The Canon of the Old Testament – Part 2


I.         In our prior lesson, we established the acceptance of the writings of Moses by a large number of people over a wide range of history.

            A.        The writings were not accepted because of some decree or because the documents were old, but because they were recognized as the works of Moses who was known to be a prophet of God.

            B.        Yet Moses was not the only prophet. Some existed even in his day - Numbers 11:29

            C.        Moses said that other prophets would come after him – Deuteronomy 18:15-19

II.        What is a prophet?

            A.        The best definition is found in Exodus 7:1-2

                        1.         A prophet is a man who speaks on the behalf of another. He does not speak his own words, but delivers the other’s words.

                        2.         In particular, a prophet of God brings the words of God to the people.

            B.        A prophet is not allowed to say anything he wants

                        1.         An interesting story is found in I Kings 22. The kings of Israel and Judah were planning to go to war, but they wished to have God’s word on the matter.

                                    a.         Prophets were summoned and they spoke favorably of the endeavor - I Kings 22:10-12

                                    b.         Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, wasn’t impressed. He wanted to here a prophet of God - I Kings 22:7-9

                                    c.         The prophet Micaiah was instructed to give a favorable statement, but notice his reply - I Kings 22:13-14

                                    d.         At first the prophet told the kings what they wanted to hear, but the King of Israel wasn’t fooled - I Kings 22:15-18

                        2.         Even when the message is unpopular, the prophet speaks only as the Lord directs - Jeremiah 26:7-15

            C.        But how is a person to know if something is from God and not from the prophet’s own devising?

                        1.         After all, the kings of Israel and Judah had numerous prophets volunteering to lie to them.

                        2.         Moses gave the people tests to see if a prophet was from God or not.

                                    a.         Deut. 13:1-5 - a true prophet will not lead the people away from God.

                                    b.         Deut. 18:20-22 - a true prophet’s words will always come to pass.

                                                (1)       A prophet’s message is not solely about future events, but were an event is mentioned, it will always come true.

                                                (2)       Example:

                                                            (a)       A false prophet arose contradicting Jeremiah’s message - Jeremiah 28:2-4

                                                            (b)       At first, Jeremiah didn’t know what to make of this. If it was God’s word, then he was thrilled - Jeremiah 28:6

                                                            (c)       But Jeremiah pointed out something to the people. This prophet’s message contradicted the message of earlier prophets. In other words, this prophet failed Moses’ first test - Jeremiah 28:8

                                                            (d)       Jeremiah said the ultimate test will come when they see if his words are true. It would only take two years to find out - Jeremiah 28:9

                                                            (e)       God then told Jeremiah that the other prophet was false - Jeremiah 28:15-16

                                                            (f)        Jeremiah offers proof of his word by predicting when the false prophet would die. Jeremiah’s word proved true. - Jeremiah 28:17

                                                            (g)       Because of this the people knew that the rest of Jeremiah’s statements were from God and that Hananiah’s words were false.

            D.        As we go through the Old Testament, only verified prophets’ words were accepted as God’s. The priests were teachers of the words of God, but they were not the source of God’s Law (unless they happened to be prophets as well as priests).

            E.        Prophets not only spoke God’s Words, but like Moses they also wrote the words of God. - Jeremiah 36:1-8

                        1.         Joshua wrote God’s message - Joshua 24:26

                        2.         Samuel wrote God’s message - I Samuel 10:25

                        3.         The book of Chronicles lists the writers of Israel’s history

                                    a.         I Chronicles 29:29-30 - the history of David was written by Samuel, Nathan, and Gad

                                    b.         II Chronicles 9:29 - the history of Solomon was written by Nathan, Ahijah, and Iddo

                                    c.         II Chronicles 12:15 - the history of Rehoboam was written by Shemaiah and Iddo.

                                    d.         II Chronicles 13:22 - the history of Abijah was written by Iddo

                                    e.         II Chronicles 20:34 - the history of Jehoshaphat was written by Jehu.

                                    f.         II Chronicles 32:32 - the history of Hezekiah was written by Isaiah

                                    g.         II Chronicles 33:19 - the history of Manasseh was written by unnamed seers.

                        4.         The reason these histories were accepted was because they come from the pens of recognized prophets of God.

III.       Some books gain further verification because one prophet of God cites the work of another prophet.

            A.        For example, Daniel studied the works of Jeremiah - Daniel 9:2.

                        1.         If Daniel is accepted as a prophet of God, then Jeremiah must also be a prophet.

                        2.         Daniel’s book as so many detailed accurate statements about the future, that it must be from God. He passes Moses’ test.

                        3.         Even today, we have copies of Daniel which date 200 years before Christ. Some of Daniel’s prophecies were not fulfilled until the time of Christ or even after.

            B.        Jeremiah quotes Micah - Jeremiah 26:18. Note the emphasis that it was true because a prophet wrote the words.

            C.        Isaiah quotes Micah (or Micah quotes Isaiah) - Micah 4:1-4, Isaiah 2:2-4

IV.      There were many other books, but they were not treated as God’s word.

            A.        One book that the Catholic church wants in the canon, but has never been accepted by most religious groups are the books of Maccabees.

                        1.         I Maccabees 4:46 - “and stored the stones in a convenient place on the temple hill until a prophet should come to tell what to do with them.”

                        2.         I Maccabees 9:27 - “So there was great distress in Israel, such as had not been since the time that prophets ceased to appear among them.”

                        3.         I Maccabees 14:41 - “The Jews and their priests have resolved that Simon should be their leader and high priest forever, until a trustworthy prophet should arise”

                        4.         The book itself says there were no prophets at that time. Without a prophet, the book cannot be accepted as the word of God. It might be a good history book, but it is not God’s version of history.

            B.        Josephus - “It is true our history hath not been esteemed of the like authority with the former by our forefathers, because there hath not been an exact succession of prophets since that time.”

            C.        Talmud (the records of Jewish Rabbis) - “After the latter prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, the Holy Spirit departed from Israel.”

            D.        Do you see the pattern, books were considered inspired because they were done by recognized prophets.

V.        The New Testament also recognizes the works of the prophets as inspired of God.

            A.        Jesus refers to the Law and the Prophets on several occasions. - Matthew 26:56

                        1.         Notice the emphasis that the Scriptures were written by the prophets.

            B.        The Apostles also made similar statements - II Peter 1:20-21

                        1.         Men moved by the Holy Spirit (prophets) spoke the Scriptures.

            C.        We don’t who wrote the books of Esther, Chronicles, and Job, but they are always listed with the prophets. The remainder have names associated with them that we recognize as prophets of God.

            D.        The New Testament quotes from every book of the Old Testament as Scripture, except for Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon. This does not mean these five books were not inspired, just that the words they spoke were not useful to the New Testament writers to support the topics they were writing about.

            E.        Of all the books of the Old Testament, Esther is the only one in a weak position. We don’t know who wrote it and it was never quoted. However, knowing how careful the Jews were about accepting only prophetic writings, we can feel confident that the book was known by the Jews of that day to be written by a prophet of God.

See also:

The New Testament Canon
The Old Testament Canon (Part 1)
The Apocrypha
The Extra Catholic Books