So what's the official story on the Jewish OT Canon?

I don’t want to focus on why Protestants have chosen their Canon; stating that the Deuterocanonical books are swell but not authoritative, because I think we’ve gone over that much.

But what I do want to know is what tradition led the Jews to exclude the larger canon that the Catholic Church has? I’ve heard some Catholics claim that the Jewish people did it simply to disagree with the CC. I think any Jewish person would disagree with that.

Also, what is the Jewish reason for doing so and does it have any merit at all?

I’ve never really read any good discussions between the Jews and Catholics on their canon; so i’m interested in opinions from all sides regarding why they chose the canon they did, and not the extra books.


My understanding is that sometime during the first century there was a movement in the Jewish community to require all of their scriptures to have a Hebraic origin. At that time, the books of the deuterocanon only existed in Greek form in the Septuagint. Therefore, since they did not have Hebrew manuscripts of the deuterocanonical books, they were excluded from the Jewish canon. It was found, however, with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the 20th century that at least three of the books of the deuterocanon (Sirach, Tobit, and the Letter of Jeremiah (Baruch chapter 6)) do have Hebraic origins.

Someone correct me if I am wrong on any of that, but that is my understanding.

Also, the following article may be of interest to you and provide some insightful information:

5 Myths about 7 Books by Mark Shea

This has some info, but you may have to do further digging of the sources:

The Jamnia School Wasn’t Christian: As I said, while there almost certainly wasn’t a Council, there was a Rabbinical “school,” in the sense of rabbis teaching students. After the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., the city of Jamnia became the intellectual and religious heart of Rabbinical Judaism. Perhaps needless to say, those Jews who had become Christians weren’t a part of the Jamnia school, so this school included only those Jews who rejected Christ or were somehow unaware of Him. In fact, the Jamnia school is a product of the Pharisees and legalists. This, by the way, is why they didn’t need a Council to produce a canon. The Pharisees had long used the modern Protestant Old Testament. It was the Hellenists, the Greek-speaking Jews, who used the modern Catholic Old Testament, while the Sadducees used only the first five Books of the Bible. More on that here.

Here is that “Here”:

“But what I do want to know is what tradition led the Jews to exclude the larger canon that the Catholic Church has? I’ve heard some Catholics claim that the Jewish people did it simply to disagree with the CC. I think any Jewish person would disagree with that.”

Regarding your broader question, the previous responses explain what I have come to understand as well.

My additional point is regarding your statement above. That is that while Judaism did not reject the Septuagint merely as a dig to the Catholic Church, it does seem as though they were rejecting Scripture that did tend to lend some support to certain Christian teachings. In other words, it is interesting that some Christians accept the canon that was rejected by the Jews for being too Christian. There are a number of other issues as well, but that may be for another discussion. But in general, it also seems that part of the reason for rejecting these non Hebraic books is that they were simply questionable in their origin and thus validity, and the fact that the Christians adopted these Greek texts made them all the more questionable. However, as another poster pointed out, we have found Hebrew versions of some of the rejected books.

One last point, the one reason the Church confirmed the Septuagint is that it was what the New Testament writers used. Researchers, including Protestant scholars, have concluded that the vast majority, around 90%, of New Testament citations were from the Septuagint. as apposed to the Masoretic Text. So, while Judaism may have its own legitimate reasons for rejecting it, it seems reasonable to accept the version of the Old Testament that the New Testament writers seem to have been relying on.

This is correct in that there was (apparently) A rabbinical school at Jamnia, where Rabbis taught SOME students), but it’s a huge overreach to attribute any authority to these rabbis over any other rabbis or to somehow think of or refer to Jamnia as the “heart of Rabbinical Judaism,” which was at the time in Baghdad and remained there for centuries. There’s also no historical evidence that Jamnia was anti-Christian as the blog you’ve cited claims; most of the information from #4 forward is pure speculation on the part of the author—which he sadly does not disclose.

I think that one of the problems one has in dealing with questions like this is that there’s a kind of inbuilt assumption that the issue has the same kind of significance in Judaism that it has in Christianity and it doesn’t.

To Christians, the Old Testament leads up to the New Testament, in it the Christian Saviour is foretold, the context of his teachings is laid out together with the history leading up to his arrival.

Judaism doesn’t ‘work’ like that - there is Torah (the Law) and everything else (the Prophets and the Writings) could really be described as commentary and explanation, the means of understanding Torah better - onto which one can add Oral Torah (think ‘Talmud’) and the works of later sages (like Maimonides) - all ways of understanding how to live ethical monotheism.

The difference isn’t just in the canon but just what the canon is about - what it’s ‘for’. To a Christian it might be seen to be a question of whether particular books are about Christ, to a Jew, it’s about what insight they might or might not be able to provide about ‘The Law’.

There isn’t an “official” story on the Jewish Scripture “canon.”

While most still repeat the story of the Council of Jamnia, such an event was a hypothesis that was first proposed by Heinrich Graetz in 1871. This theory (which was quite popular for much of the past century) alleged that a 1st-century council held in Yavneh finalized the OT canon. The historicity of this theory has been largely discredited since the latter-half of the 20th century.

The “canonization” of texts is mostly a Hellenistic invention. The apostate Marcion of Sinope (c. 85 – c. 160) was the first to introduce the idea of a “canon” or “measure of rule” for determining which texts of holy writ were inspired of God and which were not.

Marcion taught that the God of the Hebrew Bible was not the same as the God that Jesus preached about. Like the Gnostics, Marcion claimed that true religion could only be based on holy writ or a written revelation, and as such the Jewish Scriptures had to be rejected. (Some believe Marcion also introduced the idea that religious truth has to be based on a “proof texts” from written revelations.) His “canon” consisted of an edited version of the Gospel of Luke and some of the Pauline epistles. At the time of Marcion’s heresy the Church had not yet begun to think of its own writings as inspired, and the Hebrew Scriptures were considered to be without a question inspired by the God which Jesus proclaimed.

Though Marcion was excommunicated (it is said that he was “surprised” the Church would do this to him), the question regarding the “canonicity” of Christian writings remained. The “measure of rule” was not as much a question as to which books of the Jewish Scriptures were from God as much as it was: “Are there writings of equivalent authority among us Christians?” The question of canonicity of Christian writings would therefore continue for the next couple of centuries until the days of Eusebius and Athanasius circa 330-367 AD/CE.

As for a Jewish “canon,” since Marcion was a Gentile and never a Jew his teachings never affected Judaism of his period. Thus the idea of a “canon” never came up.

While some Jewish scholars believe the question of adding to the Hebrew Scriptures came to a close around the 2nd or 3rd century CE/AD, there is no consensus as to how and when the Jews did this, with some scholars arguing that it was fixed earlier during the Hasmonean dynasty (explaining why the Deuterocanonical books were not accepted as they were composed during and shortly after that period).

Interestingly enough the historian Josephus claims in his writings that Daniel wrote several books, which his people accepted and read. (see: Antiquities 10.11.7 {267} ) So obviously we are missing something here in Jewish history. Perhaps there were competing schools of thought, then as now?

Read the Josephus quote on this here:


Unfortunately your reading of this information and thinking that something may be missing in Jewish history is a conclusion based on reading things from a Gentile Christian’s point of view.

The fact that the additions to Daniel were written by Jews and included in the Greek Septuagint shows that many Jews have traditionally attributed these to Daniel (at least as far as the Greek additions are concerned). That’s why they are included in the LXX, due to that Jewish view. Jews composed them and Jews collected them and read them during the Second Temple era. So there is nothing “missing” here.

The problem is that Gentile Christians tend to see a “canon” in the LXX where none exists.

From the Jewish perspective the Scriptures are divided from the other writings based on language and era. The additions to Daniel are believed to have originated during the time of the Second Temple era and were composed in Septuagint/Koine Greek. The earlier form of the book is composed in Hebrew with sections in Aramaic transliterated with Hebrew characters.

So when the Jews speak of the Hebrew Scriptures they mean just that, namely the Scriptures composed in Hebrew. The additions to Daniel were not inscribed in Hebrew and thus are not found in the Tanakh (what Christians call the “Old Testament”). Again this is a division by language as the additions are included in the Septuagint because they are Greek.

Now because they are included in the LXX does this mean that they are “inspired” as Christians use the term? Not exactly. You see the questions about inspiration have to do with the Christian writings, not the Jewish writings. The Jewish writings were always viewed by the Christians as inspired of God because they believed the worship of the Jews came directly from God. (2 Timothy 3:16) The worship of the God of Abraham did not originate with fables, pagan gods, or even the writings of the Scriptures themselves. The religion of the Jews is a product of a series of theophanies, and in turn their Scriptures are the product of their God-inspired religion.

The Tanakh and the LXX have different lists, but they are collections of holy texts with different purposes. They are not “canons” of texts that have met some agreed upon standards like the New Testament writings are. The Tanakh or Hebrew Scriptures has the collection of Hebrew books that are a cornerstone of Judaism, whereas the LXX contains these and other writings composed in Greek that met the needs of Greek-speaking Jews and contained works read among the Diaspora.

Since the apostles and early Church used the LXX as their accepted version of the Jewish Scriptures, that version was canonized by the Church. Such canonization is not to be mistaken as claiming that the Jews did the same thing with these writings.

Just because Josephus made mention of Daniel being the composer of books that Catholics accept as canonical does not mean that Jews were canonizing anything by the same standards. He is just repeating what the Jews who composed and constructed the LXX did. The implication that canonization by Christian standards does not exist.

Oops–almost forgot.

You are also correct in that there are different “schools of thought” going on here. Some Jews felt that these additions held some merit equal to the Hebrew version (which is why they were added to the LXX version), whereas others did not.

Since the concept of “canon” as we know it has much to be owed to Marcion of Sinope, a figure much later in history than the composition of the LXX, the inclusion of these additions or even the view that these Greek redactions were of equal merit cannot be construed to fit the later “canonization” process. It is easy to read this in such an anachronistic way, nevertheless, as we all have the habit of seeing the past through modern eyes.

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