Keith Hunt - Canonization of Old Testament - Page Two   Restitution of All Things

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Canonization of the Old Testament #2

Order of New Testament books


by Ernest Martin (published 1984)

The Biblical Keys to Canonization

     This book on the design and development of the Old and New
Testaments differs substantially from studies made over the last
hundred and fifty years. In this work, a principle has been
adopted which has the potential for solving a great number of
perplexing problems now confronting scholarly investigation in
the field of biblical canonization. It is a proper procedure
which should be used to evaluate any historical account, but
strangely, in major studies involving scripture canonization it
has not been emphasized as a main guideline. Its lack of use is
especially apparent in matters concerning the original design and
development of the Holy Scriptures. In this book, however, the
principle will be placed in prime position for interpretation.
The results can be a satisfying and stimulating advance towards a
real understanding of what books belong in the Holy Bible and in
what order they ought to appear.

     The method of which we speak involves a recognition of the
environmental elements which governed the social, political, and
religious conduct of the people who formulated the Bible. It is a
well known fact that people find it psychologically difficult, if
not impossible, to keep from absorbing the social concepts which
permeate the environment in which they live and function. When
the external surroundings influencing the canonizers are
recognized, and those factors are employed in the interpretation
of their writings, a fuller comprehension of what the Bible
teaches can be the result.

The Religious Environment for Canonization

     The age in which the New Testament was written and canonized
was very different from that of modern times. This is especially
true when one compares our present world with the religious
atmosphere of the peoples who once existed in the Roman and
Parthian Empires. Preeminent among all others in their desire to
promote religious teachings were the Jewish people. Their society
was dominated by scriptural teachings and interpretions
maintained by the rabbis and priests. There has never been a
communal existence more regulated by rigorous biblical customs
and philosophies than that of first century Jews. And though
their reliance on Old Testament standards may seem unreasonable
to many moderns, early Jewish mentality regarded the performance
of their religious duties as normal and natural. They were most
interested in keeping the Laws of Moses. In actual fact, they
even went beyond the strictness of Moses (Matt.23:1-3), and
created a hide-bound religious community which the apostle Paul
called a state of bondage (Ga1.4:25). Peter and the other
apostles agreed (Acts 15:10).
     Nevertheless, that uncompromising religious system and the
principles that governed it played a profound role in the
canonization of the New Testament. Without a comprehension of its
major features (to which all the apostles were subjected) is a
prime reason why some scholars are at a loss to explain how or
why the books of the New Testament were selected and positioned
within the canon.

     In this chapter we wish to describe some of the important
aspects of that first century Jewish environment. It will help to
show why the manuscript order of the Old and New Testament
writings is proper.

SEVEN Environmental Factors


     The first of seven social factors which influenced all
historical periods covered by the Bible is that involving the
recognition and respect for eldership. Let me explain the
importance of this concept. It simply means that anyone older
than someone else was accorded a superior respect in all matters
concerning the social graces. And though this principle could be
put aside if someone younger was of more political or religious
importance, the general feeling of all ancient people was that
those who were older in age were given a position of prestige and
     A good example of this is the account of Elihu (in the Book
of Job) when he desired to give his opinion on why Job had
suffered misfortunes. The Bible is clear that the younger man
Elihu waited until the older and supposedly more wiser men had
their opportunities to instruct the patriarch Job. Only after
their discourses were completed did Elihu speak (Job 32:1-9).
     This concept of elders having the first chance to be heard
is one which monopolizes all historical narratives of the Bible
from beginning to end. Are we to imagine that the canonizers of
the Bible would disallow this principle of elder supremacy when
they thought of positioning the books of the Bible? It would seem
highly unlikely. And, in fact, when one looks at the arrangement
of the biblical books, it is obvious that they held to the
concept in a definite way.

     Let us first look at the order of the books in the New
Testament. Notice the books which followed the four Gospels and
the Book of Acts. The ancient manuscripts have: James, 1 & 2
Peter, I, 2 & 3 John, Jude. These seven epistles were placed
before the fourteen assigned to the apostle Paul. But why? For
one reason, the four men who wrote these seven books were men who
heard Christ teach while he was in the flesh, and they were
ordained to preach the Gospel before the apostle Paul was
convert on the road to Damascus. Simply, they were elders of
Pau1. The apostle Paul recognized this fact and said that they
were ministers "before me" (Ga1.1:17). Paul even considered
himself as the "least of the apostles" (I Cor.15:9). Indeed, he
even demoted himself to being "less than the least of all saints"
     If one had to rely solely upon the statements of Paul (and
comprehending the principle of eldership predominance) then the
writings of those men who were apostles before Paul should have
their teachings positioned before those of Paul! Interestingly,
this is exactly the position in which we find them in the early
manuscript order of the New Testament books. There can be no
doubt that the advancement of the seven epistles of these early
apostles before the fourteen of the apostle Paul is the correct

(It maybe so, but not for the reason Martin would like you to
believe. He has quoted a few verses by Paul, but like so may who
want to create proof texts, for their proof or argument, he
leaves out other verses of Paul - Galatians 2:6-9, 11-14; 2
Cor.11:5. While Paul was humble at times, remembering where he
came from and what he did before being called of Christ, he would also
never have put himself one wit behind any other apostle. I have
proved in detail in my studies on "Church Government" that there
was NEVER any "rank" of Elership in the New Testament church.
Hence Martin's argument here is very weak indeed for the idea
that Paul's writings should automatically be PUT AFTER those of
James, Peter and John, and even of Jude. It was NOT because of
"eldership rank" that Paul's writings should be read and studied
AFTER those men just mentioned. It is because those men laid down
foundational teachings and Paul was into more of the meat or
nitty-gritty teachings of Christianity. When you have the
foundational basics correct, then you can move on to
understanding the "sometimes hard to understand" [as Peter put
it] writings and teachings of Paul - Keith Hunt)


     There is a SECOND environmental principle which must be
taken into consideration, and it is akin to the first. This is
the deference afforded those who were in high positions of
government or those who occupied august religious offices, no
matter what their ages might be. A notable example of this is
found in the actions of the apostle Paul. The New Testament shows
that Paul was at one time extremely critical of the decisions
advocated by one of his persecutors. But when he found out that
the person was the High Priest (who was probably not wearing his
pontifical robes at the time), Paul respected his rank and
apologized for speaking to him abusively (Acts 23:1-5). Many such
examples of esteem for authorities (no matter if they were good
or evil) can be cited throughout Scripture. Even today in Jewish
circles, if a member of a synagogue possesses a name associated
with the priesthood (Cohen, Kahn, Conn, etc.), that person has
the inalienable right to read the lessons before anyone else.
This rule also applies to Jews having Levitical names (Levi,
Levine, etc.) - they are only a step removed from priesthood
positions in rank of importance. However, if no one attending the
synagogue has names of sacerdotal significance, then any
Israelite male today can assume the duties of reading the
scriptural lessons. This courtesy to administrational rank is
sustained consistently throughout all parts of the Old and New
Testaments. An example of this is found in the order of the three
divisions which make up the Old Testament. The first section are
the five books of the Law written by Moses. (Moses was the
highest ranking man of the Old Testament, followed by his brother
Aaron who was the first High Priest.) The second section are the
six books titled "the Prophets." This part was called "the
Prophets" because it was written by men of prophetical rank. The
third section of eleven books was called "the Writings." We will
later see that these books were composed by or written about
kings, queens, statesmen. It came to be called "the Royal

     Now note this. In matters of rank, Moses and the Law which
he was commissioned to write were head and shoulders above all
succeeding prophets, priests, or kings. All Israelites were
expected to be subservient to Moses. But, on the other hand, all
kings and rulers were inferior in rank to the prophets (most of
whom were priests). Recall that Nathan the prophet had authority
over David (2 Sam.12:1-15), and that Elijah and Elisha were in
supreme power over Gentile as well as Israelitish rulers as far
as the teaching of the Bible is concerned (2 Kings 5:1-19). And
this rank of authority (Moses over prophets and prophets ahead of
rulers) is shown in the order of the three divisions of the Old
Testament. First comes "the Law of Moses," then "the Prophets,"
and finally "the Royal Division" (the last eleven books)!

(This argument may have some truth to it as pertaining to the Old
Testament, but under the New Testament it was a different ball
game entirely. Respect for some office originally ordained of God
is one thing, but in writing "Scripture" for the New Testament
and placing them in a certain order, is quite a different subject.
This argument from Martin is again very weak, it is like trying
to compare oranges to apples - Keith Hunt)

     For a further example of this recognition of rank, note that
the apostle Paul's name always follows that of Barnabas (who was
a Levite - Acts 4:36) until Paul later took over the apostolic
leadership at Antioch of Pisidia (Acts 13:14,46). Paul's primacy
is then upheld, except when he and Barnabas were in the presence
of the "pillar" apostles, for among those in Jerusalem the
Levitical rank of Barnabas reassumed its elevated position (Acts

(Arguing from this perspective is also very weak. Paul would have
never consented to such an argument meaning anything when it came
to preaching and writings the truths of the Gospel. His attitude
towards James, Peter, John and other apostles is clearly expressed in
Galatians 2:6-9. It mattered not to him if they were or "seemed
to be something" - God had no respect of persons, neither did
Paul. The argument from "rank" or "placing whose name before
another name" would have meant absolutely nothing to Paul. And we
should know what Jesus thought about "Jewish traditions" from
Mark 7. Man made traditions have no bearing on truth; truth
always stands by itself on solid ground and needs not
"traditions" of men, even if they be correct traditions, to hold
itself upright - Keith Hunt)

     It is also a fact that Peter's name always precedes that of
John in contexts involving both apostles (Luke 22:8; Acts 3:1,
etc.), simply because Peter was given a higher rank than John
(Matt.16:18,19). And when the "pillar" apostles are mentioned
together, it is James (the Lord's brother, and leader of the
Jerusalem church) who precedes Peter and John (Gal.2:9).
This positioning of names in the New Testament is both a
conscious and unconscious attempt to show honor and respect to
the ranks of the men involved. Such a procedure represents the
normal concepts of protocol in Middle Eastern societies. What is
important to our present study is the fact that this principle
was one which prevailed in the psychological make-up of the men
who wrote and canonized the books of the Bible. 

(Martin is way off base with his idea of "rank" in any form in
the New Testament church. I have taken much time and detailed
studies to prove to you what was, and is the "government" of the
New Testament Church of God. That government was from the
beginning of the start of the NT church on the Day of Pentecost,
and that government has never changed. What was always then is
always today - Keith Hunt)

     Note, again, that the seven general epistles of James,
Peter, John, and Jude precede the fourteen of the apostle Paul's
in the original manuscript order of the books. And even within
the positioning of the seven epistles, James is placed before
Peter, while Peter appears before John, and John is before Jude.
The arrangement of these books is precisely as one would expect
if the ranks of the men were being considered. 

(No, it was other factors as to why the general epistles were
placed in the order, and it had nothing to do with a so-called
"rank" - Keith Hunt)

     And recall that even the apostle Paul, when referring to the
three Jerusalem apostles, mentioned them in the order of their
positions of authority in the Jerusalem church, "James, Cephas
(Peter), and John, who seemed to be pillars" (Gal.2:9). This
courtesy of mentioning the apostles in this fashion was no
arbitrary incident. It had deliberate and conscious significance
as anyone studying the customs of the biblical periods would
realize. The order of the scriptural books echoes the use of this

(There is no Biblical evidence that certain names should be in a
certain order, especially because of some supposed "rank" that
Elders had in the New Testament church. There may have been some
natural leaders in some churches, based upon any number of
factors, but the bottom line was still as Paul put it "whatsoever
they were, it makes no matter to me: God accepteth no man's
person..." Gal.2:6 - Keith Hunt)


     There is yet a third principle that must be considered.
There was in the first century among the Jewish community (of
which the apostles were a part) a distinct belief that those who
could claim a connection with the race of Israel had a special
relationship with God that no other people had. The apostle Paul
shared this belief. He stated most assuredly that only Israelites
possessed the sonship, the shekinah glory, the personal
covenants, the Mosaic law, the right to perform the Temple
services, and the only ones in the world who had the promises of
salvation (Rom.9:4). Paul insisted that before the introduction
of Christianity, all other races were completely cut off from
"the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of
promise, having no hope, and without God in the world"
     There is no doubt that this recognition of a special
association with God was the universal belief among Jews of the
early first century, and even Gentiles who wanted to be in
covenant with God also felt the need to join the society of
Israel. And though in Christ, Paul taught that all peoples were
on an equal status with Israel (Gal.3:28), the spiritual
ascendancy of the favored nation over all Gentiles was never
forgotten by the apostles - including Paul himself. Notice what
he said to the Gentile Romans.

"What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there in
circumcision? Much every way: chiefly because that unto them were
committed the oracles of God" (Rom.3:1,2).

     The Old Testament had been placed in the hands of the Jewish
people. This gave the Jews a superior position. This covenant
relationship with God was never diminished in the eyes of the
apostle Paul (nor among the other apostles who at first were
commissioned to preach only to Jews). Paul readily acknowledged
the principle that the Jews were to have first choice in
receiving the Gospel. They were in a legal position ahead of the

"Glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the
Jew first, and also to the Gentile" (Rom.2:10).

     This first rank for the Jewish people was always given, even
in matters of judgment (Rom.2:9). And in regard to Christ's
salvation, Paul was adamant that the message should go to the
Jews first.

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the
power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the
Jew first, and also to the Greek" (Rom.1:16).

     The apostle Paul never deviated from his belief in the Jews
having first position to receive the Gospel. In fact, he had been
commissioned by Christ to preach both to Israelites and Gentiles
(Acts 9:15) and he never shirked his responsibility of going to
the Jews first. Note Paul's example.

     When Paul went to the Gentile island of Cyprus, he spoke
first to the Jews (Acts 13:5). When he went to the central area
of Galatia, he first preached in the synagogues of the Jews (Acts
13:14) - and only secondarily did he speak to the Gentiles (Acts
13:42). This was also the case at Iconium (Acts 14:1), later in
Macedonia (Acts 16:1-13; 17:1,10), at Corinth (Acts 18:4),
Ephesus (Acts 19:8), and even Rome itself (Acts 28:17-27)! It was
only at places where the Jewish community almost totally rejected
him did Paul turn exclusively to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46; 18:6;

     It is also shown in the Book of Acts that the Gospel of
Christ went first to the Jews at Jerusalem, and then
progressively it finally got to the Gentiles at Rome. Jerusalem
was first and Rome was last. Indeed, for the first few years the
Gospel was taught "to Jews only" (Acts 11:19) without a thought
that the Gentiles themselves would one day be graced with the
Gospel message. And even when it became clear that the Gentiles
were meant to receive the Gospel, Paul said: "It was necessary
that the word of God should first have been spoken to you [Jews]"
(Acts 13:46). This was of prime importance to the apostles.
This fact of apostolic history is also reflected within the
design of the New Testament canon. This is because the
psychological motives dominating the thinking of the apostles
demanded that the Gospel of salvation must, in all cases, be
presented to the Jewish people first. This is just another reason
why the canonizers of the New Testament followed the conviction
that first position among the 27 Christian books within the
divine library must be awarded to the books designed primarily
for the Jews. This is why the seven general epistles of James,
Peter, John, and Jude (who were commissioned to preach to the
Jews--Gal.2:7-9) should logically precede the fourteen of the
apostle Paul who was the apostle to the Gentiles (2 Tim. 1:11).
There can be no doubt that the early Christian apostles (when
presented with the responsibility of forming a New Testament from
the available writings) would have placed the apostles specially
assigned to the Jews before those of Paul who was the apostle to
the Gentiles! All knew that the Gospel was to the Jew first. And
interestingly, that is exactly how the majority of early
manuscripts of the New Testament have the books arranged.

(The arrangement of the New Testament by the NT apostles had
nothing to do with what Martin has spoken about. Paul's letters
were to various "churches" which were BOTH Jewish and Gentile.
The MAIN reason as to WHY Paul's writings should follow those of
Peter, James, John and Jude, and why the four Gospels should be
first and the book of Acts second behind the Gospels, and the
book of Revelation last in order, Martin will yet come to the
MAIN reason - Keith Hunt)


     The fourth principle which motivated the thinking of the
biblical writers and canonizers was their perception of the
manner in which people attained to a proper religious conversion.
     Nothing is more important to people with deep religious
persuasions than recognizing the methods by which individuals are
able to reach a proper relationship with God. And in the New
Testament we have the methodology clearly delineated. The
step-by-step procedure by which Christian conversion is
accomplished is found in the Book of Hebrews. The author records
the stages that will lead a person into a full, adult
relationship with Christ. There were seven phases which direct a
person to a complete salvation in Christ. These are shown in a
harmonious story-flow from beginning to end.

     The seventh and final stage was considered as having a
priority position. This conclusion to the salvation process -
which is the attainment of perfection (Heb.6:1) - is followed by
the step by step means by which salvation is reached. The most
important factor is mentioned first. Then is shown in sequence
the six primary steps of doctrinal accomplishment which have to
be executed before a person can reach that final and seventh
stage called perfection. When one fulfills the first requirement,
then one can proceed to the second, the third, and progessively
to the seventh. Let us notice those seven levels of development.
They are: 

1) a repentance from dead works (v.1), 
2) having faith toward God (v.1), 
3) understanding the doctrine of baptisms (v.2), 
4) the laying on of hands (for receiving the Holy Spirit) (v.2),
5) doctrines concerning the resurrection from the dead (v.2), 
6) a recognition of matters concerning the judgment (rewards)
from God (v.2), and finally one is taught the last phase of
Christian attainment which is 
7) the desired perfection - which represents salvation (v.1)!

     The foregoing procedure for acquiring redemption under the
New Covenant was so a part of the psychological make-up of those
who wrote and canonized the Bible that we find it cropping up in
a stage-by-stage fashion in the theological books of the New
Testament. This seven-fold doctrinal attainment provides the
sequence of Paul's subjects which he discussed in the Book of
Romans. The information in Hebrews 6:1,2 constituted the outline
for the logical presentation of Paul's theological teachings.
Notice that the first subject Paul speaks about in Romans is
repentance (see the first chapter of Romans leading up to Romans
2:4 - "the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance"). The
second topic dovetails with the second in Hebrews, faith. And
Paul's discussion on faith in Romans occupies all of chapters 3
to 5. Then Paul in Romans 6 and 7 (and right in the sequence of
Hebrews 6) proceeds with a discourse on baptism and its spiritual
consequences. The author of Hebrews then follows with the mention
of "the laying on of hands." This concerned factors associated
with the Holy Spirit and its functions. And remarkably, the Book
of Romans continues with the same sequential theme - a major
discourse on the attributes and role of the Holy Spirit (Romans
8). The fifth and sixth subjects in Hebrews concerned the
resurrection and judgment, and in Romans 9 through 11 Paul
presented his account of how Israel, though temporarily cast
aside, will experience a thorough salvation and a judgment (their
allotted rewards) when Christ finally returns to rescue them.
This redemption will lead to what the Book of Hebrews, seventhly,
calls perfection, and what Paul in Romans corresponds to the
prophesied salvation which will be extended to all Israel

     The progressive doctrinal theme of Hebrews 6:1,2 is seen
also in First Corinthians. Whereas the Book of Romans
concentrates primarily on the first three subjects of 1)
repentance, 2) faith, and 3) baptism (with lesser emphasis on the
Holy Spirit, the resurrection, judgment, and perfection), the
Book of First Corinthians reverses the order with only scant
attention to those first three topics but fully elaborates with
major discussions on the doctrines of 4) the Holy Spirit
(chapters 12 to 14), 5) and the resurrection (chapter 15). In
First Corinthians Paul, like in Romans, touches upon the subjects
of 6) judgment and 7) perfection, but these matters are more
thoroughly treated in the later books of Ephesians, Philippians,
Colossians, and (of course) Hebrews ("leaving the principles of
the doctrine of Christ, let us go on to perfection" - Hebrews

     When one looks at the canonical order of the books of Romans
and First Corinthians (followed by the remainder of Paul's
letters), it will be seen that all the sequential doctrinal
subjects (which Hebrews calls the elementary teachings) are dealt
with in orderly fashion!

(While somewhat interesting, it is not iron clad proof, just
certain facts about a few of Paul's books. He certainly did not
retain that pattern in many of his books. A snatching at straws
is what Martin is doing here - Keith Hunt)

     This procedure is seen in the positioning of all the New
Testament books. The four Gospels give the basic teaching of
Christianity (and we will later observe that Matthew gives the
Jewish approach, while Mark presents the Jewish/Gentile, Luke the
Gentile/Jewish, and John gives a thoroughly Gentile or universal
one). The design is to give teaching which progresses from the
physical (the expected Jewish kingdom of the Messiah) to the real
spiritual one (the universal, heavenly Kingdom of God). The
Gospels and Acts are followed by the seven general epistles. The
subjects discussed in those seven books are primarily
non-theological, and are intended to give an introduction to the
fourteen epistles of Paul where the subjects of repentance,
faith, baptism, the Spirit, resurrections, judgment, and
perfection are rehearsed in detail. The Book of Revelation ends
the canon with a prophetic account of eschatological events
concerning Christ's second advent which will usher in the hopes
and promises which were mentioned in the preceding books of the
New Testament.

(True to a point. But the greater point being that the foundation
of Christ comes first, the church moving forward in the book
of Acts. The "general" epistles answer the perverted and false
gospel being proclaimed by false apostles. They nail home in no
unsure manner and teaching the very foundations of Christianity
and what is Godliness, the Ten Commandments being in full force
and effect, and teach you to follow in the steps of Christ, as
being the sure rock-bed of salvation. Put together the Gospels,
book of Acts, and the "general epistles" of John, Peter, James,
and Jude, and you have the solid rock of Christian salvation.
Most certainly those books should be read and studied FIRST by
all new converts to Christianity. The writings of Paul that can
sometimes be hard to understand, will be easier to understand
when the basic foundation is laid in stone. Revelation is the
last book of the Bible because you'll need to have studied the
prophets of the Old Testament and the foundational books of the
New Testament, and the writings of Paul, before you can
understand the last book of the Bible - Keith Hunt)

     What we find in the manuscript order of the New Testament
books is a progressive account of doctrinal teaching. If the
books are left in the order that the canonizers intended, the
matter of doctrine would be understood much better. But our
modern Bibles have misplaced books, which were intended to give
elementary (and preliminary) teaching, into a later position and
elevated the epistles of Paul (which are more doctrinally mature)
into a location ahead of the introductory ones. This causes
confusion! We feel that it is far better to leave the books in
the order that the majority of manuscripts have them.



     There was a fifth principle which pervaded the consciousness
of the writers of the Bible, particularly with those of the New
Testament. Though there are many virtues of the Holy Spirit
mentioned in the Bible, the apostle Paul mentioned three prime
ones (stated in order of importance): faith, hope, and love (I
Cor.13:13). And note this! The first eight chapters of Romans
essentially cover the matter of faith, while chapters 9 to 11
emphasize the hope of Israel, and the final chapters (12 to 16)
focus on the concept of love - to mankind in general, the
brotherhood in particular, and to God especially! But it
doesn't stop there. In the canonical order of the epistles of
James, Peter and John, it will be seen that the first emphasizes
true faith and religion (James), the second hope in suffering
(Peter), and the third underlines love for the brotherhood
(John). The positioning of those books in this way is not an
indiscriminate affair. There appears to be a conscious design in
operation relative to the order of the books. It reflects a
method of teaching in which the important attributes of the Holy
Spirit are progressively mentioned and emphasized. We will have
more to say about this type of design within the books of the
Bible as we progress through this book.

(AAAHHH ... now we are getting to the strong MAIN common sense of
it all, as to why the apostles arranged the NT in their original
MSS arrangement. The general epistles are in the order of FAITH
they are in that order and it had nothing to do with any "rank"
among the Eldership. What epistles would be better placed after the 
Gospels and Acts than those foundational teachings of faith, hope, 
love, and striving for that faith once delivered to the saints. 
In all that teaching and knowledge you will move on to High School. 
From there you are into the years of High School theology with the 
books of Paul; finally you are in University studying the book of
Revelation. The beauty of that order is so wonderful, so step by
step edifying, building you up from a milk to strong meat
progression of true Christianity - Keith Hunt)


     The sixth principle which dominated the thinking of the men
of the Bible (and this certainly applied to those who wrote and
formulated the New Testament) concerns the proper methods for
teaching. It is well-known that the best way to teach is to begin
with the elementary aspects of a subject and proceed to the more
advanced. We certainly find this principle very much in action in
the arrangement of the biblical books. We find that the writings
were placed to give the "kindergarten" teaching first, followed
by "grade school, high school, college, and then post-graduate
     This can be easily demonstrated by the writings of the
apostle Paul. His first book in the canonical order is Romans.
This book clearly represents the ABC's of Christian doctrine on a
level for those not having heard much about the plan of
salvation. Recall that Paul had never been to Rome before. He
wrote the book for people who were needing to be established
(Rom.1:11). In the Book of Romans, Paul proceeded to give them
the elementary doctrinal teachings of Christianity. This is why
the Book of Romans comes first in the canonical epistles of Paul.
This book is followed by First Corinthians. Though some progress
was being made in doctrinal understanding (Paul had taught the
Corinthians for 18 months, unlike the Romans whom he had never
taught), Paul's emphasis in Corinthians was on corrective
measures and shows how new and immature the Corinthians were in
the Christian faith. In fact, Paul made the plain statement that
they were still spiritual babes in the faith.

"And I brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but
as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with
milk: for hitherto you were not able to bear it, neither yet now
are ye able" (I Cor.3:1,2).

     The Corinthians were only capable of receiving elementary
teachings from Paul. Not only were they acting like "children"
(see a further reference in I Cor.14:20), but their spiritual
performances were more like baptized heathens. Paul demanded that
they grow up and behave like mature Christians! Thankfully, the
Corinthians learned some vital lessons by the time Paul wrote his
second epistle, but in spite of their progress, Paul still said
in Second Corinthians: "I speak unto you as children" (II
     As for the Galatians (the next book in the canonical order),
Paul was upset with them for returning so quickly to an "infancy"
in Christ and resorting to the rule of the "schoolmaster" (the
Mosaic law) (Ga1.3:24-29; 4:1-10). The Galatians were
re-instituting "elementary" teachings (Gal. 4:9). They were going
back to a "grade school" type of instruction in Christ. They were
returning to the lowest level of Christian development - the
keeping of the Law! The Galatians were retreating into Mosaic
rules (observing weekly and annual sabbath days, new moons and
months, and sabbatical years). These doctrines were intended for
spiritual children who were in "grade school," and not (as Paul
looked at it) befitting mature Christians!


     Thus, the epistles of Paul to the Romans, Corinthians, and
Galatians (in our regular canonical order) were designed for
those just coming into a knowledge of Christ. And note: the
message in the Book of Romans was for people that Paul had never
instructed before, while his teaching to the Corinthians was for
those whom he had taught for 18 months, and that to the Galatians
was designed for those who had been taught the Gospel for more
than four years! Yet in all of these first four epistles, the
messages of Paul were intended for spiritual children.

     But when it comes to the next three epistles of Paul in the
New Testament canon (Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians),
they were designed to give instruction to mature and fully
developed Christians! In Ephesians the subjects are directed to
those who are "no more children." These teachings of Paul were
advanced doctrinal discourses:

"For the perfecting [maturing] of the saints, for the work of the
ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all
come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son
of God, unto a perfect man [a fully mature man], unto the measure
of the stature of the fullness of Christ: that we henceforth be
no more children tossed to and fro, and carried about with every
wind of doctrine" (Eph.4:12-14).

     There could hardly be any plainer teaching. The readers of
these latter epistles were far advanced in spiritual knowledge
than the early Romans, Corinthians, and Galatians. Paul was even
able to write the latter three epistles in very sophisticated
     Paul's letters to the first three churches were arranged to
provide information from the ABC's of doctrinal teaching, to the
XYZ's of knowledge with the latter three. These are followed in
the manuscripts by the epistles to a seventh church - that of the
Thessalonians. And what is the subject matter of those two
epistles? It is teaching about the appearance of the Man of Sin,
the second advent of Christ back to this earth, and the
resurrection from the dead which will accompany Christ's advent!
The number seven (as is evident) has the ring of completion and
finality in its symbolic meaning. Thus, the seventh church
epistles discuss the end of the age and the completion of the
church age. While the first six churches had epistles which
described the doctrines of the church (and how one must walk in
the Christian life), the seventh church had two epistles which
have information about the conclusion of the church age and the
attainment of the promises which the previous epistles talked

     The next book in the manuscript order is Hebrews. It is very
mature teaching. "Leaving the principles of the doctrine of
Christ, let us go on to perfection" (Heb.6:1,2). Its commentary
explains how the Temple and physical rituals were types of things
to come, but how the reality is found in Christ. It discusses the
true kingdom of God which is to appear on earth. Emphasis is
given to "the sabbath to come" (Heb.4:9) and the new Jerusalem
     In the Book of Hebrews the author says that the elementary
doctrines of repentance, faith, baptisms, laying on of hands, the
resurrection, and the judgment (which Paul discussed thoroughly
in Romans, Corinthians, and Galatians) were to be left behind,
and only subjects dealing with perfection were then appropriate
(Heb.5:11-14; 6:1-3).

     The remaining four books in Paul's canon were instructions
for the pastoral duties of ministers. Obviously, these later
teachings are most mature - after all, they were written from one
professional minister to other professionals. The teaching
contained in them was hardly for spiritual infants. And, finally,
the manuscripts have the Book of Revelation last of all. This
covers all aspects of the end of the age - and its contents
pertain to the whole world, not only to the Christian church (as
the two to the Thessalonians do). It is the most mature and
difficult book to understand. It comes last! And it is a fitting
conclusion not only to the New Testament but to the Bible as a

     When we get further into the body of this book, we will find
that the subjects of the various books of the Bible, plus the
arrangement of the books in relationship to one another, echo the
principle of progressive revelation - that is, a teaching which
begins with elementary (or general) matters and proceeds to the
more sophisticated (the particular). This is the normal way to
teach. When the apostle Peter said that Christians ought to grow
in grace and knowledge (2 Pet.3:18), he expected all people to
progress in the normal step-by-step fashion of doctrinal
development that people throughout the ages have been used to. It
should not seem odd that the books within the canon of the Bible
were arranged in the same fashion. Proper teaching methods demand
this approach.

(I agree fully in what Martin has explained in this point - Keith


     A seventh and final principle in canonization involves the
use of symbolic numbers. The number seven was of prime
consequence. It had a special signification of which there was
little ambiguity. Professor Muirhead had this to say on the
meaning of seven.

"Seven-Examples: 7 churches, spirits (Rev.1:4,11; 3:1), stars
(1:16,20), candlesticks (1:13), lamps (4:5), seals (5:1; 8:1),
horns and eyes (5:6), trumpets (8:2), angels (8:2), thunders
(10:30, heads (12:3; 17:3), angels with plagues (15:1), vials
full of the wrath of God (15:7), kings (17:10), In view of this
pervasiveness of 7, it is proof that 7 is pre-eminently the
number of perfection or completeness. Seven represents the
perfect of God in mercy and judgment in relation to men (as well
as the total works of creation)" (Dict. of the Apostolic Church,
vol.II, p.93, italics mine).

     One could take a whole chapter to show the wonders found in
the symbol of seven in the Bible and still not exhaust the
subject. It provides an accent of completion and perfection to
any theme!

     One might wonder why we are mentioning this matter of
symbolic numbers? This is because the subject is important in
regard to the canonization of the Bible. The prime number
associated with canonization is seven. The number is found in a
variety of ways in the symmetrical design which exists within and
between the books of the Old and New Testament. The recognition
that numbers played an important symbolic part in the religious
thinking of the writers of the Bible will go a long way in
helping to show just what books represent the complete

     In closing, the seven principles mentioned within this
chapter, which motivated the actions of the men who wrote and
canonized the Bible, are important ones to consider if one wishes
to know just what books represent the Holy Bible in its earliest
form. Throughout this book we will pay attention to all these
principles (and others which are akin to them) in order to
determine what the biblical writers themselves would say are the
actual and authorized books of the Bible - and in what order they
ought to appear in our modern versions!





Keith Hunt

(December 2008)

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