January 23 - 29
The Preparation and Preservation of the Scriptures
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Dent. 31:24-26; 2 Kings 22; Jer. 36; 2 Pet. 3:15, 16; Acts 20:29, 30; 1 Cor. 10:11.
MEMORY TEXT: "The Word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you" (1 Peter 1:25).
KEY THOUGHT: : Not only did the Holy Spirit inspire the production of the Bible, but He also, in a supernatural way, preserved those Scriptures He wanted people of later ages to have and to study. The Bible is a miracle book not only in its inception but also in its transmission to us. We need to be open to it as it leads us to Jesus our Lord.
WRITTEN REVELATION NOT GIVEN UNTIL THE TIME OF MOSES. "During the first twenty-five hundred years of human history, there was no written revelation. Those who had been taught of God, communicated their knowledge to others, and it was handed down from father to son, through successive generations. The preparation of the written word began in the time of Moses. Inspired revelations were then embodied in an inspired book. This work continued during the long period of sixteen hundred years-from Moses, the historian of creation and the law, to John, the recorder of the most sublime truths of the gospel....
"The Infinite One by His Holy Spirit has shed light into the minds and hearts of His servants ... and those to whom the truth was thus revealed, have themselves embodied the thought in human language."The Great Controversy, pp. v, vi.
How did God give special significance to the preservation of the Inspired Writings in the days of Moses? Deut. 31:24-26.
In this passage God marked the beginning of setting the inspired writings apart as having special honor.
What did Samuel do centuries later that added to the collection of the Old Testament Scriptures? 1 Sam. 10:25.
"As the centuries passed, one prophet after another wrote as he was moved by the Holy Spirit, and the books came to be recognized as messages of God. Priests or other religious leaders held the writings of the prophets in private collections or deposited them for safekeeping in the temple. Here they remainedin some instances for centuriesuntil all available sacred writings were collected and sorted.... It appears that the writings were not assembled into a body until after the captivity and restoration of Israel; or in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah."Jemison, Christian Beliefs, p. 20. (For further discussion of the Old Testament canon, see Friday's section.)
What indication is there that the book of Chronicles was written after the Jewish exile in Babylon? 2 Chron. 36:22, 23; Jer. 29:10.
"Many books of pre-exilic origin survived the destruction of Jerusalem and the Babylonian captivity. This can be seen from the fact that Daniel used the book of Jeremiah during the exile in Babylonia (Dan. 9:2), and that about 20 different books are mentioned in the books of Chronicles as either having provided the source material for the contents of that work, or as books where additional information could be secured concerning many points that were only lightly touched in Chronicles."SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 1, p. 38.
|For reflection: What have you found in your study of the Bible that sets it apart from other works of literature? Recall texts that have been a comfort to you during the hardships and trials of your life. How have these Inspired Words been an inspiration to you in the past, and how do they continue to draw you closer to God and inspire you with a deeper understanding of His divine love?|
"More than any other of the prophets, he [Jeremiah] emphasized the teachings of the Mosaic law, and showed how these might bring the highest spiritual blessing to the nation and to every individual heart."Prophets and Kings, p. 411.
The rulers and the people became antagonistic toward Jeremiah because of the straight messages he preached. He warned that, unless the kingdom of Judah turned back to God, they were to be taken into Babylonian captivity. He also cautioned them against stirring up the wrath of the Babylonians by alliances with Egypt. God gave Jeremiah a message for King Jehoiakim, telling the king not only that the Babylonians would capture Jerusalem but that the king himself also would be put to death (Jer. 22:18, 19). Angered, Jehoiakirn threw Jeremiah into prison, but this did not prevent the prophet from forwarding God's message to the stubborn king.
Read the fascinating story found in Jeremiah 36, noting:
1. God's command to write His message on a scroll
2. How this was done and how it finally reached the king
3. How the pen of the prophet proved mightier than the king's knife
4. The result of King Jehoiakim's attempt to destroy the Word of God (verse 32)
Jehoiakim's experience demonstrated that human efforts to destroy the Word of God result in it becoming an even more powerful witness. A more subtle and successful way to destroy the effectiveness and power of the Bible is to neglect or ignore it.
Read 2 Kings 22:3-20 to find an illustration of how God brought a reformation in the time of Josiah through the discovery of the long-neglected book of the Law.
"[Josiah] resolved to walk in the light of its [the book of the Law's] counsels, and also to do all in his power to acquaint his people with its teachings, and to lead them, if possible, to cultivate reverence and love for the law of heaven."Prophets and Kings, p. 398.
|For reflection: Have there been times on the job, in the family circle, or among peers when you have been called like Jeremiah to make a firm stand for God's truth in the face of opposition?|
The gathering of the New Testament books took far less time than did the more complicated collecting of the Old Testament books. One obvious reason is that the New Testament covers a much shorter period of history, and most of it was written by or reflects the reports of eyewitnesses. We see a continuation of God's revelation at work as the New Testament reflects the new light that came into the world through Jesus.
But it is essential to keep in mind here that new light that contradicts old light is no light.
When Paul quotes Luke 10:7 in 1 Timothy 5:18, how does he refer to it? How does Peter classify Paul's writings? 2 Pet. 3:15, 16.
"As accounts of the Saviour's life were circulated and letters addressed to churches or groups of churches appeared, exchanges were made with other churches who had received documents from the same authors. Col. 4:16. In some cases, copies were sent to relatives and friends who were church members in other cities and countries. In this way the writings of the apostles and those who had been closely associated with Jesus were widely circulated and accepted among Christians in a relatively short time. Paul's apistles, which are generally regarded as the earliest in the New Testament books, received almost immediate acceptance everywhere."Jemison, Christian Beliefs, p. 21.
In 1 Corinthians 5:9, Paul refers to an epistle he wrote to the Corinthians that no longer exists. Because it also must have been written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, why do you think it was not preserved?
"That it was the apostle's habit to write letters to the churches is evident from 2 Cor. 10:9, 10. The letters preserved in the NT for our benefit form only part of the total instruction given through Paul to the many groups of believers whom he had organized into churches."SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 692. Note that in Acts 20:35 Paul quotes words of Jesus that are not recorded elsewhere in the New Testament. John acknowledges that the Gospels do not contain everything Jesus did or taught when he writes: "And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written" (John 21:25).
We can rest assured that the twenty-seven books we now have in the New Testament reveal divine guidance in their preservation for our attention and use. Many uninspired and fanciful writingsoften referred to as the pseudepigraphacirculated among the early Christians. Most of them were falsely given the name of noted apostles or church elders. Undoubtedly this caused confusion, but the Holy Spirit was at work to prevent these from becoming part of the accepted Sacred Canon.
What did Jesus warn about in Matthew 24:11?
What did Paul call false teachers who would distort God's revelations? Acts 20:29, 30.
Scoffers and critics in Paul's day mocked his teachings. (See Acts 17:16-34.) Second Peter 3:3-6 mentions the scoffers' willful forgetfulness and criticism of the Bible record of the promise of Christ's coming, of Creation, and of the Flood. But in every generation since the fall of man, God has had faithful followers like Noah and Elijah to stand as a witness against the scoffers and mockers of His truth.
Note: Here is a continuation of yesterday's discussion of the New Testament canon for our consideration.
"The gathering of the New Testament books was somewhat different from that of the Old. Both writers and readers were acquainted with and believed in the doctrine of divine inspiration. They already had a group of sacred writings in the form of the Old Testament....
"Development of the canon progressed through the first four centuries as men, prompted by the Spirit, recognized the writings as inspired.
"These men held two basic standards, or measures, for the books that came to their attention: (1) Had the author been an apostle, or a companion of an apostle? (2) Did the contents of the book agree with the other Scriptures, was it internally consistent, and did it conform to Christian experience? But these standards, without the guidance of the Holy Spirit, would not have been sufficient to guarantee a correct selection. The books were inspired when they were written, and accepting them into the canon of Scripture in no way affected their inspiration."Jemison, Christian Beliefs, pp. 21, 22. (If available, see The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, pp. 123-132 for a fuller discussion of the New Testament canon.)
What does Paul suggest concerning the reason God has preserved the Scriptures? 1 Cor. 10:11.
For whom was the Bible written? It was written for each one of us. It is not just for the intellectual or the Bible scholar who can read God's Word in the original languages. God meant for the Bible to be read and understood by everyone. One of our problems in this scientific age is that we have been conditioned to think that only the trained expert really understands. Or maybe this is not the real problem-maybe it is just an excuse. Perhaps we've just become comfortable with allowing the experts and the scientists do our thinking for us. As much as we are indebted to theologians, it could be that we're just too accustomed to being spoon-fed. We shouldn't rely on what others think about the Bible. Nothing can take the place of studying and discovering Bible truth for ourselves. Because it takes time and effort, many give up without finding the blessing that God has placed there for those willing to discover the value and experience the joy of in-depth Bible study.
What four types of response to the gospel seed did Jesus mention in His parable of the sower? Matt. 13:3-9, 18-23.
Match the following: (Answers given in Friday's lesson)
|1. -The careless and prejudiced||A. Thorny-ground hearers|
|2. - The shallow and superficial||B. Stony-ground hearers|
|3. - The easily distracted||C. Good-ground hearers|
|4. - Those most receptive||D. Wayside hearers|
The careless and indifferent approach to Bible study can be worse than not studying at all. Those who have such an attitude seem to approach their occasional contact with the Scriptures with this motto: Blessed are those who expect nothing, for they shall not be disappointed. Good-ground hearers train themselves to get the most out of the time they regularly set aside for Bible study.
|In which hearer category do you fit? What things can you think of in other areas of your live that help you or hinder you from becoming receptive to the gospel?|
FURTHER STUDY: (A continuation of the discussion of the Old Testament canon begun in Sunday's lesson.) "Before this [the days of Ezra and Nehemiah] all biblical references to 'books' seem to be to the books of Moses, the Pentateuch. But in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah 'the book of the law' appears to take on a wider meaning and to include other writings. Jewish tradition indicates that these two divinely guided leaders were largely responsible for gathering the sacred writings and forming them into a unit.
"In the time of Christ the Jews were certain that the body of sacred writingscalled the 'canon'had been arranged in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. Following the council of Jamnia, A.D. 90, the Jews were united on the contents of the Old Testament canon. The books were the same as in our Bible, but the order and grouping differed....
"It [the canon] signifies something measured, recognized, or accepted according to a definite standard.... Applied to the Old Testament, it means the body of sacred writings that met the standard for inclusion in the Scriptures....
"Each book found its way into the canon by reason of its inspiration. The choice of books to be included in the canon was not left to the wisdom of men. The Holy Spirit, who inspired the writers, led minds to recognize and accept the books that were to be preserved for future generations. The authority for the choice was God's authority, and the divinely prompted recognition of inspiration ensured the inclusion of a book within the accepted group. "Jemison, Christian Beliefs, pp. 20, 21.
"Jesus Christ and the apostles definitely believed in the authority and inspiration of the Hebrew Bible, as seen from numerous testimonies witnessing to this fact ... Furthermore, hundreds of quotations taken from at least 30 Old Testament books show the high esteem in which these writings were held by the founder of the Christian faith and His immediate followers."SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 1, pp. 44,45. (For a fuller discussion, see, if available, SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 1, pp. 36-45.)
WORD FOR REVIEW: Canon. "The collection or list of sacred books composing the Old and New Testaments, which are accepted as inspired by God and therefore as possessing divine authority. "SDA Bible Dictionary, p. 172.
SUMMARY: Not all the writings of the prophets were preserved for future generations. But the Bible as we know it, after the fixing of the canon, was supernaturally preserved for the admonition and guidance of God's people.
Answers to matching quiz in Thursday's lesson: 1. D; 2. B; 3. A; 4. C.
As Drathai studied her Bible, she was amazed that the Creator God allowed His own Son to die at the hands of an angry mob. She wanted to talk with Him, to receive His guidance, but her growing awareness of her own sinfulness troubled her. How could she ever be good enough to approach this mighty God?
When the pastor visited her, she asked him to teach her how to pray. Soon she made her first feeble attempts to communicate with her Creator. Other Christians shared their faith with her, prayed for her, and encouraged her in her steps of faith.
Drathai's parents had seen the letters that came to their daughter from the Bible correspondence school. They appreciated the positive influence of her Christian friends. But they did not realize the depth of interest Drathai had in Christianity.
Drathai decided to follow Jesus and be baptized. She knew that her parents would try to stop her, so she was baptized secretly in the nearby river. When her parents learned of her baptism, her mother cried bitterly. "The spirits will punish us because you no longer worship them!" her mother cried. "Please bow with me to the ancestors!" Drathai quietly refused, explaining that a Christian can have no other gods save the God of heaven.
Friends also scolded her. "You have been brainwashed! These Christians will bring the anger of our ancestors down upon us! Drathai struggled to retain her faith. In her distress she poured out her heart to Jesus.
God answered her prayers, and Drathai saw a remarkable change in her parents' attitude. They told her that she was almost an adult and had a right to make important decisions about her life.
When she finished secondary school, her pastor encouraged her to attend Spicer Memorial College in Pune, India. With her parents' permission, Drathai enrolled in the Christian college.
She writes her parents often, thanking them for allowing her to follow her faith and complete her education. "I pray that the Holy Spirit will work in their hearts and lead them to know Jesus. Each day I learn more and more about God and His love," she says. "I want to share that knowledge with others. That is my way of saying Thank You to God."
Nola Tudu is acting director of the Department of Journalism and Communication at Spicer Memorial College.
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