© Charles A. Clough 2002
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 6: New Truths of the Kingdom Aristocracy
Chapter 4 – The Historical Maturing of the Church
Lesson 194 – The Foundation Era of the Church – The Scriptures
14 Mar 2002
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
Next time bring the notes on the Trinity and on the God-man, the hypostatic union, the God-man doctrine of the person of Christ. The two areas that we are going to cover next time to finish the foundation era of the church is the doctrine of God and the doctrine of Christ because these three areas, the Scriptures, the person of God and the person of Jesus Christ as the God-man are the foundational doctrines of the church, and when they are completed the church’s foundation is completed. We can look at it this way; if this is the founding period of the church for, say the first 600 years, during that time the issue of the Scripture came up with what is called the Canon issue. Then we have the Trinity and that is an appendix in the series; then the hypostatic union which is the doctrine that Jesus Christ is undiminished deity and true humanity united in one person forever. That is the cycle of the first 600 years of the church.
Tonight we are going to go back and revisit this. The Trinity, the hypostatic union, we’ve covered it before but I want to cover it because it is all basic stuff that the church needed. On page 86 of the notes you’ll see “Sense of Distinct Identity,” we’ve already gone through that in the previous chapter, the church coming into its own historic existence, distinct from Israel. Then we came to the “Completion and Recognition of the New Testament Canon.” There are several things that we want to mention. Notice in the title is two words, “completion” and “recognition.” No one doubts that the Canon was complete in those first centuries, I mean no one who’s orthodox. The recognition is hotly debated between Protestants and Catholics. We want to go through the logic of what’s going on here in this dispute. The subtitle “Apocalyptic Revelation Closes the Canon,” I mentioned that when the Old Testament Canon started closing down then the kind of literature that was written toward the end of those down periods was this apocalyptic literature, Daniel, Ezekiel, that kind of stuff, Zechariah, and in the New Testament the Book of Revelation written in the same style. It seems when God is going to move into a period of quietude in history, when He kind of withdraws and we have a silence of God era to come, just prior to that silence of God era He puts forth these visionary revelations.
We said, page 87, “Historically-interrupted Revelation Requires the Canon,” because the point is that if revelation is historical we mean it’s not constant, it’s not mediate, meaning it’s not present in every generation, there’s a reason for that. So because it’s interrupted down through time then there has to be a preservation of that revelation. I quote some passages where the Scripture talks about itself. I want to mention that and add another Scripture to that. Turn to Luke 1, that’s one of the passages I cite at the bottom of page 87. There’s a distinct set of characteristics of what we call inspiration of Scripture. I want to review some words; we dealt with these back at Mount Sinai, we dealt with these in the Old Testament, we dealt with these in the life of Christ, but again we’ll repeat these three things.
There’s a word, “revelation,” not the Book of Revelation, just the act of revelation; then there is “inspiration.” Those two are not the same. Revelation can be everything God’s done, His handiwork reveals Him, what He revealed to the people who lived before the flood reveals Him, and we don’t have all that. What He revealed during the Old Testament that wasn’t written down, we don’t have that. All the words of Jesus, we don’t have that. God revealed Himself a lot down through history, so if you think of it as a big circle containing all of the content of things that God has revealed, inspiration refers only to the Scripture and refers to a subset of that revealed body of truth. Inspiration means that God produced Scripture and He did so by a variety of means, not always by dictation. It is not true that God dictated all the Scriptures. You can think of some areas where He did speak directly, the Garden of Eden, He spoke directly at Mount Sinai, He spoke directly in the person of Jesus Christ, He spoke directly in visions, in Isaiah etc. But other times He didn’t, and Luke 1 is an example of inspiration and revelation, but it’s not dictated revelation.
Notice in Luke 1:1, “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us,” notice “many” have done that. We don’t have all those documents, a lot of those slipped away. “…many have undertaken to compile an account,” not just three other guys. Verse 2, “Just as those who, from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the Word have handed them down to us,  it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus;  so that you might know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.” Obviously he’s writing to a believer, apparently a guy who might have helped and supported Luke in his mission work, might have financed the research that went into this. Luke did research. So inspiration can include dictation; Scripture can be dictated, as it was, for example, to Jeremiah. It can be investigated so it’s an investigation and report, that’s the kind of Luke. It could be a letter to a church for counseling.
There are many different ways and styles of inspiration and when you read the Bible you have to be cognizant of the method that God used to generate that text. When you see some notice like you’re looking at here in Luke, Luke is a fantastically accurate historian. He is a detail-centered guy. Think about this. Where in the Bible do you have it stated and reported how Mary and Elizabeth felt in their pregnancies? Only one guy tells you that, a doctor, Luke. Is it any surprise that he would, of all the guys? Would you expect Peter to do that kind of thing? No, Luke does it because Luke is that kind of a guy. God sovereignly picked out Luke, with all of his background, so he could do this investigation. When you read Acts 21–23, the mob violence scene there, isn’t it interesting, he’s got a verbatim copy of the Roman army order. Where did Luke get that? He’s got the verbatim order that the commander of the cohort sent to the squad of guys who escorted Paul out to the Mediterranean. Somebody had to do some pretty good investigation because these guys wouldn’t be just spewing out Roman army orders to some Jewish author. It didn’t work that way. Luke had some insights in doing this.
Luke is the guy who tells us, every time he mentions a Roman army group, it seems like toward the end of the book of Acts, he always labels it. So not only does he know what a cohort is, what a centurion is, but he knows who the commander is and he knows what the cohort does. Where does he get all this from? It says here he did a careful investigation. That’s one style of generation of the Scriptures.
Turn to 2 Timothy; you need to know this verse because this is the central New Testament passage on the nature of Scripture. 2 Timothy 3:16, it’s easy to remember, you know John 3:16, think of 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;  that the man of God may be adequate,” or complete, “equipped for” only some good works? “Equipped for every good work.” There is some internal logic to verses 16-17, and you want to watch this. Verses 16-17 teach not only the inspiration of Scripture, but these verses teach the sufficiency of Scripture. What do we mean by the sufficiency of Scripture? Suppose the Scriptures are insufficient? If I say the Scriptures are insufficient for every good work, what Pandora’s Box does that open? Now we’re going to be looking around for some other revelation, right? But if the Scriptures are sufficient … if they are sufficient for every good work, do we need any other revelation? No. Do we need dreams, visions, and all kinds of prophecy in the sense of continuing? No. The Scriptures are sufficient unto “every good work.”
That has become a bone of contention in repeatedly in church history. Since we’re on this period of the first 600 years I want to show you how it got fought out. There were lots of fights in the first 600 years about this one. In fact, the sufficiency of Scripture did not get settled officially, and then it was settled in a big argument that was never resolved, in the days of the Reformation. It wasn’t until the Catholic Church turned against the Protestant Reformation, held its own independent council—called the Council of Trent—that the list of canonical Scriptures was defined, and then it was defined incorrectly. It’s hard to appreciate now, as we sit here, that this is a centuries long argument that involved what are the Scriptures so that we can say that once we have this set of Scriptures that is sufficient, we don’t need anything more than the Scripture.
We go on and say isn’t it true that verse 16 refers to the Old Testament Scriptures and not the New Testament? Does the word “Scripture” refer to the Old Testament only or the New Testament? Along with 2 Timothy 3:16 also note 2 Peter 3:16, easy to remember all these 3:16s; John 3:16; 2 Timothy 3:16, and now 2 Peter 3:16. The reason this passage is important is this shows you that as the New Testament was being written, it was already considered to be Scripture. 2 Peter 3:15, “Regard the patience of our Lord to be salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you,  as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand,” that’s a natural observation. Peter is saying this guy Paul is deep, he is difficult; he’s an apostle and he’s saying Paul’s difficult. What’s interesting about that remark is to think about the background of these two guys. Here you’ve got Peter who was with the Lord for years, who knew the Lord, and Paul never once saw the Lord in the flesh. He saw Him on the Damascus Road in a vision, he might have been to Heaven with Him, but he didn’t know the Lord like Peter knew the Lord. So it tells you that when he says Paul is hard to understand is that Paul was coming up with some new stuff, that Peter had a hard time understanding. Paul had new insights that Peter did not have, and we traced that in the book of Acts. The Church Age is something new and Paul is its architect doctrinally. Paul was the guy, the agent that the Holy Spirit used to lay out the doctrinal basis of the Church Age.
Let’s continue the sentence, “Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you  as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort,” even in Paul’s day they were having people taking his writings out of context, saying that Paul taught this when Paul did not teach that, but that’s what they say Paul taught. Now here’s the significant point in this passage, “… as they do also the rest” of what? “of the Scriptures,” so here is a clear New Testament reference to the fact that other New Testament writings were already considered Scripture. Scripture is a specialized noun in 2 Timothy 3:16 that refers to the Old Testament, and now they’re daring to take “Scripture,” that noun, that term, and apply it to Paul’s letters. So here is a clear indication that right in the founding era of the church we’re talking about the generation and recognition of the Canon. Here it is, the Canon is coming into existence as Scripture.
We want to go to the battle over the church recognizing the Canon. We have a situation where the Greek Orthodox Church, the Eastern Church, the Jews and the Protestants all agree as to what the Old Testament is. Roman Catholics do not agree with what the Old Testament is, and this has raised a large argument that has gone on, and that’s why I’m talking about it. We’re not worried about what the Old Testament is but I’m going to use that as a teaching tool.
First we’re going to look at the Old Testament definition, because obviously the Old Testament forms a chunk of what is called the Canon. If we are to agree that the Canon is the inspired writings or the inspired Word of God, then it follows logically that you’ve got to have a list of the books that are in the Canon. And you’ve got to have a list of Old Testament books and New Testament books. I have a book called the Apocrypha. If you were to go to the book store and buy a Roman Catholic Bible it would have this in it. This wouldn’t be separate; this is a Protestant printing of the Apocrypha. But in a Roman Catholic Bible you would have this in the Old Testament, toward the end of the Old Testament, a whole set of books.
This set of books had certain teachings in it, one of which is prayers for the dead. Another teaching in this book is the doctrine of purgatory. So you have not only these extra writings that were all generated in the second century before Christ, first century before Christ, throughout the time of Jesus, but you have included in these things some historical errors. So now we’ve got a set of books that are debated; the content of these books have some historical errors, have false doctrine, and have some problems.
Earlier we said the larger issue that we’re dealing with when we deal with this Canon thing is obviously the standard of authority. Where does authority lie? The debate is: is the Scripture authority? What did we just say about 2 Timothy 3:16? It is sufficient. The sufficiency of Scripture implies that the Scripture plus zero is the authority, does it not? If I tell you that the Scriptures “are sufficient unto every good work” have I not told you that that is sufficient for all doctrine? Is doctrine a good work? Of course it is. So the sufficiency of Scripture means that the Scripture and the Scripture alone is the authority. That came to be a slogan in the Protestant Reformation which you read about in textbooks, sola Scriptura. Nobody objected to Scriptura as the authority. Where the gun powder ignited and the bomb blew up was when you put those four little letters in front of it. That was the fight. Sola Scriptura, because sola Scriptura says what about church traditions? Even if they’re true, it doesn’t make any difference whether they’re true, false or indifferent, the point is, they’re irrelevant, and we don’t need them. If the Scripture is sufficient, sola Scriptura, I need the Scriptures plus nothing.
The problem comes in, however, how do I define where the Scriptures come from? How do I know what the Scriptures say? Follow on page 88, “The Church Recognizes the Canon.” Keep in mind this is not the generation of the Canon, the Canon didn’t take centuries to generate. That was generated right away. What is the problem is whether the church recognized this list and got it right. That’s what the issue is.
“Very early the church recognized the Old Testament books that the Jewish community thought of as canonical.” Why is it important to reference what the Jewish community thinks? Why don’t we just ignore what the Jewish community thinks and say the church can define for itself. What does Romans 3:1 say? What’s the function of Israel? They are the custodian of the oracles of God. So you’d better listen to what the Jewish community says. That’s why we have that word in there. I want you to be sharp and look at the content of these sentences so you grab the debate. These are the same books that we Protestants have in our Bibles. “Very early the church recognized the Old Testament books that the Jewish community thought of as canonical. These are the same books that we Protestants have in our Bibles.” No one debates that; Roman Catholic scholars do not debate that. They openly admit that the Jewish Canon is as the Protestant Bible. Here’s the reference, The New Catholic Encyclopedia says: “For the Old Testament, however, Protestants follow the Jewish Canon.”
Protestants follow the Jewish Canon, meaning our list of Old Testament books is the same as their list of Old Testament books. What does that do to this? It means that the Jewish community never recognized these as authoritative. There’s a reason why they didn’t, it’s actually right in here, if you read the book of 1 and 2 Maccabees, they get into a big jam, they don’t know what to do, and they say because we have no prophet in our generation, and we don’t know what the will of God is, therefore we will do thus and such. So the people who wrote this knew that in their day they had no prophetic line; there were no prophets living, which raises an interesting issue, how would they know if they had a prophet or not, because they had false teachers. So the prophetic line had ended in the Old Testament, so these guys, nice guys, but they knew that they didn’t have any prophet and they knew that without a prophet they couldn’t do certain things and they refrained from doing it; the testimony is right here. So there’s no question that Protestants and Jews agree on the list of Old Testament books.
To continue: “These books, while useful in showing cultural and linguistic background of the centuries just prior to New Testament times, contain unorthodox doctrines such as praying for the dead. Eventually, the Council of Carthage in AD 397,” now look at the date. This is why Roman Catholic theologians insisted they’re right. They reference this Council of Carthage, they say look Protestants, in AD 397 the Council of Carthage included the Apocrypha, Mother Church was speaking very early to this issue. “… included these ‘extra’ books in its list of canonical Old Testament writings in addition to the standard Hebrew Old Testament Canon. This list establishes the Old Testament collection of books today in Roman Catholic Bibles. Protestants later purged these extra books from the Old Testament Canon and re-adopted the ancient Hebrew list of books.” But look at the date, the next paragraph.
“Recognition of the New Testament Canon followed a similar path with a slight difference. By AD 366 our present New Testament Canon was on the verge of definition. The famous bishop of Alexandria, Athanasius, listed the books which were to be read in the churches and which ‘included all and only those that are recognized today in the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant churches’. The Council of Carthage officially affirmed the New Testament list” as we have it. So ironically the argument is over the Old Testament more than it is over the New Testament, but it’s not true that it was ambiguous in those centuries.
The Catholic Church goes back to the Councils of Hippo and Carthage under Augustine. That’s around AD 397–400 time frame, and they claim that the church at that point was recognizing this as well as the Jewish Old Testament. Their argument hinges on what Augustine said. Augustine referred to a list of books that were to be read in the church, and when he wrote, he wrote that there were three kinds of books that he was writing about. He says first there is the Canon of inspired Scripture of the Old Testament and New Testament. Second are what he calls the ecclesiastical writings which were read in the church, which were read in the church, this was read in the church, but they were not authoritative for defining doctrine. He specifically mentions the Old Testament Apocrypha as in the second category of books that the church circulated. The third classification was books that were circulating but which were not considered orthodox, and those were heterodox and they were condemned. So you have three classes of books: the books that we have in our Bible, the Apocrypha plus some other books, and the third class is the heretical books. These are in between; these are in between books, they were kind of useful and they were used.
So what happened was, because Augustine talked about it that way, he used the word “Canon” to include category one plus category two. But if you read him, when he’s talking about this he makes a distinction between category one and category two. He clearly says only category one books can be used for doctrine; category two books are used for religious entertainment or something. But he unfortunately used c-a-n-o-n to describe both category one and category two. That’s why in the Council of Trent, which happened after the Protestant Reformation, many, many centuries later, in the Council of Trent that’s when this whole thing, the Apocrypha was declared to be canonical. In The New Catholic Encyclopedia is says: “According to Catholic doctrine the proximate criterion of the biblical Canon is the infallible decision of the church.” You’ve got to be careful of that one. They’re saying that the Canon is defined by the “infallible” church, which places the church in control of the list.
But the problem is that the list came into existence and Paul says in Galatians 1 once these books get generated by the Holy Spirit, the whole church must be subservient to those books. So whereas the church, yeah, it’s the physical source of the books but after it’s the physical source of the books it subsumes itself under the authority of those books just like Israel. There’s no difference here between the church and Israel in this area, because wasn’t Israel the source of the Old Testament? Yeah. Weren’t Israelites the writers? Yeah. Did the Old Testament come out of Israel? Yeah. But which was authoritative, Israel or the Old Testament? It was the Old Testament. So this is where we differ, and I’m just bringing this out, again not to cause a big religious fight, I just want you to be clear on where we differ. Here’s one of them: “According to Catholic doctrine the proximate criterion of the biblical Canon is the infallible decision of the church.” We would disagree with that.
“Moreover, this decision was not given until rather late in the history of the church at the Council of Trent. The Council of Trent definitively settled the matter of the Old Testament Canon.” The Council of Trent is after Luther and Calvin; it was in response to the Protestants. That’s why Catholic orthodoxy is called Tridentine Catholicism. What do they mean by that term, Tridentine Catholicism? It means Catholicism as it hardened up after the Reformation at the Council of Trent. If you ever really want to read what Roman Catholicism believes, not what some American Catholic … American Catholics aren’t good Catholics, but if you really want to read what Italian Catholics and the real Catholics believe, not phony American Catholics, if you read the European Catholics read Trent. In Trent it’s all let out, it’s all there just as clear as can be. And I’ll guarantee you you could take the Council of Trent writings and go up to the average American Catholic and they wouldn’t know what’s going on, any more, frankly, than you could take the Bible and put it up to the average Protestant and they wouldn’t know what’s going on. Same problem, nobody reads!
The point here is that there’s a breach in a concept of authority and it’s that breach that we believe was settled in the fundamental area of the church. Turn to Ephesians 2:20. It’s this concept that we’re getting at, this foundation period of the church, this 600-year period, when all these things were defined. According to Ephesians 2:20 Paul believed the church had already been founded in his day, that the founding activity was already settled, finished: “Having been built” past tense, “having been built “upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone,  in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing” present tense “into a holy temple in the Lord.” So it was founded, past tense, it is now growing, present tense. Relating it to what we’re saying, notice in verse 20 it’s a foundation based on whom? Apostles and prophets. What was one of the key functions of apostles and prophets? What did they do? They were conduits of revelation. They were the writers of Scripture.
Remember I said the Maccabees knew that they did not have prophets in their time, and therefore they couldn’t do certain things and they actually buried stuff. And they say we don’t know where this stuff goes, we don’t know what to do with it, so we’re going to buy it until a prophet comes along and tells us what to do. That’s the Jewish mentality, without a prophet you don’t do anything. The revelation and inspiration, Paul says, [can’t understand word/s] the church happens with the apostles and prophets. And since it’s past, you don’t need apostles and prophets any more, their work is finished with the generation of Scripture. This is another key point and that’s what we get into on page 89, “The Disappearance of Certain Spiritual Gifts.”
The reasons these gifts disappear is because the gifts are finished. If you build a house, you pour the foundation and then you get on with the rest of the building. But to hear some Christians, you’d think that what you’re supposed to do is just keep pouring the foundation every day. But that’s a misunderstanding; that violates the whole metaphor of a building. Once the foundation is built, it’s finished, now there are other gifts needed to build it up. So this is why, on page 89 there are three great periods in church history of very concentrated revelation, and in between those periods, frankly, there’s centuries of silence where God doesn’t reveal anything. And we are in an era of the silence of God. God has not spoken publicly since the time of the apostles and prophets. Why? He doesn’t have to. Why doesn’t He have to? Because the Scriptures are sufficient!
What did Jesus say to the people, the unbelievers that disbelieved in His day? Well gee Jesus, if you’d just do a miracle now they’d believe. Remember what He said? He said if they don’t believe Moses and the prophets, they won’t believe if there’s a resurrection in front of their face. If people won’t believe the sufficient Scripture that’s already generated, they wouldn’t believe if a prophet did come here, because they’ve already had a chance to respond to the Word of God. Well, it’d be more real if we had a prophet… . No it wouldn’t, because the response is not to a person, the response is to truth and content, and the truth and the content is in the text of the Word of God.
When we come to the disappearance of gifts we understand there were these founding gifts, and if we take a timeline, we don’t know exactly when these things phased out; we know from church history they did phase out. The apostles and prophets disappeared very fast, and a lot of the miraculous gifts disappeared. In fact, looking at the book of Hebrews, another little verb tense, another little detail in the text but a very useful detail in the text because in Hebrews 2:3 it says, “how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” Now watch the construction of the next sentence; observe very carefully. “After it was at the first spoken through the Lord,” the first phase of New Testament revelation, the Gospels, “it was confirmed to us by those who heard,  God also bearing witness with them both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.” Verse 4 is a series of participles that explain and expand the main verb of verse 3. What is the main verb in verse 3 that is expanded by verse 4? It’s “confirmed.” What tense is the verb “confirmed,” past, present or future? It’s past. Isn’t this interesting, apparently all the gifts, all the miracles, all the signs and all the wonders finished their work by the time the book of Hebrews was written, because he says “it was confirmed to us,” past tense, it’s over with. That doesn’t mean they didn’t have different areas where they might have continued, but the point is that these gifts are dropping off.
There are certain temporary spiritual gifts that are ceasing; there are other gifts that continue down through the Church Age, the gift of pastor, the gift of teacher, the gift of giving, the gift of mercy, etc., these continues. But what always happens in church history is that people like to go back and dwell on these things because it’s (quote) “more spiritual.” I never will forget the wise words of Dr. Ryrie one day in class. We were talking about the gift of tongues, of course that’s the one in charismatic circles, they always have to go back to the gift of tongues, and you have to know Dr. Ryrie to appreciate his personality. He’s a very laid back kind of guy. He sat back and said one day, Well, fellas, you know it’s interesting to see what kind of gifts people emphasize, isn’t it strange that in all the Holy Spirit revivals you never saw an outbreak of the gift of giving. See what he points out, because it commits you to do something. Isn’t it interesting that the gifts that are always prated about as spiritual gifts don’t obligate you to do anything. I mean the gift of tongues - you just flap your mouth, you don’t have to do anything.
The point here is that gifts have a function in the body of Christ, and if you understand the church grows with time, it’s founded, and by the way, these gifts are very important, they really are important. In fact, if you turn to 1 Corinthians it’s a very interesting section, right in the middle of it, and I’ve noticed over the years all these discussions about tongues and this and that, it always comes up short when you go to the text here. It says in 1 Corinthians 13:8-10, think of this in the light of Paul talking about the church. “Love never fails,” that’s the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit. By the way, we’re not saying that miracles ceased; every time someone believes in the Lord Jesus Christ what miracle is performed? Regeneration, illumination, there are all kinds of miracles going on, it’s just that people don’t like those miracles, they want something else. “Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.  For we know in part, and we prophesy in part,” or literally the text “we know bit by bit, and we prophesy bit by bit,” the idea is that revelation was still growing in the period in which Corinthians was written. Verse 10, “but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.”
Now there’s a debate of what “perfect” is. I tend to believe that “perfect” means when revelation is finished, which would be when the Canon was completed, because the word “perfect” here is a neuter. Nevertheless, notice in verse 11 what follows, “When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.” He’s talking about maturity and growth, that’s maturity of the Church Age. [blank spot] … very interesting Old Testament fore view.
Continuing in 1 Corinthians, look at chapter 14. It’s specifically addressed to tongues in the congregation. Then it says, verse 20, “Brethren, do not be children in your thinking, yet in evil be babes, but in your thinking be mature.” What he’s saying is get this. Verse 21, “In the Law it is written,” and now he quotes an Old Testament text. If you have a study Bible you’ll see in the margin it’s Isaiah 28, “‘By men of strange tongues and by the lips of strangers I will speak to this people, and even so they will not listen to Me,’ says the Lord.  So then,” so Paul is concluding something by referencing an Isaiahianic passage out of the Old Testament. He’s saying I can tell you about the nature of this gift because in the Old Testament it was prophesied.
In verse 21 which cites Isaiah, if you look in the Isaiahianic text the “men of strange tongues” means men of Gentile languages,” that is, non-Hebrew languages, which, by the way, shows you here he’s talking about real languages, not some heavenly stuff, these are real languages. He says “men of Gentile languages” I’m going to speak to you, and think of Isaiah, forget about the church for a minute, just go look at verse 21, think of where that happened. That was in the Old Testament. When Israel was going down and God was angry at them for rejecting revelation, so He said you people won’t listen to revelation through your own language, then I am going to speak to you by foreign language. So it’s interesting that he says [in] verse 22, “tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe, but to unbelievers; but prophecy is for a sign, not to unbelievers, but those who believe.” Then he goes on to give early regulation to the tongues thing.
Tongues are just one thing, and the big idea tonight is not tongues; the big idea is this, that in the Protestant reaction, because Luther and Calvin went back to the text, they insisted on the cessation of certain gifts. They weren’t fighting the issue of tongues, they weren’t fighting that issue so much as they were fighting two in particular. Why do you suppose they fought that one? Why do you think that the Reformers insisted that the apostles and prophets are no longer? Because they were simultaneously insisting that the Scriptural Canon had already been generated and now it, not any continuing line of apostles and prophets, it, the completed Canon of Scripture, was the authority. See how this fits together.
It’s interesting, down through history everybody who has tried to fight with the Bible has always brought apostles and prophets back in some way, shape or form. Think of Mormonism, what does Mormonism say? The church is restored, the restored church or the Latter Day Saints, latter day meaning the end of the Church Age, the Latter Day Saints. What do they mean by Latter Day Saints? They mean that the prophets have come back again, Joseph Smith, and the prophets always do what? They write Scripture. What did Joseph Smith write? The Book of Mormon. So they are logically consistent, but in order to downgrade the Scripture Satan always has to at least have some truth so what he tries to do is get people convinced a prophet can come back so we can get people to follow this prophet’s writings, which will gradually suppress the Bible, and now you just have this new prophetic false text.
Islam does the same thing. What is Mohammed called? The prophet, and through Mohammed is supposed to come Scripture, and we have the Quran. See how it works. So the Protestants alert to that said no, this was necessary only at the child infancy stage of the church, only at the foundation stage of the church and you don’t need them anymore because of sola Scriptura, the sufficiency of Scripture; it’s absolutely unnecessary.
On page 90 there’s a long quote from Sir Robert Anderson and that quote is a wonderful statement of as these gifts went away, particularly in this case the gift of miraculous healing, and I gave you the two key verses there, Philippians 2:25-28; 2 Timothy 4:20 which referenced Paul’s own gift of healing had gone away by the time that he wrote those texts, he couldn’t heal people, whereas before he could heal them. Sir Robert Anderson reflects on that, and he says:
“I know that if in the days of His humiliation this poor crippled child had been brought into His Presence He would have healed it. And I am assured that His power is greater now than when He sojourned upon the earth, and that He is still as near to us as He then was. But when I bring this to a practical test, it fails. Whatever the reason, it does not seem to be true. This poor afflicted child must remain a cripple. I dare not say He cannot heal my child, but it is clear that He will not. And why will He not? How is this mystery to be explained? The plain fact is that with all who believe the Bible, the great difficulty respecting miracles is not their occurrence, but their absence.”
Don’t get Anderson wrong, he’s not criticizing the Bible; Anderson was an orthodox Christian. What he’s getting at is there are periods in Scripture as well as since Scripture when God is silent. I think the way to think of this, I was trying to think of a metaphor to explain why this is probably true. Think of good music, GOOD music, I don’t mean the boom-boom stuff, when a kid eight blocks away you can hear them through the street, I’m talking about good music. Good music always has a crescendo and then quiet. Right? Why do composers do that? Why do they have loud and then they have soft? It’s part of the artwork of the music. It’s part of God’s revelation to have those times when He flashes forth in loud public revelation, and there are times when He’s quiet. And we cannot dare say that when He’s quiet He doesn’t care, or when He’s quiet He doesn’t have me personally in mind. He’s already told us He loves us; He’s proven to us that He loves us on the cross. If we were to ask Him He’d probably say did you take a good look at the cross? Did you look at what I did and you’re still saying I don’t love you? The silence of God is something we have to deal with and it’s related to this issue.
I want you to just take a look at the diagram [A Christian interpretation of History], that’s out of a man who taught for many years at Wheaton College in the history department back in the days when Wheaton was more conservative than it is today. It’s a wonderful diagram that we’ll expand on, and it’s a diagram that shows authority and the chains of authority. You notice the arrows on the left side of the diagram go up; the arrows on the right side of the diagram go down. God is at the top, the church is at the bottom, or Western culture is at the bottom. Look up on the right side, “God reaches down to man by revelation,” and on that line, if you follow it down in the right margin, you will see those segments of church history that emphasize the authority of Scripture, the authority of revelation. Now look at the other side, to the left. Man reaches up to God by reason, up by reason, in other words, man reaches up on his own meritorious intellectual powers. On the left side of that you will read everything that Dr. Kearns has placed, which shows you people who have emphasized the authority of reason. So on the left side you have the authority of reason, on the right side you have the authority of revelation. And in the middle you have this mishmash where Roman Catholicism has borrowed both traditions. We’re going to talk about that as we talk about the church maturing, what happened, what was the synthesis. It’s often called… scholars call that the Medieval Synthesis, i.e., when revelation was synthesized and mixed up with reason. That’s the next step in church history.
But right now to sum up what we’ve said, all this yak-yakking I’ve been doing about the Canon is really over one issue and one issue only. What is the standard of truth? What is the authority structure? Does the authority structure reside in a tradition in a church or does the authority structure reside in the Scriptures? We don’t have time tonight to go into it, but think of Jesus during His earthly ministry. What was the chief problem Jesus had authority wise with the Pharisees? What authority were they quoting over against Jesus? Think of the Sermon on the Mount; “Ye have heard it said, but I say unto you.” Now when He quoted “ye have heard it said,” what was He citing? It wasn’t just the Old Testament, it was the Old Testament interpreted by tradition. Matthew 15, when they climbed all over Jesus, You violated the traditions, and basically He says the hell with your traditions, you go back to the Old Testament text, the Law says, boom!
So if you think about it, if you have time take a concordance and look up the word “tradition” and watch how Jesus uses it; it’s always used in a derogatory fashion. And all the debates into, tradition is always derogatorily spoken of, because Jesus hated tradition? No, He insisted, however, no matter how comfortable you are with it, it does not stand on the level of authority with the Scriptures. So in this, then we are summing up; what we are saying is that in the foundational period of the church, God through the special gifts of apostles and prophets, gave the church this, and this is the authority for the rest of the Church Age. Whether the church recognizes it or not and whether the church follows it or not, that’s another issue. But this has been brought into existence, and really the church, if it were honest, knew by AD 300–400 that these existed, and they really did have it down, and it was only sloppy use of the word Canon that got this involved in the mess.
Question asked: Clough replies: That got into it, but actually, do you know a strange thing, do you know who the two guys that were the most solid on the Canon of Scripture were in church history, and it was those early centuries? It was Origen and Jerome. Do you know why? Because both those guys knew the languages. It’s a strange fact of church history that Augustine didn’t know a word of Hebrew. I’m not trying to knock Augustine because Augustine did some wonderful things. Augustine provided the framework theologically for a lot of the Reformation, but Augustine along with that had this other strange strain to him in that because he became a Christian in Rome, he developed the doctrine of the exclusivity of Roman Catholicism. Actually it was Augustine that developed the idea that you cannot be saved outside of the church of Rome. It was early on in his theology, and some people think, I’m not an expert in church history so I just haven’t had … you know, you can just go into volumes and volumes, but some scholars feel like he reneged that later as he got older and more mature. But in his early years he was a tyrant about that, after he became a Christian.
But the guy, the two guys that cleared it out, Jerome was the risk guy. Do you know what Jerome did in church history, what he was famous for? He was the guy that translated the Bible into Latin. So he was a translator. He knew Hebrew and he knew Greek, and it’s significant that Jerome said the Canon is exactly what we’ve got here. Where it got foggy was that these other books did circulate, along with some other pseudo New Testament books like, if you go in a library that has this you’ll see 1 Clement, Clements’ First epistle to the Corinthians, and you’ll see some other writings like that, you’ll see the Didache, The Teaching. And those books, by the way, are used by conservative scholars not for doctrine, but what do you suppose they use them for? Word studies, background, because they do reflect Greek usage. So they’re also used in word studies and to understand how people in the first and second century were interpreting Scripture.
So it’s not like these books got radiation or something, we’ve got to put them in a lead safe. And they are wonderful stories. If you read the Apocrypha, one of the great historical stories of all time is 1 and 2 Maccabees because it gives you how the Jews struggled with Antiochus Epiphanies who is the historic precursor of the antichrist. I mean, if there’s one man in history who in his biography is the picture of the antichrist, it’s Antiochus. And what’s so remarkable about the betrayal of Antiochus is that he’s a politician, he’s not a nasty guy, he’s a good ole boy, he wants to get everybody together. In one sense he had a very gentle streak to him, in that he couldn’t stand religious arguments and fights, he just wanted to get everybody together, let’s all gooey together. This is Antiochus. Finally however, like all the gooey people, he gets extremely infuriated at those people who have their own standard of truth and won’t go along with Antiochus.
There’s a remarkable passage in here in 1 Corinthians when the Maccabeus, there’s a family, Maccabeus is the word for hammer, and that was the name of the family. So the old man got fed up with this stuff when Antiochus decided he was going to force the Jews to go along with him he decided the way he would do it is sacrifice pigs, make them sacrifice a pig. And so they tried it and they came into this little town one day and the old man Maccabeus was there, and he took one look at that and he pulled out a sword and he killed the priest, Antiochus’ priest right in front of everybody. And then he turned around to the crowd and he said all those who are loyal to the Torah follow me, we are in revolt. And that’s the story of the Maccabean revolt; it was just a bloody mess.
Question asked: Clough replies: The Greek Orthodox Church has those books in it but they never did what the Catholic Church did in that the Catholic Church, when the Council of Trent declared them as absolute canonical-inspired Scripture, the Greek Orthodox Church over the centuries has been more careful than that. You read the Greek Orthodox theologians and most of them argue that these are edifying for the church to be read, but they don’t go quite that far like Trent did. So they never created the big issue like what happened in the West. They kind of kept it cool over there in the East so it never really became an issue for the Greek Orthodox people. It’s true though, and in practice you’re absolutely right, they have a lot of stuff, not just books but they’ve got a lot of stuff that’s out there.
The Greek Orthodox Church, we don’t usually speak too much to it because it’s not really a strong issue here, of course in Baltimore there’s quite a few Greek Orthodox Churches, they’re actually quite strong in Baltimore. But they have not tried to … it’s been their strength and their weakness and the Greek Orthodox people have been not so dogmatic as we in the West traditionally have done. I mean, we’ve had fights over the Trinity, we’ve had fights over the hypostatic union, we’ve talked about whether the Holy Spirit comes from the Father or from the Father and the Son, etc. They tended to stay in the eastern part of the empire and kind of mind their business. But in the course of doing that, critically speaking they haven’t had to face the issue and make a decision about it, like in the West. In the West we’ve faced these issues and fought over them, and made decisions, good or bad but we’ve raised them in fundamental issues.
Question asked: Clough replies: You’re talking about the text types. Okay, that’s a different issue. That’s a different issue. What she’s brought up is the modern debate over the King James only and this and that. That’s a textual issue; that is another issue besides the issue of the Canon. The Canon is more establishing that list. The text types deal with after you get the book and you look at the text, what does the text say? And it’s remarkable that when you study the text, you go through the Dead Sea Scrolls and compare them with the Septuagint and compare that with the Masoretic Text and this kind of stuff that goes on, in Jesus day the textual variation was far greater than it is today because the Council of Jamnia was one of the Jewish councils, they had to come to a decision about what text type they would set up and that’s when they came up with the text, the Masoretic Text.
The background of that is that there were three textual families; there were a lot of little ones, but three main textual families … if you bought a Bible, if you went in a bookstore in Jesus’ day and bought a Bible, you could buy one of three text types. You could buy the Septuagint, which was in Greek translated from the Hebrew, but done in Alexandria, and the Alexandrian community of Jews are those who fled down there centuries before when what happened? The exile, remember, 586 BC. So you had a large Jewish community in Egypt. And Egypt, Alexandria turned into the intellectual center of the whole Mediterranean area. So history tells us there were seventy Jews, we don’t know if that’s true, but seventy Jews, that’s the Septuagint, that’s how the word got started, translated from Hebrew into Greek for the same reason you make English translations today out of Greek, because the Jews were forgetting Hebrew, that wasn’t the language of the street, Greek was. So they wanted a Bible in their street language and that’s how the Septuagint got started. That was one text type; that was before Jesus’ time. And it’s known because the New Testament cites verses that look like it’s coming out of the Septuagint. So we know that in the New Testament times they were aware of the Septuagint.
The second text type is the Masoretic Text; that was the Babylonian Jews. That was the one that was probably the most careful, rigid, dogmatic checked text. That’s the one when you look at the text, these guys counted, the Masoretes counted every single letter till they got to the halfway point, it’s like today in computer data communication you have a check sum, where you take the bits, ones and zeros, and they go through the electronics and stuff and so each packet has a sum, a check sum on it, and it’s one of the ways to check to see whether you have integrity of transmission. Ironically it wasn’t the computer people that started check sums, it was the Masoretes. The Masoretes didn’t have copy machines; they had to do all this by hand.
And usually we think how they did it was they took four or five scribes and they sat in a room and they’d have one scribe standing here and very slowly he would pronounce the words like this, emphasizing each vowel, and his enunciation was not the language of Hebrew that you would have heard in the street, it was a specialized version where he emphasized everything. From that they had a whole other pronunciation system that was created. But the idea was this guy would get up here and he’d dictate and this scribe, this scribe, this scribe, this scribe and this scribe was sitting there and he was saying Elohim bara, Elohim created, God created, so he’d put Elohim and he’d start writing the text. Well, mistakes can happen. How do you check for the mistakes? The way they checked for the mistakes was they started counting the characters and when got to the halfway point they knew they had a sum total, and if they didn’t get to the sum total, sorry Joe, tear it up. And Joe is sitting here after about five days of dictation with papyri, and that wasn’t cheap, they didn’t have Staples where they could get paper, so here they have a papyri roll and this guy spends three or four days listening to this guy dictating it, and he comes out, oh, I’m five off and boom. That’s what they did with the Masoretic Text. Thank God they did that because that was how we preserved the text.
So when you hear all these college professors trying to abuse Christian students, throw that one up because every class in literature in college when they talk about Aristotle, they talk about Plato, they talk about these Greeks, nobody ever raises a text problem. They just cite Aristotle. Wait a minute. Hold it here. What’s the earliest text you’ve got for Aristotle? Well, gee, it’s about AD 1000. Yeah, well you know what the earliest text of the New Testament is? Within a generation of the apostles, so what’s your problem with text types? The point is that Masoretic tradition was very rigid, very thorough, and that was the one that eventually took over.
Then as a result of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the 20th century they infer there’s a third text type and that one is a discovery from Frank Morris Cross at Harvard and others who say wait a minute, the Dead Sea Scrolls don’t look exactly like the Septuagint and they certainly aren’t the Masoretic text, where’s this coming from. So for lack of anything else they called that the Palestinian text type.
So you’ve got the Egyptian, Palestinian, and Mesopotamian text types. What are these text types? Spelling errors, occasionally you have a word different, that kind of stuff. It’s in the noise level of communication; it’s not really major issues. But that is different than the canonical issue. In deciding the Canon, the text types, I don’t believe ever were an issue.
Question asked: Clough replies: I would go with the Masoretic, the Hebrew, simply because that’s the way the Jewish people … the Greek one of Esther is the Septuagint-type tradition again, and what you’re getting there is you’re getting the linguistic views of Jews who were post-exilic. And the problem is that yeah, Esther was written post-exilic but these guys are Egyptians doing this. I would prefer to listen to the Masoretes, who wrote it in Hebrew and left it there. The reason they had a problem with that, by the way, is because it didn’t have the name of God in it, and this became an issue among the Jews about whether Esther was a canonical book or not. They had their arguments prior to the church that we’re talking about; they had their arguments and one of the arguments against the book of Esther is it never mentions God. Well, the fact that they had the argument tells you what text type they were looking at. And it tells you that they were looking at the Hebrew text. That created the argument.
We have an answer to that. Again, why it was accepted is because God is written all over it, it’s the providential working of God, and we can get into the theology of Esther but it was finally accepted in the Jewish Canon. People get up tight about text types, I know it’s a big issue today, but we live in such an illiterate age we’re going to be doing good to just get people reading the Bible no matter what the translation is; the fact they can read is going to be an exciting development. So I always kind of consider this … you know, it’s a neat kind of argument to have in a discussion, but frankly if you talk to average people, we’re missing out on just getting them in the text, period, no matter what the translation is.