When was the Jewish Old Testament Canon Finalized



When was the Jewish Old Testament Canon Finalized? Was it done by the Jews before the time of Jesus Christ, or by the Church later on?



Orthodox Jews claim that their canon was decided at the council of Jamnia around 90ad. Protestants for some reason think that is authoritative. Christians started defining the canon in fourth century. But we do find collections of manuscripts of the OT as far back as the 2nd century BC such as found in the Dead Sea Scrolls.


I thought I read somewhere in 4 or 2BC the last OT book was written and that would suggest the closing of the Jewish OT? Not sure if okay to call it the Jewish OT, as Catholics.

Couldn’t the Septuagint be considered the closing of OT Cannon?


There is a big difference between defining the canon and when the last Biblical book was written. The Bible as we know it did not take shape until long after the last book was written. Protestantism has placde a false idea that our faith came from the Bible rather than the Bible came from the Church who is the interpreter of our faith. The Pharisees, whom the Orthodox Jews come from, in defense against the Christians who were showing that Jesus is the Messiah through the Scriptures, they consoladated their own version of the OT and tweaked it where it was convienient for them. Defining a canon only become necessary when debating with heretics and Jews who made things more complex by adding or taking away things on the grounds of Scripture.


Thank you for sharing… I seem to recall reading at one point most of what you mentioned above. So the Jews never closed the OT Canon before the coming of Christ? But only did so after the fact, and doing so after removing some of the OT books that Christians used parts of to spread the Gospel (Council of Jamnia?), as you previous mentioned? Just trying to make sure I understand you correctly.

So the Jews of Old or even the early Christians did no’t consider the Septuagint as a closed Cannon of the OT, right?


Here’s an excellent post dealing with this topic.



Thank you! I will review the link.


Thanks Copland 3 for the good history lesson.

While others question the existence or the authority of such a council at Jamnia, I don’t find it useful to argue, as others do, with Protestants that such a council didn’t happen or that it lacked any authority. Such an argument is going to get lost on a tangent discussion that probably is not going to lead to any consensus. i.e. My history is bigger and badder than your history, etc. Rather, I find it much stronger and more fruitful to argue that OK, in Jamnia AD 90 those Jews established that canon for themselves. However, we look to another set of Jews, those Jews who became Christian and who did accept the **Deuterocanonical ** Books.

See sections of Jews, and the Encyclopedia Britannica




I do find it strange that the Protestants accept the Jewish Old Testament but not the Christian Old Testament.


It’s not strange to me at all.

If it could be demonstrated that the Church “added” to the official canon somehow (i.e. by using the Septuagint), then it could also be demonstrated, within a framework of the abominable protestant heresy of Sola Scriptura, that the Church was in some way contrary to scripture.

This is the position held by my wife’s parents, everyone at their “church,” and almost every intentional protestant I’ve ever met. I was raised a protestant, and raised to believe exactly that. When* intentional *protestants are honest about what they believe, they slam the Church so far as to border on blasphemy of the Spirit. This is the thorny sea of weeds in which I was raised. I praise God that He has rescued me and my wife from this diabolical mockery of the Christian Church.


Exactly! The very sect of Jews who rejected Christ and opposed the Church are exalted by some sects of Protestantism.


Welcome Home PolycarpMeans.

Thanks for sharing.

So, what influenced you to accept God’s Word in its fullness?



A lot has been said about the basic question but a parallel note, from the Jewish commentaries, is that it seemed to be recognized, by the Jews, that prophecy from God had ended.

A very handy thing to know about the branch of Conservative Judaism is that recognize that the Torah was given to Israel, the significance of which is that they had the right to interpret it and even change it – these two often going together.

A sweeping example is that when the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD, sacrifices came to an end, and, as during the exiles, their only recourse for atonement for their sins was through prayer. so, prayer was deemed to replace animal sacrifice for purposes of atonement.

The Reformed branch of Judaism is much more liberal, you might say, rejecting the inspiration of the Torah altogether. They look for ways to redefine Judaism in modern terms, and then only as they develop a consensus of such. The $40 book on this from the Jewish Publication Society explains all this, and some of their innovations like female rabbis and divorce permitted by both men and women, but as a Catholic I didn’t get much inspiration from reading it. They allow people to belong to two religions at the same time, as long as Christianity is not one of them. Jubus [their term] are Jews who are also Buddhists. Truthfully.


The arrogant venom with which Mother Church was persecuted by the protestants by whom I was surrounded revealed to me the blessedness of that same Mother Church, and also that these same protestants lack Love, lack Charity, lack Discernment, and lack any of those fruits of the Holy Spirit which would be required to validate their claims.

As it is written… “blessed are you which are persecuted for the sake of My name.”


Thank you, interesting!


Thank you, interesting!


The “Council” of Jamnia
By Gary Michuta

Objection: “At the end of the first century, the Jews gathered together at the Council at Jamnia (also known as Jabneh or Yabneh) to discuss the canon of Scripture. From this Council, the rabbis drew up an authoritative list of sacred books which is identical to the Jewish / Protestant canon.”

Answer: Unfortunately, this short objection suffers from so many inaccuracies and overstatements that the best way to respond is to provide here a description of the real “council” of Jamnia.

After the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans in 70 AD, Rabban Jonathan ben Zakkai asked the Roman General Vespasian, who was well disposed to the Rabbi since it was known that he supported peace with the Romans, to spare the city of Jamnia and its rabbinical scholars.1 Permission was granted and the school set up in the “vineyards of Jamnia.”2 The problems that faced the new school were serious. The destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem made it impossible to continue the prescribed sacrifices required in the Old Testament. Judaism needed to make a radical change from a cultic (sacrifice and Temple centered) religion to a “religion of the Book.” This change, combined with the growth of Christianity (especially its use of the Jewish Greek Old Testament for evangelism) provided Judaism with the occasion to address the question of the canon of Scripture.3 The information that has come down to us about this canonical activity is fragmentary and certainly open to conjecture.

Note that our objector called this body the “Council of Jamnia”. Jamnia was not a council, in the sense of the Council of Trent or the Council of Nicaea, it was rather was an on-going rabbinical school. The idea of a “council” crept into everyone’s vocabulary via the writings of the famous Jewish historian H. Graetz who was the first to call Jamnia a “synode.”4 Christians interpreted Graetz’s synode to mean council. However, the word council implies quite a few features that Jamnia did not possess. For example, unlike a Christian council, there were no ballots cast, nor did this body promulgate formal decrees. Rather, Jamnia lasted for a number of years, and its significant opinions is persevered in piecemeal fashion in later Jewish writings. It is difficult to ascertain exactly what Jamnia had for Judaism as a whole. In some ways it acts much like the authoritative body of the Sanhedrin although it never took for itself that name.5 Therefore, it is inaccurate to speak about the council of Jamnia. It is more accurate description would be a rabbinical school.6

Jamnia never published or promulgated a list the list of books of the canon nor did it discuss the canon as a whole. Most of the debates surrounded the Book of Ecclesiastes and possibly the Song of Songs.7 Even so, there is no evidence that the decisions of this school were binding upon the Jewish popular at large.8 In fact, rabbinical disputes over the inspiration of certain books (e.g. the fringe books and Sirach) persisted throughout the first three Christian centuries. For this reason, the Protestant scholar F.F. Bruce wisely warns against stating that the assembly at Jamnia “laid down the limits” of the Old Testament canon.9

Like the two-canon theory, the Jamnia theory has fallen on hard times. As the Jewish scholar Sid Leiman concludes:

“The widespread view that the Council of Jamnia closed the biblical canon, or that it canonized any books at all, is not supported by the evidence and need no longer be seriously maintained.”10

If there were a candidate for an authoritative closing of the Old Testament canon in the first century AD, Jamnia would probably be it. However, there is no evidence that such a closing occurred this early in the life of this school.


If the Council of Jamnia never existed and it is only a school for rabii, how would one give themselves authority to decide the closing of the OT canon? Without the temple, God does not communicate with them at his preferred earthly place of abode. Who can claim authority? Really curious about this. If there is no official closure of the OT, then the OT would be literally handed down through the ages and the Septuagint would be last official widely accepted source of OT completion? If indeed there is an official closure, then who did it and upon whose authority? And when? Any rabbii can do it? What happenned to the Sadduccees and Pharisees? Who has the rightful authority?




That’s why the Pharisees were able to found Rabbinic Judaism - their Judaism was not centered so much on the priests and sacrificial rituals in the Temple but on the laity and teaching. That’s what enabled them to get over the Temple’s destruction.

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