The Canon of Scripture by Ps Michael Podhaczky

You may have heard the Bible being called ‘The Canon of Scripture?’ What does this mean? A definition of the word ‘Canon’ is “the collection or list of books accepted as an authoritative rule and practice.”[1] The Hebrew of the word means a reed or a stalk; these could be used as a measure or rule. It came to mean the rule of truth, especially for sacred books.

There were three things involved in the Bible as the Canon of Scripture,
·         God inspired and controlled the writing of each part of the canon.
·         God sovereignly oversaw the preservation and collection of the canon.
·         God divinely guided the Jews, and then the Church, in recognising the canon.

The Church discerned the canon of Scripture but did not make it. It recognised its authenticity but did not give it authenticity.
“It is important to remember that the Christian church did not canonize any book. Canonization was determined by God. But the early church needed to know how to recognize canonicity.”[2]
The authority of the Scriptures is not established on the authority of the Church. In fact, it is the Church that is established on the authority of the inspired Scripture.[3] So, then
16 “All Scripture is breathed out (inspired) by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the person of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17 ESV).

There were five measures for a book or letter being included in the Canon.
  1. Is the book authoritative: Does it claim to be from God? That is, did it come with the authority of God?
  2. Is it prophetic: Was it written by a servant of God? Namely, was it written by a person chosen by God?
  3. Is it self-authentic: Does it tell the truth of God about God, and humanity etc.? Specifically, did it tell the truth with no discrepancy regarding what was written?  
  4. Is it dynamic: Does it possess the life-transforming power of God? That is, did it come with the holy power of God?
  5. Is it received or accepted by the people of God: Is it recognised as being from God? Namely, was it accepted by the community of God?

Pause in His presence for a moment and think this over

[1] Wegner, Paul D. The Journey from Text to Translation: The Origin and Development of the Bible. (Grand Rapids: MI Baker, 2000), 101.
[2] Wegner, The Journey from Text to Translation, 147.
[3] Warfield, Benjamin B. “The Authority and Inspiration of the Scriptures.” May 2018).

How to Read the Bible - Part 2 by Ps Michael Podhaczky

Here is a simple technique for reading the Bible. Do not begin reading from the beginning of the Bible, i.e. from Genesis or even from Matthew. Instead, first read the gospel of Mark twice, since, it commences more with the public life of Jesus Christ.

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mk 1:1 ESV)
Once you have read Mark’s gospel twice, read the gospel of John twice. John actually explains some of the private life of Jesus Christ. Next read the first letter of John, i.e. 1 John. This letter underlines the truth of the assurance of faith that we can have in Jesus Christ to live a life of faith in practice.

Then and only then, go to the start of the New Testament and read it right through twice. Then once you have done this, go to the beginning of the Bible and starting with Genesis and read all the way through the whole Bible. Read it as God’s story, as a story made up of its various parts. These parts of God’s story deal with Him as He encourages a relationship with Him by broken people. His aim is to restore them and for them to come to Him as their Heavenly Father.

As you read and study each book, chapter and section of the Bible, it is important to learn to listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit as He speaks to you. When you read the Bible, it can be helpful to learn to read with a pen, pencil, iPhone or iPad to take notes. This skill of note-making will help you in your reading and prayingthrough the books, chapters or sections of the Bible. It can be these notes from what you have read and studied that may help you to remember what God has said to you. This could be a valuable thing for you into the future.
Pause in His presence for a moment and think this over…

Why Read the Bible? Part 1 by Ps Michael Podhaczky

So why do we need to read the Bible? Well, one reason is, the Bible is God’s story. Consequently, it will help us know something about Him and His ways. The Bible shows how He has related to people just like us throughout history. It conveys the unfolding story of recovery of damaged humanity.
The Bible is a big picture view of God’s work within this damaged humanity. However, there are individual parts to the story, revealing God’s work in history as He reached out to humanity. It is like a guidebook reliably showing the way to an eternal relationship with God. It records God’s revelation of Himself and His work of redemption. It is important not miss out on the amazing harmony and continuity within His story that makes up the Bible. It is His inspired Word to us as Paul has said,

16 “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realise what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17God uses it to prepare and equip His people to do every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17 NLT).

The Bible is one book in three familiar sections,

  • ·     The Older Testament (before the coming of Christ): The story of God’s redemptive work through andwith Israel the promise and expectation.
  •         The Newer Testament (the Gospels, the coming of Christ): The promise of hope fulfilled, in Jesus Christ.
  • ·       The Newer Testament (Acts and the letters, post-Christ’s first coming): That is, the impact that it brought about, the Church.

But, it has also rightfully been said,
“The relational approach distinguishes God from the Bible. God existed before the Bible existed; God exists independently of the Bible now. God is a person; the Bible is paper. God gave us this papered Bible to lead us to love Hisperson. But the person and the paper are not the same.”[1]
Yet, the value of the Bible is that it is God’s Word to us. Thus, God speaks through His Bible, and we need to listen and obey. This is part of the relationship with God; He spoke to the original hearers in the Bible and through it speaks to us today. In a relationship, He speaks through the Bible. In relevance, it is not outdated. In power, the Bible changes lives, give hope, direction a reason for life etc.
Pause in His presence for a moment and think this over

[1] McKnight, Scott. The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008), 87.

Which Bible Best Suits Me? by Ps Michael Podhaczky

Bibles come in various sizes, versions and reading levels. So, for some, choosing a Bible can be a process, which can be a little overwhelming. As the different Bibles are intended for different readers and purposes there are some basic questions to ask that will help you narrow things down. For example, a few questions that may help you are:
·        Why am I choosing this Bible?
·         How will it be used, i.e. will it be simply for devotional reading or for study?
·         Am I a new Christ-follower and so, beginning to read the Bible?
·         Is it for personal in-depth Bible study?
·         How much do I want to spend on the cover, paper and quality of the Bible?

In light of questions like these, I have put together a couple of helpful pointers that will hopefully assist in clearing some of the fog from the process. Basically, there are three kinds of Bible,
·         A Literal Translation: These try to translate from the original languages using a ‘Word for Word’ process
·         The Dynamic Equivalents: These are what is known as the ‘Thought for Thought,’ Bibles and lie between a literal translation and a paraphrase
·         The Paraphrases: These are more conceptual, in that they do not try to translate word for word, simply try to paraphrase and use current language
These three kinds of Bible are also at varying reading levels:
·         Difficult: Used for doctrinal studies, usually for a year’s 11-12 reading standard
·         Medium (Med): Usually for a year’s 7-10 reading standard
·         Low: Usually for a year’s 6-3 reading standard, maybe good for young teenagers or children and for those who a beginning to read or have English as a second language
Below are some approximate reading levels for some Bible, this may help in choosing a Bible:

The Bible: Chapter and Verse Part 2 - by Ps Michael Podhaczky

Last week we looked at how the Bible came to be broken into chapters. Hopefully,this was helpful in understanding the God-givenbook that we read daily. This week we will lookat how we got verses from the chapters of the Bible. Was it a natural follow on from having divided the Bible into chapters, or was it more random?

The short history of the verses (esp. the New Testament), is as follows. The obvious reason verses were added was to separate the Bible text into lengths suitable for referencing, quotation and memorisation. But when did this happen? Well, it has been suggested that the first verse divisions were added early in the piece by the Ben Asher family of scribed about 900 A.D. They used the use of a large colon (:), to distinguish the end the verses.

One R. Nathan is said to have divided the Latin Old Testament into verses in 1448. Then a French printer named Robert Estienne (Robert Stephanus in Latin and Robert Stephens in English) is believed to have divided the New Testament into verses in 1551. The first Bible thought to have been printed with verses was an Old Testament Latin edition by one Pagninus (an Italian scholar), which was printed in 1528. The first complete English version of the Bible divided into verses was the Geneva Bible, printed in 1560. However, it was Robert Estienne who in his Greek New Testament first divided the New Testament into verses in 1551. While in 1560, the Geneva Bible (an English translation of the Bible made by the English persons in exile in Geneva), was divided into verses as we have it today.[1]

There are some New Testament quotes from the Old Testament that would appear to set the configuration for the length of a verse. For example, Matthew 1:22-23 gives an example where Isaiah 7:14 is quoted as a promise of the virgin birth.
22 “Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 23 ‘Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel,’ which being interpreted is, God with us.”
So, the Bibles that we have today still have this Chapter and verse breakdown. Do you find that it helps or hinders how you read the Bible?

Hmm, something to mull over as we read the Bible.

[1] Wegner, Paul D. The Journey from Tests to Translations: The Origin and Development of the Bible. (Grand Rapids, IL: Baker, 2000), 214, 267-269.

The Bible: Chapter and Verse Part 1 - by Ps Michael Podhaczky

By way of introduction let me say that a majority of the present generation of Bible readers would favour the Bible without the breaks into chapters and verses. Well, originally there were no divisions as we have it today. It was written in larger sections that flow between plots, just like other letters or narratives. The only division would have been sections like the Psalms and Proverbs. So where did the division into chapters and verses come from in our Bibles?

The brief history of the chapters (esp. the New Testament), is as follows. These were not added until late in the medieval period. The Bible is said to have been first divided into chapters about 1250 by Cardinal Hugo, for references in a Latin concordance. Although there may be more evidence for the Bible being divided into chapters first by about 1228 by Stephen Langton, the archbishop of Canterbury.

It is believed that the Bible was dividedinto slabs of words, which became chapters, as they were more suitable for public reading, study or teaching. The purpose of the present division into chapters was to favour reference finding. These divisions sometimes (but not always), ignore logical and natural plot flow and division.

Down through the ages, it has been asked if this chapter division has had an unintended effect and hindered the fuller meaning of the text. It could be asked, was the idea of chapter divisions based on an Old Testament biblical practice? For example, we see some of this in the Old Testament. 
·         The Psalms are individual songs and were separate from the beginning. 
·         In a sermon, Paul quotes from the ‘second psalm’ (Acts13:33).
·     Lamentations wasdivided into five separate poems. Four of these five poems are 22 verses each (the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet).
It seems clear that this size of text was conveniently chosen for reading, study, etc. Next week we will take a look at breaking the Chapters into verses.

Hmm, something to mull over as we read the Bible.