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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Are the Right Books in the Old Testament?

Don Stewart :: What Are Some of the Inadequate Reasons Why a Book Would Be Part of the Old Testament Canon?

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What Are Some of the Inadequate Reasons Why a Book Would Be Part of the Old Testament Canon?

Are the Correct Books in the Old Testament? – Question 10

There have been a number of inadequate reasons that have been put forward as to why a book was included in the Old Testament canon. They include the following:

1. Did It Agree with the Torah? (The Law of Moses)

It has been argued that any work that would be placed in the canon of the Old Testament must be in agreement with the teaching in the Law of Moses.

Obviously, any book that was divinely inspired would be true in all that it said. In addition, it would not contradict anything that God had previously revealed. However, the mere fact that a book agrees with the Law of Moses is not enough by itself to be part of the Old Testament canon. Most likely, there were other books written in the ancient world that agreed with the truth of Moses’ writings that were not placed in the Old Testament canon. Agreement with the Law of Moses is not enough.

2. Did the Writings Contain Ancient Information about Israel?

For a book to become part of the Old Testament canon it is not enough that it contains ancient information about God’s chosen people; the nation Israel. Many books, that are not part of Holy Scripture, contained ancient information about Israel and their dealings with other nations. A number of these are actually mentioned in the Old Testament. Even if an ancient book brings us information about Israel’s history, this is still not enough for it to be considered canonical.

3. Has the Work Been Read and Valued by God’s People for a Long Time?

While one of the tests of divinely inspired Scripture is the fact that God’s people read it and value it highly, this is not enough by itself. It is possible for a book to be read and highly valued by the people of God without assuming the work to be divinely inspired.

4. Was It Written in Hebrew?

Another inadequate test for a book to be part of the Old Testament was its composition in the Hebrew language. While all thirty-nine books of the Old Testament were originally written in either Hebrew or Aramaic, this fact alone would not make it part of the Old Testament canon. There were other ancient books that were written in Hebrew during the Old Testament period that did not qualify as part of the Old Testament canon.

5. Were They Written by Men of God?

While men of God wrote the books of Scripture, this does not mean that everything that a prophet or a man of God wrote would be placed into Holy Scripture. For example, Solomon spoke many proverbs and wrote many songs. We read about this in First Kings. It says:

He spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five. He described plant life, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of walls. He also taught about animals and birds, reptiles and fish. (1 Kings 4:32-33 NIV)

Yet, many of those writings did not find their way into Scripture.

We are told that the prophet Isaiah recorded the acts of King Uzziah:

The other events of Uzziah’s reign, from beginning to end, are recorded by the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. (2 Chronicles 26:22 NIV)

Yet this did not become part of Holy Scripture. Therefore, not everything that was written from an acknowledged prophet, or a man of God, became part of the Old Testament canon.

6. All of This Is Not Enough

Even if a book met all of the above criteria—it was written in Hebrew, agreed with the Law of Moses, contained new information about the nation Israel, and had been read and valued for a long time by the Hebrew people—this would still not be enough for it to be placed in the Old Testament canon of Scripture. From the Old Testament itself we find a number of ancient written sources that are mentioned. These books were undoubtedly written in Hebrew and contained valuable information for God’s people. Yet, all of that would not be enough to be included in the canon.

7. Divine Inspiration Is the Key to Biblical Authority

What is necessary for a book to be in the Old Testament canon of Scripture is divine inspiration. A book must be more than historically accurate—God must divinely inspire it. Therefore, God’s authority must be behind any book for it to be placed into the Old Testament canon of Scripture. The Bible says that God supernaturally spoke through human authors to tell people how to behave and what to believe. This resulted in a permanent form of revelation—the Old Testament Scriptures.

Summary – Question 10
What Are Some Inadequate Criteria as to Why a Book Should Be Part of the Old Testament Canon?

While we do not know the exact criteria as to why certain books were placed in the Old Testament canon, there are a number of criteria that would not have been sufficient. The mere fact that a book was ancient, agreed with the Law of Moses, was written in Hebrew, contained helpful information, and was valued by God’s people, is not enough. The books must have been divinely inspired by God to be placed into the Old Testament canon of Scripture.

What Criteria Were Used to Recognize Which Books Belonged in the Old Testament? ← Prior Section
What Were the Non-Canonical Books That Were Mentioned in the Old Testament? Next Section →
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