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Don Stewart :: Why Was the Authority of Certain Old Testament Books Questioned?

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Don Stewart

At certain times, some of the books of the Old Testament have had their authority questioned. These include Esther, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Ezekiel, and Proverbs. The reasons vary from book to book.

Esther

The problem with the Book of Esther is that the name of God is not found in the book. The hand of God, however, is certainly evident in the story as He protected the Jews from total annihilation. The mere absence of God's name is not sufficient reason to deny its status, especially when His providential hand is so evident. Certainly there is nothing taught in the Book of Esther that is inconsistent with the rest of Scripture.

Why Is God's Name Not Mentioned?

While a number of theories have been proposed as to why God's name is not mentioned, no one really knows for certain. What we do know is that Esther did exercise faith. She said.

Go, assemble all the Jews who are found in Susa, and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maidens also will fast in the same way. And thus I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish (Esther 4:16).

The fact that she urged the people to fast shows that she and the people had faith in God.

The Basis For The Feast Of Purim

The deliverance that was granted by God was basis for the feast of Purim.

Therefore these days were called Purim, because of everything written in this letter and because of what they had seen and what had happened to them, the Jews took it upon themselves to establish the custom that they and their descendants and all who join them should without fail observe these two days every year, in the way prescribed and at the time appointed. These days should be remembered and observed in every generation by every family, and in every province and in every city. And these days of Purim should never cease to be celebrated by the Jews, nor should the memory of them die out among their descendants (Esther 9:26-28).

Is The Name Of God Found In Esther?

There is also the argument that the name of God is actually found in acrostic form in the original Hebrew at four crucial points of the story of Esther. Consequently Esther shows the working of God behind the scenes without His name being mentioned.

Ecclesiastes

Ecclesiastes was sometimes objected to because of its skeptical tone. The writer of the book exclaims, "Vanity of vanity, all is vanity" (Ecclesiastes 1:2). The problem here is a matter of understanding the author's intent. Solomon, the writer of the book, is demonstrating that no one can experience ultimate satisfaction in this world. He shows that all people need God.

There is also what seems to be an encouragement for one to live for pleasure rather than for God.

There is nothing better for mortals than to eat and drink, and find enjoyment in their toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God (Ecclesiastes 2:24).

Ancient Judaism reconciled this problem by translating this as a question demanding a no answer rather than a statement. Consequently, the verse would reads something like, "Is there is nothing better for mortals to do but to eat and drink and find enjoyment in their toil? No there is not."

The book ends with the author encouraging the people to turn to God.

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

Therefore the problem is the lack of understanding the message of the book - not its divine authority.

Song Of Solomon

The Song of Solomon was sometimes criticized as being too secular. First, it was said to have been too sensual. Second, the name of the Lord is not mentioned in the book.

The misdirected criticisms of sensuality do not understand the purpose of the book, which is to emphasize the nobility of marriage.

In addition, the Song of Solomon may contain the name of God. There is a verse that reads.

It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame (Song of Solomon 8:6).

The last phrase could be translated, "like the very flame of the LORD."

Whether or not the name of the Lord is used, its authority has never really been in doubt.

Ezekiel

There were some who considered the Book of Ezekiel to be against the Mosaic Law. It was thought that the closing chapters, which speak of a new temple, could not be reconciled with the Law of Moses. Eventually it was discovered how Ezekiel and Moses could be reconciled. Its authoritative status was never really in doubt.

Proverbs

Proverbs had some who doubted it because of certain supposed inner contradictions. One example is as follows.

Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes (Proverbs 26:4,5).

Yet this is not necessarily a contradiction. There are times when one should answer a fool and other times when one should not. Different situations call for different responses when dealing with foolish people.

There Was No Serious Challenge To These Writings

While the divine inspiration of each of these books may have been discussed, there has been no serious challenge to their place in the canon of Scripture.

Summary

Certain Old Testament books had been questioned as to their divine authority. These include Esther, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Ezekiel, and Proverbs. There was a different reason why each was questioned. Esther does not mention the name of God. The Song of Solomon does not mention the name of God. Also it seemed to be too sensual to be in Scripture. Ecclesiastes seemingly contained things that were at odds with other parts of Scripture. Certain of the Proverbs seemed to contradictory. Ezekiel seemed to have portions that were against the Law of Moses. Yet all these differences have sensible solutions.

It should also be noted that was never any serious consideration that these books did not belong in Holy Scripture.

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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