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