Nov 17, 2008

Canonical Rule #1

Does the scroll (book) speak of Christ? Is it prophetic?

"And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself...And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. " (Luke 24: 27, 44 KJV)

Which books of the Old Testament did NOT speak of the Messiah?

Clearly Esther does not. Some have doubted the inspiration of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs (Solomon) for the same reason.

Levels of Inspiration or Canonicity

Think of a circle with clearly defined rings (boundaries). In the "inner circle" of "inspiration," for the Old Testament, are the five books of Moses, the Penteteuch, or Torah, or "law of Moses."

In the second circle, we would have "the prophets." What books would this include? And, let not our answer be based upon some "canon" that was supposedly being used by Christ, and universally recognized and codified, but solely upon the descriptive title given by Christ.

What books can we put safely into the category of "the prophets"? Surely the ones known as the "twelve." The only questionable ones, besides the ones named above, would be Judges, Kings, Chronicles, Ruth, Daniel, Job, Ezra, and Nehemiah.

First, it is easy to put Daniel and Job into the category of "the prophets," is it not? Jesus called Daniel a prophet (Matthew 24: 15) and certainly Job prophesied of the coming Redeemer (Goel) who would redeem him from death. (Job 19: 23-27)

Next, we can place Judges and Ruth with Samuel, who no doubt authored these books. Further, we can also put Samuel's stamp of approval, along with David's and Solomon's, upon the inspiration of the books of the Kings and Chronicles. Many of these books, in many Jewish collections, were viewed as one book. Further, one can find allusions to the Messiah in the above books.

The book of Joshua could also be placed among the books of the prophets, for he was certainly a prophet and his writings contain both law and prophecy, as well as history.

Also we find their veracity verified by New Testament writers.

Christ, though he put the Psalms in a category all by itself, in the above passage, yet could have placed it in the category of "the prophets," for David is also identified, in scripture, as being a "prophet." Christ no doubt had a reason or reasons, for so doing.

First, not all the Psalms were written by David, but included those written by Moses and Solomon, the former being a prophet, while the latter was not. Also, not all the Psalms were messianic or prophetic. Since Christ put the Psalms into a category all its own, so, we will make the Psalms to be the third circle of inspiration.

This leaves only Ezra and Nehemiah, which were often viewed as one book (as did Josephus, who, like many Jews, believed that there was to be only 22 books, for there are only 22 letters to the Hebrew alphabet).

This really brings us to the fourth circle of inspiration, which we will call "the holy writings," or the "other writings," or sometimes as simply "the writings." These would include the inspired historical books of Kings and Chronicles, and of Ezra and Nehemiah, but they will also include what may be appropriately called the "Wisdom" and Romance books.

The Wisdom literature takes in two of the writings of Solomon, excepting his psalm writing, which are the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. His contribution to the "Romance" category would be, of course, his "Song of Songs." Some would put Ruth and Judges into the category of either historical or romance, but I think they should be placed into the prophetic, into the messianic, being properly part of the entire prophetic writings of Samuel.

None of these historical books can be strictly called "messianic." They are much like the books of Kings and Chronicles, and properly called "historical." They are to be seen as accurate and trustworthy histories and are in this sense "inspired" or "of God," but still not of the kind or level of inspiration as the prophetic books which all speak of the Messiah. The same is true for the "Wisdom" and "Romance" writings. These historical books, together with the "Wisdom" and "Romance" books, are to be received as composing the fourth circle.

Then where would we put the book of Esther? Is it historical? Is it an inspired novel? Certainly it is not messanic and therefore would not pass the first test of canonicity, given by Jesus above. Would we put it in the same circle with the other historical and romance writings?

There are those who have, historically, sought to place other books into these various circles of inspiration. These would include books called "Apocryphal."

How can we judge the inspiration, truthfulness, correctness, and reliability of these books? How do they stand up to the first rule of inspiration and canonicity? The messianic rule?

We will look upon these questions in a future posting.

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