Saturday, August 20, 2011

Then And Now

Let's check out the interior workings of the Bible. I have been doing so many extra-scripture studies because to me it helps to bring the Word alive when I know everything else that was going on at the time!

Jerome (340-420) began his lifestyle of contemplation and rigorous self-denial for religious purposes, as a hermit but found he needed something to occupy his mind. He took up Hebrew and eventually began teaching classes in biblical interpretation. In A. D. 382 he would translate the Old and New Testament from their original languages (Hebrew and Greek) into Latin─what we call the "Vulgate."

The test of canonicity included: (1) the book had to have a history of being used in Christian worship; (2) the book had to be written by an apostle, or associated with an apostle; and (3) the book had to have evidenced power in the lives of believers.

No New Testament. During the entire first century and much of the second century there was no concept of a New Testament canon. Church fathers often quoted from sources that were familiar in tone yet different in the names of the sources. Paul's writings were the most well known and were quoted often, but they were not thought of as scriptural.

The term New Testament was created by Tertullian around the year 200. In an attempt to move the church away from Greek and toward Latin, which has become the preferred language of scholars, Tertullian referred to the writings of the Christian church as Novum Testamentum--a phrase we still employ today. Interestingly Tertullian also coined the term Trinity to refer to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

A New Testament Canon was not looked upon favorably at first. In fact it was through heretical movements that the New Testament came into being as a legitimate part of the Holy Bible. Marcion was a teacher who broke away from the church in Rome. Around A. D. 150 he rejected the Old Testament and instead chose to accept only ten letters from Paul along with the Gospel of Luke as authoritative Christian Scripture.

The Muratorian Canon is named for its discoverer, L.A. Muratori, who first published it in 1740. A fascinating look into the early church, it reveals that by the year 190, Christians had developed their own New Testament and put it alongside the Jewish Scriptures─the former the fulfillment of the latter. It contains in order: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Galatians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Romans, Philemon, Titus, 1 and 2 Timothy, the Apocalypse of John (Revelations), the Apocalypse of Peter, and the Wisdom of Solomon.

Some books of Scripture faced challenges. Christians in the West didn't like Hebrews, while those in the East opposed Revelation. Church historian Eusebuis, writing in the fourth century, noted that James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, and Revelation were the only books "spoken against." Martin Luther would challenge the Book of James in the sixteenth century, calling it "an epistle of straw."

Accepted at last. The Eastern church accepted the New Testament as we know it in A. D. 367 with the 39th Pashal Letter of Athanasius, and the Western church followed suit after Pope Damascus called a synod together in Rome in 382.

The allegorical method of interpretation went to extreme lengths to try to make the Old Testament into a Christian book. Origen, one of the first Christian theologians, believed that "the Scriptures were composed through the Spirit of God and have both a meaning which is obvious and another which is hidden." He then proceeded to create all sorts of allegorical meanings to the Word of God─infuriating his critics, who felt that Origen was crafting theological implications out of thin air.

I hope I didn't cross your eyes too much, but this kind of info is fascinating to me! I'll finish this up in the next lesson!

by Bonnie Calhoun