Is the Protestant Canon Reliable?

I have seen quite a few argue lately that because there are several different Biblical Canons among various Christian groups, that somehow this invalidates the authenticity of ANY particular Cannon being inspired and authoritative. The attack appears especially centered on asserting the Protestant Canon as unreliable.

Even though I understand why and sympathize with many who feel this way, I disagree with this view for the reasons given below. I believe a firm case can be made for the reliability of the Protestant Canon. In saying this, I am not denigrating the other Canons. Let each Christian be convinced that the Canon he uses is inspired and reliable. And, as we will see below, the various Christian Canons are largely in agreement, especially as to which books belong in the New Testament Canon.

The Protestant Canon contains 66 books, 39 in the Old, and 27 in the New.

Let’s first consider the Protestant Old Testament Canon. The evidence listed below is compelling that the Old Testament Canon of today is the exact same canon Jesus used in his day, and the same basic canon used by the Judaism for at least 200 years prior to Jesus’ birth.


“The author of the apocryphal book Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) was a contemporary of the high priest Simon—either the first or the second of that name—who lived at the beginning or at the end of the third century B.C. He knew the Law and Prophets in their present form and sequence; for he glorifies (ch. xliv.-xlix.) the great men of antiquity in the order in which they successively follow in Holy Writ. He not only knew the name (‘The Twelve Prophets’), but cites Malachi iii. 23, and is acquainted with by far the greatest part of the Hagiographa, as is certain from the Hebrew original of his writings recently discovered.” Source: The Unedited Jewish Encyclopedia

The Book of Sirach, commonly called the Wisdom of Sirach or simply Sirach, and also known as The Book of Ecclesiasticus is a work of ethical teachings from approximately 200 – 175 BCE written by the Jewish scribe Shimon ben Yeshua ben Eliezer ben Sira of Jerusalem. In Egypt, it was translated into Greek by the author’s grandson, who added a prologue. The Prologue is widely considered the earliest witness to a canon of the books of the prophets. The book itself is the largest wisdom book to have been preserved from antiquity.

“Sirach provides clear proof of an established canon 200 years before Christ. He knew the Psalms, which he ascribes to David (Ecclus. [Sirach] xlvii. 8, 9), and the Proverbs: ‘There were those who found out musical harmonies, and set forth proverbs [A. V., poetical compositions] in writing’ (xliv. 5).

An allusion to Proverbs and probably to the Song of Solomon is contained in his words on King Solomon: ‘The countries marveled at thee for thy songs, and proverbs, and parables [or dark sayings], and interpretations’ (xlvii. 17); the last three words being taken from Prov. i. 6, while the Song of Solomon is alluded to in ‘songs.’ He would have had no authority to speak of ‘songs’ at all from I Kings v. 12; he must have known them. While he had no knowledge of Ecclesiastes, his didactic style proves that he used Job, as is also indicated by the words (xliv. 4, and afterward, ).

Ecclesiastes, Esther, and Daniel are not included in his canon (see Halévy, ‘Etude sur la Partie du Texte Hébreux de l’Ecclésiastique,’ pp. 67 et seq., Paris, 1897); he considers Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah as Holy Scripture (xlix. 12 = Ezra iii. 2; xlix. 13 = Neh. iii. and vi.; compare Neh. vi. 12); he mentions distinctly ‘the laws and prophets’ (xxxix. 1).

The grandson of Sirach (132 B.C.), who translated his ancestor’s wisdom from Hebrew into Greek, tells in his preface no more about the canon than is apparent from the book itself; but he tells it more clearly. He mentions three times the Torah, Prophets, and ‘other writings;’ he knew no ‘terminus technicus’ for the canon’s third part, as one was not coined until two hundred years later.”

In the Second Book of Maccabees (124 B.C.; Niese, ‘Kritik der Beiden Makkabäerbücher’), written only a few years later than the Greek Sirach, the following is stated: ‘The same things also were reported in the records, namely, the memoirs of Neemias: and how he, founding a library, gathered together the books concerning the kings, and the prophets, and those of David, and the epistles of the kings concerning holy gifts. And in like manner also Judas gathered together all those books that had been scattered by reason of the war we had, and they are with us. If now possibly ye have need thereof, send such as will bring them unto you’ (II Macc. ii. 13-15).

The Torah is not mentioned; its general circulation rendered its ‘collection’ unnecessary. The second part of the canon is unmistakably intended by ‘books concerning the kings’ (Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings) and by ‘prophets’ (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Minor Prophets).

Since the Hagiographa had not yet received a definite name, they are mentioned as ‘those of David’ (the Psalms), as the first and most important book—a custom followed in the New Testament even at a time when there was no doubt concerning the existence of collected Hagiographa. The expression, ‘the books of the kings concerning holy gifts,’ seems to refer to the royal letters mentioned in Ezra and Nehemiah, and if this is so, then the Hagiographa do find mention; viz., Psalms and Chronicles, their first and last books…

Philo [Hellenistic Jewish philosopher of Alexandria 20 B.C. to 50 A.D.] in his extant works, makes no mention of Ezekiel… Since, however, even Sirach mentions Ezekiel, Philo’s silence about him is undoubtedly accidental…

Moreover, the Laws, Prophets, Psalms, and other books are referred to by title in his “De Vita Contemplativa,” § 3. It is true, Lucius (‘Die Therapeuten,’ Strasburg, 1880) doubts the genuineness of this work; but Leopold Cohn, an authority on Philo (‘Einleitung und Chronologie der Schriften Philo’s,’ p. 37, Leipsic, 1899; ‘Philologus, ‘ vii., suppl. volume, p. 421), maintains that there is no reason to do so.

Consequently, Siegfried’s opinion (‘Philo,’ p. 61, Jena, 1875) that Philo’s canon was essentially the same as that of today, is probably correct (H. E. Ryle, ‘Philo and Holy Scripture,’ London, 1895).

Source: The Unedited Jewish
The unedited full-text of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia


The Protestant Old Testament contains the same Hebrew Scriptures that the Bible of Jesus’ day did. For Jesus, the Scriptures He referred to in the Gospels were the Jewish Bible now called the Tanakh (the Law, the Prophets, the Writings). In Luke 24:44 Jesus uses a widely employed threefold division to refer to the inspired canon of Scripture as the Law and the Prophets and the Psalms, a canon that includes the thirty-nine books of the Protestant Bible and excludes Intertestamental writings. They are divided and ordered a little differently than the Protestant Old Testament, but the Scriptures themselves are the same. The Protestant Old Testament contains the same passages which comprise the entirety of the Jewish Scriptures of Jesus’ day.

The Roman historian Josephus, who wrote in Jesus’ day, who himself was Jewish, limited the Old Testament canon to 22 books. Josephus expressly puts the number at 22, as does Origen (Eusebius, “Hist. Eccl.” vi. 25); while Jerome (Preface to Samuel and Kings) mentions 22, but nevertheless counts 24. Since both of these church fathers studied under Jewish teachers, it is probable that some authorities within the synagogue favored counting 22 books; and the hesitation between 22 and 24 can be explained by a Baraita (B. B. 13b), according to which each book of the latter two divisions (Prophets and Hagiographa) had to be written separately as one roll. Since Ruth with Judges or with Psalms (Jerome, and Baraita B. B. 14b) might form one roll, and Lamentations with Jeremiah another, the rolls would be counted as 22, while the books were actually 24.

However, these 22 books exactly comprise the same material we have in the 39 books we have today. The difference in the number of books is based on the Jews dividing and combining their books differently than we do, but there is no dispute that Josephus’ canon is the exact SAME as our Old Testament canon.

Josephus also said that there had been no additions to the OT canon since Malachi’s day. Confirmation that Josephus’ 22 books are the same as the 39 book Old Testament Canon comes from both the church fathers Origen and Jerome. Again, these 22 books contain the exact same Scriptures as our 39 books, but they were just combined, divided and ordered differently by Jewish scholars.

Josephus makes no mention of the Old Testament Apocrypha, and there is no evidence it was ever accepted by any Jewish community, either in or outside the land of Palestine.

With the possible of exception of two brief and uncertain passages in Jude, the New Testament never mentions any incidents, characters, or quotes from the Apocrypha.

The Apocrypha was not accepted as Scripture by such Jewish writers of the first century as Philo and Josephus; by the Jewish council at Jamnia (A.D. 90), or by the Christian writers Origen and Jerome. Jerome, the renowned writer of the Latin Vulgate, from which the Roman Catholic Bible comes, steadfastly refused to include the Apocrypha as canonical.

The fact that other Christian groups may have later added other Apocryphal books to their respective Old Testament Canons does not negate the inspiration and authenticity of the 39 books which all DO agree on. So, if we start with those portions of Old Testament Canons all ARE agreed upon, the Protestant, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Coptic Orthodox, Ethiopian (narrow), Orthodox Tewahedo, and Syriac Christian, THEN we are left only with the 39 books of the Protestant Canon.

The fact that the Protestant Old Testament Canon is based upon the exact Jewish Bible of Jesus’ day makes the case for the 39 book OT Canon all the more compelling.


The New Testament canons of the Protestant, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Coptic Orthodox, Ethiopian (narrow), Orthodox Tewahedo, and Syriac Christian ALL have the exact same 27 books of the New Testament.

That’s remarkable.

Concerning the New Testament church Fathers, the Canon was fluidly and providentially formed and filtered over and through the first three centuries of Church formation:

1) Irenaeus, born in A.D. 130, listed all the current New Testament Canon as authoritative Scripture except Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John and Jude. Justin Martyr in the middle of the second century said that “memoirs of the apostles” were read along with the “writings of the prophets.” at Christian assemblies.

2) Origen, born in A.D. 185, who is widely considered the first great systematic theologian of the early church, at one point definitively lists all the current New Testament Canon as authoritative in the following passage quoted by Bruce Metzger:

“So too our Lord Jesus Christ… sent his apostles as priests carrying well-wrought trumpets. First, Matthew sounded the priestly trumpet in his Gospel. Mark also, and Luke, and John…. Peter moreover sounds with the two trumpets of his Epistles; James also and Jude… and John gives forth the trumpet sound through his Epistles and Revelation; and Luke while describing the deeds of the apostles. Latest of all… [Paul] thundering on the fourteen trumpets of his Epistles, threw down, even to the very foundations, the walls of Jericho.” (Origen was the greatest enemy of Gnosticism, per his Against Celsus, and is considered the greatest theologian of the early Eastern Church.”There is hardly a major thinker who is not deeply indebted to Origen. From the middle of the Twentieth Century, focused scholarly symposia of the Greek and Latin Church have once again begun to study and critically expound the rich Origenian legacy.” The Westminister Handbook of Patristic Theology, WJK).

3) Athanasius, born in A.D. 296, gives the list of accepted canonical books as the exact same 27 we have today. He called them “springs of salvation.” Athanasius in 367 lays down the twenty-seven books of our New Testament as alone canonical; shortly afterwards Jerome and Augustine followed his example in the West. (Athanasius of Alexandria was the 20th bishop of Alexandria. His episcopate lasted 45 years (c. 8 June 328 – 2 May 373), of which over 17 were spent in five exiles ordered by four different Roman emperors. He is considered to be a renowned Christian theologian, a Church Father, the chief defender of Trinitarianism against Arianism, and a noted Egyptian leader of the fourth century).

“One thing must be emphatically stated. The New Testament books did not become authoritative for the Church because they were formally included in a canonical list; on the contrary, the Church included them in her canon because she already regarded them as divinely inspired, recognizing their innate worth and general apostolic authority, direct or indirect. The first ecclesiastical councils to classify the canonical books were both held in North Africa — at Hippo Regius in 393 and at Carthage in 397 — but what these councils did was not to impose something new upon the Christian communities but to codify what was already the general practice of those communities.” F.F. Bruce, THE NEW TESTAMENT DOCUMENTS, page 22.

CONCLUSION: The only disagreements in the various major Christian Canons of today come on the issue of proper inclusion of the Old Testament Apocrypha and a few other OT books and OT passages over which some of the groups above have disagreed. But, even so, all of the above Christian groups still recognize the 39 books of the OT Protestant Canon as authoritative and inspired, as well as the 27 books of the New Testament Canon.

So, if we take as a reasonable rule that Christians worldwide can have a uniform canon consisting of ONLY the individual books on which ALL of the above Christian groups agree, do you know what we would have? The 66 books of the Protestant Bible! The point is that there is widespread agreement on the 66 books. While some believe a few more belong in the Old Testament, the lack of consensus on those few, in combination with the complete consensus on the many, makes the 66 book Protestant Bible attractive and persuasive. That’s clearly enough for a significant consensus.


Regarding textual variations between different manuscripts and how they affect the reliability of Scripture, below is an extremely helpful link in which Daniel Wallace gives an excellent summary on the general consistency among the various New Testament manuscripts. “As Craig Blomberg has written, ‘Dan Wallace has clearly become evangelical Christianity’s premier active textual critic today.’ In addition to teaching New Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary, he serves as executive director of the cutting-edge Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM). He recently made quite a stir when he announced that next year an academic publication will reveal the discovery of a first-century fragment from the Gospel of Mark.”

Below is a brief excerpt of this article in which the various types of textual manuscript discrepancies are discussed. As Wallace notes:

“The variants can be categorized into four kinds:

Spelling and nonsense readings
Changes that can’t be translated; synonyms
Meaningful variants that are not viable
Meaningful and viable variants

Let me briefly explain each of these.

Spelling and nonsense readings are the vast majority, accounting for at least 75% of all variants. The most common variant is what’s called a movable nu—that’s an ‘n’ at the end of one word before another word that starts with a vowel. We see the same principle in English with the indefinite article: ‘a book,’ ‘an apple.’ These spelling differences are easy for scholars to detect. They really affect nothing.

The second largest group, changes that can’t be translated and synonyms, also do not affect the meaning of the text. Frequently, the word order in the Greek text is changed from manuscript to manuscript. Yet the word order in Greek is very flexible. For the most part, the only difference is one of emphasis, not meaning.

The third group is meaningful variants that are not viable. By ‘viable’ I mean a variant that can make a good case for reflecting the wording of the original text. This, the third largest group, even though it involves meaningful variants, has no credibility. For example, in Luke 6:22, the ESV reads, ‘Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!’ But one manuscript from the 10th/11th century (codex 2882) lacks the words “on account of the Son of Man.” That’s a very meaningful variant since it seems to say that a person is blessed when he is persecuted, regardless of his allegiance to Christ. Yet it is only in one manuscript, and a relatively late one at that. It has no chance of reflecting the wording of the original text, since all the other manuscripts are against it, including quite a few that are much, much earlier.

The smallest category by far is the last category: meaningful and viable variants. These comprise less than 1% of all textual variants. Yet, even here, no cardinal belief is at stake. These variants do affect what a particular passage teaches, and thus what the Bible says in that place, but they do not jeopardize essential beliefs.

When Wallace was confronted about the assertion by Bart Ehrman, with whom Wallace has publicly debated many times, about the hundreds of ‘textual tamperings’ committed by orthodox scribes, here is Wallace’s response:

‘One of Ehrman’s theses is that orthodox scribes tampered with the text in hundreds of places, resulting in alterations of the essential affirmations of the NT. How do you respond?

Ehrman is quite right that orthodox scribes altered the text in hundreds of places. In fact, it’s probably in the thousands. Chief among them are changes to the Gospels to harmonize them in wording with each other.

But to suggest that these alterations change essential affirmations of the NT is going far beyond the evidence. The variants that he produces do not do what he seems to claim. Ever since the 1700s, with Johann Albrecht Bengel who studied the meaningful and viable textual variants, scholars have embraced what is called THE ORTHODOXY OF THE VARIANTS. For more than two centuries, most biblical scholars have declared that no essential affirmation has been affected by the variants. Even Ehrman has conceded this point in the three debates I have had with him. (For those interested, they can order the DVD of our second debate, held at the campus of Southern Methodist University. It’s available here.)'”

My bottom line is that I trust that the providential hand of God did, over time, guide both the book selection of the canon, as well as the general consistency, reliability, and accuracy of the texts. The early church fathers believed that New Covenant believers are “able to penetrate beyond the verba to the divinely intended voice of Scripture to discern its divinely intended meaning and thus its true glory.” (Matthew Bates).

Different translations of different manuscripts enrich our understanding of the spiritual meaning of Scripture rather than impoverishing it. The literal “text” in different manuscripts might have some low level of differences, but not on anything essential to core Christian affirmations. However, the spiritual “subtext” between manuscripts is always harmonious and allows for different texts to actually complement, rather than antagonize, each other. The Holy Spirit, after all, is the ultimate aligning agent of translation.


If the Bible is NOT inspired by God on ANY meaningful level, then why oh why should I then believe a chapter, a verse, a word, nay– even a lone uninspired syllable of it?

If God has played NO ROLE in providentially protecting, gradually developing and fluidly forming the basic canon of Scripture on ANY level, why should I then trust ANYTHING it says or suggests?

You can’t have it both ways. If the Bible is NOT inspired by God on ANY level, then He certainly doesn’t want us relying on it on ANY level. Anything not God-inspired on ANY level can have NO divine worth, authority, or reliability.

So, please, if you deny the Bible is inspired on ANY and EVERY level, then please don’t ever mention Jesus in your theology. Why? Because, of course, it would be uninspired to do so. An uninspired Bible means that all we really know today of Jesus is ALSO uninspired on EVERY level BECAUSE it comes from uninspired Scriptures written by uninspired men, which were later developed by uninspired church fathers, and eventually canonized by still other uninspired councils of men.

If you deny the divine inspiration of Scripture at all levels, then you really deny the testimony of Jesus: Who He was, His divinity, His incarnation, His gifts and enablements left to us, His commission to us, His future promises, His indwelling of our hearts NOW, His matchless teachings on love and forgiveness ……. ALL…… ARE…. UNINSPIRED…. BY…… GOD.

We do all realize that WITHOUT the witness of Scriptures, we all would know precisely nothing, that is to say, “zippo, nada, squat” about Jesus….. don’t we?

Oh, we might have a vague intuition of an invisible divine Spirit, some inner echo of awareness of a creator God, some inkling of an unknown God. But, like the Athenians in Paul’s day, our “best” understanding, WITHOUT the witness of Scripture, would allow us to set up a temple “TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.” Paul referred to their shallow and uninformed understanding of the true God as follows, “What therefore ye worship in ignorance, this I set forth unto you.” Acts 17:22-23.

It amazes me that those who favor demoting the Bible as being non-authoritative and “optional” reading claim that Jesus would support their idea. Yet, they base that mainly on how the Bible says Jesus disdained hyper-literal religionists of His day. But, HOW would they even know that without reading it from the Bible? They are not only biting the hand that feeds them, they are gnawing it off altogether.

Or, in the alternative, you could simply say, “I do believe that all Scripture is inspired by God, not always in its literal form perhaps, but that on some meaningful level, often allegorical, God wants us to engage every text with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I believe the Holy Spirit will eventually help us glean some significant spiritual meaning from it. This gleaning on occasion might be MORE than what the text literally says, or in some cases even OTHER than what the text literally says, but there is always an inspired subtextual meaning God has embedded in the passage for us to see. And that meaning will always be Christological. Sometimes, this reading will enhance the literal reading, while at other times it may contradict it, but it will always enrich and expand my understanding of Christ.”

On the road to Emmaus, Jesus told the two disciples “And beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, He (Christ) INTERPRETED to them in ALL THE SCRIPTURES the things concerning himself…And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Was not our heart burning within us, while he spake to us in the way, while he opened to us the scriptures?” Luke 24:26-27, 31-32.

This is the Jesus-burn that only true inspiration can bring. We are thus called to be the inspired readers of an inspired Bible written by inspired men and later compiled by inspired gatherers, all of whom to varying degrees share the same basic source of inspiration– the Spirit of Christ. Isn’t it interesting that the word “inspired” literally means “in-spirited.”

If you are interested in hearing more, here is a link to an article I wrote called The Jesus Hermeneutic. Enjoy!


Many today are demanding that the Bible prove itself as divinely inspired and authentic. The legitimacy of the Scripture is questioned, and its great worth as a meta narrative is tarnished.

Sure there are profound interpretive issues which we must navigate, but Jesus esteemed the Scriptures of His day and so should we. Jesus never criticized Scripture, He only criticized how arrogant men wrongly approached them. These men, in His estimation, though they were the presumed Bible scholars of their day, “KNEW neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.” Matthew 22:29. Thus, knowing Scriptures is coupled here with knowing God’s power in our lives. That’s a nice combination.

Jesus taught us that the “Scriptures must be fulfilled.” Mark 14:49. But the wonderful thing is, Jesus Himself is THAT fulfillment. Jesus is the SOLE hermeneutic for proper Bible reading. Jesus’ Spirit is the SOLE agent of translation which must inspire the reader to properly internalize the truths of Scripture. Jesus’ over-arching meta narrative is the interpretive key to understanding every Scripture.

On the road to Emmaus, Jesus told the two disciples “And beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, He (Christ) INTERPRETED to them in ALL THE SCRIPTURES the things concerning HIMSELF….And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Was not our HEART BURNING WITHIN US, while he spake to us in the way, while he opened to us the scriptures?” Luke 24:26-27, 31-32. Thus, it must be Jesus opening all the Scriptures to us, or we will miss both Him as its message and Him as the revealed power of God.

However, I believe that the REAL issue behind the Bible doubting today is an epistemological one rather than an empirical one, that is to say, “HOW do we KNOW anything about anything when it comes to Scripture?” Some are now demanding that natural reasoning empirically prove what many others believe to be a supernaturally inspired document. And that can’t work.

If we carried that same guideline to it’s logical extreme, very little documentation of distant history would be credible beyond an educated guess, which by its nature always leaves room for a reasonable doubt. We can usually insert some level of reasonable doubt into anything we ourselves haven’t directly eye-witnessed. The fact that Jesus even actually walked the earth in supernatural power can’t be proven empirically beyond the writings a few witnesses who claim to have seen him or heard about Him in His day.

As a lawyer, given time to prepare, I could cross-examine and shred most any ancient historical document as dubious and of limited reliability IF I used strictly natural reasoning and empirical standards of proof. Eyewitness testimony today has been empirically proven by psychologists to be notoriously unreliable.

History is basically just sketchy hearsay, providing a basis for educated guessing. Nothing ancient can be proved beyond all empirical doubt. It is certainly interesting hearsay, but it is ultimately opinion-based and largely un-provable. History is continually rewritten, challenged, disputed and adjusted, with absolute consensus being the rarest of things. Obviously, the more recent the history, the more it allows for video and audio confirmation, but even these are capable of being forged, partial or misinterpreted.

As far as the Bible though, we have no such confirmation other than the eyewitness documents and the hearsay of the day. This is why hearsay in a court of law is inadmissible. And even if we could meticulously establish the chain of custody of every Scripture from pen to scroll to now, it would still depend ultimately on the hearsay accounts of the writers and preservers of the texts, all of which are not provable.

The ancients didn’t have evidence lockers, videotape cameras recording all the Scribes’ actions or meticulous peer review procedures. The empirical proof many ask for in is ultimately impossible to provide, not only for the Bible but for any ancient sacred document.

Authentication has to come from another source. All any Bible writer had was inspired faith. Or, as Kierkegaard famously termed it, it was a “leap of faith” into the arena of divine things, an arena where empiricism and logic are secondary spices but are not the primary meat in the stew.

So, when it comes to epistemology (how we KNOW anything to be true), I subscribe to Henri Bergson’s Vitalism, which essentially says that there are two types of knowledge– 1) RELATIVE KNOWLEDGE obtained through our natural faculties which is always subject to change, and 2) INTUITIVE APPREHENSION of eternal truth which is not subject to change. The latter “intuitive truth” is the only way any divine knowledge can be grasped, by an immediate and spontaneous apprehension of it.

Bergson believed that we are far more than the sum of our parts. Logic and empirical reasoning are lesser parts of our thinking because we have transcendent thinking skills which greatly exceed these rational sub-parts. There is a growing movement today to establish the legitimacy of abductive (gut-led intuition) reasoning as greater than either deductive or inductive reasoning.

“An absolute can only be given in an intuition, while all the rest has to do with analysis…Some other faculty than the intellect is necessary for the apprehension of reality.” Henri Bergson, THE CREATIVE MIND: AN INTRODUCTION TO METAPHYSICS.

This tension has always been present in almost every discipline. Platonic intuition versus cold Aristotelian logic. Jungian epiphany versus Freudian reason. Quantum unpredictability versus Rules-based Newtonian Physics. This is why Einstein said imagination is more important than intelligence. He also believed intuition was a sacred gift that reason was to serve, not lead.

So here is my bottom line. I have studied how the Scriptures were providentially formed, but that’s not why I believe them. I have a ten-volume set of the Ante-Nicene fathers which tracks the providential recognition and growing dependence on the books now contained in the New Testament as they developed in the first 300 years after Christ, but that is not why I believe them. I also have numerous books and articles on the formation of Scripture, hermeneutical principles, and apologetics which trace the fingerprints of providential purpose on the formation of the New Testament, but that’s not why I believe them.

Here is why I accept Scriptures. Decades ago, I had a direct encounter with the Holy Spirit where I directly “apprehended” the foundational importance and supernatural vitality of Scriptures. And they have blessed me bountifully ever since.

So, here is my point. The authority of Scripture can’t primarily come from the demands of our natural reasoning, just like our faith in Jesus can’t be reduced to “prove it” theorems of logic. This is the leap of faith. Jesus certainly showed His disapproving view of empirical demands for proof in His incident with doubting Thomas.

“The other disciples therefore said unto Thomas, We have seen the Lord . But he said unto them , EXCEPT I shall SEE in his hands the print of the nails , and PUT my finger into the print of the nails , and THRUST my hand into his side , I will NOT BELIEVE [sounds like high rationalism to me].

And after eight days again his disciples were within , and Thomas with them : then came Jesus , the doors being shut , and stood in the midst , and said , Peace be unto you . Then saith he to Thomas , REACH hither thy finger , and BEHOLD my hands ; and reach hither thy hand , and THRUST it into my side : and BE NOT FAITHLESS , but believing [here Jesus calls Thomas’ demand for empirical proof FAITHLESS].

And Thomas answered and said unto him , My Lord and my God . Jesus saith unto him , Thomas , because thou hast seen me , thou hast believed : BLESSED are they that have NOT SEEN , and YET have BELIEVED [hardly a ringing endorsement for Thomas’ skeptical empiricism].” John 20:25-29.

Honestly, the modern tsunami of doubt rising to swamp and carry the Bible away from us comes from this same type of “prove it” spirit of faithless empiricism.

Of course, WITHOUT Scripture, we would know nothing, nada, zippo, that is to say precisely squat about Jesus and the kingdom of love. Oh, we might have a vague impression, like the Greeks did, of an “unknown god.” But, we would know little to nothing of Jesus.

So, just as we need a direct intuitive apprehension of Jesus as the son of the living God we also need a direct apprehension of whether Scriptures carry a unique supernatural element of authoritative inspiration. For me, I had a direct apprehension, epiphany and intuition from the Holy Spirit that Scriptures contain the exceeding great and precious promises of God which provide us all things for life and Godliness.

Each believer can experience this direct apprehension for themselves where the Holy Spirit actually confirms within their hearts that the Scriptures are unique and foundational for their faith. But it doesn’t stop there. The believer must continue to yield to the Holy Spirit as the agent of Scriptural translation. The result will be a heightened sense of things, a better rationality that incorporates sacred intuition, abductive awe, and spontaneous epiphany.

“Intelligence” is a term no longer reserved just for academics. Intelligence is instead expanded to include “emotional” intelligence, “visceral” intelligence, and “Spiritual” intelligence. Sure reason and rationality have their part in our being, but only a part. They need to blend with the other transcendent human qualities mentioned above.


The issue for Jesus was NEVER “whether” we should read Scriptures, but rather HOW we should read them. They ALL spoke richly of HIM and HIS KINGDOM, which eliminates the “whether to” read them option. So, the issue then is always HOW to read them, HOW to understand them, and HOW to find Christ in them. It was never WHETHER to read them.

Here are seven things Jesus never said about the Scriptures:

1) Scripture is just “political and religious” garbage.

2) Scripture is a “box” that confines you.

3) Scripture is “not necessary” in our walk with God.

4) Scripture “keeps people from knowing Me now.”

5) Scripture is to always be read “literally.”

6) Scripture is only a “natural man-made” document.

7) Scripture carries “no inspiration or authority” from God.

Quite the contrary, Jesus said that one of the major ways TO, TO, TO, TO “know” Him was THROUGH the Scriptures. With the Holy Spirit’s leading, the Scriptures become the exceeding great and precious promises and prophecies for our lives which allow us to become continual partakers of the divine nature of Jesus. 2 Peter 1:3-5.

“Jesus never belittled Scripture (as some modern critics do), or set it aside (as the Jewish leaders of His day had done with their Oral Traditions), or criticized it (although He criticized those who misused it), or contradicted it (although He rejected many interpretations of it), or opposed it (although He sometimes was free or interpretive with it), nor spoke in any way as ‘higher’ critics do of the Old Testament (Tanakh)…. He not only was not jealous of the attention men paid to the Bible (denounced as ‘bibliolatry’ by some), He rebuked them for their ignorance of it: Matthew 22:29; Mark 12:24. Nor did Jesus worship Scripture. He honored it—even though written by men.” –David Stanley.


1) “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets (i.e., the Old Testament Scriptures). I did not come to destroy but to FULFILL. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till ALL is fulfilled.” Mt 5.17-18.

2) “…the Scripture CANNOT be broken.” John 10.35b.

3) “Jesus answered and said to them, You are mistaken, NOT knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.” Mt 22.29.

4) “…the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” Mark 14:49.

5) “Scriptures… are they which TESTIFY of me.” John 5:39.

6) “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he EXPOUNDED unto them in ALL the scriptures the things concerning himself.” Luke 24:27.

7) “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that ALL things which are WRITTEN about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” (Luke 24:44).

The way Jesus actually quoted Scripture is so instructive. Jesus’ usage of scripture was allusive, paraphrastic, and eclectic. He was conveying elastic spiritual concepts, not paralyzed phrases which can ONLY be used in their original “set-in-concrete” manuscript form.

In other words, Jesus used a “loose-grip” with the various texts. Sometimes He appeared to quote the proto-Masoretic Hebrew text (Mark 4:26 alludes to Joel 4:13), sometimes He used the Greek Septuagint (Matthew 21:16 quoting Psalm 8:3), while still other times He would use Aramaic Targum paraphrases of the Old Testament (Mark 4:12 quoting Isaiah 6:9-10). Jesus knew that it wasn’t the letter that mattered, but the conceptual truth the Scripture was pointing at, a truth which pulsates with growth of expression.

Doesn’t that tell us how God feels about hyper-literalism? Jesus was always more concerned about divine clarity NOW than rigid adherence to PAST human legalism. He hated “toxic tension” because it keeps people from entering the spiritual rest of God.

The PARAPHRASING of Old Testament passages is used throughout the New Testament. If they had the spiritual gumption and poetic license to do it, then so too should we, particularly since 2 Corinthians 3:6 calls us “able ministers of the New Covenant… Spirit which gives life!”

The various manuscripts of Scripture, whether they be Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic, are fluid templates laid over the underground rivers of Zion. Scriptures are not “paralyzed phrases buried in cement,” but rather are “buoyant rafts running the rapids of righteous revelation.” They should never insult and degrade each other but instead complement and enrich one another.

As we learn to loosen our mental grip on the texts, the “toxic tension” caused by our idolatry of language will subside and we will be able to dynamically read, understand and apply the truth of Scripture better than ever.