Article: 6 Min

How Did We Get the Old Testament Canon?



Trip Lee's Passion

One of my passions is helping people understand the Word. I think the most important thing we should be thinking about is who created us and how we were created to live. So I thought that I want to spend a lot of my time actually studying God's Word.

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Article: 12 Min

10 Things John Calvin Taught About the Bible


Our Lord Jesus in his last conversation with his disciples before his crucifixion said, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26 ESV).

Here we have a twofold work of the Holy Spirit, teaching and bringing to remembrance the things which Christ had already taught. We will take them in the reverse order.


The Holy Spirit brings to remembrance the words of Christ.

This promise was made primarily to the Apostles and is the guarantee of the accuracy of their report of what Jesus said; but the Holy Spirit does a similar work with each believer who expects it of him, and who looks to him to do it.

The Holy Spirit brings to our mind the teachings of Christ and of the Word just when we need them for either the necessities of our life or of our service. Many of us could tell of occasions when we were in great distress of soul or great questioning as to duty or great extremity as to what to say to one whom we were trying to lead to Christ or to help, and at that exact moment the very Scripture we needed—some passage it may be we had not thought of for a long time and quite likely of which we had never thought in this connection—was brought to mind.

Who did it? The Holy Spirit did it. He is ready to do it even more frequently, if we only expect it of him and look to him to do it. It is our privilege every time we sit down beside an inquirer to point him to the way of life to look up to the Holy Spirit and say, “Just what shall I say to this inquirer? Just what Scripture shall I use?”

There is a deep significance in the fact that in the verse immediately following this precious promise Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you” (John 14:27 ESV). It is by the Spirit bringing his words to remembrance and teaching us the truth of God that we obtain and abide in this peace. If we will simply look to the Holy Spirit to bring to mind Scripture just when we need it, and just the Scripture we need, we shall indeed have Christ’s peace every moment of our lives.

One who was preparing for Christian work came to me in great distress. He said he must give up his preparation for he could not memorize the Scriptures. “I am thirty-two years old,” he said, “and have been in business now for years. I have gotten out of the habit of study and I cannot memorize anything.”

The man longed to be in his Master’s service and the tears stood in his eyes as he said it. “Don’t be discouraged,” I replied. “Take your Lord’s promise that the Holy Spirit will bring his words to remembrance, learn one passage of Scripture, fix it firmly in your mind, then another and then another and look to the Holy Spirit to bring them to your remembrance when you need them.”

He went on with his preparation. He trusted the Holy Spirit. Afterwards he took up work in a very difficult field, a field where all sorts of error abounded. They would gather around him on the street like bees and he would take his Bible and trust the Holy Spirit to bring to remembrance the passages of Scripture that he needed and he did it. His adversaries were filled with confusion, as he met them at every point with the sure Word of God, and many of the most hardened were won for Christ.


The Holy Spirit will teach us all things.

There is a still more explicit promise to this effect two chapters further on in John 16:12-14. Here Jesus says,

I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (ESV)

This promise was made in the first instance to the Apostles, but the Apostles themselves applied it to all believers (1 John 2:20, 27).

It’s the privilege of each believer in Jesus Christ, even the humblest, to be “taught of God.” Each humblest believer is independent of human teachers—“you have no need that anyone should teach you” (1 John 2:27 ESV). This, of course, does not mean that we may not learn much from others who are taught of the Holy Spirit. If John had thought that he would never have written this epistle to teach others. The man who is the most fully taught of God is the very one who will be most ready to listen to what God has taught others. Much less does it mean that when we are taught of the Spirit, we are independent of the written Word of God; for the Word is the very place to which the Spirit, who is the Author of the Word, leads his pupils and the instrument through which he instructs them (Ephesians 6:17; John 6:33; Ephesians 5:18-19; cf. Colossians 3:16).

But while we may learn much from men, we are not dependent upon them. We have a Divine Teacher, the Holy Spirit.

We shall never truly know the truth until we are thus taught directly by the Holy Spirit. No amount of mere human teaching, no matter who our teachers may be, will ever give us a correct and exact and full apprehension of the truth. Not even a diligent study of the Word either in the English or in the original languages will give us a real understanding of the truth. We must be taught directly by the Holy Spirit and we may be thus taught, each one of us. The one who is thus taught will understand the truth of God better even if he does not know one word of Greek or Hebrew, than the one who knows Greek and Hebrew thoroughly and all the cognate languages as well, but who is not taught of the Spirit.

The Spirit will guide the one whom he thus teaches “into all the truth.” The whole sphere of God’s truth is for each one of us, but the Holy Spirit will not guide us into all the truth in a single day, nor in a week, nor in a year, but step by step. There are two special lines of the Spirit’s teaching mentioned:

1. “He will declare to you the things that are to come” (John 16:13 ESV). 

There are many who say we can know nothing of the future, that all our thoughts on that subject are guesswork. It is true that we cannot know everything about the future. There are some things which God has seen fit to keep to himself, secret things which belong to him (Deuteronomy 29:29). For example, we cannot “know the times, or the seasons” of our Lord’s return (Acts 1:7), but there are many things about the future which the Holy Spirit will reveal to us.

2. “He will ‘glorify me’ (that is, Christ) for he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:14 ESV). 

The Holy Spirit’s special subject of teaching with the believer, as with the unbeliever, is Jesus Christ. It is his work above all else to reveal Jesus Christ and to glorify him. His whole teaching centers on Christ. From one point of view or the other, he is always bringing us to Jesus Christ.

There are some who fear to emphasize the truth about the Holy Spirit lest Christ himself be disparaged and put in the background, but there is no one who magnifies Christ as the Holy Spirit does. We shall never understand Christ, nor see his glory until the Holy Spirit interprets him to us. No amount of listening to sermons and lectures, no matter how able, no amount of mere study of the Word even, would ever give us to see “the things of Christ”; the Holy Spirit must show us and he is willing to do it and he can do it. He is longing to do it. The Holy Spirit’s most intense desire is to reveal Jesus Christ to men.

On the day of Pentecost when Peter and the rest of the company were “filled with the Holy Spirit,” they did not talk much about the Holy Spirit, they talked about Christ. Study Peter’s sermon on that day; Jesus Christ was his one theme, and Jesus Christ will be our one theme, if we are taught of the Spirit; Jesus Christ will occupy the whole horizon of our vision. Christ will be so glorious to us that we will long to go and tell everyone about this glorious One whom we have found.

Jesus Christ is so different when the Spirit glorifies him by taking of his things and showing them unto us.


The Holy Spirit reveals to us the deep things of God which are hidden from and are foolishness to the natural man.

We read in 1 Corinthians 2:9-13,

But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
    nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—

these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. (ESV)

This passage, of course, refers primarily to the Apostles, but we cannot limit this work of the Spirit to them. The Spirit reveals to the individual believer the deep things of God, things which human eye has not seen, nor ear heard, things which have not entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those that love him. It is evident from the context that this does not refer solely to heaven, or the things to come in the life hereafter. The Holy Spirit takes the deep things of God which God has prepared for us, even in the life that now is, and reveals them to us.


The Holy Spirit interprets his own revelation. He imparts power to discern, know and appreciate what he has taught.

In the next verse to those just quoted we read, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14 ESV). Not only is the Holy Spirit the Author of revelation, the written Word of God: He is also the Interpreter of what he has revealed.

Any profound book is immeasurably more interesting and helpful when we have the author of the book right at hand to interpret it to us, and it is always our privilege to have the author of the Bible right at hand when we study it. The Holy Spirit is the Author of the Bible and he stands ready to interpret its meaning to every believer every time he opens the Book. To understand the Book, we must look to him, then the darkest places become clear.

We often need to pray with the Psalmist of old, Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. (Psalm 119:18 ESV). It is not enough that we have the revelation of God before us in the written Word to study, we must also have the inward illumination of the Holy Spirit to enable us to apprehend it as we study.

It is a common mistake, but a most palpable mistake, to try to comprehend a spiritual revelation with the natural understanding. It is the foolish attempt to do this that has landed so many in the bog of so-called “Higher Criticism.” In order to understand art a man must have aesthetic sense as well as the knowledge of colors and of paint, and a man to understand a spiritual revelation must be taught of the Spirit. A mere knowledge of the languages in which the Bible was written is not enough. A man with no aesthetic sense might as well expect to appreciate the Sistine Madonna, because he is not color blind, as a man who is not filled with the Spirit to understand the Bible, simply because he understands the vocabulary and the laws of grammar of the languages in which the Bible was written. We might as well think of setting a man to teach art because he understood paints as to set a man to teach the Bible because he has a thorough understanding of Greek and Hebrew.

In our day we need not only to recognize the utter insufficiency and worthlessness before God of our own righteousness, which is the lesson of the opening chapters of the Epistle to the Romans, but also the utter insufficiency and worthlessness in the things of God of our own wisdom, which is the lesson of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, especially the first to the third chapters. (See for example 1 Corinthians 1:19-21, 26-27)

The Jews of old had a revelation by the Spirit but they failed to depend upon the Spirit himself to interpret it to them, so they went astray. So Christians today have a revelation by the Spirit and many are failing to depend upon the Holy Spirit to interpret it to them and so they go astray. The whole evangelical church recognizes theoretically at least the utter insufficiency of man’s own righteousness. What it needs to be taught in the present hour, and what it needs to be made to feel, is the utter insufficiency of man’s wisdom. That is perhaps the lesson which this twentieth-century of towering intellectual conceit needs most of any to learn.

To understand God’s Word, we must empty ourselves utterly of our own wisdom and rest in utter dependence upon the Spirit of God to interpret it to us. We do well to lay to heart the words of Jesus himself in Matthew 11:25, I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children” (ESV). A number of Bible students were once discussing the best methods of Bible study and one man, who was in point of fact a learned and scholarly man, said, “I think the best method of Bible study is the baby method.”

When we have entirely put away our own righteousness, then and only then, we get the righteousness of God (Philippians 3:4-7, 9; Romans 10:3). And when we have entirely put away our own wisdom, then, and only then, we get the wisdom of God. “Let no one deceive himself,” says the Apostle Paul. “If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise” (1 Corinthians 3:18 ESV). Emptying ourselves must precede filling; we must pour ourselves out that God may be poured in.

We must daily be taught by the Spirit to understand the Word. We cannot depend to-day on the fact that the Spirit taught us yesterday. Each new time that we come in contact with the Word, it must be in the power of the Spirit for that specific occasion. That the Holy Spirit once illumined our mind to grasp a certain truth is not enough. He must do it each time we confront that passage. Andrew Murray has well said,

Each time you come to the Word in study, in hearing a sermon, or reading a religious book, there ought to be as distinct as your intercourse with the external means, the definite act of self-abnegation, denying your own wisdom and yielding yourself in faith to the Divine teacher. (The Spirit of Christ, 221)


The Holy Spirit enables the believer to communicate to others in power the truth he himself has been taught.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5,

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (ESV)

In a similar way in writing to the believers in Thessalonica in 1 Thessalonians 1:5, “our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake” (ESV).

We need not only the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth to chosen apostles and prophets in the first place, and the Holy Spirit in the second place to interpret to us as individuals the truth he has thus revealed, but in the third place, we need the Holy Spirit to enable us to effectually communicate to others the truth which He himself has interpreted to us. We need him all along the line.

One great cause of real failure in the ministry, even when there is seeming success, and not only in the regular ministry but in all forms of service as well, comes from the attempt to teach by “enticing words of man’s wisdom” (that is, by the arts of human logic, rhetoric, persuasion, and eloquence) what the Holy Spirit has taught us. What is needed is Holy Spirit power, “demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Corinthians 2:4 ESV). There are three causes of failure in preaching to-day:

  1. Some other message is taught than the message which the Holy Spirit has revealed in the Word. (Men preach science, art, literature, philosophy, sociology, history, economics, experience, etc., and not the simple Word of God as found in the Holy Spirit’s Book,—the Bible.)
  2. The Spirit-taught message of the Bible is studied and sought to be apprehended by the natural understanding, that is, without the Spirit’s illumination. How common that is, even in institutions where men are being trained for the ministry, even institutions that may be altogether orthodox.
  3. The Spirit-given message, the Word, the Bible studied and apprehended under the Holy Ghost’s illumination is given out to others with “enticing words of man’s wisdom,” and not in “demonstration of the Spirit and of power.”

We need, and we are absolutely dependent upon the Spirit all along the line. He must teach us how to speak as well as what to speak. His must be the power as well as the message.

This article has been adapted from R.A. Torrey’s book, titled, The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit As Revealed in the Scriptures and in Personal Experience. This excerpt is from chapter 16, titled, “The Holy Spirit as Teacher.” This originally appeared on this website.

The Old Testament, for many, is a foreign document. Studying the Old Testament canon can help us to familiarize ourselves with this gift that is part of God’s Word. 

By Jesus’ time, the Hebrew “Scriptures” included all the books in our present-day Old Testament. We don’t know, however, exactly how these books were recognized as God’s Word and put into the canon.

Before considering one possible scenario, let’s look at the organizational differences between the Jewish Scriptures and the Christian Old Testament. While the content is exactly the same, the ordering of the biblical books is vastly different. Let’s look at the ordering of the Old Testament canon.

Ordering the Old Testament

The Christian Old Testament has 39 books ordered by book type: legal (5), historical (12), wisdom poetry (5), and prophetic (17). 

 Thus, the last book in the present-day Old Testament is the last prophet, Malachi.  

The Hebrew Scriptures take a different shape. The Hebrew Scriptures divide into 24 books, combining books like 1 and 2 Samuel into a single volume. This is also the case with 1 and 2 Chronicles, 1 and 2 Kings, as well as Ezra and Nehemiah. It also combines the last 12 prophetic books (commonly known as the Minor Prophets) into one. This 24-book collection is known as the Tanakh, which is an acronym for the three divisions: Torah (Law), Nevi’im (prophets), and Ketuvim (writings).

Because of this arrangement, the last book in the Hebrew Scriptures is Chronicles. 

In the New Testament, we see clear evidence of this threefold division, whenever we encounter the phrase “the Law and the Prophets” (e.g., Matthew 7:12; Romans 3:21). Jesus also specifically identifies these three divisions (Luke 24:44, where “Psalms” as the first book was commonly used to refer to the whole Writings). 

The Old Testament Canon’s Development

We have very little historical explanation for how exactly the books of the Hebrew Scripture came to be viewed as authoritative.  

Moses wrote the first portion of the Old Testament (Genesis to Deuteronomy) around 1500-1400 BC. Over the next millennium, many different people penned the rest of the Old Testament. These form two groups of books known as the Prophets and the Writings. But how did people know which of the Jewish writings were really God’s Word?

We find some evidence in the Old Testament itself (e.g., Exodus 24:3-7; Deuteronomy 31:26; 2 Kings 23:1-3; Nehemiah 8:1–9:38), some evidence in the New Testament as mentioned earlier, and some evidence from extra-biblical writings such as the works of the first-century Jewish historian Josephus. 

We also know that after Jerusalem’s destruction in AD 70 by the Romans, the Jews had a council at Jamnia in AD 90 to discuss, among other things, the canon. At this council, they “closed” the canon, determining the final list of which sacred writings, dated before Jesus, were truly God’s Word.  

F. F. Bruce, a Christian scholar, suggests the following:   

A common, and not unreasonable, account of the formation of the Old Testament canon is that it took shape in three stages, corresponding to the three divisions of the Hebrew Bible. The Law was first canonized (early in the period after the return from the Babylonian exile), the Prophets next (late in the third century BC). When these two collections were closed, everything else that was recognized as holy scripture had to go into the third division, the Writings, which remained open until the end of the first century AD, when it was ‘closed’ at Jamnia. (36)

Bruce notes that, although this is a popular view, there really is no solid evidence for it. We do know for a fact that the Jews debated about which books to include in the canon. For instance, they questioned both Esther and the Song of Songs because both books do not mention the name of God, and, at first glance, look to be non-religious. 

Other Jewish writings (the Apocrypha), written a few centuries before Jesus’ time, weren’t canonized by the Jews. Christians didn’t canonize them either, as Jesus never cited them as Scripture in the Gospels.

Reading the Old Testament

The Old Testament, like the New Testament, according to Christians, is a gift from God. Though it can feel difficult at times, we encourage you to read the whole Bible. Here at, we want to help you learn how to read the Bible for yourself.


Bruce, F. F.. The Canon of Scripture. United States: InterVarsity Press, 1988.

The Belgic Confession (Part 1)

There Is Only One God

We all believe with the heart, and confess with the mouth, that there is one only simple and spiritual Being, which we call God; and that he is eternal, incomprehensible, invisible, immutable, infinite, almighty, perfectly wise, just, good, and the overflowing fountain of all good.

How We Know God

We know him by two means.

First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe; which is before our eyes as a most elegant book, wherein all creatures, great and small, are as so many characters leading us to contemplate the invisible things of God, namely his power and divinity, as the apostle Paul says (Romans 1:20). All which things are sufficient to convince men, and leave them without excuse.

Second, he makes himself more clearly fully known to us by his holy and divine Word, that is to say, as far as is necessary for us to know in this life, to his glory and our salvation.

God’s Written Word

We confess that this Word of God was not sent, nor delivered by the will of man, but that holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, as the apostle Peter says (2 Peter 1:21).

And that afterwards God, from a special care, which he has for us and our salvation, commanded his servants, the prophets and apostles, to commit his revealed Word to writing; and he himself wrote with his own finger, the two tables of the law. Therefore we call such writings holy and divine Scriptures.

Which Books in the Bible are Really God’s Word (Canon)?

We believe that the Holy Scriptures are contained in two books, namely, the Old and New Testament, which are canonical, against which nothing can be alleged.

These are thus named in the Church of God. The books of the Old Testament are:

  • The five books of Moses, namely: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
  • The books of Joshua, Ruth, Judges
  • The two books of Samuel
  • The two of the Kings
  • Two books of the Chronicles, commonly called Paralipomenon
  • The first of Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job
  • The Psalms of David
  • The three books of Solomon, namely, the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs
  • The four great prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel
  • And the twelve lesser prophets, namely, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.

Those of the New Testament are:

  • The four evangelists, namely: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John
  • The Acts of the Apostles
  • The fourteen epistles of the apostle Paul, namely: one to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, one to the Galatians, one to the Ephesians, one to the Philippians, one to the Colossians, two to the Thessalonians, two to Timothy, one to Titus, one to Philemon, and one to the Hebrews
  • The seven epistles of the other apostles, namely, one of James, two of Peter, three of John, one of Jude
  • And the Revelation of the apostle John.
Where Do the Scriptures Get Their Authority?

We receive all these books, and these only, as holy and canonical, for the regulation, foundation, and conformation of our faith; believing without any doubt, all things contained in them, not so much because the Church receives and approves them as such, but more especially because the Holy Spirit witnesses in our hearts, that they are from God, whereof they carry the evidence in themselves. For the very blind are able to perceive that the things foretold in them are fulfilling.

Which Books in the Bible are Apocryphal, or Not God’s Word?

We distinguish those sacred books from the apocryphal, namely:

  • The third book of Esdras
  • The books of Tobias, Judith, Wisdom, Jesus Syrach, Baruch
  • The appendix to the book of Esther
  • The Song of the three Children in the Furnace
  • The history of Susannah
  • Bel and the Dragon
  • The prayer of Manasses, and the two books of the Maccabees.

All of which the Church may read and take instruction from, so far as they agree with the canonical books; but they are far from having such power and efficacy, as that we may from their testimony confirm any point of faith, or of the Christian religion; much less detract from the authority of the other sacred books.

God’s Word Is Our Only Rule of Faith

We believe that those Holy Scriptures fully contain the will of God, and that whatsoever man ought to believe, unto salvation, is sufficiently taught therein.

For, since the whole manner of worship, which God requires of us, is written in them at large, it is unlawful for anyone, though an apostle, to teach otherwise than we are now taught in the Holy Scriptures: nay, though it were an angel from heaven, as the apostle Paul says (Galatians 1:8).

For, since it is forbidden, to add unto or take away anything from the Word of God, it does thereby evidently appear, that the doctrine thereof is most perfect and complete in all respects (Revelation 22:18-19). Neither do we consider of equal value any writing of men, however holy these men may have been, with those divine Scriptures, nor ought we to consider custom, or the great multitude, or antiquity, or succession of times and persons, or councils, decrees or statutes, as of equal value with the truth of God, for the truth is above all; for all men are of themselves liars, and more vain than vanity itself.

Therefore, we reject with all our hearts, whatsoever does not agree with this infallible rule, which the apostles have taught us, saying, “try the spirits whether they are of God” (1 John 4:1). Likewise, “if there come any unto you; and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house” (2 John 1:10).  

God Is One In Essence, Yet Three Distinct Persons

According to this truth and this Word of God, we believe in one only God, who is the one single essence, in which are three persons, really, truly, and eternally distinct, according to their incommunicable properties; namely, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The Father is the cause, origin and beginning of all things visible and invisible; the Son is the Word, wisdom, and image of the Father; the Holy Spirit is the eternal power and might, proceeding from the Father and the Son.

Nevertheless God is not by this distinction divided into three, since the Holy Scriptures teach us, that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, have each his personality, distinguished by their properties; but in such wise that these three persons are but one only God. Hence then, it is evident, that the Father is not the Son, nor the Son the Father, and likewise the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son.

Nevertheless these persons thus distinguished are not divided, nor intermixed: for the Father has not assumed the flesh, nor has the Holy Spirit, but the Son only. The Father has never been without his Son, or without his Holy Spirit. For they are all three coeternal and co-essential. There is neither first nor last: for they are all three one, in truth, in power, in goodness, and in mercy.

Biblical Proof for the Trinity

All this we know, as well from the testimonies of holy writ, as from their operations, and chiefly by those we feel in ourselves. The testimonies of the Holy Scriptures, that teach us to believe this Holy Trinity are written in many places of the Old Testament, which are not so necessary to enumerate, as to choose them out with discretion and judgment.

In Genesis 1:26-27, God says: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness… So God created man in his own image…male and female created he them.” And Genesis 3:22 says, “Behold the man is become as one of us” From this saying, let us make man in our image, it appears that there are more persons than one in the Godhead; and when he says, God created, he signifies the unity.

It is true he does not say how many persons there are, but that, which appears to us somewhat obscure in the Old Testament, is very plain in the New. For when our Lord was baptized in Jordan, the voice of the Father was heard, saying, “This is my beloved Son”: the Son was seen in the water, and the Holy Spirit appeared in the shape of a dove (Matthew 3:16-17).

This form is also instituted by Christ in the baptism of all believers. Baptize all nations, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).

In the Gospel of Luke, the angel Gabriel thus addressed Mary, the mother of our Lord, “the Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee, therefore also that holy thing, which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).

Likewise, “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14).

And “there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one” (1 John 5:7).

In all which places we are fully taught, that there are three persons in one only divine essence. And although this doctrine far surpasses all human understanding, nevertheless, we now believe it by means of the Word of God, but expect hereafter to enjoy the perfect knowledge and benefit thereof in Heaven.

Moreover, we must observe the particular offices and operations of these three persons towards us. The Father is called our Creator, by his power; the Son is our Savior and Redeemer, by his blood; the Holy Spirit is our Sanctifier, by his dwelling in our hearts.

This doctrine of the Holy Trinity, has always been defended and maintained by the true Church, since the time of the apostles, to this very day, against the Jews, Mohammedans, and some false Christians and heretics, as Marcion, Manes, Praxeas, Sabellius, Samosatenus, Arius, and such like, who have been justly condemned by the orthodox fathers. Therefore, in this point, we do willingly receive the three creeds, namely, that of the Apostles, of Nicaea, and of Athanasius: likewise that, which, conformable thereunto, is agreed upon by the ancient fathers.

Jesus Christ Is Eternal God

We believe that Jesus Christ, according to his divine nature, is the only begotten Son of God, begotten from eternity, not made nor created (for then he should be a creature), but co-essential and coeternal with the Father, the express image of his person, and the brightness of his glory, equal unto him in all things.

He is the Son of God, not only from the time that he assumed our nature, but from all eternity, as these testimonies, when compared together, teach us:

  • Moses says, that God created the world (Genesis 1:1)
  • And John says, that all things were made by that Word, which he calls God (John 1:1-3)
  • And the apostle says, that God made the worlds by his Son (Hebrews 1:2); likewise, that God created all things by Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:9).

Therefore it must needs follow, that he, who is called God, the Word, the Son, and Jesus Christ, did exist at that time, when all things were created by him. Therefore the prophet Micah says, “His goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2). And the apostle: He has “neither beginning of days, nor end of life” (Hebrews 7:3). He therefore is that true, eternal, and almighty God, whom we invoke, worship and serve.

The Holy Spirit Is True and Eternal God

We believe and confess also, that the Holy Spirit, from eternity, proceeds from the Father and Son; and therefore neither is made, created, nor begotten, but only proceeds from both; who in order is the third person of the Holy Trinity; of one and the same essence, majesty and glory with the Father, and the Son: and therefore, is the true and eternal God, as the Holy Scriptures teach us.


For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.