June 20, 2013

Why These 66 Books?

by Nathan Busenitz

isaiah_scrollHave you ever looked at your Bible and wondered, “Why do we regard these 66 books, and no others, as comprising the inspired Word of God?”

That is a critically important question, since there are many today who would deny that these 66 books truly make up the complete canon of Scripture.

The Roman Catholic Church, for example, claims that the Apocryphal books which were written during the inter-testamental period (between the Old and New Testaments) ought to be included in the Bible. Cult groups like the Mormons want to add their own books to the Bible—things like the Book of Mormon, The Doctrines and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price. And then there are popular books and movies, like The Da Vinci Code from several years back, that claim later Christians (like Constantine) determined what was in the Bible centuries after these books were  written.

So, how do we know that “all Scripture” consists of these 66 books? How do we know that the Bible we hold in our hands is the complete Word of God?

There are a number of ways we could answer such questions; in fact, we could spend weeks studying the doctrine of canonicity, carefully walking through all of the relevant biblical and historical details. And there are many wonderful books available that can guide you through that wealth of information.

But in this post, I want to give you a simple answer that I think will be helpful – because it gets to the heart of the whole matter. This answer takes less than 30 seconds to articulate, yet I have found it to be the ultimate answer for just about every question related to the doctrine of canonicity.

It is simply this:

We believe in the 39 books of the Old Testament, because the Lord Jesus Christ affirmed the Old Testament. And we believe in the 27 books of the New Testament, because the Lord Jesus Christ authorized His apostles to write the New Testament.

The doctrine of canonicity ultimately comes back to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. If we believe in Him and submit to His authority, then we will simultaneously believe in and submit to His Word. Because He affirmed the Old Testament canon, we also affirm it. Because He authorized His apostles to write the New Testament, we likewise embrace it as well.

Thus, it was not the Catholic church that determined the canon. Constantine did not determine the canon. Joseph Smith certainly did not determine the canon. No, it is the authority of Christ Himself, the Lord of the church and the incarnate Son of God, on which the canon of Scripture rests.

The Old Testament Canon

When it comes to the Old Testament, Jesus Christ affirmed the Jewish canon of His day—consisting of the very same content that is in our Old Testaments today.

A study of the gospels shows that, throughout His ministry, Jesus affirmed the Old Testament in its entirety (Matthew 5:17–18)—including its historical reliability (cf. Matthew 10:15; 19:3–5; 12:40; 24:38–39), prophetic accuracy (Matthew 26:54), sufficiency (Luke 16:31), unity (Luke 24:27, 44), inerrancy (Matthew 22:29; John 17:17), infallibility (John 10:35), and authority (Matthew 21:13, 16, 42).

He affirmed the Law, the Writings, and the Prophets and all that was written in them; clearly seeing the Old Testament Scriptures as the Word of God (Matt. 15:16; Mark 7:13; Luke 3:2; 5:1; etc.).

Significantly, the first century Jews did not consider the Apocryphal books to be canonical. And neither did Jesus. He accepted the canon of the Jews as being the complete Old Testament. He never affirms or cites the Apocryphal books – and neither do any of the other writers of the New Testament.

(Now, I’m sure some of you are immediately wondering about Jude’s reference to the Book of Enoch … but the Book of Enoch is not part of the Apocrypha. It was simply a well-known piece of Jewish literature at that time period, which Jude cited for the purpose of giving an illustration, just like Paul cited pagan poets on Mars Hill in Acts 17.)

But if you are ever wondering, “Why don’t Protestants accept the Apocrypha?” the ultimate answer is that Jesus never affirmed it as being part of Scripture. And neither did the apostles.

Many of the early church fathers did not regard the Apocryphal books as being canonical either. They considered them to be helpful for the edification of the church, but they did not see them as authoritative. Even the fifth-century scholar Jerome (who translated the Latin Vulgate — which became the standard Roman Catholic version of the Middle Ages) acknowledged that the Apocraphyl books were not to be regarded as authoritative.

So we accept the canonicity of the Old Testament on the basis of our Lord’s authoritative affirmation of it. And we reject the canonicity of the Apocryphal books based on the absence of His affirmation of those inter-testamental writings.

canon

The New Testament Canon

What about the New Testament? Well, the same principle applies. Our Lord not only affirmed the Jewish canon of the Old Testament, He also promised that He would give additional revelation to His church through His authorized representatives—namely, the Apostles.

Jesus made this point explicit in John 14–16. On the night before his death, Jesus said to His disciples:

John 14:25–26 –  “These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.”

That last line is especially significant for the doctrine of canonicity. What did Jesus promise His apostles? That the Holy Spirit would help them remember all the things that Jesus had said to them.

That is an amazing promise! And where do we find the fulfillment of that promise? We find it in the four gospel accounts—where the things that our Lord did and said are perfectly recorded for us.

Two chapters later, in the same context, our Lord promises the apostles that He will give them additional revelation through the Holy Spirit:

John 16:12–15 – “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak of His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.”

Where is that additional revelation found? It is found in the New Testament epistles, wherein the Spirit of Christ guided the apostles to provide the church with inspired truth.

The New Testament, then, was pre-authenticated by Christ Himself, as He authorized the Apostles to be His witnesses in the world (Matthew 28:18–19; Acts 1:8). We embrace and submit to the New Testament writings, then, because they were penned by Christ’s authorized representatives, being inspired by the Holy Spirit in the same way as the Old Testament prophets.

With that in mind we could go book-by-book through the New Testament, and we will find that it meets this criteria.

• The Gospels of Matthew & John were both written by Apostles.

• The Gospel of Mark is a record of the memoirs of the Apostle Peter, written by Mark under Peter’s apostolic authority.

• The Gospel of Luke (and the book of Acts) were both the product of a careful investigation and eyewitness testimony (Luke 1:2), research that would have included Apostolic sources. Moreover, as the companion of the Apostle Paul, Luke wrote under Paul’s Apostolic oversight. (Paul even affirms Luke 10:7 as part of the Scripture in 1 Timothy 5:18.)

• The Pauline Epistles (Romans–Philemon) were all written by the Apostle Paul.

• The authorship of Hebrews is unknown, but many in church history believed it to have been also written by Paul. If not penned by Paul himself, it was clearly written by someone closely associated with Paul’s ministry—and therefore, by extension, under his apostolic authority.

• The General Epistles (the letters of James, Peter, and John) were all written by Apostles.

• The Epistle of Jude was written by the half-brother of Jesus (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3) who operated under the apostolic oversight of his brother James (cf. Jude 1).

• And finally, the book of Revelation was written by the Apostle John.

For every book of the New Testament, we can demonstrate that the book was written under apostolic authority—either by an apostle or someone closely linked to their apostolic ministry. Thus, we submit to these books because they come from Christ’s authorized representatives. In submitting to them, we are submitting to the Lord Himself.

The reason the canon is closed is because there are no longer any apostles in the church today, and have not been since the end of the first century.

So … why these 66 books? Because God inspired them! They are His divine revelation. And Christ confirmed that fact. He affirmed the Old Testament canon, and He authorized the New Testament canon (cf. Hebrews 1:1–2).

The authority of the Lord Jesus Himself, then, is the basis for our confidence in the fact that the Bible we hold in our hands is indeed “All Scripture.”

Nathan Busenitz

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Nathan serves on the pastoral staff of Grace Church and teaches theology at The Master's Seminary in Los Angeles.
  • Neo

    Of course, it would be nice if we could include the Didache as “almost-mostly-canon”, if for no other reason than to help straighten out some of our paedobaptist friends… :)

  • Bill

    Liked your post but I am curious how Paul could consider the Gentile Luke’s writings as scripture if as Paul says in Rom. 3:2 that the oracles of God were committed to the Jews. Perhaps Luke was a Jew with a Gentile name, not uncommon at that time.

    • Gabriel Powell

      In Romans 3:2 Paul is referring to the OT Canon, as made clear by the context of chapter two. He is not saying that the oracles were entrusted to Jewish authors, but that the Word of God was entrusted to the Jewish people.

  • http://suzlt.blogspot.com/ Suzanne T

    Concise yet thorough, and so very helpful..thanks so much for this!

  • Robyn

    Faith, you cannot prove from the pages of Scripture … only to yourself; God will speak to you, and lead you, through His Word. However, when you stack the Bible, along with any other literature it passes the scrutiny. Both geographically and historically, it is provably accurate.

  • brian_c

    I’m a firm believer in the Old and New Testaments, but I’m troubled by the “only 66 books” claims.

    The first and second century Christians certainly didn’t believe that the Bible was complete at our current 66 books. First century Christians, obviously, lived while the books were being written, and the New Testament wasn’t compiled until long after. There was strong debate about which books were or were not scripture long after the apostles were dead . The earliest editions of the New Testament that we have had additional or deleted books compared to today, and the book of Revelations wasn’t canonized until hundreds of years after it was written.

    • Nate_Busenitz

      Hi Brian,

      Thanks for your willingness to interact.

      You wrote, “The first and second century Christians certainly didn’t believe that the Bible was complete at our current 66 books.” Your comment implies that the early church did not consider the canon to be closed. I disagree entirely. Though it is true that the universal recognition of the New Testament canon took time, the early church unanimously considered apostolic authority to be *the* test of canonicity. (This was because they rightly understood the apostles to be Christ’s authorized representatives.) Once the apostolic age ended (with the death of the apostle John around A.D. 100), the canon of Scripture was closed.

      The rest of your comment suggests an unfamiliarity with the church’s recognition of the canon in the first few centuries of church history. It made me wonder if you are LDS? I ask only because no branches of historic Christendom would argue for adding books to the New Testament canon.

      In your final sentence, you wrote, “The earliest editions of the New Testament that we have had additional or deleted books compared to today, and the book of Revelations wasn’t canonized until hundreds of years after it was written.” At best, that is a very poor way of stating the church’s recognition of the canon during the first few centuries of church history. At worst, it is a complete misrepresentation of what really took place.

      I would be happy to discuss the universal recognition of the canon in church history in more specific detail, if you would like to do so. However, it would be helpful to know more about the angle you are coming from.

      Thanks!
      NB

      • gerald

        I am quite familiar with Mr. Webster and do not accept his authority or perspective which is skewed by 16th century reformation theology and anit-catholicism. He uses the same straw men and red herrings as everyone else.

  • gerald

    This article is lacking in many ways. I will try be brief.

    1) Jesus affirmed the OT? The individual books? What do you mean there? If you mean he quoted them all then you are mistaken because at least esther he did not quote. Looking at another website it looks like he only quoted 27 of the OT books.

    2) There were at least two sets of scriptures in Jesus time. There was the Palestinian set, in Hebrew, which does not contain the 7 disputed books. (we catholics call them the dueterocanon rather than apocrypha). There was also the Alexandrian scriptures in Greek, the Septuagint. These did include the 7 books. Interestingly enough, while Jesus did not quote the 7 disputed books (and I showed above that this is immaterial) there are over 300 quotes from the NT that show he had access to this group of scriptures and used them extensively. Phrasings that were specific to this group of scriptures. I avoid the term canon here because I do not know of a canonical list of scriptures until about 90 AD by the Palestinian Jews at Jamnia.

    3) Yes we have to give credit to God for bringing about the current set of scriptures, whichever is correct. But God works through men and there were councils that declared what the 27 new testament books were. You can’t just write this historical fact off by saying God did it. God didn’t just make it fall out of the sky. They considered over 200 books for the canon and came up with the current 27 in the NT and in the Old Testament. They got it right and because they got it right we have to acknowledge the work of the Holy Spirit in these bodies in the late 4th Century councils of Hippo, Rome, and Carthage. Yet somehow noncatholics say they Holy Spirit was not working when they declared there were 46 books in the OT.

    3) What difference does it make wether the Palestinian Jews of Jamnia came up with a canon in 90 AD? Did they have the Holy Spirit then? God gave the Holy Spirit to the Church. What was wrong with the Alexandrian Jews pre-Jesus?

    4) The Church Fathers are not the slam dunk that is implied. Yes Jerome did favor the 66 books. He disputed with Augustine on this matter. Who won the debate? Well it is interesting that the Vulgate that Jerome produced contained the extra 7 books as CANONICAL. It seems Jerome submitted to the Pope of the time who settled this dispute. For the next nearly 1200 years the 7 books were included in the Bible. The Vulgate, which was the main way the scriptures were being carried on throughout the ages. Show me another group of scriptures that lasted 1200 years that did not include them. The Orthodox after 1054 actually included the 7 but also a couple of others I believe.

    5) There were few lists of scriptures in the writings of the fathers, and MANy quotes from the 7 books that indicate at many of them at least considered the 7 books canonical or held them in very high regard.

    Some examples:http://www.churchfathers.org/category/scripture-and-tradition/old-testament-canon/

    6) What right did the reformation have to remove the 7 books. They did in fact. And Luther wanted to go further and remove James, Revelations and 1 other that escapes me at the moment.

    7) Jesus never told the apostles to write anything and it is hindsight thinking to equate the WOG with scripture. The apostles simply would not have limited it to scripture. They could not have because the words Jesus spoke were the WOG when he spoke them and were carried in the hearts and minds of the early church for at least 20 years before anything was written. Then the question remains was all of the WOG written down? 2 Thes 2:15 seems to indicate otherwise as does the end of the book of John where it says Jesus said and did so much that the books would have filled the world. John also says in his last letter that he had more to say but that he would deliver it in person.

    Well much more I could say but we will see how this is taken.

    God bless.

    • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

      Hello again, Gerald. I look forward to Nate’s response to your comment. In the meantime, I wanted to respond briefly to your #4 (and in so doing, maybe touch on #5 and #6):

      Yes Jerome did favor the 66 books. He disputed with Augustine on this matter. Who won the debate? Well it is interesting that the Vulgate that Jerome produced contained the extra 7 books as CANONICAL.

      He wrote in his Prologue to the Books of Solomon: “As the church reads the books of Tobit and Judith and the Maccabees but does not receive them among the canonical scriptures, so also it reads these two volumes [Wisdom of Sol & Ben Sirach] for the edification of the people [but] not as authority for the confirmation of doctrine” (Hieron., Prol. in Libr. Sal., IX, p. 1293).

      Elsewhere, in his prologue to the books of the Kings (Prologus Galeatus), he explicitly lists the Wisdom of Solomon, Jesus ben Sirach, Judith, Tobias (=Tobit), and the Shepherd of Hermas as apocryphal.

      So, while he included the apocryphal books in his translation of the Vulgate (perhaps, as you suggest, under duress), he clearly indicates in the prologue of these books that they were not among the canonical scriptures and are to be read not as authoritative confirmation for ecclesiastical dogma (“non ad auctoritatem ecclesiasticorum dogmatum confirmandam”), but merely for edification.

      Thus, the apocrypha’s 1200-year inclusion in the Bible comes with the proviso of the one who put them there: “Not canonical.” While they may have been held in “very high regard” as you say in #5, that seems to be the spirit of Jerome’s notion of their being read for edification. But even as he says, there’s a difference between something being edifying and it being canonical, authoritative, and inspired Scripture. This would also seem to answer your question in #6. If even Jerome noted that the apocrypha wasn’t canonical, the Reformers were simply heeding his testimony along with the testimony of many others.

      • gerald

        The councils of Hippo, Carthage, Rome, and the decrees of Damausus and Leo I declare them to be scripture. Here we have groups/councils rather than individuals settling matters. To me that carries higher weight. Jerome was not even a Bishop. The early church looked to the Bishop of Rome to settle disputes and it seems, though we have no difinitive statements that Jerome submitted to the Bishop of Rome ad he did with Bel the Dragon earlier. Do you agree with him on that?

        . At the turn of the 5th century the matter was pretty much settled. In those 1200 years they were in fact considered to be scripture by the vast majority of Christianianity. The Vulgate was ALL considered scripture. Again show me in this time frame where the 66 book claim was affirmed throughout history.

        • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

          Here we have groups/councils rather than individuals settling matters. To me that carries higher weight. Jerome was not even a Bishop.

          So then, you concede my point and retract your earlier statement that Jerome considered the apocrypha canonical? Good. So we can count on you not appealing to Jerome to support your position, then. Glad we got that cleared up.

          The councils of Hippo, Carthage, Rome, and the decrees of Damausus and Leo I declare them to be scripture.

          Why should these late 4th and 5th century councils/synods overturn what had already been established hundreds of years earlier? If the Jews considered the Old Testament Scriptures to have been complete with the book of Chronicles / Malachi, which canon was affirmed by Jesus (cf. the original post), and if Jerome has plainly told us that the church (i.e., earlier than his time of writing) didn’t accept the apocrypha as on-par with Scripture, why should we accept the authority of later councils and synods? Simply because there were more people who agreed on a different position later on? Majority rules?

          To me, that sounds like the textual-critical argument that proponents of the Majority Text make against the critical text by saying that there are thousands more manuscripts along the Majority Text tradition than the critical text tradition, even though the MajT manuscripts are hundreds of years later than the critical text manuscripts. If more people were wrong much later on, it doesn’t make their position any stronger.

          The early church looked to the Bishop of Rome to settle disputes…

          That’s a very bold and bare assertion that I flatly reject, though I suppose it depends on what you define as “early church.” I know that there are differing interpretations of the canons of Nicea regarding the Bishop of Rome’s role (of which you won’t be surprised to learn that I favor the Protestant interpretation as articulated by Schaff), but it seems to me that if there really was a “Pope” as we knew them in the 6th century and later, the ecumenical councils would have been moot. Just get Papa to sit in his magic seat, dial up Peter, and render his infallible judgment.

          But we don’t even see that kind of thing happening in 325, let alone in the 200 years that had already passed since the closing of the canon.

          …and it seems, though we have no difinitive statements that Jerome submitted to the Bishop of Rome ad he did with Bel the Dragon earlier. Do you agree with him on that?

          See, I have the luxury of not having to agree with all the church fathers on everything, because I don’t consider “church tradition” (whatever that gets defined as) as an equally ultimate authority on par with Scripture. Unlike you, I can agree with the Fathers when they’re right (i.e., biblical), and disagree with them when they’re wrong.

          And it intrigues me to hear you say that Jerome may not have submitted to the Bishop of Rome. Doesn’t that make him an enemy of the Church at that point? Given the kind of Papal authority you seem to espouse, how could such a thing even be thinkable in Jerome’s day without him being condemned? I only see that as further evidence against the historicity of the Roman doctrine of papal authority.

          At the turn of the 5th century the matter was pretty much settled. In those 1200 years they were in fact considered to be scripture by the vast majority of Christianianity. The Vulgate was ALL considered scripture. Again show me in this time frame where the 66 book claim was affirmed throughout history.

          Here again is that “Majority” argument. I don’t think anyone disagrees that the Roman Catholic Church kidnapped Christ and the Scriptures and became the dominant expression of what was called Christianity for (approximately) the thousand years between 500 and 1500. If church history started in 500, you might have a leg to stand on. But if the canon of Scripture (especially OT Scripture) was what it was in the first thorugh third centuries, if sola fide was the doctrine of the church (following the Scriptures) according to the Apostles’ teaching, then what difference does it make if you can demonstrate that hundreds of years later men calling themselves Christians departed from the pattern of sound doctrine and introduced a system that glorified man rather than Christ?

          That is, of course, precisely what happened, though the Lord had always preserved His faithful remnant even amidst the corruption and apostasy of the Roman Catholic Church. And through the faithfulness to the Word of God of people like the Waldensians, and Wycliffe, and Hus, the Reformers went to the fount of the Scriptures to liberate the true church from the shackles and burdens placed upon it by Romanism.

          • gerald

            “so then, you concede my point and retract your earlier statement that Jerome considered the apocrypha canonical? ”
            We all like simplicity and uniformity. Thus Jerome according to you held the same view his whole life. Yes I agree he rejected the dueterocanonicals early on. Clearly he did. The question is later. I posted on quote in which he CLEARLY in 404 says that Sirach is scripture. He never disputes Rome, Carthage, Hippo, Damasus, or Leo and says he submits to the Church on such matters with regard to Bel and the Dragon for instance. Seems to me later in life he accepted the collective view of the Church on these matters is my point. Sorry you can’t understand it.

            “to then, you concede my point and retract your earlier
            statement that Jerome considered the apocrypha canonical?

            “Why should these late 4th and 5th century councils/synods
            overturn what had already been established hundreds of years earlier? “

            Take it up with Nate who said and I agree.

            “I trust you will at least acknowledge that there was no
            patristic consensus regarding the apocryphal books. “

            Wow did you go off topic here alot in the manner you accused me of. I suppose I won’t be allowed a response because I will be going off topic.

            “Here again is that “Majority” argument.”

            Nope it is the authority argument. The Church, not individuals, which is a recipe for chaos and 30,000 denominations is the pillar and foundation of the truth. But you don’t see it that way because every man and his bible has the same authority in settingling matters as a group of bishops in council. The protestant method would never have come up with A CANON just as they cannot come up with A CHURCH with one name and one authoritative theology.

            The rest of your post is just conjecture based on personal bias.

            “Unlike you, I can agree with the Fathers when they’re right (i.e., biblical), and disagree with them when they’re wrong.”

            First of all this is incorrect. The Fathers were not individually infallible and yes I can disagree with them individually on certain maters. I clearly disagree with Athanasius and and early Jerome on the Canon. Secondly how do you know you are right? Prov 3:5 says trust not in your own understanding.

    • Nate_Busenitz

      Hi Gerald,

      As you acknowledge, the canon accepted in Palestine in Jesus’ day excluded the apocrypha. Even among the Jews of Alexandria in the first century, the apocryphal books were not regarded as Scripture. Evidence supporting this conclusion comes from numerous sources (Philo of Alexandria, Josephus, Council of Jamnia, Babylonian Talmud, etc.)

      As Josephus explicitly states, regarding the apocryphal writings, “From Artaxerxes to our own time the complete history has been written, but has not been deemed worthy of equal credit with the earlier records, because of the failure of the exact succession of the prophets” (Contra Apion, 1:37–42).
      In other words, the Jews valued the apocryphal books because they told the history of the Jewish people during the inter-testamental period. But they did not regard those writings as authoritative. The early Christians, similarly, viewed the apocryphal books as valuable for edification and information. But for the most part, they did not regard them as authoritative Scripture.

      The Jews of Jesus’ day held to a canon of 22 books (sometimes numbered as 24 books). Those 22 books correspond to the 39 books in Protestant Bibles (due to the fact that a number of books were combined), though the ordering of the books was a little different.
      The Jewish canon was divided into three sections: the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. Jesus affirmed this three-fold understanding of the OT canon in His teaching (cf. Matt 5:17; 7:12; 22:40; Luke 11:51; 16:16). Moreover, Jesus never argued about the canon with the Jewish religious leaders of His day. Rather, His appeals to the OT assumed that both He and His hearers knew what was included in the Scriptures (cf. Matt. 21:42; 22:29; 26:54; 26:5; etc.). His criticism of the religious leaders in Israel began with the presupposition that they fully understood what comprised the Scriptures.

      In his helpful article, “The Old Testament Canon in Jesus’ Day,” Paul Wegner further expands on Christ’s affirmation of the Old Testament canon:

      * * * * *

      Jesus describes the extent of the canon in Matthew 23:34-35 and Luke 11:49-51, of which F. F. Bruce observes: “No body of literature ever had its credentials confirmed by a higher authority” [Books and the Parchments, 96]. Both passages state that the Jewish nation will be held responsible for the blood of the prophets from “the blood of Abel” (Gen. 4:8), the first recorded murder, “to the blood of Zechariah” (2 Chron. 24:20-22), the last recorded murder. The implication is that biblical history spans from Genesis to Chronicles, which is the same order as the oldest complete manuscripts of the Old Testament (i.e., Codex Leningradensis [1008 A.D.] and the Aleppo Codex [most likely about fifty years earlier]). There were certainly other martyrs following Zechariah, but the Jewish nation will not be held responsible for them, since they fall outside of the parameters of the Jewish authoritative sacred history.
      Jesus also uses the common tripartite division of the Hebrew Bible to refer to the canon in Luke 24:44: “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about me in the Law of Moses, and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (NASB). This last designation is evidently representative of the final group of Old Testament writings, of which Psalms was the first and largest book. A similar designation for the Old Testament canon was in use from the time of Philo in the early first century (“[the] laws, and oracles delivered through the mouths of prophets, and psalms, and anything else which fosters and perfects knowledge and piety” [Contemp. 3 §25]) until at least the tenth century (al-Masudi, an Arabian historian and geographer, describes the Hebrew canon as “the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms, which are the 24 books”). It is also interesting to note that Jesus quotes from each of the three parts of Scripture as authoritative material (e.g., Law: Mt. 4:4—Deut. 8:3; Prophets: Mt. 10:35-36—Mic. 7:6; Writings: Mt. 13:43—Dan. 12:3).

      * * * * *

      Put simply, the Old Testament canon of Jesus’ day excluded the apocrypha. And Christ affirmed that canon.

      That is why numerous church fathers, from Origen to Athanasius to Jerome, similarly excluded the apocryphal books from the canon. Did they view those books with high regard? Certainly. But did they view them as being on par with Scripture? Certainly not.

      Hope that helps,
      NB

      • http://suzlt.blogspot.com/ Suzanne T

        Wow…Thanks for taking the time to so carefully and thoroughly provide answers in these comment threads, brothers…there is so much to be learned just reading these!

      • gerald

        Certainly not? Sorry I haven’t had time to respond. Please leave the thread open until I do. It is not as certain as you make it. Please show your proof of philo. Thx. You do alot of handwaving regafrding the fahters. Clearly you did not read my list of quotes I linked to. Do you also agree with Jerome concerning Bell and the Drangon and some parts of wisdom.

        Did the Jews at Jamnia have the Holy Spirit to guide them? It is a real strech to say that Alexandrian Jews did not consider the deuterocanonicals scripture. It is also interesting that you reject the Christian councils which contained a large number of early Christians. Chosing rather to go with the evidence of a few individuals. What causes you to place the word of those individuals over the councils of Hippo, Rome, Carthage etc. Again where is your evidence for a Christian canon from 400 to 1545 that did not include the dueterocanonicals.

      • gerald

        “As you acknowledge, the canon accepted in Palestine in Jesus’ day excluded the apocrypha.”

        This isn’t quite right. I acknowledge that the Palestinian canon excluded them. But it is clear that Jesus had access to the Alexandrian canon which DID include them. There are over 300 quotes from Jesus that came in the style of that canon. So it is clear that it was available to him and he accepted it. Again he didn’t quote the 7 books but then he didn’t quote Esther either so do we take that out of the bible?

        • Nate_Busenitz

          Hi Gerald,

          Unfortunately, my schedule today precludes me from responding in detail to each of the 6 responses you’ve posted in the last 24 hours. (Please note that flooding the comments section could be regarded as spamming.)

          [Update: I noticed that Mike deleted some of the extraneous comments and addressed this point already.]

          There are good answers to all of your objections/questions. But I’d like to keep the main thing the main thing — namely, that the Old Testament canon used by Jesus excluded the apocryphal books.

          It is significant that you acknowledge that the Palestinian canon excluded the apocryphal books — since that is the canon to which Christ appealed in His dialogues with the Pharisees. That is the very point I was making in the article.

          As I noted in my previous comment, the Alexandrian Jews accepted that same canon. They did not accept a broader canon. For more on that (and other related issues), I would recommend the following article: http://www.christiantruth.com/articles/Apocryphapart1.html

          Furthermore, the Septuagint is not a “canon” but a Greek translation of the most important writings in Jewish history (including the Old Testament Scriptures). Initially, those translations were done on separate scrolls — meaning that they were not all bound together as one book until much later. (The earliest codex forms of the LXX come from the 4th century A.D. Significantly, those codices do not agree on which apocryphal books are to be included.)

          That Jesus and the apostles had access to the Greek translation of the Old Testament Scriptures is no proof that they affirmed the apocryphal books. Rather, it merely demonstrates that they were familiar with the predominant Greek Bible translation of their day. Josephus, too, had access to the Septuagint. He acknowledged the existence of the apocryphal (inter-testamental) writings. Yet, he clearly states that only the 22 books fo the Hebrew canon were regarded as Scripture by first century Jews.

          Regarding the church fathers, I trust you will at least acknowledge that there was no patristic consensus regarding the apocryphal books. My contention is that the majority of ante-Nicene fathers viewed the the apocryphal books in the same way as Origen (a viewpoint later reflected in Athanasius and Jerome). In other words, they excluded the apocryphal books from the canon. Even in the Nicene and Post-Nicene period, that viewpoint remained pervasive in the East (whereas, the regional councils of Carthage were more influential in the West). Even so, the apocryphal books were not officially “canonized” by the Roman Catholic Church until the 16th-century Council of Trent.

          As evangelical Christians, we are thankful that many of the church fathers agree with us on this point. Yet, we ultimately appeal to an authority higher than the church fathers. In this case, we appeal to the authority of Christ Himself. (That, again, brings us back to the point I was emphasizing in the article.)

          If you are genuinely interested in the Protestant perspective regarding the Old Testament canon and the apocryphal books, I would refer you again to the article I listed above: http://www.christiantruth.com/articles/Apocryphapart1.html

          Hope that helps,
          NB

          • gerald

            Ah so anyone who has some knowledge on the matter, has done extensive research, rather than the uneducated masses, and has multiple reasons why he thinks you are incorrect in your assessment is spamming? You get to write a long post and then all you really want is people writing back with uneducated short posts, either giving you kudos or asking a question or two?

          • gerald

            Oh and you can post links but I can’t. I am well aware of the protestant position and the baseless claims, such as oh, those books weren’t quoted and gee the Catholic Church didn’t add them to the canon until 1546.

          • gerald

            I know you are busy. I am too.

            Even so, the apocryphal books were not officially “canonized” by the Roman Catholic Church until the 16th-century Council of Trent”

            It simply doesn’t matter. I stongly disagree with you regarding the Alexandrian Canon. That Christ used scriptures from the Palestenian canon means nothing since those scriptures were not invalid just because the Canon was not complete. You missed my link in which direct paralells to the books in question were given, that though not quoted clearly showed that Christ and the Apostles did have access to and did make illusions to the wisdom of the Dueterocanonicals. Not just their history.

            “Even so, the apocryphal books were not officially “canonized” by the Roman Catholic Church until the 16th-century Council of Trent”

            This is not true. The statement at Flourence is just as authoritative. The words of Damasus and LeoI were considered authoritative as well. This shows a lack of undeertanding of Catholicism. By official you mean dogmatic. Trent did include an anethema which does make it dogmatic but that does not mean the earlier statements were not authoritative and that the canonicity was in question as you imply.

            Yes to me also the question boils down to authority as well and a higher one than the Church Fathers each individually. The Church is the pillar and support of the truth according to Paul’s words to Timothy. The Apostles showed the example of how to resolve issues in Acts 15 by coming together in council. Paul did not decide the issues, James, did not, and Peter (though to a lesser degree) did not in Acts 15. The council came to an agreement. The Church came to an agreement. It didn’t happen all in 33 AD. It happened over time.

            God bless

          • Nate_Busenitz

            Hi Gerald,

            You wrote, “To me also the question boils down to authority as well and a higher one than the Church Fathers each individually.”

            I think we are getting to the real heart of the argument here. It ultimately is an issue of authority.

            You are contending that the church is the ultimate authority (based on 1 Timothy 3:15). By “church” you are referring to the dogmatic teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Because the Roman Catholic Church accepts the apocrypha as canonical, you likewise affirm it as canonical.
            Would that be a fair reading of your perspective?

            NB

          • gerald

            I somehow suspect I am being baited but yes. Now that does not mean I check my brain in at the door and as you can see I have studied the matter in great detail. Much greater than I have explained here. Somehow around 404 when the declarations of the councils had come in and the debate grew pretty much silent just as after the council of Jerusalem in Acts 15 the arguments about circumcision pretty much went silent. Not completly so of course as we have the galations passage where Paul rebukes Peter and Judas says the circumcision party must be silenced. There are always dissenters who rebel.

          • Nate_Busenitz

            Hi Gerald,

            No baiting … I just want to make sure I am accurately representing your view before responding to it.

            A full discussion of 1 Timothy 3:15 is probably beyond the limits of this comment thread, but I’d like to make a few remarks about that particular verse.

            1) I find it ironic that Rome appeals to 1 Tim 3:15 to support its ecclesiastical authority while simultaneously ignoring the qualifications for church leadership listed in that very chapter (specifically vv. 2, 4, 12).

            2) In the context of 1 Tim 3:15, Paul is emphasizing the moral excellence that characterizes church leaders — noting that their testimonies provide a compelling case for the truthfulness of the gospel.

            3) That being said, Protestants would agree that the church is called by God to be the pillar and support of the truth — namely, that those who are part of the body of Christ (and especially those who provide spiritual leadership in the church) are to faithfully uphold and defend the truth of the gospel (both in what they teach and in how they live).

            4) The “truth” being discussed in 1 Tim 3:15 is specifically the truth of the gospel, as articulated by Paul in v. 16.

            5) If any so-called church fails to uphold and defend the truth of the gospel, it demonstrates that it has fallen short of what God has called the church to be.

            6) That is the very reason the Reformation was necessary — because the Roman Catholic Church had become corrupt. It was no longer a pillar and support of truth, but had become a pillar and support of doctrinal error and moral compromise.

            7) Elsewhere, Paul himself designated an authority higher than the church. In Ephesians 2:20, he explained that the church was built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone.

            8) When Protestants appeal to the teachings of Christ and to the writings of the apostles and prophets (i.e. the NT Scriptures), they are appealing to an authority that is higher than the church and to which the church must conform. When we appeal to the revealed truth of Scripture, we are appealing to the authority of God Himself (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16-17).

            9) Thus, Protestants conclude that the true church is that institution which upholds and defends the true gospel (per 1 Tim. 3:15). And the true gospel is that which is articulated in Scripture.

            10) Because the modern Roman Catholic Church fails to uphold the true gospel, Protestants reject it as the true church.

            Regarding canonicity, we likewise appeal to an authority higher than the church — we appeal to the authority of Christ and His apostles.

            That brings us back full circle to my point in the article.

            NB

          • gerald

            1) By your interpretation of those passages… Paul has an awefully weird way of saying “must be married” “husband of one wife”.. It is interesting that the ECF in a few places considered v. 2 about marriage to be with regard to either divorce or polygamy. I don’t know of anyone who said a bishop had to be married.

            Didn’t Jesus say that some are to give their lives totally for the sake of the kingdom when Peter said “then it is better not to marry”. Where are your celibates who fullfill this passage?

            Yes we all want our church leaders to be above reproach. Are all of yours in the Churches you would consider Christian? I’ll bet not. You seem to have a broad brush judgement of Catholic priests. Do you want me to quote some statitistics on weighty matters and protestant clergy? I.e. adultery among protestant pastors, pornography, and child abuse? The numbers aren’t what you apparently think they are.

            2)Why would I disagree with this. Of course he is. The Catholic Church strives for this. That does not mean all are going to be this upstanding. Yours are not either. Sorry to say. See above and also do a search for protestant scandals.

            3) Amen.

            4) Agreed.

            5) Agreed.

            6) By your judgment. Doctrine was protected. The morality of men in Christ’s Church does not corrupt the doctrine. The gates of hell shall not prevail. Again you are broad brushing the whole Catholic Church. Making judgments based on bias and prejudice.

            7)
            Again the problem here is false dichotomy. It is not the Church or Christ. It is Christ through his Church. And where does the Catholic Church reject the authority of Christ. I can site you dozens of passages in our catechism stating that Christ is the head of the Church. Again your comment is out of prejudice and not truth about Catholicism.

            8) But you all come up with different teachings so no you do not submit completely to Christ.

            9) This is a broad brush of protestantism. I don’t know how many times in my life I have heard the denial of the word institution in protestantism. You speak as if there is a commonality in protestantism. Hardly.

            10) You mean faith alone? Why do you guys correct Paul and the scriptures? Why in 300 tries didn’t the NT writers get it right so you guys wouldn’t have to correct them and pair those two words together. James did of course. I disagree with you regarding what the Gospel is and Romans 2:4-10 and Matt 25, John 5:29, James 2, John 15 are my evidences among many others.

            “Regarding canonicity, we likewise appeal to an authority higher than the church — we appeal to the authority of Christ and His apostles.”

            Sounds really noble. YOu haven’t made your case except with the rubes. Sorry.

            “That brings us back full circle to”

            And I knew this is where we would end up.

          • gerald

            ” By “church” you are referring to the dogmatic teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. ”

            Correction – no, the Church is not dogmas. The church is the pope, magesterium, and laity. The Church is men guided by the spirit. The dogmatic teachings have their authority because of the offices that Christ eastablished. Not the other way around. The Church upholds and protects the doctrines and the scriptures.

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  • gerald

    Although it is true the Dueterocanonicals were not quoted by Jesus, these items should be of interest in the discussion.

    http://www.scripturecatholic.com/deuterocanon.html

  • gerald

    Jerome must have changed his mind at some point.

    “[D]oes not the scripture say: ‘Burden not thyself above thy power’[Sirach 13:2]?” Jerome, To Eustochium, Epistle 108 (A.D. 404).

    Do you agree with Jerome on this?

    “What sin have I committed in following the judgment of the churches? But when I repeat what the Jews say against the Story of Susanna and the Hymn of the Three Children, and the fables of Bel and the Dragon, which are not contained in the Hebrew Bible, the man who makes this a charge against me proves himself to be a fool and a slanderer; for I explained not what I thought but what they commonly say against us.”
    Jerome, Against Rufinus, 11:33 (A.D. 402).

    The Church considered these as scipture.

  • gerald

    Sorry for the multiple posts but each has a point. Here is evidence of my claim Jesus had access to and accepted the Septuagint as scrpture. Not just the Palestinian canon.

    http://www.scripturecatholic.com/septuagint.html

  • gerald

    If you watched dateline last night it was very interesting. There was a man accused of killing his wife. 6 different experts looked at the forensic data. 4 of them said it pointed to murder. Two said it pointed to death because of a heart condition. Both sides thought they were ABSOLUTELY correct in their assessment. This to me indicates the inadequacy of these protestant/Catholic debates. We both see what we want to see. Admittedly so. Very rarely do we convince each other, even though to me the evidence is obvious. I am sure it is to you as well. Somebody is missing a part of the equation. I say it is you and the part of the equation is authority. I am sure you will see it differently. Where did your little sects get their authority? It is quite obvious that you are teaching and trying to teach what the early church taught. How do you know you are teaching in the line of 2 Tim 2:2? What you have heard from me in the prescence of witnesses teach to others who will teach……

  • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

    Gerald, we appreciate your interaction here, but there are a few things you need to digest as you continue to comment.

    1. Stay on topic. Off-topic comments will be deleted, because every blog post is not about everything.

    2. Consolidate your thoughts. This is closely related to the previous. I still can’t figure out why, for every comment you’re responding to, you write three. This doesn’t help the discussion, and it doesn’t help readers (even readers who may tend to agree with you) to follow your point(s). Think through what point you’d like to make, and take the time to compose it in a helpful format.

    3. No link-trolling. We get that there may be a resource elsewhere on the internet worth looking at, but the comment thread isn’t a place to drop a link and consider your point proven. If there’s an argument to be made, make it, summarizing and handling the content that you think substantiates your claims, and include the link as the source or as a resource for those who want to explore further.

    • gerald

      Everything I posted had a point related to the article. I do believe since you don’t have the Catholic perspective on things, you do not understand some of the relevance. I guess the question is to what degree of relevance are the points to be allowed. To that I am at the mercy of your editors. I didn’t just drop the link and consider my point proven if you had read all my posts. I was using the link as backup for previous statements regarding Jesus having access to and approving of the Septuagint version for instance. It is interesting that you guys set rules that you don’t have to follow ie.Mr. Busenitz posting links above.

    • Rob

      Mike,
      This rebuke sounds a lot like ithe kid on the playground who says, “it’s my ball, so I get to make up the rules.”

      Gerald is winning the debate fairly and the only one of your three points that seems to have any merit is that his posts are long. But that seems understandable given all the straw man arguments against his positions he has to address.

      An Outside Observer

      • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

        Rob,

        Your misunderstanding may arise from the fact that the comments that were in violation of these fairly-standard rules of blog-etiquette have all been removed.

        Thanks for your concern, though.

  • gerald

    While it is true that the dueterocanonicals are not directly quoted, I am curious as to what the author thinks of these items. There are many more like this but I am not allowed to post links.

    Matt. 2:16 – Herod’s decree of slaying innocent children was
    prophesied in Wis. 11:7 – slaying the holy innocents.

    Matt. 6:19-20 – Jesus’
    statement about laying up for yourselves treasure in heaven follows Sirach
    29:11 – lay up your treasure.

    Matt.. 7:12 – Jesus’ golden
    rule “do unto others” is the converse of Tobit 4:15 – what you hate,
    do not do to others.

    Matt. 7:16,20 – Jesus’
    statement “you will know them by their fruits” follows Sirach 27:6 -
    the fruit discloses the cultivation.

    Matt. 9:36 – the people were
    “like sheep without a shepherd” is same as Judith 11:19 – sheep
    without a shepherd.

    Matt. 11:25 – Jesus’
    description “Lord of heaven and earth” is the same as Tobit 7:18 -
    Lord of heaven and earth.

    Matt. 12:42 – Jesus refers to
    the wisdom of Solomon which was recorded and made part of the deuterocanonical
    books.

    Matt. 16:18 – Jesus’ reference
    to the “power of death” and “gates of Hades” references
    Wisdom 16:13.

    Matt. 22:25; Mark 12:20; Luke
    20:29 – Gospel writers refer to the canonicity of Tobit 3:8 and 7:11 regarding
    the seven brothers.

    Matt. 24:15 – the
    “desolating sacrilege” Jesus refers to is also taken from 1 Macc.
    1:54 and 2 Macc. 8:17.

    Matt. 24:16 – let those
    “flee to the mountains” is taken from 1 Macc. 2:28.

    Matt. 27:43 – if He is God’s
    Son, let God deliver him from His adversaries follows Wisdom 2:18.

    Mark 4:5,16-17 – Jesus’
    description of seeds falling on rocky ground and having no root follows Sirach
    40:15.

    Mark 9:48 – description of hell
    where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched references Judith
    16:17.

    Luke 1:42 – Elizabeth’s
    declaration of Mary’s blessedness above all women follows Uzziah’s declaration
    in Judith 13:18.

    Luke 1:52 – Mary’s magnificat
    addressing the mighty falling from their thrones and replaced by lowly follows
    Sirach 10:14.

    Luke 2:29 – Simeon’s
    declaration that he is ready to die after seeing the Child Jesus follows Tobit
    11:9.

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