• Hello! Welcome to Our Redeemer Lutheran Church's group on Faithlife.com This church group is our digital gathering place for our community. *Please do no post anything for sale.
  • What's the Deal with the Number of Books in the Bible?

    What’s the deal with the New Testament? I’ve heard that there should be a lot more books included in the Bible. Is that true?

    Despite popular claims that you might see in certain TV programs, documentaries, or in print, the list of the Books in the Bible was not decided by the decision of a church council or a church leader. Lists of Biblical books were made by church councils, but more in the way of giving recognition to the fact that all churches recognized certain books to be God’s inspired Word.

    In Christian circles the list of books that are included in the Old and New Testaments is called the canon (canon meaning “that against which all things must be measured or judged”). Secular scholars talk about the canon of the New Testament as being created by the Church. That is, some church council voted on which books should be in the New Testament and which shouldn’t. In other words, the New Testament books were decided by committee.

    The Church itself has a different understanding of how the canon was created. It’s based on some assumptions. First, the church believes that God revealed himself in certain writings. Second, the church believes that those writings are inspired – that is, the have human writers but only on author – the Holy Spirit. Third, the Church believes that these books/writings are authoritative for the Church; no teaching and not practice should be in disagreement with those sacred writings.

    So the Church says that it did not create the canon (list of accepted books), but that it recognized the canon. It decerned that books that were sacred through the following method:

    1.   It was written by an Apostle (e.g. Matthew, John, the letters of Paul and Peter), or those in very close association with an Apostle (e.g. Mark and Luke). This was and remains the most important criteria to be met.

    2.   It was catholic, that is, it was used and accepted by all Christians Churches; mere regional use and acceptance was insufficient).

    3.   It was orthodox, conforming completely with the apostolic faith.

    4.   And it was ancient, having been written in the first century.

    From the Church’s perspective it can therefore be said that there are 66 books in the Bible because God inspired only that many and the Church hears the authoritative voice of God only in these books.

    There were, of course, other books floating around the Roman Empire in the first few centuries of Christian history that claimed, in some sense, to be “Christian.” These are the usual writings that some scholars will point to with the claim, “these were excluded by the Church.”

    Here’s a good summation of why these books were not ever recognized as being part of the Biblical canon:

    “Books that were later deemed heretical were never widely authoritative, and thus were never part of any early Bible or the canonization process (outside of being directly noted as unaccepted). There was no conspiracy against these noncanonical and heretical works, but rather an acknowledgement of their factual inaccuracy and their teachings, which clearly disagree with historical Christianity as taught by Jesus and the apostles. Instead, the books under discussion and debate during the canonicity process were those that agreed with the tradition of the early church and of the apostles but were doubtful as to their relevance for wider church usage (mainly in worship settings) or their being from the era of the apostles and reflective of their thoughts.” -- Barry, J. D. – Klippenstein, R. – Wolcott, C. S., “Canon, Overview of the”, The Lexham Bible Dictionary.

    1. The risen Jesus and Mary Magdalene

      What's the Deal with Jesus and Mary Magdalene?

      What’s the deal with Jesus? Why are there so many rumors about Jesus and Mary Magdalene?

      You might remember the publication of Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code (2003) and the movie of the same name that came out in 2006. They hype surrounding each was immense. Perhaps you read the book and/or saw the movie yourself.

      The plot of the novel and movie revolves around the Holy Grail. By the end of the novel and movie it is revealed that the Holy Grail is not a thing, but rather a blood line, namely that of the descendants of Jesus and his wife, Mary Magdalene.

      Dan Brown, the author of the novel, based his unique understanding of the Holy Grail on a couple of books published in the late 1990s and early 2000s that claimed that Jesus, far from the orthodox teaching of the Church, had married Mary Magdalene and had children with her. These books claimed that the Church had suppressed the truth about Jesus and Mary so that the priestly hierarch of the Church could maintain its power and riches. Evidence of such suppression is provided by pointing to the gnostic Gospels, books that were in existence in the early centuries of Christianity that purported to give the history of Jesus’ life like the Gospels do. These books did not find their way into the New Testament, were suppressed, and labeled as heretical. A couple of them elude to what might be taken as a love, even marital, relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene.

      For example, The Gospel of Philip referred to Mary as the “companion” of Jesus, which some have taken to mean “spouse” and that Jesus loved her more than his Apostles. And in that same document also it is also said that Jesus used to kiss Mary “often on her ____.” Damage to the document destroyed the last word in that sentence, and some have filled in the missing word with “mouth.”

      This was the sort of “research” that lay behind the claim that Jesus had married Mary. First, the Gospel of Philip, like many other purported “gospels” from the early centuries of Christianity, were written by and for groups that were on the very fringes of Christianity. These “gospels” aren’t meant to pass on historical information about Jesus (as are the Gospels in the New Testament). Rather, these so-called “gospels” were meant to pass on hidden teachings of Jesus that were purported to unlock spiritual portals that led to spiritual purity and power, which was the main concern of these Gnostic groups.

      Documents like The Gospel of Philip were not suppressed from Christianity. That is, they were never accepted as true Gospels by a large number of Christians, and then suppressed by Church authorities in order to preserve power. These documents were never accepted as legitimate Gospels by Christians anywhere. They were only accepted by groups that were never really Christian to begin with.

      Furthermore, kissing on the mouth was an accepted form of greeting, even between men, in the ancient world. And there is no compelling reason why “Companion” should be understood to mean “spouse.”

      The New Testament presents Mary as someone who had received an exorcism from Jesus and who became one of his early followers. She was one of a group of women, a part of a much larger group of disciples, who followed Jesus in his earthly ministry. She was one of the women who went to Jesus’s tomb early on the first Easter Sunday. The Gospel of John tells us that she was the first of Jesus’s disciples to see the risen Lord on Easter.

      As women had virtually no social status in the ancient world apart from the men in their lives, the fact that Mary Magdalene was chosen to be the first witness of the resurrection, and to receive the command from the risen Jesus to go and tell his male apostles about his resurrection, well….that’s a big deal. Jesus, and the early Church, did elevate women high above the usual roles that ancient culture limited them too.

      So Jesus and Mary were never married, but Mary was an important member of Jesus’s group of followers.

      1.  — Edited

        What's the Deal with...sin

        What’s the deal with Sin? Are some sins worse than others?

        You may have been taught as a youngster that all sins are equal in God’s eye and that no sin is worse than any other sin. Let’s investigate that claim.

        Is it really true that all sins are in some sense the same in the eyes of God? This is true when looking at the nature of sin. Sin is nonconformity to God’s Law. The Law of God tells us what we are to do and what we are not to do in order to be righteous, or completely good. When Jesus was once asked what the greatest commandment in the Law was he responded, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). That’s 27/7/365!

        Integral to loving God with all of our heart, mind, and strength is to do the things that God wants and to love the things that God loves. When Jesus stated what the greatest commandment was He added this, “And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). Any violation of this commandment involves us in a violation of the greatest commandment. We can’t claim to love God completely if we don’t love our neighbors as ourselves. The Apostle James reminds us that “whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10).

        And so even the tiniest violation of the Law makes us guilty of sinning. Since even the smallest sin makes us less than perfect, less than perfectly holy, any sin brings eternal separation from God and eternal punishment. So in that regard all sins are equal, in that any sin places us outside of God’s demands for total perfection. All sin and any sin brings punishment.

        But does that mean that God considers white lies to be equally serious as violent and vicious murder? No! White lies don’t deprive someone of life. Murder bring harm and grievance to a wide circle of people, white lies do not. So in terms of the impact that sins have on others there are obvious some sins that are worse than others. And the effect of certain sins on the perpetrator is greater with some sins that with others. The corrosive effect of murdering someone on our conscience and soul is greater than engaging in a white lie.

        So are all sins that same? Yes. Are some sins worse than others? Yeah, that’s true too.

        1. What's the deal with Jesus? Did he really exist?

          Did Jesus really exist? Is there any historical evidence of Jesus Christ?

          A 2015 survey conducted by the Church of England found that 22% of respondents did not believe that Jesus was a real, historical figure. That’s 1/5th of adults in England. What do you think? Was Jesus a real man who walked this earth?

          There is no actual archeological evidence that Jesus existed. That is, there is no physical evidence that can be tied directly to Jesus; no clothing, no writings by his hand, none of his personal possessions. And despite the many claims of “fragment(s) of the true cross” none can be physically tied to Jesus, if such claims are accepted as true.

          But then again, 99.9% of people living at the time of Jesus didn’t leave any physical, archeological evidence of their existence either. So if we don’t have physical evidence of Jesus then how can we know that He existed, that he isn’t some fictional character invented by the writers of the New Testament?

          Despite the lack of archeological evidence, most historians of the ancient world do believe that Jesus was a real person. Like Jesus, Socrates and Plato – famous Greek philosophers – didn’t leave any direct physical evidence of their existence in the archeological record either. Yet few people question whether they lived or not. The evidence that they did live is the same sort of evidence that we have for Jesus’s existence. It’s documentary evidence. That is, people who knew these men mentioned them in writings.

          So Jesus is extensively referred to in the Gospels by those who were eyewitnesses to his live and who learned from His teaching. And outside of the New Testament Jesus is mentioned in the writings of several Roman authors.

          For example, Tacitus, a Roman historian, verifies the execution of Jesus by the authority of Pontius Pilate. He writes, “"Christus, the founder of the [Christian] name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius. But the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time, broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, by through the city of Rome also." Annals XV, 44

          Suetonius, another Roman historian, recorded the expulsion of Christian Jews from the city of Rome under the Emperor Claudius: “"As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, [Claudius] expelled them from Rome." Life of Claudius 25.4

          Pliny the Younger wrote to the Emperor Trajan describing how he interrogated Christians who refused to offer sacrifices to the Emperor (Emperors were, by this time in Roman history, worshiped as gods): "I asked them directly if they were Christians...those who persisted, I ordered away... Those who denied they were or ever had been Christians...worshiped both your image and the images of the gods and cursed Christ. They used to gather on a stated day before dawn and sing to Christ as if he were a god... All the more I believed it necessary to find out what was the truth from two servant maids, which were called deaconesses, by means of torture. Nothing more did I find than a disgusting, fanatical superstition. Therefore I stopped the examination, and hastened to consult you...on account of the number of people endangered. For many of all ages, all classes, and both sexes already are brought into danger..." Pliny's letter to Emperor Trajan

          And perhaps most famously, the historian Josephus wrote in his book, The Jewish Antiquities about Jesus: At this time there was a wise man called Jesus, and his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. Many people among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. But those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive. Accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have reported wonders. And the tribe of the Christians, so named after him, has not disappeared to this day.

          This is not an exhaustive list of extra-biblical references to Jesus in ancient manuscripts, and while much could be said about each of the above citations, they all have at least this in common – none of them questions the factual existence of Jesus. They all accept as given that Jesus had been a real person that lived in the area of Judea during the governorship of Pontius Pilate.

          In fact, in the ancient world the existence of Jesus as a real man was never questioned. His claim to be God was questioned, but never his existence. Questioning his existence is a rather modern and recent phenomenon.

          We can rest assured, though, that Jesus was a real man, not a made-up, fictional character.

          After all, Christianity is a religion based on real human history.

          1.  — Edited

            What's the Deal with the Bible? How Do We Know We Can Trust It?

            Quick Summary:

            • The Bible isn’t one book, it is an anthology of 66 different books written by 40 different authors over a 1,500 year time-span.
            • While the Bible was written by human beings, they were inspired by the Holy Spirit as to what to write, and how to write.
            • So the Bible is God’s Word and is completely trustworthy. In the Church it is the sole source and norm of all teaching and practice.

            In Fuller Detail:

            I’ve had people ask me what’s so special about the Bible. It’s just a book written by men.

            My response is always, “Well, yes…but more.” Certainly the Bible was written by men. Notice the plural. Not man, but men. That gives us our first glimpse into what the Bible is.

            The book that we call The Bible isn’t really one book. It’s an anthology, a collection of books under one cover. This anthology contains 66 books total, with a wide variety of literature types (narrative, history, poetry, wisdom-sayings, proverbs, letters). The books cover a span of over 1,500 years. The 66 books were written by 40 different people (some wrote more than one book), including kings, poets, shepherds, a tax collector, a physician, a tent-maker, and a couple of professional fishermen. So certainly the Bible is an anthology of books written by men.

            Like all authors, these 40 people wrote because something inspired them to take up pen and paper and write. Poets talk about their muse, their inspiration for their poetry, whether it be love, beauty, justice, or something else. The Biblical authors had their inspiration, too, but it wasn’t a thing, it was a person, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit moved certain people, and provided them with the words to write. Paul, an author of several New Testament books, summarized it this way: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16–17, NASB95)

            So, while each book in the Bible was written by a human being, each was inspired by the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Holy Trinity (God). Each book conveys the vocabulary and writing style of its human author, but the content – and even the choice of words used – was inspired by the Holy Spirit working through that author. So we can truthfully say that the books of the Bible were written by God through His chosen human authors. In other words, the Bible isn’t just man’s word, it is God’s Word.

            Because God is the ultimate author, and He cannot lie, then we can trust it absolutely. So, the Church has always understood the Bible to be the ultimate source of teaching in the Church, and the thing that all teaching and instruction must agree with in the Church.

            The question about how we got our Bible, and why some books were accepted and some not others, is a whole other issue. You can find good information about it here:


            Some interesting facts about the Bible:

            1. The Bible is the best-selling book in history, with total sales exceeding 5 billion copies.
            2. Over 100 million copies of the Bible are sold each year.
            3. More than 168,000 Bibles are either sold or given away per day in the USA.
            4. The Holy Bible has been translated into 2,018 languages, with countless more partial translations, and audio translations (for unwritten languages). This is an enormous amount of translations. In comparison, Shakespeare, considered by many to be the master writer of the English language, has only been translated into 50 languages.
            5. In 1631, a publishing company published a Bible with the typo “Thou Shalt Commit Adultery.” Only 9 of these Bibles, known as the “Sinners’ Bible” exist today.
            6. The Bible has inspired more song lyrics than any other book, including “40” (U2), “Adam Raised a Cain,” (Bruce Springsteen), “Adam’s Apple” (Aerosmith), “All you Zombies” (The Hooters), “Be Still” (Kelly Clarkson), “Blackened” (Metallica), “Cinnamon Girl” (Prince), “Come Sail Away (Styx), “Every Grain of Sand” (Bob Dylan), “I am God” (Kanye West) and many more.
            1.  — Edited

              New Blog Content

              Ever wonder things like this:

              • What’s the deal with the Bible? How do we know we can trust it?
              • What’s the deal with near death experiences?
              • What’s the deal with angels and demons? Do we really have a good angel on one shoulder and a demon on the other?
              • What’s the deal with denominations?
              • What’s the deal with Jesus? If he was God why did he have to pray?

              We all wonder about things.

              So twice a week I’ll be looking at some of the questions that we all have about living as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

              The questions I’ll be addressing come from a 2007 book titled What’s the Deal With? 500 Questions Today’s Students are Asking About the Biggest Issues in Life by Brian Schulenburg. He is a youth leader and wanted to help other youth leaders help their teens to dig deep into God’s Word. I’ve found that these questions aren’t just limited to young people. They are questions that all Christians deal with. (P.S. I’m not going to address all 500 questions!)

              I’d also like to invite you to share your questions. Email me at egawura@gmail.com and I’ll include them in the ongoing discussion. Please also feel free to share your thoughts and responses to my posts!


              Pastor Eric Gawura