CG7: How We Got the Bible


In the current issue of its The Bible Advocate, CG7-Denver has the following about how they claim we got the Bible:

The Old Testament came into written form between 1500 bc and 400 bc. While the Hebrew canon was not closed until around ad 250, Jews in Jesus’ day generally agreed that the writings of our Old Testament were authoritative and God-given.

The New Testament was written between ad 50 and ad 100. Very soon the early church recognized the unique nature of these writings, and most portions of the New Testament were being circulated and read by believers throughout the Roman Empire by the mid-second century.

In response to heretical teachings and the introduction of questionable writings, the early church began to identify an official canon in accordance with rigorous criteria. A list of writings widely recognized as inspired, of apostolic origin, and normative for Christian faith and practice was gradually assembled and agreed upon. By the close of the fourth century ad, church leaders affirmed as canonical the thirty-nine Old Testament and twenty-seven New Testament books widely accepted today.

It is true that the New Testament was written in the first century and that the Hebrew scriptures were written centuries earlier.  But on some of those points, we in the Living Church of God (LCG) have a somewhat different view.  Church of God leaders simply did not wait until the fourth century to confirm what the canon was.

The Apostle Paul wrote:

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 (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Since the Apostle Paul was inspired to write that ALL SCRIPTURE made Christians complete, it is biblically improper to claim that true Christians did not know all the books of the Bible in the second century.  And the New Testament was finalized by the Apostle John, who lived in Asia Minor until his death.

The late LCG evangelist John Ogwyn wrote:

Who, then, did put together our New Testament? The answer is found in 2 Peter 1:12–21. The Apostle Peter explained to his readers that his death was imminent, and that he wished to ensure that after he was gone there would be an authoritative record of Jesus’ real teachings. There were already, in the late 60s ad, “cunningly devised fables” (v. 16) circulating. Peter explained that the young Christian community should look to him, and to his fellow Apostle, John, for the “sure word of prophecy.”

This becomes clear when we read Peter’s words carefully. Beginning in verse 12, Peter writes in the first person singular about his approaching death, and his desire to leave a permanent record. In verse 16, he abruptly switches from “I” to “we.” Who is the “we?” The answer becomes plain in verses 16 through 18. The “we” are those who accompanied Jesus to the mountain where they saw His transfiguration, and heard the voice from heaven (Matthew 17:1–6). These were Peter, John, and James the brother of John.

By the time Peter was writing 1 Peter, James had died—the first of the Apostles to be martyred (Acts 12:1–2)—so Peter’s “we” had to refer to him and to John. Before his death in the late winter of 68ad, Peter put together the very first “canon” of the New Testament, consisting of 22 books. Near the end of the first century, John added the five books that he wrote, bringing to 27 the number of books in the New Testament that we have today.

Already in the second century, in the earliest writings of the “Church Fathers,” we see that the New Testament canon existed, and was quoted from and referenced frequently. Certainly there were attempts to change the canon, but its books were already written and too well known to be abandoned…

As for the real New Testament, it was preserved exactly where we would expect it to be. Historians are unanimous in noting that John, the last original Apostle, died in Asia Minor at Ephesus. The writings of Eusebius and others make plain that during the second and third centuries ad, the churches in Asia Minor, which had had John’s direct guidance, preserved the practices of the original Jerusalem Church (such as observing Passover on Abib 14 rather than keeping the Roman Easter). It is from Asia Minor that the Byzantine family of New Testament texts originated—the text officially preserved in the Greek world. (Tomorrow’s World. LCG magazine, September-October 2004)

And that is true.

There are a total of 27 books in the New Testament.  At least 9 books of the New Testament were directly written to the church leaders in Asia Minor. The ones clearly written to those in Asia Minor include Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Timothy (Timothy was in Ephesus), Philemon, 1 Peter, 3 John, and Revelation.  According to The Ryrie Study Bible John’s Gospel, 1 Corinthians, 1 & 2 John, and possibly Philippians, were written from Ephesus.  In addition to these 14, there see to be more as 1 & 2 John and 2 Peter, and possibly Jude may have also been mainly directed to one or more of the churches in Asia Minor.

The Book of James was written to “the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad” (James 1:1).  Some of them were in Asia Minor.  Others according to the historian Josephus were “beyond Euphrates”.  It is also likely that some other books, were written at least partially from Asia Minor. Acts, for example, specifically has a portion written to Christians in Ephesus.

So probably 14 to 20 New Testament books were written to or from Asia Minor (plus it has been claimed that all four gospel accounts were as well, though this is less certain, though one or more other than John may have been).

There is only one book written to those in Rome (it never mentions any of the so-called Roman bishops), with 2 to Corinth, 2 to Thessalonica, and 1 to Crete (Titus), a total of 7 letters not sent from nor addressed to those in Asia Minor.

What this clearly shows, is that although there were Christians in various areas, the focus for the New Testament writers were the churches in Asia Minor. And interestingly, the last book of the Bible is specifically addressed to the churches of Asia Minor (Revelation 1:4,11).  It was in Asia Minor that the NT canon was originally formed.  The idea that the original Church of God did not know the canon until the fourth century is an error that CG7 and many others have made.

Notice also what a Protestant scholar wrote:

Was not the Apostolic Canon of scripture first formed…in Asia Minor? Was not Asia Minor ahead of Rome in the formation of the Apostolic, Episcopal, ministry?…The real thinking upon vital Christianity for centuries was done outside the Roman Church (Excerpt of James Moffatt’s review, p.292. In: Bauer W. Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity, 2nd ed. Sigler Press Edition, Mifflinown (PA), 1996).

Since the Apostle John wrote the last books of the New Testament and was the oldest surviving of the original apostles, it is logical that he had the first finalized New Testament.  And it is also logical that he would have passed it on to those he ordained.  Perhaps the most famous early Christian leader in Asia Minor was Polycarp of Smyrna.  In the only letter of his to survive (Polycarp’s Letter to the Philippians), he quoted and/or alluded to every book of the New Testament, which demonstrates that the early Christian church in Asia Minor had the complete New Testament canon.

As far as the Old Testament, while it is true that there was also some later confusion, Melito of Sardis (also in Asia Minor) went down to Judea to verify the Old Testament canon in the second century, and he verified all the books that we in the Living Church of God, Orthodox Jews, and the Protestants accept as authentic.

While it is true that the Church of Rome as well as those in Alexandria were confused about the books of the Bible for quite some time, the fact is that the original Church of God had the entire canon at the time of the Apostle John’s death and verified within several decades of his death.  Those in CG7 may wish to realize that this is how we got the Bible.  It was not from a Greco-Roman council in the fourth century.

Furthermore, even though some Catholics will sometimes claim that their church gave the world the Bible, a careful review of history suggests that the Catholic saint Jerome apparently met with Church of God members in Judea to verify the books of the Bible (see The New Testament Canon – From the Bible Itself).  Jerome, like those in the Church of God, clearly DID NOT ACCEPT the additional books that the Roman and Eastern Orthodox Catholics have for the Old Testament.

God inspired the writing of the Bible, it was finalized by the Apostle John in Asia Minor, it was transmitted by John’s disciples and subsequent followers in the Church of God, and later accepted by the Greco-Roman churches (they had accepted some books for the NT that those in Asia Minor and Antioch had not, yet the Greco-Roman churches ultimately accepted as part of the NT only those books that the Church of God had accepted).

Some articles of possibly related interest may include:

The Old Testament Canon This article shows from Catholic accepted writings, that the Old Testament used by non-Roman Catholics and non-Orthodox churches is the correct version.
The New Testament Canon – From the Bible Itself This article, shows from the Bible and supporting sources, why the early Church knew which books were part of the Bible and which ones were not.
Polycarp’s Letter to the Philippians Did Polycarp refer to all the books of the New Testament in the early 2nd century? This is Roberts and Donaldson’s translation, corrected by me in one place, where they made a small error in translating Latin by omitting one word.
Church of God, Seventh Day: History and Teachings Nearly all COG’s I am aware of trace their history through this group. Whaid Rose is the president of the largest CG7 group (Denver). Do you know much about them?
The History of Early Christianity Are you aware that what most people believe is not what truly happened to the true Christian church? Do you know where the early church was based? Do you know what were the doctrines of the early church? Is your faith really based upon the truth or compromise?

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