Were books left out of the Bible?

Over 100 years before Christ was born, all 39 books of the Old Testament had been written, collected, and officially recognized as God’s inspired Scripture (canonized) by the Jewish leaders. By the late 300s the 27 books of the New Testament were recognized as God-inspired. But were there some good spiritual writings that were perhaps God-inspired but were overlooked or excluded from the official Bible? If so, why? And why isn’t God still inspiring people to write his Word today?

What Is “Inspiration”?

There are many people throughout history who have written spiritually inspiring books and letters. But there is good reason they are not considered equal to Scripture. And it is true that the Holy Spirit is alive today and does guide people to write inspiring literature. But Jewish and church leaders long ago concluded that the period of what is called God’s special revelation and inspiration is past.

God spoke directly through his Old Testament prophets in times past to reveal himself. The New Testament writer of the book of Hebrews said, “Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2). And once God delivered his complete message through his prophets he “closed the book” on the Old Testament. By as early as the 300s BC, all the 39 books of the Old Testament were considered to be the complete revelation of God to the Jewish people.

Jesus confirmed the completeness and authority of the entire Hebrew Scriptures (the 39 books of our current Old Testament) when he said that “everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and in the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44). Jesus was referring to the entire Hebrew Old Testament. Nor did he ever cite any books other than the current 39 books of the Old Testament to indicate there was any other literature that was also God-inspired. And by using the phrase “all the Scriptures” (Luke 24:27 nlt) in regard to the Old Testament he showed that he accepted the same completed Jewish canon as did Judaism at that time.

The New Testament centers around the revelation of God through his Son, Jesus Christ, as written by his apostles. Obviously the best and most accurate writing about Jesus and all he revealed would be done by those who were in direct contact with him. Thus the men inspired by God to reveal the truth about his Son and his message would either be eyewitnesses or would know those who had personally heard the message of the gospel. By the end of the first century it became clear to the early church that God’s special revelation and inspiration of Scripture was complete.

So the “inspiration” God gives writers today is not a special revelation of himself, but a reflection of what has been given in inspired Scripture. By comparing what people write and teach today with Scripture, we can know if it is in fact the truth of God.

The Apocrypha

Yet early on there were some writings that emerged that some thought might be “God-breathed” Scripture. After the Old Testament canon had been recognized by Jewish leaders and officially closed, certain literature of a spiritual nature remained or appeared. Today these writings are referred to as the Apocrypha, which means “that which is hidden.”

There were 14 books that some people added to the 39 canonized books in the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament. These 14 books—the Apocrypha—were not accepted by the early church, but they were eventually included in the Old Testament by the Roman Catholic Church in AD 1546.

These added books surfaced between about 200 BC into the second century AD.[1] They are

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What Does the Bible Say About Purgatory?

My mother was a cultural Catholic for many years, and although she was quick to identify herself with Catholicism, she had a limited knowledge of the Church’s teaching. Worse yet, she wasn’t yet a robust Bible reader. When I eventually became a Christian, I found myself examining several claims of Catholicism to see if they were true. Catholics believe in purgatory, “a place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God's grace, are, not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions.” The notion of purgatory assumes many of us die with unforgiven sins that need to be purged from our account; some of us are not good enough to go to heaven, but not bad enough to go to hell. Purgatory, therefore, is a temporary, intermediate place (or state of being) where good deeds and works can be performed in order to purge our impurity prior to our final destiny with God. Although millions of Catholics believe purgatory to be a reality, the idea needs to be tested in light of the Scripture. Is purgatory something we, as Bible believing Christians, should accept as true?

The evidence from the New Testament simply does not support the existence of purgatory. In fact, the Biblical doctrine of Salvation eliminates the need for purgatory:

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Where did the Bible Come From?

Today, the Bible, containing the Old Testament and New Testament, is the most widely circulated book in history. It has been translated into more than 2400 languages, and its distribution reaches into the billions. But where did this extraordinary book come from? Who wrote it and when?

The Old Testament

The Old Testament portion of the Bible was written in the Hebrew language, except for a few passages that were written in Aramaic. It was written over a period of about a thousand years. The first person the Bible identifies as its writer is Moses. He is credited with authoring all of its first five books. The date of Moses’ writing is considered to be during what is known as the late Bronze Age (1500s–1200s BC). The accounts of creation, Noah and the flood, Abraham’s journeys, and so on were likely passed down orally from one generation to another. It is also possible that hundreds of years before Moses, Abraham may have written down what his great-great-grandfathers knew about the early stories of creation. But it was Moses who compiled those early narratives.

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Why Jesus Died So Quickly on the Cross

Of the many non-Christian explanations for the Resurrection, the “Swoon Theory” is amongst the most popular. If Jesus didn’t really die on the cross, His alleged “resurrection” is really nothing more than a remarkable “resuscitation”.  Those who doubt Jesus’ death often point to the short amount of time Jesus spent on the cross prior to dying. Victims of crucifixion typically died slowly as a result of their pain, exposure to the environment, and lack of food or water. But Jesus only spent six hours on the cross; his rapid death was unusual given that some historical references to crucifixion describe it as lasting several days. Even the Biblical account describes Jesus early death as an exception. The Apostle John said the two criminals crucified alongside Jesus were still alive six hours after they were crucified so “the soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other” to make sure they would die before the Sabbath (John 19:31-34). Why then, did Jesus die so quickly on the cross? Can we be sure he died at all?

Jesus pre-crucifixion experience was unusual given His identity and claims. As we review the chronology prior to the crucifixion, we begin to understand why Jesus died so quickly on the cross:

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Why the Resurrection Matters

Sorry to rain on your Easter parade, but most people in the world don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead. That shouldn’t surprise you since less than a third of the people living today claim to be Christians. But even among self-proclaimed Christians, the number of Jesus-rose-from-the-dead believers is shrinking.

With packed churches on Easter and the proliferation of Christian apologetics books (The Case for Jesus anyone?), you would think a growing number of people would be convinced that Jesus is alive. But just the opposite seems to be true. I have a theory as to why this is, but I’m saving it for the last couple of paragraphs (feel free to read ahead if you’re short on time).

Actually, doubts about the resurrection have been around since that first Easter morning. Current day agnostics like Bart Ehrman, the fundamentalist Bible college student turned agnostic professor of religion, may think they have developed an original “Jesus is not God and He didn’t rise from the dead” shtick, but they’re wrong. These scholar/skeptic types who badly want to keep Jesus in the grave are following a 2,000-year-old narrative.

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Why Does Christianity Hang its Hat on Jesus' Resurrection?

Some Christian leaders and pastors make the resurrection of Jesus central to Christianity. Others say that it’s almost as if such people believe that Jesus dying for our sins wasn’t enough. And isn’t Christ’s death on the cross the central issue of Christianity, not his resurrection? Because it is Jesus’ death that redeems us, right?

There is a reason Jesus’ resurrection is so central to the Christian faith. It is not an optional article of faith—it is the faith! The resurrection of Jesus Christ and Christianity stand or fall together. One cannot be true without the other. Belief in the truth of Christianity is not merely faith in faith—ours or someone else’s—but rather faith in the risen Christ of history. Without the historical resurrection of Jesus, the Christian faith is a mere placebo. The apostle Paul said, “If Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless” (1 Corinthians 15:17). Worship, fellowship, Bible study, the Christian life, and the church itself are worthless exercises in futility if Jesus has not been literally and physically raised from the dead. Without the resurrection, we might as well forget God, church, and following moral rules and “feast and drink, for tomorrow we die!” (1 Corinthians 15:32).

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Is there Proof for Jesus as Messiah?

God promised the nation of Israel that he would raise up a descendant from King David who would one day establish a righteous throne forever (see 2 Samuel 7:11-16). The Hebrew word Messiah, the equivalent of the Greek Christ, actually means “Anointed One.” And it was this person who would usher in God’s eternal kingdom on earth.

More than 400 years before Jesus was born there existed over 60 major Old Testament prophecies about this coming Messiah, made over hundreds of years. This is of great historical and spiritual significance, because it is the Messiah who Isaiah prophesied would one day

remove the cloud of gloom, the shadow of death that hangs over the earth. He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign Lord will wipe away all tears. He will remove forever all insults and mocking against his land and people. The Lord has spoken! (Isaiah 25:7-8).

The Evidence of Prophecy

Of course Jesus did claim to be the “Anointed One.” But do the prophesies of the Old Testament confirm that he was actually the Messiah? The answer is yes. It’s as if God gave us a specific way to recognize who the “Anointed One” would be, through what has been called Messianic prophesies.

It seems impossible, but because of these prophecies, out of billions of people born over thousands of years we are able to pinpoint one person in history as the Messiah. It is as if God had an answer waiting for us when we asked, “How will we know who the Messiah is?” Imagine we are having a conversation with God as he uses these prophecies to pinpoint who this Messiah would be.

God begins by saying, “You will know he is the Messiah because I will cause him to be born as an Israelite, a descendent of Abraham” (Genesis 22:18; Galatians 3:16).

“But God,” we protest, “Abraham’s descendants will be many!”

“Then I will narrow it down to only half of Abraham’s lineage and make him a descendant of Isaac, not Ishmael” (Genesis 21:12; Luke 3:23-34).

“That will help, but isn’t that still an awful lot of people?”

“Let him be born from Jacob’s line, then, eliminating half of Isaac’s lineage” (Numbers 24:17; Luke 3:23-34).

“But—”

“I will be more specific. Jacob will have 12 sons; I will bring forth the Messiah from the tribe of Judah” (Genesis 49:10; Luke 3:23-33).

“Won’t that still be a lot of people? Again, we may not recognize him when he comes.”

“Don’t worry! Look for him in the family line of Jesse” (Isaiah 11:1; Luke 3:23-32). “And from the house and lineage of Jesse’s youngest son, David” (  Jeremiah 23:5; Luke 3:23-31). “And then I will tell you where he will be born: Bethlehem, a tiny town in the area called Judah” (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1).

“But how will we know which person born there is the Messiah?”

“He will be preceded by a messenger who will prepare the way and announce his advent” (Isaiah 40:3; Matthew 3:1-2). “He will begin his ministry in Galilee” (Isaiah 9:1; Matthew 4:12-17) “and will teach in parables” (Psalm 78:2; Matthew 13:34-35), “performing many miracles” (Isaiah 35:5-6; Matthew 9:35).

“Okay, that should help a lot.”

“Oh,” God responds, “I’m just getting warmed up. He will ride into the city of Jerusalem on a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9; Matthew 21:2; Luke 19:35-37) “and will appear suddenly and forcefully at the temple courts and zealously ‘clean house’ ” (Psalm 69:9; Malachi 3:1; John 2:15-16). “Why, in one day I will fulfill no fewer than 29 specific prophecies spoken at least 500 years earlier about him! Listen to this:

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Did Jesus Prove He was God?

Jesus claimed to be the Son of God and the only way to God. And he wasn’t being arrogant about it. But did he actually give proof that he was God? How did he back up his claim to deity?

Jesus’ disciples were having a little difficulty understanding just who their Master was and what he was really up to. So he made this statement: “Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of what you have seen me do” (  John 14:11). Here Jesus was appealing to both his authoritative teaching on the kingdom of God and his many miracles in order to substantiate and verify he was in fact God in human form. In regard to miracles, he was in effect saying, “You are finding it hard to believe that I am God in the flesh—well, look how I as creator of all things have complete command of the forces of the universe—the weather, the human body, gravity, life, and death.”

Listen to these words: “I have a greater witness than John,” Jesus said, “my teachings and my miracles. The Father gave me these works to accomplish, and they prove that he sent me” (  John 5:36). “The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me” (  John 10:25 niv). Jesus’ miracles became credible proof that he was who he claimed to be. So let’s look at a few miracles he performed.

But first, what actually is a miracle? It can be defined as a religiously significant intervention of God in the system of natural causes. Some people contend that miracles cannot occur because it is impossible to violate the laws of nature. But those who make this contention assume that nothing exists outside of nature. They believe we live in a closed system.

However, if God exists as the Creator of the universe, then he exists outside of the laws of nature he created. He can thus step into his creation and intervene as he wills. And he has. He entered the sphere of humanity by taking on human form in the person of Jesus. And to give us evidence he was God, Jesus performed miracles.

Here are examples of his miracle-working power from the New Testament, which documents that he was able to: 

  • calm a storm (see Matthew 8)
  • make a mute person speak (see Matthew 9)
  • feed 5000 people with 5 loaves and 2 fish (see Matthew 14)
  • cast out demons (see Mark 5)
  • walk on water (see Mark 6)
  • bring sight to the blind (see Mark 10)
  • make a fig tree wither up by cursing it (see Mark 11)
  • foretell the future (see Mark 14)
  • heal a paralyzed man (see Luke 5)
  • raise a boy from the dead (see Luke 7)
  • heal incurable hemorrhaging (see Luke 8)
  • cleanse lepers (see Luke 17)
  • turn water into wine (see John 2)
  • make the lame walk (see John 5)
  • forgive sin (see John 8)
  • raise a man from the dead (see John 11)
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Was Jesus a Real Person?

In recent years some people have questioned the actual existence of Jesus. Some claim that the idea of a Savior was manufactured by certain people and it ended up becoming a religion.

The problem with this thinking is that there are simply too many biblical and extra biblical writings that attest to the real person we know as Jesus Christ, who lived and died in the first century.

An Untenable Idea

First, it is absurd to believe that in the first century thousands of people would devote themselves to a person who never existed. By AD 100, about 65 years after Jesus had been on earth, there were some 25,000 people who called themselves Christians—named after Christ who they believed in. Many of these Christ-followers were persecuted not just by governments but by family and friends. Some even gave up their lives as martyrs for this person. Would so many people do this for a person who had never lived? And within 200 years (AD 300) the faithful band of Jesus-followers grew to over 20 million.   It is inconceivable that such a large following would have lasted had it been based on a phantom Christ.

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Every Easter Sermon Is Built on the Reliability of the Gospel Eyewitnesses

Christian leaders have been preaching Easter messages for over two thousand years. In fact, the first Christian leaders were eyewitnesses of the Resurrection and their message was, in large part, simply their eyewitness testimony. In the years immediately following the Resurrection of Jesus, the apostles preached in a variety of geographic locations and cultural situations. Wherever they went, they shared the case for the Resurrection. The eyewitnesses built their case directly upon their own personal experiences with the Risen Christ. Thousands of years later, pastors and Christian leaders are still preparing Easter messages, and the reliability of the gospel eyewitness accounts is still critically important.

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