Category Archives: Apocrypha

The Septuagint and the Canon

Septuagint History & Purpose

The Septuagint is generally thought of as a translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek. Yet, as professor Peter Gentry writes, this is imprecise.

What is meant by the term Septuagint? A lack of precision is common in both popular and scholarly use of the word. Mainly responsible for this lack of precision are uncertainties about the history of the process of translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek.[1]

The Pentateuch (also known as the five books of Moses), was translated sometime between 285-240 BC. Alfred Edersheim says the Septuagint contained only the Pentateuch,[2] but scholars differ on this point. The Letter of Aristeas describes the supposed miraculous origins of the Septuagint, but only mentions the Pentateuch.[3] We do not know whether translating the Pentateuch alone was the original intent, but nonetheless, the translation work continued. Alfred Edersheim cites evidence from the prologue to the Wisdom of Solomon and argues the Septuagint was completed by 221 BC. In 2009, Peter J. Gentry claims the Septuagint was completed by 130 B.C.E.; just five years later he claims it was completed by 100 B.C.E.[4] Scholars differ in their dating in part due to their differing assumptions about where the task of translation ends and recension (editing) begins, and in part due to differing assumptions about the extent of the canon. Alfred Edersheim, for example, is arguing for the truncated Protestant canon and therefore claims an earlier date.

There are differences of opinion as to why the Septuagint was created. As described by Peter Gentry, there are five reasons given for the translation.

Five major hypotheses have been advanced: (1) a generation of Greek-speaking Jews in the Hellenistic period begun by the conquest of Alexander the Great (333-323 B.C.E.) required Greek scriptures for their liturgy, or (2) for the education of their young; (3) the translation was required as a legal document or (4) as cultural heritage for the royal library being assembled in Alexandria; (5) Aristarchus’ new edition of Homer around 150 B.C.E. employed textual criticism to produce an authoritative text and served as a model to produce an authoritative text of the Bible for Alexandrian Jews (hence early revisions and The Letter of Aristeas).[5]

It should be clear that these five reasons are not mutually exclusive. Like all human endeavors, there were likely many reasons for the translation. What is clear is that the Jewish diaspora needed the translation, as many of them no longer spoke Hebrew. Even in Palestine, where Hebrew was the sacred language,[6] the “diaspora synagogues”[7] used the Septuagint and considered it authoritative.[8] One side effect of the Septuagint was that Jewish religion and culture became part of the mainstream and available to anyone who spoke Greek. Of the period prior to the existence of the Septuagint, the scholar Jaroslav Pelikan writes:

The Jewish religion was enshrined, but therefore was also locked, in a sacred book, in a code of conduct, and in a liturgical ritual that were purposely being kept hidden from the outside world in one of the most esoteric of all those exotic languages and therefore virtually unavailable, except in bits and pieces, to anyone who did not know Hebrew.[9]

From an obscure religion of a backwater country, Judaism became well known and respected, even gaining a special legal status in the Roman Empire.[10] This rise to respectability came about because the Septuagint made the Jewish faith accessible to the Gentiles. Jaroslav Pelikan observed:

It had long been part of the hope of Israel, voiced by the prophets, that peoples “far and remote” would finally come to Mount Zion and learn the Torah, which was intended and revealed by the One True God for all peoples, not only for the people of Israel. Yet without their learning to read Hebrew, that hope was largely beyond realization. But when we read the account of Pentecost in the New Testament, we hear of “devout Jews drawn from every nation under heaven, Parthians, Medes, Elamites; inhabitants of Mesopotamia, of Judaea and Cappadocia, of Pontus and Asia, of Phrygia and Pamphylia, of Egypt and the districts of Lybia around Cyrene; visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs.” Many of the “Jews” in this mouth-filling catalog must have been Gentiles by birth but were now converted Jews, “proselytes,” by faith and observance. From an obscure sect turned inward, huddled around its Torah and reciting its Shema, Judaism had now become a world religion, a significant force in the civilization of the Mediterranean world.[11]

The Septuagint was a boon for the Jewish people, as the Septuagint resulted in large numbers of Gentile adherents known as the God-Fearers. The sociologist Rodney Stark describes the God-Fearers as gentiles who admired “the moral teachings and monotheism of the Jews, but who would not take the final step of fulfilling the law [circumcision, dietary restrictions, and the like].”[12] The Septuagint was used by Jews for 250 years, and only became a problem for Jews after Christians adopted it as scripture.[13] The Septuagint used by the New Testament authors and the church fathers contained the books Protestants now call the Apocrypha.[14] J.N.D. Kelly writes:

It should be observed that the Old Testament thus admitted as authoritative in the Church was somewhat bulkier and more comprehensive [than the Protestant Bible]. …It always included, though with varying degrees of recognition, the so-called apocrypha or deuterocanonical books. The reason for this is that the Old Testament which passed in the first instance into the hands of Christians was not the original Hebrew version, but the Greek translation known as the Septuagint.[15]

The Evolutionary History of the Hebrew Text

Robert Alter notes: “It is an old and in some ways unfair cliché to say that translation is always a betrayal.”[16] This is because the translator is presented with a text that contains shades of meaning, and has to choose one of those shades to represent in the translated text. In some cases, the translation actually changes the meaning of the text. Robert Alter notes:

The unacknowledged heresy underlying most modern English versions of the Bible is the use of translation as a vehicle for ‘explaining’ the Bible instead of representing it in another language, and in the most egregious instances this amounts to explaining away the Bible. This impulse may be attributed not only to a rather reduced sense of the philological enterprise but also to a feeling that the Bible, because of its canonical status, has to be made accessible — indeed, transparent — to all.[17]

This is not the case with the Septuagint, as the modern concept of canonicity did not exist, nor the modern preoccupation with understandability. The translation of the Septuagint was not meant for the illiterate masses, but for educated people who would read and explain the scriptures. As scholars know, today’s Hebrew Scriptures are edited versions of the original texts. Even the alphabet has changed from the original Paleo-Hebrew to the so-called Square Script used today. The Jewish Virtual Library notes:

The square script belongs to the Aramaic branch of Semitic writing. …[By] the second century C.E. it is already possible to speak of the square script proper (figure 7). By the seventh century (figure 8) almost every letter of the alphabet had either a top bar or a head, while many had a base as well.[18]

The Babylonian Talmud mentions there being different scripts: Paleo-Hebrew is called “Ivri,” and the script brought back from Babylon by Ezra is called “Ashuri.” The Talmud states:

Mar Zutra or, some say, Mar Ukba said: Originally the Torah was given to Israel in Ivri (Paleo-Hebrew) letters and in the sacred Hebrew language. Later, in the times of Ezra, the Torah was given in Ashuri script and Aramaic language. Finally, they selected for Israel the Ashuri script and Hebrew language, leaving the original Hebrew characters and Aramaic language for the ignorant people. Rebbe Yose said: Why is it called Ashuri (Assyrian) script? Because they brought it with them from Assyria.[19]

Robert Alter cites the Israeli linguist Abba ben David (in a text available only in Hebrew) as saying that a “new kind of Hebrew” emerged in the “pre-Christian” (or Second Temple) period.

It is widely recognized that this new Hebrew reflected the influence of the Aramaic vernacular in morphology, in grammar, and in some of its vocabulary, and that, understandably, it also incorporated a vast number of Greek and Latin loanwords. …Ben David, observing, as have others before him, that there are incipient signs of an emergent rabbinic Hebrew in late biblical books like Jonah and the Song of Songs, makes the bold and, to my mind, convincing proposal that rabbinic Hebrew was built upon an ancient vernacular that for the most part had been excluded from the literary language used for the canonical texts.[20]

The alphabet changed, the spelling changed, the language changed, and in some cases, the meaning changed. This is important to an understanding of the Septuagint and provides the basis for understanding the importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The scholar Martin Hengel notes some Dead Sea Scrolls are manuscripts written in the “paleo-Hebrew script” which dates from the early third century BC and seems to be the earliest biblical manuscript in existence. Hengel also notes the Masoretic text is “significantly inferior …to the LXX exemplar.”[21]

The Masoretic text is written in a different script than was used during the time of the Old Testament; if Moses were alive today, he would be unable to read the Pentateuch. Not only did the alphabet change, but the texts were altered. First, the spelling changed; second, the manuscripts slowly began using consonants to represent vowels; third, the meaning itself changed.[22] And let us not forget about the textual variants; one of the more noticeable examples is Psalm 14:3. In the King James Version, this verse reads: “They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” The Septuagint, by contrast, is much longer.

They are all gone out of the way, they are together become good for nothing, there is none that does good, no not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood: destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known: there is no fear of God before their eyes.[23] (Ps 14:3) [English translation by L.C.L. Brenton]

Deacon Joseph Gleason writes: “In Romans 3:10, St. Paul writes, ‘It is written,’ a common indicator in the biblical literature that the Scriptures are being referenced. Then, in verses ten through eighteen, he offers an extended quotation from the Psalm.”[24] This extended quotation, which the apostle Paul cites as Scripture, is quoting the longer passage from the Septuagint, rather than the shorter passage found in the Masoretic text.

Fundamentalists and Evangelicals find this shocking and problematic. Because they read modern notions of literacy, authorship, and textual authority back into the ancient world, they are unable to comprehend a world in which an author was merely an authority under which a text was written (and edited). They fail to realize the primacy of oral transmission of knowledge and the inferiority of the written text. They fail to understand a religion where sacred rituals took precedence over sacred text.

People often notice the New Testament quotations usually don’t match the Old Testament source texts, as we made clear in the examples cited above. What they don’t know is the manuscripts used to create the English translations did not exist; the Masoretic Text was created later. Scholars trace portions of the Masoretic Text back to textual variants within the Dead Sea Scrolls,[25] but the Masoretic Text is an edited version of those texts.

One of the more curious differences between the Septuagint and the Masoretic text is in the ages of the patriarchs. The Oxford scholar James Barr notes the ages of the patriarchs, “at the time when the first son was born …were different, and in most cases 100 years higher at each birth.” Barr goes on to say that the generations of the patriarchs are about 1,000 years longer in the Septuagint than in the Hebrew text. [26]

The version of Ezra in the Masoretic text begins with the last two verses of 2 Chronicles. By contrast, the Septuagint version of 1 Esdras begins with the last two chapters of 2 Chronicles. 1 Esdras also contains the story of the three youths (1 Esdras 3:4 to 4:4), which turns the core of 1 Esdras into literary chiasmus.[27] Since chiastic structures were a common feature of ancient literature, this suggests the Masoretic text has been artificially truncated.

Translation Styles and the Authoritative Text

R. H. Charles states that the Masoretic Text is the result of “conscious recension” and “unconscious change.” He writes:

Both before and after the Christian era the Hebrew text did not possess any hard and fast tradition. It will further be obvious that the Massoretic [sic] form of this text, which has so long been generally assumed as conservative of the most ancient tradition and as therefore final, is after all only one of the many phases through which the text passed in the process of over 1,000 years, i.e. 400 B. C. till A. D. 600, or thereabouts.[28]

What the Masoretes did is to select and establish a particular strain of Jewish interpretation, and is therefore what Adam Clarke describes as a “gloss” on the text.[29] A curious historical anomaly is that the manuscripts for the Septuagint are older than the manuscripts for the Hebrew Scriptures, and therefore represent the Old Testament text as it existed during the early Second Temple period. By contrast, the Hebrew Scriptures, being the product of the Masoretic tradition, represents the Old Testament as it existed for the Jews during the medieval period. This means the Septuagint represents the earlier text, making it of interest to anyone trying to discover an original or authoritative text.

The existence of earlier alternate texts presents a problem for those who claim the English language translations are accurate representations of the Scriptures. Bruce Metzger comments:

The importance of the Septuagint as a translation is obvious. Besides being the first translation ever made of the Hebrew Scriptures, it was the medium through which the religious ideas of the Hebrews were brought to the attention of the world. It was the Bible of the early Christian church, and when the Bible is quoted in the New Testament, it is almost always from the Septuagint version. Furthermore, even when not directly quoted in the New Testament, many of the terms used and partly created by the Septuagint translators became part and parcel of the language of the New Testament.[30]

As Bruce Metzger points out, the Septuagint was the Bible for the earliest Christians. The existence of an earlier and substantially different text pose problems for those who assume their Bible represents the original text. The existence of alternate texts is also a problem for scholars who prefer a literal, word for word English translation. The Septuagint is based on an earlier text and represents a grab bag of translation techniques. Bruce Metzger informs us the translators “avoided literalistic renderings of phrases congenial to another age and another language.”[31] Peter J. Gentry describes the translation styles as follows.

Individual books [of the Septuagint] vary in character and quality of translation and exhibit a full spectrum from extreme formal correspondence and literal translation to dynamic and functional translation and even paraphrase.[32]

Bruce Metzger gives us a list Septuagint books falling into the literal vs. paraphrastic translation styles.

The various books in the Septuagint vary as to literal and free translation. Examples of free (or even sometime paraphrastic) translations are Job, Proverbs, Isaiah, Daniel, and Esther; literal translations are the books of Judges (the B text), Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles.[33]

Oxford professor Jan Joosten writes concerning the conflicting exegetical tendencies in the Septuagint.

Even within each individual translation unit, a multiplicity of factors comes into play. While most Septuagint translators basically attempt to give a faithful rendering of their Hebrew source text in the target language, several other elements determine the outcome in the translation. To begin with the translators’ comprehension of the source text is in many places predetermined by existing interpretative traditions. In many instances, the traditions surfacing in the Septuagint later turn up in Rabbinic sources, which led Zecharia Frankel to speak of the influence of Palestinian exegesis on the hermeneutics of the Septuagint. Another factor influencing the work of the translators is their knowledge of the biblical context in the largest sense of the word. Many renderings reveal the more or less unconscious working of an enormous web of intertextuality, of which the harmonization of parallel passages is only the most prominent symptom. A third factor is the culture, world view and theology of the Diaspora Jews among whom the version came into being. Admittedly, little is known about the culture, world view and theology of Alexandrian Judaism – making it difficult to determine influences with any degree of certainty.

The multiplicity of factors – several others could be thought of – leads to a layering of meanings in the Septuagint as a whole. The plain meaning of a passage may stand in contrast to the vocabulary used; different meanings may emerge according to whether a phrase is read in light of the near or the larger context; a simple and straightforward passage may contain one puzzling expression throwing the meaning of the whole into doubt. [34]

It is not always clear why one translation style was chosen over another; within each category of styles, we find historical books and wisdom literature. Some of the Major Prophets (Isaiah and Daniel) are paraphrased while the Psalms are rendered literally. Christ, the apostles, and the early church used a bible that based on different texts and translated using various methods, methods that would not pass muster with most scholars today. Yet the New Testament authors referred to the Septuagint as Scripture, and the Septuagint was the Bible of the early church. The style of translation is not as important as we think it is, which suggests problems with the modern idea of verbal, plenary inspiration.[35]

Leaving aside the issue of translation style (or exegetical tendencies), the Septuagint is not a book in the modern sense, but instead an undefined collection of scrolls. Eventually, Christians began cutting the scrolls into sheets and sewing them together to form what we call a codex. Many examples of codices exist, but they are not books in the modern sense. As Fr. Stephen Freeman notes, these were liturgical items, intended for use in and by the “worshipping Church.”

The Orthodox still use the Scriptures in this form – the Gospels as a book (it rests on the altar), and the Epistles as a book (known as the Apostol). They are bound in such a manner for their use in the services of the Church, not as private “Bibles.” These are outstanding examples of the Scriptures organized in their liturgical format for their proper use: reading in the Church. They are Churchly items – not “The Book” of later Protestantism. They are the Scriptures of the worshipping Church.[36]

The Manuscript Problem

Since the manuscripts of the Septuagint were copied by hand and by people of differing abilities, there were differing versions of the Septuagint in existence. The translation of the book of Daniel was so poor that the 2nd-century translation attributed to Theodotion replaced it.[37]

By the 3rd century, the textual problem had become so bad that Origen collected all the existing versions of the Septuagint and created a six-column work called the Hexapla.[38] The Hexapla compares different Septuagint texts against the Hebrew texts and other Greek translations. Bruce Metzger (and others) claim the fifth column of the Hexapla was Origen’s “corrected” text of the Septuagint.[39] Martin Hengel writes:

Origen created the Hexapla to obtain an overview of the confusing chaos. But he too defended the LXX text as approved by the church since it represented the translation that had come into existence by God’s providence and was binding in the churches.[40]

In the early 4th century Pamphilus and Eusebius published Origen’s corrected text; there were other 4th century recensions of the Septuagint as well.[41] This is not the full story of the Origen’s Hexapla. Andrew Louth claims that Origen’s purpose was not to determine the correct text of the Septuagint. Instead, its purpose was: “to lay bare the richness of meaning contained in the Scriptures of the Old Testament.” As evidence, he points to the following:

Passages from the other columns of the Hexapla found their way into Christian copies of the Septuagint — so-called ‘Hexaplaric’ readings — and it is these readings that we often find in patristic commentaries on Scripture, as well as in the texts included in the services in the Byzantine liturgy.[42]

This means our bibles today are products of a manuscript tradition.[43] Not only that, but there is no single authoritative text of the Old Testament, at least not in the sense used by Evangelical Protestants. Instead, Andrew Louth indicates that part of the manuscript tradition is an exploration of everything contained in the various texts.[44] Constantine Siamakis writes:

The ancient manuscripts of a text, together with quotations from it in other texts of similarly ancient or later date, and any surviving ancient translations of it which are also in ancient manuscript form, constitute the manuscript tradition of that text. Every printed edition of an ancient text derives directly or indirectly from its manuscript tradition.[45]

While we can speak of the manuscript tradition as a whole, there are different ways of interpreting that tradition. These methods of interpreting the manuscript tradition use various criteria, leading to variant authoritative texts. Today there are three families of texts used to translate the New Testament: the Textus Receptus, the Critical Text, and the Majority Text.

The Textus Receptus was created by the 16th-century scholar Erasmus using the best texts available at the time,[46] and is the basis for most of the vernacular translations produced during the Reformation, including the King James Bible. Later manuscript discoveries and scholarship resulted in the Critical Text, which is used for nearly all modern translations and scholarship. The Critical Text is based upon Alexandrian manuscripts which constitute only about 10% of the manuscripts in existence. By contrast, the Majority Text, also known as the Byzantine Majority text, is supported by around 90% of the existing manuscripts.[47] The Textus Receptus is based on the Byzantine Majority family of texts but uses the Masoretic texts as opposed to the Septuagint.

There are two basic textual families within the Old Testament manuscript tradition. The Masoretic Text is the text produced by medieval Jewish scholars and is the basis for their Hebrew Scriptures as well as the Protestant Old Testament. The Septuagint, as we have been discussing, was the Greek Translation of earlier editions of the Hebrew Scriptures; this was the text used by most New Testament writers for their quotations from the Old Testament.

There are some Fundamentalists who dismiss the importance of the Septuagint. Samuel C. Gipp, Th. D. calls the Septuagint: “A figment of someone’s imagination.” Gipp considers the Letter of Aristeas to be: “the sole evidence for the existence of this mystical document. [emphasis in the original]” He dismisses the textual evidence for the Septuagint as follows: “There are absolutely NO Greek Old Testament manuscripts existent with a date of 250 BC or anywhere near it. Neither is there any record in Jewish history of such a work being contemplated or performed. [emphasis in the original]” He claims Origen’s Hexapla is the sole evidence for the existence of the Septuagint. Gipp’s arguments are widespread among the King James Only movement.[48] Beginning with the proposition that the King James Version is the only inspired translation, they must then discredit all others, including the biblical manuscripts used by other translations.

We need not address his issues point by point, as the contents of this chapter have already done that. However, we should note that the test of an ancient document’s authenticity is NOT the existence of manuscripts from the time of the document’s creation. If that were the case, we would have to dismiss the entire Old Testament.[49] The oldest manuscript evidence for the Masoretic text is from the 9th and 10th century AD, while the manuscript evidence for the Septuagint dates from 150 BC – 70 AD. When he says, there are no Greek manuscripts going back to the 3rd century BC, the same is true of Hebrew manuscripts. In effect, Samuel C. Gipp is arguing against his own bible.

Even Protestants who accept the importance of the Septuagint generally choose not to use it for their bible texts. When I was Lutheran, I raised the question of why we didn’t use the Septuagint instead of the Masoretic text as the basis for our new Lutheran Study Bible, to which one pastor replied: “Which Septuagint?” This is a reasonable question for a Protestant to ask, especially given what we now know about the translation and copying of the Septuagint during the first four centuries of the Christian era.[50] But we could just as well ask which Bible, as there are multiple canons in use among the different Christian communities. Moreover, there are differing textual families, each with seemingly valid arguments for their use. When confronted by multiple Old Testament canons, each authoritative for different Christian communities, the standard question is which canon is correct? But instead, what if we asked ourselves why the question of canon is so important? To answer this, it may help to examine the question of how the canon(s) were formed in the first place.

Tables

Table 1: The American KJV and the Septuagint

King James Bible Septuagint
Genesis Genesis
Exodus Exodus
Leviticus Leviticus
Numbers Numbers
Deuteronomy Deuteronomy
Joshua Joshua
Judges Judges
Ruth Ruth
1 Samuel 1st Kingdoms
2 Samuel 2nd Kingdoms
1 Kings 3rd Kingdoms
2 Kings 4th Kingdoms
1 Chronicles 1 Chronicles
2 Chronicles 2 Chronicles
– Prayer of Manasseh
1 Esdras (the Greek Ezra)
Ezra 2 Esdras
Nehemiah
Tobit
Judith
Esther Esther with additional material
1 Maccabees
2 Maccabees
3 Maccabees
Job Job
Psalms Psalms
Psalm 151
Proverbs Proverbs
Ecclesiastes Ecclesiastes
Song of Solomon Song of Solomon or Canticles
Wisdom, or Wisdom of Solomon
Sirach or Ecclesiasticus
Psalms of Solomon[51]
Isaiah Isaiah
Jeremiah Jeremiah
Baruch and the Epistle of Jeremy
Lamentations Lamentations
Ezekiel Ezekiel
Daniel Daniel with additions
– Susanna
– Prayer of Azariah
– Song of the Three Holy Youths
– Bel and the Dragon
Minor Prophets (The Twelve)
Hosea – Hosea
Joel – Joel
Amos – Amos
Obadiah – Obadiah
Jonah – Jonah
Micah – Micah
Nahum – Nahum
Habakkuk – Habakkuk
Zephaniah Zephaniah
Haggai Haggai
Zechariah Zechariah
Malachi Malachi

Table 2 Chiastic Structure of 1 Esdras

EZRA AND I ESDRAS COMPARED
Masoretic Text Septuagint Summary
(II Chr. 35) (I Esd. 1:1-33) Continuation ofParalipomenon

(i.e., “Things Set Off” from Esdras)

(II Chr. 36) (I Esd. 1:34-58)
Begin Ezra
Ezr. 1 I Esd. 2:1-14 Cyrus’s edict to rebuild the Temple
Ezr. 4:7-24 I Esd. 2:15-30a Flash forward to Artaxerxes’ reign (prolepsis)
Core: Chiasm of Celebration
I Esd. 2:30b Inclusio: Work hindered until second year of Darius’s reign
I Esd. 3 AFeast in the court of Darius with Darius contest
I Esd. 4 BDarius vows to repatriate the exiles
I Esd. 5:1-6 XThe feast of those who returned to Jerusalem
Ezr. 2 I Esd. 5:7-46 B’List of former exiles who returned
Ezr. 3 I Esd. 5:47-65 A’Feast of Tabernacles
Ezr. 4:1-5 I Esd. 5:66-73 Inclusio: Work hindered until second year of Darius’s reign
Conclusion
Ezr. 5 I Esd. 6:1-22 In the second year of Darius’s reign
Ezr. 6 I Esd. 6:23 — 7 The temple is finished
Ezr. 7 I Esd. 8:1-27 In Artaxerxes’ reign
Ezr. 8 I Esd. 8:28-67 List of latter exiles who returned
Ezr. 9 I Esd. 8:68-90 Repentance from miscegenation
Ezr. 10 I Esd. 8:91-9:36 Putting away of foreign wives and children
(Neh. 7:73-8:12) (I Esd. 9:37-55)

Bibliography

Alter, R. (2019). The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary (First Edition ed., Vol. 1). New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

Askowith, D. (1915). The Toleration and Persecution of the Jews in the Roman Empire (Part I). New York: Columbia University.

Barr, J. (1985). Why the World Was Created In 4004 B.C.: Archbishop Ussher And biblical Chronology. Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, 67(2), 575-608.

Barrera, J. T. (1998). The Jewish Bible and the Christian Bible; An Introduction to the History of the Text. (W. G. Watson, Trans.) Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Bivin, D., & Blizzard Jr., R. (1994). Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus: New Insights From a Hebrew Perspective (Revised Edition ed.). Shippensburg: Destiny Image Publishers.

Brenton, L. (n.d.). Psalms 13. Retrieved October 12, 2014, from Elpenor’s Bilingual (Greek / English) Old Testament: http://www.ellopos.net/elpenor/greek-texts/septuagint/chapter.asp?book=24&page=13

Charles, R. H. (1913). The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English; Volume II, Pseudopedigrapha. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Clarke, A. (1833). The Holy Bible: containing the Old and New Testaments, with a commentary and critical notes (Royal Octavo Stereotype Edition ed., Vol. I). New York: B. Waugh and T. Maxon.

Edersheim, A. (1993). The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah: New Updated Edition. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.

Epstein, I. (Ed.). (n.d.). Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin. Retrieved January 27, 2015, from Come and Hear: http://www.come-and-hear.com/sanhedrin/sanhedrin_21.html#PARTb

Fores, V. (1996, December 9). The Majority Text vs. The Critical Text. Retrieved January 25, 2015, from Teoria Universitat de València Press: http://www.uv.es/~fores/programa/majorityvscritical.html

Freeman, S. (2014, October 10). The Church and the Scriptures. Retrieved October 13, 2014, from Glory to God for All Things: http://blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory2godforallthings/2014/10/10/church-scriptures/

Gentry, P. J. (2009). The Text of the Old Testament. Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 52(1), 19-45.

Gentry, P. J. (2014). The Great Code: Greek Bible and the Humanities. Midwestern Journal of Theology, 13(1), 50-80.

Gipp, S. C. (2016). What is the Septuagint? Retrieved October 28, 2016, from http://samgipp.com/answerbook/?page=09.htm

Gleason, J. (2014, October 1). The Apostle Paul’s Reading of Psalm 14. Retrieved October 12, 2014, from On Behalf of All: http://blogs.ancientfaith.com/onbehalfofall/apostle-pauls-reading-psalm-14/

Hengel, M. (1989). The ‘Hellenization’ of Judea in the First Century after Christ. Eugene: Wipf and Stock Publishers.

Hengel, M. (2002). The Septuagint as Christian Scripture. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic.

Joosten, J. (2008). To See God: Conflicting Exegetical Tendencies in the Septuagint. Retrieved February 6, 2018, from www.academia.edu: https://www.academia.edu/35581776/To_See_God._Conflicting_Exegetical_Tendencies_in_the_Septuagint

Kelly, J. N. (1976). Early Christian Doctrines (5th Edition ed.). San Francisco: Harper & Row, Publishers.

Louth, A. (2013). Introducing Eastern Orthodox Theology. Downers Grove: IVP Academic.

Metzger, B. M. (2001). The Bible in Translation (Kindle Edition ed.). Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group.

Pelikan, J. (2005). Whose Bible Is It: A Short History of the Scriptures (Kindle Edition ed.). New York: Penguin Group US.

Samworth, H. (n.d.). What is the Textus Receptus? Retrieved January 25, 2015, from Sola Scriptura: http://www.solagroup.org/articles/faqs/faq_0032.html

Siamakis, C. (1997). Transmission of the Test of the Holy Bible. (A. Gerostergios, Ed., & A. Hendry, Trans.) Belmont: Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies.

Stark, R. (1996). The Rise of Christianity. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

The Gale Group. (2008). Hebrew: History of the Aleph-Bet. Retrieved January 27, 2015, from Jewish Virtual Library: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/hebrewhistory.html

Endnotes

  1. (Gentry, The Great Code: Greek Bible and the Humanities, 2014, p. 51)
  2. Edersheim 1993, 17-18. Martin Hengel describes Septuagint studies as a “realm [for] Old Testament and Patristics scholars.” He also says it is “one of the most exclusive — because it is so complicated — specialties of theology of philologia sacra.” (Hengel, The Septuagint as Christian Scripture 2002, 19) We will not be delving that deeply into the subject.
  3. (Hengel, The Septuagint as Christian Scripture, 2002, p. 76) Although a number of church fathers from Justin Martyr held to the miraculous origins of the Septuagint, the historical evidence suggests the translation of the obscure Hebrew text into Greek was a product of the Jewish diaspora.
  4. (Gentry, The Text of the Old Testament, 2009, p. 24) (Gentry, The Great Code: Greek Bible and the Humanities, 2014, p. 51)
  5. (Gentry, The Great Code: Greek Bible and the Humanities, 2014, p. 52)
  6. The scriptures clearly state that Jesus spoke Hebrew (Acts 26:14), and Paul spoke Hebrew (Acts 21:40). The charge against Jesus, which Pilate had affixed to Jesus’ cross, was written in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew (Lu 23:38). While Aramaic was the language spoken immediately after the Jews returned from Babylon, the Hasmonean dynasty appear to have changed the language back to Hebrew. (Bivin & Blizzard Jr., 1994, p. Chapter 2) Alfred Edersheim explicitly states of Jesus: “He spoke Hebrew, and used and quoted the Scriptures in the original.” (Edersheim, 1993, p. 175)
  7. (Hengel, The ‘Hellenization’ of Judea in the First Century after Christ, 1989, p. 13)
  8. (Edersheim, 1993, p. 20)
  9. (Pelikan, 2005, p. 46)
  10. The term religio licita is a term attributed to Tertullian but is not a term derived from Roman law. The equivalent Roman term is collegia licita, which designated religious groups authorized to organize and hold services. The Jews were collegia licita, and Christians were not. (Askowith, 1915, p. 173)
  11. (Pelikan, 2005, p. 54)
  12. (Stark, 1996, p. 58); “The finance minister of the Ethiopian kingdom of Napata-Meroe (Acts 8.27), presumably a godfearer, was one example.” (Hengel, The ‘Hellenization’ of Judea in the First Century after Christ 1989, 13-14) We may also presume Cornelius the Centurian (Acts 10) was a Godfearer. Even today, one may be an adherent of Judaism without being a convert. Stories abound of rabbis who attempt to dissuade converts on the grounds that adherents have to keep the 10 commandments, but converts have to keep the entire 613 commandments of the Law.
  13. There were multiple textual variants (or traditions) circulating in the time of Christ. After the rise of Christianity and the fall of Jerusalem, everything changed. Dempster writes:

    After the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE changes within Judaism led to the ascendancy of one tradition—what has come to be known as rabbinic Judaism. …One of the accompanying results was the ascendancy of the form of the Jewish Scriptures used by that group. In the second century CE, revisions of the older [Greek] texts were made by Aquila, Symmachus, Theodotion, and others. Their goal was apparently to bring the translations into line with the authoritative textual stream of their day, the rabbinic text. (Dempster 2008, Kindle Locations 2599-2602; 2628-2633)

  14. (Hengel, The Septuagint as Christian Scripture, 2002, pp. 22-23)
  15. (Kelly, 1976, p. 53) We now know the Septuagint better represents the original text of the Hebrew Scriptures, as demonstrated by the existence of texts in the Dead Sea Scrolls which match the Septuagint version.
  16. (Alter, 2019, p. xiii)
  17. (pp. Ibid, xv)
  18. (The Gale Group, 2008)
  19. (Epstein)
  20. (Alter, 2019, p. xxv)
  21. (Hengel, The Septuagint as Christian Scripture, 2002, pp. 84-85)
  22. (Barrera, 1998, pp. 60-64)
  23. (Brenton)
  24. (Gleason, 2014)
  25. (Barrera, 1998, p. 284)
  26. (Barr, 1985, p. 582)
  27. 1 Esdras 3:4 to 4:4. A chiasm (or chiasmus) is a symmetric literary structure whereby a series of ideas are presented (A and B), with variant ideas (A’ and B’) being presented in reverse order (A, B, B’, A’). Sometimes you might have a central idea (X) around which the other ideas are arranged (A, B, X, B’, A’).
  28. (Charles, 1913, p. 5)
  29. (Clarke, 1833, p. iii) A “gloss,” in this context, is an interpretation or explanation. We will examine this contention further in Part III of this book.
  30. (Metzger, 2001, pp. Kindle Locations 302-306)
  31. (pp. Ibid, Kindle Locations 266-267)
  32. (Gentry, The Text of the Old Testament, 2009, p. 24)
  33. (Metzger, 2001, pp. Kindle Locations 285-287)
  34. (Joosten, 2008)
  35. Plenary is a term that means unqualified and absolute.
  36. (Freeman, 2014) The formal name for the Apostol is the Apostolos, and it contains the New Testament with markings indicating the lectionary readings — the readings appointed for that day. The Old Testament lectionary readings, which includes what Protestants call the Apocrypha, are contained in a third volume called the Prophetologion. The Psalter contains the text of the Psalms, along with other texts appropriate to their use both in Church and in prayer.
  37. (Metzger, 2001, p. Kindle Location 298) For a variety of reasons, scholars now doubt that Theodotion was the actual source of the translation of Daniel we find in the later versions of the Septuagint.
  38. The Hexapla was such a massive work that it seems unlikely the entire work was ever copied. The original was maintained in the library of Pamphilus at Caesarea of Palestine, where it existed until 638 when the city was conquered by the Muslims (Saracens). (Metzger, 2001, pp. Kindle Locations 326-330)
  39. (Metzger, 2001, pp. Kindle Locations 311-323)
  40. (Hengel, The Septuagint as Christian Scripture, 2002, p. 36)
  41. (Barrera, 1998, pp. 330-334)
  42. (Louth, 2013, p. 12)
  43. Some, like Martin Hengel, draw different conclusions from the Hexapla, conclusions that are unsupported by the evidence, and are based on a preexisting bias.

    Nevertheless, he never mentions the [Septuagint] translation or even the inspiration legend. For him, the Hebrew original gained a certain importance once again. Indeed, the first two columns of his magnum opus were devoted to it. Thereby the church was continually reminded that the LXX is only a translation that can never exceed the Hebrew original in dignity, but must, rather, always succeed it.” (Hengel, The Septuagint as Christian Scripture, 2002, p. 34)

  44. (Louth, 2013, p. 12)
  45. (Siamakis, 1997, p. 8)
  46. (Samworth)
  47. (Fores, 1996)
  48. (Gipp, 2016) Our KJV is not the original 1611 version. Benjamin Blayney’s Oxford edition of 1769 is a reworking of Francis Sawyer Parris’ Cambridge edition. The King James Only movement praises the King James Version of 1611 as being inspired but uses the Oxford edition of 1769. They claim the Oxford edition merely corrected errors, but never address how an inspired text can be edited to correct errors.
  49. If we dismissed the Septuagint because we have no examples dating to the time of their writing, we would also have to dismiss most of the Bible. The Hebrew Scriptures are among the best-attested ancient documents, with more than ten thousand manuscripts. However, because the Jews destroy worn out scrolls, few manuscripts exist earlier than the 13th century, and most of those exist in fragments. By way of contrast, Homer’s Iliad is preserved in 647 manuscripts; the history of Rome composed by Velleius Paterculus survived in a single incomplete copy which was lost after being copied; the only manuscript of the Epistle to Diognetus was destroyed in a library fire.
  50. The answer, which no right-thinking Protestant would accept, is to use the version of the Septuagint delivered to us by the Church. This is, however, the basis upon which Protestants accept their canon — it is the canon delivered to them.
  51. The Psalms of Solomon are contained in the Septuagint but are not generally considered to be Jewish or Christian Scripture. There are some Orthodox clergy who consider them to be Scripture, but the wider Orthodox community does not.

The Trouble with Commodity-backed Currency.

For most of my life, I’ve supported a commodity-backed currency, and in particular, gold. The gold standard seems reasonable. Why back money with a commodity? Basically, it has to do with limitations on supply, which prevent governments from printing more money than the commodity backing it. Thus, governments have to restrain spending, and they can’t just stamp out more coins to pay their bills. Hence, it would seem, there is limited opportunity for inflation.

Gold in particular is a good commodity to base money on. It’s dense, holding a lot of value in a small space. Even though it is dense, it is still light enough to move around. Gold is stable, and not subject to corrosion. Gold is malleable, which makes it easy to work. This means it is easy to divide into smaller pieces, and it is easy to stamp with an image. Gold is hard to counterfeit. And gold is plentiful enough to use as currency, but rare enough to make it valuable.

So why not back a currency with gold? It seems better than a fiat currency, which is backed by nothing more than faith in the government. However, a commodity-based currency has some drawbacks. Trevor Kiviat writes: “The move away from gold was brought on by the realization that commodity money ties a country’s economy to a scarce natural resource, and this can have destabilizing effects. In other words, when Mother Nature controls the supply, shocks can occur that are beyond control.” (Kiviat, 2015, p. 582)

What sort of shocks are these? Well, suppose a large supply of gold is discovered, such that the supply is dramatically increased. This actually happened between the 15th and 17th century, when Spain flooded the market with gold and silver coins created with mineral wealth mined from the new world. The result was inflation, with prices rising 600% over 150 years. While the annual rate of inflation was only 1 – 1.5% per years, this was incredibly high given a commodity-based currency. In the United States, the Panic of 1857 was the result of a cooling international economy and an overheated domestic economy. This exacerbated by the sinking of the SS Central America, carrying 30,000 lbs of gold destined for the banks in New York, and the banks didn’t recover until the end of the Civil War.

The problem with the gold standard is that the supply is limited, making it inherently deflationary. It is better to save money than to spend it, which makes it difficult to invest money in a new business or open a factory. You couldn’t buy a house with the expectation that inflation would make it worth more money in the coming years, or at least enough to pay for the costs of the selling the house. In addition, you could be taxed on your assets, but it’s hard to tax a hoard of coins buried in the ground.

Interestingly, virtual currencies such as Bitcoin have similar problems to commodity-backed currencies, in that the supply is limited, making them inherently deflationary. The fact that early investors are rewarded when they sell currency to late investors makes them appear, in the eyes of some pundits, like Ponzi schemes. The reality is that the people who created these virtual currencies are Crypto Anarchists and technology mavens with little understanding of economics, monetary policy, or even basic accounting (e.g. they call the blockchain a ledger instead of a journal; a ledger is a summary analysis, whereas a journal is a record of individual transactions.)

The very things the gold bugs decry about fiat currency turns out to be the things that make it a more useful type of money. First (and this is huge), it is recognized as legal tender, which means it serves as payment for all debts, public and private. You can’t pay your taxes with gold or Bitcoin. Second, the central bank has control of the money supply, which prevents the economy from heading into a deflationary spiral. Imagine what would happen if the value of money rose and prices dropped over a long term. Wages would drop, which means it would be increasingly difficult to pay mortgages. Third, fiat currencies are backed by indirect collateral, which means a system of interbank loans designed to maintain market liquidity. Fourth, fiat currencies are often insured (for example, U.S. bank accounts are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).) The net result is that there are a variety of mechanisms available to control the money supply, which effectively stabilizes prices.

Bibliography

Kiviat, T. I. (2015). Beyond Bitcoin: Issues in Regulating Blockchain Transactions. Duke Law Journal, 65(3/4), 569-608. Retrieved from https://scholarship.law.duke.edu/dlj/vol65/iss3/4

The Sign of the Cross: An Exploration of the Tav and the Sphragis

 

Ancient Semitic Alphabets

Ancient Semitic Alphabets

Some time ago I was asked by a Protestant relation what the sign of the cross was all about. I gave the usual answers I had been given, but wasn’t satisfied with my response. I recently came across some interesting information in Oskar Skarsaune’s book called “In the Shadow of the Temple”, which is about the connections between Judaism and Christianity. The particular information comes in a passage about post-baptismal anointing, which we Orthodox call the sacrament of chrismation.

The new element in Hippolytus’s description of the anointing is that the bishop—presumably with his finger in the oil on the candidate’s oiled forehead—‘seals’ the baptized (‘sealing him on the forehead’). All later evidence indicates that this means that the bishop signed him with the sign of the cross. Now, the letter tav in old Hebrew script [paleo Hebrew script(?)] was a simple cross, and this reminds us of Ezekiel 9:4: ‘Go throughout the city, Jerusalem, and put a mark [tav] on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament’ (NIV). We do not have evidence that allows us to conclude with any certainty that signing with the cross/tav on the forehead was an old baptismal rite, deriving from Judeo-Christians familiar with the original meaning of Ezekiel 9:4. But the following notice in Origen (A.D. 230s) is of considerable interest. When a Jewish believer in Jesus was asked about the meaning of Ezekiel 9:4, the man gave the following answer: “The old way of writing the Taw was in the form of the cross, so here [Ezek 9:4] we have a prophecy of the sign that later was to be signed on the forehead of Christians; and also of what believers now do, when they sign themselves whenever they begin a work, and especially before prayers and the holy readings.” (Skarsaune 2002, 370-371)

In the ancient Semitic alphabets, from which modern Hebrew derives, the letter “tau” was written as a cross in the Proto-Canaanite script. In the early Phoenician script it was written as a diagonal cross, a.k.a. St. Andrew’s Cross. Over the course of the centuries, the ancient Hebrew language changed its shape until the Babylonian alphabet replaced the ancient Hebrew script following the Babylonian exile.

Adam Clarke’s “Commentary on the Bible”, circa 1831, provides the following information; as an early Methodist, Clarke disagrees with the conclusion but is at least intellectually honest enough to present the information.

Set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh – This is in allusion to the ancient every-where-used custom of setting marks on servants and slaves, to distinguish them from others. It was also common for the worshippers of particular idols to have their idol’s mark upon their foreheads, arms, etc. These are called sectarian marks to the present day among the Hindoos and others in India. Hence by this mark we can easily know who is a follower of Vishnoo, who of Siva, who of Bramah, etc. The original words, והתוית תו vehithvitha tau, have been translated by the Vulgate, et signa thau, “and mark thou tau on the foreheads,” etc. St. Jerome and many others have thought that the letter tau was that which was ordered to be placed on the foreheads of those mourners; and Jerome says, that this Hebrew letter ת tau was formerly written like a cross. So then the people were to be signed with the sign of the cross! It is certain that on the ancient Samaritan coins, which are yet extant, the letter ת tau is in the form +, which is what we term St. Andrew’s cross. The sense derived from this by many commentators is, that God, having ordered those penitents to be marked with this figure, which is the sign of the cross, intimated that there is no redemption nor saving of life but by the cross of Christ, and that this will avail none but the real penitent. (Clarke 1831)

It should be noted that, as Clarke alludes to above, it was customary to put a mark or seal upon slaves, and sectarian markings upon various Hindu sects so as to differentiate them one from another. It is not a great leap from that to God’s setting a mark upon “those who grieve and lament” to what Jean Daniélou describes as the sphragis, or the seal placed upon the forehead of the candidate at baptism.

The word sphragis in ancient times designated the object with which a mark was stamped, or else the mark made by this object. So sphragis was the word for the seal used to impress a mark on wax. These seals often have precious stones placed in the bezel or setting that holds them. So Clement of Alexandria recommends that Christians should have for seals (sphragides) a dove or a fish or a ship with sails unfurled, but not mythological figures or swords (Ped II, 11; Steahlin, 270). These seals were used especially to seal official documents and wills. So St. Paul uses the symbol when he tells the Corinthians that the ‘are the seal of his apostolate in the Lord’ (I Cor. 9:2), that is to say, that they are the authentic sign of it. But more particularly—and here we come to the baptismal symbolism—the word sphragis was used for the mark with which an owner marked his possessions. (Daniélou 1956, 55)

Daniélou proceeds to develop this idea of the mark placed by an owner upon his possessions as indicative that henceforth the candidate belongs to Christ—both as a member of Christ’s flock and as one of the army of Christ. But the mark, the tav, the sphragis, the sign of the Cross, is not simply a sign of ownership but confers protection. On this point, Daniélou quotes from Gregory of Nazianzen.

But the sphragis is not only a sign of ownership, it is also a protection. Gregory of Nazianzen unites the two ideas. The sphragis is “a guarantee of preservation and a sign of ownership” (XXXVI, 364 A). He develops this idea at greater length: ‘If you fortify yourself with the sphragis, marking your souls and your body with the oil (chrism) and with the Spirit, what can happen to you? This is, even in this life, the greatest security you can have. The sheep that has been branded (ephragismenon) is not easily taken by a trick, but the sheep that bears no mark is the prey of thieves. And after this life, you can die in peace, without fear of being deprived by God of the helps that He has given you for your salvation’ (XXXVI, 377 A). The sphragis, the mark that enables the Master to recognize His Own, is also a pledge of salvation. (Daniélou 1956, 56-57)

And so we see that the Sign of the Cross is not simply a Christian invention, nor a mere human tradition, but has a basis in both Old and New Testaments, in the writings of the church fathers, and in ancient historical practice. Thus when we make the sign of the cross, it is as a reminder of our baptism into Christ and of the seal of the Holy Spirit. And not only a reminder, but it is a performative act, in that it does what it implies—confers actual protection upon the one so sealed.

Works Cited

Clarke, Adam. “Commentary on the Bible by Adam Clarke: Ezekiel: Ezekiel Chapter 9.” Internet Sacred Text Archive. 1831. http://www.sacred-tests.com/bib/cmt/clarke/eze009.htm (accessed June 13, 2010).

Daniélou, Jean. The Bible and the Liturgy. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1956.

Skarsaune, Oskar. In the Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2002.

Prayer for the Dead

Stained Glass representation of the Sword of the Spirit

The Sword of the Spirit

He shall take to him his jealousy for complete armour, and make the creature his weapon for the revenge of his enemies. He shall put on righteousness as a breastplate, and true judgment instead of an helmet. He shall take holiness for an invincible shield. His severe wrath shall he sharpen for a sword, and the world shall fight with him against the unwise. (Wis 5:17-20)

This passage is a bit complicated, as the subject seems to switch between the Lord and the righteous. Nevertheless, this passage (and the following passage from Wisdom 18) is the source for the metaphor used by the apostle’s Paul and John, and the anonymous author of Hebrews — that of putting on the armor of God, and arming oneself with God’s own weaponry.

Thine Almighty word leaped down from heaven out of thy royal throne, as a fierce man of war into the midst of a land of destruction, And brought thine unfeigned commandment as a sharp sword, and standing up filled all things with death; and it touched the heaven, but it stood upon the earth. (Wis 18:15-16)

This passage makes the connection between the New Testament and Wisdom even more clear. The sword in this case is the “unfeigned commandment”, which is another way of saying the law of the Lord (Ps 119:1). The connection between the sword of the “unfeigned commandment”, the “word of God” as sharper than any two-edged sword is clear.

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Heb 4:12)

The apostle Paul borrows this metaphor in his famous passage regarding putting on the “whole armor of God.” This martial metaphor is often preached as representing the Christian life, which is indeed true. But only rarely does anyone speak about what it means to “withstand in the evil day”, which is an apocalyptic statement. In other words, Paul is not primarily talking about the daily life of the Christian, although that is part of it. But the putting on of the “whole armor of God”, which includes being armed with the “sword of the Spirit”, is something we do every day so that we may be ready for the day of the Lord, the day of judgment.

Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Eph 6:13-17)

The passages from Wisdom are also connected to the passage from John’s Revelation where Christ is seen with a two-edged sword coming out of his mouth, which is the same metaphor used for the word of God in the book of Hebrews.

And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. … And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. (Rev 1:13, 16)

The book of Revelation is not yet finished with the metaphor of the sword. In the letter to the church of Pergamos, we see repeated the details of the image of Christ used in the first chapter.

And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges. (Rev 2:12)

We have already spoken of the Sword of the Spirit, and connected this with the “whole armor of God” spoken of by Paul, and the sword proceeding from the mouth of the Son of God spoken of by St. John the Theologian. What we have not done is discuss this in its apocalyptic dimension in any detail.

The Revelation of St. John is written in the apocalyptic style, a literary form that was popular in Second Temple Judaism (the form of Judaism that existed after the return of the exiles from Babylon.) While Wisdom is not part of the apocalyptic genre, the passage in Wisdom where the “unfeigned commandment” is described as a “sharp sword” is clearly apocalyptic in nature. The description of the “almighty Word” who leapt from the heavens to earth and brought death to the Egyptians not only has reference to the exile in and exodus from Egypt, but looks forward to a future deliverance.

When Paul and John borrow the metaphor of the “sharp sword” from Wisdom, we are meant to understand its apocalyptic context. While this is clear in John’s Revelation, it adds another dimension to the book of Romans. You see, the apocalyptic is not only a description of the end of days, but is meant to give us comfort in our afflictions. When Paul uses imagery borrowed from apocalyptic literature, he is letting us know that no matter what trials we are going through, there is a purpose, that God is in control, and that evil will not have its way forever.

 

Theological issues resolved in the Deuterocanonical Books

Icon of Job the Patriarch

Job the Patriarch

If God is all-powerful, why does evil exist? This is a question that is never directly addressed in the Protestant scriptures. Closely related to the problem of evil is the existence of suffering. On this lesser question the Protestant scriptures do have something to say, although the answer must be teased out. Yet on the larger and more important question of the existence of evil, the Protestant scriptures are silent.

So why do the righteous suffer? The entire book of Job has this as its theme, but does not have a completely satisfactory answer (from our perspective, of course). Ultimately the answer of God to Job comes down to this: “Then the Lord answered Job …Who is this…? Where wast thou…? Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days…? Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? …Hast thou perceived the breadth of the earth? declare if thou knowest it all” (Job 38 2-3, 12, 17-18). What God is saying through Job to us is this: Who do you think you are to even ask that question? After which Job abhors himself and repents (Job 42:6). But God does not leave the question there, as we shall see.

The story of Joseph is instructive on this question. Joseph was the then youngest and most beloved son of his father, who because of the jealousy of his brothers was sold into slavery in Egypt. There he suffered greatly before rising to a position of great power and authority. Many years later, during a famine where his brothers came to Egypt to buy grain, Joseph revealed himself to them and said: ” But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (Gen 50:20). And so we see that God allowed Joseph to suffer evil and brought good from it. This is not a situation of God using evil to do good, or even requiring the existence of evil to do good, but rather that although evil exists, God works in the midst of it. Ultimately, however, this does not resolve the main question of why evil exists in the first place.

The corollary to the question of why the righteous suffer is this: Why do the wicked prosper? (Jer 12:1). This question, asked of Jeremiah, finds a partial answer when God pronounces judgment upon those who “touch the inheritance which I have caused my people Israel to inherit. Behold, I will pluck them out of their land…” Jer 12:14. The issue for Jeremiah is the prosperity of wicked Judah, and the prosperity of those who would soon take them into captivity for their many sins.

Because of their sins the prophet Habakkuk cries out to God to judge His people (Hab 1:2-4). When the impending captivity by the Babylonians is revealed to the prophet, he is distraught because the Chaldeans are worse. How can a holy God use that evil nation to punish His chosen people? (Hab 1:13). Interestingly, God does not answer Habakkuk’s question at all. Instead, God pronounces five woes—not only upon the Babylonians, and not only upon Judah, but upon all sinners—for usury & greed (Hab 2:6); coveteousness & pride (Hab 2:9); wrath & murder (Hab 2:12); drunkenness and lust (Hab 2:15); and idolatry (Hab 2:19). Connected to these woes are three pronouncements about God and His people.

The first pronouncement is that the just shall live by his faith (Hab 2:4). That this comes first, even before any of the woes, is significant. It suggests the just live by faith even when evil proliferates, when evil men prosper, and when the righteous suffer. When God pronounces the second woe upon those who build a town by blood and iniquity, He then suggests that the people weary themselves in vain, “For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord” (Hab 2:14). This brings us out of the consideration of our own troubles. It suggests the apocalyptic end of all evil and the eschatological hope. But God does not suggest all judgment is reserved until the end of time; no, for we finally come to the third woe: “the cup of the Lord’s right hand shall be turned unto thee, and shameful spewing shall be on thy glory” (Hab 2:16). But finally the answer to Habakkuk is the same as that given to Job: “[T]he Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him” (Hab 2:20).

Asaph too asked this question. In Psalm 73 he says he “was envious at the foolish when he saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Psa 73:3). He describes their strength, their prosperity, their pride and violence, their corruption and oppression, and the way they speak out against God and abuse His people. He is so cast down that he begins to think he has “cleansed his heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning” (Psa 73:13-14). In great pain and turmoil of soil he comes into the sanctuary, where he finally understands. In light of eternity, the wicked have been set “in slippery places”. This indicates they are about to slip; but then Asaph notes that God has already cast them down into destruction (Psa 73:18). In temporal terms they are about to slip; but in light of eternity they have already been condemned, and “brought into desolation, as in a moment! They are utterly consumed with terrors” (Psa 73:19). In light of eternity, Asaph sees he has been ignorant, and his doubts have been foolish. “I am continually with thee: thou has holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory” (Psa 73:23-24).

Regarding the existence of evil, what in the Protestant scriptures must be painstakingly drawn out is made clear in the Deuterocanonical books. “For God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him. But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who are in his possession experience it” (Wis 2:23-24). And again: “It was the wicked who with hands and words invited death, considered it a friend, and pined for it, and made a covenant with it, Because they deserve to be in its possession” (Wis 1:16). And so the problem of evil is clearly explained: sin entered into the world, and death by sin, by means of the devil. Moreover those who are in the grips of the devil are subject to death, deserve death, choose death, pined for death, and made a covenant with death. Thus, although the devil is the source of sin and death, of evil and suffering, mankind chooses death and suffering over life and righteousness.

Now regarding the suffering of the righteous, once again the Apocrypha have an answer. It is the same answer that can be teased out of the Protestant scriptures, but is here made clear and plain, as seen in this excerpt from a much longer dissertation on the hidden counsels of God, regarding suffering, childlessness, and early death.

But the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace. For if before men, indeed, they be punished, yet is their hope full of immortality; Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself. (Wis 3:1-5)

Without what the Protestants call the Apocrypha, and what Catholics call the Deuterocanonical books, the scriptures are veiled.

The Closed Canon?

The Four Evangelists, by Rubens

The Four Evangelists, by Rubens

F. F. Bruce, in his book “The Canon of Scripture”, writes approvingly of the canon of Sacred Scripture being closed.

The words ‘to which nothing can be added … and from which nothing can be taken away’, whatever they precisely meant in this context, seem certainly to imply the principle of a closed canon. There are some scholars who maintain that the word ‘canon’ should be used only where the list of specially authoritative books has been closed; and there is much to be said in favour of this restrictive use of the word (a more flexible word might be used for the collection in process of formation), although it would be pedantic to insist on it invariably. (F. Bruce 2010, 22)

The idea of nothing can be added and nothing taken away comes from a variety of sources. F. F. Bruce cites from the Old Testament (Deut 4:2; cf 12:32), the New Testament (Rev 22:18 f.), the Didache, and Josephus. Of all these citations, Bruce says: “This language can scarcely signify anything other than a closed canon.” (F. Bruce 2010, 23) The impression is given that these citations apply to the Word of God as text, rather than the doctrinal substance of the books. Certainly in the case of Josephus this is a reasonable interpretation, but the other citations are more problematic.

In Deuteronomy we read: “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you” (Deut 4:2). If this implies a closed canon, how are we to account for the remainder of the Old Testament since, apart from the book of Job, none of it had been written yet? Equally important for we Christians, how are we to account for the New Testament, given that it not only speaks of the fulfillment of the law of Moses in the person of Jesus Christ, but also reveals the Triune God, something never made explicit in the Old Testament, and not even made implicit apart from the reading of Christ back into the Old Testament

Historically, the canon of the Old Testament was accepted by the Christian Church up until time of the Reformation. Henry Wace, in his commentary on the King James Version, admits as much when he writes:

“When the Reformers denied the inspired authority of the books of the Apocrypha, it was by no means their intention to exclude them from use either in public or in private reading. The Articles of the Church of England quote with approbation the ruling of St. Jerome, that though the Church does not use these books for establishment of doctrine, it reads them for example of life and instruction of manners.” [emphasis added] (Wace 1811, xxxvi)

There were individuals who devised lists of books approved for use in the church (such as the “ruling of St. Jerome), lists similar to that used by Protestants today, but these were not authoritative in the wider church. It should be noted that the Bible texts created prior to the Protestant Reformation included what Protestants call the Apocrypha. The Geneva Bible of 1560 and the original King James Version (KJV) of 1611 both contained the Apocrypha, and versions of the KJV with the Apocrypha are available today (although printed versions are quite rare in the United States).

But the situation is more complicated when we discuss the lectionaries, the appointed Scripture readings for the Church year. The King James Bible with Commentary contains, in its introduction, a history of the gradual elimination of the Apocrypha from the Common Lectionary of the Anglican Church. Originally the Lectionary included the Apocrypha with the exception of the books of the Maccabees. Henry Wace notes: “Among the Puritan complaints in the reign of Elizabeth, objections to the public reading of the Apocrypha had no prominent part.” (Wace 1811, xxxvi) Various redactions were made over the years, and while the revised lectionary of 1867 contained readings from the Apocrypha only on weekdays, readings from the Apocrypha were reduced from two months to only three weeks. Of the Anglican Lectionary of 1867, Wace writes:

So small a portion of the apocryphal books has been retained in the present Lectionary that the retention of any would seem intended for little more than an assertion of the Church’s right to use these books if she pleases in public reading. This is still more true of the American Church, which entirely discontinued the use of lessons from the Apocrypha on ordinary week-days ; but still uses such lessons on two or three holy days. The Irish Church on its last revision of the Lectionary has not even retained so much as this. (Wace 1811, xxxviii)

The complete elimination of the Apocrypha from the life of the Protestant Church turns out to be a relatively recent innovation, one which would not have been acceptable to the Reformers.

Bibliography

Bruce, F.F. The Canon of Scripture. Kindle Edition. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2010.

Wace, Henry. Holy Bible According to the Authorized Version (A.D. 1611). Edited by Henry Wace. Vol. 1. 2 vols. London: John Murray, 1811.

 

 

Idolatry as the Beginning of Perversions

Christian Idol Worship

Christian Idol Worship?[1]

A Comparison of Rom 1:24-32 and Wisdom 14:12, 24-27

For the devising of idols was the beginning of spiritual fornication, and the invention of them the corruption of life. … They kept neither lives nor marriages any longer undefiled: but either one slew another traiterously, or grieved him by adultery. So that there reigned in all men without exception blood, manslaughter, theft, and dissimulation, corruption, unfaithfulness, tumults, perjury, Disquieting of good men, forgetfulness of good turns, defiling of souls, changing of kind, disorder in marriages, adultery, and shameless uncleanness. For the worshipping of idols not to be named is the beginning, the cause, and the end, of all evil. (Wisdom 14:12, 24-27)

Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. (Rom 1:24-32)

The apostle Paul begins with a description of idolatry (Rom 1:21-23), and the immorality arising from it. In this Paul is saying nothing new, but is simply repeating the ideas found in Wisdom. This is not a direct quotation, but Paul is definitely copying his thematic material from Wisdom, and is simply more graphic in his depiction.

In Wisdom we read that idolatry is the beginning of spiritual fornication; in Romans we read that after becoming idolaters, God “gave them up” to immorality. In Wisdom we read that idolatry is the source of defiled marriages; in Romans we read that because men worshipped the “creature more than the Creator”, they dishonored their own bodies. In Wisdom we see idolatry as the source of murders, manslaughter, theft, dishonesty, corruption, unfaithfulness, tumults, perjury, etc.; Paul describes idolaters as filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, etc. In Wisdom we read of “disorder in marriages, adultery, and shameless uncleanness; in Romans we read of fornication and “vile affections”, which Paul goes on to explain as male and female homosexual acts — which is an explication of Wisdom’s “shameless uncleanness”.[2] Everything we see in Paul we first read in the book of Wisdom, which was Paul’s source material — his bible, if you will.


[1] We must not think that we are above reproach, while condemning others. If the idolatry is the beginning of immorality, than we sinners are all idolaters to one degree or another. We are all compromised. We are all guilty, whether Jew or Gentile, whether Christian or pagan, whether agnostic, atheist, or theist. Perhaps the test should be this. Does the other’s idolatry lead them towards sin, or away from it?

[2] I do not intend to get into the culture wars over the acceptance of homosexuality, except to say this. The one side fails to differentiate between the person who is loved by God, and the homosexual acts that person commits, or the homosexual impulses endemic to that person. The other side states that homosexuality is not a choice, which may be true. After all, no one chooses as a young child a sexual orientation that puts them at odds with society at large. And since (they say) homosexuality is not a choice, then it must be a valid expression of human sexuality.

I simply state that we must deal with the homosexual as a person loved by God, while recognizing the scriptures class homosexuality as “vile affections” and “shameless uncleanness.” We must also recognize that in vilifying the homosexual (while allowing other sins such as gluttony), we drive them away from the Gospel.

Who has Ascended into Heaven (Joh 3:13)

The Prophet Baruch

The Prophet Baruch

Who hath gone up into heaven, and taken her, and brought her down from the clouds? (Baruch 3:29)

And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. (Joh 3:13)[1]

Baruch is speaking here of Wisdom, which dwells in the heavens, and which is therefore unobtainable to humanity (in an ultimate sense, of course.) Wisdom is often personified in the Old Testament, and Christians understand Wisdom to be an adumbration of Christ — that is to say, Wisdom is an allegory of Christ. John is drawing our attention to the connection between the passage in Baruch, which then makes the allegorical connection between Wisdom and Christ plain. Thus while no one could ascend into heaven and bring Wisdom down to earth, the Son of God could come to earth, become one with us, and then ascend into heaven, thereby opening the pathway for us to attain Wisdom, which is Christ Himself.

 


 

[1] Scholars disagree as to whether Jesus answer to Nicodemus, which begins at verse ten, continues through to verse 21. Some hold that it does, while others believe that the majority of this passage is John’s commentary on Jesus’ words. The use of the conjunction “and” to begin sentences is consistent with the way Hebrew uses “and” to connect clauses, suggesting verse 10-21 may well be a single unbroken speech.

False gods and God’s Revelation

Apostle Paul, ceiling mosaic, Archiepiscopal Chapel of St. Andrew, Ravenna, Italy

Apostle Paul, ceiling mosaic, Archiepiscopal Chapel of St. Andrew, Ravenna, Italy

False Gods of God and Silver

But miserable are they, and in dead things is their hope, who call them gods, which are the works of men’s hands, gold and silver, to shew art in, and resemblances of beasts, or a stone good for nothing, the work of an ancient hand. (Wisdom 13:10)

Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. (Acts 17:29)

In Paul’s speech on Mars Hill, the phrase “gold and silver” comes directly from Wisdom 13:10. While the phrase “gold and silver” is used elsewhere in the New Testament, it is never used in connection with the argument from Wisdom. Paul’s use of this argument is interesting, because the Greek philosophers would not be expected to have intimate knowledge of Jewish wisdom literature, despite its being available in the Greek language, and would likely not have caught the reference. Paul is not using this quotation purely as a rhetorical device, but rather because the text had so permeated his thinking that its words became his words.

A similar thing happens in the opening of the epistle to the Romans, where Paul writes: “[the ungodly] changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things” (Rom 1:23). This one verse sums up the entire passage in Wisdom 13:1-19, which describes a man who takes some wood and uses it to make serving dishes, and then uses the remaining wood to make an idol for himself, unto which he prays. Of the same tree he makes for himself something useful, and something useless.

Our Knowledge of the Creator

Surely vain are all men by nature, who are ignorant of God, and could not out of the good things that are seen know him that is: neither by considering the works did they acknowledge the workmaster; But deemed either fire, or wind, or the swift air, or the circle of the stars, or the violent water, or the lights of heaven, to be the gods which govern the world. With whose beauty if they being delighted took them to be gods; let them know how much better the Lord of them is: for the first author of beauty hath created them. But if they were astonished at their power and virtue, let them understand by them, how much mightier he is that made them. For by the greatness and beauty of the creatures proportionably the maker of them is seen. But yet for this they are the less to be blamed: for they peradventure err, seeking God, and desirous to find him. For being conversant in his works they search him diligently, and believe their sight: because the things are beautiful that are seen. Howbeit neither are they to be pardoned. For if they were able to know so much, that they could aim at the world; how did they not sooner find out the Lord thereof? But miserable are they, and in dead things is their hope, who call them gods, which are the works of men’s hands, gold and silver, to shew art in, and resemblances of beasts, or a stone good for nothing, the work of an ancient hand. (Wisdom 13:1-10)

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. (Rom 1:18-25)

Much of the first chapter of Romans is indebted to Wisdom chapter 13. We have already discussed Paul’s usage of the phrase “silver and gold” during his sermon on Mars Hill. However, Paul draws his argument on the subject of General Revelation from Wisdom. The argument in Wisdom is that the existence of God is demonstrated not by the existence of things in and of themselves, but rather their beauty. The fact that things are beautiful in and of themselves, and that we seem to exist to recognize and share in that beauty tells us that there must be a point to all this.

In Romans, Paul condenses this argument when he says: “that which may be known of God is manifest in them [the ungodly]”; that is to say, in their knowledge of God through His creation of and operations within the material world (Rom 1:19). Note that Paul does not say that God may be known through His creation — which is to say, known in His essence. Instead, Paul speaks of “that which may be known of God”, which is an entirely different thing. To use the terminology of the Eastern Church, Paul is speaking of the difference between God’s essence and God’s energies; between God as He actually is (in His fullness), and God as revealed through His actions. Using this idea, both General and Special Revelation together constitute God’s energies, God’s actions within and on behalf of this world. God in His essence, His essential self, remains altogether beyond our grasp.

Johann Gerhard, the Apocrypha, and the Dead Sea Scrolls

Johann Gerhard

Johann Gerhard

Johann Gerhard, the Apocrypha, and the Dead Sea Scrolls

Johann Gerhard is the premier Lutheran scholastic, and is considered to be the Lutheran version of Thomas Aquinas. In his 17th century book “On the Nature of Theology and Scripture”, Gerhard writes of the distinction between books in the “codex of the Old Testament” that the papists consider canonical, and those they consider apocryphal.

The apocryphal books of the Old Testament are all the rest contained in the codex of the Old Testament besides the canonical books. We can arrange them in two classes. First, some are apocryphal by confession of the papists themselves, though they are contained in the Greek or Latin Codex of the Bible. …Second, some are considered canonical by the papists, though they are in fact apocryphal. [Emphasis added.] (Gerhard 2006, 91)

Gerhard argues against the Latins regarding both canonicity of any Apocryphal book. Moreover, he provides various reason why some books are considered apocryphal. First, “books whose origin is hidden”; second, “books that contain myths, errors, and lies”; third, because “every canonical book of the Old Testament is written in the Prophetic language, namely, Hebrew.” (Gerhard 2006, 91) Unfortunately, Gerhard’s arguments are flawed.

First Argument

His first argument is that the Apocrypha are not inspired, and therefore not canonical.

  • Every canonical book of the Old Testament was written by a prophet by impulse and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
  • The Apocrypha were not written by prophets (and by extension, under the impulse and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
  • Therefore, the Apocrypha are not canonical.
    (Gerhard 2006, 92)

As we all likely agree to the first and major premise, we need not explore that further. The second, or minor premise, is problematic. Gerhard argues that the last Old Testament prophet was Malachi, and therefore concludes that since the Apocrypha were produced after the prophet Malachi, they were not written by prophets. “Those books we listed were written after the time of Malachi, the last prophet of the Old Testament. From Malachi until John the Baptist one can point out no prophet among the people of Israel; therefore he concludes the prophetic writing of the Old Testament.” (Gerhard 2006, 92) I note that this is a tautology, in that the conclusion of the argument is required by the premise.

From my youth I remember hearing the argument that the line of the prophets ended with the prophet Malachi, ushering in the intertestamental period. The evidence for this point of view was typological. The Scriptures describe the period prior to the prophet Samuel as follows: “And the word of the LORD was precious in those days; there was no open vision.” (1 Sam 3:1) Thus, goes the argument, the period prior to Samuel is the type of which the period prior to John the Baptist is the fulfillment.[1] But this is an argument from two seemingly analogous conditions, rather than from evidence. Gerhard provides an additional argument, which is that Malachi is the seal of the Old Testament, for it was Malachi who prophesied of John the Baptist. (Gerhard 2006, 92)

Second Argument

Gerhard’s second argument is based on the external form of the Old Testament, or the language.

  • Every canonical book of the Old Testament is written in the prophetic language, namely, Hebrew.
  • Those controversial books were not written in Hebrew.
  • Ergo. [The controversial books are not canonical.]
    (Gerhard 2006, 93)

I note for the record that Johann Gerhard wrote in the seventeenth century, well prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. It is unfair to find fault with his assumption that the Apocrypha were not written in Hebrew (although how someone could continue to make that claim in the late 20th and early 21st century escapes me.)

Regarding the Apocrypha among the Dead Sea Scrolls, Michael E. Stone writes of the so-called Apocrypha written in Aramaic and Hebrew, the languages of the Old Testament:

Among the Dead Sea Scrolls were a number of manuscripts of the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, including ten manuscripts of the Book of Enoch in the original Aramaic (until then copies were extant only in an Ethiopic translation of a Greek translation of a Semitic original), which were vital to answering many questions about its origins. Dating of the manuscripts by their script shows that certain parts of Enoch are at least as old as the third century BCE. Fragments of Ben Sira in Hebrew, Tobit in Aramaic, the Epistle of Jeremiah in Greek, and others were also found at Qumran.

Gerhard notes that Jerome translated Tobit and Judith from Chaldaic into Latin, but did not consider them to be Canonical. Jerome is an anomaly among the fathers of the early church, in that he preferred the Hebrew text over the Septuagint, the text that was in common use among the early church (which usage even Gerhard admits).

Gerhard’s argument that Hebrew is the “prophetic language” is a problem, in that it argues against the canonicity of the New Testament. Gerhard is not alone in this regard: F.F. Bruce, writing in 1954, shortly after the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, also cites the then generally accepted claim that the Apocrypha were written in Greek.

The books of the Apocrypha, while they were written in Greek or translated into Greek by Jews, first received canonical recognition from Greek-speaking Christians. The early Greek Fathers acknowledged in theory that these books were not on the same canonical level as the books in the Hebrew Bible, but in practice they made little distinction between the two classes. (Bruce 2008)

Third Argument

Gerhard’s third argument is from the subject matter of the Apocrypha, which he claims is different than that of the Protestant Old Testament.

  • Every canonical book of the Old Testament contains prophecies about Christ, promised in the Old Testament but revealed in the New.
  • Those controversial books do not contain prophecies about Christ.
  • Ergo. [The controversial books are not canonical.]

With all due respect to Johann Gerhard, but this claim is nonsense, as can be demonstrated by the following list:

  • Mat 2:16 – Herod’s decree of slaying innocent children was prophesied in Wis. 11:7 – slaying the holy innocents.
  • Mat 6:19-20 – Jesus’ statement about laying up for yourselves treasure in heaven follows Sirach 29:11 – lay up your treasure.
  • Mat 7:12 – Jesus’ golden rule “do unto others” is the converse of Tobit 4:15 – what you hate, do not do to others.
  • Mat 7:16, 20 – Jesus’ statement “you will know them by their fruits” follows Sirach 27:6 – the fruit discloses the cultivation.
  • Mat 9:36 – the people were “like sheep without a shepherd” is same as Judith 11:19 – sheep without a shepherd.
  • Mat 11:25 – Jesus’ description “Lord of heaven and earth” is the same as Tobit 7:18 – Lord of heaven and earth.
  • Mat 12:42 – Jesus refers to the wisdom of Solomon which was recorded and made part of the so-called deuterocanonical or apocryphal books.
  • Mat 16:18 – Jesus’ reference to the “power of death” and “gates of Hades” references Wisdom 16:13.
  • Mat 22:25; Mar 12:20; Luk 20:29 – Gospel writers refer to the canonicity of Tobit 3:8 and 7:11 regarding the seven brothers.
  • Mat 24:15 – the “desolating sacrilege” Jesus refers to is also taken from 1 Macc. 1:54 and 2 Macc. 8:17.
  • Mat 24:16 – let those “flee to the mountains” is taken from 1 Macc. 2:28.
  • Mat 27:43 – if He is God’s Son, let God deliver him from His adversaries follows Wisdom 2:18.
  • Mar 4:5, 16-17 – Jesus’ description of seeds falling on rocky ground and having no root follows Sirach 40:15.
  • Mar 9:48 – description of hell where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched references Judith 16:17.
  • Luk 1:42 – Elizabeth’s declaration of Mary’s blessedness above all women follows Uzziah’s declaration in Judith 13:18.
  • Luk 1:52 – Mary’s Magnificat addressing the mighty falling from their thrones and replaced by lowly follows Sirach 10:14.
  • Luk 2:29 – Simeon’s declaration that he is ready to die after seeing the Child Jesus follows Tobit 11:9.
  • Luk 13:29 – the Lord’s description of men coming from east and west to rejoice in God follows Baruch 4:37.
  • Luk 21:24 – Jesus’ usage of “fall by the edge of the sword” follows Sirach 28:18.
  • Luk 24:4 and Acts 1:10 – Luke’s description of the two men in dazzling apparel reminds us of 2 Macc. 3:26.
  • Joh 1:3 – all things were made through Him, the Word, follows Wisdom 9:1.
  • Joh 3:13 – who has ascended into heaven but He who descended from heaven references Baruch 3:29.
  • Joh 4:48; Acts 5:12; 15:12; 2 Cor. 12:12 – Jesus’, Luke’s and Paul’s usage of “signs and wonders” follows Wisdom 8:8.
  • Joh 5:18 – Jesus claiming that God is His Father follows Wisdom 2:16.
  • Joh 6:35-59 – Jesus’ Eucharistic discourse is foreshadowed in Sirach 24:21.
  • Joh 10:22 – the identification of the feast of the dedication is taken from 1 Macc. 4:59.
  • Joh 15:6 – branches that don’t bear fruit and are cut down follows Wis. 4:5 where branches are broken off.
  • Acts 1:15 – Luke’s reference to the 120 may be a reference to 1 Macc. 3:55 – leaders of tens / restoration of the twelve.
  • Acts 10:34; Rom. 2:11; Gal. 2:6 – Peter’s and Paul’s statement that God shows no partiality references Sirach 35:12.
  • Acts 17:29 – description of false gods as like gold and silver made by men follows Wisdom 13:10.
  • Rom 1:18-25 – Paul’s teaching on the knowledge of the Creator and the ignorance and sin of idolatry follows Wis. 13:1-10.
  • Rom 1:20 – specifically, God’s existence being evident in nature follows Wis. 13:1.
  • Rom 1:23 – the sin of worshipping mortal man, birds, animals and reptiles follows Wis. 11:15; 12:24-27; 13:10; 14:8; 15:7.
  • Rom 1:24-27 – this idolatry results in all kinds of sexual perversion which follows Wis. 14:12, 24-27.
  • Rom 4:17 – Abraham is a father of many nations follows Sirach 44:19.
  • Rom 5:12 – description of death and sin entering into the world is similar to Wisdom 2:24.
  • Rom 9:21 – usage of the potter and the clay, making two kinds of vessels follows Wisdom 15:7. (The image of the potter is also used in Jeremiah 18:4, but not with the idea of a vessel of honor and a vessel of dishonor.)
  • 1 Cor 2:16 – Paul’s question, “who has known the mind of the Lord?” references Wisdom 9:13.
  • 1 Cor 6:12-13; 10:23-26 – warning that, while all things are good, beware of gluttony, follows Sirach 36:18 and 37:28-30.
  • 1 Cor 8:5-6 – Paul acknowledging many “gods” but one Lord follows Wis. 13:3.
  • 1 Cor 10:1 – Paul’s description of our fathers being under the cloud passing through the sea refers to Wisdom 19:7.
  • 1 Cor 10:20 – what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God refers to Baruch 4:7.
  • 1 Cor 15:29 – if no expectation of resurrection, it would be foolish to be baptized on their behalf follows 2 Macc. 12:43-45.
  • Eph 1:17 – Paul’s prayer for a “spirit of wisdom” follows the prayer for the spirit of wisdom in Wisdom 7:7.
  • Eph 6:14 – Paul describing the breastplate of righteousness is the same as Wis. 5:18. See also Isaiah 59:17 and 1Thess. 5:8.
  • Eph 6:13-17 – in fact, the whole discussion of armor, helmet, breastplate, sword, shield follows Wis. 5:17-20.
  • 1 Tim 6:15 – Paul’s description of God as Sovereign and King of kings is from 2 Macc. 12:15; 13:4.
  • 2 Tim 4:8 – Paul’s description of a crown of righteousness is similar to Wisdom 5:16.
  • Heb 4:12 – Paul’s description of God’s word as a sword is similar to Wisdom 18:15.
  • Heb 11:5 – Enoch being taken up is also referenced in Wis 4:10 and Sir 44:16. See also 2 Kings 2:1-13 & Sir 48:9 regarding Elijah.
  • Heb 11:35 – The author teaches about the martyrdom of the mother and her sons described in 2 Macc. 6:18, 7:1-42.
  • Heb 12:12 – the description “drooping hands” and “weak knees” comes from Sirach 25:23.
  • Jam 1:19 – let every man be quick to hear and slow to respond follows Sirach 5:11.
  • Jam 2:23 – it was reckoned to him as righteousness follows 1 Macc. 2:52 – it was reckoned to him as righteousness.
  • Jam 3:13 – James’ instruction to perform works in meekness follows Sirach 3:17.
  • Jam 5:3 – describing silver which rusts and laying up treasure follows Sirach 29:10-11.
  • Jam 5:6 – condemning and killing the “righteous man” follows Wisdom 2:10-20.
  • 1 Pet 1:6-7 – Peter teaches about testing faith by purgatorial fire as described in Wisdom 3:5-6 and Sirach 2:5.
  • 1 Pet 1:17 – God judging each one according to his deeds refers to Sirach 16:12 – God judges man according to his deeds.
  • 2 Pet 2:7 – God’s rescue of a righteous man (Lot) is also described in Wisdom 10:6.
  • Rev 1:4; 8:3-4 – Discussion of the seven spirits and the prayers ascending as incense before the throne of God, also described in Tobit 12:15.
  • Rev 1:18; Mat 16:18 – power of life over death and gates of Hades follows Wis. 16:13.
  • Rev 2:12 – reference to the two-edged sword is similar to the description of God’s Word in Wisdom 18:16.
  • Rev 5:7 – God is described as seated on His throne, and this is the same description used in Sirach 1:8.
  • Rev 8:3-4 – prayers of the saints presented to God by the hand of an angel follows Tobit 12:12,15.
  • Rev 8:7 – raining of hail and fire to the earth follows Wisdom 16:22 and Sirach 39:29.
  • Rev 9:3 – raining of locusts on the earth follows Wisdom 16:9.
  • Rev 11:19 – the vision of the ark of the covenant (Mary) in a cloud of glory was prophesied in 2 Macc. 2:7.
  • Rev 17:14 – description of God as King of kings follows 2 Macc. 13:4.
  • Rev 19:1 – the cry “Hallelujah” at the coming of the new Jerusalem follows Tobit 13:18.
  • Rev 19:11 – the description of the Lord on a white horse in the heavens follows 2 Macc. 3:25; 11:8.
  • Rev 19:16 – description of our Lord as King of kings is taken from 2 Macc. 13:4.
  • Rev 21:19 – the description of the new Jerusalem filled with precious stones is prophesied in Tobit 13:17.

Fourth Argument

Gerhard’s fourth argument is that the Apocryphal books do not have the witness of the Israelitic Church (by which he means the Jewish people.)

  • The canonical books of the Old Testament have the witness of the Israelitic church.
  • Those controversial books lack the witness of the Israelitic Church.
  • Ergo. [The controversial books are not canonical.]

We learn from the Dead Sea Scrolls that the canon of the Hebrew Scriptures was quite fluid in the years leading up to the fall of Jerusalem. (Tigchelaar 2009) Judaism is now understood to have been more accepting of a diverse canon of the Hebrew Scriptures in the time of Christ than it was to become after the Masoretes completed their work.

The Samaritans held that only the five books of Moses were scripture, although their version of the first five books of Moses were slightly different. The Samaritan Pentateuch is a more ancient form of the Torah than the Masoretic text, but also agrees more closely with the Dead Sea Scrolls. (Lieber 2013)

It has been widely (although not universally) understood that the Sadducees considered only the first five books of Moses to be scripture.[2] This view was prevalent among some of the church fathers, but modern scholars think the fathers were conflating the Samaritans and the Sadducees.[3] If the latest scholarship is correct, the canon for both the Sadducees and Pharisees covered what we know today as the Hebrew Scriptures, aka. the Old Testament. By contrast, the Jewish Diaspora, sometimes called the Hellenists, used the Septuagint (LXX) in their synagogues. The canon of the LXX was itself quite fluid, containing numerous books written after the time of Ezra.

Whoever deposited the Dead Sea Scrolls (popularly identified as the Essenes), appears to have used the Septuagint canon, with the possible exception of the book of Esther. The Essenes, who supposedly hid the Dead Sea Scrolls, disappeared following the destruction of Israel in A.D. 70. Likewise the Sadducees, being the party of the temple, disappeared following the destruction of the temple. The only Jewish sects to survive? The Pharisees and the Samaritans, of which only the Pharisees were active among the Jewish Diaspora. Historical evidence suggests the Jews and the Christians each made their own determination as to what was in the canon of scripture. Moreover, it has been suggested that the Hebrew canon was restricted in an attempt to remove support for the Messiahship of Jesus.[4] This process seems to have begun with the school of Jewish law founded by Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai in the city of Jamnia. Late 19th to mid-20th biblical scholarship suggested the existence of a Council of Jamnia which decided on a definitive Jewish canon. F.F. Bruce describes their work as follows:

After the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. a new Sanhedrin or council of elders, consisting of Jewish scholars, was constituted at Jamnia in Western Palestine. They reviewed the whole field of Jewish religion and law, and held long discussions on the scope of the Canon of Hebrew Scripture. They debated whether certain books should not be excluded, and whether certain others should not he admitted: but in the end they did not exclude any book which already enjoyed canonical recognition, nor did they admit any book which had not previously received such recognition. (Bruce 2008)

Although F.F. Bruce describes the makeup and work of the Council of Jamnia, it is no longer certain that such a council took place. Moreover, if it took place, the council actually met to look into other matters entirely. We do know that alterations of the text of the Hebrew Scriptures were underway by the time of Justin Martyr (c. 100 – 165 AD). From this it is clear that the Christians used the Septuagint as their canon of scripture, while the Jews gradually settled on a more restricted canon.[5]

Gerhard goes on to provide a variety of proofs for his position, all of which are meaningless in the face of what we now know to be true about the state of the Jewish canon during the time of Christ.

Fifth Argument

Gerhard’s fifth argument is that the Apocrypha are not supported as Scripture by the primitive Christian Church.

  • Books that are truly canonical have the supporting testimony of the primitive Christian Church.
  • Those controversial books lack the unanimous witness of the primitive church.
  • Therefore they are not canonical.

It is perhaps unfair to pile on this way, but when a luminary such as Gerhard makes such a bold and unsupported statement, it needs to be refuted. Henceforth, a list of statements regarding the Apocrypha from the Primitive Church through the Post-Nicene era.

  • The Didache (ca. 50-70 A.D.)

    “You shall not waver with regard to your decisions [Sir. 1:28]. Do not be someone who stretches out his hands to receive but withdraws them when it comes to giving [Sir. 4:31]” (Didache 4:5).

    The Letter of Barnabas (ca. 74 A.D.)

    “Since, therefore, [Christ] was about to be manifested and to suffer in the flesh, his suffering was foreshown. For the prophet speaks against evil, ‘Woe to their soul, because they have counseled an evil counsel against themselves’ [Is. 3:9], saying, ‘Let us bind the righteous man because he is displeasing to us’ [Wis. 2:12.]” (Letter of Barnabas 6:7).

  • Clement of Rome (ca. 80 A.D.)

    “By the word of his might [God] established all things, and by his word he can overthrow them. ‘Who shall say to him, “What have you done?” or who shall resist the power of his strength?’ [Wis. 12:12]” (Letter to the Corinthians 27:5).

  • Polycarp of Smyrna (ca. 135 A.D.)

    “Stand fast, therefore, in these things, and follow the example of the Lord, being firm and unchangeable in the faith, loving the brotherhood [1 Pet. 2:17].
    . . . When you can do good, defer it not, because ‘alms delivers from death’ [Tob. 4:10, 12:9]. Be all of you subject to one another [1 Pet. 5:5], having your conduct blameless among the Gentiles [1 Pet. 2:12], and the Lord may not be blasphemed through you. But woe to him by whom the name of the Lord is blasphemed [Is. 52:5]!” (Letter to the Philadelphians 10).

  • Irenaeus (ca. 189 A.D.)

    “Those . . . who are believed to be presbyters by many, but serve their own lusts and do not place the fear of God supreme in their hearts, but conduct themselves with contempt toward others and are puffed up with the pride of holding the chief seat [Mat 23:6] and work evil deeds in secret, saying ‘No man sees us,’ shall be convicted by the Word, who does not judge after outward appearance, nor looks upon the countenance, but the heart; and they shall hear those words to be found in Daniel the prophet: ‘O you seed of Canaan and not of Judah, beauty has deceived you and lust perverted your heart’ [Dan. 13:56]. You that have grown old in wicked days, now your sins which you have committed before have come to light, for you have pronounced false judgments and have been accustomed to condemn the innocent and to let the guilty go free, although the Lord says, ‘You shall not slay the innocent and the righteous’ [Dan. 13:52, citing Ex. 23:7]” (Against Heresies 4:26:3; Daniel 13 is not in the Protestant Bible).

    “Jeremiah the prophet has pointed out that as many believers as God has prepared for this purpose, to multiply those left on the earth, should both be under the rule of the saints and to minister to this [new] Jerusalem and that [his] kingdom shall be in it, saying, ‘Look around Jerusalem toward the east and behold the joy which comes to you from God himself. Behold, your sons whom you have sent forth shall come: They shall come in a band from the east to the west. . . . God shall go before with you in the light of his splendor, with the mercy and righteousness which proceed from him’ [Bar. 4:36—5:9]” (ibid., 5:35:1; Baruch was often considered part of Jeremiah, as it is here).

  • Hippolytus (ca. 204 A.D.)

    “What is narrated here [in the story of Susannah] happened at a later time, although it is placed at the front of the book [of Daniel], for it was a custom with the writers to narrate many things in an inverted order in their writings. . . . [W]e ought to give heed, beloved, fearing lest anyone be overtaken in any transgression and risk the loss of his soul, knowing as we do that God is the judge of all and the Word himself is the eye which nothing that is done in the world escapes. Therefore, always watchful in heart and pure in life, let us imitate Susannah” (Commentary on Daniel; the story of Susannah [Dan. 13] is not in the Protestant Bible).

  • Cyprian of Carthage (ca.248, 253 A.D.)

    “In Genesis [it says], ‘And God tested Abraham and said to him, “Take your only son whom you love, Isaac, and go to the high land and offer him there as a burnt offering . . .”’ [Gen. 22:1–2]. . . . Of this same thing in the Wisdom of Solomon [it says], ‘Although in the sight of men they suffered torments, their hope is full of immortality . . .’ [Wis. 3:4]. Of this same thing in the Maccabees [it says], ‘Was not Abraham found faithful when tested, and it was reckoned to him for righteousness’ [1 Macc. 2:52; see Jas. 2:21–23]” (Treatises 7:3:15).

    “So Daniel, too, when he was required to worship the idol Bel, which the people and the king then worshipped, in asserting the honor of his God, broke forth with full faith and freedom, saying, ‘I worship nothing but the Lord my God, who created the heaven and the earth’ [Dan. 14:5]” (Letters 55:5; Daniel 14 is not in the Protestant Bible).

  • Council of Rome (ca. 382 A.D.)

    “Now indeed we must treat of the divine scriptures, what the universal Catholic Church accepts and what she ought to shun. The order of the Old Testament begins here: Genesis, one book; Exodus, one book; Leviticus, one book; Numbers, one book; Deuteronomy, one book; Joshua [Son of] Nave, one book; Judges, one book; Ruth, one book; Kings, four books [that is, 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings]; Paralipomenon [Chronicles], two books; Psalms, one book; Solomon, three books: Proverbs, one book, Ecclesiastes, one book, [and] Canticle of Canticles [Song of Songs], one book; likewise Wisdom, one book; Ecclesiasticus [Sirach], one book . . . . Likewise the order of the historical [books]: Job, one book; Tobit, one book; Esdras, two books [Ezra and Nehemiah]; Esther, one book; Judith, one book; Maccabees, two books” (Decree of Pope Damasus).

  • Council of Hippo (ca. 393 A.D.)

    “[It has been decided] that besides the canonical scriptures nothing be read in church under the name of divine Scripture. But the canonical scriptures are
    as follows: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua the Son of Nun, Judges, Ruth, the Kings, four books, the Chronicles, two books, Job, the Psalter, the five books of Solomon [Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom, and a portion of the Psalms], the twelve books of the prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Tobit, Judith, Esther, Ezra, two books, Maccabees, two books . . .” (Canon 36).

    Council of Carthage III (ca. 397 A.D.)

    “[It has been decided] that nothing except the canonical scriptures should be read in the Church under the name of the divine scriptures. But the canonical scriptures are: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kings, Paralipomenon, two books, Job, the Psalter of David, five books of Solomon, twelve books of the prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Tobit, Judith, Esther, two books of Esdras, two books of the Maccabees . . .” (Canon 47).

  • Augustine (ca. 397, 421 A.D.)

    “The whole canon of the scriptures, however, in which we say that consideration is to be applied, is contained in these books: the five of Moses . . . and one book of Joshua [Son of] Nave, one of Judges; one little book which is called Ruth . . . then the four of Kingdoms, and the two of Paralipomenon . . . . [T]here are also others too, of a different order . . . such as Job and Tobit and Esther and Judith and the two books of Maccabees, and the two of Esdras . . . . Then there are the prophets, in which there is one book of the Psalms of David, and three of Solomon. . . . But as to those two books, one of which is entitled Wisdom and the other of which is entitled Ecclesiasticus and which are called ‘of Solomon’ because of a certain similarity to his books, it is held most certainly that they were written by Jesus Sirach. They must, however, be accounted among the prophetic books, because of the authority which is deservedly accredited to them” (Christian Instruction 2:8:13).

    “We read in the books of the Maccabees [2 Macc. 12:43] that sacrifice was offered for the dead. But even if it were found nowhere in the Old Testament writings, the authority of the Catholic Church which is clear on this point is of no small weight, where in the prayers of the priest poured forth to the Lord God at his altar the commendation of the dead has its place” (The Care to be Had for the Dead 1:3).

  • The Apostolic Constitutions (ca. 400 A.D.)

    “Now women also prophesied. Of old, Miriam the sister of Moses and Aaron [Ex. 15:20], and after her, Deborah [Judges. 4:4], and after these Huldah [2 Kgs. 22:14] and Judith [Judith 8], the former under Josiah and the latter under Darius” (Apostolic Constitutions 8:2).

    Jerome (ca. 401 A.D.)

    “What sin have I committed if I follow the judgment of the churches? But he who brings charges against me for relating [in my preface to the book of Daniel] the objections that the Hebrews are wont to raise against the story of Susannah [Dan. 13], the Song of the Three Children [Dan. 3:29–68, RSV-CE], and the story of Bel and the Dragon [Dan. 14], which are not found in the Hebrew volume, proves that he is just a foolish sycophant. I was not relating my own personal views, but rather the remarks that they are wont to make against us. If I did not reply to their views in my preface, in the interest of brevity, lest it seem that I was composing not a preface, but a book, I believe I added promptly the remark, for I said, ‘This is not the time to discuss such matters’” (Against Rufinius 11:33).

  • Pope Innocent I (ca. 408 A.D.)

    “A brief addition shows what books really are received in the canon. These are the things of which you desired to be informed verbally: of Moses, five books, that is, of Genesis, of Exodus, of Leviticus, of Numbers, of Deuteronomy, and Joshua, of Judges, one book, of Kings, four books, and also Ruth, of the prophets, sixteen books, of Solomon, five books, the Psalms. Likewise of the histories, Job, one book, of Tobit, one book, Esther, one, Judith, one, of the Maccabees, two, of Esdras, two, Paralipomenon, two books . . .” (Letters 7).

A Final Word

I don’t want to pile onto Johann Gerhard, as he was arguing from the knowledge that was available at that time, and in support of a Lutheran orthodoxy in which the canonical issues had been settled. Yet it is remarkable how current Gerhard’s arguments are, despite all the knowledge that has accumulated since his time. Evangelical bible scholars, with all the evidence of the Dead Sea Scrolls right in front of them, behave like the old comedy trope of the policeman standing in front of some remarkable carnage, yet announcing to the assembled crowd: “Move along, folks. Nothing to see here.”


Bibliography

Bruce, F. F. “The Canon of Scripture.” BiblicalStudies.org.uk. Edited by Robert I Bradshaw. Religious & Theological Students Fellowship. March 2008. http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/canon_bruce.pdf (accessed January 4, 2014).

Gerhard, Johann. On the Nature of Theology and Scripture. Translated by Richard J. Dinda. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2006.

Lieber, Chavie. “The Other Torah.” Tablet Magazine. May 14, 2013. http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-life-and-religion/132004/the-other-torah (accessed December 27, 2013).

Tigchelaar, Eiber. “How did the Qumran Scrolls Transform our Views of the Canonical Process?” Lirias: Home Lirias. 2009. https://lirias.kuleuven.be/bitstream/123456789/253557/3/tigchelaar-canon.doc (accessed January 02, 2014).


[1] This argument does not appear to be widespread among Protestants; at least I can find no independent verification of it.

[2] Ross, Allen. The Sadducees. 2006. https://bible.org/seriespage/sadducees

[3] The primary difference between the Pharisees and the Sadducees was not the canon itself, but the use to which they put the canon. The Sadducees were strict literalists; it if couldn’t be found in scripture, it wasn’t part of Judaism. By contrast, the Pharisees had a body of tradition which served to enhance or interpret scripture; some of these regulations were extra-scriptural, in that they could not be traced back to scriptural texts. For this reason, the Sadducees rejected the traditions and regulations of the Pharisees. (Skarsaune, Oskar. In the Shadow of the Temple. IVP Academic. 2002. pp. 109-111)

[4] For example, Baruch 3 can be interpreted as supporting the identification of Wisdom with Christ, especially as regards the Incarnation.

[5] Justin Martyr argues forcefully that the Jews artificially truncated their canon of Scripture to eliminate passages that demonstrate that Jesus was the promised Messiah. (P. Schaff, ANF01. The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus 1884, Chapters LXXI and LXXII)