One of the earliest attempts at solidifying a Christian canon or list of books was made by Marcion of Sinope (85-160 CE). He rejected the Hebrew Scriptures, so that other Christian leaders denounced him. Thus, he was excommunicated from the proto-orthodox Christian Church community. However, he was the first to publish his own list of New Testament books around the year 140 CE, that included 10 letters of Paul and the Gospel of Luke.
The books of the Bible were formed gradually. They are the product of Jewish and Christian religious communities that was 95% illiterate. These stories were first word of mouth, then later put into writing. Moses did not write all the books of the Pentateuch. Paul did not write all the letters ascribed to him. Matthew and Luke partially rewrote Mark with other sources. There were additions and deletions, but we have what God wanted us to have.
The question of authorship or attribution is important. Like many of the books of the Old Testament, some of the books attributed to some authors in the New Testament writings are not the persons mentioned. Moses did not write all the Torah. Paul did not write all the letters attributed to him. The technical scholarly name for this is pseudo epigrams. Sometimes, they are forgeries. These false attributions exist for a number of biblical books. Since we do not know the names of many of the writers of these books in the Bible, we can say that anonymous people wrote these works. However, I have decided to use the traditional attributed names that have been associated with these pseudo epigram works to better identify them.
The Law, the Torah, or the Pentateuch, consisted of first five books that were developed over a number of years, but firmly established around 400 BCE. The five books of the Pentateuch include Genesis, a 10th-5th century BCE writing about the pre-existence of the Israelites, and the particular stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. The Exodus, finished around 450 BCE, recalls the story of Moses and how he led the Israelites out of Egypt for years in the desert. Leviticus and Numbers, worked on between 550-400 BCE, lay out the particular codes, rules and regulations for the Israelites, as well the numbers of people that were involved in the exodus from Egypt. Deuteronomy, developed in the 7th-6th century BCE, told the story of Moses in the wilderness with emphasis on the laws of the heart. This Law or Torah explained the early or pre-history of the Israelites before they entered the promised land. These books also contained all the commands, statutes, or rules for the Israelites after they entered the promised land. All further Jewish developments were based on the Torah or the Law.
The New Testament references the Hebrew Bible that came to be known as the Old Testament. The New Testament books were not referred to until the second century of the common era. Consensus on its contents did not occur until the late fourth century. There is nothing wrong with different points of view or inconsistencies. The first two chapters of Genesis are not contradictory. The synoptic gospels give different versions of the Baptism of Jesus. Most of us just say “so what?” We understand different points of view. The Bible had different authors over a considerable amount of time. The Old Testament took hundreds of years to complete. The New Testament took thirty to sixty years to finish. Very few could write, so that oral tradition dominated in that society. The texts themselves were rewritten, so that we say that the texts we have, with all its corrections, is the one that God wants us to have.
“The earth dries up.
The world languishes.
The heavens languish
Together with the earth.
The earth lies polluted
Under its inhabitants.
They have transgressed laws.
They have violated the statutes.
They have broken the everlasting covenant.
Therefore a curse devours the earth.
Its inhabitants suffer
For their guilt.
Therefore the inhabitants of the earth dwindled.
Few people are left.”
This oracle of Isaiah says that the earth and the heavens were drying up and withering away. The earth was polluted by its inhabitants. Does that sound familiar? They had transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, and broken the eternal covenant. The Mosaic laws and statutes only pertained to the Israelites. However, the eternal covenant came after the flood for all people. Thus everyone was guilty. Yahweh was going to curse all the earth and its inhabitants because of their guilty ways. A lot of people would be wiped out, but a few would be left, like the “Left Behind” series of books, movies, and video games by Tim LaHaye (1926-2016).
“My grandfather Jesus
Devoted himself especially
To the reading of the Law,
To the reading of the Prophets,
To the reading of the other books of our ancestors.
After acquiring considerable proficiency in them,
He was himself also led to write something
Pertaining to instruction,
Pertaining to wisdom.
By becoming familiar with this book,
Those who love learning
Should make even greater progress
In living according to the law.”
Who is Grandpa Jesus? Obviously, he is the grandfather of this writer/translator. This ‘Jesus’ is the Anglicized form of the Greek name Ἰησοῦς or the Aramaic Yeshua. He was the son of Sirach, a Jewish scribe who had been living in Jerusalem. He then authored this work in Alexandria, Egypt, around 180–175 BCE, where he is thought to have established a school. He is sometimes referred to as Ben Sira, son of Sir, or as it has been rendered in Greek, ‘Sirach’. There are all kinds of Jewish stories about his background. This ‘Jesus’ or ‘Sirach’ was a devoted scholar of the Hebrew Law, Prophets, and the other books of the Hebrew Bible. He wanted to share some of the instruction and wisdom that he had received from these books. Thus this author, his grandson, wants those who loved learning to become familiar with this work. With that, they would be better able to follow the Law itself.