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Reliability and Canonicity of the Old Testament

July 2, 2019

Old Testament Survey Series in the Koinonia Adult Bible Fellowship (ABF) at Cornerstone Baptist Church: Lesson One

Reliability and Canonicity of the Old Testament

1.         Starting point: Spiritual truths are only accessible with divine help: 1 Corinthians 2:6-16.

            a.         1 Corinthians 2:9 quotes Isaiah 64:4

2.         Discussion Question: What are some of the challenges, criticisms, questions and concerns about the relevance, reliability, content and message(s) of the Old Testament?

            a.         Textual Criticism: What words were in the original text?

            b.         Linguistic Criticism: What do/did the original words and phrases mean?

            c.         Literary/Heremeneutical Criticism: What was context, genre, audience, purpose? What were the cultural and historical influences and perspectives?

            d.         Redaction Criticism: How was the text compiled and copied, and what influences and motivations were involved?

            e.         Canonical Criticism: What does the text contribute toward the canon of scripture?

            f.         Theological Criticism: What does the text have to say about the attributes of God? How does the text cohere with the rest of the canon with respect to an understanding of God?

3.         Responding to Textual Criticism: What extra-biblical evidence corroborates the reliability of the Old Testament text?

            a.         From the days of Ezra, the priests and scribes carefully copied and preserved the sacred text (see J. Warner Wallace, “Establishing the Reliability of the Old Testament: A Trustworth Process of Transmission”).

                        i.         The copying process was very precise. For example, the scribes were required to count the number of lines, letters, and words per page of the new copy and compare that count with the count of the original page.

            b.         The Dead Sea Scrolls

                        i.         Over 800 scrolls, containing 225 copies of biblical books that existed in the first through third centuries BC, including 38 of the 39 books of the Old Testament.

                                    (1)       These scrolls provide textual critics with ancient manuscripts against which they can compare modern texts for accuracy. The correspondence and accuracy is astounding.

            c.         Other archeological discoveries

                        i.         E.g., The oldest OT manuscript discovered so far is a fragment of the priestly blessing from Numbers 6:24-27 found in a silver amulet near Jerusalem dating to the 7th century B.C. (2600 years old!)

            d.         Consider: What we have in light of the realities of ancient manuscripts: (a) deterioration of papyrus or leather manuscripts; (b) war (including the destruction and burning of Jerusalem twice during the Old Testament period and again in 72 AD); and ritual burial of copied manuscripts to avoid defilement by pagans.

4.         Responding to Canonical Criticism: What extrabiblical evidence corroborates the canonicity of the Old Testament text (i.e., Law, Prophets and Writings)?

            a.         Dead Sea Scrolls also attest to the canonicity of the Old Testament.

                        i.         Document 4QMMT refers to the “book of Moses, the books of the Prophets, and David (law, prophets, and writings).

            b.         References to the Law, the Prophets and other books three times by the grandson of Jesus ben Sirach in the prologue to the apocrypha book Ecclesiasticus. The grandson translated the Old Testaments manuscripts from Hebrew to Greek (about 130 BC).

            c.         Philo, a Jewish philosopher who lived around the time of Christ, referred to the laws, the prophets and the psalms and other devotional writings.

            d.         Various records in the Talmud(s) and the Mishna achknowledge the understanding that the Jewish canon (Old Testament) was closed after Micah and 2 Chronicles (400 BC).

5.         The Old Testament’s Claims of Inspiration

            a.         Over 3,000 times the Old Testament writers affirm divine guidance in their writings.

                        i.         E.g., Exodus 4:12; 2 Samuel 23:2; Jeremiah. 1:7, 9

6.         The New Testament’s Affirmation of the Old Testament

            a.         The New Testament refers to the Old Testament as “Moses and the Prophets”: Luke 16:29, 31; Luke 24:7, 44; John 1:45; Acts 26:22; Acts 28:23.

            b.         The New Testament refers to the Old Testament as “The Scriptures”: Matthew 21:42; Matthew 22:29; Luke 2:22-24; Luke 24:32; John 5:29; Acts 17:2,11; Acts 18:24; Romans 1:2,3; 2 Timothy 3:15; 2 Peter 3:2.

            c.         The New Testament affirms the inspiration of the Old Testament, including the way the Old Testament points to Jesus Christ: Luke 24:44; John 5:46; Acts 10:43

                        i.         Some passages are direct quotes from God (e.g., Exodus 20:1-17);

                        ii.        Jesus quotes the Old Testament as the Word of God: Matt 5:18; Mark 12:35; John 10:35

                        iii.       The New Testament recognized the Old Testament canon of Scripture: 2 Cor. 3:14

7.         Conclusion

            a.         The Bible is a gift from God. Pray for greater insight and appreciation (Ephesians 1:18)

            b.         Don’t expect unbelievers to “buy into” the Bible; instead pray that the Holy Spirit would open their eyes. Acts 26:18

            c.         By God’s grace, extra-biblical evidence refutes textual criticism and canonical criticism.

            d.         The Old Testament claims to be inspired by God, and the New Testament affirms this.

                        i.         If you accept the facts of creation and the Resurrection, the entire Bible is validated by Christ the Son of God.

8.         Closing Prayer: Psalm 119:97-104

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