The Four Gospels and the Canon of the NT

May 27, 2006

Introduction:
1.  We’re going to continue our 3-part series entitled: The DaVinci Delusion
- this is a response the book, The DaVinci Code, by Dan Brown AND the new movie released last weekend (however, the movie doesn’t seem to be doing so well)
2.  Our goal in this series fits into the category of Eph. 4:11-16 – “equipping the saint”
- with a book that has sold over 40 millions copies and translated into several languages, it deserves a biblical response
- keep in mind, our key verse:
 1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;
3.  Due to the impact this book is having, we thought it best to conclude our Series: God Wrote a Book with a specific application to a cultural situation – i.e. the popularity of Brown’s book!
- when people start saying that they are NOT going to go to church again because the church is based on a bunch of lies, you NEED to respond!
- though this situation is not new, many have rejected Christ and His Word in the past, it does require a bit of attention!
4.  Bottom Line:  The DaVinci Code makes accusations that are NOT true – totally discounting the biblical record, and attacks the most important person in our lives:  Jesus Christ!
2) Dan Brown is attacking the most important person in my life – my Lord and my God, Jesus Christ!
5. Last week we studied the minor errors in the book (minor, not that they are justified or unimportant, they are still ‘errors’, but minor compared to what we’ll hear today:
Part 1: The Errors and the Art – last week
Part 2 The Four Gospels and the Canon of the NT – THIS week!
Part 3 The Deity of Christ and Mary Magdalene – NEXT week
- your study guide will help you to follow along as we go – we will STOP the DVD at certain time to further discuss specific points
[start the DVD]
Part 3: The 4 Biblical Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John)
“More than 80 gospels were considered for the New Testament, yet only a relative few were chosen for inclusion – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John among them.” The DaVinci Code, p. 231

Implication: The church suppressed equally or even more valid gospels that didn’t tell the story the way the church wanted it to be told.
Key Word: Evidence?
Q: What is the evidence for this ‘competing gospels’ decades after Jesus idea?
Answer: NONE – there are no written Gospels from the same timeframe as the NT testament Gospel writers!
- The characters in The DaVinci Code base their unorthodox views of Jesus on the so called, Gnostic texts (52 of them) which were discovered in Nag Hammadi, Egypt in 1945.
Gnostic Gospels teach:
1) Matter is evil
2) Jesus could not be God in the flesh because flesh was material
3) Rather than accepting salvation through the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus, it was only through secret knowledge given by a privileged few!
4) Man has a ‘spark’ of divinity in him.
Q: So which is to be believed?
STOP the DVD @ 30 min. 00 sec. When the question is asked about which to believe and BEFORE Amy Welborn’s comments]
[Review: Two opposing views cannot both be TRUE!]
Input: What do the Gospels teach about what is sinful?

Matthew 15:17 "Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? 18 "But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. 19 "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.
- the heart is what is sinful, the material absorbs the effects of the curse of sin, but is not inherently sinful in and of itself.
Input: What do the Gospels teach regarding salvation?
 John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
 John 14:6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
 John 11:25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.
 Mark 7:6 He answered and said to them, "Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: 'This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me.
Input: What do the Gospels teach about the sinfulness of man?
 Luke 24:7 "saying, 'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.' "
[CONTINUE DVD w/Amy Welborn’s comments]]
Truth: By the beginning of the 2nd century, the 4 Gospels that we now have in the NT were already regarded as the most authoritative.
* Problem with the Gnostic Gospels:
1) Written far too late to be of any historic value to the life of Christ
2) Questionable authorship
3) The timing of the Gnostics – nearly 100 years after the completion of the original 4 gospels (around 95 A.D.)
-  The biblical gospels have been attacked repeatedly, one enduring fact about them remains:  the apostles of Christ testified to the authenticity of their account of Jesus with their own blood.
Tertullian, 200 A.D., “We Christians are forbidden to introduce anything on our own authority, or to chose what someone else introduces on his own authority.  Our authorities are the Lord’s apostles, and they, in their turn, choose to introduce nothing on their own authority. They faithfully passed on to the nations the teaching which they had received from Christ.”
STOP the DVD – right after Kennedy’s quote of Tertullian – Review what we studied in God Wrote a Book – Where Did the Bible Come From?


II. Identifying the Inspired Writings:


* The process of canonization describes how the individual books of Scripture were set apart and recognized.
Canon = measuring rod
Q: What were the measuring sticks for believing that a book was truly the Word of God?
Input: What were the five tests of canonicity?
Test #1: Authority – Does it claim to be the Word of God
Q: Does this book bear the internal marks of inspiration?
Example: “And God said” // “Thus says the Lord,” // “The word of the Lord came to me saying . . . “
- more the 4,00 times the writers that they are saying/writing the very Word of God!
Test #2: Authorship – Was the book written by a prophet, apostle of God, or close associate of an apostle
– this would be consisted with 2 Peter 1:19-21
Test #3: Authenticity – Does it agree with or contradict the rest of the Scripture)
- this assumes all the rules of hermeneutics (rules of interpretation)
- Good question to ask is:  Is the writing validated by Christ and the NT writers
 Jesus endorsed the account of Jonah (Mt. 12:40)
 Jesus verified the authorship of Daniel (Mt. 24:15)
 Quoted lsh. 6, 29, 42, 50, 53 (Mt. 13, 14, 15)
 directly quoted from Deut. 8:3 “Man shall not live by bread
Test #4: Alive – Referring to the power of the book, its life-changing influence
- the is where Hebrews 4:12 is so important:
 Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Test #5: Acceptance (another term: Universality) – Accepted and received by the church universally), especially, the early church
– they knew Peter, Paul, John, etc.
* This was the most important test of all.  Did the other churches receive it as God’s Word?
 Thessalonians 2:13 For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.
[CONTINUE the DVD]
Part 4:  The NT Bible
The DaVinci Code: “The Bible as we know it today, was collated by the pagan Roman emperor, Constantine, the Great.” – p. 231
[Important Point: The church doesn’t determine canonicity, it only recognizes it.]
 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
• The books that ended up in the Bible are there because:
1) They were recognized over a period of time . . 2) by a variety of congregations. . .
3) including a variety of geographic regions . . . 4)  in part because of their apostolic roots
Point: What we have is a testimony of centuries at work in the recognition of the canon as opposed to a particular moment when they took place. 
Q: What about the claim that Constantine with the aid of the church destroyed competing gospels in forming the canon?
Key Point: The vast majority of these documents were written much later the NT material – long after the times of the eye witnesses.
Key Part: It’s not what happened in the 4th century, but what happened in the 1st & 2nd centuries!
- We have historical assurance that the books in the NT contain the earliest teachings of the Christian church. 
Example: Conversion of Paul
 1 Corinthians 15:3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.
Summary by Kennedy – STOP the DVD – Close by asking the following questions:
Q: What impact should this have on our relationship with God and/or His Word?
Q: What impart should this have on applying the Word to our personal lives and family?
Q: What impact should this have on our proclamation of that truth?
NEXT WEEK: Part 3
 What about the deity of Christ? What is the Mary Magdalene situation?
Homework: Read chps. 5 & 6 Josh McDowell’s, The DaVinci Code – A Quest for Answers
The DaVinci Delusion
Part 2
Introduction:
* Key verse:
 1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;
# 3: The 4 Biblical Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John)
“More than 80 gospels were considered for the New Testament, yet only a relative few were chosen for inclusion – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John among them.” The DaVinci Code, p. 231
Implication: The church suppressed equally or even more valid gospels that didn’t tell the story the way the church wanted it to be told.
Key Word: Evidence – What is the evidence for this ‘competing gospels’ idea? Answer: NONE – there are no written Gospels from the same timeframe as the NT Gospel writers!
-  The characters in The DaVinci Code base their unorthodox views of Jesus on the so called, Gnostic texts (52 of them) which were discovered in Nag Hammadi, Egypt in 1945.
* Gnostic Gospels teach:
1) Matter is evil
2) Jesus could not be God in the flesh because flesh was material
3) Rather than accepting salvation through the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus, it was only through secret knowledge given by a privileged few!
4) Man has a ‘spark’ of divinity in him.
Q: So which is to be believed?
Input: What do the Gospels teach about what is sinful?

Input: What do the Gospels teach regarding salvation?

Input: What do the Gospels teach about the sinfulness of man?

Truth: By the beginning of the 2nd century, the 4 Gospels that we now have in the NT were already regarded as the most authoritative.

* Problem with the Gnostic Gospels:
1) Written far too late to be of any historic value to the life of Christ
2) Questionable authorship
3) The timing of the Gnostics – nearly 100 yrs. after the completion of the original 4 gospels (around 95 A.D.)
-  The biblical gospels have been attacked repeatedly, one enduring fact about them remains:  the apostles of Christ testified to the authenticity of their account of Jesus with their own blood.
Tertullian, 200 A.D., “We Christians are forbidden to introduce anything on our own authority, or to chose what someone else introduces on his own authority.  Our authorities are the Lord’s apostles, and they, in their turn, choose to introduce nothing on their own authority. They faithfully passed on to the nations the teaching which they had received from Christ.”
Input: What were the five tests of canonicity?
Test #1: Authority – Does it claim to be the Word of God
Test #2: Authorship – Was the book written by a prophet, apostle of God, or close associate of an apostle
Test #3: Authenticity – Does it agree with or contradict the rest of the Scripture)
Test #4: Alive – Referring to the power of the book, its life-changing influence
Test #5: Acceptance – Accepted and received by the church universally, esp. the early church
Part 4:  The NT Bible
The DaVinci Code: “The Bible as we know it today, was collated by the pagan Roman emperor, Constantine, the Great.” – p. 231
[Important Point: The church doesn’t determine canonicity, it only recognizes it.]
 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
• The books that ended up in the Bible are there because:
1) They were recognized over a period of time . . 2) by a variety of congregations. . .
3) including a variety of geographic regions . . . 4)  in part because of their apostolic roots
Point: What we have is a testimony of centuries at work in the recognition of the canon as opposed to a particular moment when they took place. 
Q: What about the claim that Constantine with the aid of the church destroyed competing gospels in forming the canon?
Key Point: The vast majority of these documents were written much later the NT material – long after the times of the eye witnesses.
Key Part: It’s not what happened in the 4th century, but what happened in the 1st & 2nd centuries!
-  We have historical assurance that the books in the NT contain the earliest teachings of the Christian church. 
Example: Conversion of Paul
 1 Corinthians 15:3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.
Q: What impact should this have on our relationship with God and/or His Word?
Q: What impart should this have on applying the Word to our personal lives and family?
Q: What impact should this have on our proclamation of that truth?
Homework: Read chps. 5 & 6 Josh McDowell’s, The DaVinci Code – A Quest for Answers