What about discoveries that have cast doubts on portions of the Bible?
What do Bible students make of recent discoveries relative to the Christian Greek text of the Bible? Questions about the authenticity of four books have been raised.
It is true that there have been questions raised about the authenticity of various books of the Bible however this can be applied to books of the Bible in both the Hebrew and the Greek Scriptures. In the second century some of the proposed Bible canons that circulated were somewhat different to the Bible that we have today. That being the case some people raise the question about whether we should accept the authenticity of all of the books in the Christian Greek text. Questions have been raised about the authenticity of first and second Timothy along with the book of Titus and the book of second Peter.
At this point no one has made any argument that would cause a reader of the Bible to think that these books should not be there. In fact, there were very good criteria used in establishing the Christian Greek canon of the Scriptures. If you were to take the time to consider some of the books that were excluded you would see that they particularly focus on ideas incorporated from other religious traditions and incorporate characters albeit with different names that appear in cultural legends belonging to other nations.
The books chosen to be in the Bible canon are the earliest writings along with writings that were attributed to apostles and their companions and books that avoid criticism of other writers. The apostle Peter and the apostle Paul did not always get on and yet they candidly acknowledge their shortcomings and respect for each other and therefore it would be difficult to dismiss second Peter on the basis of Peter’s comments regarding Paul’s writings. Further, it is true that first and second Timothy along with the book of Titus do contribute to the structure of the church which gets away from the idea of the family unit. When the apostles and their companions visited the various cities what they did do was to find out people who were agreeable to the good news and establish meetings in their homes rather than in churches or church buildings. The more formalistic approach referred to in Timothy and Titus has caused some to question whether these books should be in the Bible canon. In themselves this formalistic approach forms just a small section of these books and there is significant benefit in the remaining material. Bible students in general do have reservations regarding those sections of Timothy and Titus that relate to the appointment of elders and overseers in the congregation. It is clearly the forerunner of a clergy laity class distinction which is the topic that Jesus consistently taught his apostles to avoid.
Overall, we agree that there should be a degree of caution regarding the books of first and second Timothy, Titus and the book of second Peter insofar as they can be used to prop up a clergy class or a class distinction in the congregations. However, the book of Revelation does refer to the fact that the structures that would be in place during the final part of the days would be 24 elders who are happy to cast their crowns before the throne and do the work necessary to guide mankind through the conclusion of the system are things which does suggest that there would be in some way an elder arrangement in the last days. Jesus direct appointment of Paul to care for the congregations in the nations does indicate that he is willing and able and does take a personal interest in caring for the needs of the spiritually awake. So with caution, we agree that these books should be in the Bible canon but by the same token we recognize that it is possible that the inclusion of qualifications for elders ministerial servants and so forth were added at a later date in order to prop up the development of the clergy laity distinction in the second and third century.
There is enough benefit in considering other portions of these books, such as for example the book of second Timothy chapter 3 with its description of world conditions in the last days, to make them beneficial reading. We will comment further on aspects of Bible translation and how this can affect the ability to get a clear picture of Bible knowledge in another article.