Saturday, February 28, 2015

P17-Why the Bible has 66 Books and no lost books - Understanding the so-called "lost books" & "lost gospels"

Matthew 5:18 “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.


This current series of posts is dedicated to introducing the reader to various subjects related to the significance, authority and history of the Bible. The question or phrase "why the Bible" is at the heart of this series and it is hoped that the reader has been not only informed but perhaps had developed a greater appreciation for the Bible as God's Word. In yesterday's post we dealt with the subject of the Apocrypha and their relationship to the 66 books of the Bible. Today we will briefly focus on another collection of books that some people mistakenly call "the lost books of the Bible" but are in the technical literature of Old and New Testament studies referred to as the "Pseudepigrapha" (meaning false writings). More will be said of these terms in a moment. 

Why the so-called "Lost Books of the Bible" are not lost books of the Bible
I remember when I first became a Christian I had a relative who had also converted at about the same time as myself. One day my family and I went to his home for a visit, and I noticed a curiously titled book in his collection called "The Lost Books of the Bible". As I began to thumb through that volume, I ran into "The Book of Adam and Eve" and the "Book of Abraham" and other books supposedly written by famous biblical characters.

It must be remembered: not one inspired Book of the Bible has ever been lost
Some people today are saying that there are other books other than the 66 books that should had made it into our Bibles. Has all the books that God the Holy Spirit inspired made it into the Bible? Are there "lost books" of the Bible? It will be the contention of this blog that due to the nature of these "so-called" lost books, the dates of their composition and their corrupt theology, that we can confidently say that not one inspired book of the Bible has ever been lost. After all, its hard to have so-called "lost books" that  were neither ever lost nor part of the canonical, inspired 66 books of the Bible from the beginning.

What are these "so-called" Lost Books of the Bible
We saw yesterday that in the time period between the Old and New Testaments, the Jewish people began to write non-inspired devotional and historical works that collectively are called "The Apocrypha". As one digs more into what the Jewish people were thinking during that time, many curious questions were being asked. Many folks speculated about details not spoken of in the Bible. Thus between 200 B.C to almost 200 A.D the Jews composed a collection of Books under the assumed names of Biblical people.

In the scholarly community the "Lost Books" of the Bible are known by the weird name "Pseude-pigrapha" (soo-de-pi-grafa), meaning "false-writings". Much like the Apocrypha, this collection of writings were immedately rejected as non-inspired. The number of these books number in the dozens, and below some of their names are mentioned for reference:
1. The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs (supposed writings by Jacob's Twelve Sons)

2. The Books of Adam, Eve and Noah (Alleged records written by Adam, Eve and Noah)

3. The Book of Enoch (A long book recording the supposed revelations of the pre-flood prophet Enoch)

4. The Book of Abraham (you guessed it, supposedly written by Abraham)

These books were in a sense, the fiction of their day. Though this may be a poor analogy, it serves to illustrate how the Jewish people may had regarded these works. People were speculating about things in the Bible that they did not understand. What these Pseudo-pigrapha did was to fill in a curiosity gap and an entertainment gap. But even more-so, the people of God had not heard a fresh revelation for 400 years. Thus they began to write these books in an attempt to deal with the pain of God's silence. Unfortunately, by assuming the names of Biblical characters, the Pseudo-pigrapha were written under false pretenses.

Though popular in their day, these books were never regarded as inspired by God
By the days of Jesus, the Jews would had been well aware of the existence of these books (much like today's New York Times Best Sellers or popular Christian Authors). However the doctrines being communicated by these books was even more radical than that of the Apocrypha. The extreme figurative language and at times non-sensical nature of these books made it easy to see their counterfeit nature. Furthermore, these books as a collection taught for instance that angels were not just merely created beings, but in some cases could do similar things to God. Also too, claiming to be written by biblical characters, when it was clear in many cases that they were not, demonstrates a lack of regard for the scriptures.

A quick word on the supposed "lost gospels" or New Testament Pseudepigrapha
From time to time the reader may hear in the news the supposed discovery of a "new gospel" that never made it into our New Testaments. In part we have mentioned the Gnostics and some of the writings they produced in the century following the passing of the apostles in the first century. Early church fathers such as Irenaeus of Lyons (180 A.D) made a catalogue of these false Gospels that were circulating around the Medditeranean world (such as the Gospel of Phillip, Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Judas, etc). Consequently, these writings are sometimes also called "Pseudepigrapha due to their use of famous names of Apostles by their otherwise anonymous writers. I won't take the time here to detail these works but only mention them to alert the reader to the fact that these writings are not "new" (they have been known from the early days of the church) nor are they Gospels (they have no "good news" of salvation, only philosophical musings of the Gnostics). 

Why there are no "Lost Books of the Bible", just more books of men
As Jesus said in the opening verse of today's post, not one word of God will ever pass away. Not only did God the Holy Spirit work with the 40 human authors of scripture to produce each and every Bible book, He also guaranteed that not one would be lost. If we were to unearth an alleged book today written by The Apostle Paul, Peter or the Prophet Isaiah, we could say with utmost confidence that the book would be non-inspired. Why? Because God had fixed the number of books He chose to inspire, as well as the time periods in which they were written (Hebrews 1:1-2) God has even guaranteed His people that with the sending of the Holy Spirit, they would have the guidance they need to discern what is the truth of God versus the words of men. (John 16:13) Psalm 119:89 tells us plainly: "Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven." There are no "lost books of the Bible", whether we are talking about the works written in between the testaments or the Gnostic literature passing itself off as so-called "gospels". There are the books of God (i.e the 66 books of the Bible) and then there are books of men (The Pseudipigrapha, Apocrypha and any other piece of religious literature). May we be discerning as we answer the question: "Why the 66 books of the Bible?" with the affirmation: "because they alone are God's Word(s)". 

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