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Don Stewart :: Why Didn't God Give a Divinely Inspired List of the Exact Contents of Scripture?

Don Stewart

If God has revealed Himself to humanity in a number of divinely inspired books, then why didn't He provide for humanity a Bible with a divinely inspired table of contents? Why didn't He clearly set the limits of His authoritative Word?

We Are Not Told Why God Did Not Give Us A Divinely Inspired List Of Books To begin with, we are not told why God did not clearly provide a list of books that are to be included in Holy Scripture. For reasons known only to Him, He did not give any authoritative list. Consequently any answer would only be speculation and Scripture is clear that we should never speculate about the ways of God. The Lord has said. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8,9). Paul wrote. O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! (Romans 11:33). It is not wise to try and comprehend the reasons as to why God does or does not do something. The Books Were Not All Produced At Once There is another point to remember. All of the books in the Bible were not produced at once. The various books were originally written on individual scrolls. This process was 1,500 years in the making. The only practical way such a list could come about is that either God predicted in advance the exact number of books along with their title and author or, that in the last book written, there could have been some exhaustive list of the books that He divinely inspired. God did neither of these things. Early On There Was No Need For A Fixed List During the New Testament era there did not seem to be a need for such a list. The extent of the Old Testament was clear to everyone and while the New Testament was being written the apostles of Jesus were still living and able to give eyewitness and authoritative testimony to His words and deeds. The need only arose after the completion of the New Testament and the death of the last of the Apostles. The Extent Has Been Given By God However, the extent of the Scripture has been given. The limits of the Old Testament were clearly established at the time of Christ. There was no real debate over which books were divinely inspired and which were not. As far as the New Testament is concerned, there is sufficient evidence available that the books that now make up this part of Scripture are the correct books with nothing added and nothing lacking. There Are Three Categories Of Old Testament Books That Claim God's Authority In the New Testament, we can list books that claim divine authority into three different categories. In the Old Testament, there were the books that were accepted by all, the books that were accepted by some, and the books that were rejected by all.

The books accepted by all would include the present thirty-nine books of the Old Testament.

The books accepted by some would be the books of the Old Testament Apocrypha. The Roman Catholic Church includes a number of additional books in the Old Testament that are rejected by Protestants and Jews. These books are known as the "Apocrypha" by Protestants and "Deuterocanonical books" by the Roman Catholic Church.

The Ethiopic Bible includes two other books to the Old Testament that are not in the Apocrypha: 1 Enoch and Jubilees. However there is no compelling evidence as to why either of these books should be included in the Old Testament.

The books rejected by all would be the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (forgeries). Neither Protestants nor Roman Catholics accept these writings as Scripture.

The New Testament Also Has Three Categories The books that have had divine authority claimed for them in the New Testament period can also be divided into three categories. In the New Testament, the books accepted by all would be our present New Testament writings. There were also a number of books that were received by some Christians for a short period of time in a limited geographical area. This includes works such as the "Shepherd of Hermas" and "Third Corinthians." There were also a large number of books that were never given serious consideration of being Holy Scripture. These include the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Philip. They were always rejected as Scripture. There Was Unanimous Agreement On The Old Testament Books Among Jews and Christians, with respect to the divinely inspiration of the Old Testament, there is unanimous agreement upon the thirty-nine Old Testament books. The Samaritans, who are half-Jew and half-Gentile, accept only the Law of Moses as being authoritative Scripture.

Among Christians there is no doubt concerning the authority of the twenty-seven New Testament books. The only exception is some branches of the Syrian church which reject 2 Peter, 2,3 John and Revelation.

Apart from these two obscure groups there is unanimous agreement on the divine authority of the sixty-six books of Scripture among Christians.

There Were Some New Testament Books Questioned At times, there have also been some questions raised with respect to seven New Testament books: Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, and Revelation. However the case for the canonicity of all these books is solid. Summary The Scriptures do not contain any divinely inspired table of contents. God has not told us why this is so. Since He has not told us it would only be fruitless to speculate.

Seemingly, the only way in which He could have done so was to predict ahead of time the exact number of books as well as their titles or authors or to have an exhaustive list in the last book in which He divinely inspired. He chose to do neither. However He did not leave us in darkness. The Old Testament had been complete for about four centuries before the time of Christ and had clearly defined limits.

The evidence also demonstrates that the New Testament contains exactly those writings that God intended to be added with the Old Testament as Holy Scripture. Therefore we are not in darkness when it comes to the recognizing the extent of the canon of Scripture.

With respect to the Old Testament canon, we can classify the books into three categories: books that were accepted by all, books that were accepted by some, and books that were rejected by all.

Regarding the New Testament, there were books accepted by all, books accepted by some as well as books rejected by all. Seven of the books of the New Testament have been disputed at one time or another during church history but there are no strong reasons to doubt their divine inspiration. This is true of all of the books that are found in Holy Scripture. While there is no divine table of contents, all of the books found in Holy Scripture clearly belong there.


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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