Lou: You mentioned the apocryphal books of the Old Testament, and others related to the New Testament. I’m under the impression that in the New Testament there are some quotations from the Old Testament Apocrypha. What about that?
Graham: Well, there are some interesting similarities. Whether they’re quotations or not is debatable. In Jude it mentions that Michael the Archangel was going down to resurrect Moses, and he and Satan argued about it (Jude 9). That story is told in some detail in The Assumption of Moses, which is a pseudepigraphical book from the time between the testaments. Of course, if the story were true, then the two accounts could be based on a common source. A second similarity would be the reference, also in Jude, where it says, “Enoch, the seventh from Adam, predicted the Lord would come with ten thousand of His saints” (based on Jude 14). That is in the pseudepigraphical book of Enoch. Of course, if Enoch said that stunning thing before the Flood, the “Lord is coming with ten thousand of His saints,” that would have been told over many a back fence. And eventually those memorable words found their place in both the apocryphal books and also in the book of Jude.
Lou: So you are saying that if something is in the Apocrypha, that does not make it automatically wrong.
Graham: Right! There is a long list of things in the Apocrypha which are quite evidently true. John was cast into a cauldron of boiling oil and survived, Peter was crucified upside down, and Isaiah was sawed in half in a hollow log. The latter is from The Martyrdom of Isaiah. Newspapers have some truth in them too, from time to time.
Lou: I was interested that you have read all the ancient books related to the Bible and you see a distinction between the sixty-six books in the biblical canon and all of these pseudepigraphical and apocryphal books.
Graham: An interesting example is the apocryphal story of Jesus playing with one of His friends. The boy either threw a stone, as one manuscript says, or he bumped Jesus, according to another, and Jesus in anger turned to curse His playmate and the playmate died. And the parents of the dead boy came to Joseph and Mary and said, “Please, remove yourselves from this community. We do not want this violent child living among us.” They were talking about Jesus! I could tell you dozens more stories like that from the New Testament Apocrypha.
Lou: Here’s another question, shifting gears a bit. “You spoke about sanctification. What is this? If we sincerely accept Jesus as our Savior, how can we ever be lost? Once we are saved, aren’t we always saved?”
Graham: The question is based on a rather legal understanding of what went wrong. But if what went wrong is that God’s creatures began to distrust, became rebellious and left God, as it were, we not only need to be set right, but we want to be kept right. We want to be kept in that relationship of love and trust and admiration and willingness to listen. But I could be set right and kept right for a while, and still be free to leave. And that’s how I understand what Paul said, when he wrote, “I discipline myself very closely, lest having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor 9:27). The very essence of the truth about God is that He values nothing higher than our freedom. It tells me that a million years down the line, I’ll still be free to go.
Lou: An eleven year old wrote in, “Why are there so many views of who God is?” Could you cover all that in about thirty seconds?
Graham: There are so many views of God. You couldn’t list them in thirty seconds. I think they arise from many different sources. One is from reading the Bible selectively, here a little and there a little, rather than taking it as a whole. Another reason is that we might bring our view of God into our reading of the text. And there is also the influence of the adversary behind the scenes. But I think among people who really want to know God, the greatest source of diversity is that we each have our favorite texts about God. I have my text. You have your text. If we take the Bible as a whole, however, there is a greater possibility that we might come into the kind of unity that Paul talks about in Ephesians (Eph 4:13, KJV), a “unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God.” And that’s our goal in this book.
That’s brings me to the topic of the next chapter, “If we have a reliable record of the evidence, can we be confident that we correctly understand the meaning?” That topic is looking more and more important as we carry on these conversations about God.