"One does well to put on gloves when reading the New Testament. The proximity of so much uncleanliness almost forces one to do this."

- Friedrich Nietzsche



Is the Bible complete?


"Read the Bible itself. Read the statements of preachers. And you will understand that God is the most desperate character, the worst villain in all of fiction."

- E. Haldeman-Julius

"I esteem the Gospels to be thoroughly genuine, for there shines from them the reflected splendor of a sublimity proceeding from the person of Jesus Christ of so Divine a kind as only the Divine could ever have manifested on earth."

- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

5.1 The Old Testament.

The destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70 ended the Jewish sacrificial system. At that time, Yochanan ben Zakkai, with the permission of Rome, reassembled the Jewish religious leaders of the Sanhedrin. Called the Council of Jamnia, they met to reconfirm the books of the Old Testament; books that were to remain the unifying text of the now scattered Jewish people. The Old Testament collection has remained as it is since its coalescence between 400 and 300 BC. 1

A total of thirty-nine books make up the Old Testament. In English translations, the Old Testament is categorized as follows: Genesis to Deuteronomy comprise the Torah, also called the Book of the Law, or Pentateuch; Joshua to Esther comprise the historical books; Job to Song of Songs are the books of poetry and ethics; and Isaiah to Malachi are the books of the prophets.

Josephus, a first century Jewish historian, confirms that no Hebrew scriptures were added after the time of the Persian King Artaxerxes. Josephus states, "Because the exact succession of the prophets ceased... no one has dared to add anything to them, or to take anything from them, or to alter anything in them." 2 He then goes on to list those books which confirm the Old Testament of today.

F. F. Bruce uses the writings of Philo also as one confirmation of the O.T. canon:

Philo, the learned Jew of Alexandria, whose life overlapped the life at Christ by about twenty years at either end, seems to have known and accepted the Hebrew canon. The Law to him is preeminently inspired, but he also acknowledges the authority of the other books of the Hebrew canon (although, as an Alexandrian, he used only the Greek version). He does not regard the apocryphal books as authoritative, and this suggests that, although these books were in circulation among them, they were not really accorded canonical status by the Alexandrian Jews. 3

5.2 The New Testament.

While the Old Testament was the main text used by the Jews who were looking for the coming Messiah (or Christ), the New Testament is a collection of writings by those who believed Jesus was that Messiah; the Messiah promised by O.T. prophecies. After his crucifixion, Jesus' apostles, his closest disciples, carried out Jesus' command to care for and expand the now combined group of Jewish and Gentile believers (Christians). This group Jesus collectively called his church. But the Christians, like the Jews, were decentralized after the fall of Jerusalem.

The decentralization occasioned the apostles to make many travels. They also wrote letters to the scattered churches; passing on in writing the teachings that Christ had commissioned them to share. The letters applied Christ's teachings to various situations among the churches. The apostles claimed authority based upon

The early churches received the apostles' letters as authoritative and retained them for teaching purposes. Bruce offers further insight to the apostles' authority:

Jesus, on the eve of his crucifixion, promised his disciples to send them the Holy Spirit, his other self, of whom he said among other things: 'He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you... He will guide you into all truth... and he will declare to you the things that are to come' (John 14:26; 16:13). 4

5.3 After the apostles

The need to collect the apostles' letters grew as they died and the church expanded. There exists evidence in correspondence to the Corinthian church by Roman church leader Clement in the year AD 96 that he knew of the letter Paul had written to the Roman church, as well as of at least one letter to the Corinthians. 5 But Christian churches, not having shared a common geographic home but for a short time, had no single collection of all the apostles' writings. A formalized set was desired to provide the churches with the complete teachings that God had spoken through the apostles. A formal set of the inspired, apostolic writings would also serve to discourage any and all other writings from being introduced as equal in authority.

Within the first century, the four Gospels came together as one group. The gathering together of Paul's letters and the others followed this. In AD 180, Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons, confirmed a collection of all but seven of today's twenty-seven letters. 6 The early church fathers Eusebius, Polycarp, Augustine, and Origen contributed to confirming the resulting canon of today's New Testament. These letters, though they had always been accepted as inspired, were declared official at the Synod of Hippo in AD 393.

The twenty-seven writings of the New Testament are categorized as follows:

The authenticity of the New Testament documents, like that of the Old Testament documents, has been confirmed by dutiful study and scholarship in the recent century. The testimony provided by vast amounts of ancient writings, discovered since the nineteenth-century, is evident as Bruce observes:

There is no body of ancient literature in the world which enjoys such a wealth of good textual attestation as the New Testament. The evidence for the original text of the New Testament is provided mainly by (1) early manuscripts of the New Testament in its original language (Greek), (2) early translations or 'versions' of the New Testament in other languages, from the readings of which we can often infer the underlying Greek, (3) quotations from the New Testament in the works of ancient authors (principally Greek, Latin, and Syriac, but also Coptic and Armenian), (4) lectionaries, both in Greek and in the other languages mentioned, in which passages of Scripture were arranged for systematic reading in church services. 7

5.4 Is the Bible open to future inclusions?

Jesus repeatedly endorsed and often quoted from the Old Testament of his day without any indication that it was flawed or lacking. This is the same Old Testament we have today. The agreement of the early church to have received God's complete revelation is quite clear: no apostolic book remains to be produced (should someone desire to introduce a writing, old or new, by such a claim). With the passing of the Christ's apostles, the New Testament closed.

Another indication of the completeness of the known canon, especially for the New Testament, is the sheer volume of early copies known to exist. If we only had three or four copies, for example, there might be some question as to whether or not our few collections lacked a major letter. Note that the world has 643 copies of Homer's Iliad. 8 Although none of the Iliad copies are closer to the original autographs than 500 years, some suggest that only that kind of volume can provide today's readers with a reliably complete and coherent translation.

This is responded to by revealing that early copies of the New Testament and portions thereof number in excess of 24,000, not merely 600 plus; and the earliest copy perhaps only twenty-five years removed from its autograph, not a whopping 500 years. 9 Therefore, the possibility that a vital inclusion was commonly lost, missed, or destroyed among each of 24,000 manuscripts is virtually zero, far too small to threaten confidence in the completeness of the existing canon.

5.5 What about the existence of secret books?

What about the existence of secret books or subsequent biblical texts as claimed by various persons and religions?

Invariably, all such discoveries and secret revelations have thus far proven to be inconsistent with the confirmed Word of God. The Gospel of Thomas is an example of this. Such a document, produced 300 years after the final apostle died, cannot come along contradicting the uniform testimony of all previous sixty-six books of the Bible and claim to be number sixty-seven. You can be certain no such writing has been "wrongfully overlooked" for inclusion into the canon.

Note that the prophets and apostles partly claimed authority for their oral and written teachings on miracles they were enabled to work or prophecies they were granted to give. Remember that it was their writings which were found to have been inspired by God that were collected together into the Bible, not just any pleasant thought or novel idea that some person had to offer.

Furthermore, most cultic literature always claims to supersede the Bible and seeks to establish its own private organization as the true avenue of proper living. In anticipation of such counterfeit claims, biblical authors included criteria by which to judge all writings, even their own. Paul confronted the churches of Galatia thusly:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel - which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!

...Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:6-8, 10-12)

Paul, of course, was not the first author to protect the revelation that God has given humanity. The very first author in the Bible, Moses, includes one of the initial warnings against altering divine communications:

Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you... See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may follow them... (Deut. 4:2, 5a NASB)

As the first author gives us warning, so the last author, John, similarly shares God's prohibition against inclusions to the book which he penned: the apocalyptic book of Revelation:

I warn everyone who hears the words of prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. (Rev. 22:18-9 NASB)

Clearly the Old Testament has remained intact and without extraneous inclusions since hundreds of years before Christ. The New Testament has remained complete itself for over 1,600 years. But just as the previous turn-of-the-century saw a rash of new religions sporting lost gospels and their own revelations, so might the next. That may or may not happen, but of one thing we can be sure: we today possess the complete and unaltered Word of God.



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The previous chapter provided a list of biblical books and the dates written.

This section responds to the follow up questions, "Are there any more books? Can there be?"

5.1 The Old Testament
5.2 The New Testament
5.3 After the Apostles
5.4 Open to furure inclusions?
5.5 Secret books?