Apocryphal Books - a new twist on an old accusation

The other day I was “informed” by my staunchly sola scriptura fundamentalist friend that the Catholic Church added books to the Bible.

After a lot of back and forth and research on his part, he finally had to admit that the “apocryphal” books were there all along and that King James removed them much later.

BUT he said, after he recovered, the Catholics ADDED them to the Old Testament!! His implication was that the Old Testament was not something to be messed with.

How do I address this?

Just off the top of my head, the protestants use the Palestinian Canon and we use the the Alexandrian Canon. When the Jews returned to Palestine after the dispersion, not all of them returned because they were being treated well. The center of learning was in Alexandria in Egypt and this is where the Old Testament was translated into Greek, the language used by most of the jews. Hebrew, at that time, was a dying language. It was translated in Alexandria between 250-125 BC. the Palestinian Canon was established in Jamnia around 100ad by jews who had rejected Jesus.

King James did not remove the “apocryphal” books; they were placed in between the Old and New Testaments in the original version of the translation that bears his name. These books were eliminated in later printings because of the objections of some Protestants.

The history of the development of the Old Testament canon is not entirely certain. It is clear, however, that after Judaism and Christianity separated the development of their respective Old Testament canons took different courses. There was still some debate among the Jews as to what should be included in their canon as late as 200 A.D., so it would not be accurate to suggest that the current Jewish canon was fixed before the time of Christ, only to be added to later by some hypothetical corrupted Church.

What eventually became a criterion for inclusion in the Jewish Canon was that the book in question be extant in the Hebrew language. There were some books that were not included because, although they might have originally been written in Hebrew, they had become available only in the Greek language and were part of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament (most of the Old Testament quotes in the New Testament are from the Septuagint). The Jews had come to distrust the Septuagint because it was the Old Testament used by the Christians, although the Septuagint was a translation made by Jews that was completed before the time of Christ. Obviously, neither the Hebrew language requirement nor the distrust of the Septuagint were issues for the Christians, and so the Church continued to consider those books that were in the Septuagint, but not written or extant in Hebrew, as Scripture. After the Protestant Reformation, the Protestants, for whatever reason, began to hold to the Jewish canon rather than the traditional Christian one.

It is noteworthy that every Christian tradition that is older than Protestantism holds to an Old Testament canon that is larger than the Jewish canon. There are, it should be pointed out, variations among those traditions. For example, the Orthodox Old Testament canon contains some books that are not in the Catholic canon. Moreover, there were some early Christian voices for the Jewish canon: Jerome, for example. But no Christian tradition as a body held to the Jewish canon until the rise of Protestantism.

This subject could take up a whole book, so what I’ve written here is abbreviated and incomplete. But it is clear that your friend has been grievously misinformed about the history of the development of the Old Testament canon. This is what happens when the interests of polemics override those of truth-seeking.

Hi JackQ…thanks for your post. I learned a lot. . Can you point me towards sources so that I can learn more about the history of the OT?:slight_smile:

Justin Martyr was an early Christian apologist who lived from 103–165 AD. He wrote Dialogue with Trypho, about a conversation between himself and a Jew named Trypho. He says this to Trypho in Chapter 71:

“But I am far from putting reliance in your teachers, who refuse to admit that the interpretation made by the seventy elders who were with Ptolemy [king] of the Egyptians is a correct one; and they attempt to frame another. And I wish you to observe, that they have altogether taken away many Scriptures from the translations effected by those seventy elders who were with Ptolemy, and by which this very man who was crucified is proved to have been set forth expressly as God, and man, and as being crucified, and as dying; but since I am aware that this is denied by all of your nation, I do not address myself to these points, but I proceed to carry on my discussions by means of those passages which are still admitted by you.”

The interpretation made by the seventy elders referred to is the Septuagint translation. You can see here how at this early date there was already a dispute between the Christians and the Jews as to what books should be included in the Old Testament.

But we can’t give in to oversimplification. Your friend will be able to cite Eusebius’ quotation of Melito, bishop of Sardis in the Second Century, who lists the books of the Old Testament in accordance with the Jewish canon, except he leaves out the Book of Esther, and includes the Book of Wisdom.

So, as far as sources go, it depends on what you’re looking for. If you want primary sources, you’ll have to go to the Church Fathers. Their writings appear to be available online for the most part. New Advent has a nice collection. Christian Classics Ethereal Library is a great resource. Also Catholic Answers has a “Faith Tract” on the Old Testament canon that puts together a number of quotes from early Councils and Church Fathers.

In the meantime, it is important to keep in mind that the dispute is really about the authority of the Church. Does the Church have the authority and the guidance of the Holy Spirit to declare what the biblical canon is or not? That the Church has such authority and guidance can be shown from Scripture quite easily. And Catholics and Protestants agree on what books comprise the New Testament.

I’ve heard, too, that the Dead Sea scrolls contained at least some of the so-called “apocryphal” books in Hebrew, and the DSS are the oldest existing texts of scripture.

So, it seems that Martin Luther was several hundred years premature in condemning the apocryphal books for not being in Hebrew.

I wrote an FAQ on the history of the apocryphal books on my blog – enjoy!

forallthesaintsblog.blogspot.com/2011/02/how-catholics-and-protestants-got.html

In short, the Jews canonized the Old Testament in the second century (Protestant canon), the Christians canonized the Old Testament in the fourth century (Catholic canon), and the Protestants went back to the Jewish canon in the sixteenth century.

This is, of course, massively oversimplified. But you get the picture.

To be more exact, Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic. Five fragments of Tobit (four in Aramaic, one in Hebrew) from Cave 4, three copies of Sirach (two of these, preserving portions of just three chapters, discovered at Qumran, with the third manuscript, representing six chapters, found at Masada), and one very badly-fragmented copy of the Epistle of Jeremiah in Greek. So there; we at least have witnesses for three of the seven books.

We do not have copies of Baruch, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, and Wisdom of Solomon. The book of Esther is also not among the DSS (the only protocanonical book not represented if you do not count Nehemiah), and the eight manuscripts of Daniel found in Qumran - two in Cave 1, five in Cave 4, and one in Cave 6, all written within a space of 125 BC (the earliest copy 4QDan[sup]c[/sup]) up to AD 50 (the latest copy 4QDan[sup]b[/sup]) - are all incomplete, and seven of the eight manuscripts seem to contain the shorter Hebrew form instead of the longer Septuagint version. (In 1QDan[sup]b[/sup] and 4QDan[sup]d[/sup] for example, Daniel 3:23 is not followed by the Prayer of Azariah, but continues on to 3:24). The eighth manuscript, 4QDan[sup]e[/sup], meanwhile is possible to have been an abbreviated text that included only the prayer of Daniel (9:4b-19), since it preserves text only from chapter 9.

Oddly though we do have a Hebrew text of Psalm 151, found in the Septuagint - and accepted by the Eastern Orthodox as canonical - preserved in column 28 of the Great Psalms Scroll (11QPs[sup]a[/sup]) found in Cave 11. We even have the Hebrew texts of Psalms 154 and 155, which were until then extant only in Syriac!

AND because printers found out that it reduced the cost, while having increased market appeal to non-Anglican Protestant readers, which means more profits. The irony of history is that the fatal stroke to the Deuterocanon in the English Bible was dealt not by some ‘reformer’, but by publishers who merely saw the commercial value of having thinner Bibles. Besides, who uses 'em? :wink:

The history of the development of the Old Testament canon is not entirely certain. It is clear, however, that after Judaism and Christianity separated the development of their respective Old Testament canons took different courses. There was still some debate among the Jews as to what should be included in their canon as late as 200 A.D., so it would not be accurate to suggest that the current Jewish canon was fixed before the time of Christ, only to be added to later by some hypothetical corrupted Church.

Correct. There was even no concept of a ‘fixed canon’ at the time when Christianity began to emerge. Jews everywhere pretty much agreed that the Torah held some position of authority, but no one agreed on what books came in after that. Ask several people and you’ll likely get different answers.

It is noteworthy that every Christian tradition that is older than Protestantism holds to an Old Testament canon that is larger than the Jewish canon. There are, it should be pointed out, variations among those traditions. For example, the Orthodox Old Testament canon contains some books that are not in the Catholic canon. Moreover, there were some early Christian voices for the Jewish canon: Jerome, for example. But no Christian tradition as a body held to the Jewish canon until the rise of Protestantism.

Good point! If you’d notice, the Eastern Orthodox has a few more books than Catholics, and the Tewahedo Church in Ethiopia also have their own distinctive canon. Yet the one things that binds all of us is, that we all accept the seven books in question, leaving Protestants pretty much the odd man out. :smiley:

Catholics United for the Faith (www.cuf.org) has “Faith Facts” that you can look up on their website, and type in the search box “canon” and there’s an article about how we got the different canons of Scripture with very specific informaton.

I was an evangelical Protestant for over 20 years and always heard the (false) story that the Catholic Church “added” the deuterocanonicals at the Council of Trent. Someone else has already noted on this thread that the Orthodox have the deuterocanonicals in their OT plus some additional ones not in the Catholic or Protestant OTs, and the Orthodox split from Rome in 1054. If adding the deuterocanonicals was something the Catholic Church did on its own, then why do the Orthodox have those same books in their OT? I’ve never had a Protestant answer that question when I’ve asked it.

Thanks Veritas…I will check that out!

Mary ask him to read a copy of The Oracles of God: The Old Testament Canon
by Steinmann, Andrew E with you.

What Patrick said.:thumbsup:

I am so glad to be learning about the Old Testament canons! Thanks for all the posts. I love this place!!! :thumbsup:

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