Monday, December 30, 2019

The Law and the Prophets

Every word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words, or He will rebuke you and prove you a liar” (Proverbs 30:5–6).

When rabbis examined the final form of the Old Testament, they taught that it contained three categories of books: homologoumena (those accepted by all), antilegoumena (those disputed by some), and pseudepigrapha (those rejected by all).

Thirty-four of the thirty-nine books found in the Old Testament used in historic Protestant churches were accepted as authoritative by the learned men of Judaism and the early church fathers of Christianity. The five disputed books (Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Ezekiel and Proverbs), after some discussion, were finally considered authoritative and therefore canonical by the rabbis and the early church. At one time these books seemed, by some, to contain material which “spoke against” the unified witness of the homologoumena.

Song of Solomon was questioned because of its sensuality. Ecclesiastes was examined for its apparent skepticism. Esther did not contain God’s name. Ezekiel seemed to contradict certain statements of Moses. Proverbs was disputed because it too had unresolved and seemingly contradictory elements.

Scholars demonstrated that Song of Solomon was important to teach about the sanctity and purity of the marriage covenant—between man and woman and between God and His people. Ecclesiastes is a realistic presentation of man as he is in his own realm. The conclusion is all-important. “Man under the sun” is not to be the believer’s sole contemplation; there is a much higher reality over and above the sun.

Esther manifests God’s presence in a dynamic way through His providential guidance and grace. A name for God might be absent from the book but He is manifestly present in the narrative. Ezekiel was questioned by the rabbis of the school of Shammai for apparent contradictions with their interpretation of the writings of Moses. When they were asked to present one hard and fast example, they failed. Therefore, these books were universally accepted as authoritative revelation from God.

We must be aware of two errors. It is easy for us to relegate biblical passages which we do not like, or which confuse us, to secondary authority. On the other hand, we often elevate to an improper level of authority noncanonical teaching, whether it be the writings of a favorite theologian, or the sermons of our preacher, or even the notes in a particular Bible. Seek to render proper authority to all things, reserving ultimate authority for God’s revelation.