The midwife of the New Testament
But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. – 2 Timothy 3:14-15
2 Timothy 3:16-17
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.
17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people for every good work.
Midwifery is an ancient profession that has been practiced for thousands of years, and today midwives continue to play a vital role in providing the health and well-being of women and their babies.
Midwives offer various services to ensure women receive the best care throughout pregnancy and childbirth.
The Father selected Irenaeus as His midwife to guarantee the safe delivery and transmission of the New Testament. He provided the early church with a clear vision of the scriptural framework of its faith. Through his efforts, the Old and New Testaments were recognized as one continuous, consistent book, the Word of God.
At the heart of his vision was Irenaeus’s teaching of the appropriate use of the New and Old Testaments. He was the first Christian author to regard nearly all the books that comprise our New Testament today as a part of the Word of God. Before Irenaeus, the final New Testament as one complete and whole book did not exist.
He also asserted that only those who acknowledged four authorities could properly use these books:
- The foundation of the later creeds was the “rule [canon] of truth,” which emphasized the belief in one God, one Son, and one Holy Spirit.
- The canonical body Scripture included both the Old and New Testaments.
- The apostolic tradition, handed down once and for all by the apostles, was preserved throughout the centuries until today. The Lord Jesus Christ is the central character of the Scriptures.
- The early bishops were the direct successors of the apostles and served as living witnesses. They provided the church with tangible evidence that the authentic teaching about Christ was still being preserved and preached.
Irenaeus’ book, The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, was discovered at the beginning of the twentieth century. It offered the most comprehensive insight into Irenaeus’ perspective. He connects the preaching of the New Testament apostles to its origin in the Law, Psalms, and Prophets.
The four canonical Gospels culminate their accounts of the Lord Jesus Christ with the Passion. They always narrate the stories with allusions to Hebrew. Irenaeus emphasizes how the apostles utilized Old Testament references aligning with Paul’s declaration that Christ died and was resurrected in accordance with the Scriptures.
1 Corinthians 15:3-4
3 I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said.
4 He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.
For Irenaeus, Christ is the primary focus of Scripture. The apostles announced Him by making connections to Old Testament Scripture. Moreover, the Lord Jesus Christ Jesus Christ is not only the subject of Scripture from start to finish, He was also its ultimate author.
According to Irenaeus, Christ is the treasure concealed in Scripture. He is lurking in the types and stories and the words and deeds of the patriarchs and prophets. Their writings readied the world for the coming of Christ, making the field ripe for harvest.
Before the first coming of Christ, the significance of these types and prophecies was not comprehended. However, the Gospels and the rest of the books of the New Testament illuminated and expanded the Old Testament writings, revealing their true meaning. As such, they are recognized as an integral part of the Word of God. For individuals who read Scripture without knowledge of the exegesis or interpretation of the Christ-related elements, the Scriptures merely serve as myths. But those who read Scripture with comprehension receive enlightenment and radiate like the stars in the sky (Behr).
REFLECT & PRAY
The Bible, “written over a period of 1,500 years by about 40 different authors, and yet it is one book without contradictions in what it says. And what it says is remarkable, for it speaks with equal ease and authority of the known and unknowable, of the pleasant and unpleasant, of man’s accomplishments and failures, of the past and the future. Few books ever attempt such scope; none is completely accurate except the Bible” (Ryrie).
Father thank You for providing and preserving Your complete and inerrant Book of Truth, the Word of God.
The Scriptures were written via divine inspiration (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Their preservation and transmission were entrusted to faithful men.
1 Corinthians 11:23 For I pass on to you what I received from the Lord himself.
Throughout history, evildoers Have tried to destroy and eradicate the word of God. To thwart their attempts, God raised up faithful men and women who at risk for their lives protected and passed it down to this very day. The verbs passed on and received are technical terms from Paul’s Jewish heritage for the transmission of religious instruction (his rabbinical training) (Fee).
The Greek term translated as pass on is paradidomi. Paradidomi connotes entrusting, committing, handing over, or passing on something of great importance to the safekeeping of others. Paul carefully passed on the precious truth of the word of God. This was done so that it might be studied and internalized as a source of truth, knowledge, and guidance.
The Greek term translated as received is paralambano. Paralambano in this context, has the sense of formally imparting authoritative teaching. The Jewish authors of Old Testament Scriptures are well aware that they were handling the sacred texts of the word of God. They copied them accurately without error, passing them down to future generations extremely seriously.
The fundamental principles of Christianity, such as the concept of atonement through the death and resurrection of Christ as the foundation for everlasting redemption, were already established before the arrival of Paul. Despite undergoing significant refinement through his theological contributions, the core components remained present prior to and after his involvement. Paul received and transmitted these essentials (Fee).
The phrase “from the Lord” (apo tou kyriou) used by Paul differentiates the Lord as the originator of the tradition from those who passed it down. This affirms the authoritative nature of the tradition, with Christ as the originator and guarantor. “The phrase ‘received from the Lord’ is divine revelation. Paul does not teach his own opinion about the Lord’s Supper but received this information by direct revelation” (Richison).
Mark’s Gospel frequently employs the verb paradidomi. They can be translated in many ways, including “betrayed.” However, translating it as “handed over” or “delivered up” maintains a degree of ambiguity. Thus it alludes to God’s plan to hand over Jesus for our salvation, and Jesus’ willing submission underpins Christ’s being delivered up. The focus is on God’s purposes (Garland).
Delivering up and handing over the New Testament as a continuation of the Old Testament into one book is the culmination of the work of Irenaeus as the midwife of the New Testament.
Thanks to the efforts and sacrifices of the Old Testament prophets, the New Testament apostles (Ephesians 2:20), and those faithful men and women who protected and passed on the sacred Word of God, we have become the children of the King.
© Dr. H 2023