In the last post on this topic I explained what was at the center of the Old Testament Canon debate – what to do with the Deuterocanonical Books – out or in?

Using the notes I took listening to the  Canonization of Scripture (OT) lecture given by C. Michael Patton of Reclaiming the Mind Ministries from a class called “Bibliology & Hermeneutics” that is part of The Theology Program.  I want to share common arguments used by those who defend their inclusion heard mostly from Catholic scholars and with each argument (there are six I’m listing) there is a counter-argument.

Argument #1 – These works were included in the Septuagint. 

The Septuagint (called LXX from now on) is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament by scholars in the Jewish community in Alexandria, Egypt from 300-150 B.C.

The Apostle Paul quoted from LXX, as did the author of Hebrews use the LXX as his source when quoting Old Testament scripture.  Actually 70% of the New Testament quotations of the Old Testament come from the LXX, not the Hebrew manuscripts.

This is a pretty strong argument.

However it is disputed whether or not the Deuterocanonical Books were really included in the LXX for several reasons:

  • The earliest copies of the LXX that we have are Christian in origin and were not copied until the 4th century.  So we can’t really tell if the Alexandrian Jews had a wider canon.
  • The three different codex of the LXX that exist do not agree concerning the Deuterocanonical Books.  So really, the LXX is not a stable canon, and even the Catholic Church don’t include all of them.  This shows that there was disagreement even back then.
  • Philo, a first century Jewish scholar in Alexandria who used the LXX extensively did not mention the Apocrypha.  This is noteworthy because he commented on virtually all of the Protocanonical books (first canon – what is in the Protestant Old Testament and Jewish Bible).
  • Neither did Josephus, a first century Jewish historian who also used the LXX a lot.  He explicitly states that the Apocryphal books were never excepted by the Jews.

This leads those who argue against their inclusion to wonder, if  in the Jewish community you hear a complete lack of acknowledgement of these books.  Is the voice of God being heard?  This leads Protestant scholars to believe the Deuterocanonical books were added sometime between 150 B.C. and 400 A.D.

Argument # 2 – Several Deuterocanonical works were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.

So those who want these books included would say that this proves and early acceptance of Deuterocanonical books.

The problem is that many works were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls that were not canonical.  1 Enonch was found among the Dead Sea Scrolls and that books is not accepted by the Roman Catholic Church.

Argument # 3 – Early Christians reflect some knowledge of the Deuterocanonical books.

The problem with this is that knowledge of a work doesn’t make it authoritative.  Many people know of the Deuterocanonical books, and may even respect and quote from them with authority, but this does not necessarily mean that they believed them to be inspired.

Argument # 4 – Certain Church Fathers used them authoritatively, and sometimes even quoting them as Scripture.

We see in some writing by early Church Fathers that for instance: Clement of Alexandria quoted from Tobit, Sirach and the Wisdom of Solomon.  Origen quoted from the Epistle of Jeremiah, and Ireanaeus quoted from the Wisdom of Solomon.

The rub is while early Christians did quote from Deuterocanonical books occasionally, the earliest Christians show no evidence of their acceptance as Scripture.  You only saw these books inclusion becoming an issue when the Christian community began to break ties with the Jews.  Actually the earliest Christian list of books in the Old Testament is from Melito, bishop of Sardis in 170 A.D. and it only contains Protocanonical books.

Argument # 5 – Many official Church councils included them as part of the accepted canon of Scripture.

Councils of note are Rome in 382, Carthage in 393, and Hippo in 397.  These councils are often referenced as having the New Testament right, but they include the Apocrypha.  We don’t believe the councils were heretical.  This is a very strong argument for the inclusion crowd.

The thing is that Rome, Carthage or Hippo were not ecumenical councils.  They were either North African or Roman local church councils.  That being so they did not have the authority to declare the canon.  Also Augustine who was the North African bishop of Hippo had great influence in each of those councils and he accepted the Apocrypha (though a slightly different version than what is accepted by the Roman Catholic Church).  This explains their acceptance of the Deuterocanonical books.

Argument # 6 – Martin Luther presumptuously deleted them from the canon in the 15th Century.

Those in favor of inclusion would say he did so because they contained elements of theology that he didn’t agree with.

That may be so, but he certainly wasn’t the first.  He just did what many others throughout church history had done.  There actually wasn’t an official “infallible” declaration on the canon by Rome until after Martin Luther rejected the Deuterocanonical books.  The Council of Trent overreacted to Luther’s rejection, and in doing so declared these books to be Scripture.  Until that time the Deuterocanonical books were doubted by most and were labeled either Apocryphal or Deuterocanonical books, not Scripture.

Numerous Church leaders rejected the Deuterocanonical books – a few examples:

  • Origen – The 2nd century theologian rejected the Apocrypha, he listed 22 books in the Old Testament canon (Our 39 is their 22 – all the Minor Prophets were included in one book, Jeremiah & Lamentations are combined, Ezra-Nehemiah were considered one book, 1 & 2 Chronicles and 1 & 2 Kings were just the Book of Chronicles and the Book of Kings)
  • Athanasius, 4th century bishop of Alexandria.  He rejected most of the Apocrypha and held to a 22 book canon.  He also didn’t include Esther, but is in the minority with that.
  • Jerome – In the 5th century the Church commissioned him to translate the Scriptures into Latin producing the Latin Vulgate which was the approved translation for over 1000 years.  He held to a 22 book canon, and in the Latin Vulgate included a footnote with the Deuterocanonical books that said, “I do not believe these to be inspired.”
  • Gregory the Great, Pope of Rome rejected 1 Maccabees.
  • The Veneral Bede, Historian and Doctor of the Church, in his commentary in Revelation listed his OT Books to be the same as the Protocanonical books.
  • Ambrose of Antpert – 9th century theologian.
  • Hugh of St. Victor – a leading 12th century theologian.
  • John of Salisbury – a leading scholar in the 12th century who later became Bishop of Chartres.
  • Rupert of Dentz – early 12th century theologian.
  • Hugh of St. Cher (Hugo Cardinalis), a Dominican Cardinal in the 13th century.
  • Nicholas of Lyra – highly regarded & influential theologian in the Middle ages, his work as a Biblical commentator was thought to surpass that of even Thomas Aquinas.
  • William of Ockham wrote, in his Dialogues, that the Church did not receive the books of the Apocrypha as canonical.
  • Cardinal Cajetan, who was an opponent of Martin Luther in his commentary on all of the books of the Bible did not include the Deuterocanonical books saying that they were not canonical in the “strict sense.”  He even dedicated that volume of work to the Pope.

So leading up to the Council of Trent (1545-1563) you could hardly say that there was a consensus regarding the Deuterocanonical books and their place in the canon, as some would have you believe.

Next post on this will cover the arguments for the exclusion of the Deuterocanonical books.

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