All Scripture

Bible 1As writing was invented, ancient Jews saved, copied, revered, and memorized certain scrolls. They were, naturally, not called the “Old Testament” by the people who wrote, saved, copied, revered and studied them. That label is one that Christians gave those scrolls. Yet, Christians have a letter from Paul telling Timothy that All Scriptures are God-breathed. That letter was not part of “All Scripture” itself. So…

What was?

Scripture was grouped into the Torah, the Nevi’im, and the Ketuvim; designations from the time of King Hezekiah and building Second Temple Judaism. The Torah contained five documents that had been written just before the Exile (in the 8th C. BCE) as the Assyrians conquered Israel and the Babylonians threatened to conquer Judah. Those five scrolls are called “In the Beginning” (we call it Genesis), “Names” (we call it Exodus), “He Called” (we call it Leviticus), “In the Desert” (we call it Numbers) and Yehoshua (we call it Joshua).

After Exiles returned from Babylon (a shock to those who had stayed behind and had rebuilt Jerusalem), a summary book was written that King Hezekiah called “Words” (we call it Deuteronomy) and it replaced Joshua in the Torah. Hezekiah’s plan to rebuild the Temple required a people united and not squabbling over property rights. The Torah “renders the hands unclean.” That means these scrolls couldn’t be touched without carefully washing hands, using a pointer, and handling the parchment with utmost care. These scrolls are still handled and read that way.

Joshua was combined with other documents written by brave speakers of truth to power, their students, some from before the Exile and some during it and some after it. Others came to Jerusalem from the Assyrian captives. These are called the Nevi’im (the Prophets). The bigger books are the Major Prophets, the smaller ones are the Minor Prophets. The Nevi’im books are Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. These were given great honor, but were not considered part of the Torah. The place of the Prophets was disputed by different Jewish sects, well, they still are.

Also there is a collection of poems and songs called the Ketuvim (or Writings). The Writings are the Psalms, Proverbs and Job (often written in parallel columns to show the parallelism of the poetry). It also includes five more public scrolls; Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther. These are read by families as a part of Jewish holidays (Song of Songs at Passover, for example). And it also included books written in Aramaic that were important to the Exiles such as Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles.

All of the above were important enough to be translated into Greek and thus were “All Scriptures” to First Century Christians. There may have been more as well.

The Book of Jasher is mentioned in Joshua 10:13 and 2 Samuel 1:18.
The Book of the Wars of the Lord mentioned in Numbers 21:14.
The Book of Songs is referenced at 1 Kings 8:12–13
The Books of Shemaiah and of Iddo the Seer are mentioned in 2 Chronicles.
The Manner of the Kingdom is mentioned in 1 Samuel 10:25.
The Acts of Solomon are referenced at 1 Kings 11:41.
The Annals of King David are referenced at 1 Chronicles 27:24.
The Book of Samuel the Seer is mentioned at 1 Chronicles 29:29.
The Book of Nathan the Prophet is referenced in 1 Chronicles 29:29 and 2 Chronicles 9:29.
The Book of Gad the Seer is mentioned in 1 Chronicles 29:29.
The Prophecy of Ahijah is mentioned in 2 Chronicles 9:29.
The Book of the Kings of Judah and Israelis  mentioned in 2 Chronicles.
The Book of Jehu is referred to in 2 Chronicles 20:34.
The Story of the Book of Kings is mentioned in 2 Chronicles 24:27.
The Acts of Uziah is referenced in 2 Chronicles 26:22.
The Vision of Isaiah is mentioned in 2 Chronicles.
The Sayings of the Seers is mentioned in 2 Chronicles 33:19.
The Chronicles of King Ahasuerus are mentioned in Esther and Nehemiah.
Book of Tobit mentions the Wisdom of Ahikar.
Aesop’s fable of The Two Pots referenced at Sirach 13.
The Egyptian Satire of the Trades is mentioned in Sirach 38:24–39:11.
The works of Menander and Thais are mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:33.
Epimenides was quoted in Acts 17:28.
Paul introduced a quotation from Epimenides, prophet of the Cretans, in Titus 1:12–13.
The Book of Enoch is mentioned in Jude 4,6,13,14–15 and 2 Peter 2:4;3:13.
The Epistle to the Laodiceans is mentioned in Colossians 4:16.
Life of Adam and Eve is quoted in 2 Corinthians 11:14, 12:2
A lost section of The Assumption of Moses is quoted in Jude 9.
And The Martyrdom of Isaiah is mentioned in Hebrews 11:37.

The Canonization of “The Bible” distorted our understanding of the state of “Scripture” for the first Christians.  Jesus was careful to respect them and teach that he didn’t come to eliminate, rather to extend:

You have heard it said “an eye for an eye” but I tell you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Every idea in Hebrews is a reinterpretation of famous ideas from all parts of 1st Century Jewish Scripture. The penchant that first Christians had to “find” Jesus in the cherished documents of their Jewish families and friends may have been a great evangelistic strategy (as many Christians feel) or it may have been disrespectful to those documents (as many Jews still feel). I have a theory that it was a natural next step in a process that had been going on since writing was invented as people grew in their understanding of what is God-breathed.

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