By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)
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In our last lesson, we learned that the New Testament Scriptures were written by the chosen Apostles of Christ (i.e., those who were given His direct authority by virtue of their office to establish His Law).
These Scriptures constituted the pattern and law for the New Testament church which Jesus established.
The claims of the Apostles were authenticated by miracles of God, and their position was such that they were not able to pass on their special authority as Apostles to others.
In this lesson, we will be learning about the formation of the New Testament canon. We will also be noticing the various conspiracy theories regarding the canon which suggest that there are “lost books” of the New Testament which were purposefully kept out of the canon because of the message they proclaimed. You will learn who the Gnostics were, as well as their teachings and an overview of their “scriptures.”
The New Testament Canon
To begin our study, it is important to realize that the New Testament canon was formed in the same basic way as the Old Testament canon.
“By the close of the first century, the 27 books that compose the New Testament had been accepted by the early church as canonical. The evidence for this is verified by early church history….The truth of the matter is that the early church accepted the Scriptures in much the same way as Israel accepted the Old Testament Scriptures-they believed the Scriptures to be inspired of God…What enabled the early church to accept the canon of the New Testament so readily was the unique position of the apostles. They were the Lord’s companions for most of his ministry, and he trained them for a special mission: world evangelism. Not only were they eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Jesus, but they were endowed with the necessary credentials to establish themselves as God’s spokespersons. The miracles they performed testified to this role.” (Tony Coffee, Answers To Questions Catholics Are Asking, 325-336 (Kindle Edition); Eugene, Oregon; Harvest House Publishing)
When an Apostle of God preached and wrote the Word to the people, it was confirmed supernaturally by God. When this happened, the people of God took that Book and included it into the New Testament canon. Conversely, if a book was not written by an Apostle, Prophet, or their close companion, it was not included into the canon of Scripture.
“The Muratorian Fragment tells us why The Shepherd came to be cut out of the sacred collection that Christians read during times of worship: The Shepherd couldn’t be placed among the Hebrew prophets because the era of Old Testament prophecies had ended (“their number has been completed”). Yet the book didn’t fit among the authoritative Christian writings, either, because with the deaths of the apostolic eyewitnesses, that era had ended too (“it is after their time”)….So what truths can we pick up from our first stop? At least as early as the mid-second century, the standard for determining which writings were authoritative in the church was whether the book represented eyewitness testimony about Jesus. Writings that came after the deaths of these witnesses could not be regarded as universally authoritative in the churches, regardless of how popular these texts might become. Here’s what’s also clear from the Muratorian Fragment: even though Christians disagreed for several hundred years about seven or so writings, the core of the New Testament—including the four Gospels, Acts, Paul’s letters, and at least John’s first letter—was accepted as authoritative no later than the mid-second century, probably earlier…What can we pick up from Serapion’s experiences? Even at the end of the second century, Christians remained open to using previously unknown texts, but only if they could clearly trace these texts to apostolic eyewitnesses of Jesus. 42 What did church leaders do when they weren’t certain whether a text represented eyewitness testimony? They compared the writing to the writings that they had already “received”—to the texts that were universally known to represent apostolic testimony about Jesus.” (Timothy Paul Jones, Conspiracies And The Cross, 1270-1324 (Kindle Edition); Lake Mary, Florida; FrontLine)
Evidence of this abounds from the the early church, and the claim that the early Christians did not know which books were canonical is greatly exaggerated and refuted by the writings of the second century Christians (usually refereed to as the “church fathers”).
“By the end of the first century, some fourteen books of the New Testament were cited. By A.D. 110 there were nineteen books recognized by citation. And within another forty years (A.D. 150) some twenty-four four New Testament books were acknowledged. Before the century ended, which is about one hundred years after the New Testament was written, twenty-six books had been cited….Not only did the early Fathers cite all twenty-seven books of the New Testament, they also quoted virtually all of the verses in all of these twenty-seven books. Five Fathers alone from Irenaeus to Eusebius possess almost 36,000 quotations from the New Testament.2 Sir David Dalrymple claimed to have found among the quotations of the second and third centuries “the entire New Testament, except eleven verses.” (Norman Geisler & William Nix, From God To Us: How We Got Our Bible, 157 (Kindle Edition); Chicago; Moody Press
Some object that the authors of the New Testament Books were unknown (and that therefore these Books are unreliable); yet this objection is palpably false.
The early heretics of the church acknowledge the Apostolic origins of the New Testament Scriptures (and it would have been to their advantage to deny this fact if it were possible).
Further, the earliest adversaries of Christianity (men who used anything at their disposal to try and destroy the church of Christ) freely confessed and acknowledged the genuineness (i.e., true authorship) of these Books.
Speaking of the early Gnostic heretics (and especially the one named Marcion), J.W. McGarvey pointed out:
“His teaching demonstrates the previous general recognition of this Gospel and these ten Epistles, while his antagonism to the other Gospels and the writings in general of the other Apostles, demonstrates the existence of those. Moreover, the ground on which he rejected the latter was not their want of genuineness, but, admitting their genuineness, he denies the apostolic authority of their authors.” (J.W. McGarvey, Evidences Of Christianity, 75 (emphasis added); Indianapolis, IN: Faith And Facts Publishers)
“All the early adversaries of Christianity granted the genuineness of the New Testament books. These adversaries were men of talent and learning. By worldly interests and intense hatred of Christianity they were urged to use against it every possible weapon. The fact that they did not show its sacred books to be spurious is proof that they were not able to do so….”Testimony of Julian. The Emperor Julian composed his work against Christianity in 361. He united talent, learning, power, and persecuting zeal. If anything could have been said against the genuineness of the New Testament he would have been eager to make his attack from this side, but he did not. He bore witness to the genuineness of the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. He concedes their early date and quotes them as the genuine works of their reputed authors. He quotes Romans, Corinthians, and Galatians. His whole attack assumes the genuineness and credibility of the New Testament…”2. Testimony of Hierocles. In 303 he was president of Bithynia; a cruel persecutor, and a sarcastic writer. He concedes the genuineness, and confines his efforts to the hunting up of internal flaws and contradictions. He refers to six of the eight authors of the New Testament. 3. Testimony of Porphyry. He was the most severe and formidable adversary of the primitive church…”He wrote about 270. He was well acquainted with the New Testament. He has plain references to Matthew, Mark, John, Acts, and Galatians. There is no trace of a suspicion that the sacred books were spurious. That he would have made this point, if possible, is evident from the fact that he did attack the book of Daniel in this manner…4. “Testimony of Celsus. He flourished about 176, and about 76 years after the death of the Apostle John. What we know about his work entitled ‘The True Word’ has been preserved by Origen. More than eighty quotations, made by him from the New Testament, have been thus preserved. His whole argument proceeds upon the concessions that the books he quoted were in existence, were held in high esteem by the churches, and were genuine. Thus by a plain and independent path we can trace the New Testament back to the Apostolic Age. It is also a remarkable fact that these bitter enemies are made to bear this unwilling, but decisive, testimony.” Harvey W. Everest, The Divine Demonstration: A Textbook Of Christian Evidence, 54-55; Nashville, TN; Gospel Advocate Company)
There is an abundance of evidence that the New Testament canon was recognized and accepted by the church from her very beginning.
“The question we have been asking in this chapter is a simple one. At what point did Christians consider their own books to be “Scripture”? Was this a late- second- century phenomenon largely due to the influence of Irenaeus, as some scholars suggest? The historical evidence surveyed here suggests a very different picture than the one that is typically presented. Not only do others in Irenaeus’s own time period already receive many of the New Testament books as Scripture (for example, Muratorian Fragment, Clement of Alexandria, Theophilus of Antioch), but this trend can be traced even further back into the second century. Justin Martyr appears to know the four canonical Gospels and indicates that they were used as Scripture in worship alongside the Old Testament during his day. In addition, Papias, Barnabas , Ignatius, Polycarp, 1 Clement , 2 Peter, and 1 Timothy also seem to regard a number of Christian writings as Scripture. They often refer to them expressly as “Scripture” (sometimes introducing them with “it is written”) or regard them as possessing apostolic authority— which, functionally, would be on par with the authority of Scripture. While the boundaries of the church’s Scriptures during this early time were still fairly fluid (and would not be resolved for centuries), there seems to be little doubt that the church did, in fact, have Scriptures…One should also not forget that the evidence above is not just from a single church father, but from a variety of sources spread over a number of different regions. While any individual piece of evidence might be contested or questioned, it is the extent of the evidence that proves to be the compelling factor. If we are correct that Christians began to view their books as Scripture much earlier than Irenaeus— perhaps even by the turn of the century— then this provides noteworthy confirmation of the arguments we have been making throughout this volume. We have argued that canon was not a late ecclesiastical development but was something that would have grown naturally and innately out of the earliest Christian movement. Moreover, we argued that even the authors of the New Testament appeared to have some awareness that they were writing Scripture. All of these factors together serve to challenge the “big bang” theory of canon that argues that the canon was forcibly planted within the soil of the church by later ecclesiastical powers (whether Irenaeus or others) who were keen to refute the heresies of their day. Instead, the evidence we have seen here suggests the canon began more like a seed that was present in the soil of the church from the very beginning, growing gradually and consistently over time.” (Michael J. Kruger, The Question Of Canon: Challenging The Status Quo In The New Testament Debate, 202-203 (Kindle Edition, emphasis added, M.T.); Downers Grove, Illinois; InterVaristy Press)
Others suggest that there are missing Books of the New Testament.
For example, one might ask where the Epistle to the Laodiceans is?
Colossians 4:16-Now when this epistle is read among you, see that it is read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that you likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.
If one searches through the pages of the Bible, he will not find “Paul’s Epistle To The Laodiceans.”
However, the text in Colossians itself makes it clear that this Epistle IS in the Bible-simply under a different name!
As Paul encourages His Letter to be read to the Laodiceans, he encourages them to greet and encourage a brother in Laodicea:
Colossians 4:17-And say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.”
This Archippus was a member of the Lord’s church in Laodicea.
Now, the interesting thing is that there is another letter which Paul wrote to the church, and Archippus is named and encouraged in this letter.
Philemon 1:2-to the beloved Apphia, Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house:
Since Archippus was a member of the church at Laodicea, and since Paul addresses an Epistle to the church where Archippus is a member, then it follows that the Book of Philemon is the Letter to the Laodiceans.
“We may begin with a consideration of the place of Archippus. He appears in both Colossians and Philemon. In Philemon, greetings are sent to Archippus, our fellow soldier (verse 2); and such a description might well mean that Archippus is the minister of the Christian community in question. He is also mentioned in Colossians 4:17: ‘And say to Archippus, “See that you complete the task that you have received in the Lord.” ‘ Now, that instruction comes after a whole series of very definite references, not to Colosse, but to Laodicaea (Colossians 4:13, 4:15, 4:16). Might not the fact that he appears among the messages sent to Laodicaea imply that Archippus must be at Laodicaea too? Why in any event should he get this personal message? If he was at Colosse, he would hear the letter read, as everyone else would. Why has this verbal order to be sent to him? It is surely possible that the answer is that he is not in Colosse at all, but in Laodicaea. If that is so, it means that Philemon’s house is in Laodicaea and that Onesimus was a runaway Laodicaean slave. This must mean that the letter to Philemon was, in fact, written to Laodicaea. And, if so, the missing letter to Laodicaea, mentioned in Colossians 4:16, is none other than the letter to Philemon. This indeed solves problems.” (William Barclay, The New Daily Study Bible: The Letters To Timothy, Titus, And Philemon, 307-308 (Kindle Edition); Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press)
In truth, there are no “missing books” of the New Testament.
The Early Sects Of The Church
Today we often hear that there were “gospels” and other “New Testament books” that were were written by other Christians besides the Apostles.
It is claimed that these books represent more credible testimony than the 27 Books in our New Testament, and that these were deliberately edited out from the Bible by power-hungry church officials from a later era.
What shall we say to these matters?
Let’s start by noticing some of the heretics (sects) of the early church.
There were several different heretical groups which arose early in the church. By “heretical,” reference is made to those who claimed special revelation from God apart from that which the Apostles of Jesus delivered.
Some of these groups were Judaizers in nature (i.e., those who attempted to bind the Old Testament Law on Christians).
Other groups were known as “Gnostics.” The word “Gnostic” is from the Greek word ginosko, which means “knowledge.” Thus, the Gnostics were those who claimed to have special knowledge apart from the Apostles regarding Jesus Christ.
In fact, while there were many different groups of Gnostics (each with their own special doctrines and practices), they all had this one thing in common: each claimed to have new and special revelation from The Lord which the Apostles of Christ did not have access to.
Survey Of Gnostic Texts
The Gnostic groups shared many basic tenants.
Among them was the belief that all matter is evil, that the God of the Old Testament was actually an evil god created by the Pleroma (the true eternal god) and Sophia (one of the goddesses also created by the Pleroma), that Jesus was sent to educate people about this evil god, that people are saved through special and secret knowledge (not through His death and Resurrection), and that those on earth reincarnate into various forms after death.
There are many other unbiblical doctrines which they embraced and taught.
“The basic teachings of Gnosticism that the church called heresy are: There are thirty Aeons ( gods) that exist in the Pleroma, outside time and space. 1 The goddess, Sophia, created the Demiurge, a creator angel (the god of the Old Testament) who was a tyrant ; and being unaware of the Aeons, thought he was the only God. He created man; but Sophia gave man a spirit. 2 Some may be saved if they do enough good works; but some are predestined to go to hell. 4 (works salvation) Gnostics have spirits that are emanations from Sophia. This makes them predestined to be saved. It is imposable for them to lose their salvation. It does not matter if their behavior is good or evil. The most “ perfect ” of them addict themselves to evil deeds and are in a habit of defiling the women they convert. 3 Eventually all matter will be destroyed since matter is evil and not capable of salvation. 9, 6 Gnostics will become spirits and will marry the angels. 9 Christ descended upon Jesus at His baptism and left before Jesus went before Pilate . Sophia would not allow Christ to suffer. 9 (Adoptionism) They utter mantras to effect nature. 10 (Hindu mantra and Kabalistic letter magic, Gramera, and emanations) Souls reincarnate. 32 Perfect knowledge is obtained by baptism, spiritual marriage, and last rites. 5 (Sacramentalism) Sophia sent the serpent (the angel Michael or Samael) into the Garden of Eden to free Eve and Adam. By eating from the tree they attained true Gnosis and were set free. 15 Sophia saved Noah from the flood sent by the evil Demiurge. 15 The Demiurge forced Eve into sexual intercourse many times. Eve thereby gave birth to other evil creator angels. 15 (Serpent Seed) At death, some souls enter an intermediate state to be purged of the animal nature before going into the Pleroma. 17 (Purgatory) (Ken Johnson, Ancient Church Fathers: What The Disciples Of The Apostles Taught, 165-166 (Kindle Edition))
Several Gnostic scriptures were found buried near Nag Hammadi, Egypt in the 1940’s.
“The Nag Hammadi Scriptures is a collection of thirteen papyrus codices— bound books, not scrolls— that were buried near the city of Nag Hammadi in Upper Egypt most likely in the second half of the fourth century CE…In all, there are some fifty- two tractates in the collection of Nag Hammadi codices, and since six are duplicates, there are forty- six different texts…The precise dates of the composition of these texts are uncertain, but most are from the second and third centuries CE.” (James Robinson, in Marvin W. Meyer, The Nag Hammadi Scriptures, 159-1677 (Kindle Edition); Harper Collins E-Books)
A brief review of some of these major books will here be provided.
The Infancy Gospel Of Jesus:
This book was written around 140 A.D.
It describes how Jesus as a young Child used His miraculous powers to hurt, kill, and destroy in capricious ways.
“When this child Jesus was five years old, he was playing by the ford of a stream; and he gathered the flowing waters into pools and made them immediately pure. These things he ordered simply by speaking a word…”Now the son of Annas the scribe was standing there with Joseph; and he took a willow branch and scattered the water that Jesus had gathered. Jesus was irritated when he saw what had happened, and he said to him: ‘You unrighteous, irreverent idiot! What did the pools of water do to harm you? See, now you also will be withered like a tree, and you will never bear leaves or root or fruit…”Immediately that child was completely withered. Jesus left and returned to Joseph’s house…Somewhat later he was going through the village, and a child ran up and banged into his shoulder. Jesus was aggravated and said to him,’ You will go no further on your way.’ And right away the child fell down and died.” (Infancy Gospel Of Thomas 2-4)
Aside from the obvious dating issues (notice that it dates back to well after the time of the Apostles and long after the Eyewitness Period), it demonstrates obvious ignorance of the purpose of the miraculous gifts of God (i.e., to confirm the Word, not to be used in vengeful and whimsical fashion-see John 3:2; 20:30-31; Acts 2:22; Hebrews 2:4).
The Gospel Of Mary:
This book claims to have been written by Mary Magdalene. It contains an alleged discussion between Jesus and Mary regarding the nature of sin, followed by statements of the Apostles that Mary did not actually have conversations with The Lord. Matthew takes up for her, however, and they begin to preach to the people. This dates to the mid-second century A.D.
The Gospel Of Thomas:
This is perhaps one of the earliest Gnostic texts. Most would date the book to around the early to mid second century. The book contains many supposed secret teachings of Jesus to the Apostles.
While many of these teachings borrow directly from the New Testament (more on that soon), most are reminiscent of Gnostic philosophy, including many viewpoints of women which are derogatory and chauvinistic.
Thomas 114-“Simon Peter said to them, ‘Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of life.’ Jesus said, ‘I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven.”
The Second Treatise Of The Great Seth:
This Gnostic books dates to around the third century A.D. It describes how “the Christ” supposedly took possession of Jesus of Nazareth. (Many of the Gnostics believed that Christ and Jesus were two separate individuals, and that at the time of the Crucifixion the Christ forsook Jesus.)
The book (along with other Gnostic texts) supports the Greek belief of reincarnation, as well as their condescending view of women.
For example, this book declares: ”
“And do not become female, lest you give birth to their evils and kindred things: to jealousy and schism, anger and wrath, fear and a divided heart and vain coveting which is not fulfilled.”
The Gospel Of Philip:
This Gnostic book was discovered at Nag Hamaddi Egypt. It is a book which claims (among other things) that the Virgin Birth of Christ is not true.
Philip 17-“Some say Mary was impregnated by the Holy Spirit. They err. They do not know what they say. When did a woman become pregnant by a woman?”
Why The Gnostic Books Were Not Included In The Bible
There are several reasons why the Gnostic books were not included in the canon of Scripture.
One: The Gnostic Books Were Not Accepted As Canonical Because They Were Written Much Later Than The Close Of The Apostolic Age
The main criteria by which an inspired Book was accepted into the canon of Scripture was whether or not it had been written by an inspired Prophet or Apostle. The Old Testament canon had been completed in 408 B.C. (with the Book of Malachi).
The New Testament canon was completed by the end of the Apostolic Age (i.e., when the last Apostle of Christ had died).
“The earliest likely date for the Nag Hammadi scrolls is around A.D. 150 and later, when Gnosticism as a system began to flourish. This date is accepted for the Gospels of Philip and Mary.” (James L. Garlow and Peter Jones, Cracking DaVinci’s Code: You’ve Read The Fiction, Now Read The Facts, 691-695 (Kindle Edition); Colorado Springs, CO; David C. Cook Distribution)
As documented above, the office of Apostle was reserved for a select few, and the Apostle Paul was the last Apostle.
Further, the Apostles of Christ were supernaturally guided into all truth (John 14:26; 16:13); and (as demonstrated above) they wrote down all truth that is necessary for us for life and godliness.
It is also helpful to remember that the second century Christians would not accept any documents into the canon of Scripture which had been written after the death of the Apostles. As such, the Gnostic books were rejected from the Bible (and rightfully so).
Yet how can we be sure that the Gnostic books were written after the Apostolic Age? Do not many of them claim to have been written by the Apostles of Christ? How do we know which are forgeries and which are not?
First, the twenty-seven Books of the New Testament were accepted as genuine and credible; this is irrefutably proven from the testimony of the early Christians, the early heretics, and the earliest and most vehement enemies of Christianity.
Second, the Gnostic scriptures themselves clearly acknowledge that the New Testament Scriptures were already in existence when they were written.
One way this is demonstrated is by the fact that the Gnostic books continually quote from the New Testament Scriptures. Even a casual reading of the Gnostic books will demonstrate that most are saturated with references to the New Testament Scriptures. This is especially evident in the book of Thomas.
“Thomas knows many New Testament writings. Quoting or alluding to more than half of the writings of the New Testament (that is, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, I Thessalonians, I Timothy, Hebrews, I John, Revelation), Thomas seems to be a collage of New Testament and apocryphal materials that have been interpreted, often allegorically, in such as way as to advance late-second-century Gnostic ideas…”The presence of so much New Testament material in Thomas argues for a date well into the second century, when Christians would have had access to more than just a few of the writings that eventually made up the New Testament. Thomas’s familiarity with so much of the New Testament should give us pause before accepting theories of the antiquity and independence of this writing.” (Craig A. Evans, Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort The Gospels, 68-69 (Kindle Edition); Downers Grove, Illinois; IVP Books)
This shows that the New Testament Scriptures clearly predated the writing of the Gnostic scriptures, and that the New Testament was already considered authoritative (which is why the Gnostics were referring to them).
Third, the earliest and most famous Gnostics (such as Marcion) often quoted from the New Testament, yet they never quoted from the Gnostic scriptures.
Obviously because they had not yet been written!
“Secondly, even though Marcion was a heretic whose views were largely compatible with Gnostic teaching, which was gaining a foothold at this time, he only included parts of our New Testament in his list. To be sure, he edited these books heavily to suit his own purposes, but why didn’t he include such works as the Gospel of Thomas or the Gospel of Mary or the Acts of Peter?…”Marcion was certainly exposed to Gnostic ideas, so why didn’t he include any Gnostic writings in his list? The most likely inference is that they did not yet exist. And even if some of them did exist, they would not have been regarded because of their obviously recent vintage…”Marcion could easily have edited any Gnostic work for his own purposes, just as he did the New Testament books. Indeed, his job would have been considerably easier, since he would not have had to cut out nearly as much material!…”The fact that he used only New Testament books for his truncated canon, and mutilated those copies, suggests that even a radical heretic like Marcion knew that these books were already highly regarded.” (J.Ed Komozewski, M. James Sawyer, Daniel B. Wallace, Reinventing Jesus: How Contemporary Skeptics Miss The Real Jesus And Mislead Popular Culture, 126-127 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Kregel Publications
Fourth, the Gnostic books are shown to be from the post-Apostolic era because they were completely unknown by generations of New Testament believers. The early Christians were extremely familiar with the Books of the New Testament. They would usually have these Books read in their church assemblies:
Colossians 4:16-Now when this epistle is read among you, see that it is read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that you likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.
1 Timothy 4:13-Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.
They knew the Scriptures.
All of a sudden, years after the death of the last Apostle, books spring up which claim to have been written by Apostles (but which no one had ever heard of and which were new even to the heretics) and which “coincidentally” taught Gnostic doctrines.
Furthermore, these new books showed obvious familiarity with the New Testament Scriptures, and still taught doctrines clearly condemned by these inspired Writings!
With these factors in mind, it was not very difficult for the early Christians to weed out the Gnostic scriptures as inauthentic forgeries written long after the Apostolic Age.
Two: The Gnostic Books Were Rejected From The Canon Because They Taught Doctrines Which Were Unauthorized By And Condemned By The Bible
Another reason the Gnostic books were clearly rejected is due to the fact that they teach doctrines and ideas which are clearly foreign to the Bible (both Old and New Testaments).
There are many examples we could reference, but consider a few:
The Gnostics Taught That The God Of The Old Testament Was A Created Being Who Is Evil And Capricious
This is one of the most popular Gnostic characterizations of the God of the Old Testament.
Yet the God of the Old Testament claimed to be the one true and eternal God:
Exodus 3:14-And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ”
The phrase “I AM” was used by God to refer to the fact that He is the eternal God: the God Who always has existed, is existing, and Who always will exist.
The Apostles of Christ clearly taught that Jesus is in intimate relationship with this one true God:
John 1:1-In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
When John says that Jesus was “with” God, he was teaching that Christ was in deep, intimate, and eternal relationship with the Father.
“The next phrase of John 1:1 tells us something new about the Word. The Word is eternal, but the Word was not alone in eternity past. “The Word was with God…” Yes, it is the same word “was,” again pointing us to an eternal truth. The Word has eternally been “with God.” What does this mean? Just as Greek verbs are often more expressive than their English counterparts, so too are Greek prepositions…”Here John uses the preposition… The term has a wide range of meanings, depending on the context in which it is found. In this particular instance, the term speaks to a personal relationship, in fact, to intimacy. It is the same term the apostle Paul uses when he speaks of how we presently have a knowledge comparable to seeing in a dim mirror, but someday, in eternity,, we will have a clearer knowledge, an intimate knowledge, for we shall see “face to (pros) face” (1 Corinthians 13:12)..”When you are face-to-face to-face with someone, you have nowhere to hide. You have a relationship with that person, whether you like it or not.5 In John I: 1b, John says the Word was eternally face-to-face with God, that is, that the Word has eternally had a relationship with God.” (James White, The Forgotten Trinity, 51-52 (Kindle Edition); Minneapolis, Minnesota; Bethany House Publishers)
The God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New Testament: such was the continual teaching of Jesus and His inspired Apostles (cf. Matthew 22:29-32; John 3:14-17; Acts 5:30; 7:2, 51-52; 22:14; 26:6; etc.).
Indeed, the goodness of God is manifest throughout nature, as is His unchanging Nature (cf. Matthew 5:44-45; Acts 14:17; Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8).
The Gnostics Continually Looked Down Upon Women
Sadly, the Gnostics adopted the Greek and Roman view of women which claimed that women are inferior to men.
The Scriptures are clear, however, that God elevates and honors women (cf. Genesis 1:26-27; Exodus 20:12; Proverbs 31:10-31; John 4:1-45; Romans 16:1-2, etc.).
While God is neither male nor female, there are passages where He figuratively refers to Himself as both (in order to reach us in whatever station in life we find ourselves in-see Numbers 23:19; Hosea 11:9; Deuteronomy 4:15-16; John 4:24)
“First, we have to understand that the God of the Bible, though called our heavenly Father, has no gender-He has no genitalia, no X or Y chromosomes. God is spirit (see John 4:24), and the mystery of His Person goes way beyond anything thing we humans can imagine. It is in that sense-in terms of His spiritual nature-that the Bible describes us as created “in his image” (Genesis 1:27). He is the Person from whom our “personness” is derived, both male and female. That’s not to say we should describe Him as androgynous. God created male and female genders; they don’t define Him. He created us “male and female” for a number of reasons, one of which was to express in the created universe some diverse elements that reflect His own character. So even while the Bible most often refers to God by masculine names and pronouns (such as “Father” and “he”), sometimes he is compared to a mother holding a newborn or to a hen guarding her chicks (see Matthew 23:37; Isaiah 49:15).” (Paul Jones & James Garlow, Cracking Da Vinci’s Code, 182-185 (Kindle Edition); Colorado Springs, Colorado; David C. Cook)
Gnosticism frowned upon femininity; God the Father, God the Son, God the Spirit, and all of the inspired Prophets and Apostles honored women.
The Gnostics Taught That The Material World Is Evil
The Gnostics were united in their belief that the material world is intrinsically evil.
On the other hand, Scripture is clear that everything which God made (including the physical universe) is “very good” (Genesis 1:31). The Bible is clear that God is going to one day bring about the restoration of all things (Acts 3:19-21) so that there will even be a Day of Resurrection (John 5:28-29; Acts 24:15).
The Gnostics Taught That Salvation Is Not Through The Atoning Death, Burial, And Resurrection Of Christ: Instead They Teach That It Is Through The Accumulation Of Special Knowledge Which Only They Have Access To
Several passages of Scripture remind us that our hope is found in what Jesus accomplished at Calvary:
John 3:14-16-14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Matthew 20:28-just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
1 Corinthians 1:18-For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Colossians 2:14-15-14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.
Hebrews 2:14-15-14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
This is one of the most important themes of the entire Bible!
Yet the Gnostics disregard the very Gospel of Jesus Christ.
There are other differences between the false religions of the Gnostics and the pure and pristine Doctrine which the Lamb of God brought from Heaven (and which is fully revealed in the Bible).
But these are sufficient to demonstrate that these “Gnostic” books (written much later than the age which had the inspired Apostles of Christ) do not belong in the canon of Scripture.
In the final lesson of this Course, we will consider concluding thoughts as we summarize what we have learned throughout.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Name some of the early heretics and enemies of Christianity who acknowledge the genuineness of the New Testament Scriptures. ______________________________________________________________________________________
Who were the Gnostics? __________________________________________________________________________________________
What Gnostic book claimed that Jesus used His miraculous powers as a Child to kill and maim others? _____________________
What are some evidences that the Gnostic books were written long after the close of the Apostolic Age? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
The Epistle to the Laodiceans is known to us as the Book of ________________.
What is the gospel of Mary about? _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Thomas 114-“Simon Peter said to them, ‘Let Mary leave us, for women are not ____________ ____ ________ Jesus said, ‘I myself shall lead her in order to make her ________, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the ______________ __ ____________.”
“The ____________________ Fragment tells us why The Shepherd came to be cut out of the sacred collection that Christians read during times of worship: The Shepherd couldn’t be placed among the Hebrew prophets because the era of Old Testament prophecies had ended (“their number has been __________________”). Yet the book didn’t fit among the authoritative Christian writings, either, because with the deaths of the __________________ eyewitnesses, that era had ended too (“it is __________ their ________”)….So what truths can we pick up from our first stop? At least as early as the mid-second century, the standard for determining which writings were authoritative in the church was whether the book represented eyewitness testimony about Jesus. Writings that came after the deaths of these witnesses could not be regarded as universally authoritative in the churches, regardless of how popular these texts might become. Here’s what’s also clear from the Muratorian Fragment: even though Christians disagreed for several hundred years about seven or so writings, the core of the New Testament—including the four Gospels, Acts, Paul’s letters, and at least John’s first letter—was accepted as authoritative no later than the mid-second century, probably earlier…What can we pick up from Serapion’s experiences? Even at the end of the second century, Christians remained open to using previously unknown texts, but only if they could clearly trace these texts to __________________ eyewitnesses of Jesus. 42 What did church leaders do when they weren’t certain whether a text represented eyewitness testimony? They compared the writing to the writings that they had already “received”—to the texts that were universally known to represent apostolic testimony about Jesus.” (Timothy Paul Jones, Conspiracies And The Cross, 1270-1324 (Kindle Edition); Lake Mary, Florida; FrontLine)
What are some differences between Gnosticism and the Bible? _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
List some Bible verses where God refers to “Himself” in the female gender: __________________________________________________________