How many books compose Sacred Scripture? If you’re Catholic, there are 73. If you’re a typical protestant there are 66. If you’re Orthodox… it gets complicated (but most have more than 73).
If there is a weakness I’ve noticed within the Anabaptist community, it’s that we practically speaking reduce the canon even further (this is true of many Christians as well). Here’s what I think the typical canon really looks like:
- Genesis 1-3
- Exodus 1-20
- Some combination of the Gospels (though probably not all 4)
- Acts of the Apostles
- A little of Paul
- James is in there, but we’re pretty sure it’s apocryphal
- Revelation (but we don’t know what it means)
What’s my point? We don’t read our Bibles. We think we know them, but it’s not because we read them.
Anabaptists are particularly vulnerable because we are so intensely Christo-centric. We view the Sermon on the Mount as a canon within the canon, a guiding star, the hermeneutical key to understanding the rest of scripture. The problem this creates is we tend not to stray too far from writings directly related to Jesus. In particular, as a result, we’re weak when it comes to understanding the Old Testament.
This is practical Marcionism, the early church heresy that among other things, rejected the Hebrew Scriptures. If you don’t read them, you may as well not have them. Marcion has 11 books in his canon (some of which were edited by him).
We really need to work on this. I’ve heard a very well known anabaptist pastor state that if all we had was certain NT books, we’d do pretty well at following Christ. I know what he meant to get across by saying that, but it’s borderline Marcionism. We need better answers and tools to deal with the Old Testament. A common refrain I’ve heard is this: “Whatever the Old Testament is, it’s basically the story of what doesn’t work.” This is simply inexcusable, unhelpful, and subordinates the OT to the rest of Scripture.
Don’t be lazy pastors and as for the rest of you, read your Bibles. Get into the Old Testament. Yes, it’s messy and scary and it can be hard to find Christ, but read it anyway and take it to community. Let the Spirit guide you as your discover God in every line of scripture.