Archive for the ‘Apocrypha’ Category

Responses to Miscellaneous Canon Questions and Objections

May 17, 2014
1) What is the canon? Is it an “authoritative list of books”?
It’s better to think of the canon as the list of authoritative books. An official canon may itself be in some sense authoritative, but in that case it is an authoritative list of authoritative books. Even before any “authority” pronounces what the list is, the books have authority and are to be included in the list because of their authority, not because of the authority of the person or group making the list.  Thus, a canon list can be wrong.
2) Were the books of Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of ben Sirach, Wisdom of Solomon, and 1 & 2 Maccabees as well as the parts of books such as Baruch, the Epistle of Jeremiah, the Prayer of Azarias, Susanna, Bel and the Dragon, and six additional chapters in Esther, part of the Jewish canon? 
No.  The evidence is that they were not.  That’s especially true of the Wisdom of Solomon, which wasn’t even written in Hebrew or Aramaic.
3) Were they only excluded in the 2nd century A.D. in reaction to Christian usage of the Old Testament? 
a) It’s hard to argue that the Samaritans excluded them on that ground.  They apparently only viewed the Pentateuch as canonical.  Some have asserted that the Saducees agreed with them.
b) Likewise, it’s hard to explain the first century Pharisees’ exclusion of them on that ground.
c) In fact, what is the supposed documentation? Is it just that they were rejected together with the New Testament books?
4) Was the Old Testament canon closed in the 1st century?
It may not have been closed in the sense of not being open to future additions, but it was closed in the sense of having an identifiable group of already-written books associated with the word “Scripture.”  When Jesus said, “Search the Scriptures,” the Pharisees didn’t say “and what books are those?”
5) Objection: “There’s no list closing the canon, before Christ.”
Even if no such list exists, what difference does that make?  The argument seems to presuppose that one needs to have an authoritative list, in order for the canon to have definite shape.
6) Objection: “The three-fold division (in Sirach and in the NT) just refers to three stages of canon development and the ‘the writings’ category was an open one”
This argument hinges on the assertion that the “writings” category was still open, but where is the documentation to support this assertion?  On the contrary, the usage in Sirach and the New Testament seems to point to a fixed body of known works.
7) Objection: “Although the deutero-canonicals are not cited as Scripture in the New Testament there is reliance on them and some of the proto-canonicals are also not cited.”
a) This, incidentally, is an undercutting argument with respect to item (3) above, about the reason for Jewish rejection being Christian acceptance.
b) It’s just one evidence that the deuteros are not canonical.  It’s not in itself the definitive proof.
c) There are good reason for including the unquoted protocanonicals.
8) Objection: “Hebrews 11 mentions martyrs of 2 Mac. 7”
Even assuming it does refer to them, there is no particular reason to infer canonicity of an historical account of those people’s life.
9) Did Athanasius accept the Deuterocanonical books as inspired?  Did he just use the term “canon” differently?
His Festal Letter 39 puts that debate to rest (source):

4. 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.
5. Again it is not tedious to speak of the [books] of the New Testament. These are, the four Gospels, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Afterwards, the Acts of the Apostles and Epistles (called Catholic), seven, viz. of James, one; of Peter, two; of John, three; after these, one of Jude. In addition, there are fourteen Epistles of Paul, written in this order. The first, to the Romans; then two to the Corinthians; after these, to the Galatians; next, to the Ephesians; then to the Philippians; then to the Colossians; after these, two to the Thessalonians, and that to the Hebrews; and again, two to Timothy; one to Titus; and lastly, that to Philemon. And besides, the Revelation of John.
6. These are fountains of salvation, that they who thirst may be satisfied with the living words they contain. In these alone is proclaimed the doctrine of godliness. Let no man add to these, neither let him take ought from these. For concerning these the Lord put to shame the Sadducees, and said, ‘Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures.’ And He reproved the Jews, saying, ‘Search the Scriptures, for these are they that testify of Me.’
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.

Notice that Athanasius treats Esther as Deuterocanonical and that Athanasius thinks that Baruch and the Epistle of Jeremiah were parts of Jeremiah.  So, Athanasius’ canon is not exactly the same as our canon.  It is interesting to note that we see a reckoning of 22 books here.  Others in the West have suggested the enumeration was 24 (link to discussion).  While the lists don’t all agree with one another exactly, the Deuterocanonicals and Esther are the books that tend to be omitted from the list.  We have good reasons to keep Esther, but we don’t have good reasons to the Deuterocanonicals.

Tobit – One Reason to Reject its Alleged Canonicity

June 18, 2012

The book of Tobit is told from a first person perspective by a man called “Tobit.” The book begins: “The book of the words of Tobit, son of Tobiel, the son of Ananiel, the son of Aduel, the son of Gabael, of the seed of Asael, of the tribe of Nephthali …” (Tobit 1:1). One reason to reject the canonicity of the book of Tobit is that Tobit seems to have a very foreshortened view of Israel’s history, even when it comes to his own autobiography.

“Tobit” continues the self-description above with this: “Who in the time of Enemessar king of the Assyrians was led captive out of Thisbe, which is at the right hand of that city, which is called properly Nephthali in Galilee above Aser.” (Tobit 1:2)

The very first issue is trying to identify this supposed king of the Assyrians. The Assyrians don’t have one by exactly this name, but the best guess we have about who the author of Tobit was trying to identify is this event:

2 Kings 17:1-12

1 In the twelfth year of Ahaz king of Judah began Hoshea the son of Elah to reign in Samaria over Israel nine years. 2 And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, but not as the kings of Israel that were before him. 3 Against him came up Shalmaneser king of Assyria; and Hoshea became his servant, and gave him presents. 4 And the king of Assyria found conspiracy in Hoshea: for he had sent messengers to So king of Egypt, and brought no present to the king of Assyria, as he had done year by year: therefore the king of Assyria shut him up, and bound him in prison.

5 Then the king of Assyria came up throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria, and besieged it three years. 6 In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria took Samaria, and carried Israel away into Assyria, and placed them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.

7 For so it was, that the children of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, which had brought them up out of the land of Egypt, from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and had feared other gods, 8 And walked in the statutes of the heathen, whom the Lord cast out from before the children of Israel, and of the kings of Israel, which they had made. 9 And the children of Israel did secretly those things that were not right against the Lord their God, and they built them high places in all their cities, from the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city. 10 And they set them up images and groves in every high hill, and under every green tree: 11 And there they burnt incense in all the high places, as did the heathen whom the Lord carried away before them; and wrought wicked things to provoke the Lord to anger: 12 For they served idols, whereof the Lord had said unto them, Ye shall not do this thing.

The twelfth year of Ahaz corresponds to about 728 B.C.

On the other hand, the Scriptures tell us that people of Naphtali were carried off by Tiglathpileser:

2 Kings 15:29

In the days of Pekah king of Israel came Tiglathpileser king of Assyria, and took Ijon, and Abelbethmaachah, and Janoah, and Kedesh, and Hazor, and Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali, and carried them captive to Assyria.

(approximately 758–737 BC)

Notice that the captivity mentioned there includes Galilee, which is the region that Tobit claims to have haled from.

Even if we somehow blend out these seeming inconsistencies, we are left with a man who was around in the 8th century B.C.

Moreover, Tobit claims that it was in his youth that Naphtali fell out with all the tribes from worshiping God in Jerusalem.

Tobit 1:4-5

4 And when I was in mine own country, in the land of Israel being but young, all the tribe of Nephthali my father fell from the house of Jerusalem, which was chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, that all the tribes should sacrifice there, where the temple of the habitation of the most High was consecrated and built for all ages. 5 Now all the tribes which together revolted, and the house of my father Nephthali, sacrificed unto the heifer Baal.

There are a couple of problems with this. Primarily, the problem is that this is an event that took place in the time of Rehoboam, son of Solomon. That date is roughly 961 B.C. Secondarily, the problem is that although the people of Naphtali sacrificed to the calf and to Baal, those are really two different things (as can be seen in 2 Kings 17, above).

As you can see, this would imply that Tobit was about 200 years old.

But Tobit tells us his total age.

Tobit 14:1-11

1 So Tobit made an end of praising God. 2 And he was eight and fifty years old when he lost his sight, which was restored to him after eight years: and he gave alms, and he increased in the fear of the Lord God, and praised him. 3 And when he was very aged he called his son, and the sons of his son, and said to him, My son, take thy children; for, behold, I am aged, and am ready to depart out of this life. 4 Go into Media my son, for I surely believe those things which Jonas the prophet spake of Nineve, that it shall be overthrown; and that for a time peace shall rather be in Media; and that our brethren shall lie scattered in the earth from that good land: and Jerusalem shall be desolate, and the house of God in it shall be burned, and shall be desolate for a time; 5 And that again God will have mercy on them, and bring them again into the land, where they shall build a temple, but not like to the first, until the time of that age be fulfilled; and afterward they shall return from all places of their captivity, and build up Jerusalem gloriously, and the house of God shall be built in it for ever with a glorious building, as the prophets have spoken thereof. 6 And all nations shall turn, and fear the Lord God truly, and shall bury their idols. 7 So shall all nations praise the Lord, and his people shall confess God, and the Lord shall exalt his people; and all those which love the Lord God in truth and justice shall rejoice, shewing mercy to our brethren. 8 And now, my son, depart out of Nineve, because that those things which the prophet Jonas spake shall surely come to pass. 9 But keep thou the law and the commandments, and shew thyself merciful and just, that it may go well with thee. 10 And bury me decently, and thy mother with me; but tarry no longer at Nineve. Remember, my son, how Aman handled Achiacharus that brought him up, how out of light he brought him into darkness, and how he rewarded him again: yet Achiacharus was saved, but the other had his reward: for he went down into darkness. Manasses gave alms, and escaped the snares of death which they had set for him: but Aman fell into the snare, and perished. 11 Wherefore now, my son, consider what alms doeth, and how righteousness doth deliver. When he had said these things, he gave up the ghost in the bed, being an hundred and eight and fifty years old; and he buried him honourably.

So, Tobit was 158 when he died. Moreover, Tobit was only 85 when he went blind. But Tobit went blind after the captivity. Tobit 2 explains, Tobit 2:1-10:

1 Now when I was come home again, and my wife Anna was restored unto me, with my son Tobias, in the feast of Pentecost, which is the holy feast of the seven weeks, there was a good dinner prepared me, in the which I sat down to eat. 2 And when I saw abundance of meat, I said to my son, Go and bring what poor man soever thou shalt find out of our brethren, who is mindful of the Lord; and, lo, I tarry for thee. 3 But he came again, and said, Father, one of our nation is strangled, and is cast out in the marketplace. 4 Then before I had tasted of any meat, I started up, and took him up into a room until the going down of the sun. 5 Then I returned, and washed myself, and ate my meat in heaviness, 6 Remembering that prophecy of Amos, as he said, Your feasts shall be turned into mourning, and all your mirth into lamentation. 7 Therefore I wept: and after the going down of the sun I went and made a grave, and buried him. 8 But my neighbours mocked me, and said, This man is not yet afraid to be put to death for this matter: who fled away; and yet, lo, he burieth the dead again. 9 The same night also I returned from the burial, and slept by the wall of my courtyard, being polluted and my face was uncovered: 10 And I knew not that there were sparrows in the wall, and mine eyes being open, the sparrows muted warm dung into mine eyes, and a whiteness came in mine eyes: and I went to the physicians, but they helped me not: moreover Achiacharus did nourish me, until I went into Elymais.

Note as well that he refers in this passage to remembering the prophecy of Amos, but Amos prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah of Judah and Jeroboam II of Israel:

Amos 1:1 1 The words of Amos, who was among the herdmen of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.

This is in a window from about 808-770 B.C. So, this window begins more than 100 years after division of the kingdoms, making it impossible for a man who was 85 to have been around at the time of the division of the kingdoms.

There are more issues with Tobit’s history than this (for example, Senacharib seems to be inaccurately described), but this is one glaring issue.


Did Jesus Quote from the Apocrypha?

March 17, 2011

I introduced this short series in a previous segment (link). In brief, I’m responding to a Roman advocate who wrote under the handle or nick, “dgor.” In this segment, I’m responding to the issue of whether Jesus quoted from the Apocrypha.

Up front, I should note that there are two reasons that this argument is really a secondary argument. On the one hand, even if Jesus had quoted from them, simply quoting from something doesn’t mean that one is placing that thing within the canon. What would matter is if Jesus had said, “As the Scriptures say …” followed by a quotation from the Apocrypha. That he never does.

On the other hand, simply failing to quote from something doesn’t (in itself) mean that the thing is outside the canon. For example, we may not be able to find any places where the New Testament (much less Jesus himself) quotes from Esther – yet Esther is canonical.

With those caveats, still it is the case that Jesus never quoted from the Apocrypha, as I explain below. This lessens the chances that the Apocrypha are Scripture, although obviously it falls short of absolute proof.

Moreover, there is some merit in providing this response in that the Roman advocate wasn’t being original. He was just cutting and pasting a typical list one can find on various websites, such as the following (example 1)(example 2).

dgor wrote: “In fact, Jesus quotes from deuterocanonical books (books that you call Apocrypha, but which Catholics accept) numerous times:”

This is a common myth, but as we will see below, it is just a myth.

Let’s examine the alleged evidence:

(1) “Matt. 6:19-20 – Jesus’ statement about laying up for yourselves treasure in heaven follows Sirach 29:11 – lay up your treasure.”

This is probably the strongest example that we will see in the list. Moreover, there may be a similarity of expression in that “lay up” and “treasure” (and even “rust”) are present, but in Sirach 29 the “treasure” is literal treasure, whereas in Matthew 6 there is a contrast between carnal and spiritual treasure. Compare:

Sirach 29:9-13
Help the poor for the commandment’s sake, and turn him not away because of his poverty. Lose thy money for thy brother and thy friend, and let it not rust under a stone to be lost. Lay up thy treasure according to the commandments of the most High, and it shall bring thee more profit than gold. Shut up alms in thy storehouses: and it shall deliver thee from all affliction. It shall fight for thee against thine enemies better than a mighty shield and strong spear.


Matthew 6:19-21
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

It’s neither a quotation nor a clear allusion.

Moreover, Sirach’s comment about obedience to God’s commandments being better than gold is itself derivable from the canonical Scriptures:

Psalm 19:7-11
The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.

And the command referenced in Sirach is found in the canonical Scriptures as well:

Deuteronomy 15:7-11
If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother: but thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth. Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the LORD against thee, and it be sin unto thee. Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto. For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.

Moreover, the principle expressed can be found in the canonical Scriptures as well:

Proverbs 10:2 Treasures of wickedness profit nothing: but righteousness delivereth from death.

(2) “Matt.. 7:12 – Jesus’ golden rule “do unto others” is the converse of Tobit 4:15 – what you hate, do not do to others.”

First, of course, this is definitely not a quotation, since, as dgor acknowledged, it is a sort of mirror image approach to the question.

Tobit 4:15 Do that to no man which thou hatest: drink not wine to make thee drunken: neither let drunkenness go with thee in thy journey.

Second, the source of Jesus’ words is explained – it is a summary of the law and the prophets:

Matthew 7:12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

(3) “Matt. 7:16,20 – Jesus’ statement “you will know them by their fruits” follows Sirach 27:6 – the fruit discloses the cultivation.”

Again, this is not a quotation. Moreover, while it is a similar idea, it is not same idea.

Sirach 27:6 The fruit declareth if the tree have been dressed; so is the utterance of a conceit in the heart of man.


Matthew 7:16-20
Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

Notice the difference. Jesus is not referring her to how the tree has been cultivated, but to what sort of plant it is. A more similar thought is found in the canonical Scriptures:

Isaiah 5:1-4
Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill: and he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?

(4) “Matt. 9:36 – the people were “like sheep without a shepherd” is same as Judith 11:19 – sheep without a shepherd.”

The shepherd-less sheep imagery isn’t being quoted from Judith, and the imagery has multiple canonical examples:

Numbers 27:17 Which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the LORD be not as sheep which have no shepherd.

1 Kings 22:17 And he said, I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd: and the LORD said, These have no master: let them return every man to his house in peace.

2 Chronicles 18:16 Then he said, I did see all Israel scattered upon the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd: and the LORD said, These have no master; let them return therefore every man to his house in peace.

By way of contrast:

Judith 11:19 And I will lead thee through the midst of Judea, until thou come before Jerusalem; and I will set thy throne in the midst thereof; and thou shalt drive them as sheep that have no shepherd, and a dog shall not so much as open his mouth at thee: for these things were told me according to my foreknowledge, and they were declared unto me, and I am sent to tell thee.

But the passage in Matthew states:

Matthew 9:36 But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.

And, of course, this is not Jesus speaking, much less quoting. And yet the most clear canonical reference is this:

Ezekiel 34:5-10 And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them. Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; as I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock; therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them.

(5) “Matt. 11:25 – Jesus’ description “Lord of heaven and earth” is the same as Tobit 7:18 – Lord of heaven and earth.”

Like the “sheep with no shepherd” them, the theme of God being the Lord of heaven and earth is similarly a widespread theme.

Psalm 115:15 Ye are blessed of the LORD which made heaven and earth.
Psalm 121:2 My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.
Isaiah 37:16 O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, that dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth: thou hast made heaven and earth.
Isaiah 66:1 Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?

Moreover, one not only finds this theme in Tobit 7:18:

Tobit 7:18 Be of good comfort, my daughter; the Lord of heaven and earth give thee joy for this thy sorrow: be of good comfort, my daughter.

But one also finds it in Judith 9:12:

Judith 9:12 I pray thee, I pray thee, O God of my father, and God of the inheritance of Israel, Lord of the heavens and earth, Creator of the waters, king of every creature, hear thou my prayer:

And in Matthew 11:25, it is clearly not a quotation of either of those passages of the Apocrypha:

Matthew 11:25-26 At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.

(6) “Matt. 12:42 – Jesus refers to the wisdom of Solomon which was recorded and made part of the deuterocanonical books.”

No. He refers to the actual wisdom of Solomon, not the book given the name “the wisdom of Solomon.”

Matthew 12:42 The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.

The account of this can be found in the canonical Scriptures:

1 Kings 10:1-13
And when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD, she came to prove him with hard questions. And she came to Jerusalem with a very great train, with camels that bare spices, and very much gold, and precious stones: and when she was come to Solomon, she communed with him of all that was in her heart. And Solomon told her all her questions: there was not any thing hid from the king, which he told her not. And when the queen of Sheba had seen all Solomon’s wisdom, and the house that he had built, and the meat of his table, and the sitting of his servants, and the attendance of his ministers, and their apparel, and his cupbearers, and his ascent by which he went up unto the house of the LORD; there was no more spirit in her. And she said to the king, It was a true report that I heard in mine own land of thy acts and of thy wisdom. Howbeit I believed not the words, until I came, and mine eyes had seen it: and, behold, the half was not told me: thy wisdom and prosperity exceedeth the fame which I heard. Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom. Blessed be the LORD thy God, which delighted in thee, to set thee on the throne of Israel: because the LORD loved Israel for ever, therefore made he thee king, to do judgment and justice. And she gave the king an hundred and twenty talents of gold, and of spices very great store, and precious stones: there came no more such abundance of spices as these which the queen of Sheba gave to king Solomon. And the navy also of Hiram, that brought gold from Ophir, brought in from Ophir great plenty of almug trees, and precious stones.
1Ki 10:12 And the king made of the almug trees pillars for the house of the LORD, and for the king’s house, harps also and psalteries for singers: there came no such almug trees, nor were seen unto this day. And king Solomon gave unto the queen of Sheba all her desire, whatsoever she asked, beside that which Solomon gave her of his royal bounty. So she turned and went to her own country, she and her servants.

(7) “Matt. 16:18 – Jesus’ reference to the “power of death” and “gates of Hades” references Wisdom 16:13.”

Mat 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Matthew 16:18 does indeed use the expression the “gates of hell” which is the same as in the passage that dgor identified:

Wisdom 16:13 For thou hast power of life and death: thou leadest to the gates of hell, and bringest up again.

But the “power of … death” is only in Wisdom 16. While I agree that the gates of hell actually refer to the same concept in both cases (the “gates of hell shall not prevail” refers to the resurrection, not the conquering of anti-Christian forces), it’s amusing to observe how often the passage is used in the wrong way (especially by our Roman friends).

However, while the concept of “gates of hell” (meaning the power of death) may be the same, and while Jesus is making a similar claim to be able to raise the dead, still it seems a stretch to allege that Jesus is “quoting” from Wisdom 16:13 simply by using the same two-word phrase the same way.

(8) “Matt. 22:25; Mark 12:20; Luke 20:29 – Gospel writers refer to the canonicity of Tobit 3:8 and 7:11 regarding the seven brothers.”

No. This is way off. First, here is the account (in each of the three versions).

Matthew 22:23-32
The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him, “Saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother: likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh. And last of all the woman died also. Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her.” Jesus answered and said unto them, “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”

Mark 12:18-27
Then come unto him the Sadducees, which say there is no resurrection; and they asked him, saying, “Master, Moses wrote unto us, If a man’s brother die, and leave his wife behind him, and leave no children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. Now there were seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and dying left no seed. And the second took her, and died, neither left he any seed: and the third likewise. And the seven had her, and left no seed: last of all the woman died also. In the resurrection therefore, when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife.” And Jesus answering said unto them, “Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God? For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven. And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err.”

Luke 20:27-38
Then came to him certain of the Sadducees, which deny that there is any resurrection; and they asked him, saying, “Master, Moses wrote unto us, If any man’s brother die, having a wife, and he die without children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. There were therefore seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and died without children. And the second took her to wife, and he died childless. And the third took her; and in like manner the seven also: and they left no children, and died. Last of all the woman died also. Therefore in the resurrection whose wife of them is she? for seven had her to wife.” And Jesus answering said unto them, “The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: but they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection. Now that the dead are raised, even Moses shewed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him.”

Obviously, the reference to the seven husbands is not from Jesus at all, but from the Saducees. Moreover, it should be noted that the woman is not the same as the woman of Tobit 3:

Tobit 3:8 Because that she had been married to seven husbands, whom Asmodeus the evil spirit had killed, before they had lain with her. Dost thou not know, said they, that thou hast strangled thine husbands? thou hast had already seven husbands, neither wast thou named after any of them.

And interestingly, the woman of Tobit 7 (no need to decide if it is the same one, though it seems to be) was married to an eighth husband:

Tobit 7:9-14
So he communicated the matter with Raguel: and Raguel said to Tobias, Eat and drink, and make merry: for it is meet that thou shouldest marry my daughter: nevertheless I will declare unto thee the truth. I have given my daughter in marriage to seven men, who died that night they came in unto her: nevertheless for the present be merry. But Tobias said, I will eat nothing here, till we agree and swear one to another. Raguel said, Then take her from henceforth according to the manner, for thou art her cousin, and she is thine, and the merciful God give you good success in all things. Then he called his daughter Sara, and she came to her father, and he took her by the hand, and gave her to be wife to Tobias, saying, Behold, take her after the law of Moses, and lead her away to thy father. And he blessed them; and called Edna his wife, and took paper, and did write an instrument of covenants, and sealed it.

(9) “Matt. 24:15 – the “desolating sacrilege” Jesus refers to is also taken from 1 Macc. 1:54 and 2 Macc. 8:17.”

No. It is taken from Daniel, and 1&2 Maccabees would contradict Jesus’ words, if taken to refer to Daniel.

Matthew 24:15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)

Daniel 9:27 And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.

In fact, to the extent that 1&2 Maccabees aim to make reference to Daniel’s account, they appear to contradict the words of the Lord:

1 Maccabees 1:54-55
Now the fifteenth day of the month Casleu, in the hundred forty and fifth year, they set up the abomination of desolation upon the altar, and builded idol altars throughout the cities of Juda on every side; and burnt incense at the doors of their houses, and in the streets.

2 Maccabees 8:16-18
So Maccabeus called his men together unto the number of six thousand, and exhorted them not to be stricken with terror of the enemy, nor to fear the great multitude of the heathen, who came wrongly against them; but to fight manfully, and to set before their eyes the injury that they had unjustly done to the holy place, and the cruel handling of the city, whereof they made a mockery, and also the taking away of the government of their forefathers: for they, said he, trust in their weapons and boldness; but our confidence is in the Almighty who at a beck can cast down both them that come against us, and also all the world.

(10) “Matt. 24:16 – let those “flee to the mountains” is taken from 1 Macc. 2:28.”

Again, no. Let’s first examine the text:

Matthew 24:16 Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:

Then compare the section from the Apocrypha:

1 Maccabees 2:27-28 And Mattathias cried throughout the city with a loud voice, saying, Whosoever is zealous of the law, and maintaineth the covenant, let him follow me. So he and his sons fled into the mountains, and left all that ever they had in the city.

So, it is not a quote – simply advice to do something similar to what Mattathias did, without referencing Mattathias in any way.

If you’re looking for an Old Testament reference, perhaps a better one would be:

Isaiah 30:17 One thousand shall flee at the rebuke of one; at the rebuke of five shall ye flee: till ye be left as a beacon upon the top of a mountain, and as an ensign on an hill.

At least in that case, there is mention of fleeing and a mountain top, and it is not simply descriptive of a past event.

But fleeing to the mountains was a pretty common theme:

Genesis 14:10 And the vale of Siddim was full of slimepits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, and fell there; and they that remained fled to the mountain.

Psalm 11:1 To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. In the LORD put I my trust: how say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain?

Song of Solomon 4:6 Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense.

Zechariah 14:5 And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee.

(11) “Matt. 27:43 – if He is God’s Son, let God deliver him from His adversaries follows Wisdom 2:18.”

Again, these are unbelievers speaking, but let’s examine whether they seem to be quoting from Wisdom:

Matthew 27:43 He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God.

Wis 2:18 For if the just man be the son of God, he will help him, and deliver him from the hand of his enemies.

There is some similarity there. It’s not a quotation, but it is somewhat close.

The words of the wicked here, however, actually were prophesied in the canonical scriptures:

Psalm 22:8 He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.

(12) “Mark 4:5,16-17 – Jesus’ description of seeds falling on rocky ground and having no root follows Sirach 40:15.”

There is a similar simile used, but it is not the same simile nor is it given in the same words nor used to make the same point.

Sirach 40:15 The children of the ungodly shall not bring forth many branches: but are as unclean roots upon a hard rock.

Notice that in the example in Sirach, the simile relates to the physical offspring of wicked people. In contrast, the point in Mark 4 is about the nature of the faith of certain men.

Mark 4:2-20
And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine, “Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow: and it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up. And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: but when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred.” And he said unto them, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. And he said unto them, “Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: that seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.” And he said unto them, “Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables? The sower soweth the word. And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts. And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended. And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, and the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful. And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.

(13) “Mark 9:48 – description of hell where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched references Judith 16:17.”

Judith 16:17 Woe to the nations that rise up against my kindred! the Lord Almighty will take vengeance of them in the day of judgment, in putting fire and worms in their flesh; and they shall feel them, and weep for ever.

A better, and canonical, comparison (and presumably the source for Judith’s comments) would be this:

Isaiah 66:24 And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.


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)


The Modern Roman Canon and the Book of Esdras A

November 17, 2010

The following was originally written by Sir Henry H. Howorth, as “The Modern Roman Canon and the Book of Esdras A,” The Journal of Theological Studies, Volume VII, pp. 343-54 (Oxford: 1906). I’m simply republishing this as a scholarly discussion of the issue of Septuagint Esdras 1 or “Esdras A” (Ἔσδρας Α) and the North African councils. I’m not adopting the opinions of this author – in particular I don’t agree with his opinion that the book should be received within the canon.

The Modern Roman Canon and the Book of Esdras A

In a series of letters published in the Academy some twenty years ago, and subsequently in articles in the Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, I claim to have definitely proved that the text of the Canonical Chronicles-Ezra-Nehemiah contained in the extant Greek Bibles is not a Septuagint text at all, and ought to have no place in any edition of the Greek Bible professing to represent the Septuagint.

On the contrary, the text represents very faithfully one of the Greek translations from the Hebrew made in the second century A.D. It has no value, therefore, for the independent criticism of the Masoretic edition of the Bible, and is merely useful as shewing the state of the text of the three books as they stood in that edition in the second century A.D., when, according to the most competent authorities its archetype was compiled and edited.

This conclusion seems to me to be of the first importance, for it sweeps away all the textual criticism of the three books in question based upon the erroneous postulate that the Masoretic text in them is singularly free from corruption because it is so continuously supported by the Septuagint. Inasmuch as profitable criticism of the Old Testament should begin with its latest books, it is supremely important that such a mistake should not be perpetuated by the authorities responsible for the new Cambridge Bible.

The problem to be solved is, however, a bilateral one. It does not mean merely that the texts thus referred to (i.e. the canonical Chronicles-Ezra-Nehemiah) are in no sense Septuagint texts, but it means the rehabilitation in that character of another text, namely Ἔσδρας Α in the Greek Uncials, which until lately has received very scant courtesy among the critics, especially in Germany, who have persistently misapprehended its true character.

It has been treated even worse by the theologians, both by those of the Roman Church, which has always stood by the Septuagint Canon, and by the Reformers whose most potent and far-reaching innovation, theologically speaking, was probably the substitution of the Hebrew or Masoretic Canon of the Bible for that which the Christian world both east and west had clung to for fifteen centuries.

Singularly enough, however, the champions both of the longer and of the shorter Canon have agreed in modern times to treat with despite a document (namely Ἔσδρας Α) the true history of which has been misapprehended, and its supreme value overlooked. The fact is peculiarly interesting and important in regard to the Roman position in the matter, and I propose in the following pages to examine how it has come about that a Church with whom the theory of continuous tradition is so dominant should have in fact departed so completely from its own early tradition in regard to this book, and to shew that this departure has been entirely due to a mistake, a very pardonable mistake, and in no sense to prejudice or predetermination.

In order to shew this I must shortly trace the history of the Canon of the Old Testament in the Roman Church. The last authoritative pronouncement on the subject is contained in chapter 2 of the Decree of the Vatican Council, dated April 24, 1870, entitled Constitutio dogmatica de fide catholica. In this pronouncement it is affirmed that the doctrine of Supernatural Revelation, according to the faith of the Universal Church as declared at the Council of Trent, consists in written books and in the traditions preserved by the Church. In regard to the former the decisions of Trent are accepted and confirmed in the following sentence of the decree:—

Qui quidem veteris et novi testamenti libri integri cum omnibus suis partibus, prout in eiusdem concilii decreto recensentur, et in veteri vulgata latina editione habentur, pro sacris et canonicis suscipiendi sunt.

The Vatican Council, therefore, in the matter of the Canon merely reiterates and reaffirms, as was in fact alone necessary, the conclusions pronounced by that of Trent. It gives no list of sacred books, and accepts in terms the finding on the subject of the Tridentine fathers.

Let us now turn to the Council of Trent.

On February 8, 1546, a General Congregation of that Council was held, and it was proposed to issue a decree in regard to the authority of the Holy Scriptures, and as to any improvement that might be made in their teaching or interpretation. The Council was divided into three sections, and the second section, which was presided over by Cardinal Marcello Cervini, afterwards Pope Marcellus II, was especially entrusted with an examination of the question, and with the sifting of the evidence from the eighty-fifth of the Apostolical Canons down to the decrees of the Council of Florence. The discussion was prolonged and interesting, and raised many critical points. Various suggestions about the distinction between canonical and deuterocanonical books and about the authority of particular books were made, but the majority were of opinion that the sacred books should be received simply and without discrimination as they had been at other councils, and especially at the Council of Florence. At length the Cardinal reported the results of the discussion to another meeting of the General Congregation, when, in the words of the report preserved by the secretaries,

omnes convenere ut receptio librorum sacrorum fieret simpliciter sicut factum fuit in concilio Florentino … De ipsorum autem librorum discrimine, etsi plures rem utilem, minus tarnen necessariam iudicarent; maioris nihilo minus partis sententia praevaluit ut quaestio huiusmodi omitteretur, relinquereturque sicut nobis a sanctis patribus relicta fuit. —Theiner I, 52.

In this quite logical and most sensible pronouncement the Church of Rome, putting aside all considerations and arguments which had been urged to the contrary, decided to stand on its own ancient tradition, and in particular upon the pronouncement made on this subject at the Council of Florence. Therefore by a decree issued on April 8, 1546, at the fourth session of the Council, under the heading ‘Decretum de Canonicis Scripturis’, it was determined inter alia as follows :—

Sacrorum vero librorum indicem huic decreto adscribendum censuit, ne cui dubitatio suboriri possit, quinam sint qui ab ipsa synodo suscipiuntur. Sunt vero infra scripti. Testamenti veteris: quinque Moysis, id est: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numeri, Deuteronomium; Iosuae, Iudicum, Ruth, quatuor Regum, duo Paralipomenon, Esdrae primus et secundas, qui dicitur Nehemias, Tobias, Iudith, Esther, Iob, Psalterium Davidicum centum quinquaginta psalmorum, Parabolae, Ecclesiastes, Canticum Canticorum, Sapientia, Ecclesiasticus, Isaías, Ieremias cum Baruch, Ezechiel, Daniel, duodecim prophetae minores, id est: Osea, Ioel, Amos, Abdias, Ionas, Michaeas, Nahum, Habacuc, Sophonias, Aggaeus, Zacharías, Malachias, duo Macchabaeorum primus et secundus. Testamenti novi. . . . . .

Then follows a list of the books of the New Testament, which is again followed by certain words defining the actual text to be appealed to, and which are very important for our purpose.

It is in fact provided that the text alone authorized as the ultima lex of all appeals is the Vulgate. The following are the actual words used in the ‘Decretum de editione et usu sacrorum librorum’:—

Insuper eadem sacrosancta synodus considerans non parum utilitatis accedere posse ecclesiae Dei, si ex omnibus latinis editionibus, quae circumferuntur, sacrorum librorum, quaenam pro authentica habenda sit, innotescat: statuit et declarat, ut haec ipsa vetus et vulgata editio quae longo tot saeculorum usu in ipsa ecclesia probata est, in publicis lectionibus, disputationibus, praedicationibus et expositionibus pro authentica habeatur, et ut nemo illam reiicere quovis praetextu audeat vel praesumat.

It cannot fail to be noticed that in these pronouncements there is a palpable contradiction. If the books enumerated are alone to be deemed canonical, it seems difficult to understand how the Vulgate edition of the Bible as then received was to be treated as the conclusive authority in all disputes and controversies, since it contained, in very many if not in most existing copies, at least two additional works which were treated in them as of equal and co-ordinate authority with the remaining books, namely those which in the Latin Bibles were called Esdras III (that is Ἔσδρας Α) and Esdras IV; while some copies of the Vulgate also contained a third book not above enumerated, namely, the Prayer of Manasses, as well as the so-called Third book of Maccabees.

This contradiction between the pronouncement of the Council and the contents of the Vulgate texts which were and had long been current, was apparently ignored by the fathers at Trent. It led, however, to a considerable change in the editions of the Vulgate subsequently printed, by which their contents were in a measure equated with the conciliar list of recognized books. As is well known, in the famous and authoritative edition of the Vulgate issued by Pope Sixtus V in 1590, the two books Esdras III and IV, together with the so-called Prayer of Manasses, were omitted entirely. This was justified in the preface in the following sentence:—

Nos autem ut haec Vetus editio, quae nunc prodit nostro excusa prelo, eiusdem Synodi [i.e. Trent] praescripto modis omnibus respondeat non solum veteres, et ab Ecclesia receptos loquendi modos conservavimus, sed etiam apocrypha reiecimus, authentica retinuimus. Nam tertium et quartum Esdrae libros inscriptos, et tertium Maccabaeorum, quos Synodus inter Canonicos non annumerat, assentientibus etiam in hoc praedictis Cardinalibus Congregationis super Typographia Vaticana deputatae, ab hac editione prorsus explosimus. Orationem etiam Manassae, quae neque in Hebraeo, neque in Graeco textu est, neque in antiquioribus Manuscriptis Latinis exemplaribus reperitur, sed in impressis tantum post Librum secundum Paralipomenon affixa est, tanquam insutam, adiectam et in textu sacrorum librorum locum non habentem repudiavimus.

In the subsequent and corrected and still more authoritative edition of Clement VIII, published three years later, and in all subsequent editions of the Roman Vulgate the three books just mentioned were reinstated, but instead of being placed in the old position they occupied in the mediaeval Latin Bibles, they were remitted to an appendix. This again was justified in the preface in the following words :—

Porro in hac editione nihil non canonicum, nihil adscititium, nihil extraneum apponere visum est: atque ea causa fuit, cur libri tertius et quartus Esdrae inscripti, quos inter canonicos libros sacra Tridentina Synodus non annumeravit, ipsa etiam Manassae regis Oratio, quae neque hebraice, neque graece quidem exstat, neque in manuscriptis antiquioribus invenitur, neque pars est ullius canonici libri, extra canonicae scripturae seriem posita sunt.

The appendix to which the three books were remitted is headed—

Oratio Manassae, necnon libri duo, qui sub Libri Tertii et Quarti Esdrae nomine circumferuntur, hoc in loco, extra scilicet seriem canonicorum librorum quos sancta Tridentina Synodus suscepit et pro canonicis suscipiendos decrevit, sepositi sunt ne prorsus interirent, quippe qui a nonnullis Sanctis Patribus interdum citantur et in aliquibus Bibliis latinis tam manuscriptis quam impressis reperiuntur.

It will be noted that in Clement VIII’s edition of the Vulgate, which is the one now authorized, not a word is said of the Third book of Maccabees, which had a place in some of the old copies of the Vulgate.

The removal of the three books above mentioned from the text of the Bible, and the planting of them in a kind of suspense account in an Appendix, while it made the text of the canonical books in the rest of the Bible consistent with the enumeration in the decree of the Tridentine Council, was clearly a tampering with the text of the Vulgate as previously received, though this had been declared by the same Council to be the official and authentic text. Let us, however, turn to the Council of Florence, which was held in 1439, and which the Fathers at Trent professed to follow and to be bound by.

In the Bull published on February 4, 1441, by Eugenius IV affirming the decision of the Florentine Council in regard to the pronouncement which was made in view of the reunion with the Church of Rome of the Jacobites of Egypt, we have an enumeration of the books then recognized as canonical by the Western Church. This list was followed implicitly by the Council of Trent. There are variations, however, of phraseology, and I think it better as the question is one involving polemical issues to transcribe it as it stands in the Bull. The important part for our purpose runs as follows:—

Unum atque eundem Deum veteris et novi testamenti, hoc est Legis et Prophetarum atque Evangelii profitetur auctorem; quoniam, eodem Spiritu Sancto inspirante, utriusque testamenti Sancti locuti sunt, quorum libros suscipit et veneratur, qui titulis sequentibus continentur: Quinque Moysis, id est Genesi, Exodo, Levitico, Numeris, Deuteronomio, Iosue, Iudicum, Ruth; Quatuor Regum; Duobus Paralipomenon: Esdra, Nehemia, Tobia, Iudith, Hester, Iob, Psalmis David, Parabolis, Ecclesiaste, Canticis Canticorum, Sapientia, Ecclesiastico, Isaia, Ieremia, Baruch, Ezechiele, Daniele; Duodecim Prophetis minoribus, id est Oseae, Ioele, Amos, Abdia, Iona, Michea, Nahum, Habacuc, Sophonia, Aggeo, Zacharia, Malachia; Duobus Maccabaeorum.— Bullarium Rom. Romae 1638, I p. 273 [FN1: In this extract from the Bull, as in the corresponding one from the Tridentine pronouncement, the italics are mine.].

Then follows a list of the New Testament books.

It will be seen that this enumeration is in substance precisely that of the Council of Trent, and that here, as at the subsequent Councils of Trent and the Vatican, no distinction whatever is made between proto-canonical and deutero-canonical, canonical and apocryphal, &c., but all the books enumerated were treated as equally canonical. It will also be noted that no mention is here made of the third and fourth books of Esdras, notwithstanding that virtually every copy of the Latin Bible then in use contained them.

In regard to the decision of the Council of Florence as pronounced by the Pope in his Decretal, we cannot appeal for justification to the minutes of the discussion upon its contents as we can at Trent, since they are not extant, and we must turn elsewhere to find some previous official pronouncement in the same behalf, for we can hardly doubt that on such an occasion the definition of the Biblical Canon would be made with especial care and with consideration for precedent. For such precedent we have to go back a long way. This is to be accounted for by the fact that questions as to the Canon had not disturbed men’s minds in the Middle Ages, and there had not, therefore, been any necessity or occasion for an official pronouncement on the subject. We have to go back, in fact, to the famous African Code, which is headed ‘The Canons of the 217 blessed fathers who assembled at Carthage’, commonly called ‘The Code of Canons of the African Church’, and which was passed and authorized in the year 419 A.D. Johnson, in his Clergyman’s vade mecum, London, second edition, 1714, part II, has given an excellent account of them, which has not been improved since. He says:—’Councils were nowhere more frequently called in the Primitive Times than in Africa. In the year 418-419 all Canons formerly made in sixteen Councils held at Carthage, one at Milevis, and one at Hippo, that were approved of were read, and received a new sanction from a great number of bishops then met in Synod at Carthage. This collection is the Code of the African Church, which was always in greatest repute in all churches next after the Code of the Universal Church. This Code was of very great authority in the old English Churches, for many of the exceptions of Egbert were transcribed from it. And though the Code of the Universal Church ends with the Canons of Chalcedon, yet these African Canons are inserted into the Ancient Code both of the Eastern and Western Churches.’

At the Council of Carthage held in 419 the Pope was represented by Faustinas, bishop of Potentia in the Italian province of Picenum, as legate. The Canon there enacted, and headed ‘De Scripturis Canonicis’ (Labbe iv 430), was a reiteration and reaffirmation of those enacted inter alia at the Councils of Hippo in 393 and of Carthage in 397.

The 36th Canon of the Council of Hippo declares that besides the canonical Scriptures nothing is to be read in the Church under the name of Divine Scriptures. It then enumerates what the Canonical Scriptures are, and, so far as I know, there is no conciliar pronouncement on the subject between these African Synods and the Council of Florence. Their enumeration of the Old Testament books is as follows :—

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numeri, Deuteronomium, Iesu Nave, Iudicum, Ruth, Regnorum libri quatuor, Paralipomenon libri duo, Iob, Psalterium Davidicum, Salomonis libri quinque, Duodecim libri Prophetarum, Esaias, Ieremias, Daniel, Ezechiel, Tobias, Iudith, Hester, Hesdrae libri duo[FN1: These italics are my own.], Machabaeorum libri duo.

The iteration of this Canon by the African Councils was probably due, as Father Loisy has suggested, to the fear, entertained by many, of the revolutionary ideas of Jerome. Nothing could well be more authoritative, however, and more precise than the position that the list of books above quoted was deemed by these three very important Synods to be the Catholic usage in the Western Church in regard to the contents of the Canon of the Old Testament at the end of the fourth century.

On comparing the list of books authorized as Canonical by the African Synods with those of the Councils of Florence and Trent, there is a superficial and misleading equation in regard to the books of Esdras which we are discussing, that accounts for what was really a mistake made by the latter councils.

In the Canon last quoted we have the phrase Hesdrae libri duo. In the Decree of the Council of Florence we have Esdra, Nehemia. In that of Trent we have Esdrae primus et secundus qui dicitur Nehemias.

The fact is that the phrase Hesdrae libri duo in the decree of the earlier Councils does not mean the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Ezra and Nehemiah in the Septuagint and in the early Latin prae-Hieronymian translation of the Bible which followed the Septuagint, and was alone recognized as canonical in the Latin Church at the end of the fourth century, formed a single book, which in the early Greek MSS was entitled Ἔσδρας Β, and which in the early Latin version was entitled Esdras II.

It was Jerome who altered the nomenclature of these books as he altered many other things (and, as some of us think, not too wisely). It was he who, having accepted the Jewish Canon and tradition, also accepted the Jewish division of the book hitherto known to the Greeks as Ἔσδρας Β, which in the old Latin Bibles was called Esdras II, and gave the two sections of it the new titles of Esdras I and Esdras II, equivalent to our Ezra and Nehemiah; and from him the titles passed into the revised Vulgate, of which he was the author, and eventually became dominant everywhere, and was thus dominant when the Council of Florence sat. It was he who poured scorn on two other books of Ezra contained in the earlier Latin Bibles, and refused to have anything to do with them, or to translate them, and gave them an entirely inferior status by numbering them Esdras III and IV, names by which they have since been styled in the Vulgate; and it was his violent and depreciatory language about them which made many doubt their value and authority.

When the fathers at Florence discussed and decided upon their list of authorized and canonical books, finding, no doubt, that the African Councils had only recognized two books of Esdras, they jumped to the conclusion that these two books must be those called Esdras I and Esdras II in their Bibles, namely, Ezra and Nehemiah; which in fact they were not. Hence their mistake, a great but a natural mistake, which is perpetuated in the Roman Canon.

The two books of Esdras recognized by the African Councils, and by all the Fathers who escaped the influence of Jerome, were the books labelled Ἔσδρας Α and Ἔσδρας Β in the Greek Bibles, that is to say, the first book of Esdras, which was remitted to the Apocrypha by the Reformers, and the joint work Ezra-Nehemiah. This evidence will not be doubted by any one who will examine the early Greek Bibles, and the Canonical lists of the Fathers who were uninfluenced by Jerome.

It is completely recognized by Roman Catholic theologians of the first rank. Thus Calmet, who wrote a special treatise on Esdras A, says: ‘When the Fathers and the Councils of the earlier centuries declared the two books of Esdras to be canonical, they meant, following the current Bibles that First Esdras and Nehemiah formed only one book, while they styled First Esdras the work which is called third in our Bibles’ (Calmet Comm. iii 250 ‘Dissert, sur le III livre d’Esdras’). Father Loisy, the most distinguished scholar among the recent writers on the Canon in France, similarly says: ‘The two books of Esdras contained in them (i.e. in early copies of the Latin Bible) are not Esdras and Nehemiah; but as in the Greek Bible, the first book of Esdras is that we now call the third, which has been ejected from the Canon; the second comprised Esdras and Nehemiah’ (Histoire du Canon 92).

It is quite clear, therefore, that the Council of Florence, afterwards followed by that of Trent, gave a decision about the Canon which is inconsistent and contrary to the decisions of the early Councils and the early Fathers of the Latin Church on the same subject, and thus broke the continuity of that Church’s teaching on a most important point, namely the contents of the book which it makes the ultimate rule of faith. Thus, again, one book, namely the Esdras A of the Greek Uncials, recognized as canonical by all the early Church, was entirely evicted from Sixtus V’s Bible, and remitted to the ignominious position of a suspense account in that of Clement VIII, and is so treated in all authorized Roman Catholic Bibles.

The omission of Esdras A from the modern Roman Canon of the Bible does not stand quite alone. In the same suspense account to which it is now remitted in the Vulgate we also find the Prayer of Manasses. For this treatment there is ample justification if we are to follow the decrees of Latin Councils; but the reason for it given by Clement VIII is incorrect.

The Prayer of Manasses is a canticle which, according to the preface to Clement VIII’s Bible, does not occur in the Hebrew Bibles, nor yet in the Greek Bibles. This is not strictly accurate, as Walton long ago shewed by printing a copy of it from a Greek MS. The statement in the preface to Clement VIII’s Bible is not therefore correct. The Prayer occurs in fact in the third volume of the Codex Alexandrinus as an appendix to the Psalter, and with the Psalms, as Dr Swete says, it was transferred to that MS from a liturgical Psalter (The Old Testament in Greek II viii). It also occurs in the famous purple psalter at Zurich known as T (Turicense) which is of the seventh century and of western origin. It also occurs in the Ethiopic version of the Psalms edited by J. Ludolf. And it is quoted at length in the Apostolical Constitutions; so it has very respectable age and authority.

There is, however, no direct evidence of its having received any conciliar authority, as there is none that it occurred in early Bible texts or in early Canonical lists, and its exclusion from the Canon by the Sixtine and Clementine editors of the Bible is therefore quite defensible, if we are to follow the decisions of Councils as decisive.

There still remains a third book, namely that known as Esdras IV in the Vulgate, which was also excluded from the Bible of Sixtus and remitted to an appendix in that of Clement. This work does not occur in any Greek Bible. It occurs in Latin, Syriac, Ethiopic, an Armenian and two Arabic translations; it is found in several important Vulgate MSS, and is quoted in the Apostolical Constitutions; but inasmuch as it is excluded from the early lists of canonical books, and especially from those with conciliar authority, it has with plausibility been remitted to the same appendix as the Prayer of Manasseh in the modern authorized Latin Bibles.

Both these books stand on entirely different ground therefore from what we have described as Esdras A, whose undoubted and rightful presence in the Western Canon before the unfortunate mistake made by the Council of Florence cannot be gainsaid. Jerome, no doubt, coupled it with the apocalyptic book Esdras IV, with which it has nothing in common either in contents or authority, and poured scorn on them both. His action in this matter is an excellent instance of his hasty judgement in biblical matters, and of the prejudice that can be created and sustained against a genuine work by the tempestuous language of a masterful scholar.

It seems to me plain that it was a misfortune as well as a mistake which excluded Esdras A from the modern Roman Canon, and that its reinstatement there would be a distinct gain to the cause of truth, and it would sustain the consistency of the Latin Church in its treatment of its Bible.

Perhaps I may be permitted in another paper to discuss the Anglican Canon as affected by similar issues.

Henry H. Howorth

Canon Debate – Are Tobit, Baruch, and other Deuterocanonicals Inspired Scripture?

November 6, 2010

On August 12, 2010, I debated on the topic of the canon of Scripture with Mr. William Albrecht (Roman Catholic). The issue was whether the Apocrypha (what the Roman Catholics call the Deuterocanonicals) are inspired Scripture. I demonstrated that they could not be, since they make various mistakes, particularly focusing on Baruch and Tobit. Additionally, I pointed out that they were not accepted as inspired Scripture by Jesus, the Apostles or the other Jews of their day. The conclusion is, of course, that although some of the church fathers may have regarded some of them as Scripture (particularly the wisdom literature of Sirach and Wisdom), nevertheless there is not a good reason to accept them as inspired.

I’ve embedded the playlist below (I had already provided the mp3 in a previous post).

– TurretinFan

>Canon Debate with William Albrecht

August 13, 2010

>Yesterday, Mr. William Albrecht (Roman Catholic) and I (Reformed) debated the topic of the Canon of Scripture, specifically the question of whether the so-called Deuterocanonical books and parts of books are Scripture (link to mp3). The most interesting part of the debate, as I believe Mr. Albrecht would agree, were the four cross-examination segments immediately following the constructive speeches.

I hope to upload this to YouTube, but this is faster in the short term.

There are a number of points where I think it might be helpful to add some additional discussion, and I’ll try to do that in the coming weeks, rather than wedging it all into this post.

– TurretinFan

Jerome Regarding the Septuagint

September 26, 2009

I recently happened to stumble across this interesting translation of Jerome’s Prologue to Chronicles (link). Jerome makes a number of interesting comments about the Septuagint:

1) Jerome begins by noting that the Septuagint is not a pure translation:

If the version of the Seventy translators is pure and has remained as it was rendered by them into Greek … Now, in fact, when different versions are held by a variety of regions, and this genuine and ancient translation is corrupted and violated, you have considered our opinion, either to judge which of the many is the true one, or to put together new work with old work, and shutting off to the Jews, as it is said, “a horn to pierce the eyes.”

– Jerome, Prologue to Chronicles

2) Jerome continues by noting that in his day it was famous that there were three regional varieties of the Septuagint:

The region of Alexandria and Egypt praises in their Seventy the authority of Hesychius; the region from Constantinople to Antioch approves the version of Lucian the Martyr; in the middle, between these provinces, the people of Palestine read the books which, having been labored over by Origen, Eusebius and Pamphilius published.

– Jerome, Prologue to Chronicles

3) Jerome argues that although Jesus knew the Septuagint translation, he used the Hebrew, arguing from various passages:

I have recently written a book, “On the best kind of translating,” showing these things in the Gospel, and others similar to these, to be found in the books of the Hebrews: “Out of Egypt I called my son,” and “For he will be called a Nazarene,” and “They will look on him whom they have pierced,” and that of the Apostle, “Things which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, and had not arisen in the heart of man, which God has prepared for those loving Him.” The Apostles and Evangelists were certainly acquainted with (the version of) the Seventy interpreters, but from where (were) they (supposed) to say these things which are not in the Seventy?

– Jerome, Prologue to Chronicles

4) Jerome notes that the church of his day did not accept the apocrypha, but only the Hebrew books, as can be seen from the middle of Jerome’s punchline for his argument about the Septuagint:

Certainly, whatever is witnessed by the Savior to be written, is written. Where is it written? The Seventy don’t have it; the Church ignores the apocrypha; thus the turning back to the Hebrew (books), from which the Lord spoke and and the disciples took forth texts.

– Jerome, Prologue to Chronicles

5) In the conclusion of the prologue, Jerome explains the fact that he was coming under a lot of fire for his new translation, since popular opinion was fond of (their own version of) the Septuagint:

In peace I will say these things of the ancients, and I respond only to my detractors, who bite me with dogs’ teeth, slandering me in public, speaking at corners, the same (being) both accusers and defenders, when approving for others what they reprove me for, as though virtue and error were not in conflict, but change with the author. I have recalled another edition of the Seventy translators corrected from the Greek to have been distributed by us, and me not to need to be considered their enemy, which things I always explain in the gatherings of the brothers.

– Jerome, Prologue to Chronicles

Thanks very much to Kevin P. Edgecomb who provided this translation and released it into the public domain.



One Roman Catholic reader (I’m not sure whether he’d want attribution or not, so I’ve not given it to him for now. If he wants it, he knows how to let me know) pointed me to the fact that one can find translations of many of the prologues to the Vulgate books (link). Some have suggested that the later prologues show Jerome softening in his opposition to the apocrypha, though you will note:

Also included is the book of the model of virtue Jesus son of Sirach, and another falsely ascribed work which is titled Wisdom of Solomon. The former of these I have also found in Hebrew, titled not Ecclesiasticus as among the Latins, but Parables, to which were joined Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs, as though it made of equal worth the likeness not only of the number of the books of Solomon, but also the kind of subjects. The second was never among the Hebrews, the very style of which 18is redolent of Greek speech. And several of the ancient scribes affirm this one is of Philo Judaeus. Therefore, just as the Church also reads the books of Judith, Tobias, and the Maccabees, but does not receive them among the canonical Scriptures, so also one may read these two scrolls for the strengthening of the people, (but) not for confirming the authority of ecclesiastical dogmas.

– Jerome, Prologue to the books of Solomon


This prologue to the Scriptures may be appropriate as a helmeted introduction to all the books which we turn from Hebrew into Latin, so we may be able to know whatever is outside of these is to be set apart among the apocrypha. Therefore, Wisdom, which is commonly ascribed to Solomon, and the book of Jesus son of Sirach, and Judith and Tobias, and The Shepherd are not in the canon. I have found the First Book of the Maccabees is Hebrew, the Second is Greek, which may also be proven by their styles.

– Jerome, Prologue to the Book of Kings

Yet it was demanded of Jerome that he translate the Apocrypha, to which command he grudgingly complied:

I do not cease to wonder at the constancy of your demanding. For you demand that I bring a book written in the Chaldean language into Latin writing, indeed the book of Tobias, which the Hebrews exclude from the catalogue of Divine Scriptures, being mindful of those things which they have titled Hagiographa. I have done enough for your desire, yet not by my study. For the studies of the Hebrews rebuke us and find fault with us, to translate this for the ears of Latins contrary to their canon. But it is better to be judging the opinion of the Pharisees to displease and to be subject to the commands of bishops. I have persisted as I have been able, and because the language of the Chaldeans is close to Hebrew speech, finding a speaker very skilled in both languages, I took to the work of one day, and whatever he expressed to me in Hebrew words, this, with a summoned scribe, I have set forth in Latin words.

– Jerome, Prologue to Tobias


Among the Hebrews the Book of Judith is found among the Hagiographa, the authority of which toward confirming those which have come into contention is judged less appropriate. Yet having been written in Chaldean words, it is counted among the histories. But because this book is found by the Nicene Council to have been counted among the number of the Sacred Scriptures, I have acquiesced to your request, indeed a demand, and works having been set aside from which I was forcibly curtailed, I have given to this (book) one short night’s work translating more sense from sense than word from word. I have removed the extremely faulty variety of the many books; only those which I was able to find in the Chaldean words with understanding intact did I express in Latin ones.

– Jerome, Prologue to Judith (It’s not clear to me whether Jerome was being confused or sarcastic. Nicaea did not decide the canon, and had they done so, one would hardly expect the later councils of Hippo and Carthage to omit reference to this fact.)

Psalm 151

July 21, 2008

Thomas Hartwell Horne, in his “Introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures,” remarks:

The number of the canonical psalms is one hundred and fifty: but in the Septuagint version, as well as in the Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic translations, there is extant another, which is numbered CLI. Its subject is the combat of David with Goliath (related in 1 Sam. xvii), but it is evidently spurious; for, besides that it possesses not a particle of David’s genius and style, it never was extant in the Hebrew, and has been uniformly rejected by the fathers, and by every council that has been held in the Christian church.

Sabine Baring-Gould, in “Legends of Old Testament Characters,” provides the following translation and commentary:

PSALM CLI. (Pusillus erani).
1. I was small among my brethren; and growing up in my father’s house, I kept my father’s sheep.
2. My hands made the organ: and my ringers shaped the Psaltery.
3. And who declared unto my Lord! He, the Lord, He heard all things.
4. He sent His angel, and He took me from my father’s sheep; He anointed me in mercy with His unction.
5. Great and goodly are my brethren: but with them the Lord was not well pleased.
6. I went to meet the stranger: and he cursed me by all his idols.
7. But I smote off his head with his own drawn sword: and I blotted out the reproach of Israel.

This simple and beautiful psalm does not exist in Hebrew, but is found in Greek, in some psalters of the Septuagint version, headed “A Psalm of David when he had slain Goliath.” S. Athanasius mentions it with praise, in his address to Marcellinus on the Interpretation of the Psalms, and in the Synopsis of Holy Scripture. It was versified in Greek in A.D. 360, by Apollinarius Alexandrinus.

Andrew Adward Breen in his “General and Critical Introduction to the Study of Holy Scripture” writes:

In editions of the Greek text of the Old Testament, we find the CLI. Psalm attributed to David. St. Athanasius (Epist. ad Marcell. 15) and Euthemius (In Ps. Proem.) regarded it as authentic. The import of the Psalm is to celebrate David’s victory over Goliath. It was never received in the Latin version, but it has place in the Ethiopian, Armenian, Syriac, and Arabic. It is not lacking in grace of thought and diction, but not good authority warrants its inspiration.

(Breen also notes the existence of eighteen psalms purporting to be of Solomon, but which from their tone are evidently from at the period of the captivity at the earliest.)

Psalm 151 ends up being one of those great examples of textual criticism properly applied in the West, even while many other errors in the Septuagint (particularly in the Psalms) were overlooked in the West, especially in the popular Latin version (not Jerome’s translation).

It’s worth noting that Psalm 151 shows up in Codex Sinaiticus as though canonical, whereas in Alexandrinus, it shows up in an appendix with the ascription to David noted and its being “outside the number” is noted.

What may be of interest to Tridentine Roman Catholics is that Psalm 151 is found in the Old Latin version, it is not included in the Vulgate and not in the Nova Vulgata (post Vatican II Vulgate). Trent, you may recall, dogmatically adopted the Old Latin Version in all its books and all their parts (which would consequently seem to include Psalm 151, if that was a part of the Old Latin Version). Alternatively, one could simply view the decree as a denial of the correctness of the Protestant canon, which excluded the Deutero-canonical books and apocryphal portions of the canonical books from the canon.

There is an interesting historical footnote. Among the Dead Sea Scrolls was found a “slightly different version of this psalm, in Hebrew” according to William Lee Holladay’s “The Psalms Through Three Thousand Years.” The bottom line, however, is that the Psalm was evidently not considered canonical by the Jews who preserved the text of the Old Testament in its original language, and was even recognized as non-canonical by some of the ancient Greek-speaking Christians (as evidenced by Alexandrinus and other ancient examples of the Septuagint).


Heart and Ear Circumcision

February 22, 2008

I happened to be reading and came across this gem:


He saith also again concerning our ears how he hath circumcised our heart. The Lord saith in the prophet, They have hearkened unto me with the hearing of their ears; and again, he saith, They that are afar off shall hear with their ears; they shall know what I have done; and be ye circumcised, saith the Lord, in your heart; and again, Hear, O Israel, for thus saith the Lord thy God; and again the Spirit of the Lord prophesied, Who is he that wisheth to live for ever? let him hearken unto the voice of my Son.

And again he saith, Hear, O heaven, and give ear, O earth, for the Lord hath spoken these things for a testimony. And again he saith, Hearken unto the voice of the Lord, ye rulers of this people. And again he saith, Hearken ye children unto the voice of one crying in the wilderness.

To this end, therefore, hath he circumcised our hearing, that when we hear his word, we should believe; for the circumcision in which they trust is done away with.

For he hath said that circumcision is not that which was made in the flesh; but they have transgressed, for an evil angel hath deluded them. He saith unto them, These things saith the Lord your God, —here I find a new commandment—Sow not among thorns, but be ye circumcised unto your Lord. And what saith he? Circumcise the hardness of your hearts, and harden not your neck. And again, Behold, saith the Lord, all the Gentiles are uncircumcised in their foreskin, but this people is uncircumcised in their hearts.


Who is this Calvinistic writer? Who is it that believes that God circumcised our hearing, that when we hear his word, we should believe? The answer is the author of the Epistle of Barnabas (usually thought not actually to be written by the companion of Paul).

Our knowledge of the content of the book is largely thanks to its inclusion in the Codex Sinaiticus, and has been dated to the first or second century (generally between A.D. 70 – 150).

The translation above is Charles Hoole’s (I have not verified its accuracy against the Greek) and is available via Google Books here (link).

Praise be to God for the Irresistable grace of Circumcision of heart, mind, eyes, and ears,


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