Tag Archives: Apocrypha

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.

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)

Are the Apocrypha Cited as Scripture?

Judah Maccabee as depicted in an 1860 illustrated Bible

Judah Maccabee as depicted in an 1860 illustrated Bible

Using Merril C. Tenny’s definition of a citation as being “almost exact verbally and which are definitely referred to a given author”, there are virtually no direct citations of the Old Testament Apocrypha in the New Testament.[1] Many quotations, but no citations. This is not really a problem, for the New Testament quotes and alludes to the Old Testament often, but cites rarely. The New Testament was written by people with such familiarity with the Old Testament scriptures that they evidently did not feel the need to give exact citations. Moreover, the writers of the New Testament were not preparing academic papers, and the Chicago Manual of Style did not exist. So they used quotations and allusions freely, assuming a degree of scriptural familiarity on the part of their readers.

Jude is one of two books that cites a source outside the Protestant canon.

It was also about these men that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.” (Jude 1:14-15)

This citation of the book of Enoch was one reason why the canonicity of Jude was a matter of dispute among the early church. In the fifth century, the Syriac Church settled on a 22 book canon that does not contain the book of Jude, along with other disputed books (II Peter, II & III John, and Revelation.)[2]This canon is still in use today among the Nestorians.

The books of James and Romans also cite a source outside the Protestant canon. The citation from James is particularly compelling.

Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. (James 2:21-23)

James cites as scripture a passage found in the first book of Maccabees. “Was not Abraham found faithful in temptation, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness?” (1 Macc 2:52) This is a direct quotation, which should put to rest the Protestant argument against their being no quotations from the Apocrypha that cite them as Scripture. The apostle Paul also cites the same passage from 1 Maccabees in his extended argument regarding Abraham’s faith. (Rom 4:13-22)

Game, set, match.


Endnotes

[1] (Tenney 1963, 301)

[2] (Lieuwen, The Emergence of the New Testament Canon 1995)


Bibliography

Lieuwen, Daniel F. “The Emergence of the New Testament Canon.” St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney (Dallas area) Texas. 1995. http://www.orthodox.net/faq/canon.htm#267 (accessed January 15, 2014).

Tenney, Merrill C. “The Old Testament and the Fourth Gospel.” Bibliotheca Sacra (Dallas Theological Seminary), no. 120 (October 1963): 300-308.

The Four Gospels and the Wisdom of Solomon

Scan of the Wisdom of Solomon from the original 1611 version of the King James Bible

Wisdom of Solomon

Regarding the allusions to the Apocrypha in the New Testament, let us begin our discussion with an examination of an extended passage from the Wisdom of Solomon. This passage is generally applicable to the relationship between the ungodly and the righteous, whoever he (or she) may be; however, this passage is specifically applicable to the relationship between Jesus (as the ultimate Righteous Man), and the religious and political leaders of His day. I would argue that the gospels are the fulfillment of this passage from the Wisdom of Solomon. With that in mind, let us examine this passage.

Let us oppress the poor righteous man, let us not spare the widow, nor reverence the ancient gray hairs of the aged. (Wisdom 2:10)

This passage begins with the oppression of the poor, which is a recurring theme of the Old and New Testaments. The book of Proverbs goes so far as to say: “A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel” (Pr 12:10). Not only does a righteous man care for the poor man and the aged, but also the creatures entrusted to his care (Gen 1:26).

Let our strength be the law of justice: for that which is feeble is found to be nothing worth. (Wisdom 2:11)

The ungodly use the law against the poor, the aged, and all of creation. To the ungodly, obedience to the letter of the law excuses a lack of mercy. Against this argument, the voice prophet Hosea argues that God desires mercy rather than sacrifice (Hos 6:6). To those who pride themselves on their adherence to the law, Jesus argues that judgment, mercy, and faith are the “weightier matters of the law”, which must be done without neglecting the law itself (Matt 23:23).

Therefore let us lie in wait for the righteous; because he is not for our turn, and he is clean contrary to our doings: he upbraideth us with our offending the law, and objecteth to our infamy the transgressings of our education. (Wisdom 2:12)

Here is where this passage takes a turn; while generally applicable to the relationship between the ungodly and the righteous, from this point onward this passage is specifically applies to the relationship between the ungodly and The Righteous One, who is Jesus Christ. In the Gospels we read how Jesus upbraided the religious leaders, and how they in turn plotted against him. We read how they tried to trap Jesus with questions designed to elicit answers which would have been unsatisfactory to the people, or would have put Him at odds with the Roman authorities. (The question regarding whether it was lawful to pay taxes to the Roman authorities comes to mind; see Matt 22:17ff)

He professeth to have the knowledge of God: and he calleth himself the child of the Lord. (Wisdom 2:13)

This is most certainly true of Our Lord. The first example of this is found in the story of the Boy Jesus in His Father’s house. Not only were the teachers astonished at His understanding, but when His parent’s upbraided Him, Jesus asked them why they didn’t know He must be about His Father’s business (Luk 2:41-50).

He was made to reprove our thoughts. (Wisdom 2:14)

This passage is fulfilled in the healing of the man with palsy (Matt 9:1-8). Jesus first announces to the man the forgiveness of sins, which the scribes thought was blasphemous, because only God can forgive sins. Jesus reproved them for their thoughts, after which he demonstrating that He had the power to forgive sins by healing the palsied man.

He is grievous unto us even to behold: for his life is not like other men’s, his ways are of another fashion. (Wisdom 2:15)

In the Gospel of Luke, we read how Jesus called Levi the tax collector, who then gave a great feast at his house with other tax collectors present. Seeing this, the “scribes and Pharisees complained against His disciples, saying, ‘Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?'” Jesus response was that just as a physician ministers not to those who are well, but those who are sick, so too He ministered not to those who presumed themselves to be righteous, but those who knew themselves to be sinners (Luk 5:30-31). Later, while dining with Simon the Pharisee, a sinful women came in “began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head: and she kissed His feed and anointed them with the fragrant oil.” At this, the Pharisee murmured in his heart against Jesus for allowing Himself to be touched by a sinful woman. Jesus then rebuked the Pharisee for failing to follow the standards of hospitality by having Jesus’ feet washed before dinner, whereas the sinful woman had done this and more. Therefore to the woman he said her sins were forgiven, and that her faith had saved her (Luk 7:36-50). To the Lawyer who sought to justify himself in his own eyes, Jesus gave the Parable of the Good Samaritan, in which the Priest and Levite are the villains, while the hated Samaritan was the hero for showing mercy to someone to whom he had no relationship, no kinship, and no expectation of reward (Luk 10:25-37).

We are esteemed of him as counterfeits: he abstaineth from our ways as from filthiness: he pronounceth the end of the just to be blessed, and maketh his boast that God is his father. (Wisdom 2:16)

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus denounces the counterfeit religiosity of the Pharisees, those who “make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess” (Matt 23:25). In the Beatitudes, Jesus pronounces the blessedness of the righteous (Matt 5:3-12). The gospels use the life of Christ as an illustration of this passage from Wisdom; the good works that Jesus does enrage the ungodly, as does his description of God as His Father (Luke 10:22; John 5:28; 10:30).

Let us see if his words be true: and let us prove what shall happen in the end of him.  For if the just man be the son of God, he will help him, and deliver him from the hand of his enemies. Let us examine him with despitefulness and torture, that we may know his meekness, and prove his patience. Let us condemn him with a shameful death: for by his own saying he shall be respected. (Wisdom 2:17-20)

These final verses describe the state of mind and the actions of the Chief Priests and Pharisees regarding the death of Christ.

The Jewish trial was done contrary to the law, using false witnesses (Matt 26:59). After accusing Jesus of blasphemy, the scribes and elders spit in Jesus face and beat him with their hands, mocking him by saying: ” Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee? (Matt 26:67-68). After delivering Jesus to the Pontius Pilate, the Romans stripped him, whipped him, put a crown of thorns on His head, mocked Him, and crucified Him (Matt 27:27-31; Joh 19:1-18).

During Jesus’ examination before the Sanhedrin, Jesus said nothing, until he was asked whether he was “the Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 14:53-62). During Jesus’ examination before Herod, Jesus said nothing (Luk 23:6-9). Jesus did not try to justify Himself, nor did he beg for mercy, but “as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth” (Isa 53:7).

There was nothing more shameful than to be stripped naked and die a criminal’s death on the cross. The gospels state not only that the Jewish leaders desired the death of Jesus, but they specifically wanted the Romans to crucify Him (Joh 19:6). The author of Hebrews states that Jesus “endured the cross, despising the shame”, and is now seated at the right hand of God. (Heb 12:2).

Finally, at the foot of the cross the rulers of the Jews use the words from Wisdom to mock Christ. They sneer: “He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God” (Luk 23:35). This is then taken up by the soldiers who mock Christ, saying: “If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself” (Luk 23:37). Finally, one of the thieves crucified with Christ blasphemes: “If thou be Christ, save thyself and us” (Luk 23:39).

It is quite clear that this passage from Wisdom is prophetic, in that it is broadly descriptive of the life and death of Christ. Therefore, the arguments of some that the Apocrypha are not prophetic and therefore are not scripture fall to the ground.[1]

 


 

[1] Normal Geisler and Ralph MacKenzie write: “Contrary to the Roman Catholic argument from Christian usage, the true test of canonicity is propheticity. There is strong evidence that the apocryphal books are not prophetic. But since propheticity is the test for canonicity, this would eliminate the Apocrypha from the canon.” (Geisler and MacKenzie 1995, 196-197)

Canonical Development and the Self-Authenticating Scriptures

Timeline of New Testament Canon

Timeline of New Testament Canon
www.purifiedbyfaith.com/

A problem exists with the nature of canonicity — the principle (or principles) by which the scope of the canon of Scripture is determined. Scholars debate two different approaches: the Community-Canon approach, and the Intrinsic-Canon approach. John C. Peckham defines the Community-Canon as “a collection of books deemed authoritative by a given community”, and the Intrinsic-Canon as “a collection of authoritative books that are authoritative because God commissioned [inspired] them.” (Peckham 2011) This is a fancy way of describing the difference between books being deemed as part of the canon because the Church placed them on the list, and books being deemed as canonical because they are inspired.

Peckham’s explanation of the Intrinsic-Canon approach allows for the community’s recognition of certain texts as authoritative. Why? Because an inspired scripture is of no use to anyone if it is not identified as such. The Holy Spirit bears witness to the inspiration of the writing, and this witness of the Holy Spirit takes place within the community of believers — the Church. Actually, the definition of the Community-Canon approach is incorrect; books are not canonical because they are placed on the communities list of authoritative books, but the community places books on the list because it recognizes their intrinsic authority (inspiration). Thus, in practice, the two approaches to canonicity are simply different ways of discussing the same process.

The pure Intrinsic-Canon approach (which is another way of defining the Self-Authenticating  Scriptures) has a number of problems, the most important of which is that the community does create certain guidelines or standards to judge whether a book is canonical or not. According to F.F. Bruce, the community decided “the teaching of the apostles in the Acts and Epistles was regarded as vested with His [Christ’s] authority.” (Bruce 2008) This, then, was the standard used to judge against the disputed books of Hebrews, II Peter, and II & III John, of which the authorship was unknown or in dispute. Eventually the community recognized the disputed books as authoritative and inspired despite their not meeting the community’s initial guidelines.

Another example of a community-based standards for canonicity is the argument that the canon of the Old Testament was closed around 400 B.C., and that any work written between then and the New Testament books is therefore not canonical. This argument was made by Flavius Josephus, as we will see in the next chapter. The argument is repeated by any number of Protestants when they write about the issues surrounding the canon of the Old Testament, but this canonical standard is wholly arbitrary. The argument seems to be that no canonical books were written after 400 B.C., so any book written after 400 B.C. is not canonical, which is a circular argument at best.

Another way of stating the previous argument is that Malachi was the last prophet, ushering in the intertestamental period. Even people who argue for this position recognize its weaknesses. Rabbi Hayyim Angel, writes:

Even if Malachi were the last of the biblical prophets, there is no statement at the end of his book or anywhere else in the Bible stating categorically that prophecy had ceased. For example, Nehemiah battled false prophets (Neh. 6:5–7, 11–13) but did not negate the existence of prophecy in principle. (Angel 2011)

Still, Rabbi Angel, along with Protestants in general, assume a definite end to the prophetic era after the prophet Malachi; Protestants say this prophetic silence ended with the coming of John the Baptist. We have mentioned this argument in a previous post discussing the Lutheran scholastic Johann Gerhard. For now it is enough to mention the argument I heard as a youth — that the intertestamental period was typologically connected to the period prior to the coming of Samuel the Prophet. This is a rather weak argument, as analogies do not constitute evidence, let alone proof.

The inclusion of the community into the recognition of an authoritative collection of documents creates another problem: which community, using which criteria? John C. Peckham writes:

If each community is authoritative to determine their own canon, then since mutually exclusive canons of sacred writings are posited by various communities, the “Christian canon” is not authoritative over and against the canon of any other community but is authoritative only within the community or communities that determine and/or recognize it. This amounts to a canonical relativism that is mutually exclusive to a universally authoritative biblical canon (cf. Matt 24:14; 28:19–20; Acts 17:30; 1 Thess 2:13; 2 Tim 3:16). (Peckham 2011)

Let us take a moment to examine the development of the New Testament canon. It might surprise you to know that the recognition of the New Testament scriptures occurred gradually. For several centuries there were multiple canons in use, and various bishops published their own canons for the churches under their authority. Other church fathers published their own lists, and despite the argument that the canon was firmly fixed in the fourth century, there continued to be different lists published into the eighth century, of which the following is a representative list.

  1. The Muratorian Fragment (c. 170)
  2. Melito (c. 170)
  3. Origen (c. 240)
  4. Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 324)
  5. Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 350)
  6. Hilary of Poitiers (c. 360)
  7. The Cheltenham List (c. 360)
  8. Council of Laodicea (c. 363)
  9. Letter of Athanasius (367)
  10. Gregory of Nazianzus (c. 380)
  11. Amphilocius of Iconium (c. 380)
  12. The “Apostolic Canons” (c. 380)
  13. Epiphanius (c. 385)
  14. Jerome (c. 390)
  15. Augustine (c. 397)
  16. Third Council of Carthage (397)
  17. Rufinus of Aquileia (c. 400)
  18. Codex Claromontanus (c. 400)
  19. Letter of Innocent I (405)
  20. Decree of Gelasius (c. 550)
  21. Synopsis Scripturae Sacrae (c. 550)
  22. John of Damascus (c. 730)
    (Marlowe, Ancient Canon Lists n.d.)

These lists differ with each other as the makeup of the canon. As late as 730 A.D., St. John of Damascus included the Canons of the Holy Apostles, by Clement in his list of New Testament Scripture. The first list of the New Testament canon as we know it today was in the 367 A.D. Easter Letter of St. Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, but unlike what many say, was authoritative only for the Alexandrian see. (Schaff, NPNF2-04. Athanasius: Select Works and Letters 1892, 1126) In the west, Canon 36 of the Third Council of Carthage (397 A.D.) is often cited as fixing the complete canon of the New Testament. This is problematic for two reasons: first, because this council was only authoritative for the African Church; and second, because the canon of Sacred Scripture began with the Old Testament, including what the Protestants now refer to as the Apocrypha. It would be hard to accept the one without accepting the other. The text of Canon 36 is as follows:

It was also determined that besides the Canonical Scriptures nothing be read in the Church under the title of divine Scriptures. The Canonical Scriptures are these: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua the son of Nun, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kings [I & II Samuel; I & II Kings], 3 two books of Paraleipomena (Chronicles], 4 Job, the Psalter, five books of Solomon [Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom of Solomon, and Ecclesiasticus], 5 the books of the twelve prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezechiel, Daniel, Tobit, Judith, Esther, two books of Esdras [Ezra and Nehemiah], 6 two books of the Maccabees. Of the New Testament: four books of the Gospels, one book of the Acts of the Apostles, thirteen Epistles of the Apostle Paul, one epistle of the same [writer] to the Hebrews, two Epistles of the Apostle Peter, three of John, one of James, one of Jude, one book of the Apocalypse of John. Let this be made known also to our brother and fellow-priest Boniface, or to other bishops of those parts, for the purpose of confirming that Canon, because we have received from our fathers that those books must be read in the Church. Let it also be allowed that the Passions of Martyrs be read when their festivals are kept. (Marlowe, Third Council of Carthage (A.D. 397) n.d.)

Between the apostolic era and the fixing of the New Testament canon, there were controversies over which books were inspired and which were not. Revelation was rejected by some because of the propensity of the heretics to weave apocalyptic fantasies from its strange imagery. Hebrews was rejected because no one knew who wrote it; Pauline authorship was often asserted, but could not be proven. Jude was rejected because it quotes from the apocryphal book of Enoch. II Peter was rejected because it was thought to be spurious, as were II and III John. James was always in the canon of Alexandria, but was not widely known outside that jurisdiction. The late fourth century Codex Siniaticus includes the Shepherd of Hermas and the Epistle of Barnabas. The early fifth Century Codex Alexandrius contains I and II Clement. (Lieuwen, The Emergence of the New Testament Canon 1995) So you see, the idea of the self-authenticating Scriptures doesn’t square with the history of the New Testament canon.

Bibliography

Angel, Hayyim. “The End of Prophecy: Malachi’s Position in the Spiritual Development of Israel.” Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals. February 25, 2011. http://www.jewishideas.org/articles/end-prophecy-malachis-position-spiritual-developmen (accessed January 16, 2014).

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).

Lieuwen, Daniel F. “The Emergence of the New Testament Canon.” St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney (Dallas area) Texas. 1995. http://www.orthodox.net/faq/canon.htm (accessed January 15, 2014).

Marlowe, Michael D. “Ancient Canon Lists.” Bible Research. n.d. http://www.bible-researcher.com/canon8.html (accessed January 16, 2014).

—. “Third Council of Carthage (A.D. 397).” Bible Research. n.d. http://www.bible-researcher.com/carthage.html (accessed January 15, 2014).

Peckham, John C. “Intrinsic Canonicity and the Inadequacy of the Community Approach to Canon-Determination.” Themelios 36, no. 2 (August 2011): 203-215.

Schaff, Philip. NPNF2-04. Athanasius: Select Works and Letters. Edited by Philip Schaff. Vol. 4. 14 vols. Grand Rapids: Copyright Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 1892.

 

 

Second Temple Writings and the Bible

One of the key features of biblical hermeneutics is its insistence upon reading the bible in context. The context of the verse is the passage; the context of the passage is the chapter; the context of the chapter is the book; the context of the book is the entirety of the bible. Another way of looking at this is that the context of a verse or passage touching upon a particular subject is all the other passages about that subject; and the context of all the passages about that subject are all the related subject matter. But there is yet another way of looking at the bible — examining it in light of the author’s intent, which is influenced by the zeitgeist, the spirit of the age. For the authors of the New Testament, the turmoil of the second temple period was the spirit of their age, and is reflected in the wealth of second temple literature.

The New Testament authors had some surprising literary influences from the apocalyptic writings of the 2nd Temple period, influences that are reflected in the text of the four Gospels, as well as the books of Jude, 1 & 2 Peter, and Revelations. Robert Henry Charles, a biblical scholar known for his translations of various apocryphal and pseudepigraphacal works, describes two strains of Jewish literature — the Apocalyptic and the Legalistic, created by two broad strains of Judaism.[1]

Apocalyptic Judaism and legalistic Judaism were not in pre-Christian times essentially antagonistic. Fundamentally their origin was the same. Both started with the unreserved recognition of the supremacy of the Law. This is to be expected in regard to legalistic Pharisaism, which was therein only adopting the teaching of the priesthood. But it is enforced also in apocalyptic Pharisaism. Thus the most universalistic and ethical of all the apocalyptic writings, i.e. the Testaments of the XII Patriarchs, declares that this Law is ‘the light that lighteth every man’. To all Jewish apocalyptic writers the Law was of eternal validity, but they also clung fast to the validity of the prophetic teaching as the source of new truth and the right of apocalyptic as its successor in this respect. We have early evidence of this conjunction of legalism and apocalyptic in the Book of Joel. The Law is there recognized as authoritative, its ritual as of the highest import, while at the same time the impending advent of the kingdom of God is depicted in highly apocalyptic colouring.[2]

The New Testament is a product of both strains of Judaism, but leans more heavily towards the Apocalyptic, which is a consistent strain in the Gospels.[3] Besides the purely apocalyptic teachings of Jesus, we also see this in the way Jesus consistently refers to himself as the “Son of Man”. Jesus does this around eighty times, emphasizing the significance of this title. Many of the theological discussions of this title say Jesus is identifying himself as the Representative Man, something that is theologically significant.[4] But that is not how the Jews would have understand it, which is clear from a reading of the second temple literature. This was a messianic term, implying divine origins. The ‘Son of Man’ is given a kingly throne in heaven, from which he would judge the nations. Based on the grammatical-historical hermeneutic used by so many Protestants, we should be interpreting this term as Jesus knew His audience would understand it, not in a manner consistent with western cultural norms.

Some of the arguments for accepting the so-called Apocrypha could be applied to the books of 1 and 2 Enoch, and possibly other second temple literature. As you may recall, in chapter 11 we discussed Merrill F. Unger’s arguments why the Apocrypha are not scripture. We will not rehash those arguments here. However, it would be dishonest of me to not point out certain similarities between those books the post-Nicene church accepted as scripture, and those books they did not. In this context, two of Merrill F. Unger’s arguments are worth a brief mention.

They resort to literary types and display an artificiality of subject matter and styling out of keeping with inspired Scripture.

As you may recall, our original argument is that the literary types, subject matter, and styling of the New Testament are quite different from that of the Old Testament, which demonstrates the hollowness of Unger’s argument. By contrast, the books of 1 and 2 Enoch, along with Jubilees, have much in common with the Old Testament. While they are apocalyptic writings, there are several sections in prophets which are apocalyptic in nature. In addition, 1 and 2 Enoch, along with Jubilees, expand upon the Old Testament historical books, and provide background information for some troubling passages.

They lack the distinctive elements which give genuine Scripture their divine character, such as prophetic power and poetic and religious feeling.

We previously discussed the ways in which the so-called Apocrypha actually meet these criteria. For example, we showed a number of prophetic passages which apply to Jesus Christ, and we provided examples of passages rich in poetic and religious feeling. In this Appendix, we will demonstrate the same could be said for 1 and 2 Enoch, as well as Jubilees.

In chapter 27 we demonstrated that Johann Gerhard’s arguments against the so-called Apocrypha were badly flawed, and that the Apocrypha did not meet his criteria for excluding them from the Old Testament. The same could be said for the books of 1 and 2 Enoch, as well as Jubilees.

The Apocrypha are not about Christ.

We previously showed that the Apocrypha actually contained a number of messianic prophecies that were fulfilled by Jesus Christ. Likewise, there are prophetic passages in 1 Enoch that were accepted in the ante-Nicene church as being about Christ. There are reasons why 1 Enoch lost favor with the Church, but it should become clear that without 1 Enoch, we have lost an important source for a good deal of New Testament content, and therefore are at a loss to interpret that content.

The Apocrypha are not accepted by Jews.

We demonstrated that this was a flawed argument, because there were multiple strands of Judaism in the second temple period. Moreover, the question of what books constituted the Hebrew Scriptures had not been settled. The inclusion of some of these books in the Dead Sea Scrolls demonstrates the possibility that these books were at least considered valuable for instruction, and were possibly read from in the Synagogues.

These books were written by Jews, for Jews, and touched upon particular themes of Jewish thought that did not pass on into Talmudic Judaism. Theologian and Professor Margaret Barker writes:

Until recently, all that we knew of Enoch was in Genesis 5.18-24. He was the son of Jared and the father of Methuselah; he walked with God and he was not, for God took him. …That is all the Old Testament tells us about him, yet books and visions in his name had once been widely known and very influential. It is clear that there was more to the figure than appeared in Genesis, and a considerable cult of Enoch did undoubtedly exist, even though the biblical writers gave no place to it.[5]

The book of Enoch was cited by Jude, and either quoted from or alluded to by the apostles Peter and John. To understand these passages, we have to understand the Enochian literature, even if we (like the Jews) do not accept that literature as scripture.

The Apocrypha were not accepted by the primitive Church.

We previously demonstrated that the Apocrypha were, in fact, accepted by the early church. Since a number of early church authors either quoted from or alluded to 1 Enoch, we can argue that while the status of 1 Enoch was unclear, there were some in the early church who considered it to be an important and valuable book.

An argument can be made that 2 Enoch was an important source for the book of Hebrews, and the description of Jesus Christ being a priest after the order of Melchizedek. There is much to say about the figure of Melchizedek, so much that we will save this discussion for its own section.

Given all this, why have we spent so much time discussing the likelihood that the so-called Apocrypha are in fact Scripture, only to exclude other books which potentially meet the same criteria? Our argument has not been that the Apocrypha are in fact scripture because they meet some scholastic criteria. Instead, we have turned that argument against itself by demonstrating the so-called Apocrypha do not, in fact, meet those criteria. But that is not the reason why we accept them as Scripture. No, we accept the Apocrypha as Scripture because the Church, operating under the guidance of the Holy Spirit determined the content of Sacred Scripture. The same Church defined the contents of the New and Old Testament, and we cannot reject the one without rejecting the other. It was the Church that decided that 1 and 2 Enoch, along with Jubilees, were not Scripture, despite being important source material for the New Testament.

The Apocalypse and Second Temple Judaism

The Old Testament prophetic books occasionally have apocalyptic sections that reflect the times prior to and during the Babylonian captivity. It was the turmoil of second temple Judaism that gave rise to the apocalypse as a Jewish literary genre, one that contrasting the troubles of this life with descriptions of the world to come. F. Crawford Burkitt describes these Apocalypses as follows:

They are the most characteristic survival of what I will venture to call, with all its narrowness and its incoherence, the heroic age of Jewish history, the age when the nation attempted to realize in action the part of the peculiar people of God. …We study the Apocalypses to learn how our spiritual ancestors hoped again that God would make all right in the end; and that we, their children, are here to-day studying them is an indication that their hope was not wholly unfounded. [6]

The apocalypse functions as an unveiling of God’s plan for the ages. It confesses a belief that history has a purpose, that evil will eventually be punished and good will eventually triumph. It purports to give the reader a glimpse behind the veil, so to speak. The Books of 1 & 2 Enoch, along with Jubilees, embody all these characteristics.

Judaism in the time of Christ was quite diverse, with multiple groups taking different approaches, yet all of them dependent upon the temple cult. As we have mentioned before, one way to distinguish between these parties is the emphasis they give to the Law and the Prophets; to legalism vs. the apocalyptic. Christians assumed the apocalyptic strain of Judaism, whereas after the destruction of the temple the Jews gradually abandoned the apocalyptic, becoming purely about the Law. Robert Henry Charles writes:

The affinity then between Jewish apocalyptic and legalism is essential, since the Law was for both valid eternally, but when apocalyptic passed over into Christianity and therein naturally abandoned this view of the Law, it became in a measure anti-legalistic. Even before the Christian era each of these two sides of Pharisaism necessarily tended to lay more and more emphasis on the chief factor in its belief and study to the almost complete exclusion of the other, and thus legalistic Pharisaism in time drove out almost wholly the apocalyptic element as an active factor (though it accepted some of its developments) and became the parent of Talmudic Judaism, whereas apocalyptic Judaism developed more and more the apocalyptic, i.e. prophetic, element, and in the process came to recognize, as in 4 Ezra, the inadequacy of the Law for salvation. From this it follows that the Judaism that survived the destruction of the Temple, being almost wholly bereft of the apocalyptic wing which had passed over into Christianity, was not the same as the Judaism of an earlier date. Before A. D. 70 Judaism was a Church with many parties: after A.D. 70 the legalistic party succeeded in suppressing its rivals, and so Judaism became in its essentials a Sect.[7]

Let us accept as a given that Christianity subsumed the apocalyptic strain of Judaism, reinterpreting and repurposing it in light of the Christ event. With that in mind, it behooves us to examine the primary texts which influenced the New Testament authors, as well as the subject of the Gospels — our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Place of Enoch within Judaism

We have already quoted Margaret Barker’s contention that Enoch played a much larger part in Judaism than suggested by the biblical literature. The interest in Enoch passed over into the early church. Given the hostility of Judaism to the Christians, it should not be surprising to find that Enoch fell out of favor among the Jews. Margaret Barker writes: “In the early Christian centuries Jewish writers had condemned him [Enoch], perhaps because he was so important for the newly emerging Christians.”[8] The 1906 version of the Jewish Encyclopedia describes a less exalted view of Enoch held by Jews engaged in disputes with Christians.

According to Targ. Pseudo-Jonathan (Gen. v. 24) Enoch was a pious worshiper of the true God, and was removed from among the dwellers on earth to heaven, receiving the names (and offices) of Meṭaṭron and “Safra Rabba” (Great Scribe). This view represents one and (after the complete separation of Christianity from Judaism) the prevailing rabbinical idea of Enoch’s character and exaltation. Another, not quite so favorable, appears in the polemics carried on by Abbahu and others with Christian disputants (Friedländer, “Patristische und Talmudische Studien,” p. 99; “R. E. J.” v. 3). Enoch is held to have been inconsistent in his piety and therefore to have been removed by God before his time in order to forestall further lapses. The miraculous character of his translation is denied, his death being attributed to the plague (Gen. R. v. 24; Yalk., Gen. v. 24; Rashi and Ibn Ezra on the verse; comp. Wisdom iv. 10-14; Frankel, “Ueber den Einfluss der Palästinischen Exegese,” etc., pp. 44, 45; Ecclus. [Sirach] xliv. 16; Zohar to Gen. v. 24; but see also Philo, “De Abrahamo,” § 3). But withal Enoch is one of those that passed into Gan Eden without tasting the pangs of death (Yalḳ., Gen. v. 24).[9]

There are three important questions: first, whether Enoch was important in early Judaism; second, why Enoch was so important to second temple Judaism; and third, why Enoch fell out of favor in Talmudic Judaism. As to the first, it is unclear whether a trove of scribal literature concerning Enoch existed far into the far distant past. Any scribal libraries have been destroyed, and nearly all of the manuscripts have succumbed to the ravages of time. However, given the oral culture existing in pre-Hellenic times, it is likely there was an oral tradition coexisting side-by-side with priestly Judaism. And yet we have no way of knowing whether the Enoch materials formed a part of that tradition.

On the other hand, it is possible that the brief mention of Enoch in Genesis 5:18-24 was intriguing enough to spark speculation. As presented in Genesis, the person of Enoch is a blank slate, one which a creative author might draw upon for his own purposes. But once again, we don’t have enough information to draw any conclusions, nor to engage in anything other than idle speculation.

During the second temple period, Enoch became a blank slate upon which writers developed and promoted their ideas. They used Enoch to provide legitimacy to and authority for their apocalyptic speculations, as well as their arguments for a solar rather than a lunar calendar.[10]

The Jewish loss of interest in the character of Enoch seems to have had two causes. First was the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D., something that struck deep into the hearts of the Jewish people. They went from being a people of the temple to a people of the book, and as the apocalyptic books did not seem to mention the temple’s destruction, it would have been easy for the Jewish people to have rejected the Enochian literature. In addition, the fact that the figure of Enoch was important to the Christians led (as we have seen) to a less exalted view of Enoch among the Jews.

Among the early Church, the writings about Enoch were held in high regard. As we will demonstrate, a number of interesting problems are resolved by an acquaintance with Enochian literature. The references to Enoch, or the uses of subject matter more fully explained in the Enochian literature, are found in the four Gospels, as well as the books of Jude, 1 & 2 Peter, and Revelations. However, the post-Nicene Church lost faith in the books of Enoch. St. Augustine of Hippo mentions it unfavorably, and the Apostolic Constitutions condemn Enoch, linking it to the books written by the heretics. In a paragraph entitled “Concerning Books with False Inscriptions”, these books are called “poisonous books”, being “pernicious and repugnant to the truth.”[11]

We do have 1 Enoch, which survived as part of the canon of the Ethiopian Coptic Church. The internal evidence suggests there are multiple section and multiple authors of this material. Therefore, 1 Enoch may be just a sample of the Enochian literature, something demonstrated by the Enochian material contained in the Dead Sea Scrolls. [12] In particular, The Book of Giants was part of the version of 1 Enoch among the Manicheans. But wait, there’s more. Margaret Barker writes:

There are ancient texts which quote ‘Enoch’, but not any Enoch text that we know. The Testament of Simeon says Enoch predicted war between the Sons of Simeon and the sons of Levi. The Testament of Levi knew a passage in which Enoch predicted the future corruption of the Levitical priesthood. The testament of Judah knew a prophecy that Judah would be evil. The Testament of Benjamin and the Testament of Naphtali predicted, on the basis of Enoch, that their descendants would fall into evil ways. We cannot place any of these in known Enochic texts, and we can only assume that there must have been far more Enochic literature than we now know.[13]

Perhaps the most important of the second temple influences on the New Testament are the first and second books of Enoch — echoes of which are reflected in the text of the four Gospels, as well as the books of Jude, 1 & 2 Peter, and Revelations.  Except for the incomplete manuscripts found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, these are the only surviving remnants of a once rich Enochian tradition.

When we discuss the Book of Enoch, we must admit of three different books with the same name. The first is the Ethiopian Book of Enoch which appears to have influenced the New Testament authors. 1 Enoch is likely a product of the 2nd century BC, and could not have been written any earlier than 250BC (due to mentioning countries that did not exist prior to that date.) 2 Enoch is the Slavonic Book of Enoch (aka The Secrets of Enoch), containing a variety of omissions and insertions which show our extant copy to be a 7th century AD recension of a second temple manuscript. Despite the recensions, there is much to be gleaned from 2 Enoch. And finally we 3 Enoch, known as the Hebrew book of Enoch, a book claiming to be a product of the 2nd century AD, but for which no manuscript evidence exists prior to the 4th century AD.  This third version is not part of the second temple literary output, but instead reflects rabbinic changes to Judaism following the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. Therefore, we will limit ourselves to the first two books of Enoch.

The Ethiopian Book of Enoch (1 Enoch)

The book known as 1 Enoch, or the Ethiopian Book of Enoch, was once important to both Jews and Christians, but was lost to history, surviving as part of the canon of the Ethiopian Coptic Church. Enoch is the only non-canonical book cited by name in the New Testament, and its influence is worthy of notice.

1 Enoch appears to be comprised of four different books, each likely composed at different times.[14] Given this, it might be more appropriate to think of this as the Books of Enoch. These books, or sections, are:

  • The Book of the Watchers (1 Enoch 1–36)
  • The Book of Parables (or Similitudes) of Enoch (1 Enoch 37–71)
  • The Astronomical Book (aka the Book of the Heavenly Luminaries or Book of Luminaries) (1 Enoch 72–82)
  • The Book of Dream Visions (or the Book of Dreams) (1 Enoch 83–90)
  • The Epistle of Enoch (1 Enoch 91–108)
    Note: The Epistle of Enoch concludes with an account of the birth of Noah (1 Enoch 106-108)

The Astronomical Book is noteworthy for its use of a solar calendar, rather than the lunar calendar. It seems apparent that the weaknesses of the lunar calendar were apparent, and the issue of the calendar was a matter of some discussion during the second temple period. Aside from the apocalyptic nature of this section, it could also be viewed as an attempt to persuade the Jews to adopt its version of the solar calendar. Regarding the Hebrew calendar, Joseph Lumpkin writes:

The Hebrew calendar is a lunar-based system. In this system Passover occurs after sundown on the 15th day of the month Nisan. Passover is celebrated for seven days. The first Passover was in the springtime and many thought it should be keep in that period of the year. Since the calendar is based in lunar movements the Hebrew calendar is offset to the solar calendar by about 11 days a year. This meant that Passover would drift from spring, to winter, to autumn, and back again.[15]

The book of Enoch proposes a solar calendar that eliminates the annoying drift of the Passover, ensuring that it would occur in approximately the same time each year.

During the time period Enoch was written, the Jewish community was torn regarding which type of calendar to use. Enoch seems to taut a solar-based calendar that is 364 days long with a week added as needed to make up for the missing a day and a quarter (1.25). Compare 365.25 days to 364 days. The Enochian calendar began each year on a Sunday. The starting point for the calendar was the spring equinox, which occurs around March 21st or 22nd. Since the year always begins on the same day of the week, and only a full week is added when needed, the calendar is considered to be a calendar of weeks.[16]

The early church began to address the issue of the calendar by separating their celebration of Pascha from that of the Jewish Passover. The Christian Church eventually adopted the Julian calendar, a solar calendar with a 365 day year divided into 12 months. Because of the way the leap year is calculated, the Julian calendar has drifted from the solar year. The Western Church adopted the Gregorian calendar which, by changing the way the leap year is calculated, stays true to the solar year. However, because Pope Gregory imposed the Gregorian calendar by papal decree, many Christian Churches in the east continue to use a Julian liturgical calendar. The second temple disputes over the calendar were thus carried forward into Christianity.

The Slavonic Book of Enoch (2 Enoch)

The book we call 2 Enoch is also known as “Slavonic Enoch or Book of the Secrets of Enoch.”[17] The book was originally written in Greek, but now exists only in several Slavic translations. The longer versions show evidence of Christian interpolations, but the shorter and earlier versions were clearly products of second temple Judaism.[18]

2 Enoch differs from 1 Enoch in a number of ways. It appears to come from a different strain of Judaism than that of 1 Enoch, although the particulars have been lost to history. Michael E. Stone divides the book into three parts.

2 Enoch deals with three chief subjects. First, Enoch ascends through the heavens, achieves a vision of Goid, is transfigured into an angel, and receives God’s revelation of the secrets of the process of creation (chaps. 1-34). Next he descends upon earth, reveals the heavenly mysteries to his children and gives them his moral instruction (chaps 35-68). From this point until the end of the book, the story of the antediluvian priesthood is found. This narrative commences with Adam and reaches its climax in the narrative of the miraculous birth of Melchizedek who is Noah’s nephew by his apocryphal brother Nir. Melchizedek is eventually assumed to heaven where he is guarded safely until after the Flood.[19]

The importance of the Melchizedek story should not be underestimated, as the author of the book of Hebrews presumed the Jews were familiar with not only the story from Genesis, but also with the apocalyptic material. While the author does not use the material from 2 Enoch, he certainly makes use of the Jewish interest in the person of Melchizedek.

The connection between 2 Enoch and Hebrews led some scholars to assume this was a Christian interpolation. The internal evidence suggests otherwise, as the story of Melchizedek in 2 Enoch contains no Christian elements, and the details to not match those in the book of Hebrews. For example, 2 Enoch provides an origin story for Melchizedek, while Hebrews argues from the lack of an origin story, using that as a similarity between Melchizedek and Jesus Christ.

For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace; Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually. (Heb 7:1-3)

The Jewish interest in Melchizedek is demonstrated by an interesting document included among the Dead Sea Scrolls. Taken from Qumran cave 11 are a set of manuscript fragments designated 11Q13 (aka 11QMelchizedek). These fragments form an apocalypse whose main character, Melchizedek, is portrayed as a “Heavenly Prince.”  Geza Vermes, translator and editor of The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, describes the contents for us.

It takes the form of an eschatological midrash in which the proclamation of liberty to the captives at the end of days (Isa. lxi, 1) is understood as being part of the general restoration of property during the year of Jubilee (Lev. xxv, 13), seen in the Bible (Deut. xv, 2) as a remission of debts.

The Heavenly deliverer is Melchizedek. Identical with the archangel Michael, he is the head of the ‘sons of Heven’ or ‘gods of Justice’ and is referred to as <elohim> and <el>. …Here Melchizedek is portrayed as presiding over the final Judgement and condemnation of his demonic counterpart, Belial/Satan, the Prince of Darkness.

Here, instead of a human origin story as in 2 Enoch, the person of Melchizedek is identified as the archangel Michael. Clearly these two stories are in conflict, but provide evidence that the apocalyptic character of Melchizedek was present within the Judaism of the time of Christ. Thus, when the author of Hebrews used Melchizedek in the book of Hebrews, he was tapping into the zeitgeist, the spirit of the age.


 

Endnotes

[1] We are talking broadly and in one dimension about different strains of Judaism. There are other ways of looking at the Judaism of this period, other dimensionalities to explore. Margaret Barker, for example, draws a distinction between first temple and second temple Judaism. Distinctions are often drawn between the Judaism of the diaspora and the Judaism of Jerusalem; between the Pharisees and the Sadducees; between the Essenes and the Hasmonean priesthood; between the Samaritans and the Hebrews. These different dimensionalities are based on different presumptions and reveal different things.

[2] (Charles, The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English 1913, vii)

[3] The division of Apocalyptic and Legalistic Judaism should not be applied too formally. The Judaism of the time was essentially apocalyptic. (Heyler 2002, 119) What differed was the emphasis placed upon the apocalyptic among the different strains of Judaism.

[4] For example, Merrill F. Unger writes regarding the term ‘Son of Man’:

It portrays Him as the Representative Man. It designates Him as the ‘last Adam’ in distinction to the “first man Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45). It sets Him forth as “the Second Man…the Lord from heaven” as over against “the first man…of the earth” (I Cor. 15:47). “The Son of Man” is thus our Lord’s racial name, as the “Son of David” is distinctly his Jewish name and “the Son of God” His Divine Name. (Unger 1966, 1038)

[5] (Barker 2005, 5)

[6] (Burkitt 1914, 15-16)

[7] (Charles, The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English 1913, vii)

[8] (Barker 2005, 5)

[9] (Enoch 1901-1906)

[10] During the second temple period, writers often attributed authorship to various biblical figures from the distant past. (Stone, Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period 1984, XXI) This is a distinct characteristic of second temple literature, and not — as some claim — the result of a “crisis of authority”, which is essentially the same as claiming an intent to deceive. (Heyler 2002, 117) Vincente Dubroruka notes that instead of being “mere fraud or a stylistic device”, the author may mystically identify himself with the author, considering himself to be a channel of revelation. (Dobroruka 2013, 1, 8) Thus, the pseudonymous authorship.

[11] (Schaff, ANF07 2004, Book IV, § III, para XVI, p. 680)

[12] The Prayer of Enosh and Enoch (4Q369); The Book of Enoch (4Q201-2, 204-12); The Book of Giants (1Q23-4, 2Q26, 4Q203, 530-33, 6Q8); the Book of Noah (1Q19, 1Q19 bis, 4 Q534-6, 6Q8, 19) (Vermes, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English 2004)

[13] (Barker 2005, 8)

[14] (Charles, The Book of Enoch 1917, xv)

[15] (Lumpkin, The Books of Enoch 2011, 19)

[16] (Lumpkin, The Books of Enoch 2011, 18)

[17] (Stone, Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period 1984, 406)

[18] (Stone, Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period 1984, 406-407)

[19] (Stone, Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period 1984, 407)

Forgiveness in the The Lord’s Prayer

Forgive thy neighbour the hurt that he hath done unto thee, so shall thy sins also be forgiven when thou prayest (Sirach 28:2).

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors (Matt 6:12).

This is without a doubt the most intriguing of the quotations from the Apocrypha, as it forms part of what has come down to us as The Lord’s Prayer, or the Our Father. This is not a pure quotation, but neither is it simply an allusion to the passage from Sirach. Instead, Jesus is inverting the two clauses from Sirach, creating what are parallel statements — a characteristic of Hebrew poetry. The one clause supports and interprets the other. Therefore, we cannot interpret the statement from The Lord’s Prayer without referring to its antecedent thought from Sirach.

A typical Protestant understanding of this passage is found in Dr. David Scaer’s book, The Sermon on the Mount. He writes:

The Matthean version of the Prayer does not suggest that God’s forgiving us is caused by our forgiving others; the word “as” is used, not “because.” “As” means “like” or “similar.” We ask that God would forgive us as, not because we forgive others. Some hold the view that our forgiving precedes God’s, but this is done more from a theological and not a grammatical consideration.[1]

This is only correct if we do not consider the source for this particular clause in The Lord’s Prayer. In Sirach’s version, forgiveness of the neighbor is necessary for your prayers of forgiveness to be heard. The argument could be made that Jesus was providing a corrective to the statement in Sirach. That is a theological judgement, not a textual one. Sirach’s interpretation is demonstrated in Matthew’s gospel by the Parable of the Unforgiving Debtor (Matt 18:23-34). A servant owed his master a great debt and asked to be forgiven. When the servant refused to forgive a minor debt owed to him, the master refused to forgive the servant. Jesus sums up the parable by saying: “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses” (Matt 18:35). Jesus is indicating that the passage from Sirach represents the proper interpretation –God forgives us in like fashion as we forgive others. The apostle writes: “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life” (Ro 5:10). Forgiving our enemies is the essence of a Christ-like life.

Blessed Theophylact, in his commentary The Gospel According to St. Matthew, writes:

Because we sin even after our baptism, we beseech Him to forgive us. But forgive us as we forgive others: if we remember wrongs, God will not forgive us. God takes me as the pattern He will follow: what I do to another, He does to me.[2]

God, therefore, respects our free will. He does not respond in kind, but responds overabundantly. When we truly repent — when we truly change our mind, rejecting the evil and seeking the good — the angels rejoice and the Holy Spirit fills us, empowering us for service. When we seek God half-heartedly, we quench the Holy Spirit and God seems far from us. It is all God’s work and none of ours. Nothing we do is meritorious in and of itself. But God is merciful, bestowing great mercy upon us at the least sign that we are responsive to Him, and that we desire communion with Him. This, then, is the meaning of the forgiveness clause in The Lord’s Prayer.

  1. (Scaer, The Sermon on the Mount 2000, 184)
  2. (Blessed Theophylact 1992, 58)