Do We Have the Complete Bible?


As we will see, the entire Word of God that was written down to become a part of what is called the “Bible,” has been preserved through various copies and translations and is available to us, today!

However, the question arises as to which manuscripts should be included and actually constitute the true Scriptures of the Bible. Major religions differ on this most vital consideration. For instance, the Jewish religion uses only those books commonly called the Old Testament, Hebrew Bible or Tanakh. Modern copies are primarily based on the Masoretic Text that dates from between the seventh and tenth centuries AD. None of the New Testament books are accepted as a part of the Hebrew Bible.

A Greek translation of the Old Testament, called the Septuagint, was developed sometime during the 3rd and 2nd century B.C. While this was commonly used by Jewish communities throughout the Middle East well past the time of the founding of the Church of God on Pentecost in 31 A.D., additional, spurious books (called the “apocrypha”) were also translated and included in some copies. Of the 15 apocryphal books then extant, all appear in this Greek translation with the exception of 2 Esdras. They were not included in the canonical Hebrew Bible (Masoretic Text).

Not understanding the prophetic declarations from the Scriptures concerning the Messiah, the Jewish nation still looks for a Deliverer. However, the record of Jesus precisely and exactly fulfilling the messianic prophecies is revealed in the New Testament (compare Matthew 21:33-46; Acts 4:8-12). Jesus very boldly declared that He fulfilled the promises of God, as recorded in the Old Testament (John 5:37-40; Luke 24:25-27, 44). Based on the fact the Jews have utterly rejected Jesus Christ as their Messiah, they have cut themselves off from the entire, written Word of God—they do not have the complete Bible!

On the other hand, let us also understand that the preservation of the Old Testament was a responsibility that was given to the Jews, and it is one that they certainly fulfilled.

Paul states, “What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles [sayings, Scriptures] of God” (Romans 3:1-2).

We have this additional statement from Jesus regarding the role given to those of Judah (including Levites): “Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes AND TO HIS DISCIPLES, saying: ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do’” (Matthew 23:1-3). As mentioned, they did not include or preserve the apocryphal writings in the Old Testament Scriptures, showing that they are not part of the inspired Hebrew Bible.

One other example of applying this is in the keeping of the weekly Sabbath and the annual Holy Days. True Christians who observe these commanded Feast Days still refer to the Jewish oversight of the Hebrew calendar.

Next, we need to consider the New Testament. Is it complete, or have some important books been left out? On the other hand, does the New Testament contain apocryphal additions like the Septuagint? The Bible itself provides foundational answers to these questions! Consider what the apostle John wrote concerning his own account of Jesus Christ in the book of John:

“And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31).

By John’s statement we understand that only certain aspects of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ were recorded—that many other things could have been written. Furthermore, what is written is for the purpose of revealing God’s plan of Salvation.

As time went on in the first generation of the Church of God, letters were written and circulated to the churches in various areas (compare Colossians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:27; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; and 2 Peter 3:15-16). Some of these letters also now make up a part of the New Testament. Peter referred to Paul’s epistles as part of Scripture (compare again 2 Peter 3:16). By writing down the record of events about Jesus Christ and of His teachings, the authors were doing exactly what they were commissioned by Jesus to accomplish:

“‘But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth’” (Acts 1:8; also, compare Luke 24:46-48; Acts 10:39-43; 13:31).

We have four accounts, called the gospels, which introduce the New Testament. A reason for this might include a principle given in the Old and New Testament, “‘”…by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established”’” (Matthew 18:16; compare Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15; 2 Corinthians 13:1). Luke substantiates this need—echoing the same objective for his account as we have already read from John:

“Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed” (Luke 1:1-4).

Yet, there arose those individuals who sought to change the teachings of these witnesses. Paul warned that “‘…from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves’” (Acts 20:30; also, compare 2 Corinthians 11:13-15). False ministers also wrote counterfeit letters—even forging Paul’s name to them (2 Thessalonians 2:2). John was confronted by such a false leader who rejected John and any who were brethren of his—the true followers of Christ (compare 3 John 9-10).

It is the apostle John who is credited with assembling the final canon of the New Testament. In Floyd Nolen Jones’ book, “Which Version Is The Bible?,” this remarkable statement is made: “The apostle John’s long life enabled him to bear apostolic witness to the true text of Scripture and canon until almost the year 100 at which time his hand-trained associates carried forward that same witness. Upon returning from his banishment to the isle of Patmos, John completed the sacred Canon by composing his Gospel, epistles and Apocalypse. Then combining these with the writings of the other Evangelists, he sanctioned them all with apostolic authority.”

While this quote reflects the studied opinion of the author following extensive research, his view is supported by Halley’s Bible Handbook, 24th edition, 1965, page 743, in which writers such as Clement of Rome (95 A.D.), Polycarp (110 A.D.) and Ignatius (110 A.D.) already quote various books that are a part of the New Testament canon.

John was most likely the last of the apostles to die, and he is the one who received the vision of the Book of Revelation—the final book of the New Testament (Revelation 1:1-2). Consider, though, that the true Church of God was being supplanted by a false Christianity, and those who remained faithful did so out of public—and for the most part—historical view.

While we don’t have many specific historical records beyond the books of the New Testament themselves concerning the writing of the New Testament, we do find many documents that date from after the time of the apostles and those who were their contemporaries. Later writers make reference to the books of the New Testament, but there are also many spurious writings claiming to have equal status. Examples of early apocryphal works are the Gospel of Thomas, the Epistle of Barnabas and the Epistle to the Laodiceans.

Partial copies of the New Testament proliferated in the centuries following the founding of the Church of God, along with an abundance of apocryphal writings—especially, the second and third centuries. Deciding what was true and what was false fell on issues of historical accuracy along with whether or not there was agreement with the doctrines of the Bible—both Old and New Testaments.

John 17:17 states, “‘…Your word is truth.” Based on this consistent teaching throughout Scripture, there can be no example of opposing doctrines being taught. Christ emphasized that Scripture cannot be broken or contradictory (John 10:35). This fact has helped to rule out the inclusion of those fanciful stories and legends that arose from humanly conceived philosophies and religions.

A guiding admonition about the written Word of God is given in the Bible:

“‘Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it’” (Deuteronomy 12:32; also, Deuteronomy 4:2).

Note, too, Revelation 22:18-19: “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”

Those who break this solemn warning not only bring judgment upon themselves, but they will be held accountable for deceiving others with their falsehoods. People who rely on extraneous writings do not have the complete Bible!

Remember what the purpose of the written Word of God is [and we have this promise from Jesus Christ—our way of proving what is “…that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2)]: “‘…If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free’” (John 8:31-32). Also, note Christ’s statement in John 7:17: “If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether [someone speaks] on [his] own authority.”

(NOTE: Discussion of this question will be continued in a future Q&A).

Lead Writers: Dave Harris and Norbert Link

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