English blog

The Word of God Completed

10-08-2015 - Posted by Andre Piet

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the administration to complete the word of God

of which (= the ecclesia) I (= Paul) became a dispenser, in accord with the administration of God, which is granted to me for you, to complete the word of God–the secret which has been concealed from the eons and from the generations, yet now was made manifest to His saints,
-Colossians 1:25,26-

It may be assumed that the message of the “apostle of the nations” is decisive for the present time, when Israel is, temporarily, set aside. Through Paul is the Secret made known and (according to him) with that is the Word of God complete. That is what Paul, in the above passage, asserts. To him was given the administration to fulfill God’s Word or to complete it. Hampered by tradition, few people take it as it stands. Usually they will ‘explain’ it, which, in practice, means that it is made more difficult. Traditionally, the idea persists that John’s writings are of a later date than Paul’s epistles. Why do they think this? Because John (probably …) has lived up to the 90’s of the 1st century, while Paul already was killed in the late 60’s. Assuming this is true, people forget that such does not say anything about the timing of John’s writings. Quite rightly, therefore, for example, in the Telos translation, at the opening of John’s writings, mentions: “Written by John between the years 60 and 95…”. This margin of more than three decades, is more than enough to recognize Paul as the one who made known the last word from God.

The forming of the NT left to others?

If Paul was aware that he was privileged to complete the word of God, would he then also be the end-editor of the NT? After all, only then the word of God would really be complete and finished. Who else but a representative of Jesus Christ, Himself, has the authority to determine what does and what does not belong to the canon, i.e. what is decisive? If to Paul was given the administration of the completion of the word of God, would he have left the selection of the writings to following generations and church councils? Certainly, the canon of the NT was only formally recognized, in the 4th century by the church. And in the preceding centuries, people have quibbled about various writings. But where would the canon have its origin other than at the time of the apostles?

the context of the second letter of Peter

In his second letter, Peter, as “apostle of the circumcision” addresses himself again to his Jewish readers. It is mid-60’s. Peter foretells the imminent, massive apostasy among the people. He foretells the Jewish Revolt and the “swift destruction” that would come upon the nation. The latter refers is to the devastation that would occur in the year 70 (for more info, click here). No longer was it the question (as before; Acts 1:6) if at “this time the kingdom to Israel would be restored”. On the contrary, scoffers would come up with the question: “Where is the promise of His coming?” (3:4). Peter realizes that, soon, he will die (1:14) and he wonders how it should be after his departure. What would uphold the subsequent generations? How could they discern the truth amidst myths and fables? As long as Peter and his companions were still alive, people could check with them, but how would it still be possible, when they would no longer be available? This question Peter deals with in the first chapter.

Peter’s zeal

Yet I shall endeavor to have you, after my exodus, to make mention of these things, ever and anon, also.
-2Peter 1:15-

Peter announced that he would be diligent (filled with endeavor/zeal). Once he had written his letter, there was still much work to be done. Peter  committed himself to the faith community, after his passing. They also had to be reminded of all the things he had mentioned as an eyewitness. Peter writes about the written record of what the witnesses had to say. He continues:

For not by following wisely made myths do we make known to you the power and presence of our Lord, Jesus Christ, but by becoming eye-witnesses of His magnificence.
-2Peter 1:16-

Peter claimed to have been an “eyewitness”. In the first place, with amongst others, John (see next verse), but in general, with all the other apostles.

And we are having the prophetic word more confirmed, which you, doing ideally, are heeding (as to a lamp appearing in a dingy place, till the day should be breaking and the morning star should be rising) in your hearts,
-2Peter 1:19-

Please note that, here, it speaks of “we” and “you.” “You” are the readers. “We” are the eyewitnesses of the previous verses. We, i.e. we eyewitnesses, have the prophetic word. The whole New Testament comes directly from the circle of eyewitnesses. One of those witnesses is Paul.

And be deeming the patience of our Lord salvation, according as our beloved brother Paul also writes to you, according to the wisdom given to him, as also in all the epistles, speaking in them concerning these things, in which are some things hard to apprehend, which the unlearned and unstable are twisting, as the rest of the scriptures also, to their own destruction.
-2Peter 3:15,16-

Apparently, bundles of (copies of) Paul’s letters made the round. We see the contours marking the formation of the New Testament. Note that Peter gives Paul’s letters the same status as “the other Scriptures.” You have to have Paul, so is Peter’s message. This is the same Peter who, once, had so much trouble with this Paul. Where Peter’s zeal, moreover, precisely consisted of, we do not know. He may have also gained access to the other writings of the New Testament? For example, the other circumcision writings? In his first letter, he calls the evangelist Mark “my son” (5:13) and that points out that the legacy of Peter would end up with Mark.

Paul’s testament

By referring to the name of Mark, we come automatically back to Paul. Paul mentions his name honorably, at the end of his last letter.

Luke only is with me. Taking Mark, lead him back with you, for he is useful to me for service.
-2Timothy 4:11-

Why did Marcus have to come along with Timothy? In what way was Marcus of much use for the service? For what service? Paul continues:

When you come, bring the traveling cloak which I left in Troas with Carpus, and the scrolls, especially the vellums.
-2Timothy 4:13-

How odd! The timing of Paul’s departure is imminent (2Tim.4:6,7) … whence his concern for “the books, especially the parchments”? What does an up-to-date library matter, if you are about to die? There arises only one answer to us: Paul is working hard to complete the Word of God! Paul wants to bequeath to Timothy a sacred library (Bible> Biblos> Library). With this in mind, he forcefully impresses on Timothy’s heart:

All scripture is inspired by God, and is beneficial for teaching, for exposure, for correction, for discipline in righteousness, that the man of God may be equipped, fitted out for every good act.
-2Timothy 3:16-

Would “the man of God” be completely equipped with only the Scriptures of the Tanakh? Of course not! Paul refers to every God-inspired Scriptures, including the “prophetic word” of the apostles. That is what Paul in its entirety wants to bequeath Timothy. And to the ecclesia of God. The Ecclesia, in fact, which is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Eph.2:20). The above also places the “usefulness” of Mark in a surprising light. Because Mark had, as heir of Peter, writings in his possession, that had to go to Paul. And then something else. Very trivially, Paul here asks that the cloak be taken along, which he had left behind in Troas, together with “the books, especially the parchments.” However, the word translated here by ‘cloak’ literally means ‘cover’. In a certain context, this could refer to a cloak, but the link, here, points in a different direction. We have to think here of a sleeve, a bag or cover which would serve as a cover for the relevant scriptures. It is even conceivable that Paul was one of the first to use the book form, which is dated from the second half of the first century!

Paul’s signature

If Paul indeed, as late editor has compiled the writings of the New Testament, this is perhaps reflected in the way he composed it? Superficially considered. No. The structure of the NT is logical, in general. It starts at the beginning: the accounts describe all that Jesus began to do. Then the historical stage of ‘Acts’. Then follows the division of the letters, and the NT logically concludes with ‘Revelation’, in which an end will come to the present-day hiding of Jesus Christ. In this logical format is not, specifically, the hand of Paulus noticed. This changes when we look at the layout of the letters. These are (roughly) divided into two groups: Paul’s letters on the one hand and the writings of James, Peter and John on the other (1). The latter sequence is striking, because it reminds us directly of Paul’s own list in Galatians 2:9 .

and, knowing the grace which is being given to me, James and Cephas and John, who are supposed to be pillars, give to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we, indeed, are to be for the nations, yet they for the Circumcision-

First James. Then Peter. And finally, John. This build-up and order, directly refers to the official appointment that was made during the meeting in Jerusalem. We are reminded, in advance, that these three wrote the circumcision writings! Anyway, the layout of the NT epistles is unmistakable Pauline. Which, once again, is a confirmation of the fact that Paul has completed the Word of God.

God’s signature

Although the classification and the counting in our present-day Bibles, does not make that visible, the original exhibits a great Divine design. Our OT goes (unfortunately) back to the classification of the Greek translation of the Hebrew OT (the Septuagint). The original Hebrew Bible, the Tanakh, was differently organized:

  1. The Torah,
  2. The Prophets
  3. the Scriptures (the Psalms upfront).

Jesus Christ refers to this format at His resurrection.

… for all must be fulfilled that is written in the law of Moses and the prophets and psalms concerning Me.
-Luke 24:44-

This classification is based on the threefold office of priest (Torah), prophet (Nevi’im) and king (the Ketuvim contain, mainly, contributions of kings). The counting of the books in the Hebrew Bible is also different. Thus, the twelve minor prophets are counted as one book. The Hebrew Bible counts, because of the different division, a total of 22 books. This number corresponds to the letters of the Hebrew alphabet And then the NT. This part of the Bible consists of 27 books, which together with the 22 books of the Hebrew Bible gives a total of 49 books. That number is God’s signature: 7×7!

The number 7 also re-occurs elsewhere, again and again. The Circumcision writings of James, Peter, John + Judas are 7 in number. Paul’s letters are 14 in number, which is 2×7 1 And notice this balance: the center of the Bible consists of the five historical books of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Acts. These books are the foundation of the biblical witness. On either side of this “Pentateuch”, we have 22 books. A perfect symmetry and balance!

Delen: