Archive for the ‘Amphilochius of Iconium’ Category

Were the Deuterocanonical Universally Accepted?

March 9, 2011

Some Roman apologists like to try to claim that Rome’s canon of Scripture is very ancient and well-settled. They are mistaken. Here’s one example

Now the story had a dramatic change, as the Pope stepped in to settle the matter. In concurrence with the opinion of St. Augustine, and being prompted by the Holy Spirit, Pope St. Damasus I, at the Council of Rome in 382, issued a decree appropriately called, “The Decree of Damasus”, in which he listed the canonical books of both the Old and New Testaments. He then asked St. Jerome to use this canon and to write a new Bible translation which included an Old Testament of 46 books, which were all in the Septuagint, and a New Testament of 27 books.


This kind of idea is exploded by the facts of history. I was discussing these facts of history with a Roman advocate (not sure if he would consider himself an apologist) over at the GreenBaggins blog. Since I took the time to provide some detailed answers to his comments, I thought it might be good to post them in sections here. To provide some context, I think it is important to provide some quotations that had been brought up in the original post and in the comment box.

First, a piece of the original post:

Gregory the Great [in] his commentary on Job, Book 19, chapter 34, … says that it is not irregular to quote for the church’s edification the books of the Apocrypha, as long as it is understood that they are not canonical. He then immediately retells the story from 1 Macc. 6:42-47 … . Gregory’s exact words are these: “De qua re non inordinate agimus, si ex libris, licet non canonicis, tamen ad aedificationem ecclesiae editis, testimonium proferamus” (emphasis added). The translation already linked renders it: “With reference to which particular we are not acting irregularly, if from the books, though not Canonical, yet brought out for the edifying of the Church, we bring forward testimony.” What immediately follows is from [First] Maccabees.

Next, here are two other patristic quotations that were provided to confirm, among other things, that Gregory the Great was not alone in his view of the non-canonical status of First Maccabees.

Amphilochius of Iconium (373-394 A.D.) on the OT Canon: Besides this, it is most important that you know this also: not everything is to be considered certain which offers itself as venerable Scripture. For there are those written by false men—as is sometimes done. As regards books, there are several which are intermediate and near to the doctrine of truth, so to speak but there are others, however, which are spurious and extremely dangerous, like false seals and spurious coins, which do indeed have the inscription of the king, but which are counterfeit, and made out of base material. On account of this, then, I shall enumerate for you the individual books inspired by the Holy Spirit, and in order that you may know the thing clearly, I will begin with the books of the Old Testament. The Pentateuch contains Genesis, then Exodus, Leviticus, which is the middle book, after that Numbers and finally Deuteronomy. To these add Joshua and Judges; after these Ruth and the four books of Kings, Paralipomenon equal to one book; following these first and second Esdras. Next I will recall to you five books: the book of Job, crowned by the struggles of various calamities; also the book of Psalms, the musical remedy of the soul; the three books of the Wisdom of Solomon, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, and the Canticle of Canticles. I add to these the twelve prophets, first Hosea, then Amos, and after that Michah, Joel, Abdiah, and Jonah, the type of the three days of the Passion, after these Nahum, Habacuc, then the ninth Sophonias, Haggai and Zachariah and the angel with two names, Malachi. After these, know the other prophets thus far to be four: the great and undaunted Isaiah, Jeremiah, inclined to mercy, and the mystic Ezechiel, and Daniel, most wise in the happenings of the Last Things, and some add Esther to these. Translation by Catherine Kavanaugh, University of Notre Dame in William Webster, Holy Scripture, the Ground and Pillar of Our Faith, Vol. 2 (Battle Ground, WA: Christian Resources Inc., 2001), p. 353.

Greek text: Πλὴν ἀλλʼ ἐκεῖνο προμαθεῖν μάλιστά σοι Προσῆκον· οὐχ ἅπασα βίβλος ἀσφαλὴς ἡ σεμνὸν ὄνομα τῆς γραφῆς κεκτημένη. εἰσὶν γάρ, εἰσὶν ἔσθʼ ὅτε ψευδώνυμοι βίβλοι· τινὲς μὲν ἔμμεσοι καὶ γείτονες, ὡς ἄν τις εἴποι, τῶν ἀληθείας λόγων. αἱ δ’ αὖ νόθοι τε καὶ λίαν ἐπισφαλεῖς ὥσπερ παράσημα καὶ νόθα νομίσματα, ἃ βασιλέως μὲν τὴν ἐπιγραφὴν ἔχει, κίβδηλα δ’ ἐστί, ταῖς ὕλαις δολούμενα. Τούτων χάριν σοι τῶν θεοπνεύστων ἐρῶ βίβλων ἑκάστην· ὡς δ’ ἂν εὐκρινῶς μάθῃς, Τὰς τῆς Παλαιᾶς πρῶτα διαθήκης ἐρῶ. Ἡ Πεντάτευχος τὴν Κτίσιν, εἶτʼ Ἔξοδον, Λευιτικὸν δὲ τὴν μέσην βίβλον ἔχει, μεθʼ ἣν Ἀριθμούς, εἶτα Δευτερονόμιον. Τούτοις Ἰησοῦν προστίθει καὶ τοὺς Κριτάς, Ἔπειτα τὴν Ῥοὺθ βασιλειῶν τε τέσσαρας βίβλους, παραλειπομένων δέ γε ξυνωρίδα. Ἔσδρας ἐπ’ αὐταῖς πρῶτος, εἶθ’ ὁ δεύτερος. ἑξῆς στιχηρὰς πέντε σοι βίβλους ἐρῶ· στεφθέντος ἄθλοις ποικίλων παθῶν Ἰὼβ ψαλμῶν τε βίβλον, ἐμμελὲς ψυχῶν ἄκος, τρεῖς δ’ αὖ Σολομῶντος τοῦ σοφοῦ, παροιμίας, ἐκκλησιαστὴν ᾆσμά τε τῶν ᾀσμάτων. ταύταις προφήτας προστίθει τοὺς δώδεκα, Ὠσηὲ πρῶτον, εἶτʼ Ἀμὼς τὸν δεύτερον, Μιχαίαν, Ἰωήλ, Ἀβδίαν καὶ τὸν τύπον Ἰωνᾶν αὐτοῦ τοῦ τριημέρου πάθους, Ναοὺμ μετʼ αὐτούς, Ἀββακούμ, εἶτʼ εἴνατον Σοφονίαν, Ἀγγαῖόν τε καὶ Ζαχαρίαν διώνυμόν τε ἄγγελον Μαλαχίαν. Μεθʼ οὓς προφήτας μάνθανε τοὺς τέσσαρας, παρρησιαστὴν τὸν μέγαν Ἠσαίαν Ἱερεμίαν τε συμπαθῆ, καὶ μυστικὸν Ἰεζεκιήλ, ἔσχατον δὲ Δανιήλ, τὸν αὐτὸν ἔργοις καὶ λόγοις σοφώτατον. τούτοις προσεγκρίνουσι τὴν Ἐσθήρ τινες. Iambi ad Seleucum, PG 37:1594-1595. (This is found among the corpus of Gregory of Nazianzus in Migne).

And the second is like it:

Gregory of Nazianzus (329/330-389) on the OT Canon: Let not your mind be deceived about extraneous books (for many false ascriptions are making the rounds), but you should hold to this legitimate number from me, dear reader. Receive the number and names of the holy books. First the twelve historical books in order: first is Genesis, then Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and the testament of the law repeated again; Joshua, Judges and Ruth the Moabitess follow these; after this the famous deeds of Kings holds the ninth and tenth place; the Chronicles comes in the eleventh place, and Ezra is last. There are also five poetic books, first of which is Job, the one next to it is King David’s, and three of Solomon, namely Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, and his Song. After these come five books of the holy prophets, of which twelve are contained in one volume: Hosea, Amos, and Micah the third, then Joel, next Jonah, Obadiah, Nahum also, Habakkuk also, and Zephaniah, Haggai, next Zechariah, Malachai, these are in the first book; the second contains Isaiah. After these is Jeremiah, called from his mother’s womb, then Ezekiel, strength of the Lord, and Daniel last. These twenty-two books of the Old Testament are counted according to the twenty-two letters of the Jews. Translation by Dr. Michael Woodward, Associate Library Director, Archbishop Vehr Tehological Library in William Webster, Holy Scripture, the Ground and Pillar of Our Faith, Vol. 2 (Battle Ground, WA: Christian Resources Inc., 2001), pp. 351-352. Cf. also William Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 2, p. 42.

Greek text: Ὄφρα δὲ μὴ ξείνῃσι νόον κλέπτοιο βίβλοισι, (Πολλαὶ γὰρ τελέθουσι παρέγγραπτοι κακότητες), Δέχνυσο τοῦτον ἐμεῖο τὸν ἔγκριτον, ὦ φίλʼ, ἀριθμόν. Ἱστορικαὶ μὲν ἔασι βίβλοι δυοκαίδεκα πᾶσαι Τῆς ἀρχαιοτέρης Ἑβραϊκῆς σοφίης. 473 Πρωτίστη, Γένεσις, εἶτʼ Ἔξοδος, Λευιτικόν τε. Ἔπειτʼ Ἀριθμοί. Εἶτα Δεύτερος Νόμος. Ἔπειτʼ Ἰησοῦς, καὶ Κριταί. Ῥοὺθ ὀγδόη. Ἡ δ’ ἐνάτη δεκάτη τε βίβλοι, Πράξεις βασιλήων, Καὶ Παραλειπόμεναι. Ἔσχατον Ἔσδραν ἔχεις. Αἱ δὲ στιχηραὶ πέντε, ὧν πρῶτός γ’ Ἰώβ· Ἔπειτα Δαυΐδ· εἶτα τρεῖς Σολομωντίαι· Ἐκκλησιαστὴς, Ἄσμα καὶ Παροιμίαι. Καὶ πένθ’ ὁμοίως Πνεύματος προφητικοῦ. Μίαν μέν εἰσιν ἐς γραφὴν οἱ δώδεκα· Ὠσηὲ κ’ Ἀμὼς, καὶ Μιχαίας ὁ τρίτος· Ἔπειτʼ Ἰωὴλ, εἶτʼ Ἰωνᾶς, Ἀβδίας, Ναούμ τε, Ἀββακούμ τε, καὶ Σοφονίας, Ἀγγαῖος, εἶτα Ζαχαρίας, Μαλαχίας. Μία μὲν οἵδε. Δευτέρα δ’ Ἡσαΐας. Ἔπειθʼ ὁ κληθεὶς Ἱερεμίας ἐκ βρέφους. Εἶτʼ Ἰεζεκιὴλ, καὶ Δανιήλου χάρις. Ἀρχαίας μὲν ἔθηκα δύω καὶ εἴκοσι βίβλους, Τοῖς τῶν Ἑβραίων γράμμασιν ἀντιθέτους. Carmina dogmatica, Liber I, Section I, Carmen XII, PG 37:471-474.

The quotations above demonstrate that Maccabees not only wasn’t accepted universally before Hippo and Damasus, but it wasn’t accepted by Gregory the Great after that.

Perhaps Pope Gregory I (c. 540 – 12 March 604) was simply forgetful of this two hundred year old tradition of accepting the book as canonical. So, as a mere private theologian, he made a mistake. Never mind that he is one of the few bishops of Rome that is considered a church father.

He was probably also just amnesic when he denied, in effect, the later novelty of the immaculate conception, as documented here (link), but I digress.

Responding to me and the opening post, the Roman advocate (using the nick “dgor”) wrote: “However, after careful scrutiny of your arguments and quotes, something highly important jumped out at me: Most protestants use the word ‘Apocrypha’ with a capital A.”

Yes, that’s correct.

“This is deceiving because in all of your quotes of the early church fathers, when they are speaking of apocrypha, they mean it with a lowercase a.”

Some of the fathers simply say that the book is not canonical. We use the label “apocrypha” for non-canonical books, and “Apocrypha” usually for the group of books that Rome calls “deuterocanonical.”

“To elaborate, the connotation that Apocrypha carries today is the books in the Catholic bible that are not in the Protestant bible. Namely:Tobit Judith Wisdom Ecclesiasticus Baruch First and Second Maccabees and Additions to Esther and Daniel.”

Yes. Also, some additional books are also frequently included in the apocrypha, such as Psalm 151, 3rd and 4th Maccabees, and what are called “3rd and 4th Esdras” in the Latin tradition or Esdras A and G in the Greek tradition (1st and 2nd Esdras in the KJV).

“However, when early church fathers speak of apocrypha, they are not referring to these books as apocrypha, since these books were already accepted at Hippo.”

The first part of your sentence may be correct, in that we shouldn’t automatically assume that “apocrypha” refers to the Apocrypha, since it sometimes refers to the New Testament apocrypha, such as the Gnostic gospels. The latter part about Hippo is nearly completely irrelevant outside of North Africa from the 5th century to the 6th century, and is certainly totally irrelevant before the 5th century (since Hippo didn’t meet until about the turn of the 5th century).

Moreover, as noted above, Gregory the Great obviously rejected Maccabees after Hippo, so despite some people later adopting the canon of Hippo, it is clear that it was not universally accepted.

“Instead they refer to the word apocrypha in its original Greek meaning of hidden or esoteric. There are a great many books that fall into this ‘esoteric,’ denotative, ‘lowercase a’ category which claim to contain hidden knowledge for man’s salvation (Gospel of Thomas, Nicodemus, 1,2 Esdras…)”

a) In general, right – see above.

b) Actually Hippo accepted Esdras A and B (1st, 2nd and 3rd Esdras according to the Latin enumeration). We (Reformed) accept Esdras B (1st and 2nd Esdras) and reject Esdras A (3rd Esdras) as Old Testament apocrypha, although we can see evidence that the North Africans (particularly Augustine) accepted it.

c) What the KJV labels 1 & 2 Esdras would not typically be what the ECFs had in mind regarding the term “apocrypha” (the few who used that term), and – as noted above – it appears that Hippo accepted as “2nd Esdras” what the KJV calls “1 Esdras” and what came to be known in the Latin Bible as 3rd Esdras.

“These clearly contradict other biblical teaching and were thus rejected from being called inspired at Hippo.”

There are a lot of reasons that the apocrypha were rejected, not simply contradiction. But there were reasons. Hippo didn’t just write down some oral tradition that Paul had given the Thessalonians.

“These are the books that the early fathers are referring to when they speak of apocrypha, because they use the word apocrypha in its denotative sense.”

Yes, they may typically refer to the New Testament apocrypha (if I recall correctly, it’s not like there is an abundance of usages of that term). I haven’t done a statistical study to confirm this, but it sounds about right as far as typical usage goes. The typical usage would decide the denotative sense, not vice versa.

“It is a little word trick that you use when you say that the fathers reject the capital A Apocrypha, because they accepted the capital A apocrypha at Hippo.”

a) That seems like a false accusation (like your initial claim that “This is deceiving”). We haven’t quoted a father saying “apocrypha” and told you it means “Apocrypha.” The opening post used the term “Apocrypha,” but not as part of a quotation from Gregory the Great.

b) You put far too much weight on Hippo, as though it were a universal council. It was not. It was a regional council.

c) They only accepted part of the “Apocrypha” at Hippo. They didn’t accept 3rd and 4th Maccabbees, for example.

“Since these were in the canon already, it is obvious that they would not be referring to these books as apocryphal and stating that they had no place in the canon.”

I’ve mostly addressed this above. Some of the fathers I’ve quoted to you came before Hippo. None of the one’s I’ve quoted to you use the word “apocrypha,” and Gregory clearly rejects Hippo’s judgment (whether or not he even had heard of it), although he comes after Hippo.

“In short, what the early church fathers called apocrypha and what you call Apocrypha are two completely different things.”

Which is irrelevant to the point we’re making, as noted above.

“Whereas the early fathers overwhelmingly accepted Tobit Judith Wisdom Ecclesiasticus Baruch First and Second Maccabees and Additions to Esther and Daniel, and did not and would NOT have classified them as apocryphal, you have named all the books that you reject Apocrypha and have managed to call two completely separate concepts by the same name and assign new and unintended meaning to church father writing.”

a) Again, this is a false accusation. Look above. Did we quote any father using the word “apocrypha” and then told you it means “Apocrypha”? No.

b) We have given you concrete examples of fathers who did not view those other books as canonical. You can make statistical claims, but you and I both know you don’t have any polls of 4th century fathers to determine what they accepted and did not accept.

I could add to the list above another father who recognizes that the canon of the Old Testament was 22 Hebrew books (one for each letter of the alphabet):

There are, then, of the Old Testament, twenty-two books in number; for, as I have heard, it is handed down that this is the number of the letters among the Hebrews; their respective order and names being as follows. The first is Genesis, then Exodus, next Leviticus, after that Numbers, and then Deuteronomy. Following these there is Joshua, the son of Nun, then Judges, then Ruth. And again, after these four books of Kings, the first and second being reckoned as one book, and so likewise the third and fourth as one book. And again, the first and second of the Chronicles are reckoned as one book. Again Ezra, the first and second are similarly one book. After these there is the book of Psalms, then the Proverbs, next Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs. Job follows, then the Prophets, the twelve being reckoned as one book. Then Isaiah, one book, then Jeremiah with Baruch, Lamentations, and the epistle, one book; afterwards, Ezekiel and Daniel, each one book. Thus far constitutes the Old Testament.

Athanasius (293-373), 39th Festal Letter (dated to A.D. 367)

You’ll notice that while Athanasius accepts apocryphal additions to Jeremiah (aka “Baruch” and “the epistle”), he rejects the apocryphal books of Judith, Tobit, and Maccabees. Perhaps you don’t think it’s enough for him to simply leave them out. Well, later on in the same letter, you’ll find this:

7. But for greater exactness I add this also, writing of necessity; that there are other books besides these not indeed included in the Canon, but appointed by the Fathers to be read by those who newly join us, and who wish for instruction in the word of godliness. The Wisdom of Solomon, and the Wisdom of Sirach, and Esther, and Judith, and Tobit, and that which is called the Teaching of the Apostles, and the Shepherd. But the former, my brethren, are included in the Canon, the latter being [merely] read; nor is there in any place a mention of apocryphal writings. But they are an invention of heretics, who write them when they choose, bestowing upon them their approbation, and assigning to them a date, that so, using them as ancient writings, they may find occasion to lead astray the simple.


Now notice that this is the first time I’ve quoted a father using the term “apocrypha,” and here he is using that book for other books that Judith and Tobit. Moreover, notice that he has erroneously left out Esther from the Hebrew canon, and placed it among the non-inspired works.

Nevertheless, despite using the word “apocrypha” in a way that is just as you said, Athanasius still manages to reject the books of the Apocrypha (although presumably not the additions to the canonical books).

“They would have rejected the gospel of Thomas and Esras 1,2 (books such as these were what were called apocrypha); most certainly not Maccabees or Baruch.”

Baruch was viewed as a part of Jeremiah. We have evidence of the rejection of Maccabees by a number of prominent fathers already, including Athanasius (before Hippo) and Gregory the Great (after Hippo). The comment about “Esras 1,2” seems to be confused, but that’s already been addressed above.

(to be continued in part 2)


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