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The Canonization of the New Testament #6

The General Epistles after the Gospels and Acts

CANONIZATION OF THE NEW TESTAMENT #6

by the late Ernest Martin (published in 1984)


The SEVEN GENERAL EPISTLES

     In the earliest and best manuscripts the seven epistles of
James, I and 2 Peter, I, 2, and 3 John, and Jude are placed
before the fourteen epistles of the apostle Paul. And this is
where they belong! Prof.Scrivener, after 

     More scholarly evidence to support the propriety of these
conclusions was given in the first chapter of this book. As
Professor Gregory pointed out, scholars and laity should not view
this matter with indifference. He felt it was important that the
manuscript order should be retained in modern versions and
translations (Canon and Text of the New Testament, pp.467-469).
     As one of the giants in the field of New Testament textual
criticism, we feel that his admonition should be heeded and that
our present versions should be corrected to accord with the
manuscripts! 

     But there is more evidence for this even outside the
manuscripts! It comes from the Bible itself! There are seven
biblical reasons which indicate why the General Epistles must
precede those of Paul in the order of the New Testament books.
     Let us look at them.

The Biblical Evidence

     One of the cardinal rules of logic is that discussions on
any subject should proceed from the general to the particular.
And these seven epistles are called "General" for several
reasons.

(1) Each of the books was written to general areas where Jews
(Israelites - Keith Hunt) were and not to a specific church like
those of the apostle Paul. James, for example, directed his
epistle to the "twelve tribes scattered abroad" - in all areas
where Israelites were. Peter, on the other hand, became a little
more specialized regarding the geographical areas in which his
readers lived, but still, his two epistles were directed in a
general way to those "scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia,
Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia" (I Pet.1:1; 2 Pet.3:1). John and
Jude were so "general" regarding the geographical locations of
their readers that they gave no territorial identifications at
all! The decided impression that one gets when reading these
seven epistles is that they were intended to be read by a large
body of people, notably people of Jewish (Israelite - Keith Hunt)
extraction in various regions of the world. Paul's letters, on
the other hand (with the exception of one) were written to
specific churches or individuals. And it is normal that the
"general" should precede the "particular."

(2) These epistles contain only general teachings. Notice that
there are no discourses on what baptism means, how to observe the
Lord's Supper, how to conduct oneself in the liturgies of the
church, etc. Really, the only instructions that we find in these
seven epistles are quite general and basic. James even spoke of
his readers as going to war with one another: "Whence come wars
among you" (James 4:1). He also wrote of the rich among them as
severely oppressing the poor (5:1). These statements have led
some to wonder if he was speaking to converted people at all. The
theme of the epistle of James seems to be giving an overview (or
an introduction) to the basic concepts of Christianity. Indeed,
there are only two short references to Christ (1:1 and 2:1) and
if they were dropped from the text, the whole epistle could
easily have been called a simple Jewish exposition on Old
Testament values and theology (cf.Guthrie, New Testament
Introduction, p.756).
     This Old Testament theme presents no problem if one
understands that the work was intended simply to be a Christian
introduction of a general nature to people representing the
twelve tribes of Israel. It would have been quite ridiculous to
tell "the twelve tribes" in an introductory letter how they were
to act in the Christian church, and in what order the Christian
ministers should preach, etc. In fact, the people to whom James
wrote were not attending any Christian church - they were still
members of various synagogues (Jam.2:2, Greek). James was
speaking to Jews who were just beginning to learn what the first
principles of Christianity really were! This is why his book is
positioned directly after the Book of Acts. It was intended to
provide some preliminary teachings of Christianity without
involving the readers in major doctrinal issues. The epistles
following James were meant to set forth more completely the
Gospel of Christ (and positioned so as to present in a
progressive manner the maturer doctrines of Christianity).
     We find the same thing in Peter's epistles, though the
geographical destination is more defined than James and his
doctrinal matters are a little stronger! Yet Peter is still
giving general teaching. "As newborn babes, desire the sincere
milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby" (I Pet.2:2). Peter
was followed by the three letters of John. They focus on the
general need for love to be expressed among brethren and that
people should pay attention to the first principles of Christian
teaching - adhering to the primitive and basic doctrines which
were given "from the beginning" (I John 2:7,13; 3:8,11; 2 John
5). And though Jude homes in on a specific problem that was
facing the Christian community when he wrote, his emphasis is
still "that ye should earnestly contend for the faith once
delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). Jude then described a
condition happening within the Christian church that some people
have thought incompatible with the strict moral and doctrinal
disciplines in the churches which Paul supervised. True enough.
But the seven General Epistles were not designed to give
theological or ecclesiastical information. These were general
letters dealing with large groups of people (mostly Jewish) who
were still adhering, in many cases, to the national concepts of
Judaism. This is why these epistles were placed before those of
Paul. They present teachings for an "infant" stage to the
understanding of Christian doctrines and church discipline.

(3) These seven epistles were also written by men who were
commissioned to preach the Gospel to the Jewish people, and the
messages (as we have seen) show that they were primarily intended
for Jews. (Israelites - Keith Hunt) The apostle Paul recognized
this special commission, and how it differed from his.

"And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars,
perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and
Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we [Paul and
Barnabas] should go unto the Gentiles, and they [James, Peter and
John] unto the circumcised" (Gal.2:9).

     The role of these three "pillar" apostles was very
prestigious in the Christian community, and they were given
charge over the Jewish people in the church. This gave them a
position of priority. Even Paul admitted it.

"I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of
God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first,
and also to the Greek" (Rom.1:16; 2:9,10).

(That is more FUNCTION than priority - it was God's intent and
function to have the Gospel go first to the Jews, but ONLY for
the first while. Once it was opened up to the Gentiles, it was a
whole new ball game, and there was no position of priority to the
Jews or Israelites - Keith Hunt)

     As we have been showing throughout this book, it was
essential that the Gospel be given to the Jewish people first.
Christ was adamant that this be done and He set the example by
refusing to preach to outright Gentiles (Matt.15:21-28). And even
in the first period after Christ's resurrection, the apostles
spoke only to Jews about Christ (Acts 11:19). When it finally
became permissible to grant Gentiles an opportunity to hear the
Gospel, Paul still gave the Jewish people the priority of
hearing. "It was necessary that the Word of God should first have
been spoken to you [to you Jews]" (Acts 13:46). Paul always went
to the Jews first wherever he wished to preach (Acts 11:19;
13:14; 14:1; 17:1,10; 18:4; 19:8; 28:17).

(Only at the first, what Martin seems to forget is that Paul
finally turned his back in the main, on the Jews, and
consentrated on preaching to the Gentiles. It was the function of
people like James and Peter and John to preach to the Jews, it
was not the overall function for Paul and others as Paul admitted
in the book of Galatians - Keith Hunt)

     This principle alone would make it necessary to place these
seven "Jewish" epistles written by the prime "Jewish" apostles to
front rank ahead of the fourteen epistles of Paul to the
Gentiles!

(No there is no "rank" per se. All of God's Word is inspired and
all just as important, yet there is "function" as to which should
be read first by NEW converts, a one, two, three, steps of
spiritual growth and learning; you learn to float and swim in the
shallow end before diving in at the deep end - Keith Hunt)

(4) These seven epistles have first position because their
authors had seniority over Paul. This is made clear by Paul
himself. He referred to these "pillar" authorities at Jerusalem
as being "apostles before me" (Gal.1:17). Philastrius, in the
fourth century, observed that the seven General Epistles must
have priority over Paul for this one reason alone (Moffatt,
Introduction, p.13). And why not? Throughout the whole of the
Bible the superiority of eldership is recognized. Even Christ
pointed out the special position of seniority that the original
Jewish apostles had: "And ye shall also bear witness, because ye
have been with me from the beginning" (John 15:27). We should
remember that when Matthias was elected to be numbered among the
apostles in the place of Judas, it was acknowledged that a prime
requirement for apostleship necessitated that men "companied with
us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,
beginning with the baptism of John" (Acts 1:21,22). This
recognition of eldership was accorded those apostles who preceded
Paul. In Romans 16:7 he said: "Salute Andronicus and Junia, my
kinsmen, and my fellowprisoners, who are of note among the
apostles, who were also in Christ before me." These examples are
enough to show that a preeminence was given to the "pillar"
apostles even by Paul and had he the opportunity to position the
various books within a New Testament canon, there can be no doubt
that Paul would have given a superior position to the "Jewish"
apostles who wrote to the "Jewish" people. And significantly,
this is exactly the disposition which the manuscripts maintain!


(The manuscripts may give position to the "general" epistles
before the letters or books of Paul, BUT NOT for the reason
Martin wants to proclaim. While Paul gave honor to the 12
apostles in certain ways as Martin quotes above, Paul did NOT
believe he was "under them in rank" or "influence" or any other
position of priority. Once more Martin forgets the very strong
words given by Paul concerning any "rank" idea among the apostles
of Christ, see once more Gal.1:11-24; 2:1-10; note especially
verse 6. It made no impression on Paul that certain ones "seemed
to be somewhat" in the church at Jerusalem. The General epistles
should be read first before Paul for the NEW convert, but they
are NOT positioned before Paul for any "rank" of apostleship that
Martin wants to proclaim. This is an example of taking only
certain verses and hence as people say, in mocking Christians,
"You can prove anything from the Bible." And it is so, IF you
only take certain verses on any Bible subject - Keith Hunt)


(5) Not only did the Jerusalem apostles have seniority over Paul,
they also had greater administrative authority. Paul said that
James, Peter and John (the main writers of the General Epistles)
were the pillars of the church (Gal.2:9). It was to them that
Paul had to go in order to settle the question of circumcision
among the Gentiles. He went "to them of reputation [that is, to
them of recognized authority], lest by any means I should run, or
had run, in vain" (Gal.2:2).

(No, Paul said, "SEEMED to be pillars" and it mattered not to
him, it made no difference to him what they SEEMED to be, which
means he was really not that sure what they were as such within
the church at Jerusalem. He only went to Jerusalem once after his
conversion, to see Peter and also James for a very short while,
then he was not in Jerusalem for 14 years; see Gal.1:11-22; 2:1-
2. As for circumcision. Paul already KNEW the TRUTH on that
matter, and needed not the 12 apostles verdict, it became a
"church matter" and so Paul and others went to Jerusalem to give
weight to the truth (Acts 15) not to get the 12 apostles to agree
with them, or get their approval on the truth they already knew -
Keith Hunt)

     This scripture tells us much. In no uncertain terms Paul
said that had he not cleared his teaching concerning the non-need
for Gentiles to be circumcised with the pillar apostles in
Jerusalem, all his preaching would have been in vain. But when
the three pillar apostles heard the whole story of what God was
doing through Paul among the Gentiles, they "gave to me and
Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto
the heathen, and they unto the circumcision" (Gal.2:9). 

(Ernest Martin is reading right passed verses in Galatians and
Acts and Paul's other epistled that would demolish any such idea
that Paul had to get "sanctioned" or the "okay" from the
Jerusalem aposles about ANYTHING he taught. 14 years is a long
time to be teaching and preaching the Gospel that Jesus Christ
taught him personally [Gal.1:12] and still feel he had to get the
approval of those at Jerusalem. Martin's case here is shredded to
pieces by the context of the whole subject from all of the New
Testament - Keith Hunt) 

     This rank of authority was demonstrated by James at the
Jerusalem conference.
     It was James who gave the final decision on what the
Gentiles could and could not do (Acts 15:19).

(No again, James gave his "judgment" after all had spoken, and it
was the WHOLE church who approved the matter and what would be
said to the Gentiles on the subject - Acts 15:19,22-28 - Keith
Hunt)

     In matters of rank, Paul was well aware that he was the
"least" of the apostles. Speaking of his later call to the
apostleship, he said:
"And last of all, he [Christ] was seen of me also, as one born
out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not
meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of
God" (I Cor.15:8,9).

(There is a large difference in looking at yourself as to what
you had done to the Church of God at one time - Paul persecuted
the church very vigorously - and being humbled by it all, and
calling yourself the "least" is one thing. On the other hand when 
it came to being taught directly by Christ Himself, preaching the Gospel,
and teaching the very truths of God, Paul as we have seen in
Galatians 1 and 2, did NOT back down in thinking and saying he
was not one wit behind the chiefest apostle (as he said
elsewhere) as to those who "seemed to be somewhat" as pillars in
the church at Jerusalem - Keith Hunt)

     Throughout the Bible the principle of those in the greatest
authority having supremacy over lesser ones is maintained. 

(No, NOT in the New Testament it is not - Martin has forgetton
what Jesus said, to His disciples, about "authority" over each
other, as recorded in the Gospels. Those that "would like to be"
over others had to be the "servant" to the others. It is all
fully expanded on in my studies on "Church Government" - it is
obvious Martin did not study that subject deeply or fully - Keith
Hunt)

     In the first portion of the Book of Acts, we find the name
of Barnabas placed before that of Paul, but later (when Paul was
given more administrative authority) the placement is reversed.
Barnabas was a Christian prior to Paul and he was a Levite (Acts
4:36). This at first gave him a rank above Paul in the eyes of
the Jews. This was finally changed (Acts 15:2) and only
temporarily reversed when they were once again within a Jewish
environment at Jerusalem (Acts 15:12).

(All a bunch of trying to make a "technical" case for "word and
name" placements in the NT. The simple truth of the matter is
that their is NO "RANK" positions in the NT Church of God, there
is FUNCTION and RESPECT, but no "rank" among God's NT servants -
Keith Hunt)

     All of this shows why, in the New Testament canon, the
General Epistles of the "pillar" apostles are placed first to
accord with the Jewish positioning of superiority. Modern
scholars have recognized this. Prof. Ernest F. Scott of Columbia
University says:

"In our English New Testament, the General Epistles are placed
near the end of the volume, just before the Book of Revelation.
The Greek manuscripts put them as a rule, immediately after the
Gospels and Acts, and before the writings of Paul. This was no
doubt in recognition of the fact that they bore the names of the
Apostles who were directly associated with Jesus, and whose
authority, therefore, might be considered superior to that of
Paul. In keeping with this principle, the first place of all was
accorded to the Epistle of James. Its author was assumed to be no
other than James, the Lord's own brother" (The Literature of the
New Testament, pp.209,210).

(False assumptions by Martin and Scott. Paul never thought
himself one wit behind any other apostle as far as the Gospel and
truths of the Lord went. Paul said James and others at Jerusalem
"seemed to be somewhat" "seemed to be pillars" but he actually
could have cared less if they were whatever they were, or
whatever they "seemed" to be. Paul was not impressed by any who
"seemed" to be something. He knew the truth and had been
preaching it for over a dozen years before going to Jerusalem. He
RESPECTED others working in the Gospel, but he sure did not need
their "approval" on anything. He had been taught directly by
Christ - Gal.1:11,12. The "general epistles" are placed before
those of Paul in the MSS, NOT because of any "rank" position over
Paul that those apostles had, but BECAUSE they give simple
overall Christian teaching that should naturally follow after the
foundational stones of truth by the life of Jesus in the Gospels
and the book of Acts - Keith Hunt)

(6) The General Epistles must also precede Paul's because they
give the proper approach to the understanding of Paul's doctrinal
letters. 

(Ah .... NOW we are getting to the MAIN CORRECT reason, finally
Martin has found it, the simple logical reason - Keith Hunt)

     It was Peter who told his readers that Paul's teachings
were "hard to be understood" and that one should be careful in
interpreting them (2 Pet.3:16). Now, where would a person expect
to find such a warning? In our present order of biblical books,
Peter's caution has been placed after one would have already
studied Paul's fourteen epistles! What an odd place for such an
admonition! Would it not be better to find Peter's statement in a
section of Scripture which was intended, in the first place, to
be an introduction to the doctrinal dissertations of Paul? That
is where it is found if one leaves the books in the order
sanctioned by the early manuscripts!

     There are even more reasons for placing the "Jewish"
apostles before Paul. Doctrinal matters can be given a better
understanding if the books are left in the proper order. For
example, Paul said that Abraham was justified by faith (Rom.4:2)
while James said by works (James 2:21). There is really no
contradiction. If one will first read the practical application
of faith as rendered by James, before the more philosophical
aspect as encountered in Paul, the two concepts can be harmonized
very well. For James, a faith expressed without works is no faith
at all, even though a faith based solidly on works, that Paul
spoke of, was equally not proper.
     Similarly, in trying to comprehend the full teaching of
other
doctrinal matters, if people would tackle Paul's epistles after
having absorbed the introductory and basic instruction within the
General Epistles, a much easier task would await them in
comprehending the fulness of the Gospel. It seems odd that people
would want to enter "College" (Paul's Epistles) without first
mastering "High School" (the General Epistles).

(Yes, I fully AGREE!! Wow, logical truth at last!! Keith Hunt)

(7) The seventh reason why Paul's epistles belong after the seven
General Epistles concerns the canonization of the New Testament
itself. Since there had been a great deal of doubt among some
first century people, especially Jewish Christians, regarding the
validity of Paul's teaching and the inspiration of the letters he
wrote, Peter thought it necessary to inform his readers that
Paul's letters were indeed as inspired as the Old Testament (2
Pet.3:15,16). Since Peter knew it was the responsibility of
himself and John to perform the actual canonization of the New
Testament according to the command of Chirst (2 Pet.1:12-20), it
was seen to be essential that they sanction the body of Paul's
letters which had been selected to be included in that canon.
Obviously, it would have been the normal thing to inform people
that Paul's epistles were inspired before people would begin to
study them!

(Martin jumps to a conclusion of Peter and John being the
formating engeneers of the canon of the NT. It could be possible,
but as far as the NT itself goes and any recorded history, there
is no proof that it was so. Yes, Peter was obviously inspired to
state that Paul's writings were "Scripture" and no doubt before
the end of the first century the books we have today in the NT
were sanctioned by all apostles (John being the last and longest
to live) as the Scriptures of the New Testament - Keith Hunt)

     Note that Peter (in his second epistle concerning
canonization) referred to the inspiration of Paul's epistles at
the last moment of his writing. This again indicates that the
authority of Peter and of John superseded that of Paul. 

(No that authority idea belongs to Martin and is not proved by
any writings of the New Testament - Keith Hunt)

     The apostle Paul was not only mentioned last by Peter, but
his fourteen epistles were also placed in last position. And,
indeed, they had to be. The teaching in them was of a highly
sophisticated nature and represented the meat of the word of God.

(I agree, Paul's letters are "meat" and need to come AFTER the
general epistles - Keith Hunt)

     If the Christian Pentateuch (the Gospels and Acts) could be
reckoned the basic "Elementary School" for Christian development,
then the seven General Epistles would be the "High School," and
the fourteen epistles of Paul would be the "College." And, to
conclude the illustration, it would mean that the Book of
Revelation, which occurs last of all in the manuscripts, would be
the "Post-Graduate Studies."

The Order of the General Epistles

     The principle of rank and subject matter is the reason that
the epistle of James must precede that of Peter, and Peter those
of John and Jude. Professor Scott, quoted above, shows this. "In
keeping with this principle [of superior rank], the first place
of all was accorded to the epistle of James." This is true
enough. Even Paul recognized the rank of the pillar apostles in
this fashion. "And when James, Cephas [Peter], and John, who
seemed to be pillars..." (Gal.2:9). The order of mention is
exactly in conformity to the principle of rank. It is no wonder
that the General Epistles follow this exact order in the New
Testament canon. This is a clear sign that the authority concept
was being followed precisely.

(Rank is not the issue at all. Rank of authority is not a part of
the NT Church of God. Respect for all is. Function is the
important issue. James lays a basic foundation of true salvation,
Peter gives important Christian principles, John blows away the
false teaching that was entering the Church of God, that the
commandments of God were "done away" and Jude is one step behind
John to encourage a striving for the original faith once
delivered to the saints. The FUNCTION of the placement of the
general epistles is the key and foundation to their order of
reading. We have the original truth of the Gospel in the FOUR
GOSPELS AND BOOK OF ACTS, then we have the simple back-up general
epistles to drive home the basic truths and foundation of the
Gospels and Acts. All easy to understand, especially for the NEW
converts to Christianity - Keith Hunt)


The Concluding Evidence

     There is a final point that should be mentioned which shows
a major difference between the seven General Epistles and the
fourteen of Paul, and it is significant enough to warrant the
epistles of the "Jewish" apostles preceding those of Paul. Notice
once again the authors of the seven General Epistles. James and
Jude were legal brothers of Christ while John was his first
cousin! This made each of them not only members of the Tribe of
Judah, but they were of royal Davidic stock! As for Peter, he
appears to have been of ordinary Jewish extraction, though with
his name being Simon, it might indicate he was from the Tribe of
Simeon. At any rate, Peter was clearly the top apostle who
governed the Christian church. 

(Fancy foot-stepping by Martin. The Bible is not really concerned
with physical blood. Sure God uses at times, brothers, and
cousins, relatives, but then at other times He does not. To try
and base things on the physical is like trying to run on sand, it
is bound to throw you down, if you run fast enough for a long
enough time - Keith Hunt)

     Only when James (the brother of Christ) became prominent
after the church was established, do we find him in any inferior
position. It could be said without fear of contradiction that the
four men who wrote the General Epistles were the chief
representatives of the Tribe of Judah (and the Davidic dynasty)
within the Christian church.

(No, once more, you look at what Paul said about his "Jewish"
Pharisee qualifications and honors in Galatians, and such weak
ideas as Martin here throws out, need to be discarded and
forgotten about. They add little to the equation, they are fluffy
ideas with no proof of anything, not when you are dealing with a
God that can raise up stones to preach the Gospel if He dcesires,
as Jesus once said - Keith Hunt)

     With the apostle Paul, it was different! Though he was a Jew
by religion and upbringing, Paul was a descendant of the Tribe of
Benjamin. This may appear at first to be an insignificant
distinction but to first century Jews, among whom genealogical
matters were of utmost importance (I Tim.1:4; Titus 3:9), it had
a bearing on authority and prestige. The fact is, Benjamin was
the last born of Jacob's twelve sons. There was no tribe in
Israel on a lower rung of authority by reason of birth. Even in
the list of the twelve tribes recorded in the Book of Revelation,
Judah is placed first (Rev.7:5) and Benjamin last (verse 8). As a
matter of fact, because of the wickedness of the tribe in the
period of the Judges, the other eleven tribes were on the verge
of killing every descendant of Benjamin (Judges 20 and 21). This
was avoided at the last moment when the remaining 600 men of
Benjamin were able to marry women of their brother tribe
Manasseh. Some years later the first king of aunited Israel was
Saul, a Benjaminite! The Bible shows, however, that this
ascendancy of the least born tribe was not to last. Judah finally
took its prophesied lead (Gen.49:8-12) and David was installed as
the first legitimate king of Israel.

(All more fancy ideas from Martin, that bear no proof of
anything. It was God who chose Saul, if you read the whole
context. Paul would have laughed at Martin trying to bolster up
his case with such thoughts about tribes and names and events.
Again, using such matters you can prove just about anything, if
you "need" to try and prove a point, that really does not need to
have such imaginations to help it - Keith Hunt)

     Benjamin, moreover, was not totally rejected in this rise to
power of Judah. When the Temple was built by Solomon, it was
placed inside the Tribe of Benjamin right on its southern border
with Judah, on Mount Moriah in the city of Jerusalem! It was
predicted that God would "dwell" between the shoulders of
Benjamin (Deut.33:12). It was thought that by placing the Temple
within the precincts of the least born tribe, the other eleven
tribes would not be squabbling over who was the most powerful
with God. This stratagem worked, up to a point. But when the
northern ten tribes of Israel revolted from the rule of the
Davidic dynasty after the death of Solomon, Benjamin remained
firmly devoted to Judah. After all, Jerusalem and God's true
Temple were in their territory! From then on, the fortunes of
Benjamin were connected with those of Judah. There was even a
special relationship established, in a religious sense, between
Benjamin and Judah, and the Bible recognized it. Unlike their
early wickedness, the tribe seems to have become (as a whole) the
"righteous" anchor that Judah needed to prevent it from being
swallowed up by the Assyrians when northern Israel was taken
captive. Though the Tribe of Judah is quite often rebuked for
their ways, the Tribe of Benjamin after the time of Solomon is
always spoken of by the Chronicler and the prophets in mild and
often laudatory terms. Indeed, the prophet Jeremiah (who was a
priest from the area of Benjamin) offered the Benjaminites safety
from the Babylonian holocaust that was coming upon Jerusalem in
his day (Jer.6:1), and so certain was Jeremiah that Benjamin
would find shelter once again in their own land that he bought
some property in Benjamin and sealed the deed in ajar to be
evidence for possession after the Babylonian Captivity
(Jer.32:8-44).

(All nice history per se to know, but has nothing to do with
anything on the canon of the inspired Scriptures of the New
Testament - Keith Hunt)

     The descendants of Benjamin became especially important to
Judah after the Babylonian Captivity. When Haman the Agagite
maneuvered to have the whole of the Jewish race murdered by the
edicts of the Persian emperor, Queen Esther, the wife of the
emperor, managed to prevent this from happening. Esther was a
Benjaminitess (Esther 2:5,6) and her uncle Mordecai (the prime
minister of Persia) were instrumental in saving the whole of the
Jewish people from destruction. It was "Benjamin" interceding the
Gentile ruler to save "Judah."
     This contact of Benjamin between Judah and the Gentiles was
not to end with Esther and Mordecai. One of the most important
Benjaminites of all time was the apostle Paul (Acts 13:21;
Rom.11:1; Phil.3:5). Here was a member of the least born tribe of
Israel playing a profound role as a mediator, once again, between
Judah and the Gentile world. It was the Gentiles under Paul's
supervision that sent the Jews of Palestine much material help in
the time of famine (Acts 11:28-30; Rom.15:26). But more than
that, the apostle Paul was responsible for preaching the Gospel
of reconciliation between the Jews and all peoples of the Gentile
world (Eph.2:11-22). Here was "Benjamin" coming to rescue Judah
once again to make people in the world love and honor them, but
it was also "Judah" coming to the rescue (through Christ) for the
salvation of the whole world (2 Cor.5:18,19). And Paul was a
mediator between the two groups.

(Nice history, but when God can use "stones" to preach the Gospel
if He desires, it bears nothing on anything to do with the canon
of the Scriptures of the NT - Keith Hunt)

     It is ironic that the Bible records the least born of Israel
giving the most spiritual teaching to those with more birthright
authority. And though Judah possessed the kingship of David and
the seat of Moses, and because of this they should be accorded
first rank, yet it was the least ranked tribe (Benjamin) that
provided the most spiritual truth to Judah and the world. It
seems that this is the way the Bible says God works. It is
interesting that Abraham (the father of the faithful) was the
youngest son of Terah (compare Genesis 11:26 and 12:1 with Acts
7:4). Jacob was the youngest son of Isaac yet he got the blessing
and the birthright. Ephraim was the youngest son of Joseph yet he
obtained birthright status. Moses was younger than Aaron yet he
assumed supreme power over Aaron (God's High Priest) and over all
Israel. David was the youngest of Jesse's children yet he became
heir to the grandest royal dynasty ever afforded mankind. And it
doesn't stop there! The first Gentile to receive the Gospel of
Christ was an Ethiopian black man (far removed from the race of
Israel) and a eunuch to boot - both conditions would render the
man unable to enter the Temple of God. And the first
uncircumcised Gentile to receive the Gospel was Cornelius, a
Roman centurion of the hated occupation forces within Palestine.
From this, it seems as though the least born or those most
unfavored to receive customary honors and prestige are the very
ones who are picked to bring the most spiritual blessings to the
world. Christ taught that "many that are first shall be last; and
the last shall be first" (Matt.19:30).

(Hummmm .... it just shows that God can do anything with anyone,
at any time, as He sees fit. Not all that God uses are the lowest
and poorest and last as such. Job was far from being all of those
things. Yes, God had to take it away from him, bring him low for
a while, but he was on TOP of everything from the beginning it
would seem from what is written of him. Abraham had a nice
physical life with much physical "stuff" when God called him to
go where He wanted him to go. He left with "substance" and
"servants" [Gen.12:1-5]. So Martin's argument is weak to say the
least - Keith Hunt)

     This is the way it was with the apostle Paul! Though he was
in an inferior position from all the social and religious ranks
within Judah which had to do with birth, he was the one whom God
graced with fourteen epistles in the New Testament. This makes
Paul the most prolific writer of books in the Bible, and yet he
was least born in rank! 

(Only if you view Martin's "birth rank" ideas with 100% proof,
which cannot be done or is foolish to try and do as proving
anything - Keith Hunt)

     Of course, this does not mean that we should exalt Paul's
epistles to first position ahead of the kinsmen of Christ
(who were of Judah and of royal Davidic ancestry and the ones
taught by Christ himself), but it does mean the Bible can honor
any person to a high position of esteem no matter if he or she is
on the lowest pedestal of social, religious or political rank. As
for Paul, his own estimation of his position of rank is well
recorded: "And last of all he was seen of me also, as one born
out of due time (without any birthright status]. For I am the
least of the apostles, that am not fit to be called an apostle,
because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I
am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed on me was not in
vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but
the grace of God which was with me" (I Cor.15:8-10). Though Paul
was the least of all New Testament leaders, his abundant labor
gained him the right to have his name indelibly stamped on most
books within the Biblical canon.

(He was only "least" in that he, Paul, had persecuted the church,
which no other apostle had done. He was humbled by it, but as for
what God could and did do through him, Paul said he was not one
wit behind the chiefest apostle. It depends on the CONTEXT when
you read what Paul said about himself. In another context he had
to compare himself [for the sake of his readers] to the "false
apostles" they were smooching up to, and then he waxed strong in
his birth, religious up-bringing, and other human talents he had.
When it came to "leading" the Church and working in the Gospel,
Paul did not take a back seat to anyone, including Peter, whom
Paul publicly corrected at one time. See the book of Galatians
once more. Martin has made some serious errors in this chapter
over a matter that is not very difficult to understand. The
general epistles should come before the epistles of Paul, but for
ONLY ONE reason, they are foundational and easy truths to get you
on the solid rock of salvation, before trying to fully understand
all that the apostle Paul wrote about - Keith Hunt) 


In conclusion

It should be recognized that the seven General Epistles truly
belong in first rank position right after the New Testament
Pentateuch (and ahead of Paul), but God has a way of making the
"last" to be "first" - first in spiritual values. It was Paul's
devotion and his abundance of work for the cause of the Gospel
that allowed him to have first honor in the amount of books in
the Bible (2 Cor.11:18-28). In spite of this fact, the world has
no authority to reposition Paul's epistles in advance of the
General Epistles.

                             .................

To be continued

NOTE:

Once more let me repeat the basic truth. Put aside all the fancy
ideas and thoughts and postulations of Ernest Martin. He has come
to see, and so should you, that it is common logic to have the
GENERAL epistles come before the epistles of Paul, as they are
part of the foundational first principles of the Gospel and
Salvation. The teachings of the Gospels and Acts and the General
epistles, are the "grade school" basic fundamentals of correct
Christianity. You then add to your faith the meat of the epistles
of Paul and finally the book of Revelation - Keith Hunt


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