Here's a site that is pure greatness.
The University of Leipzig library is in the process of putting the entire Codex Sinaiticus online.
Codex Sinaiticus is one of the most important books in the world. Handwritten well over 1600 years ago, the manuscript contains the Christian Bible in Greek, including the oldest complete copy of the New Testament. Its heavily corrected text is of outstanding importance for the history of the Bible and the manuscript – the oldest substantial book to survive Antiquity – is of supreme importance for the history of the book.
Wikipedia (which had the most concise explanation of the book's present locations) states that The codex is now split into four unequal portions: 347 leaves in the British Library in London, 12 leaves and 14 fragments in St. Catherine's Monastery of Sinai, 43 leaves in the Leipzig University Library, and fragments of 3 leaves in the Russian National Library in Saint Petersburg. Anyone wanting to research the book until now had to cash in a lot of air miles and call in all sorts of political favors. In other words, it couldn't be done.
I've pulled up a random section from the text, just to show how it works (you can't download pics at this point, or I would post one). Hit this link to see a section from The Book Of Tobit.
Wait a minute, say all the Protestants.... my Bible doesn't have a book of Tobit.
Well, this one did. So did the original Geneva bibles, and the original King James versions. According to my friend J.C., at his Moderate Episcopalian blog, the Codex Sinaiticus also contains books called The Epistle of Barnabas and The Shepherd of Hermas.
Here's a good online explanation of why these books, known as The Apocrypha, aren't in Protestant bibles. In short, they weren't fully accepted in the Jewish Canon, Jesus didn't refer to them, there aren't many references to these books in the rest of the New Testament books, many of the Early Church Fathers rejected them, they fail something called "tests of propheticity", and they've got some downright impossibilites in them.
But wait a minute, wait a minute..... Here's a Roman Catholic site that asks some difficult questions of Protestants (I'm a Protestant, BTW. Grew up Southern Baptist, and am now a Borgian Baptist).
Saint Augustine thought these books were inspired, and so did many of the early popes.
So did The Council Of Hippo, the first Christian group to sit down and vote on what is and isn't scripture.
Here's a listing of which Apocryphal books are included in the oldest Christian manuscripts. Here's a chart of which Christian denominations have these books in their bibles.
Here's the same thing in a different format.
And this guy has a listing of all the New Testament verses that reference the Apocrypha ! ! ! Some of these verses were statements made by Jesus.
People are starting to think we made a mistake somewhere.
But let's assume that Martin Luther was truly inspired when he didn't include The Apocrypha in the earliest Protestant bibles, just like he was inspired when he began the Protestant Reformation. The problem here is that Luther had a very low view of the book of Hebrews, and the books of James, Jude, and Revelation. He put a special preface in his first german bibles which explained his concerns about these books, pointing out their inferiority to the rest of scripture.
This statement is from The Bible Researcher:
Luther's criticism of these books will perhaps be found disgraceful and even shocking to modern Christians, but it should be pointed out that his attitude was not so shocking in the context of the late Middle Ages. Erasmus had also called into question these four books in the Annotationes to his 1516 Greek New Testament, and their canonicity was doubted by the Roman Catholic Cardinal Cajetan (Luther's opponent at Augsburg. See Reu, Luther's German Bible, pp. 175-176).
The sad fact is, the Roman Catholic Church had never precisely drawn the boundaries of the biblical canon. It was not necessary to do so under the Roman system, in which the authority of the Scriptures was not much higher than that of tradition, popes, and councils. It was not until the Protestant Reformers began to insist upon the supreme authority of Scripture alone that a decision on the 'disputed books' became necessary.
If Luther's negative view of these books were based only upon the fact that their canonicity was disputed in early times, we would have expected him to include 2 Peter among them, because this epistle was doubted more than any other in ancient times. But it is evident from the prefaces that Luther affixed to these four books that his low view of them had more to do with his theological reservations against them than with any historical investigation of the canon.
And then there are the dozens and dozens of Gnostic Gospels and other books that never made the cut due to political reasons. It makes your head hurt after a while.
So the Catholics value tradition, and the Protestants value scripture.
How do we Protestants know what is and what isn't scripture?
What about the rest of it?
What if the traditions are in error? Where does that leave all my frequent Anonymous Commenters and emailers who have condemned my support of The Jesus Seminar? (They're a group of Bible scholars similar to The Council of Hippo. They try to determine what is and what isn't authentic by....unhh....voting.)
If we were to open the Biblical Canon for new entries, what should be included? "Dark Night Of The Soul" by Saint John of The Cross? MLK's "I Have A Dream" speech? Mark Twain's classic "On Smells"? One of Ronald Reagan's "Morning In America" TV ads? "Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God" by Jonathan Edwards? Christopher Moore's "Invocation" at the beginning of his novel "Lamb"?