Canon by Dr. Abidan Shah

CANON by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: Last month, June 2021, an Italian artist named Salvatore Garau put up a sculptor at an auction titled “lo Sono,” meaning “I am.” He set the opening bid between $6000 to $9000. Only problem was that it was an invisible piece. According to Garau, “The vacuum is nothing more than a space full of energy, and even if we empty it and there is nothing left, according to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, that nothing has a weight…Therefore, it has energy that is condensed and transformed into particles, that is, into us.” People laughed about it. Some put pictures online of their invisible pieces. Believe it or not, someone bought it for $18,300! Here’s where the story takes a turn. Couple of days ago, Tom Miller, a Florida-based performance artist, claimed that Garau stole his idea. Back in 2016, he had assembled an invisible piece titled “Nothing” over 5 days. Miller has hired an attorney. How does this connect with our message in our series titled “CONTEND?” Just because you believe it, it doesn’t make it right. Main point: The Bible is not one person’s imagination of truth and reality. It is a collection of God’s words through various individuals in various times and in various ways regarding one thing – the coming of his son. Jesus is God’s son who came as a real historical person in a real historical place and time to fulfill God’s promise of salvation for all humanity.

Hebrews 1      1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;

Context: What a powerful declaration of the special revelation of God through the ages! If you remember the chart I have created, so far, we worked up. The Scriptures are authoritative because they were inspired by God and hence inerrant. They were inspired because they were the special revelation of God. Now, we need to work down. Because the scriptures were authoritative, they were affirmed as canonical by the church. The Old Testament canon was already set before the New Testament was written and the New Testament canon was affirmed by the church in due time. Of course, there are certain questions that have been raised regarding canonicity. Here are some questions that we received in our survey:

  • Why are there more books in certain Bibles?
  • Is there any value in the books that have not been included?
  • Isn’t the process of canonization similar to other religions?

In answering these questions, I want us to compare the biblical canon to the Buddhist canon. In other words, how do the Buddhist religious books compare to the Bible.

  1. Main Character:

A. Buddhist Religious Books

  • Buddha or Word of the Buddha
  • There was one – Siddhartha Gautama from Northern India in the sixth and fifth centuries BC. He was a prince. For various reasons, his father would not let him venture out of the palace. He did not know what suffering was. He was married and had a child. One day, at the age of 29, he asked his charioteer to take him for a ride. On the way, he was exposed to “Four Sights” – an old man, a sick man, and a funeral procession. In other words, he was exposed to suffering. The fourth sight was a Hindu sadhu who seemed very peaceful. He decided to become one and left his wife and son. This was the “Great Renunciation.” He went searching for the truth and even tried to scourge himself. Finally, at age 35, he sat under a pipal tree to meditate. All night, he fought against the evil tempter Mara. As a result, he experienced enlightenment and the path to the end of suffering.
  • This path begins with 4 Noble Truths: 1. Existence is suffering (dukkha) 2. Suffering is caused by desire (tanha). 3. Liberation (nirvana) from suffering and desire is possible. 4. The Eightfold path is the way to escape – right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right living, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. Basically, they are morality, concentration, and wisdom.
  • After this he gained some disciples and began preaching his way to enlightenment.
  • Basically, his teachings were rooted in Hinduism, Jainism, and other ancient religions. There was a lot of focus on suffering, meditation, and following wise teachers. Karma was again important. The goal was to progress through the reincarnation cycles and escape to Nirvana. Unlike Hinduism, which focuses on coming back in the next life, Buddhism focuses on the continuation of pure karma from one life to another.
  • But, there were many other Buddhas. Their common teachings together are the buddhavacana or the word of the Buddha. This is the essence of the eternal Dharma or teachings.

B. Bible

  • From start to finish, the Bible is about Jesus. Listen again to Hebrews 1 2 “has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; 3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power…”
  • That’s why when Jesus began his ministry, he said in Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” After he rose from the grave, he met some of the disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24 25 Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.
  1. Canon:

A. Buddhist Religious Books

  • There are 3 canons based on the three main traditions: Theravada, Mahayana, and Tibetan Buddhism.
  • Theravada (way of the elders) claims to be the earliest and closest to the early Buddhist community. It is found in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia (Burma, Thailand, Laos, and Kampuchea).
  • Mahayana began around the time of Christ and spread from India to China, Korea, and Japan. It claims to be superior to Theravada. Unlike the Indian focus on nirvana, the Chinese and Japanese focus was more on enlightenment.
  • The Tibetan Buddhism or Vajrayana came in the 7th century to Tibet, and it is found in India, Nepal, and Bhutan. It is more focused on Indian tantric practices. These include mudras (physical postures), mantras (magical phrases), calling on ghosts, demons, and territorial spirits. Their leader is the Dalai Lama, who is considered to be a reincarnation of the previous 13 Dalai Lamas and is believed to be connected to Buddha.
  • Based on the 3 traditions, there are 3 different canons:

#1. Theravada – Pali Canon which has the Tripitaka (3 baskets) containing Buddha’s teachings, monastic codes, and philosophical analysis. They were passed down orally and finally penned 400 years later and agreed upon 500 more years later. This is much larger than the Bible, 11 times. This is how the Ajanta and Ellora Caves came to be. They were places for monks to study, work, and meditate.

#2. Mahayana – It has the Pali canon and many more which it considers to be superior. It has about 100,000 pages in printed form. They are like libraries. This where the Lotus Sutra comes in, if you’ve heard of it.

#3. Tibetan – part of the Mahayana tradition and other texts.

  • Buddhism has also spread to the west. It is heavily influenced by Japanese Buddhism and a new kind of Buddhism is emerging. It is a buffet style Buddhism, which tinkers with Zen Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism, even Jodo (pure land) Buddhism.

B. Bible

  • Old Testament – 4 Canons (Jewish, Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox)
  • Jewish – The traditional number of books is 24. Referred to as Mikra (that which is read) or Tanakh [T, N, K = Torah (instruction/law), Nevi’im (prophets), Kethuvim (writings)]
  • Protestant – The traditional number of the books is 39. It retains the order of the LXX but the text is based on the Hebrew Bible.
  • Roman Catholic – The traditional number of books is 49. It is based on the Alexandrian canon of the LXX. The order of books varies. It is based on current editions, such as the Jerusalem Bible and the New American Bible. The appendix of the Latin Vulgate contains 3 Esdras, 4 Esdras, and the Prayer of Manasseh.
  • Orthodox – The traditional number of the books is 53. It is based on larger versions of the LXX. “Orthodox” here refers to the Greek and Russian Orthodox churches (the Slavonic Bible being the traditional text). In Orthodox Bibles, 4 Maccabees and the Prayer of Manasseh-and in Slavonic, 3 Esdras are in an appendix.
  • The extra books found in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox canons are not part of the Jewish canon. According to Josephus, the 24 were it for the Jewish canon.
  • The Essenes from Qumran only cite from the Jewish canonical books and only wrote commentaries on them.
  • Philo (20BC – 40AD) the Jewish scholar only cites from the canonical books. So also, the NT authors stick to the canonical books. Jude quotes from 1 Enoch but it was not claimed to be canonical.
  • The extra books were added by the RC and Orthodox as important to certain Jewish people.
  • The New Testament canon of 27 books have remained the same throughout. The ones claimed recently are gnostic heretical books.
  1. Purpose (Adapted from Thane Hutcherson Ury)
A. Buddhist Religious Books B. Bible
1.    No personal god 1.    God wants us to know him.
2.    History is cyclical. No creation 2.    History is linear. Yes, creation
3.    Main problem is suffering 3.    Main problem is sin
4.    Salvation is from inside 4.    Salvation is from above
5.    Ultimate goal is Nirvana 5.    Ultimate goal is relationship with God
6.    It all happened under a tree 6.    It all happened on a tree
7.    No judgment 7.    Day appointed for judgment
8.    No life after death 8.    Eternal Life
9.    Be lamps to yourself 9.    Shine the light of Jesus
10.Without Buddha, still Buddhism 10.No Christianity without Christ

3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. The writer then goes on to compare Jesus to the Torah, Moses, the Promised Land, the priests, Melchizedek, the sacrifices, and the covenant.

Invitation: Who would you rather trust? Someone who imagined or someone who has been promised and who came in definite time and place and fulfilled that promise? Are you saved? Do you know Jesus as your Savior and King?

The Eye-Opener by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE EYE-OPENER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

The Eye Opener

Introduction: The closest I’ve ever come to being totally blind was several years ago when our family went to the Fantastic Caverns in Springfield, Missouri. It’s the only ride through cavern in the USA. The scenery was beautiful with all the stalactites and stalagmites! Once we got deep into the cavern the guide told us that he would turn all the lights out for a “moment of total darkness.” He did and I don’t think I’ve ever been in such thick darkness in my life. You could cut it with a knife! I remember the kids clutching tightly to us. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t turn the lights back on. We were totally helpless. Then lights came back on and everything was fine. It was a great illustration of how each of us is born spiritually blind in this world. We are totally helpless until God turns on the light. Jesus is the light of the world. He is the great eye-opener.

John 9   1 Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. 4 I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. 7 And He said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So he went and washed, and came back seeing. 8 Therefore the neighbors and those who previously had seen that he was blind said, “Is not this he who sat and begged?” 9 Some said, “This is he.” Others said, “He is like him.” He said, “I am he.” 10 Therefore they said to him, “How were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered and said, “A Man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed, and I received sight.” 12 Then they said to him, “Where is He?” He said, “I do not know.”

Question: To be spiritually blind means others around you can see the work of God but you can’t. Others can describe it to you but you can’t see it for yourself. Do you have your spiritual eyes or are you still spiritually blind? When you come to Jesus he opens your spiritually eyes and you begin to see the work of God for yourself. Have you ever been to Jesus yet? Has he opened your spiritual eyes? Are you saved?

Background: In our series on the miracles of Jesus from all four gospels we’ve learned that John the apostle (the writer of the 4th gospel) used the word “signs” for miracles. There’s a difference between signs and miracles. Although signs were miracles, they were also proofs that Jesus was/is God and he was the one to come. So, what was the deeper sign in this miracle? To answer that, we have to jump ahead to John 9:14 “Now it was a Sabbath when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes.” If you ignore the time of the miracle being Sabbath, you will misunderstand this miracle.

What is the Sabbath? It was the 7th day of the Jewish week on which no work could be done. It went back to Genesis 2:3 when “God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” In the Decalog (10 Commandments), God even commanded His people Israel to follow his pattern. Exodus 20   8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.” It keeps going. In fact, it is the longest of all the 10 commandments! Breaking the Sabbath was considered a capital offense. The goal was not to find people working and kill them. It was to set aside a day to slow down, worship God, spend time with your loved ones, and get your priorities in order. Interestingly, God did not specify the details about work. He left it up to the people to flesh it out. Unfortunately, by Jesus’ day, the Jewish people had come up with a long lists of dos and don’ts as to what constituted work. Can you light a fire? How far can you walk? Can you help someone in need? How much can you help them? In short, the Sabbath was a major source of dispute among the various Jewish groups. They had lost sight of the real reason for the Sabbath. It was so bad that the Jewish leaders were angry with Jesus for healing people on the Sabbath. Previously, in John 5, Jesus had healed a man who was paralyzed for 38 years on the Sabbath. What was the reaction of the Jewish leaders? John 5:16 “For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath.” Listen to how Jesus responded to them – 17 But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.’ In other words, “My Father and I made the Sabbath. Yes, it’s a day that you cease working but not cease from doing good, helping those in need, and bringing salvation.” Those are to be done round the clock. Keep this in mind because it’s the key to this miracle.

Context: Let’s return to the miracle in John 9:1 “Now as Jesus passed by…” Where was Jesus coming from? For e.g. If I were to say, “I passed by your house this morning.” You may ask, “Oh really, where were you going?” I may answer, “I was coming from the grocery store and going home.” To find out where Jesus was “passing by” from, back up to the previous verse which is John 8:59 “Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.” This miracle did not happen when Jesus was taking a nice stroll down the boardwalk or the beach. This miracle was done as Jesus was trying to flee a mob of people with stones in their hands. Why did they want to do that? Because Jesus had told them things like – John 8  19 “…You know neither Me nor My Father. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also.” 24 “…if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” 29 “…The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.” 44 “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do…” 47 “He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.” 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” 58 “…Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” All this made them so angry that they picked up stones and began to chase him. By the way, what day was this? Can you pick up stones and chase after someone? They were breaking the Sabbath. They were utterly spiritually blind and they didn’t want to see.

Application: All of us come into this world spiritually blind. We can’t see the things of God. But we have a choice. Either we can admit our blindness or deny it. These people denied it and wanted to kill the light of the world! There are people like that even today. Instead of submitting to the eye-opener, they fight him! Which one are you?

What did Jesus do as he was trying to duck away from this angry mob? He noticed a man who was born blind as his enemies were breaking the Sabbath in their zeal for keeping the Sabbath! His disciples decided to launch into a theological discussion over whose fault it was that he was born blind. Listen to Jesus’ answer in verse 3 “…Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. 4 I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” There’s a sense of urgency in the words of Jesus. He doesn’t have time to waste. Work has to be done as long as he is in the world because the night is coming soon. By the way, what day was this? Sabbath.

Application: Don’t let your traditions get in the way of reaching the lost. Traditions are fine but salvation trumps tradition any day.

Now listen to how he does the miracle: 6 When He had said these things, He spat on the ground (which is work) and made clay with the saliva (which is work); and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay (which is work). Was Jesus just trying to antagonize the Jewish leaders over the Sabbath? Of course not. Look back again to what Jesus did. Just like God made Adam out of the dust of the earth, he used clay to heal the blind man’s eyes. Just like God breathed into Adam the breath of life, he used his spit to make the clay. The blind man already had the breath of life in him. The spit was simply to put a patch on a broken creation. What Jesus is declaring through his actions is that he is the same God who made the heavens, the earth, and everything in it, including man in his image. He is also declaring that he is the God who gave them the Sabbath and it was never intended to be what they had done to it. Listen to verse 7 And He said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). (Which is work) So he went and washed, and came back seeing. (Which is work). Then he told him to go wash in the pool of Siloam. Why? In those days they used the water from the pool of Siloam for the daily processions to the temple. It was considered sacred. But John tells us that the name meant, “Sent.” What Jesus is saying to the blind man and to all who were listening is “Go wash in my pool.” In essence he was saying that he was the God who gave sight to the blind. Psalm 146:8 “The LORD opens the eyes of the blind…” Isaiah 29:18 “In that day the deaf shall hear the words of the book, And the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness.”

What was the result? His neighbors couldn’t recognize him. The Pharisees began interrogating him. His parents distanced themselves from him. But Jesus came looking for him and asked in John 9 35 “Do you believe in the Son of God?” 36 He answered and said, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” 37 And Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you.” 38 Then he said, “Lord, I believe!” And he worshiped Him.

Let me draw some applications:

  • All of are born spiritually blind. Our blindness is due to sin.
  • Only Jesus is the Light of the World. He is restoring sight round the clock.
  • Persecution may follow after receiving sight.
  • Spiritual blindness will make you ignore the hurting
  • It’ll make you major on the minors.
  • It’ll make you lose your sense of urgency.
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