Thanks for reading this. In 2012 I will be highlighting some of the ideas that Evangelicals have brought to the table and showing my readers why theology is important. With the Emergent church absent from a real dialog and an over emphasis on the “social gospel,” it is more important to discuss the Biblical, Systematic and Evangelical Theology that is still relevant today. The social gospel fits in beautifully with the Gospel. The definition of love that is unconditional transcends our outreach with message, music and mission. If you love the city get into the strength of what Jesus came to do.
The Bible: Biblical Theology
We believe that God has spoken in the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, through the words of human authors. As the verbally inspired Word of God, the Bible is without error in the original writings, the complete revelation of His will for salvation, and the ultimate authority by which every realm of human knowledge and endeavor should be judged. Therefore, it is to be believed in all that it teaches, obeyed in all that it requires, and trusted in all that it promises.
Old and New Testaments, Canon
The interpretative process is the key process of the development of the canon of Scripture. In that there were debates and disagreements between early Christian scholars and Jewish scholars. The word “Canon” comes from the Hebrew and Greek words for “measuring rod.” Until the Council of Trent in the 1500’s the New Testament was circulated in parts and sections that included the gospels, epistles and Revelation. Because the collections were fragmented and used as separate works through parchments received in churches and synagogues they were not widely thought of as Scripture. For the first century of Christianity this was the case. Some teachers of Christianity began to separate the wrath of the God in the Old Testament with the loving God of the New Testament. In 110 AD Marcion began a campaign and a Canon that sought to discredit Old Testament Theology by publishing a canon of merely the book of Luke and only ten letters. This called for a larger Canon which included all the Gospels and an exhaustive collection of the works that were officially titled The Gospels. By 200 AD the New Testament was widely circulated in the churches. It was not until 537 AD that all the epistles, The Book of Revelation and the synoptic Gospels were included in the New Testament that we know today.
What are the canonical issues involved with Mark 16:9-20? John 7:53-8:11?
The issues involving the two passages are about the story of the woman caught in adultery. The key points that the Canon should be meaningful. Relevant, consistent and profound are found perhaps in the footnotes. Somewhere along the road it was decided to take out the reference and quote of Jesus who stands up to the teachers of religious law by writing something in the sand and then stating, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”
The footnotes in John 7:53-8:11 say that “the earliest manuscripts and many other witnesses do not have John 7:53-8:11.” While that is disturbing and poses a problem for any teacher, the missing section of Mark 16:9-20 contains a more important omission. There in the text of the Risen Christ is The “Great Commission.” Why did the Canon omit these verses? There are some who say that the original ancient texts had both of these stories in the text. It was during translation to other languages that the scribes omitted the two passages that are in question. Whether or not they knew of the omissions is debated. There is obviously no cover up when reading the Biblical text today that clearly states the omissions in early manuscripts. That and the earliest copies show that the omissions happened and not that someone purposely added the text later.
What did not make it were The Dead Sea Scrolls, and many of the books written by Gnostics and Stoics. The Apocrypha claims to have Gospels of Thomas among others; however the archeological dates of the writings seem to take from the original gospels and add Gnostic philosophy to it. There is also a Gospel according to Judas among the works found in the Apocrypha and are clearly reinterpretations of Jesus’ teachings with a Gnostic emphasis. The question comes up “Who wrote the Bible” and moreover “Who edited the Bible?” From what I can see the Bible historically has been in good and bad hands but good wins out! The Good News of the Gospel was first spread by word of mouth. The New Testament went through a long process of development in which the early church played a pivotal role. In early Christianity the circulation of parchments, letters from apostles were sent to church leadership and met with both gratitude and suspicion. When Christians realized that the second coming of Jesus Christ may not be immediate, there was a movement to write down the events of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus before the memory eroded or became distorted. As we know a full gospel account was not readily available until after AD 60.
The need for writing down accurate and consistent accounts as we know the Synoptic Gospels to be, were indeed in danger of factions and agendas from the Gnostics which added their own philosophies to the “sayings of Jesus.” In 1945 in the Cave of Qumran the scrolls and parchments were found (including a kind of rejection letter from the Pope). As described earlier these are commonly known as The Dead Sea Scrolls. In reading these scrolls and the “added” Gospels that were attempted to influence Christianity you can see that the need for Canon (a measuring stick) was appropriate and a system and process of prayerful, discussion and debate would be pivotal to the survival of Christianity. Credibility needed to be established and scholarly and holy inspiration was required to determine what was a valid account of the teachings and sayings of Jesus and what was not.
Canons and Councils
The Canon and councils met on a regular basis to discuss language and verbiage; consistency and harmony and what they knew of the disciples and then the apostles in determining what authentic gospel was and what was not. It was determined that even though Luke was not an eyewitness through research, interviews with eyewitnesses and inspiration from the Holy Spirit that Luke’s account in both his gospel and in Acts of the Apostles were indeed credible and God inspired in its writing.
The Canon developed by Bishop Ireneaus of Lyons around AD185 is considered to be the first complete Canon. The studies, the debates and the testing of the Gospels, the Epistles, the Authorship, the Style and the verification and research of The Book of Acts and Revelation was the same process used in subsequent Canons and Councils. The same process was followed in the Canon of the Old Testament. The Reformation and the development of the printing press furthered the encouragement of active involvement in studying the Bible and distribution of the Word.