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The Bible's Lost Scriptures

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Evangelical theology opposes the possibility that any of God's revelations to Man has ever been lost. Their position has been stated thus: "To say that there are scriptures missing is to claim that Christ lied when He said, "Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass the law, till all be fulfilled. (Matt. 5:18"

This analysis presents a grossly flawed interpretation of Matthew 5:18, which has nothing to do with the canon of scripture. The Bible was not even compiled at the time the Gospel of Matthew was written. Matthew 5:18 relates to "the law," the Law of Moses, and Christ's fulfillment thereof. The Law of Moses was contained in the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. Thus, is the Evangelical position on Matthew 5:18 were corect, it would require that the scriptures be limited to the Pentateuch (a view which was apparently adopted by the ancient Sadducees and certainly by the Samaritans).

What Christ is saying in Matthew 5:18 is that not one dot of an "i" or cross of a "t" in the Law of Moses would be changed until it was all fulfilled by Him, Far from teaching that the Law would never change, it is implicit in this statement that the law would "pass" once it was fulfilled. The Law of Moses was fulfilled by Christ, and did pass away (Heb. 7:18), but the scriptures, the word of God, did not.

The Evangelical interpretations of Matthew 5:18 is based on an assumption that is not specifically identified in their exegesis. It is that the word "scripture" is the same as the word "law" in that verse. If that interpretation were correct, it should make sense when the word "scripture" is substituted for the word "law" in the passage. In fact, however, such a substitution changes the entire meaning of the passage. Clearly, Matthew 5:18 does not teach that there have been no lost scriptures, and cannot be used as a basis for that thesis.

There are a number of references in the Bible to works that have apparently been lost, or at least are not available in any recognized form today. The context of the references indicates that many, if not all, were inspired. Of course, Evangelicals earnestly deny this possibility.

Instead, their arguement is, "The bible does not say that tehse are scriptures." While that may be so, it should also be noted that Christ did not always say the writings of Isaiah, from which he quoted extensively, were scripture( see, e.g., Matt 13:14-15). Still, in support of their arguement, Evangelicals note that sacred writers have occasionally cited non-sacred works. Paul quotes a Cretan identified in the passage as "a prophet of their own" in Titus 1:12. The problem with that arguement is that Paul makes it perfectly clear in the same verse that he is not citing scripture. He specifically identifies his source as being secular. See also, Acts 17:23,28. But there are no similar indications in any of the references listed.

The reference in Matthew 2:23 has proven particularly thorny for Evangelicals. Matthew 2:23 explains that Christ and His family went to Galilee, "and came and resided in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, 'He shall be called a Nazarene.'" Apparently, Matthew is quoting directly from a prophetic work available to the Jews of his time, but not included in the Masoretic Text. His quotation from "the prophets" is generally recognized by Bible scholars as being of unknown origin.

However, C.I.Scofield, argues that it may have come from Isaiah 11:1, which prophecies that Christ will be a "shoot...from the stem of Jesse." While the hebrew word "netzer" may have a vague similarity to the word "Nazarene", the citation in Isaiah hardly contains the language, "He shall be called a Nazarene", quoted by Matthew. Hence, this explanation fails.

An alternative theological context in which these "lost scriptures" may be viewed is suggested by Dr. Angus. He states:

"A book may have had a long literary history before its admission into the Canon. This is perhaps most obvious in regard to the Book of Psalms. Many of those inspired songs were certainly held to be of Divine authority before all were written, and therefore before the Psalter as a whole was 'canonized.' In other books we may clearly discern the inclusion of fragmentary material, venerable for its antiquity. In the Pentateuch are imbedded separate codes of Law which in all probability are older than the books in which they appear. A store of national religious poetry in indicated by the Song of Deborah, the Song of Moses and the Children of Israel after the crossing of the Red Sea, the Dirge of David over Saul. The titles of two such collections are preserved in 'The Book of the Wars of the Lord,' Num 21:14 and 'The Book ofJasher'(Jos 10:13, 2 Sa 1:18. History was preserved in the same way: the historical books contain references to such earlier chronicles as 'The history of Samuel the seer and the history of Nathan the prophet and the history of Gad the seer' 1 Ch 29:29 R.V.: 'The Book of the Acts of Solomon' 1 Ki 11:41, 'The histories of Shemaiah the prophet and of Iddo the seer' 2 Ch 12:15, and others. The prophetical books, again, are obviously collections of utterances separately spoken and separately preserved. Behind the book of the old Testament we may frequently discern and earlier literature, the primitive records in song, law, history, prophecy, of the nation's life and the nation's faith. And we may recognize in the making of an Old Testament book the three stages--the primitive material, the editing into present literary form, and the canonization or final acceptance as Scripture. It need hardly be added that to acknowledge this principle of literary growth neither impairs the Divine authority of the books nor involves the extravagant analysis of some modern imaginative criticism."

Mormons should be familiar with the process described above. It is similar to that used by the ancient American prophet Mormon in abridging the Book of Mormon. It is reminiscent of teh process by which additions of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as witnessed by the recent addition of sections 137 and 138 to the doctrine and covenants. These new selections contain inspired writings which have, over the years, become recognized by the Church as inspired revelations. The fact that inspired works which are part of today's canon may have been based upon earlier inspired works should instill confidence in the accuracy and importance of the final product. The significance of the records listed is not that they represent some deficiency in God's word as contained in the Bible. Rather, they are supporting evidence for the process by which inspired writings have always become part of the scriptural canon.