The Council of Jamnia

I’m very curious to see how others view this “council.”

My understanding is that the Council of Jamnia is cited as the justification of the Protestant biblical canon, namely that this “council” established the Jewish Canon and rejected the “Apocrypha” (i.e. most of the “missing” books from the Catholic Bible or the original Hebrew texts). This supposedly is the foundation on which the Protestant bible. Jewish scholars claim that the Jewish canon was established well before this. Christian scholars claim the Old Testament was established. During the Protestant Revolt, this council of Jamnia was Luther’s basis for the rejection of certain biblical texts. What conclusions can be drawn if this “council” never existed, yet is the basis of the Protestant bible?

For example:

New Testament writings (included in the Protestant bible) reference Jesus as quoting or alluding to several Deuterocanonical books (i.e. the Apocrypha)…it’s a confusing post, sorry. :smiley:

This “council’s” rejection of the Deuterocanonical books was not Luther’s reason for rejecting them, it was an excuse. Jamnia was a school, not a council, and they rejected the message of the New Testament. How does that qualify them to determine the Christian canon of the Bible?

It doesn’t. It disqualifies them totally. Luther was wrong, and many Protestants know it.

I agree it was an excuse…but why continue to assert “sola scriptura” with a faulty biblical canon?:mad:

Because without it your whole construct falls apart?

Because by now most Protestants honestly believe that the Catholic Church “added” books to the Bible (possibly even that the Catholic Church wrote them . . .)

Because accepting the authority of the Church to define Scripture but rejecting her authority to define anything else is a very weak stance that requires an elaborate explanation about how God protected the definition of Scripture while allowing the incorporation of all kinds of pagan practices at the same time. . .

Mostly just because.

There is no evidence that the Council of Jamnia even discussed the deuterocanonical books and as far as I know most scholars (Catholic as well as protestant) have abandoned the theory that the rabbis at Jamnia made binding decisions on the deuterocanonicals.

Please go to Gary Michuta’s website and look at two articles there concerning the “Council” of Jamnia, one written by Gary and the other by Steve Ray.

Exactly my point! So why did Luther use it as an excuse to remove the books!? No Jewish canon was set…they only discussed like two books…

Why did Luther say he excluded the books? Did he say it was because of Jamnia? Is their a primary source you can provide?

On such questions, I transcend these concepts by merely stating that the Jews rejected the Gospels as Scriptures… Thus, anyone who uses the Jews as an authority on the what is the Word of God must also reject the Gospels.

Any Protestant Christian about to do that???


Not really.

The Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God and we see that in the New Testament Jesus held the Jews accountable for knowing what was and what wasn’t scripture. Turning to the Jews to see what they accepted as scripture (OT) does not force one into rejecting the NT. Different covenants.

Based from some former posts of mine:

The idea that there was a council in Yavneh/Jamnia, where a school of Halakha (Jewish religious law) existed, was only officially formulated by German historian Heinrich Graetz in 1871 based on what he thought was clues within the Mishna and the Talmud. This idea became popular for a while, but came increasingly into question from the 1960’s onwards. In particular, later scholars noted that none of Graetz’s sources actually mentioned books that had been withdrawn from a canon, and questioned the whole premise that the discussions of the rabbis were about canonicity at all. So, no, Luther did not have the luxury of claiming the authority of a rabbinic council - he simply moved the Deuterocanon in another section simply because they were absent in Hebrew Bibles.

Today, there is no scholarly consensus as to when the Jewish canon was set, some fixing it as early as the Hasmonean dynasty (37 BC-AD 92) and others pointing toward a later era. Jews were only starting to have an idea of a fixed, closed canon when Christianity emerged; while the Torah was universally accepted, what went in after that was a hotly debated point among the various Jewish sects and groups, the ‘Judaisms’ (as some label them), of the period. The Tanakh most likely only reached its present 24-book*, three-part form after decades of consolidation, discussion, decisions, and even opposition, long after Christianity and rabbinic Judaism became separate from one another - and long after the hypothetical Synod of Yavneh. It, like the development of the Christian Biblical canon, was a gradual process, not something that merely popped out of thin air one day.

*In Jewish reckoning, there are 24 books of the Old Testament, counting the books of Samuel, Kings, the Twelve Minor Prophets, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles as one book each:

TORAH (Genesis to Deuteronomy)
NEVI’IM (Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Twelve Minor Prophets)
KETUVIM (Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, Chronicles)

To produce a primary source would require the extensive original documentation of the writings of Luther, perhaps a trip overseas, etc…however, there are secondary sources that assert this claim. My question really is if this was the point, because it seems a serious problem for the Protestant canon…


I think I’m asking for refute/confirmation of this claim…

Because some obviously believe it is the case…

Didn’t he also claim St. Jerome’s writings justified the removal?

Sounds like Monday morning quarterbacking, friend. The OT and NT differentiation came about as a result of the Jewish rejection of the Gospels, not because of the Old/New Covenant. The first four books of the NT include largely the time frame of the OLD COVENANT! Thus, your logic fails here.

The Scriptures do not state that with a New Covenant would come a New set of Scriptures and a new authority to authoritatively determine them. Thus, it was the Church that ignored the Jewish former authority to declare Scriptures, not the Scriptures giving anyone a warrant…


I don’t see it as Monday morning quarterbacking nor do I see how the logic fails.

The first four books of the NT describe events at the end of the Old Covenant and the beginning of the New Covenant but were written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit during the New Covenant.

As for the OT / NT differentiation it seems to me you are making a distinction without a difference. Can one be a part of the New Covenant and reject the gospels? Isn’t the New Testament an account of the New Covenant which Jesus mediates?

I don’t see how accepting the OT which was entrusted to the Jews means you have to then accept the Jewish decision to reject the NT.

The material you reference above has many problems.

For example, as best I know most scholars (Catholic and Protestant) have abandoned the two canon theory which espouses an Alexandrian canon and a Palestinian canon. If you got to the page I referenced in an earlier post both Gary Michuta and Steve Ray have an article or two about this very issue.

Additionally, it’s simply not true that the canon which the Catholic Church accepts as the OT canon was uncontested between Jerome and Martin Luther. Simply read the article at on the canon of the OT for a Catholic refutation of that idea.

My suggestion would be to try to do a little reading out of the apologetics realm on this subject.

I think these guys have some issues too.

Anyway, as I said earlier I would try to read something outside the realm of apologetics on this issue. What you will find is that most of the information passed back and forth between the respective sides here at CAF is bunk…at least with regards to the OT canon issue.

Luther did talk of the Jews but he never mentioned the Council of Jamnia as far as I can find. That theory really started in the 1800’s as has already been stated.

The people that say Luther followed the Council of Jamnia seem to get there through a logic, that Luther mentioned the Jews and the Jewish canon was set at Jamnia; therefore, Luther followed Jamnia.

The whole arguement is a bit outdated because as has been mentioned, the idea the canon was set at Jamnia is pretty well rejected today, and in any case Jamnia really didn’t figure into the canon, since the idea it set the canon was predated by the canon.

A much more imediate source for what Luther did was available right in the resources he used for his translation. From Philip Schaff’s “History of the Christian Church” (you can read it at:

The basis for Luther’s version of the Old Testament was the Massoretic text as published by Gerson Ben Mosheh at Brescia in 1494. (24) He used also the Septuagint, the Vulgate of Jerome (25) (although he disliked him exceedingly on account of his monkery), the Latin translations of the Dominican Sanctes Pagnini of Lucca (1527), and of the Franciscan Sebastian Münster (1534), the “Glossa ordinaria” (a favorite exegetical vade-mecum of Walafried Strabo from the ninth century), and Nicolaus Lyra (d. 1340), the chief of mediaeval commentators, who, besides the Fathers, consulted also the Jewish rabbis.

Those resources are the immediate sources of Luther’s canon. What you find is Luther was in agreement with them. That included the Vulgate, the Glossa ordinaria, and both other Latin translations.

I’m not sure why it’s so pupular to “blame” Luther’s canon on some Council that may or may not have even dealt with canon, when the resources, given Luther by the Church spelled out clearly which books were authoritative scripture and which were not. For some reason that Luther took his canon from the Catholic Church is not popular among Catholic apologists and so they run off hunting crumbs when they have only to turn to their own libraries.

The discourse on this link appears to be an accurate summary of Catholic teaching. Before the LXX there was no set canon of Hebrew Scripture. There were several different sects of Judaism in Jesus’ time and each of them held to a different set of Scripture.

The curious statement that none of the deuterocanonicals were considered scripture at the time they were written disqualifies the opinions on this site. No book of Scripture was considered ‘scripture’ at the time it was written.

The Jews, and subsequently Luther, threw them out because they support several principal doctrines of the Catholic Church. A contradiction exists in Luther’s acceptance of both the Jewish canon and the NT books, which the Jews reject. Of course, Luther didn’t know what he believed from one day to the next, but that’s another story. :slight_smile:

While, St. Jerome may have questioned the Apochraphy, he translated, or began the translation of the books in question, into the Vulgate. The finished Vulgate on commision by Pope Damusus (I believe?) is evidence that Jerome “obeyed” whereas Luther “disobeyed,” One submitted to authority, the latter did not.

It is irrelevant that Luther held the same beliefes as St. Jerome, St. Jerome may have had his personal opinion, but in the end, his actions were in subjection to the Church. The Council of Jamia may have debunked, which only raises the question: what then was Luther’s basis for his rendering of Canon? If he bases himself soley on St. Jerome’s opion, St. Jerome’s opinion is second to his action. If it is one of antiquity where he aligns himself with the likes of Marcion, Arius and others, then Luther has a bigger problem!

Do you realize that Jerome included prologues to each book of the deutero’s in the Vulgate and in these prologues he made it clear that the deutero’s were not on par with canonical scripture? This in no small way was part of the reason many rejected the deutero’s.

Exactly how was Jerome obedient? The early councils were local councils and did not set dogma or infallibly rule on the canon (even thought Carthage and Hippo clearly included the deutero’s). Jerome did include the deutero’s but also expressed his misgivings on each of the detuero’s in his prologues which were included in the Vulgate too.

Luther rejected the canonocity of the deutero’s but had Luther been a faithful Catholic he was well within his right to do so. Remember Luther lived before Trent and Trent was the first infallible, dogmatic declaration of the canon. Even at Trent we see the Tridentine fathers debating whether or not the dc’s should be included as part of the canon.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit