The Old Testament Canon and the Apocrypha

Part 1: The Canon of the Jews


William Webster


It is important to determine the canon of the Hebrew Bible prior to the Church age because, as the apostle Paul states, the Jews were committed with the 'oracles of God' (Rom. 3:2). This is an important statement indicating that there was a body of divinely inspired and authoritative writings uniquely produced through the Jewish nation. Identifying them is critical to the issue of authority because only those books that are truly 'the oracles of God' are authoritative for the Church. The question is, Does the term, 'the oracles of God,' refer to a recognized body of writings of a specific number, or was the canon open? Roman apologists argue that the canon of the Jews was open and in fact, came to include the books of the Apocrypha. Rome points to two main historical events to support her claim. The first is the Council of Jamnia which met between AD 75 and 117. This council included Jewish elders who were allegedly responsible for officially closing the canon of Jewish Scriptures. Secondly, Rome points to the Jews of Alexandria who used the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. It is argued that they included the Apocrypha along with the Hebrew Scriptures as their canonical corpus, because the earliest manuscripts we possess of the Septuagint do contain some of the Apocryphal books.

Protestants reject these arguments because they are a misrepresentation of the facts. By New Testament times, the canon of the Hebrew Bible consisted of a precise number of books and were ordered according to a specific structure, proving that it was closed long before the time of Christ. Witnesses to the number and structure of the books of the canon is confirmed by many independent sources, including:

1. Jesus and the New Testament
2. The Apocrypha
3. The Pseudepigrapha
4. Philo
5. Josephus
6. The Pharisees and Essenes
7. Aquila's Greek Translation of the Hebrew Bible
8. The Early Church Fathers
9. The Rabbinical Literature

The Witness of Jesus and the New Testament

Just as Paul referred to the Old Testament Scriptures in a general sense as 'the oracles of God,' Jesus (and other New Testament writers) also referred to the Old Testament in general terms. This makes clear that Jesus and the apostles had in mind certain books which would be included under those general headings. For example, Jesus referred to the Old Testament as the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms. The 'Law of Moses' was universally understood to represent the Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. When Jesus spoke with his disciples on the road to Emmaeus, Luke recorded these comments: 'And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures' (Lk. 24:27). Again, these are general descriptions. Moses and the Prophets are called 'the Scriptures.' But Moses and the Prophets comprised a specific set of books. Other titles used to represent the books of the Old Testament as a collection were: 'the Law,' 'the Law and the Prophets,' 'the Scriptures' and 'the word of God.' These general titles confirm that certain books were authoritatively received as canonical Scripture. When a Jew used the term-'the Prophets'-everyone knew which books he meant. This would have been the case with Paul as well when he used the term 'the oracles of God.' While Jesus referred to the Scriptures in general terms, he also frequently specified particular books which he considered to be divinely inspired. For example, after reading Isaiah in the Synagogue at the beginning of his ministry he said, 'Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing' (Lk. 4:21). In his conflict with the Sadducees, Jesus quoted from Genesis, prefacing his remarks with: 'Have you not read what God said to you?' And in Mark 12:10, Jesus cites the Psalms as Scripture. It was also a common practice in Israel to preface a reference to a canonical Scripture with the statement, 'It is written.' In his temptation with Satan, Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy three times, each time introducing his remarks with, 'It is written' (Mt. 4:4, 7, 10). We see this again in Luke 19:46, where he quotes Isaiah and Jeremiah, and in Mark 14:27, where he quotes from Zechariah.

Clearly, then, when Jesus referred to the Scriptures, he had a specific set of books in mind. Jesus and the apostles accepted the canon authoritatively established by the Jews. It was by the Jews that God had produced the Scriptures and to the Jews that God had entrusted them. As F.F. Bruce has written:

Our Lord and his apostles might differ from the religious leaders of Israel about the meaning of the scriptures; there is no suggestion that they differed about the limits of the scriptures. 'The scriptures' on whose meaning they differed were not an amorphous collection: when they spoke of 'the scriptures' they knew which writings they had in mind and could distinguish them from other writings which were not included in 'the scriptures'.2

If we know the canon that Jesus embraced then we know which books are the 'oracles of God.' Roger Beckwith points out the significance of this:

To Christians, however, the teaching of Jesus, his apostles and the other New Testament writers has also a theological significance; for if they teach us what their Old Testament canon was, do they not also teach us what, for Christians, the Old Testament canon ought to be?3

Jesus did not leave us a list of inspired Old Testament books. However, following the traditional Jewish view of the canon, he referred to the Scriptures by the threefold division of the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms. The term Psalms was another way of referring to the third major category of the Hebrew canonical writings, commonly known as the Hagiographa, of which the Psalms held the most prominent place. Thus, if we can determine which books comprised each of these three categories for the Hebrews, we will then know which books Jesus believed inspired.

The Structure of the Hebrew Canon

Historically, the Old Testament canon was divided into three major categories under the general headings of: the Law, the Prophets and the Hagiographa. As mentioned above, this threefold classification is referred to by Jesus, but there are many additional witnesses as well, proving that this was not just the personal view of Jesus, but the tradition of the Jewish nation as a whole. Prior to Jesus, there is historical validation for this threefold classification, most notably from the apocryphal book of Eccelsiasticus; the Jewish historian, Josephus; the Alexandrian Jewish philosopher, Philo; the Church father, Jerome; and the rabbinical literature. The prologue of the Greek translation of Ecclesiasticus, written around 130 B.C. by the grandson of Jesus ben Sirah, stated:

Whereas many and great things have been delivered unto us by the law and the prophets, and by others that have followed their steps, for the which things Israel ought to be commended for learning and wisdom: and whereof not only the readers must needs become skillful themselves, but also they that desire to learn to be able profit them which are without, both by speaking and by writing: my grandfather Jesus, when he had much given himself to the reading of the law, and the prophets, and other books of our fathers, and had gotten therein good judgment, was drawn on also himself to write something pertaining to learning and wisdom; to the intent that those which are desirous to learn, and are addicted to these things, might profit much more in living according to the law. Wherefore let me entreat you to read it with favour and attention, and to pardon us, wherein we may seem to come short of some words, which we have laboured to interpret; for the same things uttered in Hebrew, and translated into another tongue, have not the same force in them. And not only these things, but the law itself, and the prophets, and the rest of the books, have no small difference, when they are spoken in their own language.4

Roger Beckwith comments on these statements:

It appears, then, that for this writer there are three groups of books which have a unique authority, and that his grandfather wrote only after gaining great familiarity with them, as their interpreter not as their rival. The translator explicitly distinguishes 'these things' (i.e. Ecclesiasticus, or uncanonical Hebrew compositions such as Ecclesiasticus) from 'the Law itself and the Prophets and the rest of the Books.' Moreover, he regards even the Hagiographa as 'ancestral' (patrivwn) books, long enough esteemed to have been translated into Greek, and their number as complete ('the others that have followed in their steps', 'the other Books of the fathers', 'the rest of the Books'). And not only does he state that in his own day there was this threefold canon, distinguished from all other writings, in which even the Hagiographa formed a closed collection of old books, but he implies that such was the case in his grandfather's time also.5

It is significant, as Beckwith points out, that the author separates the book of Ecclesiasticus from the canonical Scriptures and does not include it with them.
Another witness to the tripartite division of the Old Testament canon is Joesphus, a priest, Pharisee and Jewish historian who witnessed the downfall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. He wrote:

...we do not possess myriads of inconsistent books, conflicting with one another, [as the Greeks do]; but our books, those which are justly believed, are only 22…Of these, five are the books of Moses…the prophets after Moses wrote the events of their own times in thirteen books. The remaining four books contain hymns to God and precepts for the conduct of human life.6

Josephus divided the books into three sections: the Law of Moses, the Prophets and what he called 'hymns to God and precepts for human life,' also referred to as the Writings or the Hagiographa. Philo, an Alexandrian Jew of the early first century, in his work, De Vita Contemplativa, also witnessed to the tripartite division of the Old Testament canon. Beckwith gives the following background and explanation of Philo's comments:

The De Vita Contemplativa gives a significant account of things which each of the Therepeutae takes with him into his oratory. He takes none of the common things of life, but '(the) Laws, and (the) Oracles given by inspiration through (the) Prophets, and (the) Psalms (u{mnou~), and the other books whereby knowledge and piety are increased and completed…(De Vit. Cont. 25).

The first three groups of books here listed (without the article, as is common in titles) seem to correspond closely to those referred to by the grandson of Ben Sira and especially by Jesus, in Luke 24. {Umnoi as Conybeare remarks, is Philo's regular name for the Psalms; and that here again it refers not simply to the Psalter but to the Hagiographa in general is suggested by Philo's appeals to Job and Proverbs as Scripture, and by the Qumran community's appeals to Proverbs and Daniel as Scripture...The Therapeutae, with their monasticism, their calendrical peculiarities and their sectarian books and hymns, were clearly akin to the Qumran community, and Philo's statement may indicate that not only he, with his Pharasaic leanings, but also the Therapeutae, with their Essene leanings, were accustomed to divide the canon into three sections. The only problem is what is meant by 'the other books (or things) whereby knowledge and piety are increased and completed.' These are also evidently books, both because of the context and that they 'increase knowledge.' The most likely explanation is that they are books outside the canon to which the Therapeutae ascribed almost equal authority. Philo does not necessarily share their view himself, any more than on some other points on which he records the Thrapeutae's distinctive views.7

It is highly significant that Philo, coming from Alexandria, where the Septuagint originated, never quoted from the Apocrypha. Herbert Edward Ryle makes these observations on Philo and his relationship to the Apocrypha:

The writings of Philo, who died about 50 A.D., do not throw very much positive light upon the history of the Canon. To him, as to other Alexandrine Jews, the Law alone was in the highest sense the Canon of Scripture, and alone partook of divine inspiration in the most absolute degree. Philo's writings, however, show that he was well acquainted with many other books of the Old Testament besides the Pentateuch. He quotes from Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, the Minor Prophets, Psalms, Proverbs, Job, and Ezra. According to some scholars he is said to show acquaintance with books of the Apocrypha. But this is very doubtful; and, even if it be granted, he certainly never appeals to them in support of his teaching in the way that he does to books included in the Hebrew Canon, and never applies to them the formulae of citation which he employs, when referring to the acknowledged books of the Jewish Scriptures. By comparison with his quotations from the Pentateuch, his quotations from the other sacred writings are very scanty; but it is observable that even in these few extracts he ascribes an inspired origin to Joshua, Samuel, Kings, Ezra, Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, and Zechariah. The negative value of his testimony is strong, though not conclusive, against the canonicity of any book of the Apocrypha, or of any work not eventually included in the Hebrew Canon.8

F.F. Bruce adds this:

Philo of Alexandria (c 20 BC-AD 50) evidently knew the scriptures in the Greek version only. He was an illustrious representative of Alexandrian Judaism, and if Alexandrian Judaism did indeed recognize a more comprehensive canon than Palestinian Judaism, one might have expected to find some trace of this in Philo's voluminous writings. But, in fact, while Philo has not given us a formal statement on the limits of the canon such as we have in Josephus, the books which he acknowledged as holy scripture were quite certainly books included in the traditional Hebrew Bible…he shows no sign of accepting the authority of any of the books which we know as the Apocrypha.9

Jerome was a Hebrew scholar with Jewish teachers who lived for many years in Palestine and wrote in the late fourth and early fifth centuries. In the Preface of his Latin Vulgate translation of the Book of Samuel and Kings, Jerome made clear his acceptance of the Jewish canon of the threefold structure of the Law, the Prophets and the Hagiographa:

The first of these books is called Bresith, to which we give the name Genesis. The second, Elle Smoth, which bears the name Exodus; the third, Vaiecra, that is Leviticus; the fourth, Vaiedabber, which we call Numbers; the fifth, Elle Addabarim, which is entitled Deuteronomy. These are the five books of Moses, which they properly call Thorath, that is law. The second class is composed of the Prophets…To the third class belong the Hagiographa…10

In addition, Rabbinical literature of the early Christian centuries also spoke of a threefold division of the Old Testament. The Babylonian Talmud in Baba Bathra 14 referred to this division, documenting the actual books and their order:

Our Rabbis taught: the order of the Prophets is, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, the twelve Minor Prophets...[Our Rabbis taught:] The order of the Hagiographa is Ruth, the book of Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Lamentation, Daniel and the scroll of Esther, Ezra and Chronicles.11

F.F. Bruce notes that this was a Jewish tradition of long standing, possibly beginning in the first century:

One of the clearest and earliest statements of these three divisions and their respective contents comes in a baraitha (a tradition from the period AD 70-200) quoted in the Babylonian Talmud, in the tractate Baba Bathra.12

McDonald explains the importance of this writing:

Although preserved in the Babylonian Talmud, this passage is generally understood as a baraita, that is, a tradition from the tannaitic period, 70 CE-200 CE….It is a very important reference because it clearly identifies the writings that make up the twenty-four book collection of sacred writings for the Jews and assumes a threefold division of the biblical canon.13

The Number of Books in the Hebrew Canon

The Hebrew Bible was not only structured in a certain way but the books that comprised the canon were limited to a specific number of either twenty-two or twenty-four depending on how the books were arranged. Sometimes Ruth was appended to Judges and Lamentations to Jeremiah, making the number twenty-two. When listed separately the number increased to twenty-four. This numbering is found in many historical writings. One of the earliest witnesses to the number twenty-two is Josephus:

For we have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from and contradicting one another, [as the Greeks have,] but only twenty-two books.14

Josephus not only gave the precise number of the canonical books but stated that the Jewsish nation recognized these twenty-two alone as canonical. What is important about his testimony is that he used the Septuagint version of the Old Testament. Thus, even though he used the Greek version, he cited the limited canon of the Hebrews. And as mentioned earlier, Philo also used the Septuagint and did not include the Apocrypha as authoritative canonical Scripture. These cases demonstrate that it does not follow that those who used the Septuagint accepted an expanded canon, in particular, Jesus and the apostles. Ryle comments on the importance of Josephus' testimony:

We must remember that Josephus writes as the spokesman of his people, in order to defend the accuracy and sufficiency of their Scriptures, as compared with the recent and contradictory histories by Greek writers...In this controversy he defends the judgment of his people. He does not merely express a personal opinion, he claims to represent his countrymen… How then does he describe the Sacred Books? He mentions their number; he speaks of them as consisting of twenty-two books'. He regards them as a well-defined national collection. That is to say, Josephus and his countrymen, at the beginning of the second cent. A.D., recognised a collection of what he, at least, calls twenty-two books, and no more, as the Canon of Holy Scripture. This Canon it was profanation to think of enlarging, diminishing, or altering in any way.15

A number of Church fathers also testified to the traditional Jewish numeration of the canon. Origen, who had contact with Jews wrote that the number of canonical books handed down by them was twenty-two.16 Other fathers who listed the number of books as twenty-two were Hilary of Poitiers,17 Cyril of Jerusalem,18 Athanasius,19 Epiphanius,20 who was a native of Palestine, Gregory of Nazianzus,21 Basil the Great,22 and Rufinus,23 while Jerome24 gave numberings of both twenty-two and twenty-four. The pseudepigraphal work, Jubilees, found among the Essene community at Qumran, also numbered the Old Testament books at twenty-two and was likely the earliest witness to the number of books that comprised the Hebrew canon, predating Josephus. Lee McDonald explains the importance of this work:

In a later edition of the ancient book known as Jubilees, there is a reference to a twenty-two book collection of scriptures as well as to several important groupings of twenty-two in the Jewish traditions…The text in question reads:

There were twenty-two chief men from Adam until Jacob, and twenty-two kinds of works were made before the seventh day. The former is blessed and sanctified, and the latter is also blessed and sanctified. One was like the other with respect to sanctification and blessing. And it was granted to the former that they should always be the blessed and sanctified ones of the testimony and the first law just as he had sanctified and blessed Sabbath day on the seventh day (Jubilees 2.23).

The Symeon Logothetes text is similar to the above except that it reads in the middle 'wherefore also there are twenty-two letters and the same number of books among the Hebrews' and instead of 'it says' this text reads 'Moses says.' Beckwith notes another form of this text occurring in Georgius Syncellus (ca. 800CE) that reads: 'All the works are together twenty-two, equal in number with twenty-two founding fathers from Adam to Jacob.' Which of these three textual traditions is the earliest is debatable, but if they can be dated in the first century BCE, or even CE, they all provide evidence that the first instance of the twenty-two book canon is to be found in the book of Jubilees that was discovered in fragments at Qumran.25

The Rabbinical Talmudic literature in Baba Bathra gave the listing as twenty-four. As noted, this writing was considered to be an ancient tradition among the Jews and, as we will see, it gives a precise identity of those twenty-four books. It did not include the Apocrypha.

Aquila, the Jewish proselyte, is another important, if indirect first century witness to the number of books. He translated the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek, replacing the Septuagint around AD 128-129. The Jews had become disenchanted with the Septuagint because of its use by the Christians. Aquila labored to render a very literal translation under the auspices of the Palestinian Jews. He therefore would have followed the traditional Hebrew canon of twenty-two or twenty-four books, excluding the Apocrypha. Swete gives this background on Aquila:

Aquila the translator was of Pontus, from the famous sea-port Sinope…but he was of Gentile origin. He lived in the reign of Hadrian (AD 117-138), and was a connexion of the Emperor…Hadrian employed his relative to superintend the building of the Aelia Capitolina on the site of Jerusalem, and while there Aquila converted to Christianity by Christians who had returned from Pella. Refusing, however, to abandon the pagan practice of astrology, he was excommunicated; upon which he shewed his resentment by submitting to circumcision and attaching himself to the Jewish Rabbis. The purpose of his translation was to set aside the interpretation of the LXX, in so far as it appeared to support the views of the Christian Church…After his conversion to Judaism, Aquila became a pupil of R. Elezer and R. Joshua…or, according to another authority, of R. Akiba…It was natural that the version of Aquila should be received with acclamation by his co-religionists. His teachers congratulated him in the words of Psalms xlv.3. The Talmud quotes or refers to his translation of not a few passages…In Origen's time he was trusted implicitly in Jewish circles, and used by all Jews who did not understand Hebrew…and the same preference for Aquila seems to have been characteristic of the Jews in the fourth and fifth centuries.26

Swete notes that Aquila was approved by the Talmud, and since the Talmud approved only the traditional books of the Hebrew canon, it seems clear that the number of books Aquila translated would have been twenty-two or twenty-four.

The Identity of the Hebrew Canonical Books

The Jewish canon not only included a clear threefold division of a specific number of books, but their identity was well established as well. Obviously, if Josephus and others could say the canon consisted of twenty-two or twenty-four books they knew which books they were. The question is, would a canon limited to twenty-two or twenty-four books allow for the inclusion of any works of the Apocrypha? The historical facts reveal the answer to be no.
To begin with, the specific books that made up the canon of the Hebrew Old Testament can be deduced from Josephus' comments. His is the earliest extant evidence we possess of the books of the canon:

For we have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from and contradicting one another, [as the Greeks have,] but only twenty-two books, which contain the records of all the past times; which are justly believed to be divine; and of them five belong to Moses, which contain his laws and the traditions of the origin of mankind till his death. This interval of time was little short of three thousand years; but as to the time from the death of Moses till the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, who reigned after Xerxes, the prophets, who were after Moses, wrote down what was done in their times in thirteen books. The remaining four books contain hymns to God, and precepts for the conduct of human life. It is true, our history hath been written since Artaxerxes very particularly, but hath not been esteemed of the like authority with the former by our forefathers, because there hath not been an exact succession of prophets since that time; and how firmly we have given credit to these books of our own nation is evident by what we do; for during so many ages as have already passed, no one has been so bold as either to add any thing to them, to take any thing from them, or to make any change in them; but it is become natural to all Jews immediately, and from their very birth, to esteem these books to contain Divine doctrines, and to persist in them, and, if occasion be willingly to die for them.27

Josephus writes that the canon consisted of the five books of Moses, thirteen of the Prophets and four of what he referred to as hymns to God and precepts for human life. It is clear that this perspective was one held for a long time by the Jews, who considered these twenty-two books alone to be of divine origin and were careful to preserve the integrity and number of them. In fact, so great was their veneration of these books, they were willing to die for them. Surely, such a commitment implies a conviction that these books alone were truly canonical. In addition, it is clear that the canon referred to by Josephus did not include the books of the Apocrypha, and that he considered the canon to be closed. He states that the twenty-two books were written in the specific span of time from Moses to Artaxerxes and no books written after this time were considered inspired. He mentions other books written after the prophets, which were not considered by the Jews to carry the same authority, that is, they were not inspired and were, therefore, not canonical. This is a clear reference to a number of the Apocryphal books. John Wenham summarizes the importance of Josephus and his writings:

Josephus, born about AD 37, was perhaps the most distinguished and most learned Jew of his day. His father was a priest and his mother was descended from the Maccabean kings. Given the best possible education, he proved to be something of a prodigy…What is particularly interesting about the statement of Josephus is the clear distinction between the canonical books which were completed in the time of Artaxerxes, and those written later which were not considered worthy of like credit 'because the exact succession of the prophets ceased'. The idea evidently is that the canonical books were either written (or accredited) by the prophets, but that when the prophetical era was over, no more books suitable for the Canon were written…Josephus commits himself to a fairly precise date for the closing of the Canon. Artaxerxes Longimanus reigned for forty years, 465 to 425 BC. Ezra came to Jerusalem in the seventh, and Nehemiah in the twentieth, year of his reign (Ez. 7:1, 8; Ne. 2:1). In addition to Josephus there are several other witnesses who point to the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, with occasionally a reference to the ministries of Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, as the time of the collection, completion and recognition of the Old Testament Canon.28

F.F. Bruce explains how the precise books can be inferred from Josephus' statements:

When Josephus speaks of twenty-two books, he probably refers to exactly the same documents as the twenty-four of the traditional Jewish reckoning, Ruth being counted as an appendix to Judges and Lamentations to Jeremiah. His three divisions might be called the Law, the Prophets and the Writings. His first division comprises the same five books as the first division of the traditional arrangement. But his second division has thirteen books, not eight, the additional five being perhaps Job, Esther, Daniel, Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah. The four books of the third division would then be Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs. It is impossible to be sure, because he does not specify the books of the three divisions one by one. It is unlikely that Josephus' classification of the books was his own; he probably reproduces a tradition with which he had been familiar for a long time, having learned it either in the priestly circle into which he was born or among the Pharisees with whose party he associated himself as a young man.29

Ryle offers this additional observation:

He records a test of their canonicity. He mentions the standard which, apparently, in current Jewish opinion, all books satisfied that were included in the Canon. No historical writings, it seems, belonged to it which were deemed to have been composed later than the reign of Ahasuerus. The mention of this particular limit seems to be made expressly with reference to the book of Esther, in which alone the Artaxerxes of Josephus (the Ahasuerus of the Hebrew book of Esther) figures. Thus we learn that a popularly accepted test, that of date of composition, however erroneously applied, determined the question of canonicity. In the first cent. A.D., the impression prevailed that the books of the Canon were all ancient, that none were more recent than Ahasuerus, and that all had long been regarded as canonical. The same limit of date, although not so clearly applied to the poetical books, was, in all probability, intended to apply equally to them, since they combined with the books of the prophets to throw light upon the same range of history. That such a standard of canonicity as that of antiquity should be asserted, crude as it may seem, ought to be sufficient to convince us that the limits of the Canon had for a long time been undisturbed.30

Jerome, famous for translating the Hebrew Old Testament into Latin, was intent on translating only those books deemed canonical by the Jews. He not only bears witness to the threefold traditional classification of the Hebrew Bible, but also to which books comprised each category. His list is essentially the same as that inferred from Josephus' writings. The specific books he lists are:

1) The Law of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
2) The Prophets: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I & II Samuel, I & II Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the twelve minor prophets.
3) The Hagiographa: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Daniel, Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah and Esther.31

Obviously, if the number of canonical books is twenty-two this would exclude the Apocrypha. Jerome clearly stated that the Jews did not receive the books of the Apocrypha as canonical.32 Augustine concurred, writing:

During the same time also those things were done which are written in the book of Judith, which, indeed, the Jews are said not to have received into the canon of the scriptures ... And the reckoning of their dates is found; not in the Holy Scriptures which are called canonical, but in others, among which, are also the books of the Maccabees. These are held as canonical, not, by the Jews, but by the Church, on account of the extreme and 'wonderful sufferings of certain martyrs…The Jews do not have this Scripture which is called Maccabees, as they do the law and the prophets, to which the Lord bears testimony as to his witnesses. But it is received by the Church not without advantage, if it be read and heard soberly, especially for the sake of the history of the Maccabees, who suffered so much from the hand of persecutors for the sake of the law of God.33

Origen and Epiphanius also testified that the Jews rejected certain of the Apocrypha. Origen wrote that the Jews had a low regard for Judith and Tobit, never accepting them as canonical,34 and Epiphanius stated that they rejected Ecclesiasticus, Wisdom, Baruch and the Epistle of Jeremiah. This is confirmed by Beckwith in his comments on the canonical Old Testament list given by Epiphanius:

The contents of the lists appear to be exactly identical with the contents of Jerome's. The only appendages to books are Ruth added to Judges and Lamentations added to Jeremiah. Ecclesiasticus and Wisdom are firmly stated to be outside the Jewish canon...in ch. 5 he speaks of 'the epistles of Baruch (Syriac translation, 'of Jeremy and Baruch') being reckoned with Jeremiah. But in the last-named place he adds that the two epistles are not included by the Jews…35

Another piece of historical evidence for the number of canonical Old Testament books is the Pseudepigraphal apocalyptic work 2 Esdras, later known as 4 Ezra, composed around the year AD 100. It numbered the books of the Hebrew canon at twenty-four, implying that as a collection, these books had been accepted as canonical since the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. Beckwith provides the following background on this work and its significance on the question of the canon:

In ch. 14 of 2 Esdras, it is stated that some of the things revealed to Moses he was told to publish openly and some to hide (vv. 4-6), but that when the Babylonians conquered Judah God's Law was burned (v. 21). Ezra is therefore represented as being inspired by the Holy Spirit to dictate God's Law all over again to scribes, and as receiving the command 'when thou hast done, some things shalt thou publish openly, and some things shalt thou deliver in secret to the wise' (vv. 22-26). All this is carried out in the space of forty days. (vv. 36-43).

So in forty days were written fourscore and fourteen books. And it came to pass, when the forty days were fulfilled, that the Most High spake unto me, saying, 'The first that thou hast written publish openly, and let the worthy and unworthy read it: but keep the seventy last, that thou mayest deliver them to such as be wise among thy people: for in them is the spring of understanding, the fountain of wisdom, and the streams of knowledge.' And I did so (vv. 44-8).

Of these 94 books, the seventy which Ezra is bidden to keep for the specially privileged few are doubtless the numerous pseudonymous apocalypses of which 2 Esdras is itself an example, books cherished in limited circles, whereas the 24 which he is bidden to publish openly for worthy and unworthy alike to read must be the books of the canon.36

Another witness to the precise books of the canon comes from the Jewish Talmud, rabbinical writings dating from 200 to 500 A.D. In the Babylonian Talmud, Baba Bathra 14b, dated from the end of the fifth century, there is an explicit statement of the books which comprised the tripartite structure of the canon:

Our Rabbis taught: the order of the Prophets is, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, the twelve Minor Prophets...[Our Rabbis taught:] The order of the Hagiographa is Ruth, the book of Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Lamentation , Daniel and the scroll of Esther, Ezra and Chronicles…Who wrote the Scriptures?-Moses wrote his own book and the portion of Balaam and Job. Joshua wrote the book which bears his name and [the last] eight verses of the Pentateuch. Samuel wrote the book which bears his name and the book of Judges and Ruth. David wrote the book of Psalms, including in it the work of the ten elders, namely Adam, Melchizedek, Abraham, Moses, Heman, Yeduthun, Asaph, and the three sons of Korah. Jeremiah wrote the book which bears his name, the book of Kings, and Lamentations. Hezekiah and his colleagues wrote (mnemonic YMSHQ) Isaiah, Proverbs, the Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes. The Men of the Great Assembly wrote (mnemonic QNDG) Ezekiel, the Twelve Minor Prophets, Daniel and the scroll of Esther. Ezra wrote the book that bears his name and the genealogies of the book of Chronicles up to his own time. This confirms the opinion of Rab (220~450), since Rab Judah (250-290) has said in the name of Rab: Ezra did not leave Babylon to go up to Eretz Yisrael until he had written his own genealogy. Who then finished it [the book of Chronicles]?-Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah.37

As we observed earlier, this listing was presented as an ancient tradition, as something handed down by the rabbis. McDonald's comments bear repeating:

Although preserved in the Babylonian Talmud, this passage is generally understood as a baraita, that is, a tradition from the tannaitic period, 70 CE-200 CE….It is a very important reference because it clearly identifies the writings that make up the twenty-four book collection of sacred writings for the Jews and assumes a threefold division of the biblical canon.38

In listing the canonical books, the Talmud excludes the Apocrypha and is precisely the same in content as that given by Jerome and which is inferred from the writings of Josephus in the first century. This brings us back to Aquila, who, as we have seen, translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek under the auspices of Palestinian Judaism. Therefore he would have followed the traditional canon of the Jews of the twenty two or twenty four books, as expressed by Jerome and the baraita of the Talmudic writings, thereby excluding the Apocrypha. Additionally, there were other Greek versions of the Scriptures which did not include the Apocrypha such as that produced by Theodotion.

Another point to note is that two of the Apocryphal books eliminate themselves from canonical consideration due to their internal testimony. The author of I Maccabees wrote that at the time of the writing of his work there was no prophet in Israel (I Macc. 4.46). In so doing he was admitting he was not a prophet and therefore not inspired. Mc Donald explains:

The author of 1 Maccabees 9 (ca. 100 BCE), writing about the difficult times in Israel following the death of Judas Maccabeus, thought that the prophets in Israel as well as the spirit of prophecy were gone and that inspired literature had therefore ceased. After Judas Maccabeus had retaken the temple from the Seleucids, who had defiled it, he assigned priests to cleanse it, and we read that the priests tore down the altar of the temple 'and stored the stones in a convenient place on the temple hill until there should come a prophet to tell what to do with them' (1 Macc. 4:46 RSV). The view that there was no prophet in the land was a part of the thinking of the writer of 1 Maccabees (1 Macc. 9:27; 14:41).39

The grandson of the author of Ecclesiasticus made clear that the canon was in place long before his grandfather wrote and that he wrote only as an interpreter and commentator, not as a prophet. These books were never received as canonical by the Jews. Clearly, the Protestant canon is consistent with the Hebrew canon. The New Catholic Encyclopedia affirms this:

For the Old Testament Protestants follow the Jewish canon; they have only the books that are in the Hebrew Bible. Catholics have, in addition, seven deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament.40

Roman Catholic apologists object to these conclusions regarding the structure and number of books in the canon on three fundamental points. Firstly, they claim that the use of the Septuagint by some of the Jews suggests that the Jews had no fixed canon. They contend that although the Jews of Palestine were more conservative, the Jews of Alexandria embraced a broader canon which included the Apocrypha. This is seen, they say, from the fact that the Septuagint, which originated in Alexandria, included the Apocrypha and was the Bible commonly used by Jesus and the New Testament writers. Consequently, they maintain that since they used the Septuagint, they must have accepted the Apocrypha as well. Secondly, Roman Catholics argue that the Council of Jamnia, comprised of Jewish elders after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., debated the canonical status of a number of books, proving that the Palestinian canon was not a closed or settled issue. Thirdly, Roman Catholics claim that the Essenes held to a broader canon than that traditionally held in Palestine. We will address each of these objections.

The Septuagint and the Two Canon Theory

The Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. By the time of Christ it was the Bible used by Greek speaking Jews and to some extent even by Jews in Palestine. It is quoted by Jesus and the New Testament writers, though not exclusively. By New Testament times, the Septuagint was believed inspired due mainly to a legend about its origin. This legend was widely believed by the early Church fathers which greatly influenced their veneration for the Septuagint. F.F. Bruce gives the following background:

In the course of time a legend attached itself to this Greek version of the law, telling how it was the work of seventy or rather seventy-two elders of Israel who were brought to Alexandria for the purpose. It is because of this legend that the term Septuagint (from Latin septuaginta, 'seventy') came to be attached to the version. As time went on, the term came to be attached to the whole of the Old Testament in Greek, and the original legend of the seventy was further embellished. The legend is recorded originally in a document called the Letter of Aristeas, which tells how the elders completed the translation of the Pentateuch in seventy-two days, achieving an agreed version as the result of regular conference and comparison. Later embellishments not only extended their work to cover the whole Old Testament but told how they were isolated from one another in separate cells for the whole period and produced seventy-two identical versions-conclusive proof, it was urged, of the divine inspiration of the work!41

One of the reasons Roman Catholics argue for a broader canon is that the oldest extant manuscripts of the Septuagint do contain a number of Apocryphal books. These manuscripts are: Vaticanus (early 4th century), Sinaiticus (early 4th century), and Alexandrinus (early 5th century). The Apocryphal books of Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Judith and Tobit are included in all three, but there are also differences. Vaticanus does not include any of the Maccabean books, while Sinaiticus includes 1 and 4 Maccabees and Alexandrinus includes 1, 2, 3, and 4 Maccabees and a work known as the Psalms of Solomon. If inclusion of a book in the manuscript proves its canonicity, as Roman Catholics assert, then 3 and 4 Maccabees were canonical. However, we know with certainty that this was not the case. It is also true that the Septuagint included a number of appendices to the canonical Old Testament books such as Esther, 1 Esdras, the additions to Daniel (Song of the Three Children, Bel and the Dragon and Susanna), and the additions to Jeremiah (Baruch and the Epistle of Jeremy). But as Henry Swete points out, none of these books, or the rest of the Apocrypha, were part of the Hebrew canon:

The MSS. and many of the lists of the Greek Old Testament include certain books which find no place in the Hebrew Canon. The number of these books varies…but the fullest collections contain the following: I Esdras, Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom of Sirach, Judith, Tobit, Baruch and the Epistle of Jeremiah, i.-iv. Maccabees. We may add the Psalms of Solomon, a book which was sometimes included in MSS. of Salomonic books, or, in complete Bibles, at the end of the Canon…42

Additionally, we must reckon with the testimony of Josephus. He used the Septuagint but his citation of the Hebrew canon did not include the Apocrypha. There are a number of problems with Roman Catholic assumptions. First of all, the Septuagint manuscripts are all of Christian origin from the fourth and fifth centuries as opposed to Alexandria in Egypt. We do not know for certain that the Septuagint itself included the books of the Apocrypha as canonical Scripture. Secondly, as already mentioned, there were books in these manuscripts that were never considered canonical by the Jews or the Church, in particular, 3 and 4 Maccabees. Therefore, just because a book was listed in the manuscripts did not mean it was canonical. It simply means that these books were read in the Church. This likely parallels the general perspective of many of the fathers of the early Church. During the Church age, certain books were designated canonical while others were called ecclesiastical, but all were grouped together without distinction. The ecclesiastical books were useful for reading and edification but were not authoritative for the establishing of doctrine. This position was held by both Athanasius and Cyril of Jerusalem, who used the Septuagint, but were careful to exclude the Apocryphal books from the status of canonical Scripture. This was also the practice of the Jews of Palestine. While rejecting Tobit and Judith as canonical, they still read them. This is seen from the statements of Josephus who used the Septuagint but excluded the Apocryphal books from canonical status. A similar situation probably existed among the Greek speaking Jews who may have included them in the Septuagint. Philo, who resided in Alexandria and used the Septuagint, did not cite the Apocrypha as canonical, but referred to a fourth class of books which were highly esteemed but not considered canonical. As Lee McDonald writes, there is no evidence that the Jews of Alexandria held to a broader canon than those in Palestine:

The biggest problem with the theory of the Alexandrian canon is that there are no lists or collections one can look to in order to see what books comprised it. Pfeiffer himself acknowledged that no one knows what the canon of the Alexandrian and other Diaspora Jews was before the LXX was condemned in Palestine, ca. 130 CE. Long ago E. Reuss concluded that we know nothing about the LXX before the time when the church made extensive use of it. That includes the condition of the text and its form as well as its extent. Another problem with the Alexandrian canon theory is that it has not been shown conclusively that the Alexandrian Jews or the other Jews of the Dispersion were any more likely to adopt other writings as sacred scriptures than were the Jews Palestine in the two centuries BCE and the first century CE. Further, there is no evidence as yet that shows the existence of a different canon of scriptures in Alexandria than in Palestine from the second century BCE to the second century CE….Since the communications between Jerusalem and Alexandria were considered quite good during the first century BCE and CE, it is not certain that either the notion or extent of divine scripture would be strikingly different between the two locations during the period before 70 CE…Although the Jews of the Dispersion were more affected by Hellenism than were the Jews of Palestine, there is little evidence to show that this influence also affected their notion of scripture or the boundaries of their scriptures.43

F.F. Bruce confirms these conclusions when he says:

It has frequently been suggested that, while the canon of the Palestinian Jews was limited to the twenty-four books of the Law, Prophets and Writings, the canon of the Alexandrian Jews was more comprehensive. There is no evidence that this was so: indeed, there is no evidence that the Alexandrian Jews ever promulgated a canon of scripture.44

John Wenham provides these insightful comments on the Jewish canon and the popularity of the Septuagint:

The truth appears to be that the Jews were perfectly clear as to the limits of the Canon in spite of the fact that they read and esteemed highly a number of other books. The apocalyptic writings had particular popularity in a Palestine seething with Messianic hope, and the apocryphal books that sought to effect reconciliation between Judaism and Greek philosophy had a particular popularity in Hellenistic Judaism, especially in such cultural centers as Alexandria. But, as Josephus and Philo show by their quotations as well as by their direct comments on the subject, knowledge and use of the Septuagint translation of the Law, Prophets and Hagiographa does not imply the recognition of the canonicity of the apocryphal books that were incorporated in the later codices.45

The Council of Jamnia

It has often been argued that because the Council of Jamnia debated the canonical status of several Old Testament books, the rabbis involved had the authority to make a final decision on the extent of the canon. Historically, there were a number of books in the Hebrew canon which were a source of debate within Judaism as to their inspiration. Traditionally, these were Ezekiel, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs and Esther. But just because there was debate, it does not follow that there was ever serious doubt among the majority of their canonical status or that the canon was open. This is certainly the case with Jamnia. The fact is, the discussion of the books was not over whether certain books, previously deemed uncanonical, should be raised to canonical status, but whether those traditionally held as canonical, should remain so. There was never discussion of accepting any of the Apocryphal books into the canon. Roger Beckwith makes this clear:

The theory that an open canon was closed at the Synod of Jamnia about AD 90 goes back to Heinrich Graetz in 1871, who proposed (rather more cautiously than has since been the custom) that the Synod of Jamnia led to the closing of the canon. Though others have lately expressed hesitations about the theory, its complete refutation has been the work of J.P. Lewis and S.Z. Leiman. The combined results of their investigations is as follows:

(a) The term 'synod' or 'council' is inappropriate. The academy at Jamnia, established by Rabbi Johanan ben Zakkai shortly before the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, was both a college and a legislative body, and the occasion in question was a session of the elders there.
(b) The date of the session may have been as early as AD 75 or as late as AD 117.
(c) As regards the disputed books, the discussion was confined to the question whether Eccelsiastes and the Song of Songs (or possibly Eccelsiastes alone) make the hands unclean, i.e. are divinely inspired.
(d) The decision reached was not regarded as authoritative, since contrary opinions continued to be expressed throughout the second century.46

As Bruce confirms, the Council of Jamnia changed nothing relative to the canonical status of any of the Old Testament books:

So far as the scriptures are concerned, the rabbis at Jamnia introduced no innovations; they reviewed the tradition they had received and left it more or less as it was. It is probably unwise to talk as if there was a Council or Synod of Jamnia which laid down the limits of the Old Testament canon.47

The theory of Jamnia is unsupportable because the Apocrypha was never considered for the canon. It was never even discussed. Even if Jamnia closed the canon (suggesting it had been open) the Apocrypha was never part of the discussion. And the history of Judaism following Jamnia demonstrates that the Apocrypha was never accepted by the Jews. Again, we observe this in the witness of Aquila, who translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek after Jamnia. His canon agrees with the Talmudic writings, which was the canon catalogued by Jerome and Josephus. Aquila's work proves that the accepted Jewish Bible included the five disputed books, as in the time of Josephus, but not the Apocrypha. Jamnia changed nothing with respect to the canon. As Beckwith points out:

We have evidence in the surviving fragments of Aquila's translation that (though there is no hint of it including any apocryphal book) it included all five of the disputed books…Aquila's rabbinical credentials are unimpeachable, and his work shows that, whatever individual rabbis may have said before AD 128-129 or afterwards, the accepted Jewish Bible at that date included the disputed books, just as it did in the time of Josephus, thirty or more years earlier.48

This leads us to Ryle's conclusion:

The Mishnah records how disputes arose between Jewish Rabbis upon the canonicity of certain books, and, in particular, of books in the Hagiographa, and how the doubts were allayed through the influence of such men as Rabbi Johanan ben Zaccai and Rabbi Akiba, who died about 135 A.D. (Yadaim, iii.5). The language which they are reported to have used shows, beyond all question, that they accepted the tripartite division of the Canon, and that, even while they were discussing the qualities of books whose right to a position in the Canon of Scripture was questioned by some, they never doubted that the contents of the Canon had been determined.49

The Essenes

The Essenes were a Jewish fringe group who had separated themselves from mainstream Judaism during the second century BC. Their writings were discovered in the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran. They appeared to have approved a broader category of books than the traditional twenty-two or twenty-four of the Hebrew canon, suggesting to some that the canon was not closed in Palestenian Judaism. The findings of the Dead Sea Scrolls do demonstrate there were many additional writings to the canonical Scriptures of the Hebrew Old Testament in the Essene community. However, this does not mean they held to a broader canon. The Essenes produced a significant body of pseudepigraphal apocalyptic literature, but they did not consider these to be inspired. They were highly esteemed as authoritative interpretations of the canonical books, but were not believed to be canonical Scripture. The pseudepigraphal work, Jubilees, originated with the Essenes and cites the number of canonical books to be twenty-two, the same as that given by Josephus the Pharisee. This fact undermines the theory of a broader Essene canon and leads to the conclusion that the canon of the Essenes was the same as that of Judaism in general. F.F. Bruce emphasizes there was no essential disagreement between the Pharisees, Essenes and Sadducees on the nature of the canon:

It is probable, indeed, that by the beginning of the Christian era the Essenes (including the Qumran community) were in substantial agreement with the Pharisees and the Sadducees about the limits of the Hebrew scripture. There may have been some differences of opinion and practice with regard to one or two of the 'Writings', but the inter-party disagreements remembered in Jewish tradition have very little to do with the limits of the canon. The idea that the Sadducees (like the Samaritans) acknowledged the Pentateuch only as holy scripture is based on a misunderstanding: when Josephus, for example, says that the Sadducees 'admit no observance at all apart from the laws', he means not the Pentateuch to the exclusion of the Prophets and the Writings but the written law (of the Pentateuch) to the exclusion of the oral law (the Pharisaic interpretation and application of the written law, which, like the written law itself, was held in theory to have been received and handed down by Moses).50

As Beckwith notes, since the threefold structure and precise number of books is supported by so many sources, the evidence strongly suggests that this structure and number were in place by New Testament times. Therefore, Jesus and his apostles were familiar with a closed canon of Old Testament Scriptures which alone are inspired-the oracles of God delivered to the Jews:

It is difficult to conceive of the canon being organized according to a rational principle, or of its books being arranged in a definite order, unless the identity of those books was already settled and the canon closed, still more is it difficult to conceive of those books being counted, and the number being generally accepted and well known, if the canon remained open and the identity of its books uncertain. Even if there were not (as in fact there is) evidence to show which books it was that were counted, sometimes alphabetically as 22, sometimes more simply as 24, the presumption would still hold good that the identity of the books must have been decided before they could be counted, and that agreement about their number implies agreement about their identity. And such agreement, as we have now seen, had probably been reached by the second century BC...The fact that the Old Testament canon to which the New Testament in various other ways refers did have a settled number of books by the New Testament times is a further indication that Jesus and his earliest followers were acquainted with a closed canon, and commended a closed canon to the Christian Church.51

Some object to these conclusions saying that there are many references by New Testament writers to the Apocrypha and, therefore, we cannot legitimately hold to the view that Jesus and the apostles subscribed to the limited canon of the Palestinian Jews. The proofs offered for this is the citations listed by the Nestle-Aland edition of the Greek New Testament which includes an appendix of supposed references and allusions to the Apocrypha and other writings used by the New Testament writers. However, the illegitimacy of this appendix becomes apparent upon examination of some of the allusions given. For example, we are told that Matthew 4:4 is an allusion to the Wisdom of Solomon 16:26. Actually, it is a direct quotation from Deuteronomy 8:3. We are also told that Matthew 4:15 is an allusion to 1 Maccabees 5:15, but the verse is a direct quote from Isaiah 9:1. F.F. Bruce gives this critique of the Nestle-Aland compilation:

The Nestle-Aland edition of the Greek New Testament (1979) has an index of Old Testament texts cited or alluded to in the New Testament, followed by an index of allusions not only to the 'Septuagintal plus' but also to several other works not included in the Septuagint. Many of these last are resemblances rather than conscious allusions; only one is a straight quotation explicitly ascribed to its source. That is the quotation from 'Enoch in the seventh generation from Adam' in Jude 14; this comes recognizably from the apocalyptic book of Enoch (1 Enoch 1:9).52

The direct quotation from 1 Enoch does not mean that Jude considered the work to be canonical or inspired anymore than the quoting of pagan poets by Paul would lend credence to any idea that he considered them inspired. The book of 1 Enoch was never considered canonical or inspired by the Jews so it is completely outside the bounds of the present consideration of the Apocrypha and the canon of the Jews. The facts reveal that there is not a single appeal by Jesus or the New Testament writers to the Apocrypha. Roger Nicole makes this comment:

It is to be noted that the whole New Testament contains not even one explicit citation of any of the Old Testament Apocrypha which are considered as canonical by the Roman Catholic Church. This omission can scarcely be viewed as accidental.53

G. Douglas Young gives a similar assessment:

Does the New Testament quote the Apocrypha? The answer is a categorical no. There is not a single quotation from any of the 14 or 15 books. No doubt the New Testament writers knew of the existence of these books. Not in a single instance, however, is one of them quoted, either as inspired Scripture, or as authority, or in any way. Not in a single case is one of them quoted in any way for any purpose. Professor C. C. Torrey, who, in his The Apocryphal Literature, lists a very large number of alleged Apocryphal quotations or allusions, is forced to admit of the New Testament that "in general, the Apocryphal Scriptures were left unnoticed" (p. 18). The alleged quotations are from books outside of those under consideration here, the Apocrypha. An example is the quotation of Enoch in Jude. All that can be said is that the New Testament authors have some acquaintanceship with earlier written materials, to which at most they allude indirectly, or with facts which eventually appear in both Biblical and non-Biblical documents.54

Bruce Metzger confirms the conclusion of Nicole and Young:

In discussing the subject of parallels and allusions to the Apocrypha found in the New Testament, it is sometimes urged that no passage from the Apocrypha is ever expressly quoted by a New Testament author as proceeding from a sacred authority. This is doubtless true.55

One objection often raised is that this is an argument from silence. Some argue that we could legitimately question the attitude of Jesus and the apostles towards some of the Hebrew Scriptures which are never referred to by them on the basis of this argument. Bruce Metzger voices this concern with these statements immediately following those quoted above:

On the other hand, however, it is also true that nowhere in the New Testament is there a direct quotation from the canonical books of Joshua, Judges, Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Solomon, Obadiah, Zephaniah, and Nahum; and the New Testament allusions to them are few in number.56

The logic does not stand. There is no real parallel between the lack of allusion to certain Old Testament books and the lack of allusion to the Apocrypha. As we have seen, the Old Testament canon was well established by the time of Jesus. He himself mentions its threefold division and Josephus tells us that those three divisions were comprised of twenty-two books, a number confirmed by many other Jewish historical sources. Furthermore, there is absolutely no evidence that any of the writings of the Apocrypha were ever received as canonical by the Jews. Historical sources consistently testify to the contrary. Some of the Apocryphal books eliminate themselves from canonical status on the basis of their own testimony. The early Church fathers consistently testify that the Jews did not receive the Apocrypha. So, the lack of allusion to certain Old Testament books has no bearing on whether Jesus and the authors of the New Testament accepted them as part of the canon because they were all part of the twenty-two book collection which was accepted by Jesus under the general titles of the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms. The lack of allusions to the Apocrypha, however, is significant because it confirms the fact that the Jewish canon, and the canon accepted by Jesus and the apostles, did not include the Apocrypha. We are told by the apostle Paul that the Jews had been entrusted with the 'oracles of God' (Rom. 3:2) by God. Though they later rejected Christ, this in no way minimizes the fact that the authoritative Old Testament Scriptures were committed uniquely to them and them alone.

The above documentation has revealed the books that had been authoritatively communicated to the Jewish people. It is the twenty-two or twenty-four book canon of Palestinian Judaism referred to as 'the Law,' 'the Law and the Prophets,' or by the threefold designation given by Jesus of 'the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.' It is this canon which is adhered to by the Protestant Church but repudiated by the Church of Rome. We end this section with the question posed by Beckwith:

To Christians, however, the teaching of Jesus, his apostles and the other New Testament writers has also a theological significance; for if they teach us what their Old Testament canon was, do they not also teach us what, for Christians, the Old Testament canon ought to be?57


Endnotes

1It has thought it proper, moreover, to insert in this decree a list of the sacred books, lest a doubt might arise in the mind of someone as to which are the books received by this council. They are the following: of the Old Testament, the five books of Moses, namely, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; Josue, Judges, Ruth, the four books of Kings, two of the Paralipomenon, the first and second of Esdras, the latter of which is called Nehemias, Tobias, Judith, Esther, Job, the Davidic Psalter of 150 Pslams, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Canticle of Canticles, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Isaias, Jeremias, with Baruch, Ezechiel, Daniel, the twelve minor Prophets, namely, Osee, Joel, Amos, Abdias, Jonas, Micheas, Nahum, Habucuc, Sophonias, Aggeus, Zacharias, Malachias; two books of Machabees, the first and second…If anyone does not accept as sacred and canonical the aforeasaid books in their entirety and with all their parts, as they have been accustomed to be read in the Catholic Church and as they are contained in the Old Latin Vulgate Edition, and knowingly and deliberately rejects the aforesaid traditions, let him be anathema (The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, Translated by H.J. Schroeder (Rockford: Tan, 1978), Fourth Session, The Canonical Scriptures, pp. 17-18).

2F.F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1988), pp. 28-29.

3Roger Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), p. 10.

4Prologue to Ecclesiasticus. Cited in The Septuagint with Apocrypha: Greek and English, Sir Lancelot Charles Lee Brenton, Translator (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1990), The Apocrypha, p. 74.

5Roger Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), p. 111.

6Against Apion 1.8. Cited by Roger Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), p. 118-119.

7Roger Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), p. 117.

8Herbert Edward Ryle, The Canon of the Old Testament (London: MacMillan, 1904), pp. 159-160.

9F.F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1988), pp. 29-30

10NPNF2, Vol. 6, Jerome Preface to the Vulgate Version of Samuel and Kings, Helmed Prologue (Prologus Galeatus).

11Cited by Lee M. McDonald, The Formation of the Christian Biblical Canon (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1995), p. 76. Translation and dates Supplied by Leiman, Canonization, 52-53.

12F.F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1988), pp. 29-30.

13Lee M. McDonald, The Formation of the Christian Biblical Canon (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1995), p. 76.

14Against Apion 1.8.

15Herbert Edward Ryle, The Canon of the Old Testament (London: MacMillan, 1904), pp. 173-174.

16It should be stated that the canonical books, as the Hebrews have handed them down, are twenty-two (NPNF2, Vol. 1, Eusebius, Church History
VI.25.1-2).

17The law of the Old Testament is reckoned in twenty-two books, that they might fit the number of Hebrew letters. They are counted according to the tradition of the ancient fathers (Commentary on the Psalms, Prologue, Dr. Michael Woodward, Translator).

18Now these the divinely-inspired Scriptures of both the Old and New Testament teach us...Read the Divine Scriptures, the twenty-two books of the Old Testament, these that have been translated by the Seventy-two interpreters (NPNF2, Vol. 7, Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures IV.33-36).

19There are, then, of the Old Testament, twenty-two books in number; for, as I have heard, it is handed down that this is the number of the letters among the Hebrews; in their respective order and names being as follows (NPNF2, Vol. 4, Athanasius, Letter 39.2-7.

20These are the twenty-seven books given the Jews by God. They are counted as twenty-two, however, like the letters of their Hebrew alphabet, because ten books which the Jews reckon as five are double (The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Nag Hammadi Studies, Edited by Martin Krause, James Robinson, Frederik Wisse, (Leiden: Brill, 1987), Book I, Section I.6,1).

21Receive the number and names of the holy books…These twenty-two books of the Old Testament are counted according to the twenty-two letters of the Jews (Dogmatica Carmina, Book I, Section I, Carmen XII, PG 37:471-474).

22Why 22 divinely inspired books? I respond that in place of numbers...For it should not be ignored that the 22 books the Jews hand down, which correspond to the number of Hebrew letters, are not without reason 22. Just as the 22 letters are the introduction to wisdom, etc., so too the 22 books of Scripture are the foundation and introduction to the wisdom of God and the knowledge of things (Philocalia, c. 3, edition of Paris 1618, p. 63).

23And therefore it seems proper in this place to enumerate, as we have learnt from the tradition of the Fathers, the books of the New and of the Old Testament, which according to the tradition of our forefathers, are believed to have been inspired by the Holy Ghost, and have handed down to the churches of Christ. Of the Old Testament, therefore, first of all there have been handed down five books of Moses, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; then Jesus Nave, (Joshua the son of Nun), the Book of Judges together with Ruth; then four books of Kings (Reigns), which the Hebrews reckon two; the book of Omissions, which is entitled the Book of Days (Chronicles), and two books of Ezra (Ezra and Nehemiah), which the Hebrews reckon one, and Esther; of the Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel; moreover of the twelve minor Prophets, one book; Job also and the Psalms of David, each one book. Solomon gave three books to the Churches, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticles. These comprise the books of the Old Testament (NPNF2, Vol. 3, Rufinus, Commentary on the Apostles' Creed 36).

24And so there are also twenty-two books of the Old Testament; that is, five of Moses, eight of the prophets, nine of the Hagiographa, though some include Ruth and Kinoth (Lamentations) amongst the Hagiographa, and think that these books ought to be reckoned separately; we should thus have twenty-four book of the old law (NPNF2, Vol. 6, St. Jerome, Preface to the Vulgate Version of Samuel and Kings, (Prologus Galeatus).

25Lee M. McDonald, The Formation of the Christian Biblical Canon (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1995), pp. 61-62.

26Henry Barclay Swete, An Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek (New York: Ktav, 1968), pp. 31-33.

27Against Apion 1.8. Cited by Roger Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), p. 118-119.

28John Wenham, Christ & the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), pp. 134-136.

29F.F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1988), pp. 33-34.

30Herbert Edward Ryle, The Canon of the Old Testament (London: MacMillan, 1904), pp. 174-175.

31The first of these books is called Bresith, to which we give the name Genesis. The second, Elle Smoth, which bears the name Exodus; the third, Vaiecra, that is Leviticus; the fourth, Vaiedabber, which we call Numbers; the fifth, Elle Addabarim, which is entitled Deuteronomy. These are the five books of Moses, which they properly call Thorath, that is law.
The second class is composed of the Prophets, and they begin with Jesus the son of Nave, who among them is called Joshua the son of Nun. Next in the series is Spohtim, that is the book of Judges; and in the same book they include Ruth, because the events narrated occurred in the days of the Judges. Then comes Samuel, which we call First and Second Kings. The fourth is Malachim, that is, Kings, which is contained in the third and fourth volumes of Kings. And it is far better to say Malachim, that is Kings, than Malachoth, that is Kingdoms. For the author does not describe the Kingdoms of many nations, but that of one people, the people of Israel, which is comprised in the twelve tribes. The fifth is Isaiah, the sixth Jeremiah, the seventh Ezekiel, the eighth is the book of the Twelve Prophets, which is called among the Jews Thare Asra.
To the third class belong the Hariographa, of which the first book begins with Job, the second with David, whose writings they divide into five parts and comprise in one volume of Psalms; the third is Solomon, in three books, Proverbs, which they call Parables, that is Masaloth, Ecclesiastes, that is Coeleth, the Song of Songs, which they denote by the title Sir Assirim; the sixth is Daniel; the seventh, Dabre Aiamim, that is, Words of Days, which we may more expressively call a chronicle of the whole of the sacred history, the book that amongst us is called First and Second Chronicles; the eighth, Ezra, which itself is likewise divided amongst Greeks and Latins into two books; the ninth is Esther.
And so there are also twenty-two books of the Old Testament; that is, five of Moses, eight of the prophets, nine of the Hagiographa, though some include Ruth and Kinoth (Lamentations) amongst the Hagiographa, and think that these books ought to be reckoned separately; we should thus have twenty-four book of the old law (NPNF2, Vol. 6, St. Jerome, Preface to the Vulgate Version of Samuel and Kings, (Prologus Galeatus).

32I say this to show you how hard it is to master the book of Daniel, which in Hebrew contains neither the history of Susanna, nor the hymn of the three youths, nor the fables of Bel and the Dragon...(Ibid., Volume VI, Jerome, Prefaces to Jerome's Works, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs; Daniel, pp. 492-493).

33Contra Epistolam Gaudentii Donatistae, ch. 23. Cited by William Henry Greene, General Introduction to the Old Testament, The Canon (London: Muray, 1899), p. 172.

34Where you get your 'lost and won at play, and thrown out unburied on the streets,' I know not, unless it is from Tobias; and Tobias (as also Judith), we ought to notice, the Jews do not use. They are not even found in the Hebrew Apocrypha, as I learned from the Jews themselves (ANF, Vol. 4, Origen, A Letter from Origen to Africanus 13, p. 391).

35Roger Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), p. 253.

36Ibid., pp. 240-241.

37Cited by Lee M. McDonald, The Formation of the Christian Biblical Canon (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1995), p. 76. Translation and dates Supplied by Leiman, Canonization, 52-53.

38Lee M. McDonald, The Formation of the Christian Biblical Canon (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1995), p. 76.

39Ibid., p. 50.

40New Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume III, Canon, Biblical, p. 29.

41F.F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1988), pp. 44-45. See also Roger Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), p. 46.

42Henry Barclay Swete, An Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek (New York: Ktav, 1968), p. 265.

43Lee M. McDonald, The Formation of the Christian Biblical Canon (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1995), p. 91.

44F.F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1988), pp. 44-45. See also Roger Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), pp. 382--386.

45Lee M. McDonald, The Formation of the Christian Biblical Canon (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1995), p. 149.

46Roger Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), p. 276.

47F.F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1988),
p. 34.

48Roger Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), p. 277.

49Herbert Edward Ryle, The Canon of the Old Testament (London: MacMillan, 1904), pp. 174-175.

50F.F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1988), pp. 40-41.

51Roger Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), pp. 262-263.

52F.F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1988), pp. 51.

53Roger Nicole, 'New Testament Use of the Old Testament' in Carl F.H. Henry, ed., Revelation and the Bible: Contemporary Evangelical Thought (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1958), p. 138.

54G. Douglas Young, 'The Apocrypha' in Carl F.H. Henry, ed., Revelation and the Bible: Contemporary Evangelical Thought (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1958), p. 175.

55Bruce Metzger, An Introduction to the Apocrypha (New York: Oxford University, 1963), p. 171.

56Bruce Metzger, An Introduction to the Apocrypha (New York: Oxford University, 1963), p. 171.

57Roger Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), p. 10.