New Testament Versus Beriyth Chadashshah
There is a growing question, whether or not it is appropriate to refer to the 27 books, that make up what most call the New Testament and what Messianics have begun to call the Beriyth Chadashshah, as Scripture. When Yahusha` referred to Scripture, he specifically mentioned the Thorah, the Nebiyym and the Kethubiym, what composes the Tanak, (which is an acronym – TaNaK). Shaul [Paul] even mentioned the Scriptures this way.
Yahuchanan [John], the student of Yahusha`,
was reported to have taken up residence at
Marcion, a student of Cerdo, a Gnostic Christian, made the first distinction of two testaments, referring to the Tanak as "Old". Yet, Irenaeus, a student of Polycarp, says that they are of one and the same author and are consistent with each other. That Yahusha` didnt break any of the Thorah, but filled it and expanded it, pointed out the difference between the Thorah and the traditions of men, among the Yahudiym. He does not advocate "grace" over Thorah, but rather favor with Thorah. He clearly states that the "Apostles" observed Thorah, as did the first believers. That they kept Shabbath and the feasts, circumcision, etc. Polycarp seems to have done this as well.
When Irenaeus refers to the Scriptures, he then quotes something from the Tanak. Whenever he quoted from the "NT", he said , "Yahusha` said," or "Shaul wrote," or "Matthew wrote." When quoting the source, from all the hours I spent reading Irenaeus, he never once referred to the NT as Scripture. That does not mean that he doesn't in some other part, and I just did not see it. I will have to spend more time checking. Polycarp and Papais referred to the Scriptures and the Evangelions [Gospels], Apocalypse [Revelations] and the Letters of Shaul. They do not call the compiled writings the New Testament.
Second generation from the original believers, started to make the distinction and the further from that, they started to call the Evangelions, Letters and Apocalypse, "New Testament" and then it became "Scriptures".
So where does that leave us? What would be appropriate to refer to them as? I am the kind of person that needs answers. I keep searching for truth until I find it. What I am finding, if I read things correctly, makes a difference between what is called Scripture. I was already having trouble with a few of the added books to the Hebrew canon, that were added at Jamnia (some of the Yahudiym even argued over the latter additions, like Esther), after the death of Yahusha`. Now there is the whole "New Testament" to deal with.
Name changes are common throughout history, even within the "Scriptures". The original name for the compiled laws that were given to Mosheh was the Sefer HaBeriyth, the Book of the Covenant. This speaks of and emphasizes the beriyth [covenant] that was made between YHWH and the people that chose to walk in His ways. Later in HaDebariym [Deuteronomy - which was written much later than the other books] it is called the Sefer HaThorah [Book of the Teachings or Law], and the words of the thorah that are written in this book. Book of the Law is the term that the book is called the majority of the time in the Tanak. There are a few cases where it is referred to by the original, Sefer HaBeriyth : In Melekiym Beth [II Kings] 23:2 and 3, we see that they have found the Book of the Law while repairing the temple. When the king YoshiYahu heard the words of the Book, he tore his garments. They realize that they have not been keeping the Beriyth and repent [turn and return]. The king and all the elders gather together at the Beyth YHWH, make covenant before YHWH to walk in His ways. That is when the Book is referred to by its original name, Sefer HaBeriyth. The last time in in Dibrey HaYamiym Beth [II Chronicles] 34:30, which is simply a rewriting of Melekiym. The emphasis being that when the make covenant, that is how they refer to the Book.
DibreyHaYamiym [Chronicles], Ezra and NechemYahu
[Nehemiah] were originally one book, which was later divided into 4. It was
written after the exile to
At the time of the translating of the Greek Septuagint, around 250 BCE, the first books to be done were the first five books, what was known then, as the Books of Mosheh. These five came to be called in the Greek, the Pentateukhos, meaning Five Scrolls. Later when a Latin translation, the Vulgate, was done, the term Pentateuchus was applied. This is where we derive the term Pentateuch. Again, the focus of the meaning is not on the beriyth, this time it is just on numbers, not even the assumed author is a part of the term.
Sometimes name changes are a good thing, but in this particular case, I do not believe so. I believe the main focus should be on the beriyth with YHWH and therefore the book should be referred to as the Book of the Covenant. In light of this, I think the same application is necessary for what is termed the New Testament. I don’t think it is proper, what is becoming fashionable in the Messianic communities, to call it the Beriyth Chadashshah, the Restored Covenant. The Covenant has not changed, it is a matter of our turning and returning to YHWH.
The term "Beriyth Chadashshah" is from a quote in YirmeYahu [Jeremiah] 31:31- 34 , " 'look, the days come,' says YHWH, 'that i will cut a restored beriyth with the beyth yisrael and with the beyth yahudah, not according to the beriyth that i cut with their fathers in the day i took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of mitsrayim, which beriyth of mine they broke, although i was a baal [master] to them,' says YHWH. 'but this will be the beriyth that i will cut with the beyth yisrael, after those days,' declares YHWH, 'i will put my thorah in their inward parts, and i will write it on their hearts; and i will be to them for elohiym, and they will be my people. and they will no longer each man teach his neighbor, and each man his brother, saying, "know YHWH." for they will all know me, from the least of them even to the greatest of them,' declares YHWH. 'for i will forgive their iniquity, and i will remember their sins no more.' "
For several reasons, I do not feel that this is a term to apply to the "New Testament". One, the conditions of this foretelling have not happened. Men do not all know YHWH and still have to be taught by one another. Second, it is the cutting of the beriyth that is restored, not a changing or restoring of the thorah of YHWH. The Thorah of YHWH is themiymah [perfect] - Thehillah [Psalm] 19:8(7). Malakiy [Malachi] 2:4-7 speaks of a covenant with Lewiy [Levi] that is applicable of Yahusha` [Jesus], as a kohen [priest] before YHWH. "and you will know that i have sent this command to you, to be my beriyth with lewiy,' says YHWH tsebaoth. 'my beriyth with him was life and shalom, and i gave them to him for fear; and he feared me, and he is put in awe before my name. the true thorah was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips. in shalom and in uprightness he walked with me, and he turned many from iniquity. for the lips of the kohen should guard knowledge, and they should seek thorah from his mouth; for he is the malak of YHWH tsebaoth.' "
Yahusha` ben YHWH was that malak [messenger] of YHWH that spoke True Thorah.
Yahusha` said that what was originally taught had been deviated because of the hardness of mens hearts. He only taught what YHWH had taught, he was not changing or altering anything, because the Thorah of YHWH stands.
MaththiYahu [Matthew] 5:17-20, " 'do
not contrive that i came to annul the thorah or the nebiyiym
[prophets]. i did not come
to annul but to fulfill. for truthfully, i say to
you, till the heavens and the earth go away, not one yod
(the smallest letter in the aleph bet looking like an apostrophe) or one tag (a
crownlet or ornament on a letter. this is not one of
the vowel pointings underneath the letters, but the
smallest mark above a letter, looks like a stick.) will go away from the thorah till all will be done. for rightly so, all who
breaks one of the least of these mitswoth [commands],
and teaches this with the sons of men will be called least in the kingdom of
YHWH; however, all who accomplishes this and teaches this, he will be called
great in the kingdom of YHWH. for i
say to you, that unless your righteousness becomes greater still than that
which belongs to the soferiym [scribes, teachers] and
the farushiym [pharisees],
you will not enter into the
MaththiYahu [Matthew] 19, we see a conversation between Yahusha` and the Farushiym [Pharisees]. Testing him, they asked, " 'is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?' 'haven't you read,' he replied, 'that at the beginning elohiym "made them male and female," and said, "for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." so they are no longer two, but one. therefore what elohiym has joined together, let man not separate.' 'why then,' they asked, 'did mosheh command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?' yahusha` replied, 'mosheh permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. but it was not this way in the beginning. i tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.' "
The third reason that I feel that it is inappropriate to call the "New Testament" the "Beriyth Chadashshah" is that there are several sections that comprise the "New Testament". Just as there are in the Tanak. These sections were written at different time periods and have a different thrust to each and some portions of those writings are not on the level of being called "Scripture". The first section were the books about Yahusha`, which were called the Testimony by the earliest writers. I feel that this is not only appropriate, but perfect. Yahusha` testified of his Father and the writers of those books testified, as in a legal sense, all that Yahusha` spoke and did. Yahusha` said that he only spoke what his Father spoke and only did what he saw his Father doing. His testimony was true.
The second section is that of the acts of the sent ones, the apostles. That is always referred to as Acts. This book is more of a history, just as the book of Melekiym [Kings] is.
The third section is that of the Letters.
This is where it gets really messy. There was a man named Marcion,
who was born about 85 CE, at Sinope, which was in
Marcion rejected all that was Hebrew. He rejected the Tanak, calling it the "Old Testament", making the first distinction as “Old” and “New”. He rejected the books written by MaththtiYahu [Matthew], Mark and Yahuchanan [John], because of Jewish influences. He accepted the book of Luke, but edited it, removing any Jewish influences. Marcion claimed that Paul was the only true “apostle”. He gathered 10 of Paul’s letters, excluding 1st and 2nd Timothy, Titus and Ibriym [Hebrews]. Of the 10 that he selected, Marcion edited them, removing what he called, “Jewish corruptions.” As to the other sheliychiym [sent ones, “apostles”], Marcion claimed that they corrupted the teachings of Yahusha` (he called him Jesus), by mixing in legalism. Marcion rejected Thorah [teaching, law] and replaced it with love and grace.
Marcion wrote his own “gospel” and presented it to the Church of Rome. He gave them 200,000 sesterces. After reading his gospel, the Church refused it and gave back the money. His gospel was corrupted and void of all Hebrew references. Due to the listing of “acceptable” books by Marcion, the Church was forced to determine what books, circulating in the Church, would be authorized. This was the first attempt at an official canon of what came to be known as the "New Testament."
Marcion not only made his own edited copies, but his followers were prolific copyists, sending their copies all over. Ireneaus, Against Heresis, Chapter 27, " 'He likewise persuaded his disciples that he himself was more worthy of credit than are those apostles who have handed down the Gospel to us, furnishing them not with the Gospel, but merely a fragment of it. In like manner, too, he dismembered the Epistles of Paul, removing all that is said by the apostle respecting that God who made the world, to the effect that He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and also those passages from the prophetical writings which the apostle quotes, in order to teach us that they announced beforehand the coming of the Lord.' "
Based on the fact that there was rampant politics involved with the Letters and so many varying copies abounding, I have to be very cautious with those Letters, accept what lines up with the Thorah of YHWH from the Tanak and be suspect of whatever does not. For this reason, I cannot in good conscience blanketly accept the Letters, wholly as they are, on the same level as the Testimony.
The last section of the "New Testament" is that of the Book of Revelations, which is said to be written later than all the other books. It is also a book that carries with it several components that appear to be of Gnostic origin. The question becomes, was the book written by a Gnostic and ascribed to Yahuchanan [John] or was the book written by Yahuchanan and gnostic elements added alter? We may never know. Portions of Revelations line up with portions of the Tanak, but other portions are heavy with numerology and some verses such as the 144,000 men, who did not defile themselves with women, are very much a monastic gnostic influence. No where in the Tanak does YHWH advocate or direct that men should abstain from marriage, especially to be on a higher level of righteousness than others. On the contrary, you would be tired of my listing all the verses that do promote marriage and the wife being a blessing. As a result, I hold this book in the same light as the Letters. I accept what lines up with the thorah of YHWH and keep at arms length whatever does not.
The "New Testament" is comprised of over 28,000 copies and fragments of copies, in Greek, no two of which are identical. There are two types of Greek texts, the Majority Text and the Received Text. The Majority Text is a construction that does not match exactly to any known manuscript. It was created by comparing all the known manuscripts, one with another and taking from them the readings that are more numerous - the majority. Majority does not necessarily mean correct, especially in light of Marcion and his publishing agenda. The two Greek texts that claim to be the Majority readings are Hodges & Farstad, 1982 and Pierpont & Robinson 1991.
The Received Text is similar to the Majority Text, it is not from a single text. It is from printed texts that were published during the time of the Protestant Reformation, from the 1500's and early 1600's. The Received Text includes the editions of Erasmus, Estienne (Stephens), Beza, and Elzevir. These texts are in close agreement, and are all mostly based on the Erasmus 1516 manuscript. These editions are based upon a small number of late medieval manuscripts. The King James Version is based on the Received Text.
For the increasing numbers of those that reject the Greek and cling to the Aramaic Peshitta as the language of preference, choosing the Aramaic/Hebrew over the western Greek, let me point out the drawbacks to this blanket allegiance. I much prefer the Aramaic/Hebrew over the Greek, it flows with the terminology of the Tanak and makes things clearer that were perhaps cloudy, due to the differing languages, BUT, the Peshitta was a compilation done by Rabbula, in 435, well after the books and letters were written and after Tatian's writing of the Diatessaron.
The Syriac name for Tatian's compiling is the Evangelion da-Mechallete, the Good News of the Mixed. The Greek name is the Diatessaron, which is a musical term meaning, the harmony of the four. The Evangelion da-Mechallete was written between 163, when Tatian' teacher Justin was martyred and 173, when he was ex-communicated by the Church. His work was received and widely used in the churches of the East and the West. Later, in 436 CE, Rabbula, the Bishop of Edessa, began to make reforms in the Church. Because he considered Tatian a heretic, since the Church had officially banned Tatian, Rabbula felt that the Diatessaron could not be used. He instructed his priests to only use the separated books of MaththiYahu, Mark, Luke and Yahuchanan. Rabbula wrote the Aramaic Peshitta between 411- 435 and this became the text that was used in the churches of the East, while the Greek and then the Latin, was used in the West.
The current Peshitta is not too far off the Greek texts for a reason. There were not many copies of the separate books by the early writers left, in Aramaic and Hebrew, for Rabbula to copy and separate from, except those in the Greek. The Peshitta, the canon of the East, did not originally have the book of Revelations and the Hebrew letters. The Hebrew letters of Kefa [Peter], Yahuchanan [John], Yahudah [Jude] and the book of Revelations were added at a later time.
As I see it, the Evangelion da-Mechallete [Diatessaron] being of a much closer date to the events, would probably be a more accurate account of events, but the Peshitta, written so much later and by a church bishop, with agreements to the Greek text, does not bode well for me as an uncontested source.
In light of all the research I have been doing, when I refer to certain books that comprise the "New Testament", it is as the earliest fathers did, the Testimony, Acts, the Letters and Revelations. Granted this makes for a longer string to write and speak when you refer to the whole bunch, but, I think it is much more accurate and the safer way to refer to them.