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Can We Trust the Bible? The Development of the OT (Lou Gentry)

We know the Old Testament was compiled by the writings of various authors and their scrolls were collected over a period of hundreds of years. Scripture tells us that Moses was a contributor: Ex 17:14, 24:4; 34:27; Num. 33:1-2; Deut. 31:9, 31:11, 31:24; Josh. 1:7-8, 8:31-32; 1 Kings 2:3; 2 Kings 14:6; John 5:46-47, 7:19; Romans 10:5, etc.) The Bible also tells us Joshua added to the writings of Moses (Josh. 24:26). Then, Samuel added his writings (1 Sam. 10:25). The writings of the prophets were collected over time (Dan. 9:2; Zech. 7:12 – note that later writings quote earlier ones). We know of this progressive collection of scrolls–the compilation of the Old Testament–not only through Scripture, but through the discovery of the Qumran Community and the Dead Sea Scrolls.
By the time of Josephus, the great Jewish historian, the OT Canon had been completed for some four hundred years. Josephus lived during the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. In his autobiography (written about 90 A.D.) he tells how the Emperor Titus gave him the sacred scrolls from the temple at Jerusalem when it was pillaged. In it we find the following quotation:

“We have not an innumerable multitude of books among us disagreeing and contradicting one another, but only twenty-two books which contain the records of all the past times, which are justly believed to be divine. . . .It is true our history hath been written since Artaxerxes very particularly, but hath not been esteemed of a like authority with the former by our forefathers, because there hath not been an exact succession of prophets since that time, and how firmly we have given credit to these books of our nation, is evident by what we do; for during so many ages as have already passed, no one hath been so bold as either to add anything to them, to take anything from them, or to make any change in them; but it has become natural to all Jews, immediately and from their very birth, to esteem these books to contain divine doctrines” (emphasis added).

This quotation from Josephus reveals:

  1. The Jews believed in verbal inspiration;
  2. The Jews received the canonical books because they were written by prophets;
  3. The Apocryphal books (to be discussed in a forthcoming article) and others were known not to have been written by prophets;
  4. The canon included all the 39 books in our Bible today and no others (the Hebrew canon of twenty-two books is the exact equivalent to the 39 books of our OT);
  5. The first and only listing of the OT books until about 170 A.D.;
  6. Josephus gave great prominence to prophetic authorship; and,
  7. Nno book was added to the Hebrew Scriptures after the time of Malachi (a contemporary of Ezra and Nehemiah–the period of Artaxerxes).
The Talmud (authoritative writing of Jewish traditions) also makes the claim that in order for a book to be canonical and included as part of the OT, it must come from the prophetic succession during the prophetic period (Seder Olam Babba 30). It further records, “After the latter prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, the Holy Spirit departed from Israel.”
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