‘Azāz’īl (Azaz’el) is the name of one of the angels who is likely referred to when in the New Testament, Jude wrote of “the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day…” (Jude 6; ESV). Jude uses this (known to his readers) text as an illustration. ‘Azāz’īl is written of in the Pseudepigrapha of Second Temple Judaism’s oldest book called The Watchers, found in 1 Enoch 10:4–6. There angel Rafael is instructed by the Lord to bind and cast ‘Azāz’īl into darkness to await the fire of eternal judgment. With no mention of Adam’s fall, 1 Enoch teaches that evil was introduced into the world by the Watchers, these fallen angels (1 Enoch 6-19). This and other teaching incompatible with canonical Scripture is why 1 Enoch, from first or second century B.C., never became accepted by the churches as part of Scripture.
There are other references to literature outside of Scripture in Jude, verse 9, possibly from a lost section of Testament of Moses; and Jude 14-15 from 1 Enoch 1:9. At first there had been some debate as to whether Jude should be included in the canon of Scripture. However, we see Paul at the Areopagus in Athens quoting from pagan Greek poets (Acts 17:23, 28) to demonstrate some commonalities we share with our audience to make his point. Again in Titus 1:12-13 he quotes a pagan source to confirm a truth. Jude, by using these texts (just the specific references, not the book) in his epistle, is pointing to the truth taught in them as illustrations confirming the warnings and judgment of God brought to us as authoritative Scripture.
 Daniel M. Guertner, “The New Testament Use of Jewish Pseudepigrapha,” Text & Canon Institute, Phoenix Seminary (11/11/2021); https://textandcanon.org/the-new-testament-writers-use-of-jewish-pseudepigrapha/ (accessed 6/5/2022).
The beginning of the canon of authoritative and normative books for the churches, which came to define its identity, began in the first century. Early on collections of books circulated for use in public worship. The Epistle of 2 Peter demonstrates familiarity with the writings of Paul already circulating in the churches (2 Pet. 3:15-16), putting them on a par with the Hebrew Scriptures.
By the way New Testament books were used by early Church Fathers confirms that by the second century there was already a “core” collection functioning as Scripture. Tatian’s Diatessaron (c. 180, a harmonization of the Four Gospels), indicates “a clear appraisal about which gospels had the most authority.” The earliest list of canonical books, though not complete, is the Muratoriam Fragment (c. 170), and a list by Eusebius of Caesarea (260-340) and Cyril of Jerusalem (ca. 350). Early lists of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament and their authors appear in the writings of Origin of Alexandria around A.D. 250, and in the Festal Letter (c. 367) of Athanasius of Alexandria, where they are all enumerated. The widespread use, in both the east and the west, of the same canon by both the orthodox and heretics of this list demonstrates its early acceptance. The New Testament canon of twenty-seven books was formalized in Church Councils of Hippo (393) and Carthage (397).
The list of books accepted into the canon as Scripture rest upon the three-legged stool of apostolicity (written by or related to one of the apostles by a co-worker), early appearance and widely geographical consensus of acceptance by the primitive Church as authoritative, and the inner Spirit witness and theological consistency of the text with the rest of accepted Scripture. Thus, theologian J. I. Packer could say, “The church no more gave us the New Testament canon than Sir Isaac Newton gave us the force of gravity.” Being the work of the Spirit of God, it has self-authenticating and transforming power. Thus, in the A.D. 160’s, Justin Martyr “testified that Jesus’ words (which he knew from these [Four] Gospels) ‘possess a certain awe in themselves, and are able to put to shame those who turn aside from the straight path; while the sweetest rest is afforded those who diligently practice them’ (Dial. 8.2).”
A Corrupted Canon?
A popular myth that persists today concerning the formation of the Old and New Testament canon tells us that Emperor Constantine, through conspiracy and power play with an elite group of bishops, established the canon by convening the Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325). However, the formation of the canon was not discussed at that Council, although it was discussed before and afterwards. None of the records or eyewitness accounts mention it.
The myth originates from a late ninth century Greek manuscript called the Synodicon Vetus, edited and published by John Pappus in 1601 in Strasburg. It states that the Council had the canonical and apocryphal books laid on the church altar table and they prayed that the divinely inspired ones would remain on the table while the spurious ones would be found underneath. And so, it miraculously happened, according to this myth.
Eventually, this book came into the hands of prominent thinkers like the French atheist philosopher Voltaire (1694-1778), who quotes from the historically errant account in his Philosophical Dictionary (Vol. 3, Councils, sec. I and III). This myth has been used by Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code (book and movie) to promote it. In addition, this false narrative, adding that the books were shaken until just the Four Gospels were left on the table, has been translated into Arabic and Turkish to promote in school texts concerning the formation of the Christian Bible to Muslim students. Thus, today many Muslims think we have a corrupted Bible because of the intervention of Emperor Constantine, who had nothing to do with it.
 Mina Monier, Joan E Taylor, “Tatian’s Diatessaron: The Arabic Version, the Dura Europos Fragment, and the Women Witnesses,” The Journal of Theological Studies, Volume 72, Issue 1, April 2021, 192–230; https://doi.org/10.1093/jts/flab039.
 Michael J. Kruger, “What is the Earliest Complete List of the Canon of the New Testament?” Canon Fodder (10/19/2015); michaeljkruger.com (accessed 2/14/2022).
 Craig S. Keener, editor, “The New Testament Canon,” NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016), 2194.
 Matt Smethurst, “40 Quotes from J. I. Packer (1926–2020),” The Gospel Coalition (7/20/2020); https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/40-quotes-from-j-i-packer/ (accessed 6/2/2022).
 Quoted in C. E. Hill, “Why There Are Just Four Gospels in the Bible,” Text & Canon Institute, Phoenix Seminary (11/7/2021); https://textandcanon.org/why-are-there-just-four-gospels/ (accessed 6/4/2022).
 John Meade, “The Council of Nicaea and Biblical Canon,” Phoenix Seminary (4/18/2018); https://ps.edu/council-nicaea-biblical-canon/ (accessed 6/2/2022).
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. (Psalm 91:3-4)
Life is full of adversity. Our city of “brotherly love” has a very significant rise in murders and other crimes. I took our four foster kids to a nearby park, and found two different size bullet casings on the walkway, the same park where a few weeks before a youth was murdered. This week someone was arrested for attempting to steal the catalytic converter from under a car parked in front of my house. Last year we had rioting on two rounds, with stores boarded up all around us and helicopters hovering over our house as looting and destruction ran rampant. But we remember, the LORD is our shield, our protector against whatever may be against us. Since God is omnipresent, is knows our situation and he is there to deliver us “from the snare of the fowler.” A fowler is a trap for birds. As we see in Psalm 124, “Blessed be the LORD, / who has not given us / as prey to their teeth! / We have escaped like a bird / from the snare of the fowlers; / the snare is broken, / and we have escaped!” (Ps. 124:6-7).
“The snare of the fowler” is being used as a metaphor for any hidden plot against believers to endanger their lives. We see such plots being crafted by Muslims falsely accusing two Christian nurses in Pakistan of blasphemy by saying that they scrapped off an old sticker that had qur’anic verses from a medicine cabinet. Pakistani blasphemy laws can bring life imprisonment or a sentence of death. They are often used as a means of subversively destroying a Christian.
Also, today we are seeing the Chinese government as another “snare of the fowler” in using face recognition technology from securities cameras on every citizen to log against Christians unfavorable actions and associations on their social index score, such as meeting with other known Christians for worship or Bible study. Thus, they may be denied a bank loan, housing, or educational opportunities. Although the Chinese Christian’s permanent record may be damaged, the LORD cannot forget us, because he says, he “will have compassion on his afflicted.” Even as a nursing mother does not forget her child, so he cannot forget us. He declares, “I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” (Isa. 49:14-16). How? When Jesus’ hands were nail pierced for our sins to accomplish our salvation.
In verse 4 we see the psalmist describes God as a caring mother bird protecting her young chicks.
“He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge.”
To be covered with a bird’s pinions is to have the protection of the outer large feathers used for flight. David too cried in prayer to the LORD, “Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings!” (Psalm 61:4). Again, he prayed in Psalm 17:8, “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.” Yet again in Psalm 57:1, “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by.” It is possible that symbolically the psalmist is making reference to the cherubim wings stretched out over the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant in the temple where God is present (Ex. 37:7-9). Only through God’s mercy can we have any hope in this world. That mercy is found in Jesus, who as our mediator, his blood as the Lamb of God was shed for our atonement.
Jesus took on the role of being our refuge for us as he lamented over Jerusalem, saying, “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (Luke 13:34). As a prairie fire quickly burns across the wind swept plain, a mother hen gathers her chicks under her wings for a shield of protection. After the fire, the hen will be burned to a crisp, but the chicks will all run out from under her protective wings. Are we willing to be gathered as our Lord’s children under his protection, or do we think we can go it alone, without his aid? Without his protection we are vulnerable to fear and destruction, as Jerusalem came to be destroyed in A.D. 70 in judgment. In Jesus we have his abiding presence and hope. As Jesus said to his disciples, “…in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
 Jordan Sekulow, “Two Christian Nurses Arrested for Blasphemy in Pakistan – Face Life in Prison Over a Sticker,” ACLJ; https://aclj.org/persecuted-church/two-christian-nurses-arrested-for-blasphemy-in-pakistan-face-life-in-prison-over-a-sticker?view=original (accessed 4/29/2021).
 Cole Richards, “Facial Recognition,” Voice of the Martyrs (May 2021), 3.
A Covenanted People
© Bruce A. McDowell
By faith our righteousness was sealed,
Abram the cov’nant sign received;
Redeemed by Christ the crucified,
Regenerated by his grace, so that…
We are God’s people and He is our God!
I am God’s child, and He is my God!
Created new in Jesus Christ,
Our sin was washed, by blood out-poured;
From guilt, shame, death we are redeemed,
No longer slaves, but free in Christ, so that…
United in his death, we rise,
We live with Christ, to sin have died;
The sign of life by faith received,
By water cleansed and Spirit sealed, so that…
Hinder not children from it seal,
To such belongs God’s Kingdom;
New birth, new life, and giv’n a name,
Adopted child to God’s household, so that…
In Him who called: Identity,
In His one Name we are baptized;
Diverse, and joined as family,
In Christ our Head we are received, so that…