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Books that didn't make it in the Bible

  Since the Bible is a collection of books written throughout centuries, not just one continuous creation, in some books there are occasionally references to another. This is especially evident in the New Testament which continuously quotes the Old. There are, however, references to books which are not found anywhere in the Bible. For example, we hear about a Book of the Wars of the Lord in Numbers 21:13-15,
They set out from there and camped alongside the Arnon, which is in the desert extending into Amorite territory. The Arnon is the border of Moab, between Moab and the Amorites. 14 That is why the Book of the Wars of the LORD says: '...Waheb in Suphah [d] and the ravines, the Arnon 15 and [e] the slopes of the ravines that lead to the site of Ar and lie along the border of Moab.'
There are numerous references to works by prophets, such as The Book of Nathan the Prophet, Gad the Seer (1 Chronicles 29:29), The Book of Jehu (2 Chronicles 20:34), and so on. In Philippians 3:1 Paul says he is writing to the Philippians again, clearly meaning there was an earlier letter before that one.

But aside from various theories to explain these gaps, such as Philippians being two letters, the first being referenced to in 3:1 (the first letter is actually chapters 4-5, which some maintained in the 19th century was added to 1-3; but why would that be done?), there are some references that cannot be explained, such as The Book of the Wars of the Lord, as well as the fact that the books of the various prophets mentioned are not found, though some are, such as Isaiah son of Amoz, the account in 2 Kings 18:13-20:19 being a verbatim copy of Isaiah 36:1-38:8,39:1-8, thus clearly The Book of the annals of the kings of Judah was a collection of the history the prophets had written. In fact, it had long ago been recognized that the references to these prophets was not to lost prophetic inspirations which were meant for the Bible, but simply the history which they had written.

This leads into the fact that to see "lost" or "banned" books in references to books that are not part of the Bible is immature. These are simply writings that were referred to as an extraneous source of information. Certainly, just because someone was a prophet, not everything he wrote was prophetic. If the Apostle Paul wrote a list of food for one of his friends to buy while he was in jail, does it make that list inspired? Books such as The Books of the Wars of the Lord or The Book of Jasher were just a collection of the history of the people of Israel, so that the point the author was making could be verified without needing to restate everything entirely, the same thing we do with references. These books certainly weren't banned if they are being referred to, and their loss, while monumental for history and biblical scholarship, does not prove the Bible is "incomplete". Lost Pauline letters such as the letter to the Laodiceans (Colossians 4:17), means simply that Paul wrote a letter that wasn't meant to be in the New Testament, addressed to the Laodiceans. He wrote many letters that we don't have, as seen from 2 Thess 3:17, and these were clearly just regular letters. One might argue that all of Paul's letters are such, especially seeing statements such as 1 Cor 7:12,25, but that is always an opinion; Paul was merely writing as a human, though under the Spirit; his opinion was his, just like his words were his, but they nevertheless expressed an inspired one.

If we look at Jude 1:14, he refers to 1 Enoch, which was indeed banned. But authors often referred to works they did not consider inspired to prove a point (e.g. Titus 1:12). Books suppressed in the 3rd and especially 4th and 5th centuries were deservedly not included; they were known to be Gnostic forgeries not by any Apostle, or they were known to be only instructional books, such as the Muratorian Canon's admission, which refers to The Shepherd of Hermas as such, though not something inspired; certainly someone could write something true without being inspired on spiritual/doctrinal matters.

There is no case of a book having been known to be by an Apostle or one of his disciples and being banned due to "heretical teachings". The Apostles' opinions were accepted without exception, disregarding its effects on doctrine. If anything most biblical scholars tend to determine that forgeries were accepted into the Bible, not Apostolic works being rejected. A more in-depth look into this question really goes into the topic of Heresy versus Orthodoxy. The major work on the non-conservative side is Walter Bauer's Rechtgläubigkeit und Ketzerei im ältesten Christentum (1934, tr. Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity 1971). His premise was that the heretical groups in early Christianity such as the Gnostics, Montanists, and so on were not actually heretical, but the Christianity that was brought in or developed in those respective parts, and that orthodoxy, being one of them, in Rome specifically, won out, and condemned the rest of the "forms" of Christianity. The problem with that is that, first, all of our historical record goes against such a hypothesis. Paul's letters reveal a uniform belief of Christianity throughout the Gentile Christians (even the Jewish, "nascent", ones, see Gal 2). Ignatius and Polycarp who predate the heretics, and are non-Roman reveal the same orthodoxy as Clement of Rome. The originators of the heresies are in any case, well known (e.g. see Ignatius' Epistle to the Trallians ch.9-11). Secondly, different forms of Christianity cannot form in different regions, at least not such radically different ones, since Christianity, being a missionary religion, would spread these forms throughout the Roman empire. While Paul's letters reveal a fluidity in the expressions and customs of Christianity in different churches, they do not show any fundamental differences between their beliefs. In any case, if Bauer's thesis was right, the conflicts would have emerged long before the early-to-mid 2nd century, and so Bauer's idea has to be relegated as an imaginative revision of history.

This wasn't the basis for exclusion of various texts from the Bible. It was simply known when a work was a forgery based on its contents and lack of early attestation (and especially early rejection). This is confirmed by the fact that non-conservative scholars consider over 2/3 of the New Testament to not be from the authors the Bible claims they are. Since "banned" books do not represent the views of the Apostles and thus the views of Christ, they were rightfully banned. There are no lost books in the sense that the Bible is incomplete. In conclusion, lost or banned books don't really play a part in the Bible.


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