Skip to comments.The Old Testament Canon
Posted on 06/11/2006 3:58:44 PM PDT by restornu
| The canon of the Old Testament is the list of books that make up the Old Testament. Protestants and Catholics have different ideas about which books belong to the canon of the Old Testament, and the Eastern Orthodox have yet another opinion -- so one naturally is lead to ask the question, "which is right?"
In this discussion I intend to focus on the Protestant/Catholic side of the debate rather than the Eastern Orthodox aspect. It is not that this isn't worth discussion, merely that so far the Protestant/Catholic aspect has proved difficult enough. The books in question are: Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, Tobit, Judith, and I and II Maccabees. I will call these either "the disputed books" or the "deuterocanonical books" (a term which originated in the 16th century and which means "second canon").
1. The Jewish Canon of the Old TestamentOne way to attempt to settle the issue is to appeal to the Jewish people. They, after all, were on the scene longer than Christians, and the Old Testament scriptures were given to the world through the Jews.
Sometimes in ancient documents the books of the Bible have different names than the modern ones that we are used to. This table is here to help sort out the names
If the Jews recognized a canon and understood it to be closed (i.e. that no more books could be added to it) in the time before Christ, then it should remain fixed in the form they established.
This logically follows if you believe the Bible is inspired. It seems unthinkable that the text should be inspired, but that the canon should not also be God-given in whatever final form it comes to us. If this ability to discern the canon is God-given then Christians should regard a Jewish canon arising from the pre-Christian era as binding upon them, and should be no more able to change it than they are able to change the contents of the individual books.
On the other hand, if the Jews had not discerned or closed their canon before the time of Christ (i.e. determined that no more books could be added to it), if they only came to believe that the canon was closed only at a later date, then Christians should not be overly concerned with their conclusions -- for it would be logical to conclude that the Holy Spirit's inspiration now belonged to the Christians.
So the first question we must ask before determining what the proper canon should be is now this: Did the Jews of the pre-Christian era have a definite and closed canon?
2. Assessing the Evidence for a Closed Jewish Canon
2.2 The Council of JamniaThe next major piece of evidence to be noted is the Council of Jamnia, which seems to have taken place around 90 AD. This council established and closed the canon authoritatively for nearly all Jews. It has been their canon ever since. Yet it should be noted that the council did not speak for all Jews, there were Jews living in Ethiopia who either did not hear of it or did not accept the decision of Jamnia. To this day they use a different canon than their Palestinian brethren [Encyclopedia Judaica, Vol 6, p 1147].
2.3 The SeptuagintWhat Bible does the New Testament quote? Not the Hebrew Bible, since the majority of the New Testament was composed in Greek. The Bible used for most Scripture quotations in the New Testament is the same Bible used by the Ethiopian Jews mentioned above and the same Bible used by Christians in the earliest centuries of the Church -- it is named the Septuagint (or LXX). The LXX is a translation of the Old Testament into Greek that was completed no later than 180 BC.
One of the reasons that the LXX is of value is that expresses the opinions of the Jewish people in the times prior to Christ, during an age where later opinions of him could not have biased their writings or thoughts with respect to Christian issues. In some cases also, it may well reflect an earlier text than the present Hebrew.
Isaiah 7:14 became a controversial verse for Jews and Christians practically from the start -- but it reflects a pre-Christian Jewish interpretation of the admittedly more vague Hebrew text. The LXX used the word virgin in its translation, and after Christians came on the scene and used this word as prophetic of the type of birth Christ it became an embarrassment to the Jews.
What this verse said about the virgin birth of the Messiah, together with the fact that the LXX was the version quoted by the authors of the New Testament, combined with its widespread use before and after the time of Christ caused many to think that the LXX itself was inspired. Another strong reason that many believed in the LXX's inspiration was that a legend sprang up about its composition -- that the books were translated independently by 72 scholars and that they arrived at, word for word, the identical translation.
Unfortunately, the oldest copies of the LXX currently in our possession date from the 4th century, and must have been copied by Christian hands. The antiquity of the translations can be established, however, from other considerations. The canon of the LXX is larger than than the present canon used by the Jews, and includes the books disputed between Catholics and Protestants (as well as the additions to Daniel and Esther).
The LXX was not generally available in the form of a modern Bible (although there are some copies, called codices, which were bound in a form like a modern book), but as a collection of scrolls, and thus its table of contents was less fixed. Furthermore, even in the ancient codices there is some variation in the contents. One finds books there that both Catholics and Protestants consider to be non-canonical. In all cases the disputed books are present in the codices, the only exception is that Maccabees is absent from one copy of the LXX named Codex Vaticanus.
In any event, one must recognize that at the time the New Testament was written the LXX was in wide use and was widely respected by the authors of the New Testament and the Jewish people living at that time -- otherwise the New Testament writers would not have made use of it. Rapidly, however, it became more a Christian than a Jewish book. In fact, I think one can say with little exaggeration that it became the Christian Old Testament.
2.4 PhiloOf some interest are the writings of Philo, a prolific Alexandrian Jew who lived in roughly the time of Christ. Though he gives us no canon, it is worthy of note that he does not use the books under dispute between Protestants and Catholics. While it is true, on the other hand, that there are many books accepted by both that he does not quote -- the fact that he does not quote Wisdom seems to require explanation since its contents appear consonant with his thought. It may be that he simply wanted to convince the widest audience possible with his writings and therefore chose to stick with the universally accepted portion of the canon for his support. Unfortunately, we can only speculate about why he did not quote the disputed books.
Finally, consider that Philo (while prolific) is not the only rabbi of the period to leave us writings. The Catholic Encyclopedia notes that a few Palestinian and Babylonian rabbis quoted the deuterocanonical books, apparently as Scripture.
2.5 The Writers of the New TestamentIf the canon of the Bible had been fixed before the time of the apostles, then why does 2 Pet 3:16 speak of Paul's writing as Scriptures? Surely this would be an unnatural term for a Jew who had believed in a closed canon of the Bible. It may even have been that Jews were expecting new Scripture to be written when the Messiah came. The important point here is that the concept of a "New Testament" as distinct from an "Old Testament" is not found until the second century -- before that there is only "Scripture."
ConclusionIn light of these considerations, it seems reasonable to say that the Jews did not definitively define and close their canon prior to the Christian era. We now turn to the next consideration.
3. The Christian Canon of the Old TestamentIf the Jews did not settle on a canon, then when did the Christians? To some extent we have considered this when we looked at the significance of the LXX, but it does not really fix the canon -- although it does support a larger collection than the Jewish/Protestant one. Here we consider the writings of the early Christians. How did they regard the disputed books?
3.1 Did the New Testament define an Old Testament Canon?Certainly the New Testament writers constitute the earliest group of early Christian writers. It has been suggested by some that the New Testament, upon which all Christian sects agree for its canon, defines an Old Testament implicitly by the books it quotes. Unfortunately, this would mean that we must regard the book of Enoch as part of the Old Testament since it is quoted in Jude, and only a very few groups of Christians regard Enoch as canonical. This, however, is not the only case where the New Testament makes use of what is widely regarded as Apocryphal sources (i.e. "non-canonical" sources). On the other hand, Ecclesiastes, Esther, and Canticles are not quoted -- so if the New Testament defines a canon then these omissions must be explained.
3.2 JeromeOne of the primary witnesses, not in order of time but certainly in stature against canonicity of the disputed books comes from a late period, the 4th century -- St. Jerome. Jerome produced the standard Latin translation of the Bible, the Vulgate, and he felt that it was important for this purpose that he learn Hebrew. He discovered the opinion of the Jews in the matter of the canon, the falsity of the legend of the translation of the LXX, and as a result made many disparaging remarks about the disputed books, "calling them apocrypha" [this seems to have occurred about 390 AD, see "The Cambridge History of the Bible" Volume 2, 92]. Moreover, he seems to attach a certain importance to the idea that there should be 22 books in the Old Testament -- to accord with the number of Hebrew letters. This seems to have also been a motivating factor in his rejection of the deuterocanonical books. In line with the Protestant view, he also disparages the additions to Daniel and Esther, in the prefaces to those books. These remarks were to color the opinion of Christians in the West from that time forward and most explicit lists of the books given by the writers after him follow his thinking.
Yet the evidence from Jerome is not altogether against the books. He sometimes refers to them as "ecclesiastical" rather than "canonical" or "apocryphal" -- they are read in the church, but not to be cited for proof texts of doctrine. [See Jerome, "Against Rufinus"]
He also comments [Again, see "Against Rufinus"] that he accepts the additions to Daniel and Esther, and his disparaging remarks against them in the preface of his translation (so he says at a later time) are merely samples of how others argue against the books. Indeed, in the preface he places most of the remarks in the mouth of a "certain Jewish teacher." Yet the fact that he does not respond to this Jewish teacher, and puts the disputed portion of the book at the end of his translation as an appendix might easily lead one to believe that he shared the opinion.
Though he never repudiated his statements that Sirach, Judith, Tobit Maccabees, and Baruch were apocrypha, we do find that he was not entirely consistent in his terminology. At a later time he says, for example, that Judith is the name given to a `sacred volume', Wisdom is called `Scripture', Sirach is called `holy Scripture,' etc. [See "The Cambridge History of the Bible", Volume 2, p93]
3.3 OrigenOrigen did much study on the Bible. He learned Hebrew and labored carefully to produce the best texts. He notices many differences between the Hebrew passages used by the Jews and the passages in use by Christians. Not just in the disputed books, but in Job, Exodus, etc. He makes this remark, however, that is in line with the arguments we have made above: "And, forsooth, when we notice such things, we are forthwith to reject as spurious the copies in use in our Churches, and enjoin the brotherhood to put away the sacred books current among them, and to coax the Jews, and persuade them to give us copies which shall be untampered with, and free from forgery! Are we to suppose that that Providence which in the sacred Scriptures has ministered to the edification of all the Churches of Christ, had no thought for those bought with a price, for whom Christ died; whom, although His Son, God who is love spared not, but gave Him up for us all, that with Him He might freely give us all things?" [A letter from Origen to Africanus, Volume 4 of the Early Church Fathers CD Rom]
3.3.1 Tobias and JudithAlso from "A letter from Origen to Africanus" [Early Church Fathers CD Rom, Vol 4] we get the following quote: "... Where you get your 'lost and won at play, and thrown out unburied on the streets,' I know not, unless it is from Tobias; and Tobias (as also Judith), we ought to notice, the Jews do not use. They are not even found in the Hebrew Apocrypha, as I learned from the Jews themselves. However, since the Churches use Tobias,..." demonstrating that the Church uses Tobias and Judith despite the fact that the Hebrews refuse to recognize it. Moreover, the letter to Africanus, which I've already quoted twice, is essentially a defense of the story of Susannah as being rightfully part of Scripture, and Origen's use of it in discussion with a certain Bassus. He seems, however, to regard the LXX as superior to the Hebrew text in every way -- too extreme a position as I think all will agree.
Nevertheless, Origen's letter to Africanus is quite interesting reading on the whole, and I encourage any Christian interested in the canon to read this and other early fathers.
3.4 AugustineAugustine was a clear exponent of the deuterocanonical books, explicitly listing them as being on the canon in "City of God." He derives this from the fact of its wide use in all Christian churches, and in the legend of its composition by the seventy.
3.5 St. CyprianQuotes Tobit (in Testimonies) along with the other books of Scripture without distinction.
3.6 St. HippolytusSays this about Maccabees: "Since, then, the angel Gabriel also recounted these things to the prophet, as they have been understood by us, as they have also taken place, and as they have been all clearly described in the books of the Maccabees."
3.7 CouncilsSeveral local councils of the Church were to endorse the books later to be endorsed by Trent. These were, the Council of Rome (AD 382), Hippo (AD 393), and Carthage (AD 397 and 419). The Council of Nicea II (AD 797) approved everything said by Carthage (AD 419).
The Book of WisdomThe book of Wisdom is one of the deuterocanonical books that has the interesting distinction of being the only book to ever be found on ancient lists of both the Old and New Testaments. In fact, the earliest canon of the New Testament, the Muratorian canon, contains the book of Wisdom.
It is difficult to know why this book should have been on the New Testament canon, and it should be remembered that the Muratorian canon is believed to be a private listing of Scripture, not a public or official one. One may guess that the author of this canon felt strongly that Wisdom was Scripture, but was aware that the Jews of the time did not, and thought -- given that the New Testament church saw Christ as the personification of Wisdom -- that perhaps the best way of reconciling these facts was to consider Wisdom a New Testament book.
Whatever conclusions one may draw from this list, it is clear that its author regarded the book of Wisdom as Scripture.
ConclusionWe have arrived at an awkward position. The Jewish canon seems not to have been closed, and Christians relied on the decidedly larger but somewhat uncertain canon of the LXX -- until the time of Jerome when at which time many felt that the Jewish canon was more worthy of attention. One is left with a canon that remained uncertain until a very late period consisting of two parts. A list of books which all were certain about and a list of several more that had an uncertain status. Some regarded the deuteros as being merely apocryphal or non-canonical (following Jerome's preface), but others regarded as Scripture (following Augustine or Origen) or perhaps as quasi-Scripture. For this reason I find the claim that Protestants removed books from Scripture to be roughly as exaggerated as the claim that Catholics added the books at the Council of Trent. The truth, it seems, was that an ambiguity truly existed which was very difficult to resolve.
This ambiguity persisted until the time of the Reformation at which time Trent was called upon to make a pronouncement with regard to their status. Trent did not attempt a careful examination of history or archeology, but based it first on the fact that the books were read alongside other sacred books in worship and had been since the beginning, and second the pronouncements of previous councils. In other words, it trusted that the Holy Spirit would be most efficacious in working through the universal practice of reading the books in the Churches, or in authoritative pronouncements accepted by many Churches rather than the individual opinions of Jerome, those following him, or the beliefs of the Hebrews.
Should you accept the Deuterocanonical books as Scripture? Hopefully this essay will be of some use to you in deciding.
The Old Testament Canon
by James Akin
DURING the Reformation, for largely doctrinal reasons Protestants removed seven books from the Old Testament (1 and 2 Maccabees, Sirach, Wisdom, Baruch, Tobit, and Judith) and parts of two others (Daniel and Esther), even though these books had been regarded as canonical since the beginning of Church history.
As Protestant Church historian J.N. D. Kelly writes, "It should be observed that the Old Testament thus admitted as authoritative in the Church was somewhat bulkier and more comprehensive [than the Protestant Bible] . . . It always included, though with varying degrees of recognition, the so-called apocrypha or deuterocanonical books" (Early Christian Doctrines, 53).
Below we give patristic quotations from each of the deuterocanonical books. Notice how the Fathers quoted these books along with the protocanonicals.
Also included are the earliest official canon lists. For the sake of brevity these are not given in full. When the canon lists cited here are given in full, they include all the books and only the books found in the modern Catholic Bible.
(Note: Some books of the Bible have gone under more than one name. Sirach is also known as Ecclesiasticus, 1 and 2 Chronicles as 1 and 2 Paralipomenon, Ezra and Nehemiah as 1 and 2 Esdras, and 1 and 2 Samuel with 1 and 2 Kings as 1, 2, 3, and 4 Kings is, 1 and 2 Samuel are named 1 and 2 Kings, and 1 and 2 Kings are named 3 and 4 Kings. This confusing nomenclature is explained more fully in Catholic Bible commentaries.)
"You shall not waver with regard to your decisions [Sir. 1:28]. Do not be someone who stretches out his hands to receive but withdraws them when it comes to giving [Sir. 4:31]" (Didache 4:5 [A.D. 70]).
The Letter of Barnabas
"Since, therefore, [Christ] was about to be manifested and to suffer in the flesh, his suffering was foreshown. For the prophet speaks against evil, `Woe to their soul, because they have counseled an evil counsel against themselves' [Isa. 3:9], saying, `Let us bind the righteous man because he is displeasing to us' [Wis. 2:12.]" (Letter of Barnabas 6:7 [A.D. 74]).
Pope Clement I
"By the word of his might [God] established all things, and by his word he can overthrow them. `Who shall say to him, "What have you done?" or who shall resist the power of his strength?' [Wis. 12:12]" (Letter to the Corinthians 27:5 [ca. A.D. 80]).
Polycarp of Smyrna
"Stand fast, therefore, in these things, and follow the example of the Lord, being firm and unchangeable in the faith, loving the brotherhood [1 Pet. 2:17]. . . . When you can do good, defer it not, because `alms delivers from death' [Tob. 4:10, 12:9]. Be all of you subject to one another [1 Pet. 5:5], having your conduct blameless among the Gentiles [1 Pet. 2:12], and the Lord may not be blasphemed through you. But woe to him by whom the name of the Lord is blasphemed [Isa 52:5]!" (Letter to the Philadelphians 10 [A.D. 135]).
Irenaeus of Lyons
"Those . . . who are believed to be presbyters by many, but serve their own lusts and do not place the fear of God supreme in their hearts, but conduct themselves with contempt toward others and are puffed up with the pride of holding the chief seat [Matt. 23:6] and work evil deeds in secret, saying `No man sees us,' shall be convicted by the Word, who does not judge after outward appearance, nor looks upon the countenance, but the heart; and they shall hear those words to be found in Daniel the prophet: `O you seed of Canaan and not of Judah, beauty has deceived you and lust perverted your heart' [Dan. 13:56]. You that have grown old in wicked days, now your sins which you have committed before have come to light, for you have pronounced false judgments and have been accustomed to condemn the innocent and to let the guilty go free, although the Lord says, `You shall not slay the innocent and the righteous' [Dan. 13:52, citing Ex. 23:7]" (Against Heresies 4:26:3 [A.D. 189]; Dan. 13 is not in the Protestant Bible).
Irenaeus of Lyons
"Jeremiah the prophet has pointed out that as many believers as God has prepared for this purpose, to multiply those left on the earth, should both be under the rule of the saints and to minister to this [new] Jerusalem and that [his] kingdom shall be in it, saying, `Look around Jerusalem toward the east and behold the joy which comes to you from God himself. Behold, your sons whom you have sent forth shall come: They shall come in a band from the east to the west. . . . God shall go before with you in the light of his splendor, with the mercy and righteousness which proceed from him' [Bar. 4:36-5:9]" (ibid. 5:35:1; Baruch was often reckoned as part of Jeremiah, as it is here).
"What is narrated here [in the story of Susannah] happened at a later time, although it is placed at the front of the book [of Daniel], for it was a custom with the writers to narrate many things in an inverted order in their writings. . . . [W]e ought to give heed, beloved, fearing lest anyone be overtaken in any transgression and risk the loss of his soul, knowing as we do that God is the judge of all and the Word himself is the eye which nothing that is done in the world escapes. Therefore, always watchful in heart and pure in life, let us imitate Susannah" (Commentary on Daniel [A.D. 204]; the story of Susannah [Dan. 13] is not in the Protestant Bible).
Cyprian of Carthage
"In Genesis [it says], `And God tested Abraham and said to him, "Take your only son whom you love, Isaac, and go to the high land and offer him there as a burnt offering . . . "' [Gen 22:1-2] ... Of this same thing in the Wisdom of Solomon [it says], `Although in the sight of men they suffered torments, their hope is full of immortality . . .' [Wis. 3:4]. Of this same thing in the Maccabees [it says], `Was not Abraham found faithful when tested, and it was reckoned to him for righteousness'" [1 Macc. 2:52; see Jas. 2:21-23] (Treatises 7:3:15 [A.D. 248]).
Cyprian of Carthage
"So Daniel, too, when he was required to worship the idol Bel, which the people and the king then worshipped, in asserting the honor of his God, broke forth with full faith and freedom, saying, `I worship nothing but the Lord my God, who created the heaven and the earth' [Dan. 14:5]" (Letters 55:5 [A.D. 253]; Dan. 14 is not in the Protestant Bible).
Council of Rome
"Now indeed we must treat of the divine Scriptures, what the universal Catholic Church accepts and what she ought to shun. The order of the Old Testament begins here: Genesis, one book; Exodus, one book; Leviticus, one book; Numbers, one book; Deuteronomy, one book; Joshua [Son of] Nave, one book; Judges, one book; Ruth, one book; Kings, four books [that is, 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings]; Paralipomenon [Chronicles], two books; Psalms, one book; Solomon, three books: Proverbs, one book; Ecclesiastes, one book; Canticle of Canticles, one book; likewise Wisdom, one book; Ecclesiasticus, one book . . . . Likewise the order of the historical [books]: Job, one book; Tobit, one book; Esdras, two books [Ezra and Nehemiah]; Esther, one book; Judith, one book; Maccabees, two books" (Decree of Pope Damasus [A.D. 382]).
Council of Hippo
"[It has been decided] that besides the canonical Scriptures nothing be read in church under the name of divine Scripture. But the canonical Scriptures are as follows: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua the Son of Nun, Judges, Ruth, the Kings, four books, the Chronicles, two books, Job, the Psalter, the five books of Solomon, the twelve books of the Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Tobit, Judith, Esther, Ezra, two books, Maccabees, two books . . ." (canon 36 [A.D. 393]).
Council of Carthage III
"[It has been decided] that nothing except the canonical Scriptures should be read in the Church under the name of the divine Scriptures. But the canonical Scriptures are: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kings, Paralipomenon, two books, Job, the Psalter of David, five books of Solomon [Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom, Sirach], twelve books of the Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Tobit, Judith, Esther, two books of Esdras, two books of the Maccabees . . ." (canon 47 [A.D. 397]).
"The whole canon of the Scriptures, however, in which we say that consideration is to be applied, is contained in these books: the five of Moses . . . and one book of Joshua [Son of] Nave, one of Judges; one little book which is called Ruth . . . then the four of Kingdoms, and the two of Paralipomenon . . . . [T]here are also others too, of a different order . . . such as Job and Tobit and Esther and Judith and the two books of Maccabees, and the two of Esdras . . . . Then there are the Prophets, in which there is one book of the Psalms of David, and three of Solomon. . . . But as to those two books, one of which is entitled Wisdom and the other of which is entitled Ecclesiasticus and which are called `of Solomon' because of a certain similarity to his books, it is held most certainly that they were written by Jesus Sirach. They must, however, be accounted among the prophetic books, because of the authority which is deservedly accredited to them" (Christian Instruction 2:8:13 [A.D. 397]).
"God converted [King Assuerus] and turned the latter's indignation into gentleness [Es. 15:11]" (The Grace of Christ and Original Sin 1:24:25 [A.D. 418]; this passage is not in the Protestant Bible).
"We read in the books of the Maccabees [2 Macc. 12:43] that sacrifice was offered for the dead. But even if it were found nowhere in the Old Testament writings, the authority of the Catholic Church which is clear on this point is of no small weight, where in the prayers of the priest poured forth to the Lord God at his altar the commendation of the dead has its place" (The Care to be Had for the Dead 1:3 [A.D. 421]).
The Apostolic Constitutions
"Now women also prophesied. Of old, Miriam the sister of Moses and Aaron [Ex. 15:20], and after her, Deborah [Judges. 4:4], and after these Huldah [2 Kgs. 22:14] and Judith [Judith 8], the former under Josiah and the latter under Darius" (Apostolic Constitutions 8:2 [A.D. 400]).
"What sin have I committed if I follow the judgment of the churches? But he who brings charges against me for relating [in my preface to the book of Daniel] the objections that the Hebrews are wont to raise against the story of Susannah [Dan. 13], the Song of the Three Children [Dan. 3:24-90], and the story of Bel and the Dragon [Dan. 14], which are not found in the Hebrew volume, proves that he is just a foolish sycophant. I was not relating my own personal views, but rather the remarks that they are wont to make against us. If I did not reply to their views in my preface, in the interest of brevity, lest it seem that I was composing not a preface, but a book, I believe I added promptly the remark, for I said, `This is not the time to discuss such matters'" (Against Rufinius 11:33 [A.D. 401]).
Pope Innocent I
"A brief addition shows what books really are received in the canon. These are the things of which you desired to be informed verbally: of Moses, five books, that is, of Genesis, of Exodus, of Leviticus, of Numbers, of Deuteronomy, and Joshua, of Judges, one book, of Kings, four books, and also Ruth, of the Prophets, sixteen books, of Solomon, five books, the Psalms. Likewise of the histories, Job, one book, of Tobit, one book, Esther, one, Judith, one, of the Maccabees, two, of Esdras, two, Paralipomenon, two books . . ." (Letters 7 [A.D. 408]).
The African Code
"[It has been decided] that besides the canonical Scriptures nothing be read in church under the name of divine Scripture. But the canonical Scriptures are as follows: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua the Son of Nun, Judges, Ruth, the Kings, four books, the Chronicles, two books, Job, the Psalter, the five books of Solomon, the twelve books of the Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Tobit, Judith, Esther, Ezra, two books, Maccabees, two books . . . Let this be sent to our brother and fellow bishop, [Pope] Boniface, and to the other bishops of those parts, that they may confirm this canon, of these are the things which we have received from our fathers to be read in church" (canon 24 [A.D. 419]).
DEFENDING THE DEUTEROCANONICALS
by James Akin
When Catholics and Protestants talk about "the Bible," the two groups actually have two different books in mind.
In the sixteenth century, the Protestant Reformers removed a large section of the Old Testament that was not compatible with their theology. They charged that these writings were not inspired Scripture and branded them with the pejorative title "Apocrypha."
Catholics refer to them as the "deuterocanonical" books (since they were disputed by a few early authors and their canonicity was established later than the rest), while the rest are known as the "protocanonical" books (since their canonicity was established first).
Following the Protestant attack on the integrity of the Bible, the Catholic Church infallibly reaffirmed the divine inspiration of the deuterocanonical books at the Council of Trent in 1546. In doing this, it reaffirmed what had been believed since the time of Christ.
Who Compiled the Old Testament?
The Church does not deny that there are ancient writings which are "apocryphal." During the early Christian era, there were scores of manuscripts which purported to be Holy Scripture but were not. Many have survived to the present day, like the Apocalypse of Peter and the Gospel of Thomas, which all Christian churches regard as spurious writings that don't belong in Scripture.
During the first century, the Jews disagreed as to what constituted the canon of Scripture. In fact, there were a large number of different canons in use, including the growing canon used by Christians. In order to combat the spreading Christian cult, rabbis met at the city of Jamnia or Javneh in A.D. 90 to determine which books were truly the Word of God. They pronounced many books, including the Gospels, to be unfit as scriptures. This canon also excluded seven books (Baruch, Sirach, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Tobit, Judith, and the Wisdom of Solomon, plus portions of Esther and Daniel) that Christians considered part of the Old Testament.
The group of Jews which met at Javneh became the dominant group for later Jewish history, and today most Jews accept the canon of Javneh. However, some Jews, such as those from Ethiopia, follow a different canon which is identical to the Catholic Old Testament and includes the seven deuterocanonical books (cf. Encyclopedia Judaica, vol. 6, p. 1147).
Needless to say, the Church disregarded the results of Javneh. First, a Jewish council after the time of Christ is not binding on the followers of Christ. Second, Javneh rejected precisely those documents which are foundational for the Christian Church -- the Gospels and the other documents of the New Testament. Third, by rejecting the deuterocanonicals, Javneh rejected books which had been used by Jesus and the apostles and which were in the edition of the Bible that the apostles used in everyday life -- the Septuagint.
The Apostles & the Deuteros
The Christian acceptance of the deuterocanonical books was logical because the deuterocanonicals were also included in the Septuagint, the Greek edition of the Old Testament which the apostles used to evangelize the world. Two thirds of the Old Testament quotations in the New are from the Septuagint. Yet the apostles nowhere told their converts to avoid seven books of it. Like the Jews all over the world who used the Septuagint, the early Christians accepted the books they found in it. They knew that the apostles would not mislead them and endanger their souls by putting false scriptures in their hands -- especially without warning them against them.
But the apostles did not merely place the deuterocanonicals in the hands of their converts as part of the Septuagint. They regularly referred to the deuterocanonicals in their writings. For example, Hebrews 11 encourages us to emulate the heroes of the Old Testament and in the Old Testament "Women received their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, that they might rise again to a better life" (Heb. 11:35).
There are a couple of examples of women receiving back their dead by resurrection in the Protestant Old Testament. You can find Elijah raising the son of the widow of Zarepheth in 1 Kings 17, and you can find his successor Elisha raising the son of the Shunammite woman in 2 Kings 4, but one thing you can never find -- anywhere in the Protestant Old Testament, from front to back, from Genesis to Malachi -- is someone being tortured and refusing to accept release for the sake of a better resurrection. If you want to find that, you have to look in the Catholic Old Testament -- in the deuterocanonical books Martin Luther cut out of his Bible.
The story is found in 2 Maccabees 7, where we read that during the Maccabean persecution, "It happened also that seven brothers and their mother were arrested and were being compelled by the king, under torture with whips and cords, to partake of unlawful swine's flesh. . . . [B]ut the brothers and their mother encouraged one another to die nobly, saying, 'The Lord God is watching over us and in truth has compassion on us . . . ' After the first brother had died . . . they brought forward the second for their sport. . . . he in turn underwent tortures as the first brother had done. And when he was at his last breath, he said, 'You accursed wretch, you dismiss us from this present life, but the King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life'" (2 Macc. 7:1, 5-9).
One by one the sons die, proclaiming that they will be vindicated in the resurrection. "The mother was especially admirable and worthy of honorable memory. Though she saw her seven sons perish within a single day, she bore it with good courage because of her hope in the Lord. She encouraged each of them . . . [saying], 'I do not know how you came into being in my womb. It was not I who gave you life and breath, nor I who set in order the elements within each of you. Therefore the Creator of the world, who shaped the beginning of man and devised the origin of all things, will in his mercy give life and breath back to you again, since you now forget yourselves for the sake of his laws,'" telling the last one, "Do not fear this butcher, but prove worthy of your brothers. Accept death, so that in God's mercy I may get you back again with your brothers" (2 Macc. 7:20-23, 29).
This is but one example of the New Testaments' references to the deuterocanonicals. The early Christians were thus fully justified in recognizing these books as Scripture, for the apostles not only set them in their hands as part of the Bible they used to evangelize the world, but also referred to them in the New Testament itself, citing the things they record as examples to be emulated.
The Fathers Speak
The early acceptance of the deuterocanonicals was carried down through Church history. The Protestant patristics scholar J. N. D. Kelly writes: "It should be observed that the Old Testament thus admitted as authoritative in the Church was somewhat bulkier and more comprehensive than the [Protestant Old Testament] . . . It always included, though with varying degrees of recognition, the so-called Apocrypha or deutero-canonical books. The reason for this is that the Old Testament which passed in the first instance into the hands of Christians was . . . the Greek translation known as the Septuagint. . . . most of the Scriptural quotations found in the New Testament are based upon it rather than the Hebrew.. . . In the first two centuries . . . the Church seems to have accept all, or most of, these additional books as inspired and to have treated them without question as Scripture. Quotations from Wisdom, for example, occur in 1 Clement and Barnabas. . . Polycarp cites Tobit, and the Didache [cites] Ecclesiasticus. Irenaeus refers to Wisdom, the History of Susannah, Bel and the Dragon [i.e., the deuterocanonical portions of Daniel], and Baruch. The use made of the Apocrypha by Tertullian, Hippolytus, Cyprian and Clement of Alexandria is too frequent for detailed references to be necessary" (Early Christian Doctrines, 53-54).
The recognition of the deuterocanonicals as part of the Bible that was given by individual Fathers was also given by the Fathers as a whole, when they met in Church councils. The results of councils are especially useful because they do not represent the views of only one person, but what was accepted by the Church leaders of whole regions.
The canon of Scripture, Old and New Testament, was finally settled at the Council of Rome in 382, under the authority of Pope Damasus I. It was soon reaffirmed on numerous occasions. The same canon was affirmed at the Council of Hippo in 393 and at the Council of Carthage in 397. In 405 Pope Innocent I reaffirmed the canon in a letter to Bishop Exuperius of Toulouse. Another council at Carthage, this one in the year 419, reaffirmed the canon of its predecessors and asked Pope Boniface to "confirm this canon, for these are the things which we have received from our fathers to be read in church." All of these canons were identical to the modern Catholic Bible, and all of them included the deuterocanonicals.
This exact same canon was implicitly affirmed at the seventh ecumenical council, II Nicaea (787), which approved the results of the 419 Council of Carthage, and explicitly reaffirmed at the ecumenical councils of Florence (1442), Trent (1546), Vatican I (1870), and Vatican II (1965).
The Reformation Attack on the Bible
The deuterocanonicals teach Catholic doctrine, and for this reason they were taken out of the Old Testament by Martin Luther and placed in an appendix without page numbers. Luther also took out four New Testament books -- Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation -- and put them in an appendix without page numbers as well. These were later put back into the New Testament by other Protestants, but the seven books of the Old Testament were left out. Following Luther they had been left in an appendix to the Old Testament, and eventually the appendix itself was dropped (in 1827 by the British and Foreign Bible Society), which is why these books are not found at all in most contemporary Protestant Bibles, though they were appendicized in classic Protestant translations such as the King James Version.
The reason they were dropped is that they teach Catholic doctrines that the Protestant Reformers chose to reject. Earlier we cited an example where the book of Hebrews holds up to us an Old Testament example from 2 Maccabees 7, an incident not to be found anywhere in the Protestant Bible, but easily discoverable in the Catholic Bible. Why would Martin Luther cut out this book when it is so clearly held up as an example to us by the New Testament? Simple: A few chapters later it endorses the practice of praying for the dead so that they may be freed from the consequences of their sins (2 Macc. 12:41-45); in other words, the Catholic doctrine of purgatory. Since Luther chose to reject the historic Christian teaching of purgatory (which dates from before the time of Christ, as 2 Maccabees shows), he had to remove that book from the Bible and appendicize it. (Notice that he also removed Hebrews, the book which cites 2 Maccabees, to an appendix as well.)
To justify this rejection of books that had been in the Bible since before the days of the apostles (for the Septuagint was written before the apostles), the early Protestants cited as their chief reason the fact that the Jews of their day did not honor these books, going back to the council of Javneh in A.D. 90. But the Reformers were aware of only European Jews; they were unaware of African Jews, such as the Ethiopian Jews who accept the deuterocanonicals as part of their Bible. They glossed over the references to the deuterocanonicals in the New Testament, as well as its use of the Septuagint. They ignored the fact that there were multiple canons of the Jewish Scriptures circulating in first century, appealing to a post-Christian Jewish council which has no authority over Christians as evidence that "The Jews don't except these books." In short, they went to enormous lengths to rationalize their rejection of these books of the Bible.
Rewriting Church History
In later years they even began to propagate the myth that the Catholic Church "added" these seven books to the Bible at the Council of Trent!
Protestants also try to distort the patristic evidence in favor of the deuterocanonicals. Some flatly state that the early Church Fathers did not accept them, while others make the more moderate claim that certain important Fathers, such as Jerome, did not accept them.
It is true that Jerome, and a few other isolated writers, did not accept most of the deuterocanonicals as Scripture. However, Jerome was persuaded, against his original inclination, to include the deuterocanonicals in his Vulgate edition of the Scriptures-testimony to the fact that the books were commonly accepted and were expected to be included in any edition of the Scriptures.
Furthermore, it can be documented that in his later years Jerome did accept certain deuterocanonical parts of the Bible. In his reply to Rufinus, he stoutly defended the deuterocanonical portions of Daniel even though the Jews of his day did not.
He wrote, "What sin have I committed if I followed the judgment of the churches? But he who brings charges against me for relating the objections that the Hebrews are wont to raise against the story of Susanna, the Son of the Three Children, and the story of Bel and the Dragon, which are not found in the Hebrew volume, proves that he is just a foolish sycophant. For I was not relating my own personal views, but rather the remarks that they [the Jews] are wont to make against us" (Against Rufinus 11:33 [A.D. 402]). Thus Jerome acknowledged the principle by which the canon was settled -- the judgment of the Church, not of later Jews.
Other writers Protestants cite as objecting to the deuterocanonicals, such as Athanasius and Origen, also accepted some or all of them as canonical. For example, Athanasius, accepted the book of Baruch as part of his Old Testament (Festal Letter 39), and Origen accepted all of the deuterocanonicals, he simply recommended not using them in disputations with Jews.
However, despite the misgivings and hesitancies of a few individual writers such as Jerome, the Church remained firm in its historic affirmation of the deuterocanonicals as Scripture handed down from the apostles. Protestant patristics scholar J. N. D. Kelly remarks that in spite of Jerome's doubt, "For the great majority, however, the deutero-canonical writings ranked as Scripture in the fullest sense. Augustine, for example, whose influence in the West was decisive, made no distinction between them and the rest of the Old Testament . . . The same inclusive attitude to the Apocrypha was authoritatively displayed at the synods of Hippo and Carthage in 393 and 397 respectively, and also in the famous letter which Pope Innocent I dispatched to Exuperius, bishop of Toulouse, in 405" (Early Christian Doctrines, 55-56).
It is thus a complete myth that, as Protestants often charge, the Catholic Church "added" the deuterocanonicals to the Bible at the Council of Trent. These books had been in the Bible from before the time canon was initially settled in the 380s. All the Council of Trent did was reaffirm, in the face of the new Protestant attack on Scripture, what had been the historic Bible of the Church -- the standard edition of which was Jerome's own Vulgate, including the seven deuterocanonicals!
The New Testament Deuteros
It is ironic that Protestants reject the inclusion of the deuterocanonicals at councils such as Hippo (393) and Carthage (397), because these are the very same early Church councils that Protestants appeal to for the canon of the New Testament. Prior to the councils of the late 300s, there was a wide range of disagreement over exactly what books belonged in the New Testament. Certain books, such as the gospels, acts, and most of the epistles of Paul had long been agreed upon. However a number of the books of the New Testament, most notably Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 & 3 John, and Revelation remained hotly disputed until the canon was settled. They are, in effect, "New Testament deuterocanonicals."
While Protestants are willing to accept the testimony of Hippo and Carthage (the councils they most commonly cite) for the canonicity of the New Testament deuterocanonicals, they are unwilling to accept the testimony of Hippo and Carthage for the canonicity of the Old Testament deuterocanonicals. Ironic indeed!
Following the Protestant attack on the integrity of the Bible, the Catholic Church infallibly reaffirmed the divine inspiration of the deuterocanonical books at the Council of Trent in 1546. In doing this, it reaffirmed what had been believed since the time of Christ.
Here are some fascinating articles about the canon:
The first is by a Lutheran named Sundberg who seriously challenged Protestant concepts about the canon in the 1960's:
An article by Dave Armstrong about how Luther viewed the canon:
Aw, c'mon restornu - you're supposed to leave the satire bits to me...
Talking about a "Jewish cannon" without talking about the profound differences between the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings is nonsense.
The Law, called Torah (Truth, in Hebrew), the first five books of Moses, is the most important, and is considered by some, but not all, Jewish movements to be inspired in the Christian sense of "inspired".
The Prophets, well, the sayings of the prophets are "inspired", but the rest is not.
The Writings, are not "inspired" in the Christian sense.
I'm not an expert, so this is a very general statement.
I thought that was amusing that the author of this article should say that....
The word 'Torah' means 'teachings'.
(Initial letters modidify the root in Hebrew, so 'mOReH' means 'teacher' and 'mesORaH' means 'tradition', etc.).
As a result of the language itself, 'Torah' means far more the the Five Books of Moses, or even the whole of the Jewish Bible, which is a strict hierarchy of three parts; Five Books of Moses, Prophets, and Writings.
Christians muddle this hierarchy, or turn it upside down, in order to justify their additions and modifications as well as interpretations.
I would not say a legit follower of Christ would do that, it was the opposition that wanted to cause stumbling blocks!
Every thing in your neck of woods is not hunky dory either there are a lot of references to missing Scripture in the OT as well as the NT!
The so-called lost books of the Bible are those documents that are mentioned in the Bible in such a way that it is evident they are considered authentic and valuable, but that are not found in the Bible today.
Sometimes called missing scripture, they consist of at least the following: book of the Wars of the Lord (Num. 21: 14); book of Jasher (Josh. 10: 13; 2 Sam. 1: 18); book of the acts of Solomon (1 Kgs. 11: 41); book of Samuel the seer (1 Chr. 29: 29); book of Gad the seer (1 Chr. 29: 29); book of Nathan the prophet (1 Chr. 29: 29; 2 Chr. 9: 29); prophecy of Ahijah (2 Chr. 9: 29); visions of Iddo the seer (2 Chr. 9: 29; 2 Chr. 12: 15; 2 Chr. 13: 22); book of Shemaiah (2 Chr. 12: 15); book of Jehu (2 Chr. 20: 34); sayings of the seers (2 Chr. 33: 19); an epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, earlier than our present 1 Corinthians (1 Cor. 5: 9); possibly an earlier epistle to the Ephesians (Eph. 3: 3); an epistle to the Church at Laodicea (Col. 4: 16); and some prophecies of Enoch, known to Jude (Jude 1: 14).
To these rather clear references to inspired writings other than our current Bible may be added another list that has allusions to writings that may or may not be contained within our present text, but may perhaps be known by a different title; for example, the book of the covenant (Ex. 24: 7), which may or may not be included in the current book of Exodus; the manner of the kingdom, written by Samuel (1 Sam. 10: 25); the rest of the acts of Uzziah written by Isaiah (2 Chr. 26: 22).
The foregoing items attest to the fact that our present Bible does not contain all of the word of the Lord that he gave to his people in former times, and remind us that the Bible, in its present form, is rather incomplete.
Matthews reference to a prophecy that Jesus would be a Nazarene (Matt. 2: 23) is interesting when it is considered that our present O.T. seems to have no statement as such. There is a possibility, however, that Matthew alluded to Isaiah 11: 1, which prophesies of the Messiah as a Branch from the root of Jesse, the father of David.
The Hebrew word for branch in this case is netzer, the source word of Nazarene and Nazareth. Additional references to the Branch as the Savior and Messiah are found in Jer. 23: 5; Jer. 33: 15; Zech. 3: 8; Zech. 6: 12; these use a synonymous Hebrew word for branch, tzemakh.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.