Archive for the ‘Canon’ Category

Michuta on the Apocrypha/Deuterocanonicals in 1 Clement

May 26, 2014

Beginning around page 56, Michuta tries to argue that “the earliest Christians considered the Deuterocanonical books to be divinely inspired.”  His first example is 1 Clement – a book whose authorship is unknown, but is sometimes ascribed to Clement of Rome.

Michuta argues that 1 Clement 3:4 “quotes Wisdom 2:24.” (p. 57)

1 Clement 3:4
For this cause righteousness and peace stand aloof, while each man hath forsaken the fear of the Lord and become purblind in the faith of Him, neither walketh in the ordinances of His commandments nor liveth according to that which becometh Christ, but each goeth after the lusts of his evil heart, seeing that they have conceived an unrighteous and ungodly jealousy, through which also death entered into the world.

Wisdom 2:24 states: “Nevertheless through envy of the devil came death into the world: and they that do hold of his side do find it.” While Wisdom 2:24 is a possible reference here, a more obvious one is Romans 5:12, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:”

Likewise, James 4:1-3 states: “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.”

Indeed, the very next verses of 1 Clement provide a canonical basis for the jealousy argument, for it continues (vs. 4 is the last verse of 1 Clement 3):

1 Clement 4:1-7
For so it is written, And it came to pass after certain days that Cain brought of the fruits of the earth a sacrifice unto God, and Abel he also brought of the firstlings of the sheep and of their fatness. And God looked upon Abel and upon his gifts, but unto Cain and unto his sacrifices He gave no heed. And Cain sorrowed exceedingly, and his countenance fell. And God said unto Cain, Wherefore art thou very sorrowful and wherefore did thy countenance fall? If thou hast offered aright and hast not divided aright, didst thou not sin? Hold thy peace. Unto thee shall he turn, and thou shalt rule over him. {This last phrase has also been translated: Be at peace: thine offering returns to thyself, and thou shalt again possess it.} And Cain said unto Abel his brother, Let us go over unto the plain. And it came to pass, while they Were in the plain, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and slew him. Ye see, brethren, jealousy and envy wrought a brother’s murder.

Thus, it is a stretch to say that 1 Clement 3:4 “quotes” from Wisdom 2:24, even if a few identical words can be be found there.

Michuta further asserts that 1 Clement 27:5-7 “is a quote from (or at least an allusion to) Wisdom 11:21 or 12:12.” (p. 57)

1 Clement 27:5
Who shall say unto Him, What hast thou done? or who shall resist the might of His strength? When He listeth, and as He listeth, He will do all things; and nothing shall pass away of those things that He hath decreed. All things are in His sight, and nothing escapeth His counsel, seeing that The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament proclaimeth His handiwork. Day uttereth word unto day, and night proclaimeth knowledge unto night; and there are neither words nor speeches, whose voices are not heard.

Wisdom 11:21 states: “For thou canst shew thy great strength at all times when thou wilt; and who may withstand the power of thine arm?” and Wisdom 12: 12 states “For who shall say, What hast thou done? or who shall withstand thy judgment? or who shall accuse thee for the nations that perish, whom thou made? or who shall come to stand against thee, to be revenged for the unrighteous men?

But again, the canonical books have similar statements (in fact, Wisdom is probably based on the canonical books to a significant extent):

 Job 9:12 “If he would take away, who shall turn him back? or who shall say to him, What hast thou done?” Job 9:19 “For indeed he is strong in power: who then shall resist his judgment? Daniel 4:32 “and all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he does according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and there is none who shall withstand his power, and say to him, What has thou done?” Isaiah 46:10 “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:” Acts 1:7 “And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.” Psalm 148:6 “He has established them for ever, even for ever and ever: he has made an ordinance, and it shall not pass away.” Romans 9:18-19 “Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?” Matthew 5:11 “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” Job 34:21 “For he surveys the works of men, and nothing of what they do has escaped him.Psalm 19:1-3 The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims the work of his hands. Day to day utters speech, and night to night proclaims knowledge. There are no speeches or words, in which their voices are not heard.

Michuta further points out that 1 Clement 55:2-6 makes reference to the person Judith. (pp. 58-59) Michuta also points out that the author of 1 Clement uses Judith as a first example and Esther as a second example. These are just used as historical examples of “Many women being strengthened through the grace of God have performed many manly deeds.” (1 Clement 55:3).  These examples come after the author’s reference to pagan examples: “But, to bring forward examples of Gentiles also; many kings and rulers, when some season of pestilence pressed upon them, being taught by oracles have delivered themselves over to death, that they might rescue their fellow citizens through their own blood. Many have retired from their own cities, that they might have no more seditions.” (1 Clement 55:1)

While we definitely hold Esther to be canonical, we do not know whether the author of 1 Clement had the same view, as Esther was the least well received of the canonical Old Testament books.  In other words, the pairing of Judith with Esther may be a double-edged sword – but in any case, the book is not cited as Scripture.

– TurretinFan

N.B. In this post, generally the Old Testament quotations are taken from Lancelot Brenton’s translation of the Septuagint, since it is unlikely that the author of 1 Clement would have had access to the Hebrew originals.

Sabas on The Twenty-Two Greek Letters and Their Significance

April 10, 2013

I had heard of a number of authors who testify to the fact that the Jewish canon is (and has for millenia been) twenty-two books. It was interesting to see confirmation of this fact in “Mysteries of the Greek Alphabet.” The surprising thing about this is that the author chalks up the canon of the Jews as being twenty-two books, not based on the Hebrew Alphabet, but based on the Greek alphabet (claiming that two of the Greek letters are later additions). The author writes:

Among them are twenty-two letters, apart from the xi and the psi, added by philosophers
at the end. In this way, I am speaking of twenty-two letters: they correspond to the
number of the twenty-two works made by God in the creation, which are as follows.
The first: the first heaven.
The second: the earth below the abyss.
The third: the water on the face of the earth and below it.
The fourth: the other earth, which is the void.
The fifth: the spirit on the face of water, which is the air.
The sixth: the darkness upon the face of the abyss.
The seventh: the light that is called fire.
The eighth: the firmament called sky
The ninth: the separation of the two waters, above the firmament and below it.
The tenth: the emergence of the earth from the depths of the water.
The eleventh: the appearance of plants upon the face of the earth.
The twelfth: fruit-bearing trees with seeds on them.
The 13th: all beacons that bring light.
The fourteenth: the sun and the moon.
The fifteenth: their emplacement in the firmament of heaven.
The sixteenth: the fish in the waters.
The seventeenth: the birds of the air.
The eighteenth: all sea creatures that are large and those in the waters.
The nineteenth: all the animals.
The twentieth: all the poisonous reptiles
The twenty-first: all the beasts upon the earth.
The twenty-second: man of reason, the perfection of the entire world.
These are the works which God that came into being in the creation of the world, twentytwo of them.
For this reason there are twenty-two books counted in the Old Testament by the Jews.
For this reason, twenty-two thousand cattle were slaughtered by Solomon in dedicating the

(Anthony Alcock, English translator, Roger Pearse, Publisher)

The manuscript itself is late 14th century (interesting to me given my recent review, its date is in relation to the “Age of the Martyrs,” dating the beginning of the age to beginning of the reign of Diocletian, 284), but apparently is based on a much older original. If we accept the authorship identified with the manuscript it is apparently the work of St. Sabas (439-532). The main objection to this date is the fact that the third section of the work mentions the Arabic alphabet. Alcock seems to think that this reference makes Sabastian authorship impossible, although he notes the possibility that the references to the Arabic may be a later addition. This is possible, of course, since the Sahidic Coptic that we have is a translation from the Greek original, the Coptic people had interaction with the Arabic-speaking people.

I’m more optimistic that the references may possibly be original. The modern Arabic alphabet was just beginning to be developed in the 4th and 5th centuries, but there were Arab (broadly defined) peoples who used an alphabet (the Nabataean alphabet) before then. Moreover, the author refers to the fact that Alif is used for “1000,” which was presumably true of Arabic before the positional number system was introduced to the Arabs (around 500 and increasingly used thereafter). Moreover, unlike Hebrew and the author’s ancient Greek (according to the author), modern Arabic has 28 letters (based on 18 basic symbols, or rasm, plus various dottings). This argues for an earlier date for the work, from my point of view. I’m not aware of any scholarly study of the work aside from the notes provided with the text in Le Muséon.

I mention above that we have the Coptic translation of the text. Apparently Joseph Paramelle found a Greek copy of the text (per this entry). Unfortunately, I cannot tell what happened to that Greek copy since its discovery in 1989. Paramelle has come before his maker, so I cannot ask him. I wonder if it is one of the works in “Extraits hermétiques inédits dans un manuscrit d’Oxford” Mahé, Jean-Pierre • Para Melle, Joseph . (1991) in Revue des études grecques vol. 104 (1991) p. 109-139.

In any event, I simply add this reference to the already-existing pile of references from the patristic era that confirm a short Jewish canon.


Update: Apparently there is a German translation of the original Greek (here). The relevant portion of the text is substantially the same in Greek (regarding the twenty books) and the Greek also seems to make the reference to the Arabic, which seems to undermine my Coptic-Arabic suggestion.

Twenty-Four Elders – Twenty-Four Books

January 23, 2013

People sometimes see what they want in allegory. If a modern Protestant sees the number 66 in an allegory, he naturally thinks of the 66 books of the Bible.  If the chapter divisions in Isaiah were original, we would be tempted to place significance on that point.  If a modern Protestant sees 27 or 39 he might (less obviously) see the number of books in the New and Old Testaments respectively.

The book of Revelation has a reference to “twenty-four elders” as well as “four beasts” or “four living creatures.” A very ancient tradition (dating back at least to Irenaeus) links those four beasts to the four gospels. What is interesting to discover is that there is a very old Western tradition associating the twenty-four elders with the twenty-four books of the Old Testament.

Why 24 instead of 39? There were different ways of numbering the books then. For example, the 12 minor prophets (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi) were counted as a single book.  See some more discussion by Jerome, below.

The earliest Greek commentators on Revelation that I found did not make any mention of this twenty-four elder to twenty-four Old Testament books correspondence, possibly because in the East, the way of counting the Old Testament books was twenty-two, not twenty-four (due to making a couple less combinations).

The earliest Latin commentators, however, provide the correspondence.

Victorinus of Petovium (died c. A.D. 303):

The four animals are the four Gospels. “The first,” he says, “was similar to a lion, the second similar to a calf, the third similar to a man and the fourth similar to an eagle in flight. And they had six wings all around and eyes within and without, and they did not cease to say, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty.'” And there were twenty-four elders who had twenty-four tribunals. These are the books of the prophets and of the law, which give the testimonies of the judgment. However, these twenty-four fathers are also the twelve apostles and the twelve patriarchs.

(Victorinus of Petovium, Commentary on Revelation 4 at section 4, in Latin Commentaries on Revelation, Weinrech trns., p. 7)

(Alternative translation from ANF07: The four living creatures are the four Gospels. “The first living creature was like to a lion, and the second was like to a calf, and the third had a face like to a man, and the fourth was like to a flying eagle; and they had six wings, and round about and within they were full of eyes; and they had no rest, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord Omnipotent. And the four and twenty elders, falling down before the throne, adored God.” The four and twenty elders are the twenty-four books of the prophets and of the law, which give testimonies of the judgment. Moreover, also, they are the twenty-four fathers—twelve apostles and twelve patriarchs.”)

The wings [the six wings each of the four beasts] are the testimonies of the Old Testament, that is, of the twenty-four books, the same number as the elders on the tribunals. For just as an animal cannot fly unless it has wings, neither can the preaching of the New Testament acquire faith unless its testimony is seen to correspond to those foretold in the Old Testament, through which it rises from the earth and flies.

The books of the Old Testament that are received are those twenty-four that we find in the epitomes of Theodore. However, as we have said, the twenty-four elders are the patriarchs and apostles who will judge the people.

(Victorinus of Petovium, Commentary on Revelation 4 at section 5, in Latin Commentaries on Revelation, Weinrech trns., p. 8)

(Alternative translation from ANF07: “Six wings.” These are the testimonies of the books of the Old Testament. Thus, twenty and four make as many as there are elders sitting upon the thrones. But as an animal cannot fly unless it have wings, so, too, the announcement of the New Testament gains no faith unless it have the fore-announced testimonies of the Old Testament, by which it is lifted from the earth, and flies.

And the books of the Old Testament that are received are twenty-four, which you will find in the epitomes of Theodore. But, moreover (as we have said), four and twenty elders, patriarchs and apostles, are to judge His people.)

“The twenty-four elders and the four animals had harps and bowls and were singing a new song.” The preaching of the Old Testament joined with the New reveals the Christian people singing a new song, that is, the proclaiming of their public confession.

(Victorinus of Petovium, Commentary on Revelation 5 at section 3, in Latin Commentaries on Revelation, Weinrech trns., p. 10)

(Alternative translation from ANF07: “Twenty-four elders and four living creatures, having harps and phials, and singing a new song.”] The proclamation of the Old Testament associated with the New, points out the Christian people singing a new song, that is, bearing their confession publicly.)

Apringius of Beja (6th Century):

He says that he had seen this Lamb in the midst of the throne, that is, in power and in divine majesty. “And among the four living creatures.” This is because he is known in the fourfold order of the Gospels. “And among the elders.” By this he indicates the chorus of the law and the prophets, or of the apostles.

(Apringus of Beja, Explanation of the Revelation at Revelation 5:6, in Latin Commentaries on Revelation, Weinrech trns., p. 44)

Caesarius of Arles (c. A.D. 470 – 542):

“Each of the living creatures had six wings all around.” In the living creatures we recognize also the twenty-four elders, for the total of six wings on each of the four creatures is twenty-four wings. Moreover, he say the living creatures around the throne, where he said that he had seen the elders. But how can a creature with six wings be similar to an eagle that has two wings, unless the four creatures, who have twenty-four wings and in whom we recognize the twenty-four elders, are one creature, that is, the church, which is like an eagle? We may also interpret the six wings to be the testimonies of the Old Testament. For just as a creature cannot fly unless it has wings, so also the preaching of the New Testament cannot produce faith unless it has the prophetic witness of the Old Testament by which it rises from the earth and flies.

“And they never rest.” The living creatures are the church that never rests but praises God without ceasing. We may also interpret the twenty-four elders to be either the books of the Old Testament or the patriarchs and the apostles.

(Caesarius of Arles, Exposition of the Apocalypse, Homily 3, in Latin Commentaries on Revelation, Weinrech trns., p. 70)

Bede the Venerable (c. A.D. 673 – 735):

And each of them had six wings. The wings lift the church into the heights by the perfection of their doctrine. The number six is said to be perfect, because it is the first number to be completed by the sum of its parts. For the number one is one-sixth of six; the number two is one-third of six; and the number three is one-half of six,; and together they make six. There is another interpretation. The six wings of the four living creatures make twenty-four wings, the same number as there are books in the Old Testament, by which the authority of the Evangelists is supported and the truth of the Evangelists is verified.

(Bede the Venerable, Exposition of the Apocalypse, at Revelation 4:8, in Latin Commentaries on Revelation, Weinrech trns., p. 126)(there is, I believe, a new translation of this work forthcoming)

Primasius (died. c. 560):

In one way, fore and aft, because the Church everywhere bearing fruit is broadened; it walks in the light of the face of God, and, his face revealed, gazes on the glory of God. In another way, fore and aft, he implies that the six-fold wings, which number twenty-four, are the books of the Old Testament, which we take up on canonical authority of the same number, just as there are twenty-four elders sitting above the thrones.

(Primasius, Commentary on the Apocalypse of John, Book I, Chapter IV. Translation by Benjamin Panciera, The Medieval Institute, University of Notre Dame)

Ambrose Autpert (c. A.D. 730 – 784):

The Church can be signified in the twenty-four elders under a different interpretation on account of the perfection of six which is completed in the four books of the holy Gospel. For the number six is held as perfect, for this reason that in six days God is thought to have completed all his works and in the sixth age of the world it is told that he reformed man. And so since the Church fulfills the works of the Fathers of the Old and New Testaments completed in the six ages of the world, just as in six days, and the four books of the holy Gospel, it is all correctly described in twenty-four elders. For four times six makes twenty-four. Or certainly, since it uses twenty-four books of the older Testament which it accepts with canonical authority in which it also recognizes that the New Testament was revealed, the Church is therefore figured in twenty-four elders. For this reason, the preaching of the New Testament is fruitful since strengthened from the Old, just as the Church takes the number from these same [books], by which it is perfected in sanctity.

(Ambrose Autpert, Expositionis in Apocalypsin, Libri III (4, 4). Translation by Benjamin Panciera, The Medieval Institute, University of Notre Dame).

This Western patristic view continued in the West throughout the middle ages:

Haymo of Halberstadt (died c. 853):

The same Church could also, according to another interpretation, be figured in the twenty-four elders. For this number is composed of the number six and the number four, because four sixes make twenty-four. The number six refers to works, because Almighty God completed His work in six days, and on the sixth day, at the sixth hour, redeemed man. The number four, however, refers to the four books of the Gospels. Because, however, the Holy Church, whether in the Old Testament or in the New, recalls and venerates the works of God, and preserves the books of the Holy Gospels, it [i.e. the Church] is also rightly understood in the twenty-four elders, or certainly according to the twenty-four books of the Old Testament, which are used according to canonical authority, in which the New Testament, and those things that are brought to fulfillment in it are acknowledged to be foretold. Whence also the Evangelist says of the two thieves who were crucified with Christ: this was done, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, which says, ‘And he was classed among the wicked…’

And each of the four animals had six wings. The wings of the animals signify the two Testaments, by which the Church is carried up to the Heavens. However, while there are two Testaments, the spiritual wings of the same Church, on account of this twin testament, which is found in the twelve tribes of Israel, or in the twelve apostles, these wings are multiplied, two by twelve, and they give twenty-four wings. For two twelves are twenty-four. In another way, the number twelve consists of the parts of the number seven, that is, of the number three and the number four. We can say either four threes or three fours make twelve, which is a sacred number, the number of the twelve Apostles. In the number three, faith in the Holy Trinity is understood, and in the number four, the four parts of the world. Twelve is thus multiplied by two, and we get twenty-four. The number of the elect is expressed in terms of this number, by whose preaching the faith of the Holy Trinity is spread to the four corners of the world, and the whole world is raised to Heaven. We can also understand these wings in another way. The natural law is understood in the first wing, the Law of Moses in the second wing, in the third the prophets, in the fourth the Gospels, in the fifth the Epistles of the Apostles, in the sixth Canonical authority, or the doctrine of Catholic men such as Jerome, Augustine and other holy Fathers.

(Haymo of Halberstadt, Exposition of the Apocalypse of S. John, Book 7, Book I, Chapter IV. PL 117:1007, 1010. Translation by Catherine Kavanaugh, University of Notre Dame).

Rupert, Abbot of Deutz (c. 1075–1129):

Around the throne are twenty-four thrones and seated on the thrones are twenty-four elders dressed in robes with golden crowns on their heads. Just as on the seat the kingdom of God, so on these seats we understand the judicial power of the saints, about which is has been written, the saints will judge the nations. But why are the elders sitting on the seats shown to be twenty-four in number? On this matter the explanations of the Fathers diverge. For some (of whom St. Jerome is one and the most notable) wish the elders displayed throughout here to be understood as the twenty-four books of the old law. Some others understand in these same elders the Church born through the twin testaments of the patriarchs and the apostles, or certainly those who brought about the work’s perfection, which is commended to six-fold number, by clear preaching of the Gospel. For four times six makes twenty-four. But we judging neither interpretation to be useless, nevertheless dare to bring forth something certain from the majesty of the scriptures.

(Commentary of Rupert, Abbot of Deutz, On the Apocalypse of John, Book III, Chapter IV. Translation by Benjamin Panciera, The Medieval Institute, University of Notre Dame).

Peter Cellensis (c. 1115-1183):

And so, concerning the field of the belly of Jesus, in which all storehouses of wisdom and knowledge have been hidden, just as from a mound of wheat surrounded by lilies, twenty-four loaves (according to the number of twenty-four elders standing in the sight of the Lamb) in order to curb all hunger, cleanse all disease, and remove all weakness, with however much care I have been able to gather in this little book by breaking asunder the battle lines of overflowing cares. For this number both of the sons of Jacob and of the apostles of Christ signifies twice the number twelve. And so under this number are contained the books of the Old Testament. And so the complete instruction of souls is offered from this number of books and no less full refreshment is taken from this number of loaves. And so running from the east and west and north and south to the sign of Abraham that they not fail on the way, they refresh themselves from the loaves of the compassion of the Lord and they show the perpetual refreshment to their flaws.

(Peter Cellensis, De Panibus. Cap 2, PL 202:935-936).

Peter Blensensis (c. 1130 – 1203):

The Old Testament is so called because with the coming of the New, it ceased, which the Apostle also recalls, saying, ‘Certain things passed away, and behold! All things were made new.’ So the New Testament was so named because it makes new. For those who made this statement were none other than men called out of the Old [dispensation] by grace, and belonging now to the New Testament, which is the Kingdom of Heaven. The Hebrews accept the Old Testament as authorized by God in twenty-two books, according to the number of their letters, dividing them into three orders, that is, the Law, the Prophets and the Holy Writings…Five and eight added to nine make twenty-two, as is understood from the above. Some also add Ruth and Cinoth, which is called in Latin the Lamentations of Jeremiah, to the Hagiographies. These make twenty-four volumes of the Old Testament, just like the twenty-four elders who sit before the Face of God. The fourth [order?] is of those books accepted by us in the order of the Old Testament which are not in the Canon of the Hebrews. The first of them is the Book of Wisdom, the second Ecclesiasticus, the third Tobias, the fourth Judith, the fifth and sixth the Books of the Maccabees. The Church of Christ proclaims these and honors them as divine books, even though the Jews separate them as Apocrypha…The Book of Wisdom is found nowhere among the Hebrews, as a result of which it is far more redolent of Greek style than of Hebrew eloquence. The Jews affirm this to be Babylonian. Therefore they call it Wisdom, for in it the coming of Christ, who is the Wisdom of the Father, and His Passion, is evidently expressed. Now the Book of Ecclesiasticus was definitely composed by Jesus, son of Sirach and grandson of the great priest (high priest) Jesu, which Zacharias also mentions. This book is mainly known among the Latins by this title on account of its similarity to the sayings of Solomon. Indeed the statement of Ecclesiasticus is to be studied with great care, for it deals with the discipline of the whole Church and of religious discourse. This book is found among the Hebrews, but as Apocrypha. Judith, however, Tobias and the books of the Maccabees which were written by their author are the least established. They take their names from those whose deeds they describe…These are the writers of the holy books, who speaking by the Holy Spirit, have written in collaboration with him the rule to be believed and the precepts to be lived by for our erudition. Beyond these, other books are called Apocrypha, for ‘apocrypha’ are sayings, that is, secret sayings, which are doubtful. For the origin of them is hidden, nor does it appear to the Fathers, from whom the authority of the truth of Scriptures comes down to us in most clear and certain succession. Although some truth is found in these apocrypha, a great deal is false, nothing in them has canonical authority, and they are rightly judged by the wise not to be among those things to be believed, for a great deal is put out by heretics in the name of the Prophets, and more recently is the name of the Apostles. All that is called apocrypha has been removed following the diligent examination of canonical authority.

(Tractatus Quales sunt. De Divisone Et Scriptoribus Sacrorum Librorum. PL 207:1051B-1056. Translation by Catherine Kavanaugh, The Medieval Institute, University of Notre Dame).

Glossa Ordinaria published 1498:

There are, then, twenty-two canonical books of the old testament, corresponding to the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet, as Eusebius reports, in book six of Ecclesiastical History, that Origen writes on the first Psalm; and Jerome says the same thing more fully and distinctly in his Helmeted Prologue to the books of Kings: All the books are divided into three parts by the Jews: into the law, which contains the five books of Moses; into the eight prophets; and into the nine hagiographa. This will be more clearly seen shortly. Some, however, separate the book of Ruth from the book of Judges, and the Lamentations of Jeremiah from Jeremiah, and count them among the hagiographa in order to make twenty-four books, corresponding to the twenty-four elders whom the Apocalypse presents as adoring the lamb. These are the books that are in the canon, as blessed Jerome writes at greater length in the Helmeted Prologue to the books of Kings.
In the first place are the five books of Moses, which are called the law, first of which is Genesis, second Exodus, third Leviticus, fourth Numbers, fifth Deuteronomy. Secondly follow the eight prophetic books, first of which is Joshua, second the book of Judges together with Ruth, third Samuel, i.e. first and second Kings, fourth Malachim, i.e. third and fourth Kings, fifth Isaiah, sixth Jeremiah with Lamentations, seventh Ezekiel, eighth the book of twelve prophets, first of which is Hosea, second Joel, third Amos, fourth Obadiah, fifth Jonah, sixth Micah, seventh Nahum, eighth Habakkuk, ninth Zephaniah, tenth Haggai, eleventh Zechariah, twelfth Malachi. Thirdly follow the nine hagiographa, first of which is Job, second Psalms, third Solomon’s Proverbs, fourth his Ecclesiastes, fifth his Song of Songs, sixth Daniel, seventh Paralipomenon, which is one book, not two, among the Jews, eighth Ezra with Nehemiah (for it is all one book), ninth Esther. And whatever is outside of these (I speak of the Old Testament), as Jerome says, should be placed in the apocrypha. 

(Biblia cum glosa ordinaria et expositione Lyre litterali et morali. Basel: Petri & Froben, 1498. British Museum IB.37895, vol. 1. Translation by Dr. Michael Woodward. See also Walafrid Strabo, Glossa ordinaria, De Canonicis et Non Canonicis Libris. PL 113:19-24).

William Webster also identified Richard of St. Victor, John of Salisbury, and Alphonsi Tostati, who identified the number of books of the Old Testament as twenty-four, apparently apart from a discussion of Revelation.

But of course, the key witness in the Western tradition is the great patristic advocate for excluding the apocrypha, Jerome (c. 347 – 420):

The first of these books is called Bresith, to which we give the name Genesis. The second, Elle Smoth, which bears the name Exodus; the third, Vaiecra, that is Leviticus; the fourth, Vaiedabber, which we call Numbers; the fifth, Elle Addabarim, which is entitled Deuteronomy. These are the five books of Moses, which they properly call Thorath, that is law.
The second class is composed of the Prophets, and they begin with Jesus the son of Nave, who among them is called Joshua the son of Nun. Next in the series is Spohtim,that is the book of Judges; and in the same book they include Ruth, because the events narrated occurred in the days of the Judges. Then comes Samuel, which we call First and Second Kings. The fourth is Malachim, that is, Kings, which is contained in the third and fourth volumes of Kings. And it is far better to say Malachim, that is Kings, than Malachoth, that is Kingdoms. For the author does not describe the Kingdoms of many nations, but that of one people, the people of Israel, which is comprised in the twelve tribes. The fifth is Isaiah, the sixth Jeremiah, the seventh Ezekiel, the eighth is the book of the Twelve Prophets, which is called among the Jews Thare Asra.
To the third class belong the Hariographa, of which the first book begins with Job, the second with David, whose writings they divide into five parts and comprise in one volume of Psalms; the third is Solomon, in three books, Proverbs, which they call Parables, that is Masaloth, Ecclesiastes, that is Coeleth, the Song of Songs, which they denote by the title Sir Assirim; the sixth is Daniel; the seventh, Dabre Aiamim, that is, Words of Days, which we may more expressively call a chronicle of the whole of the sacred history, the book that amongst us is called First and Second Chronicles; the eighth, Ezra, which itself is likewise divided amongst Greeks and Latins into two books; the ninth is Esther.
And so there are also twenty-two books of the Old Testament; that is, five of Moses, eight of the prophets, nine of the Hagiographa, though some include Ruth and Kinoth (Lamentations) amongst the Hagiographa, and think that these books ought to be reckoned separately; we should thus have twenty-four book of the old law. And these the Apocalypse of John represents by the twenty-four elders, who adore the Lamb, and with downcast looks offer their crowns, while in their presence stand the four living creatures with eyes before and behind, that is, looking to the past and the future, and with unwearied voice crying, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, who wast, and art, and art to come.
This preface to the Scriptures may serve as a ‘helmeted’ introduction to all the books which we turn from Hebrew into Latin, so that we may be assured that what is not found in our list must be placed amongst the Apocryphal writings. Wisdom, therefore, which finally bears the name of Solomon, and the book of Jesus, the Son of Sirach, and Judith, and Tobias, and the Shepherd are not in the canon. The first book of Maccabees I have found to be Hebrew, the second is Greek, as can be proved from the very style. Seeing that all this is so, I beseech you, my reader, not to think that my labors are in any sense intended to disparage the old translators. For the service of the tabernacle of God each one offers what he can; some gold and silver and precious stones, others linen and blue and purple and scarlet; we shall do well if we offer skins and goats hair. 

(NPNF2, Vol. 6, St. Jerome, Prefaces to Jerome’s Works, The Books of Samuel and Kings, pp. 489-490).

(see also this summary of the work of William Webster regarding the canon)

How comprehensive is the survey above?   Francis X. Gumerlock has identified 21 patristic era (i.e. 2nd to 8th centuries) commentaries on Revelation. We have cited seven of the authors of the list namely Victorinus (3rd), Jerome (4th), Caesarius (8th), Primasius (9th), Apringius (10th), Bede (17th), and Ambrose Autpert (18th).

Additionally, we have reviewed the commentaries of Andrew of Caesarea and Oecumenius, whose commentaries does not make the association between the twenty-four elders and the twenty-four books (possibly because of the twenty-two book tradition).

Thus, within the 21 extant commentaries we have found seven that favor the 24 elders representing the Old Testament, and two that do not make any mention of this view.

If Hippolytus’ works originally had any interpretation of the significance of the twenty-four elders, it seems that they have been lost. The single mention he makes in his commentary on Daniel is too vague to say that he’s making any numerical association. Moreover the fragments of his commentary in Andrew of Caesarea do not pertain to this particular section of the text.

The main work attributed to Origen is not his, but a compilation of the works of other (later) authors. I’m looking forward to the forthcoming publication and translation of this work by Dr. Panayiotis Tzamalikos, who is the premiere authority on these scholia, which have sometimes been mistakenly attributed to Origen.

Didymus the Blind’s commentary is in fragments, and should be included with the Scholia mentioned above.  Dr. Tzamalikos has kindly informed me that the Scholia do not directly analyze the question of who the twenty-four elders are, but that contextually they seem to be “the saints” in general in Scholion 29.  I look forward to the publication of this work (the oldest commentary on Revelation) hopefully in April of this year (2013).

The only fragments of Tyconius I found translated are in the Revelation volume of the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture collection, at pages 60, 66, and 136. In each of the fragments, he refers the 24 elders as corresponding to the whole church. The fragments are taken from Primasius, however, whose view we have discussed above. Moreover the second fragment appears to connect the twenty-four wings with the twenty-four elders and also with Scripture. Some of the difficulties in identifying Tyconius in Primasius are hinted at in the discussion of recovering Tyconius at page xxx of that same volume.

I have not checked Cassiodorus PL 70:1405-1418, which is basically a brief abstract. Cassiodorus’ use of the passage in the psalms (at psalms 24 and 117) does not make any mention of twenty-four books.

I have not checked Pseudo-Jerome, Pseudo-Isidore, and the other unknown patristic era authors that .Gumerlock identified.  I suspect that when review of the extant commentaries are complete, we will find that the Western authors for the most part favor the teachings of Victorinus and Jerome in making the association, whereas the Eastern authors will have no such tradition, particularly since the number of books in the Eastern canon was twenty-two.  Jerome provides a bridge between the two sides, in that he recognizes and approves of both ways of counting and reconciles them, as noted above.

As a final note, there are a number of additional commentaries on Revelation from the medieval period.  Joachim of Fiore, for example, produced a significant and controversial Exposition of the Apocalypse, which I briefly skimmed without finding any discussion of a relationship between the twenty-four elders and the twenty-four books.


P.S. A few more notes:

1. Obviously, this is one of many strands of Western tradition that Trent broke in treating the Apocrypha as Deuterocanonical.  I’m not aware of any evidence that Trent considered this issue or addressed it.  Certainly, Trent’s canons and decrees do not explain the appropriate interpretation of the twenty-four elders.

2. I’m not adopting this western tradition regarding the twenty-four elders.  While it is an interesting view, and one of several meanings assigned to the text in the West, I doubt that the 24-book enumeration goes all the way back to the 1st century (the 22-book enumeration does, as evidenced by Josephus).  Therefore, I doubt that the 24-book association was one that was originally intended.

3. Nevertheless, if one trusts in the reliability of tradition when it comes to interpretation of Scripture, one cannot really accept Trent.  Or, alternatively, if one can cast off a venerable and widespread Western tradition dating to the 3rd century simply because Trent says something that conflicts with it (without any explanation or discussion of the matter), what’s the point of calling tradition an authority?

4. Furthermore, compare this tradition in terms of weight and popularity with the novel interpretations of the woman of Revelation 11 as some kind of evidence for a bodily assumption.  This tradition is widespread and nearly universal amongst early Western commentators on Revelation, whereas the interpretation of the woman of Revelation 11 as evidence of a bodily assumption is something Mr. Albrecht couldn’t identify even one instance of in the history of the church up to the Reformation.

William Webster and the Canon of the Old Testament

December 30, 2012

William Webster has published a very helpful and well-researched booklet (187 pp.) entitled, “The Old Testament Canon and the Apocrypha.”  The book is organized into three sections (chapters):

  1. The Canon of the Jews
  2. From the Jews to Jerome
  3. From Jerome to the Reformation

Webster synthesizes a number of other writers, including the excellent work of Roger Beckwith.

In the first section, Webster explains that the Jewish canon of Scripture was 22 or 24 books (depending on how you count them), which correspond to the 37 books of the “Protestant” Old Testament.  Webster demonstrates this from ancient Jewish witnesses, including the New Testament, Josephus, Philo, the Babylonian Talmud, Ecclesiasticus (LXX version), 1 Maccabees, Latin IV Esdras (2 Esdras in the NRSV), and the Essene book of Jubliees.  This witness is confirmed as being the Jewish canon by Christian writers such as Jerome, Augustine, and Origen.   Webster also explains how Aquila’s and Theodotian’s translations provide evidence of the 22/24/37 book canon. The New Testament confirmation for this includes, Jesus use of Abel to Zecharias, which appears to confirm the 22 book order, which begins with Genesis (Abel) and ends with 2 Chronicles (Zacharias):

Luke 11:51
From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation.

Matthew 23:35
That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.

Webster also point that there was also already a three-fold division of the text by that time: the books of Moses, the Prophets, and the Hagiographa also referred to as “the Psalms” because that was by far the largest book of the group.  This three-fold division is seen in the New Testament in various places, such as especially:

Luke 24:44
And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.

Webster takes time to explain the problems with the argument from the inclusion of some apocrypha in the three ancient great codices of Vaticanus,  Sinaiticus, and Alexandrinus.  Some RC apologists will argue that the inclusion of apocrypha in those codices show that the works were part of “the Septuagint ” and that they were therefore generally accepted as inspired Scripture by the Alexandrian Jews and Christians.

Webster notes that those codices do include Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Judith, and Tobit, but that when it comes to the books of the Maccabees, Vaticanus omits the books, Sinaiticus includes books 1 and 4, and Alexandrinus includes all four of the books, and additionally the apocryphal book known as the Psalms of Solomon.

Webster also reminds the reader that Josephus used the Septuagint of his day and held to the shorter 22 book canon.  Similarly, one assumes that Philo (from Alexandria) used the Septuagint, but likewise has a shorter canon.

Webster points out that the discovery of ancient Essene materials at Qumran is not the silver bullet that RC apologists seem to think.  While it did provide some substantiation for the theory that some of the LXX books had a Semitic archetype, it did not do the same for others, and more significantly confirmed that the book of Jubilees was present in that community.

Webster cites Beckwith, who points out that the probability is that the Essenes, Pharisees, and Sadducees all had the same canon.  Some people (even some fathers) mistakenly believed that the Sadducees held only to the Pentateuch, either by confusing them with the Samaritans, or perhaps misunderstanding a portion of Josephus’ writings that describe Sadducean rejection of Pharasaic (alleged) oral tradition.

Webster also refers to the objection that allegedly there are quotations from or allusions to the Apocrypha.  Interestingly, though, the only apocryphal work that arguably is assigned prophetic character in the New Testament would be 1 Enoch, a work that the Jews never considered canonical, and which the RCs likewise do not consider canonical.

The rebuttal that some of the OT books likewise are not quoted as authoritative in the New Testament cannot serve as a legitimate rebuttal, even though it is true that not every OT book is quoted as authoritative in the New Testament.  We do not say that a book has to be quoted int he New Testament to be authoritative.  Our comments regarding the absence of such quotations of the Apocrypha is evidence that confirms that the Palestinian Jewish Apostles and our Palestinian Jewish Lord agreed with the other Palestinian Jews about the canon.

The second section of the book relates to the early church up to Jerome. Webster explains the complexity of the situation with respect to the canon of Scripture. Specifically, he explains that the Eastern Church held to a more nuanced view and generally to the shorter 22 canon, with the exception of Origen. Origen, nevertheless, is a testimony to the fact that the Jews held to the shorter canon as discussed above. Clement and Cyril of Jerusalem are two examples of eastern fathers who have a shorter canon. Athanasius of Alexandria is another example.

Webster seems to think that the Western church, however, generally accepted a longer canon. However, even then, there were exceptions, such as Hilary of Poitiers. Rufinus and Jerome, in the West, are the last two examples of Western fathers (to the time of Jerome) who held to be shorter canon. Although the Council of Rome did seem to reject Amos and Obadiah they apparently accepted all of the deuterocanonical works that are accepted by Roman Catholics today. Adding to the complexity of the situation, is the fact that the term as dress could referred to several different books. Finally, Webster points outside until the Council of Trent. There was no definitive allegedly infallible list of books in the last.

In the third section, Webster begins from Jerome (giving Jerome a little bit of double coverage) and discusses the church from Jerome to the time of the Reformation. Webster’s claim may seem a little surprising:

The overall practice of the Western Church with respect to the canon from the time of Jerome (early fifth century) until the Reformation was to follow the judgment of Jerome. The apocryphal books were accorded a deuterocanonical status, but were not regarded as canonical in the strict sense. That is, they were not accepted as authoritative for the establishing of doctrine but were used for the purpose of edification. Thus, the Church retained the distinctions established by Jerome, Rufinus and Athanasius of ecclesiastical and canonical books.

Webster provides evidence from Strabo et al.’s Glossa Ordinaria.

Webster documents a litany of post-Jerome Western theologians who held to a shorter canon, including many luminaries:

(see the endnotes here, for documentation of these assertions)

Webster also points out that the edition of the Bible printed by Cardinal Ximines and approved by Pope Leo X, followed Jerome and included all of Jerome’s prologues, including those identifying the apocrypha as extra-canonical.

Webster’s work in regard to documenting the existence of the shorter canon of Scripture down through history is notable, but is not the first such effort.  The great Anglican bishop of Durham, John Cosin, provided “A Scholastical History of the Canon of the Holy Scripture,” which was first published in 1657.  The works of the editor in attempting to verify and document Cosin’s citations in the edition from Cosin’s works (linked above) was itself an enormous effort.

I believe that Webster probably was at least partially reliant on Cosin in locating some of the many testimonies of the medieval authors.  The result of Cosin’s and Webster’s work, however, is quite impressive.

And it is by no means exhaustive.  In a later post we may explore at least one area where Webster’s research can be augmented.

– TurretinFan

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.


False Dichotomy Between Infallible Church and "Subjective, Individualistic" Conclusions

November 24, 2010

Over at the GreenBaggins blog, in a comment box, Roman Catholic Bryan Cross wrote:

If we deny that the Church has such a gift [a gift (or charism) of infallibility in matters of faith and morals], then we are left with a subjective, individualistic, “changes hearts” criterion of canonicity, and such a subjective criterion is, as you say, bogus.


This false dichotomy is fairly easily smoked out.

It can be smoked out a few ways.

I. Historical Example

The Roman church did not claim to infallibly define the canon of Scripture before Trent, and yet people (both in the Roman communion and outside it) felt perfectly comfortable having a fallible canon. It worked for over 1500 years.

Ignatius was satisfied with a canon that was not based on a church having a gift of infallibility. So were all the church fathers and all the medieval theologians.

The North African councils produced a canon themselves rather than attempting to seek an ecumenical decision on the question. Before them, Athanasius provided a list of the canon of Scripture without even relying on a church council!

And then, after the Reformation comes along, Trent tries to infallibly define the canon. And when they define it, they contradict two leading cardinals of the immediately previous generation (Cardinals Ximenez and Cajetan) – cardinals who affirmed Jerome’s (and the Protestants’) canon.

II. Analogical Counter-Example

What Bryan is arguing for on the level of books is also an issue with respect to parts of books – to the issue of the text of the books themselves. Is the story of the woman found in adultery in the original text? Is the famous passage in 1 John 5:7-8 part of the original text?

Bryan could try to argue that “If we deny that the Church has such a gift [a gift (or charism) of infallibility in matters of faith and morals], then we are left with a subjective, individualistic, “changes hearts” criterion of [textual authenticity], and such a subjective criterion is, as you say, bogus.”

But it should be readily apparent that one can have a knowledge of the text of Scripture and reach conclusions of textual authenticity without resorting to completely subjective and individualistic exercises of authority.

Trent itself originally attempted to define not only the books themselves but also the parts of books (with a focus on things like the apocryphal additions to Daniel and Esther). However, Rome has subsequently issued a New Vulgate that does not entirely follow the text of the Clementine Vulgate.

III. Logical Analysis

Obviously, the portion of Bryan’s comment I’ve quoted above is simply a fragment of a larger argument. As such, it is a little informal. On the one hand, we could simply insist that Bryan should formalize his argument. However, until he does so, we can explore his argument in the form in which it has been presented.

As presented, it seems to suggest that there are really only two options:

1) Infallible Church
2) Subjective, Individualistic Judgment

This set is not well-defined. At least, it does not appear to be well-defined.

Is our knowledge of the facts of history generally simply a matter of subjective, individualistic judgment? Is our knowledge of which books Homer wrote the domain of subjective, individualistic judgment? Is our knowledge of which are the previous presidents of the United States merely a matter of subjective, individualistic judgment?

Unless the words “subjective” and “individualistic” are simply epithets (which is a real possibility), then there is a third way – a way in which we conclude that historical facts (God inspiring 66 books, Homer composing two epic poems, 40+ men becoming president of the U.S.) are true, without either resorting to subjective, individualistic means or relying on an infallible church.

IV. Scriptural Analysis

Scripture does not, of course, directly address Bryan’s complaint. However, Scripture does provide teachings that undermine Bryan’s complaint.

One of the areas of teaching relates to the fact that the elect, upon regeneration, are sheep that hear the voice of the shepherd:

John 10:16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:

Psalm 95:7-9
For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice,harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness: when your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work.

Bryan cannot deny that the Scriptures are the voice of the Shepherd, and consequently we conclude that the elect will recognize and follow the Scripture. This does not mean that they will always do this perfectly. They remain human and fallible. There have been great men of God who have erred with respect either to rejecting an inspired book or accepting as inspired a book that is not.

Deuteronomy 33:3 Yea, he loved the people; all his saints are in thy hand: and they sat down at thy feet; every one shall receive of thy words.

John 17:8 For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.

1 Thessalonians 2:13 For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.

The point here is that the people of God do receive the Word of God. That’s true whether it is in preached form (as in a sermon that conveys the Word of God) or in written form (principally in the Scriptures).

This recognition of God’s word for what it is, a recognition that the Holy Spirit gives to all believers to a greater or lesser degree, does not translate into an infallible ability. The Thessalonians were fallible human beings. Nevertheless, they were able to receive Paul’s message for what it was. According to the same principle, we can receive the Scriptures for what they are.


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

Michuta Contra Athanasius

June 12, 2010

Athanasius’ canon of Scripture, presented in his 39th Festal letter is famous. It’s not nearly as famous as his “Athanasius Contra Mundum” rejection of the Arian heresy, but it is probably the second most famous aspect of Athanasius’ life today (his excellent letter to Marcellinus on the Psalms was famous in ancient times and perhaps we can revitalize interest in that excellent work as well).

The most famous aspect of Athanasius’ canon of Scripture is the fact that his list of New Testament books is the earliest list that we have that is exactly right without expressing doubt about any of the canonical books. Another famous aspect of Athanasius’ canon of Scripture, however, was his attempt to follow the 22-book Hebrew canon. In doing so, he gets it mostly right, despite the fact that he omits Esther and counts Ruth separately from Judges. In particular, Athanasius explicitly rejected many of the so-called deuterocanonical books.

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.

Greek: Ἀλλ’ ἕνεκά γε πλείονος ἀκριβείας προστίθημι καὶ τοῦτο γράφων ἀναγκαίως, ὡς ὅτι ἔστι καὶ ἕτερα βιβλία τούτων ἔξωθεν, οὐ κανονιζόμενα μέν, τετυπωμένα δὲ παρὰ τῶν πατέρων ἀναγινώσκεσθαι τοῖς ἄρτι προσερχομένοις καὶ βουλομένοις κατηχεῖσθαι τὸν τῆς εὐσεβείας λόγον· Σοφία Σολομῶντος καὶ Σοφία Σιρὰχ καὶ Ἑσθὴρ καὶ Ἰουδὶθ καὶ Τωβίας καὶ Διδαχὴ καλουμένη τῶν ἀποστόλων καὶ ὁ Ποιμήν. Καὶ ὅμως, ἀγαπητοί, κἀκείνων κανονιζομένων, καὶ τούτων ἀναγινωσκομένων, οὐδαμοῦ τῶν ἀποκρύφων μνήμη, ἀλλὰ αἱρετικῶν ἐστιν ἐπίνοια, γραφόντων μὲν ὅτε θέλουσιν αὐτά, χαριζομένων δὲ καὶ προστιθέντων αὐτοῖς χρόνους, ἵνα ὡς παλαιὰ προφέροντες, πρόφασιν ἔχωσιν ἀπατᾶν ἐκ τούτου τοὺς ἀκεραίους.

– Athanasius, Festal Letter 39, Section 7.

As James Swan has noted, however, Roman Catholic Bibles are Bigger than Athanasius’ Bible. They include “The Wisdom of Solomon, and the Wisdom of Sirach, and Esther, and Judith, and Tobit,” which Athanasius indicated that he did not accept as part of the canon of inspired Scripture.

Roman Catholic lay author Gary Michuta provides numerous alleged examples from Athanasius, where Athanasius is allegedly quoting the apocrypha as scripture. One in particular is of interest:

Athanasius calls the Book of Judith Scripture. (FN: See Four Discourses Against the Arians, Discourse 2.35, [L. Deus autem non ut homo est, quemadmodum testatur Scriptura], quoting Jdt 13:15. See Breen, Introduction, 374.)

– Gary Michuta Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger, p. 122.

A careful investigation of this claim requires us to take a look at Judith 13:15. My friend James Swan found the following:

  • Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition: “And all ran to meet her from the least to the greatest: for they now had no hopes that she would come.”
  • Vulgate: “et concurrerunt ad eam omnes a minimo usque ad maximum quoniam speraverunt eam iam non esse venturam.”
  • KJV: “So she took the head out of the bag, and shewed it, and said unto them, behold the head of Holofernes, the chief captain of the army of Assur, and behold the canopy, wherein he did lie in his drunkenness; and the Lord hath smitten him by the hand of a woman.”

There’s nothing close to these in Four Discourses Against the Arians, Discourse 2.35 (see page 367). This may seem somewhat puzzling. The puzzle begins to be resolved when one examines the secondary source on which Michuta was relying (amusingly, Michuta’s ccArmstrong in tertiary-sourcing the subject avoids this particular problem when he relies on Michuta, because he cuts off Michuta’s footnote).

Michuta’s reference to “Breen” is apparently a reference to A.E. Breen, A General and Critical Introduction to the Holy Scripture, [Rochester, New York: John P. Smith Printing House, 1897]

The puzzle increases, because there’s nothing about Judith or Athanasius on page 374 of this book. A little further searching leads to some mention that appears relevant. On page 155, Breen does present a list of similarities from Athansius citing the Apocrypha:

Judith XIII.15
“…non enim quasi homo, sic Deus comminabitur, neque sicut filius hominis ad iracundiam inflammabitur.”

Idem contra Arianos, Orat. II.35
” ‘Deus autem non ut homo est, quemadmodum testatur Scriptura.’ “

(also mentioned at p. 160)

Breen is quoting the following from Athanasius:

But God is not as man, as Scripture has said; but is existing and is ever; therefore also His Word is existing* and is everlastingly with the Father, as radiance of light And man’s word is composed of syllables, and neither lives nor operates anything, but is only significant of the speaker’s intention, and does but go forth and go by, no more to appear, since it was not at all before it was spoken;

Breen makes the following comment:

To judge rightly St. Athanasius’ attitude towards Holy Scripture, we must recall what has been said respecting Meliton. We must readily admit that in these ages a distinction was made between the two classes of books, but it did not deny divine inspiration to the deuterocanonical works. A greater dignity was given by some Fathers to the books that had come down to the Church from the Jews; but these same Fathers testify to the veneration in which the deuterocanonical works were held by the Church, and to the part they played in the life of the faithful. It must also be borne in mind that Athanasius flourished in Alexandria the fertile source of Apocrypha, and in his zeal to repel the inventions of heretics he was most conservative in treating the Canon. His location of Esther among the deuterocanonical books is unique, and was probably caused by the sanguinary character of the book, which also led some Jews to doubt of its divine inspiration.

His omission of Maccabees seems to be an oversight since he adverts to their history in his writings. We do not seek to establish that the status of the two classes of books was the same with Athanasius; but we judge it evident from his writings that he venerated these same books as divine, although not equal in extrinsic authority to the books officially handed down from the Jews. The testimony of Athanasius that the Fathers of the Church had decreed that these books should be read in the Church manifests clearly the Church’s attitude towards these books; and the following passages, taken from the writings of Athanasius, show how deeply he also had drunk from these founts.

There are several layers of issues and problems that unravel this puzzle.

Typo in the Reference

It looks like the reference (XIII:15) is a typo.

Judith VIII:15 is

  • Vulgate: “non enim quasi homo Deus sic comminabitur neque sicut filius hominis ad iracundiam inflammabitur”
  • Douay-Rheims Bible translates this as: “For God will not threaten like man, nor be inflamed to anger like the son of man.” (which appears to be an accurate translation of the Latin)
  • Corresponding King James version (via the original Greek) has: “Do not bind the counsels of the Lord our God: for God is not as man, that he may be threatened; neither is he as the son of man, that he should be wavering.” (Judith 8:16, in the KJV)
  • Greek: ὑμεῖς δὲ μὴ ἐνεχυράζετε τὰς βουλὰς κυρίου τοῦ θεοῦ ἡμῶν, ὅτι οὐχ ὡς ἄνθρωπος ὁ θεὸς ἀπειληθῆναι οὐδ᾿ ὡς υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου διαιτηθῆναι. (Judith 8:16, in the LXX)

Ambiguous Reference
The second layer of problems for Michuta and Breen is an ambiguous reference. The second quotation he provided (for comparison in Athanasius’ works) is from Athanasius’ Four Orations against the Arians, Discourse 2, Section 35. Here is the relevant English translation in its immediate context:

Now man, begotten in time, in time also himself begets the child; and whereas from nothing he came to be, therefore his word also is over and continues not. But God is not as man, as Scripture has said; but is existing and is ever; therefore also His Word is existing and is everlastingly with the Father, as radiance of light.


ὁ δὲ θεὸς οὐχ ὡς ἄνθροπός ἐστι, τοῦτο γὰρ εἶπεν ἡ γραφή [fn1], ἀλλ’ ὤν ἐστι καὶ ἀεί ἐστι [fn2] (Greek: )

Fn1: Judith 8:16 [15 Vulgate] Fn2: Exodus 3:14

Perhaps you notice the issue: immediately following “as Scripture has said” there is a Scripture text from Exodus 3:14.

Proto-Canonical Alternative

Furthermore, even assuming the ambiguous reference is to the phrase preceding “as Scripture has said,” the “οὐχ ὡς ἄνθρωπος ὁ θεὸς” is the LXX for Numbers 23:19, and Judith 8:16 has exactly the same “οὐχ ὡς ἄνθρωπος ὁ θεὸς,” at least according to my LXX (I’m not aware of any reason to think that Athanasius’ LXX differed on this point). Thus, especially in view of Athanasius’ explicit rejection of Judith as being part of the inspired Word of God, it seems unreasonable to conclude that this reference in Athanasius is a statement that Judith is canonical Scripture.


What is amusing about this from my standpoint is that Michuta is obviously relying solely on his secondary source, Breen. Furthermore, Breen has overlooked (for whatever reason) the apparently equally good canonical reference to Numbers 23:19, possibly based on familiarity only with the Latin translation, or other secondary reference (such as the source I’ve linked above, which provides only the apocryphal reference).

– TurretinFan

%d bloggers like this: