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Why are there only these 66 books in the Bible? Because God is the ultimate author of the Bible, and He inspired only these 66. All Scripture is breathed out of the mouth of God (Mt 4:4; 2 Tm 3:16). What the human authors wrote did not originate with them but with God, who moved upon them (2 Sm 23:2; 1 Pt 1:20–21). So God determined which books would be in the Bible, and the people of God merely discovered which books these were. Believers did not bestow authority on them; God did.
How did the people of God discover that only these 66 books were inspired of God? Because only these had the “fingerprints” of God on them. These “fingerprints” of God include characteristics reflected in the answers to these questions: (1) Was it written by a prophet of God, such as Moses (Ex 4:1–9) or Paul (1 Co 9:1)? (2) Was it confirmed by acts of God (Heb 1:1; 2:3–4)? Did the human author tell the truth of God known from other revelations and facts (Dt 18:20–22)? (3) Did it have the power of God to edify (2 Tm 3:16–17; Heb 4:12)? (4) Was it accepted and collected by the people of God?
The collection of books known as the canon of Scripture was made gradually as the books were written. When Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible, they were taken immediately and put in the most holy place (Dt 31:24–26). The book of Joshua, his successor, was added to the collection upon his death (Jos 24:26). Likewise the books of Samuel (1 Sm 10:25) and the prophets were added after they wrote them (Zec 7:12). Daniel had a collection of Moses’ books and the prophetic writings up to Daniel’s time, including the book of his contemporary, Jeremiah (Dn 9:2).
The so-called missing books of the OT, known as the Apocrypha (meaning “hidden” or “doubtful”), are not missing and do not belong in the OT for many reasons. (1) Unlike the canonical books, the apocryphal books do not have either an explicit or implicit claim to be inspired by God. In fact, some even disclaim being prophetic (cp. 1 Mac 9:27; 14:41). (2) They were written between 250 b.c. and the first century a.d., but according to Judaism, the Spirit of prophecy had departed from Israel before that time, by about 400 b.c. (3) The Jewish historian Josephus gave the names and numbers of the authentic Jewish OT, which correspond exactly with the 39 books of our OT (Against Apion 1.8). Judaism, which produced these books, has never accepted them into its Bible (the Hebrew Scriptures, corresponding to our OT). (5) Neither Jesus nor the apostles ever cited any of the Apocrypha in the NT as inspired. (6) Most of the church fathers of the first four centuries of the Christian church did not accept these books as inspired. (7) Jerome, the great Roman Catholic scholar (c. a.d. 420) who translated the Latin Vulgate Bible, emphatically rejected the apocryphal books. (8) The acceptance of these books in a.d. 1546 by the Roman Catholic Church is unjustified since: (a) they were the wrong group to make this decision (Christians, not Jews); (b) it took place at the wrong time (sixteenth century a.d.); and (c) it was done for the wrong reasons (for example, to support the doctrine of prayers for the dead [see 2 Mac 12:45] in response to the Reformation and biblical teaching to the contrary [Heb 9:27]).
The NT books were also written by apostles and prophets of God (Eph 2:20), who were confirmed by acts of God (2 Co 12:12; Heb 1:1; 2:3–4), and their books were immediately accepted into the growing canon of Scripture. Luke acknowledged that other narratives were written (Lk 1:1) in his time (possibly Matthew and Mark). In 1 Timothy 5:18, Paul cited the Gospel of Luke (10:7) as “Scripture” alongside the OT. The Apostle Peter referred to Paul’s epistles as “Scripture,” just like the OT (2 Pt 3:16). The first-century church publicly read and circulated the books written by apostles and prophets (Col 4:16; 1 Th 5:27). What is more, the early Christian fathers, beginning in the first century, collected every one of the 27 books of the NT and cited almost every verse and over 36,000 quotations! From the second century a.d. on, there were collections of these books and translation in other languages, such as Syriac and Old Latin. All groups of Christendom, including Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestants, accept all and only the 27 books of the NT as the inspired Word of God, right alongside the 39 books of the OT.
The apocryphal books of the second and third centuries a.d. are universally rejected by the Christian church. There are many good reasons for this. (1) They were not written by the apostles whose names they bear, since the apostles died in the first century. (2) They contain many heresies and doctrinal errors. (3) They claim to contain childhood miracles of Jesus, but John said Jesus did not perform any miracles until He was an adult (Jn 2:11). (3) They contain highly embellished accounts of Gospel stories, indicating they were later fabrications. (4) They are rejected by every section of official Christendom.
In brief, only the 66 books of the common canon claim to be and prove to be the divinely inspired, infallible, and inerrant Word of God. That is, only these books were inspired of God, written by prophets of God, collected by the people of God, and preserved by the providence of God for the spiritual edification of the people of God (2 Tm 3:16–17).
3:13 Critics doubt that the king would have issued an order of this magnitude that wouldn’t be carried out for eleven months. However, in 193 b.c. Antiochus III issued a decree for a similar action that had a four-month delay.
4:11 Skeptics often attack the credibility of the book of Esther by claiming that the law Esther quoted was ludicrous. They assert that if such a law existed, no one could ever be in the king’s presence. However, these objections result from a failure to read the text carefully. Esther did not say that no one could see the king without being summoned, but that anyone who approached the king without being summoned could forfeit his or her life. Josephus supports this fact (Antiquities, XI 205), also noting that the king surrounded himself with men bearing axes who would punish anyone who approached the throne without being summoned. Herodotus describes a similar, but not exact, policy (Her 3:85, 118, 140).
4:14 Mordecai acknowledged the sovereignty of God. He knew that Haman could not ultimately succeed in his campaign because God’s design cannot be thwarted. God is the one in control and He was committed to the preservation of the Jews, who are beneficiaries of God’s covenant with Abraham (Gn 17:1–9).
4:17 Some feminists claim that the Bible devalues women. Mordecai’s response to Esther reveals the opposite. Obviously, he held women in high esteem. Mordecai was perfectly willing to follow the leadership of a woman, an example found in other places in the Bible, for example, Deborah (Jdg 4). (See also the article, “Does the Bible Demean Women?” page 730.)
5:5 Esther was not seeking revenge; she was seeking a way to protect her people from the coming attacks organized by Haman. Chapter 9 reveals the way in which the Jews defended themselves. The text purposely states that the Jews did not enrich themselves at the expense of those against whom they defended themselves, even though the king’s edict permitted it.
The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith, ed. Ted Cabal et al. (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007).