By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)
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In this lesson, we will be continuing our study of the alleged “lost books of the Bible.”
Throughout the Old Testament, there are many passages which mention books which are not found in the Bible.
A partial list would include the following:
The Book Of The Wars Of Yahweh (Numbers 21:14)
The Book Of Jasher (Joshua 10:12-13)
The Acts Of Solomon (I Kings 11:41)
The Acts Of Samuel The Seer (I Chronicles 29:29)
The Acts Of Gad The Seer (I Chronicles 29:29)
The Acts Of Nathan The Prophet (I Chronicles 29:29)
History Of Nathan The Prophet (II Chronicles 9:29)
Visions Of Iddo The Seer (II Chronicles 9:29
The Acts Of Jehu Son Of Hannai (II Chronicles 20:34)
Acts Of The Seers (II Chronicles 33:19)
Midrash Of The Prophet Iddo (II Chronicles 13:22)
The Chronicles Of The Kings Of The Medes And Persians (Esther 10:2)
Paul’s Letter To The Laodiceans (Colossians 4:16)
What are we to make of this?
Are there books which should be in the Bible, but which aren’t?
That is certainly the claim made by many people.
Let’s carefully study these matters.
One: Just Because The Bible Alludes To A Non-Canonical Source Does Not Therefore Imply That Said Source Is Inspired
There are several times in the Scriptures where non-inspired writings are referenced and alluded to.
Matthew 5:21-“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’
Matthew 5:27-“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY.
Matthew 5:31-“Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’
Matthew 5:33-“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’
Matthew 5:38-“You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.
Matthew 5:43-“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’
“Jesus used the phrase ‘You have heard that the ancients were told,’ or a similar one, to introduce each of the six corrective illustrations He gives in this part of His sermon (see vv. 21, 27, 31, 33, 38, 43). The phrase has reference to rabbinical, traditional teaching, and in each illustration Jesus contrasts that human teaching with the divine Word of God. The examples show ways in which God’s righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees (see v. 20)…Jesus is not modifying the law of Moses, the teaching of the Psalms, the standards of the prophets, or any other part of Scripture. The essence of what He has just said in verses 17-20 is (1) that His teaching stands firmly in agreement with every truth, even every word, of the Old Testament, and (2) that the Jewish religious traditions did not…The rabbis of past generations were often called the ‘fathers of antiquity,’ or ‘the men of long ago,’ and it is to them that ‘the ancients’ (vv. 21, 33) refers. Jesus was contrasting His teaching-and the true teaching of the Old Testament Scriptures themselves-with the Jewish written and oral traditions that had accumulated over the previous several hundred years and that had so terribly perverted God’s revelation.” (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 7025-7066 (Kindle Edition); Chicago, Illinois; Moody Press)
Jesus quotes from the rabbinical writings and traditions of his day, demonstrating both a familiarity with these teachings and a clear contrast between them and the Word of God.
Consider the example of the Apostle Paul:
1 Corinthians 15:33-Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.
Paul here quotes from a pagan source:
“Although Paul is quoting an Old Testament text (albeit without a quotation formula to explicitly mark it as such), it is not necessarily important for his readers to recognize it as a scriptural quotation (I Corinthians 15:32 quoting Isaiah 22:13, M.T.). The sentiment expressed in the line is widespread in both the Jewish and Greco-Roman worlds…”Paul now moves from a biblical text with an anti-Epicurean thrust (vs. 32 b) to a quotation from the third-to-fourth century Athenian dramatist Meander: ‘Do no be misled; bad company corrupts good character.’ …The epigram from Meander’s Thais was a popular one in Paul’s day and would probably have been known to any educated Corinthian.” (Roy E. Ciampa & Brian S. Rosner, The First Letter To The Corinthians: The Pillar New Testament Commentary, 791-792 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
Acts 17:28-for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’
“The precise expression is found in the writings of Aratus (270 B.C.); and though not the exact words still the idea is found in the writings of Cleanthes (300-220 B.C.). Cleanthes was a Stoic philosopher, and the sentiment here quoted was directly at variance with the Epicureans’ beliefs. Aratus was a native of Cilcia, the same country Paul was from. This quotation of the heathen poets would at once quicken the attention of the hearers. This was not an illiterate Jew, but a man of culture, acquainted with the thoughts of their own great poets.” (Gareth Reese, Acts: New Testament History, 632; Joplin, Missouri; College Press)
Paul even quotes from pagan prophets!
Titus 1:12-13-One of them, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.
“This phrase is found in the Minos of the Cretan poet Epimenides, a sixth-century B.C. poet of Knossos, Crete, quoted by Callimachus (ca. 300-240 B.C.). Epimenides joked of his own people that the absence of wild beasts on the island was supplied by its’ human inhabitants…Paul occasionally quoted Ancient Greek poets (Acts 17:28).” (Thomas C. Oden, First And Second Timothy And Titus: INTERPRETATION: A Bible Commentary For Teaching And Preaching, 65-66 (Kindle Edition); Louisville, KY; Westminster John Knox Press)
We could also consider the writings of Luke and Jude (as well as other New Testament writers):
Luke 1:1-4-Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.
“The three primary ways of understanding this verb involve Luke’s (1) having studied the various narratives referred to in v. 1, (2) having become acquainted with the things that had been fulfilled (1:1), and (3) having participated in the events. Although the latter interpretation is possible in Acts with regard to the ‘we’ sections, Luke was not interested at this point in establishing his qualifications for writing the second part of his work (Acts) by showing his participation in those events. “This interpretation is also refuted by 1:2, where the author implied that he was not an eyewitness, i.e., he did not participate in the things referred to in his Gospel. It seems best to understand this term (a participle in Greek) in the first sense. “Luke, in describing his credentials for writing his Gospel, claimed he had investigated the various narratives and eyewitness accounts which tell of ‘the things fulfilled.'” (Robert A. Stein, The New American Commentary: Volume 24 Luke: An Exegetical And Theological Exposition Of Holy Scripture, 64 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN; B&H Publishing Group)
Finally, consider Jude:
Jude 1:9-Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”
“The story is reputed to come from a book titled Assumption Of Moses…What we do learn from the traditions compiled by Bauckham is that the devil contested Moses’ ‘right to an honorable burial,’ charging him with the of Egyptian…”Jude’s reference to a noncanonical book is puzzling for many Christians today…These are vexing questions, but we should not draw the conclusion that the citation from a book means that the entire book is inspired. Paul cited Greek poets and sayings without suggesting that the entire work was authoritative Scripture (Acts 17:28; I Cor. 15:33; Titus 1:12).” (Thomas R. Schreiner, The New American Commentary: An Exegetical And Theological Exposition Of Holy Scripture: 1, 2 Peter, Jude (Volume 37); 459-460 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN; B&H Publishing Group)
Clearly, the inspired writers were familiar with non-inspired writings and often quoted them to establish their points.
Just because an inspired writer references a non-inspired work does not mean that he endorses everything which that source endorses.
“Some Mormons try to make much of the fact that the Bible mentions specific books that are not contained in the Bible as Scripture. Luke 1:1, for example, says that “many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us” (emphasis added). There is also a reference to the book of Jasher (Joshua 10:13; 2 Samuel 1:18) and the “book of the wars of the LORD ” (Numbers 21:14). Mormons thus conclude that these are lost books of the Bible, when, in fact, there is no evidence that these books were ever intended to become a part of the canon of Scripture. Simply because a book is cited in the Bible does not mean that the book belongs in the Bible.” (Ron Rhodes & Marian Bodine, Reasoning From The Scriptures With The Mormons, 139-140 (Kindle Edition); Eugene, Oregon; Harvest House Publishers)
Two: The Alleged “Lost Books” Mentioned In The Old Testament Were Clearly Not Considered Canonical
The second thing to consider regarding these alleged “lost books” is that the Prophets and Apostles (as well as the Hebrews overall) clearly did not consider them Divinely inspired.
How do we know this?
Very simply, because they did not include them in the canon of Scripture. This immediately tells us that the books were not of canonical status.
Now, this does not mean that the aforementioned books do not contain anything worthwhile; indeed, it is precisely because they do include important information that they are mentioned by the inspired Prophets and Apostles.
However, simply because a document told the truth about some historical fact was not enough for it to be considered canonical; on that basis, any authentic and credible history textbook would be on par with Scripture!
“Not all Jewish religious literature was considered canonical by the believing community. There was certainly religious significance to some of the earlier books such as the Book of Jasher (Jos 10:13 ), the Book of the Wars of the Lord (Num 21:14) and others (see 1 Ki 11:41). The books of the Jewish Apocrypha, written after the close of the Old Testament period (c. 400 B.C.), have a definite religious significance but were never considered canonical by official Judaism (see chap. 8). The crucial difference between canonical and noncanonical literature is that the former is normative (authoritative) and the latter is not. Inspired books have divine binding authority on the believer; the latter may have some value for devotion and edification, but they are not to be used to define or delimit any doctrine. Canonical books provide the truth criteria by which all noncanonical books are to be judged. No article of faith may be based on any noncanonical work, regardless of its religious value. The divinely inspired and authoritative books are the sole basis for doctrine. Whatever complementary support canonical truth derives from other books, it in no way lends canonical value to those books. The support is purely historical and has no authoritative theological value. The truth of inspired Scripture alone is the canon or foundation of the truths of faith.” (Norman Geisler & William Nix, From God To Us: How We Got Our Bible, 75-76 (Kindle Edition); Chicago; Moody Press)
As demonstrated in the previous lesson, canonicity was determined primarily by whether or not a Book was written by a confirmed Prophet or Apostle.
As such, the Old Testament canon of Scripture was closed long before the time of Christ. Many ancient sources (such as the first century Jewish historian Josephus) bear witness to this fact.
“The canon was substantially fixed long before Jamnia, and discussions there did not admit certain books into the canon but allowed these books to remain. 2 Additional evidence on the Old Testament canon comes from Josephus, a well- known Jewish historian of the first century….We can draw several conclusions from Josephus. 1. The number of books looked upon as having divine authority is carefully limited to twenty- two. By joining Ruth to Judges and Lamentations to Jeremiah, and remembering that the Jews enumerated their books differently, the twenty- two books mentioned by Josephus are the same as the thirty- nine books in our Bible today. 2. The division of the books is according to a three- part pattern. Although individual books are included in different categories, they form a threefold grouping similar to the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. 3. The time covered in these books is expressly limited. Josephus believed that the canon extended from Moses to Artaxerxes (464- 424 B.C.). This corresponds with the Jewish belief that prophetic inspiration ceased with Malachi, who apparently was a contemporary of Ezra and Nehemiah. 4 This was the period of Artaxerxes. Others indeed wrote later, but their writings are not on a par with the earlier writings. In other words, according to Josephus, the canon is closed. 4. The text of these books is sacred. No one has dared to cancel or alter it, since to every Jew these writings are “decrees of God.” (Neil Lightfoot, How We Got The Bible, 154-156 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Books)
“The Jewish teachers acknowledged that their prophetic line ended in the fourth century B.C. Yet, as even Catholics acknowledge, all apocryphal books were written after this time. Josephus wrote: “From Artaxerxes until our time everything has been recorded, but has not been deemed worthy of like credit with what preceded, because the exact succession of the prophets ceased” (Josephus). Additional rabbinical statements on the cessation of prophecy support this (see Beckwith, 370). Seder Olam Rabbah 30 declares “Until then [the coming of Alexander the Great] the prophets prophesied through the Holy Spirit. From then on, ‘Incline thine ear and hear the words of the wise.’” Baba Bathra 12b declares: “Since the day when the Temple was destroyed, prophecy has been taken from the prophets and given to the wise.” Rabbi Samuel bar Inia said, “The Second Temple lacked five things which the First Temple possessed, namely, the fire, the ark, the Urim and Thummin, the oil of anointing and the Holy Spirit [of prophecy].” Thus, the Jewish fathers (rabbis) acknowledged that the time period during which their Apocrypha was written was not a time when God was giving inspired writings.” (Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia Of Christian Apologetics, 33 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Books)
What’s more, we need to consider that the Prophets of God knew of these books. If these books had been inspired, what would they have done? Undoubtedly, they would have accepted these books into the canon immediately.
Indeed, this was the practice of the people immediately when a Book had been confirmed to have been written by a true Prophet or Apostle:
Deuteronomy 31:24-26-24 So it was, when Moses had completed writing the words of this law in a book, when they were finished, that Moses commanded the Levites, who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying: “Take this Book of the Law, and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there as a witness against you;
Daniel 9:2-in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the LORD through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.
If these “missing books” had been inspired, they would have been readily ushered into the canon by Joshua and the other Prophets and Apostles.
So, the thing to notice here is that these “missing books” of the Old Testament were not considered inspired by God.
Three: The Alleged “Lost Books”Mentioned In The Old Testament May Be Canonical Books Under A Different Name
It will also help us to consider that some of the “missing books” mentioned above may actually be Bible books, under a different name.
One example is in the Book of I Chronicles:
1 Chronicles 29:29-Now the acts of King David, first and last, indeed they are written in the book of Samuel the seer, in the book of Nathan the prophet, and in the book of Gad the seer,
There is strong evidence that this book was actually the combined Books of I & II Samuel, begun by Samuel and completed by Nathan and Gad.
“The only citation to these works is found in 1 Chronicles 29:29. This probably refers to 1 and 2 Samuel, which Talmudic tradition says was written by Samuel until his death (see 1 Samuel 25:1), and was finished by Gad the seer and Nathan the prophet (Rodkinson, 1918, V:45-46). With this explanation, it stands to reason that Ezra was referring to one work (Samuel) by its composite authors—Samuel, Gad, and Nathan. So these three “lost books” probably cite a single, currently existing work, known to us as 1 and 2 Samuel.” (Apologetics Press Staff, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=13&article=66)
As such, some of the “lost books” were undoubtedly Old Testament Books completed by other Prophets and found under a different name.
Four: The Alleged “Lost Books” Mentioned In The Old Testament Were Primarily Used For Historical Corroboration Of Canonical Statements
It is also important to realize that these books are primarily mentioned as historical corroboration of other statements made by the Prophets and the Apostles. Several times we read statements like this:
1 Kings 11:41- Now the rest of the acts of Solomon, all that he did, and his wisdom, are they not written in the book of the acts of Solomon?
1 Kings 14:21-Now the rest of the acts of Rehoboam, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?
2 Chronicles 9:29- Now the rest of the acts of Solomon, first and last, are they not written in the book of Nathan the prophet, in the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite, and in the visions of Iddo the seer concerning Jeroboam the son of Nebat?
These references are simply the inspired Prophets mentioning the various historical sources which confirm and elaborate upon their statements.
“The Book of the Wars of the Lord. This book is quoted in Num. 21:14- 15 (21:17- 18 and 27- 30 may also represent quotations from this book). The part of the book quoted describes the territory conquered by God in behalf of the Israelites. The book was probably a collection of poems that relate the conquest of the land during the time of Moses and Joshua. As the title of the book suggests, the Lord (acting as commander- in- chief) was responsible for the success of the conquest. The Books of Joshua. Joshua wrote one book detailing the allotment of Canaan to the Israelite tribes (Josh. 18:9) and a book similar to The Book of the Covenant listed above (Josh. 24:25- 26). The Book of Jashar (or Upright) A book quoted twice in the OT: Joshua’s poetic address to the sun and the moon (Josh. 10:12- 13) and David’s lament for Saul and Jonathan (2 Sam. 1:17- 27). Others would include Solomon’s words of dedication of the temple (1 Kings 8:12- 13), which the earliest Greek translation attributes to the book of song (Hb. shir) , a transposition of letters of Hebrew jshr or ishr for Jashar. Deborah’s song (Judg. 5) and Miriam’s song (Exod. 15:20- 21) are sometimes seen as part of Jashar. The Book of Jashar probably consisted of poems on important events in Israel’s history collected during the time of David or Solomon. The Book of Jashar is often compared to or identified with The Book of the Wars of the Lord discussed above. The Book of the Acts of Solomon Probably a biographical document that included such stories as Solomon’s judgment between the two harlots (1 Kings 3:16- 28), Solomon’s administrative arrangements (1 Kings 4:1- 19), and the visit of the Queen of Sheba (1 Kings 10:1- 13). Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel Perhaps a continuous journal compiled by scribes from various sources but not to be confused with 1 and 2 Chronicles in the Bible. The writer of 1 and 2 Kings mentions this book 18 times as containing more complete information on the reigns of the kings of Israel (1 Kings 14:19; 15:31; 16:5,14,20,27; 22:39; 2 Kings 1:18; 10:34; 13:8,12; 14:15,28; 15:11,15,21, 26,31). Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah Source similar to the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel , not to be confused with 1 and 2 Chronicles in the Bible. The writer of 1 and 2 Kings mentions this book 15 times as containing more complete information on the reigns of the kings of Judah (1 Kings 14:29; 15:7,23; 22:45; 2 Kings 8:23; 12:19; 14:18; 15:6,36; 16:19; 20:20; 21:17,25; 23:28; 24:5). Books Mentioned in 1 and 2 Chronicles Included are the Book of the Kings of Israel (1 Chron. 9:1; 2 Chron. 20:34), the Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah (2 Chron. 27:7; 35:27; 36:8), the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel ( 2 Chron. 16:11; 25:26; 28:26; 32:32), the Acts of the Kings of Israel ( 2 Chron. 33:18), and the Commentary on the Book of the Kings ( 2 Chron. 24:27)…Many think these titles are references to the same work and refer to it as the Midrash of the Kings. This work may contain the books of the chronicles of the kings of Israel and Judah listed above or at least be very similar in content to them. of King David (1 Chron. 27:24), an untitled work containing the plan for the temple (1 Chron. 28:19), works on the organization of the Levites written by David and Solomon (2 Chron. 35:4), and lamentations for the death of Josiah by Jeremiah and others (2 Chron. 35:25). Book of the Chronicles This is a work that contained genealogies and possibly other historical material (Neh. 7:5; 12:23) but was distinct from 1 and 2 Chronicles. (Phil Logan, ‘Books,’ in Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 8322-8350 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers)
Five: Some Of The Alleged “Lost Books” Mentioned In The Old Testament Were Undoubtedly National Archives And Records Of Kings Which Bore Little Spiritual Significance
Next, consider that many of the alleged “missing books” of the Old Testament were primarily books which would have simply recorded basic facts of the reigns of different kings.
“These sources appear to have been very much like a genre common in Assyria and Babylonia called “chronicles” (or “chronographic texts”), which consisted of lengthy lists of kings. Each year that the king reigned was recorded, usually with a notice of some significant political, military, or religious event. The information in the Mesopotamian chronicles was brief for each king, ranging from two or three words, recording the king’s name and length of reign, to several short detailing highlights for each year of the king’s reign…We should remember, however, that official court records, as those found in Mesopotamia (and presumably in Israel and Judah), did not include the religious evaluations of the kings that we find in 1 & 2 Kings.” (David M. Howard, Jr., An Introduction To The Old Testament Historical Books, 4121-4136 (Kindle Edition); Chicago, Moody Publishers)
Thus, it would not have been necessary to include in the Bible (which deals especially with the spiritual issues of God’s people).
A Grand Conspiracy?
Some believe that these books were once in the Bible, but were removed by the Hebrews because these books cast them in a bad light. However, a little thinking will quickly dispel this notion.
First, if the Hebrews had removed these books from the Old Testament, why didn’t they remove the mention of these books from the rest of the Old Testament?
If there was a conspiracy to get rid of these books from the Bible, why would they leave so many references to the books?
It doesn’t add up.
Second, if the Jews had tried to remove inspired books from the Old Testament, the Prophets of God would have quickly opposed this publicly and powerfully. Indeed, they often stood against the religious elite of their day when they opposed the teachings of God.
This is one of the clear indicators that no such conspiracy took place.
Third, the Jewish people who were faithful to God would have immediately rebelled against their leaders if they had tried to tamper with the canon of Scripture.
Finally, if the Hebrews wanted to remove Bible books from the Old Testament because they cast the Jews in a bad light, then there would not BE an Old Testament. Every Book of the Old Testament at times rebukes the Hebrews for their sinfulness and rebellion against God.
These alleged “missing books” of the Bible were never removed from the Bible for the simple reason that they were never part of the Bible.
The claim that there are “missing books” of the Old Testament is false.
There are non-canonical sources which the inspired Prophets and Apostles at times allude to and reference. Yet these books are not included in the collection of Sacred writings for very good reasons.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
List some non-canonical books mentioned in the Old Testament. _______________________________________________________________________________________________________
When Jesus used the phrase “it has been said” (and equivalent phrases), what did He mean? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Whom does the Apostle Paul quote in 1 Corinthians 15:33? __________________________________
In Acts 17:28, Paul quotes from the pagan philosophers Aratus and Cleanthes. When these did these men live and write? _____________________________________________
Fill in the quotation from Josephus: “From ____________________ until our time everything has been recorded, but has not been deemed worthy of like credit with what preceded, because the exact ____________________ of the prophets ____________.”
What do “the book of Samuel the seer,” “the book of Nathan the prophet,” and “the book of Gad the seer” probably have reference to? ___________________________
What are some evidences against the idea that the Jews deliberately removed the alleged “lost books” from the canon of Scripture because they did not care for the content of these books? _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________