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Missing Books of the Bible

where are they?
by James Denison, Ph.D. , Senior Pastor of Park Cities Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas

Are there missing books of the Bible? In The Da Vinci Code, historian Teabing calls the creation of the Bible "The fundamental irony of Christianity!" and asserts, "The Bible, as we know it today, was collated by the pagan Roman emperor Constantine the Great" (p. 231). If this is true, the Bible we have today was produced by a process which occurred around AD 325. Let's look at the actual facts.

The Old Testament canon was finalized by two councils held at the city of Jamnia, one in AD 90 and the other in AD 118. The actual books which compose our Old Testament were in wide use for centuries before, and in fact had been translated into Greek 200 years before these councils met. They in no sense "created" the Old Testament. And they completed their work two centuries before Constantine.

Perhaps Teabing means the canonical process of the New Testament. Here the facts are just as damaging to his case.

Missing books of the Bible - what are they?

The early Christians quickly developed four criteria for accepting a book as Scripture. First, it must have been written by an apostle or based on his eyewitness testimony. Second, the book must possess merit and authority in its use. For instance, The First Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus Christ tells of a man who is changed into a mule by a bewitching spell but converted back to manhood when the infant Christ is put on his back for a ride (7:5-27). In the same book, the boy Jesus causes clay birds and animals to come to life (ch. 15), stretches a throne his father had made too small (ch. 16), and takes the lives of boys who oppose him (19.19-24). It was easy to dismiss such fiction.

Third, a book must come to be accepted by the entire church, not just a single congregation or area. And last, a book must be approved by the decision of the larger church, not just a few advocates.

Here is how this process unfolded. In the first century, a number of books were soon produced in response to the ministry of Jesus. As an example, Peter told his readers, "[Paul] writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do to the other Scriptures, to their own destruction" (2 Peter 3:16). Thus Peter considered Paul's writings to be "Scripture."

Other less reputable books began to appear as well. Among them was the Protoevangelion, purporting to supply details of the birth of Christ; two books on the infancy of Christ, one claiming to be written by Thomas; and the Gospel of Nicodemus, sometimes called the Acts of Pontius Pilate. However, by the mid-second century only Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were accepted universally by the church. The other "gospels" simply did not meet the four criteria for acceptance set out above.

Note that this process was completed two centuries before Contantine. For example, in AD 115 Ignatius referred to the four gospels of our New Testament as "the gospel"; in AD 170, Tatian made a "harmony of the gospels" using only these four; around AD 180, Irenaeus referred to the four gospels as firmly established in the church.

The Muratorian Canon was established around AD 200, representing the usage of the church at Rome at that time. The list omitted James, 1 and 2 Peter, 3 John, and Hebrews (all due to authorship questions), though these were soon included in later canons. It excluded all gospels but the four in our Bible today. And it did so more than a century before Constantine.

Missing books of the Bible are not really missing at all

The New Testament list we use today was set forth by Athanasius in A.D. 367. His list was approved by church councils meeting at Hippo Regius in 393 and Carthage in 397. Again, these decisions did not create the New Testament. They simply recognized what the Church had viewed as Scripture for generations. And Constantine had nothing to do with these decisions. I checked several histories on the Council of Nicaea, where Teabing says the emperor created the Bible, and could find no connection whatever.

F. F. Bruce was one of the world's foremost authorities on the creation of the Bible canon. His opinion should be considered: "One thing must be emphatically stated. The New Testament books did not become authoritative for the Church because they were formally included in a canonical list; on the contrary, the Church included them in her canon because she already regarded them as divinely inspired, recognizing their innate worth and generally apostolic authority, direct or indirect. . . . what these councils did was not to impose something new upon the Christian communities but to codify what was already the general practice of those communities."

Excerpted from:
Denison, James C. "The Real Painter of the Gospel: The Da Vinci Code in the Light of History"
Feb 2006. pp 5-6

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