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Don Stewart :: Why Should the Present New Testament Books Be Accepted as Authoritative Writings?

Don Stewart

Although the Bible does not speak of a completed New Testament canon, it does provide internal testimony to authenticate the writings that now make up the New Testament. Consequently there are a number of reasons as to why the present New Testament books are demonstrated to be authoritative.

The Four Gospels Are All Linked To Jesus

To begin with, the writers of the four gospels all have direct links to Jesus. We discover this in the following ways.

Matthew

Matthew, the writer of the first gospel was one of Jesus' apostles. He records his own conversion.

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, "Follow me." And he got up and followed him (Matthew 9:9).

Matthew writes as one who heard the sayings and viewed the events of Jesus' ministry as an eyewitness. Therefore his testimony is of the highest authority.

Mark

Mark was not one of the apostles. However, according to early testimony, Mark wrote the account of the life of Jesus from the perspective of Simon Peter. Thus Mark's gospel would have the authority of Peter behind it. This, of course, would have a direct link to Jesus.

Luke

Luke, the traveling companion of Paul, wrote his gospel from a number of sources. In his prologue he wrote.

In as much as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught (Luke 1:1-4)

While Luke was not one of the apostles, his writings (Luke/Acts) were accepted because of his association with Paul - an Apostle. On one occasion Paul called the writings of Luke "Scripture."

For the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing," and "The laborer is worthy of his wages" (1 Timothy 5:18).

John

John was an Apostle and eyewitness of the events he recorded. He wrote.

This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true (John 21:24).

Consequently each of these four writers was in a position to write an accurate, authoritative account of the life of Jesus.

Paul

The next witness is Paul. He made it clear that he was an Apostle.

Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? (1 Corinthians 9:1).

In one of Paul's earliest letters (usually dated around the year A.D. 51) he contended that his words were to be received as the words of God.

When you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of humans, but as it is in truth, the word of God (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

Peter acknowledged Paul's writings as Holy Scripture. He wrote.

Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:15,16).

Peter, as well as the other apostles, had been given the same authority as Jesus. Consequently he could make this authoritative statement regarding Paul's writings. Peter said that Paul's writings should be considered Scripture.

James

The writer of the Book of James was probably not one of the two men named James who were among Jesus' Twelve Disciples. They were James the son of Zebedee, and brother of John, and James the son of Alphaeus. The James who wrote the book that bears his name was most likely the half-brother of Jesus.

While not one of the Twelve, James was considered an Apostle. When Peter escaped from prison he wanted James notified.

Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. "Tell James and the brothers about this," he said, and then he left for another place (Acts 12:17).

Paul wrote about James as an eyewitness to Christ's resurrection.

Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles (1 Corinthians 15:7).

To the Galatians Paul wrote.

I saw none of the other apostles - only James, the Lord's brother (Galatians 1:19).

These passages show that James was considered an Apostle and an authoritative figure in the early church.

First And Second Peter

First and Second Peter were written by the apostle Peter.

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to God's elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia (1 Peter 1:1).

He also identifies himself in his second letter.

Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours (2 Peter 1:1).

As the most prominent of Jesus' apostles, his authority was unquestioned.

Jude

Jude was probably not an Apostle. However he was associated with James - who was an Apostle. He was the most likely the half-brother of Jesus. He introduced himself as follows.

Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, to those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ (Jude 1).

1,2,3 John

The letters of 1,2,3 John were written by the Apostle John. In First John the author does not identify himself. However in Second John he does not use his name but rather the term, "the elder." He wrote.

The elder, to the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in the truth - and not I only, but also all who know the truth (2 John 1).

In Third John the author also introduces himself this way.

The elder, to my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth (3 John 1).

The same author wrote all three letters.

Revelation

The Book of Revelation names John as the author.

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John (Revelation 1:1).

Seven times John uses the phrase, "the one who has an earl let him hear what the Spirit says" (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). As one of Jesus' inner circle of apostles, he would have written with the utmost authority.

Hebrews

The only New Testament book without an obvious direct link to Jesus or His apostles is the Book of Hebrews. The problem is that we do not know the identity of the human author. The early Christians did not have this problem because the author was familiar to them. Unfortunately his identity is not presently known.

However, many accepted Hebrews based upon the idea that Paul wrote it. Others, while rejecting Paul's authorship still believed Hebrews had apostolic authority and thus ultimately God's authority.

It must be emphasized that the teachings of the Book of Hebrews are consistent with other New Testament revelation. The book certainly adds to our knowledge about the person and work of Christ without contradicting anything that has been previously revealed.

There Are Two Basic Questions That Need Answering

There were two basic questions with respect to the genuineness of New Testament writings - the authorship and date. Did genuine apostles write the books? Was the writing composed at the time these men were still alive? Since only these men were given the unique authority of Jesus these two questions had to be addressed.

Because these writers were uniquely chosen by Jesus, His authority stands behind the books they wrote. Consequently His authority stands behind the entire New Testament.

Summary

Although there is nothing directly stated in the New Testament with respect to the extent of the canon there is sufficient evidence for trusting those books that have been included. With the exception of the Book of Hebrews, all of the New Testament writings have an obvious direct link to Jesus.

Of the four gospels Matthew and John were numbered with Jesus' Twelve Disciples. Mark wrote Peter's testimony of Jesus' life and ministry while Luke based his work on historical investigation of the eyewitnesses and their evidence. Luke is connected to the inner circle of New Testament leaders by his relationship with Paul. Paul called Luke's gospel "Scripture." Luke also wrote the Book of Acts - a brief history of the early church.

Paul claimed that his writings had God's authority behind them. Peter confirmed Paul's writings as Scripture. In addition, Peter himself wrote two letters that are part of the New Testament. The other writers, James and Jude, were probably the brothers of Jesus. James was called an Apostle. Finally John the Apostle the writer of the fourth gospel wrote three additional letters as well as the Book of Revelation. His authority was unquestioned.

Therefore each of the books of the New Testament can be directly traced back to those who intimately knew Jesus (Matthew, Peter, John, James, Jude), one who was specifically called by him (Paul), and one who was aligned with Paul (Luke). Only the Book of Hebrews does not have this direct link. However, in the early church, there were many who linked Paul, in some manner, with the Book of Hebrews. Consequently there are excellent reasons to accept each New Testament book as authoritative.

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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