since it negates the power of the Holy Spirit to fulfill the promise of eternal life for the born again believer, it is incompatible with the rest of the documents of the New Testament accepted as genuine, solely because of its doctrine of the born again believer falling away into unbelief and losing his salvation as a result. As a result, many born again believers today are troubled by the book of Hebrews, unnecessarily doubting the integrity of God, and his ability to keep his promises to us.
To learn more about the history of disputed works, again please consult both The Canon of the New Testament, Its Origin, Development, & Significance, ISBN 978-0-19-826954-0, and The New Testament, Its Background, Growth, & Content ISBN 0-687-05263-7 both by Bruce Manning Metzger. I here now give some widely held and apparent reasons for my exclusion of the letter to the Ephesians, in lieu of the letter of James.
According to Bible scholars there are seven unquestionably authentic Pauline letters: Romans, 1st and 2nd Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1st Thessalonians and Philemon. When compared to these undisputed letters, Ephesians has a totally different style and feel. It utilizes structurally complex sentences. It makes copious use of relative clauses. It has a distinct language of its own. It has redundant wording. It makes unparalleled assertions which tend to make Pauline authorship an impossibility. Also the fact that it purports to be from Paul makes it even more suspect as a forgery of no small magnitude in light of all of the above problems. In this so-called Ephesian letter, Paul’s former predominantly temporal thoughts have been twisted into spatial concepts. There is apparent a significantly close literary relationship between both Ephesians and Colossians. This letter tends to copy Colossians quite a bit, but this does not mean that it came from the same hand. Over forty Ephesian passages have been found to be expansions or variations of Colossian passages. This makes Ephesians essentially an edited and reworked version of Colossians. Of the one hundred fifty-five verses found in Ephesians, seventy-three of them have been copied from Colossians. Ephesians also mirrors many key thoughts found in the Colossian letter. It also transforms Colossian illustrations and metaphors into objective realities. Of the fifty total sentences in Ephesians, nine have over fifty words in them, whereas the closest comparison found in the accepted Pauline letters would be the book of Romans where there are only three such sentences out of a total of five hundred eighty one. Ephesians presents the Church as a progressive, powerful, universal entity. Paul typically presents the Church as an informal association of separate believing communities. Ephesians is also more eschatologically subdued when compared to Paul’s other works, making a turn toward no mention of Christ’s imminent return for the Church at all; but it does make instead unprecedented mention of concern for future generations of believers as though Christ were not coming for his Church any time soon. This implies that it was written by another after the Temple was razed in 70 A.D., long after the death of Paul. Paul typically portrays Jesus as working on behalf of God, always with God’s delegated authority. This Ephesian letter has Jesus acting on his own with his own authority. Finally, the most telling piece of evidence that it is a forgery is that though Paul had founded the Ephesian church, and edified it many times, this so-called letter to the Ephesians contains no specific greetings nor personal intimations such as those that are copiously found in his other accepted works. It is written as if he never met nor knew any of them at all. The 16th chapter of Romans is a cover letter introducing the deaconess Phoebe, bearing a second copy of Romans, to the Ephesian church. With all of these acquaintances in Ephesus, could he not have greeted at least one in this so-called Ephesian letter? If we were to allow, since there are a couple of early manuscripts missing the name ‘Ephesus,’ in the introduction, this could be called the letter to the Laodiceans, but the other mentioned problems still remain regardless.
You are probably now asking, “How could God allow errors and false books to creep into our Bible, thereby misleading so many people? Is God in control?” Yes. “Is God responsible? Did this catch him by surprise?” No and no. Matthew chapter 13 brings forth the parable of the wheat and the tares, where Christ is the one sowing good seed in a field, and his enemy thereafter sowing bad seed in the same field. The seed is representative of people, some of which are writing works, both good and bad. The seven particular books I listed, have been disputed for centuries. Men do wrong, and fail to do right routinely — even saved men. Man wrote the false books. Man allowed them to get into the Bible. Let us ask the question another way. “How could God allow false prophets and false teachers to live and compete with the truth as depicted in Mark chapter 13 and Matthew chapter 24?” Man has free will. Just as God did not stop Hitler from exercising his free will in the world, so also God will not interfere with the free will choices of other men, whether good or bad. No one sins unto himself alone. Our sins always affect other people. Hitler’s sins affected millions of people in many different ways. God does not need to manipulate, micro-manage or control the free will choices of man in order to remain secure in his omniscience and sovereignty. All his creatures have free will, from the least, to the greatest. It is a foundational principle in the whole of his creation. God knows all of history before it ever happens, and it is one of his greatest claims to divinity, being able to tell the end from the beginning. And, in due time, God uses some of us to set things right.
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