Tag Archives: New Testament

Prayer for the Dead

Stained Glass representation of the Sword of the Spirit

The Sword of the Spirit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

Inspiration and Canonicity

A scroll of the Book of Esther

A scroll of the Book of Esther

Inspiration and Canonicity

The typical Protestant, if he or she were asked, would likely tell you the scriptures contained 66 books. They might even be able to name them. However, the Latins would tell you Sacred Scripture consisted of 77 books, while the Orthodox would say 81. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church would also say 81, but includes a New Testament canon of 35 books and adds additional books to the Old Testament, while numbering them according to the Hebrew scriptures instead of the Septuagint. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is also unusual in having both a narrow canon and a broader canon, although the difference escapes me. (Cowley 1994) And there are other groups, like the Syriac churches and the Coptic Orthodox Church, which have different canonical criteria. (Halnon n.d.) The group Islamic Awareness has an interesting take on problem, entitled “To Every Church a Canon”. Under that heading they produce eight different canons of scripture: the Anglican Church, the Armenian Church, the Coptic Church, the Ethiopian (Abyssinian) Church, the Greek Orthodox Church, the Protestant Church, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Syriac Church. (Islamic Awareness n.d.) How curious that it takes the Muslims to inform us the canon of Scripture is not as settled as we like to think.

Canonicity and the Self-Authenticating Scripture

Protestants are told the scriptures are self-authenticating; because the scriptures are God’s word, they have the power to convince us of their truth. This idea is promoted as a means of determining whether a particular book is canonical or not. However plausible this may sound, this is not a useful principle for determining canonicity. The self-authenticating principle can draw one astray into all manner of enthusiasms, allowing an individual or group to determine their own canon of scripture. This was the error of Marcion, who is the first one to devise a Christian canon that “self-authenticated” his preexisting heresies.

The problem is in the nature of canonicity, which is the principle (or principles) by which the scope of the canon 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) Peckham’s explanation of the Intrinsic-Canon approach allows for the community’s recognition of certain texts as authoritative.

Objections to the pure Community-Canon approach include the hostile reaction of the community of faith to the prophets. Even Jeremiah’s writings were not immediately recognized as scripture. John C. Peckham writes: “The biblical concept of a true prophet refers to one divinely authorized to speak for God (Jer 15:19; Acts 3:18, 21).28 There is then, by definition, a divinely appointed authority belonging to true prophets that is thereby inconsistent with the epistemological primacy of the community.” Peckham raises another interesting question: “What Constitutes a Legitimate and/or Adequate Community?” (Peckham 2011) There were various canons circulating in the early church; seemingly each Bishop had his own opinion. And there were different communities of faith which considered themselves Christian, and considered themselves to have the authority to determine canonical issues. Among these was the heretic Marcion, whose canon did not include the Old Testament, and included only some of the New Testament. The Gnostics had a variety of texts that were rejected by the surviving Christian Community.

Perhaps the greatest problem with the Community-Canon approach is that it uses an epistemological[1] criterion (one determined by propositional knowledge) to determine the suitability of a book for inclusion into the canon. If the Biblical canon is a list of authoritative and inspired books compiled by the Christian community, then only the Christian community can recognize and define that list. If, however, canonicity is an epistemic criterion, then individuals and groups can reason their way towards producing different lists. William Abraham describes the key difference between these two views.

The older way was prepared to leave scripture as both a gift of the Holy Spirit and as subject to the ongoing activity of the Spirit without worrying overmuch about epistemology. In my terms, the older way was content to leave scripture as a means of grace. The new fashion was to give primacy to ideas of revelation and inspiration as applying in some unique fashion to the Bible, and to limit scripture to the Bible. (Abraham 1998)

For us to understand this argument, we must discuss the development of an epistemological role in theology — the foundation, source, and validity of revelatory truth. Richard Foley comments: “For the medievals, religious authority and tradition were seen as repositories of wisdom”. According to Foley, it was the enlightenment views of men like Descartes and Locke who “regarded tradition and authority as potential sources of error and took reason to be the corrective”. (Foley 2001, 13) But interestingly, this view did not originate with Locke and Descartes, but has its roots in the writings of Aquinas. William Abraham develops this thesis following this quote from the French theologian Yves Marie Joseph Cardinal Congar, who claims Thomas Aquinas inherited the following crucial assumption from the Middle Ages:

[T]he practice of including the Fathers, the conciliar canons and even the pontifical decrees and (more rarely) the more outstanding treatises of the theologians, in the Scriptura Sacra, or again, without distinguishing, in the divina pagina [interpretation of scripture].[2] This is a practice of long standing; there seems no doubt but that it arises from the Decretum Gelasianum [Gelasian Decree ][3], which …had passed into canonical collections, and into those chapters which dealt with sources and rules. (Abraham 1998, ix)

For William Abraham, and likely with Protestants in general, the implications are quite startling. “‘Scripture’ was not originally confined to the Bible; it had a much wider frame of reference. …What we see emerging in what follows is a quite different range of sense and reference. Over time, Scripture was cut back to apply materially to the Bible; and its primary function lay in that of operating as an authority.” (Abraham 1998, ix) According to Abraham, via Yves Marie Joseph Cardinal Congar, Aquinas was the first to distinguish the authority of the Bible from that of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church. (Abraham 1998, x) Thus it was Thomas Aquinas that laid the foundations for the Reformation’s rejection of the Bible as interpreted by the Father’s and the Councils, and in favor of the Bible as interpreted by Reason and Conscience.

As we have spoken unfavorably of the Community-Canon approach, and particularly with its reliance upon human reason and epistemological criteria, we must now consider the Intrinsic Canon approach. If we deal with the two views atomistically, they seem like alternate and opposing approaches. However, we have already noted that the Intrinsic-Canon approach does not preclude the community’s involvement in recognizing that a particular book is authoritative and inspired. Therefore, in practical terms, the two approaches are much the same.

John C. Peckam’s arguments against the Community-Approach apply to the Intrinsic-Canon approach as well. As previously mentioned, Peckham defines the Intrinsic-Canon approach as “a collection of authoritative books that are authoritative because God commissioned [inspired] them.” There is something important missing here: is a book inspired apart from its being part of a collection of authoritative books? Historically speaking, the answer is yes, because we know that it took time after a book was written before the community began to be use and refer to it as Scripture. Moreover, there is a difference between a book’s being useful within a community and a book’s being viewed as inspired Scripture. In nearly every case (with the possible exception of 1 Tim 5:18 and 2 Pet 3:15-16)[4], what the New Testament authors speak of as Scripture is the Old Testament; only rarely do the New Testament books imply the creation of new Scripture, and the implications are unclear.

Moreover, the inclusion of the community into the recognition of an authoritative collection of documents creates another problem: which community, using which criteria? John C. Peckam 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)

The question of Community-Canon vs. Intrinsic-Canon is an example of Systematic Theology (or Dogmatics) run amock. The church has a long history of organizing its dogma around various themes, but the Western Church has taken this to extremes. The Western way of doing theology, going back further than Aquinas, has been to reason one’s way to the truth. This tendency increased with the onset of the Protestant Reformation which promoted the primacy of reason and the individual conscience as a means of interpreting Scripture. What began as organization around simple themes has developed into uncountable definitions of terms and increasingly complex theological taxonomies. The question of canonicity is part of that pattern.

Canonicity and the Holy Spirit

One thing that is left out of the previous definitions and discussions regarding canonicity is the role of the Holy Spirit in determining and preserving the canon of Scripture. The concept of the self-authenticating role of the Scripture provides no room for God to act. Apart from providing His authority and power to the canon, God appears to have no role in the canonical process.

If we desire to describe the role of the Holy Spirit in the canonical process, how might we begin? With the idea of Inspiration, as described in the Bible. The apostle Peter writes: “Prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Pet 1:21). The Holy Ghost is described in the Old Testament as the breath of God; thus comes the idea of inspiration, or “God-breathed”.[5] Of the inspiration of Scripture, the apostle Paul writes:

But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Pet 3:14-17)

All scripture is “given by inspiration of God.” It is the spiration or breath of God, the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. The function of scripture is to “make us wise unto salvation”, which salvation comes “through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” This aligns well with Christ’s description of the role of the Holy Spirit: “When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me” (Joh 15:26). Just as Jesus reveals the Father to us, the Holy Spirit reveals to us the person and work of Christ Jesus.

Jesus calls the Comforter “the Spirit of Truth” (Joh 14:17) To the Father, Jesus prays: “Thy word is truth” (Joh 17:17). Of the Holy Spirit, Jesus says: “The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (Joh 14:26).

We see from the New Testament that Holy Spirit who inspired the Hebrew Scriptures is the same as the Holy Spirit who works in and through the Church. Jude writes: “These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit. But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (Jude 19-21). From this we understand that those who separate themselves from the Church separate themselves from the Holy Spirit. As they have not the Spirit, they are unable to pray in the Holy Spirit. Thus the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, works in and through the Church, which is Christ’s body, just as He works in and through the Scriptures.

The apostle Paul writes to Timothy of the Church: “These things write I unto thee, …that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim 14-15). The “church of the living God” is “the pillar and ground of the truth.” We need to unpack this a bit. The pillar and ground both refer to the metaphor of the church as a building made up of living stones, with Christ as the cornerstone and the apostles as the foundation (1 Pet 2:5-7; Eph 2:20). The ground should be understood as providing stability; it does not shift, causing the edifice to collapse (Mat 7:24-27). The ground also refers to the “good ground” that brings forth much fruit (Mat 13:23). (The role of a pillar is to hold up and support the roof, and refers to God’s “upholding all things by the word of his power” (Heb 1:3).

Returning to the subject of canonicity, we see the Holy Spirit working in and through the Scripture (the Intrinsic-Canon), just as we see the Holy Spirit working in and through the Church (the Community-Canon). These two explanations of canonicity are not mutually exclusive, but neither makes any sense apart from the Holy Spirit. And how does the Holy Spirit work through Scripture and the Church to produce and maintain the canon? It’s a mystery.

The work of the Holy Spirit is a mystery. We can’t define it, we can’t categorize it, and we can’t explain it. As Jesus said to Nicodemus: “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit (Joh 3:8). When we try to define, categorize, and explain canonicity apart from the person and work of the Holy Spirit, we are raising human reason to a place of primacy. We are telling God how to do His job. If the Church is the pillar and ground of the truth, our job is simply to plug into the truth and let the Holy Spirit do His work without interference from us.

 

Bibliography

Abraham, William J. Canon and Criterion in Christian Theology. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Cowley, R. W. “The Biblical Canon Of The Ethiopian Orthodox Church Today.” Islamic Awareness. 1994. http://www.islamic-awareness.org/Bible/Text/Canon/ethiopican.html (accessed December 23, 2008).

Foley, Richard. Intellectual Trust in Oneself and Others. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Halnon, Dennis. “Early Christian History.” The Reality of the Biblical Canon. n.d. http://www.earlychristianhistory.info/canon.html (accessed December 23, 2008).

Islamic Awareness. “Canon of the Bible.” Islamic Awareness. n.d. http://www.islamic-awareness.org/Bible/Text/Canon/ (accessed December 23, 2008).

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

 

 

 


[1] Epistomology is a philosophical concept having to do with the foundation, scope, and validity of knowledge.

[2] Divina pagina refers to the interpretation of Scripture, (McGinn 1998, 127) and is one of the three early medieval terms used for theology, the other two being sacra doctrina and sacra scriptura (Fiorenza 1991)

[3] Tradition attributes the Decretum Gelasianum [Gelasian Decree ] to Pope Gelasius I, who was Pope from 492-496. The second part of the Decretum Gelasianum is a list of canonical scriptures. The list includes the Old Testament Scriptures which the Protestants consider to be Apocryphal, and the entire New Testament with the exception of 2 Corinthians. The third part discusses the authority of the Bishop of Rome. The fourth part makes the ecumenical councils authoritative and receives the works of a number of the church fathers. Finally, the fifth part contains a list of books compiled or recognized by heretics and schismatics, works which are not received by the church. It is possible that the list of Apocryphal books represents a tradition that can be traced back to Pope Gelasius, but was not actually written by him.

[4] What Peter refers to as “other scriptures” clearly refers to the Old Testament. It is not certain that Peter intends to place Paul’s writings into that category, although this is implied. Nor does Peter say which of Paul’s many epistles were to be considered as Scripture; we know that Paul wrote more letters than just the ones preserved in the New Testament. And just because Peter may have considered Paul’s writings to be Scripture does not mean they were part of the community’s “collection of authoritative books”. Nevertheless, Dr. Benjamin B. Warfield makes a cogent argument that Peter was indeed declaring Paul’s epistles to be Scripture. It should be noted that Warfield is in error when he says Paul authenticates Luke’s Gospel; he could just as easily have been authenticating Matthew’s Gospel. Compare Matthew 10:10, Luke 10:7, & 1 Timothy 5:18. Also Paul could have been referring only to his first quote from Proverbs as Scripture, as the second quote is little more than the explanation of the first. (Warfield 1882)

[5] Ruach Elohim (Spirit or Breath of God)

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)

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)