We have long understood that the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament and the twenty-seven books of the New Testament make up God’s complete revelation to man. The Bible does mention other ancient books, however. Joshua 10:13 says, “The sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher?” Among the other books mentioned are the acts of Solomon (1 Kings 14:11), the books of Nathan the prophet and Gad the seer (1 Chronicles 29:29), and the books of Shemaiah the prophet and Iddo the seer (2 Chronicles 12:15). Even more interesting, in 1 Corinthians 5:9, Paul mentions a previous epistle: “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators.” Was the epistle telling them not to company with fornicators the original 1 Corinthians? Paul also wrote to the Christians of Colossae, “And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea” (Colossians 4.16). What is the “epistle from Laodicea”?
The sixty-six books that make up the canon [meaning those measured] of scripture, are those books that have met the test of time, and have apostolic authority. For example, Peter warned that some of Paul’s writings are hard to understand, and thus sometimes twisted, as “also the other scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16). Thus He considered Paul’s writings to be scripture [inspired writings]. The books accepted in the canon claim inspiration for themselves, and the early Christians verified that inspiration by examining their content. These books also received virtual universal acceptance in the early church.
We rely on the wisdom of the Jews of the first century to help in deciding which books belonged in the Old Testament canon, and the judgments of numerous early Christians help us in seeing what was accepted and rejected among the writings of the New Testament era. Among the books circulated by the early Christians, but rejected from the canon were the fourteen books of the Apocrypha. Philo of Alexandria ordered these books to be translated with the Septuagint, the Greek language translation of the Old Testament in use in the first century, but the Jews never considered them to be scripture. Many other ancient books were also considered but rejected from the canon. Some, such as “Wisdom of Solomon,” and “Shepherd of Hermas” can be read today, but they are not inspired. In modern times, books such as the book of Mormon and other writings of Joseph Smith have been rejected because they conflict with known scripture and do not have the earmarks of inspired scripture.
Many of the books mentioned above, such as the book of Jasher, are lost. But simply being mentioned in scripture does not mean that they were inspired. Paul’s early epistle to the Corinthians apparently contained nothing that God has not repeated elsewhere in scripture. There are virtually no Bible doctrines that rely on just one mention in scripture. The “epistle from the Laodiceans” was probably just a letter from the church of Laodicea, and not scripture at all. Peter tells us that God has “given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). Thus we have all the scripture God intended us to have in the sixty-six books of today’s Bible. It would no doubt be interesting to read some of the “lost books,” but they would not add to God’s revelation to us. We need no other new revelations or other ancient books to give us what we need to please God.