Did the early church accept the Apocrypha as part of the inspired canon of Scripture?
As seen in part one of this four part series, contrary to the claims of Roman Catholic apologists, neither Jesus, nor the Apostles, nor any New Testament writer ever quoted from the apocryphal / deuterocanonical writings. This leads us to part two, and the claim that the early Church accepted the apocryphal / deuterocanonical writings as inspired Scripture.
The Roman Catholic church and her apologists (both professional and lay apologists) frequently claim the early church accepted the apocrypha / deuterocanonical writings as divinely inspired Scripture. They often go to bolster their argument by saying the Septuagint contained the apocrypha / deuterocanonical writings, and since the first century Jews, including Jesus, the Apostles, and the first century Christian church accepted the Septuagint as divinely inspired Scripture, they automatically accepted the apocrypha / deuterocanonical writings as divinely inspired as well. In addition, a few have tried to claim a sort of conspiracy among first century Jewish religious leaders to remove the apocrypha / deuterocanonical writings from the Septuagint in order to remove all of the messianic prophecies, and thus refute Jesus' Messianic claims. Each of these arguments will be addressed in this installment of the series on the apocrypha.
Did the Early Church Accept the Apocrypha as Divinely Inspired Scripture?
If one were to take the Roman Catholic claims of early church acceptance of the apocrypha / deuterocanonical writings at face value, allowing them the benefit of the doubt, one might be led to believe the early church really did accept them. An examination of the extant writings of the early church fathers, however, provides a more realistic view of this topic. To begin with, let's take a look at some of the early church fathers, and what they had to say on the subject of accepted Old Testament canon.
1. Melito of Sardis (died c. 180)
Melito of Sardis was the bishop of Sardis, which was near Smyrna, which today is in the Manisa province of Turkey. Melito was highly esteemed by the early church, and his word was considered to be authoritative. The early church father, Jerome, himself one of the greatest biblical scholars who ever lived, quoted Tertullian in speaking of Melito, saying that Melito was esteemed as a prophet by many of the faithful. Melito is today well known for his work in developing the very first accepted Christian Old Testament Canon. In about 170 A.D., Melito traveled to Palestine and very likely visited the library of Caesarea Maritima, and soon after produced his list of accepted and inspired Old Testament canon. He wrote,
“Accordingly when I went East and came to the place where these things were preached and done, I learned accurately the books of the Old Testament, and send them to thee as written below. Their names are as follows: Of Moses, five books: Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy; Jesus Nave [the Book of Joshua], Judges, Ruth; of Kings, four books [1&2 Samuel, 1&2 Kings]; of Chronicles, two [1&2 Chronicles]; the Psalms of David, the Proverbs of Solomon, Wisdom also*, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Job; of Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah; of the twelve prophets, one book; Daniel, Ezekiel, Esdras [Ezra]. From which also I have made the extracts, dividing them into six books.” (as noted in Eusebuis' Ecclesiastical History, IV, 26, 13-14)
*This is not a reference to the apocryphal Book of Wisdom, but rather the five books which are considered “Wisdom” in the Bible. This line in Melito's letter might be better understood as “...Of Moses, five books: … of Chronicles, two. Psalms, Proverbs, and also of the Wisdom books, Ecclesiates, Song of Songs and Job. …”
Although it is almost certain that Melito was fully aware of the apocryphal books, he did not include them as part of the inspired canon of Scripture.
2. Sextus Julius Africanus (160-240)
Julius Africanus was at one time a soldier, and he converted to Christianity from paganism. He was known as a Christian scholar and historian. He traveled extensively, and is known to have spent time in Libya, Emmaus, Greece, Rome, Jerusalem, and Alexandria where he spent time studying at its famous catechetical school. He was fluent in Greek, Latin and Hebrew.
In his letter to Origen, Julius makes reference to the apocryphal addition to the book of Daniel known as “The History of Susanna”. He wrote:
“Greeting, my lord and son, most worthy Origen, from Africanus. In your sacred discussion with Agnomon you referred to that prophecy of Daniel which is related of his youth. This at that time, as was meet, I accepted as genuine. Now, however, I cannot understand how it escaped you that this part of the book is spurious. For, in sooth, this section, although apart from this it is elegantly written, is plainly a more modern forgery. There are many proofs of this. When Susanna is condemned to die, the prophet is seized by the Spirit, and cries out that the sentence is unjust. Now, in the first place, it is always in some other way that Daniel prophesies – by visions, and dreams, and an angel appearing to him, never by prophetic inspiration. Then, after crying out in this extraordinary fashion, he detects them in a way no less incredible, which not even Philistion the play-writer would have resorted to. For, not satisfied with rebuking them through the Spirit, he placed them apart, and asked them severally where they saw her committing adultery. And when the one said, “Under a holm-tree” (prinos), he answered that the angel would saw him asunder (prisein); and in a similar fashion menaced the other who said, “Under a mastich-tree” (schinos), with being rent asunder (schisthenai). Now, in Greek, it happens that “holm-tree” and “saw asunder,” and “rend” and “mastich-tree” sound alike; but in Hebrew they are quite distinct. But all the books of the Old Testament have been translated from Hebrew into Greek.
“Moreover, how is it that they who were captives among the Chaldaeans, lost and won at play? Thrown out unburied on the streets, as was prophesied of the former captivity, their sons torn from them to be eunuchs, and their daughters to be concubines, as had been prophesied; how is it that such could pass sentence of death, and that on the wife of their king Joakim, whom the king of the Babylonians had made partner of his throne? Then if it was not this Joakim, but some other from the common people, whence had a captive such a mansion and spacious garden? But a more fatal objection is, that this section, along with the other two at the end of it, is not contained in the Daniel received among the Jews. And add that, among all the many prophets who had been before, there is no one who has quoted from another word for word. For they had no need to go a-begging for words, since their own were true; but this one, in rebuking one of those men, quotes the words of the Lord: “The innocent and righteous shall thou not slay.” From all this I infer that this section is a later addition. Moreover, the style is different. I have struck the blow; do you give the echo; answer, and instruct me. Salute all my masters. The learned all salute thee. With all my heart I pray for your and your circle’s health.”
It is clear from his letter to Origen that Julius accepted as inspired Scripture, only those 22 books found in the Jewish Tanakh, which are the exact same books found in the Protestant Bible today, albeit arranged in a different order. That he found it necessary to write to Origen regarding Origen's insistence that the History of Susanna be included as Scripture is important, as it provides a point in time, or at least a tentative point in time, where some of the apocryphal writings start to be accepted as Scripture. Julius' insistence that the History of Susanna, coupled with his logical argument in support of his position, show an early attempt to protect the sanctity of the Old Testament canon from the inclusion of what he saw as spurious, uninspired writings.
3. Origen (185-254)
Origen was an early church father who was, in his time, recognized as one of the leading scholars of his day. He revived the Alexandrian Catechetical School which had suffered during the great persecution of the Roman Emperor Severus. He excelled in multiple branches of theological scholarship. He compiled the Hexapla, which was a parallel Old Testament in six columns, containing the Hebrew Old Testament, the Hebrew Old Testament in Greek, the Septuagint, and the Greek versions of Theodotion, Aquila of Sinope, and Symmachus (the last three were Greek scholars who produced their own Greek translations of the Hebrew Scriptures). This was a huge word-for-word comparison of the Septuagint with the original Hebrew Scriptures, and those of other Greek translations. Origen was also responsible for writing commentaries on most of the books of the Bible. He is known to have written extensively on Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, 1 Samuel, Psalms, Canticles (also known as the Song of Songs or the Song of Solomon), Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Luke.
Eusebius, in his work, Ecclesiastical History, provides a list of Old Testament canonical books accepted by third century churches. Eusebius based this list on the writings of Origen. It is found in Ecclesiastical History, Book VI, Chapter 25. It states:
“Chapter 25. His Review of the Canonical Scriptures.
“1. When expounding the first Psalm, he [Origen] gives a catalogue of the sacred Scriptures of the Old Testament as follows:
'It should be stated that the canonical books, as the Hebrews have handed them down, are twenty-two, corresponding with the number of their letters.' Farther on he says: "The twenty-two books of the Hebrews are the following: That which is called by us Genesis, but by the Hebrews, from the beginning of the book, Breshith, which means 'in the beginning'; Exodus, Welesmoth, that is, 'these are the names'; Leviticus, Wikra, 'and he called'; Numbers, Ammesphekodeim; Deuteronomy, Eleaddebareim 'these are the words'; Joshua the son of Nun, Josoue ben Noun; Judges and Ruth, among them in one book, Saphateim; the first and second of Kings, among them one, Samoel, that is, 'the called of God'; the third and fourth of Kings in one, Wammelch David, that is, 'the kingdom of David'; of the Chronicles, the first and second in one, Dabreiamein, that is, 'records of days'; Esdras, first and second [Ezra and Nehemiah] in one, Ezra, that is, 'an assistant'; the book of Psalms, Spharthelleim; the Proverbs of Solomon, Meloth; Ecclesiastes, Koelth; the Song of Songs (not, as some suppose, Songs of Songs), Sir Hassirim; Isaiah, Jessia; Jeremiah, with Lamentations and the Epistle in one, Jeremia*; Daniel, Daniel; Ezekiel, Jezekiel; Job, Job; Esther, Esther; And outside of these there are the Maccabees, which are entitled Sarbeth Sabanaiel." He gives these in the above-mentioned work.
*Although Origen lists the apocryphal Epistle of Jeremiah in his list, he does not list Baruch. This is interesting since the Epistle is often included as a sixth chapter of Baruch. Because of this anomaly, some scholars believe the Epistle of Jeremiah was a later addition to this list.
There are some interesting things about Origen and his list of accepted canonical writings. First, as noted above, Origen wrote extensively on several books of the Bible; but there is no evidence he wrote anything regarding the apocryphal books. Although he does include the apocryphal Epistle of Jeremiah in his list (which many scholars consider to be a later addition to his list), Origen specifically singles out the Maccabees books as being spurious writings, and not inspired Scripture. Also, that Origen points out there are only 22 accepted canonical books in the Hebrew Tanakh (which coincide with the Protestant Old Testament, although arranged and numbered differently). Origen then shows that he is willing to add to the accepted inspired canon – assuming it was actually Origen that added the Epistle of Jeremiah.
Considering Origen's sometimes odd theology (he believed in the pre-existence of the soul, among other non-biblical beliefs), it is not too difficult to believe that in spite of his great theological intelligence, he was not averse to go beyond established theological boundaries, including those which determined the accepted Old Testament canon. But he was not, apparently, willing to go too far as he singled out Maccabees as non-canonical. Suffice to say, Origen recognized that by the third century, the Christian church accepted as canonical only the established books of the Jewish Tanakh, the Old Testament, and not the apocrypha.
4. Cyril of Jerusalem (c.313-386)
Cyril of Jerusalem was a highly respected Christian scholar of the early church. He was ordained a deacon circa 335, a priest circa 343, and in 350, he became Bishop of Jerusalem (where he is believed to have been born c.313).
In Cyril's Catechetical Lectures (iv., 33-37), written circa 350, we read this venerable Bishop's understanding of the accepted, inspired Old Testament canon. He writes,
“Now these the divinely-inspired Scriptures of both the Old and the New Testament teach us. For the God of the two Testaments is One, Who in the Old Testament foretold the Christ Who appeared in the New; Who by the Law and the Prophets led us to Christ's school. For before faith came, we were kept in ward under the law, and, the law hath been our tutor to bring us unto Christ. And if ever thou hear any of the heretics speaking evil of the Law or the Prophets, answer in the sound of the Saviour's voice, saying, Jesus came not to destroy the Law, but to fulfil it. Learn also diligently, and from the Church, what are the books of the Old Testament, and what those of the New. And, pray, read none of the apocryphal writings: for why dost thou, who knowest not those which are acknowledged among all, trouble thyself in vain about those which are disputed? Read the Divine Scriptures, the twenty-two books of the Old Testament, these that have been translated by the Seventy-two Interpreters.*
“For after the death of Alexander, the king of the Macedonians, and the division of his kingdom into four principalities, into Babylonia, and Macedonia, and Asia, and Egypt, one of those who reigned over Egypt, Ptolemy Philadelphus, being a king very fond of learning, while collecting the books that were in every place, heard from Demetrius Phalereus, the curator of his library, of the Divine Scriptures of the Law and the Prophets, and judged it much nobler, not to get the books from the possessors by force against their will, but rather to propitiate them by gifts and friendship; and knowing that what is extorted is often adulterated, being given unwillingly, while that which is willingly supplied is freely given with all sincerity, he sent to Eleazar, who was then High Priest, a great many gifts for the Temple here at Jerusalem, and caused him to send him six interpreters from each of the twelve tribes of Israel for the translation.** Then, further, to make experiment whether the books were Divine or not, he took precaution that those who had been sent should not combine among themselves, by assigning to each of the interpreters who had come his separate chamber in the island called Pharos, which lies over against Alexandria, and committed to each the whole Scriptures to translate. And when they had fulfilled the task in seventy-two days, he brought together all their translations, which they had made in different chambers without sending them one to another, and found that they agreed not only in the sense but even in words. For the process was no word-craft, nor contrivance of human devices: but the translation of the Divine Scriptures, spoken by the Holy Ghost, was of the Holy Ghost accomplished.
“Of these read the two and twenty books, but have nothing to do with the apocryphal writings. Study earnestly these only which we read openly in the Church. Far wiser and more pious than thyself were the Apostles, and the bishops of old time, the presidents of the Church who handed down these books. Being therefore a child of the Church, trench thou not [do not transgress] upon its statutes. And of the Old Testament, as we have said, study the two and twenty books, which, if thou art desirous of learning, strive to remember by name, as I recite them. For of the Law the books of Moses are the first five, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. And next, Joshua the son of Nave, [Nave = Nun] and the book of Judges, including Ruth, counted as seventh. And of the other historical books, the first and second books of the Kings [1&2 Samuel] are among the Hebrews one book; also the third and fourth [1&2 Kings] one book. And in like manner, the first and second of Chronicles are with them one book; and the first and second of Esdras [Ezra & Nehemiah] are counted one. Esther is the twelfth book; and these are the Historical writings. But those which are written in verses are five, Job, and the book of Psalms, and Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs, which is the seventeenth book. And after these come the five Prophetic books: of the Twelve Prophets one book, of Isaiah one, of Jeremiah one, including Baruch and Lamentations and the Epistle; [The Epistle of Jeremiah] then Ezekiel, and the Book of Daniel, the twenty-second of the Old Testament.
[Emphasis and explanations added]
* This account of the Septuagint (72 translators) comes from a letter allegedly written by a minister of Ptolemy II to his brother. Some believe the letter is not genuine, however, the statements contained within it are confirmed by other ancient writings
** Again, a reference to the Septuagint.
Cyril's list of the historically accepted Jewish Scriptures, the Tanakh, as based on the Septuagint, seem to imply that the Septuagint did not initially include the Apocryphal books (with the possible exception of Baruch), contrary to the claims of Roman Catholic apologists. Clearly Cyril was aware of the apocryphal writings as he warned against reading them. However, when he lists the Jewish Scriptures that are included in the Septuagint, he does not include them in his list.
Although Cyril seems to accept the apocryphal book of Baruch, along with its sixth chapter which is comprised of the Epistle of Jeremiah; he does make it a point to specifically single out the apocrypha (apparently other than Baruch) as those writings that to be avoided. While I do think Cyril is wrong to include Baruch (for reasons that will be addressed later), it is important, very important, that this venerable Bishop of the early church cautioned the church to reject the books of Tobit, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus (or Sirach), Judith, 1 & 2 Maccabees, 3 & 4 Maccabees, 3 & 4 Esdras, The Story (or History) of Susanna, the Hymn of the Three Children, the fables of Bel and the Dragon, the Prayer of Manasseh, Psalm 151, and the additions to Esther. These are the apocryphal writings.
Contrary to Cyril's warning, the Roman Catholic church accepts as divinely inspired all of these except 3&4 Maccabees, 3&4 Esdras, Prayer of Manasseh, and Psalm 151. The Orthodox church accepts all of the apocryphal writings accepted by the Roman Catholic church, plus some of the other apocryphal writings. The Roman Catholic church insists these writings were unanimously accepted by the early church, and yet, contrary to their claims, we can see they were not unanimously accepted by all in the early church, and some, such as Cyril, actually warned against reading these apocryphal writings!
5. Athanasius (296-373)
Athanasius was the twentieth bishop of Alexandria. He was known as a pillar of the church, and he was the quite likely the Church's greatest defender of the doctrine of the Trinity. He is counted as one of the four great Eastern “Doctors of the Church,” and he has long been known as the father of orthodoxy and the father of the canon of Scripture. Recognized as one of the greatest theologians of the Church, Athanasius wrote many books, homilies, letters, and more which the Church has recognized as essential to understanding many of the historical doctrines of the Church. While he authored classics such as Against the Pagans, On the Incarnation of the Word, On the Decrees of the Council of Nicaea (which he attended), Life of Antony, The Paradise or Garden of the Holy Fathers, History of the Arians, and, Orations or Discourses against the Arians; we are interested in one of his Festal Letters, the 39th Festal Letter to be exact, which he wrote in 367 A.D., and within which he sets forth the established canon of Old Testament inspired Scripture. He wrote:
“Concerning the Divine Scriptures
“There 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; their respective order and names being as follows. The first is Genesis, then Exodus, next Leviticus, after that Numbers, and then Deuteronomy. Following these there is Joshua the son of Nun, then Judges, then Ruth. And again, after these four books of Kings, the first and second [1&2 Samuel] being reckoned as one book, and so likewise the third and fourth [1&2 Kings] as one book. And again, the first and second of the Chronicles are reckoned as one book. Again Ezra, the first and second [Ezra & Nehemiah] are similarly one book. After these there is the book of Psalms, then the Proverbs, next Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs. Job follows, then the Prophets, the Twelve [minor prophets] being reckoned as one book. Then Isaiah, one book, then Jeremiah with Baruch, Lamentations and the Epistle*, one book; afterwards Ezekiel and Daniel, each one book. Thus far constitutes the Old Testament.
“But for the sake of greater exactness I add this also, writing under obligation, as it were. There are other books besides these, indeed not received as canonical but having been appointed by our fathers to be read to those just approaching and wishing to be instructed in the word of godliness: Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom of Sirach, Esther, Judith, Tobit, and that which is called the Teaching of the Apostles, and the Shepherd. But the former, my brethren, are included in the Canon, the latter being merely read; nor is there any place a mention of secret writings. But such are the invention of heretics, who indeed write them whenever they wish, bestowing upon them their approval, and assigning to them a date, that so, using them as if they were ancient writings, they find a means by which to lead astray the simple-minded.”
*The “Epistle” is actually the Epistle of Jeremiah, and is generally considered the final chapter in the book of Baruch.
Although Athanasius includes Baruch and the Epistle of Jeremiah, it is important to note his exclusion of the remainder of the apocryphal / deuterocanonical writings from the established canon of Scripture. Athanasius did not arbitrarily invent the canon. Instead, it was developed over a period of time and the result of careful investigation and deliberation, with said investigation fully documented in a codex of the Greek Bible, as well as in his Festal Letter.
Athanasius' list of canonical books is similar to the Codex Vaticanus. In 382, Pope Damasus I compiled a list of accepted and established canonical books. His list was identical to Athanasius' list.
It is also interesting to note that, although Athanasius was well versed in Greek, he did not know Hebrew. Something he freely admitted. Therefore, he relied almost exclusively on the Septuagint for his knowledge of the Old Testament. What makes this worthy of note is the fact that although he was aware of the apocryphal / deuterocanonical writings, he still excluded them from the canon of inspired Scripture. The recognized father of the canon of Scripture, one of the greatest theologians the Church has ever produced, a monumental pillar of the Church, excluded the apocryphal / deuterocanonical writings from the accepted canon of Scripture. It is also noteworthy that Pope Damasus I also accepted Athanasius' list of canonical Scripture. From the standpoint of the Church hierarchy, this is the equivalent of having Athanasius' list of accepted canonical Scripture ratified. Therefore, as of 382 A.D., the standard 39 books of the Old Testament, plus Baruch (including the Epistle of Jeremiah) was the established and accepted by the Church Old Testament canon of inspired Scriptures.
6. Hilary of Poitiers (300-368)
Known as the “Hammer of the Arians,” and the “Athanasius of the West,” Hilary of Poitiers was Bishop of Poitiers in Gaul. He is considered one of the few Doctors of the Church, and was one of the few Church fathers of the West who was able to read Greek. In his Expositions of the Psalms, Section 15, written circa 360 A.D., he wrote:
“The reason for reckoning twenty-two books of the Old Testament is that this corresponds with the number of the [Hebrew] letters. They are counted thus according to old tradition: the books of Moses are five, Joshua son of Nun the sixth, Judges and Ruth the seventh, first and second Kings [what we refer to as 1&2 Samuel] the eighth, third and fourth [Kings] [what we refer to as 1&2 Kings] the ninth, the two of Chronicles make ten, the words of the days of Ezra the eleventh [Ezra & Nehemiah were counted as one book],the book of Psalms twelfth, of Solomon the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs are thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth, the Twelve Prophets sixteenth, then Isaiah and Jeremiah (with Lamentations and the Epistle)* and Daniel and Ezekiel and Job and Esther complete the number of the books at twenty-two. To this some add Tobit and Judith to make twenty-four books, according to the number of the Greek letters, which is the language used among Hebrews and Greeks gathered in Rome.”
*Hilary was likely referring to the Epistle of Jeremiah. Whether or not he included Baruch with the Epistle is unknown, though they often appeared together as one book.
As with those before him, Hilary did not endorse the apocrypha as inspired Scripture, instead limiting the Old Testament canon to the 22 books of the accepted and established Hebrew Scriptures. He does note that Hellenized Jews added the apocryphal books of Tobit and Judith to their version of the Old Testament.
7. Amphilochius of Iconium (c.339/340A.D.-c.394A.D.)
Amphilochius of Iconium was the Bishop of Iconium (in Galatia) from 373 to 394. In addition to the many written works he produced, his Iambics for Seleusus sets forth the accepted canon of Scripture during his time. Iambics is written as a didactic poem, a poem designed to be instructional. In the case of Amphilochius' Iambics, it is designed to help the reader learn those books of Scripture that are accepted as inspired canon. He writes,
But this especially for you to learn
is fitting: not every book is safe
which has acquired the venerable name of Scripture.
For there appear from time to time pseudonymous
books, some of which are intermediate or neighbours,
as one might say, to the words of Truth,
while others are spurious and utterly unsafe,
like counterfeit and spurious coins
which bear the king's inscription,
but as regards their material are base forgeries.
For this reason I will state for you the divinely inspired
books one by one, so that you may learn them clearly.
I will first recite those of the Old Testament.
The Pentateuch has Creation [Genesis], then Exodus,
and Leviticus, the middle book,
after which is Numbers, then Deuteronomy.
Add to these Joshua, and Judges,
then Ruth, and of Kingdoms the four
books [1&2 Samuel, 1&2 Kings], and the double team of Chronicles;
after these, Esdras, one and then the second [Ezra & Nehemiah].
Then I would review for you five in verse:
Job, crowned in the contests of many sufferings,
and the Book of Psalms, soothing remedy for the soul,
three of Solomon the Wise: Proverbs,
Ecclesiastes, Canticle of Canticles.
Add to these the Prophets Twelve,
Hosea first, then Amos the second,
Micah, Joel, Obadiah, and the type
of Him who three days suffered, Jonah,
Nahum after those, and Habakkuk; and ninth,
Zephaniah, Haggai, and Zechariah,
and twice-named angel Malachi.
After these prophets learn yet another four:
The great and fearless Isaiah,
the sympathetic Jeremiah, and mysterious
Ezekiel, and finally Daniel,
most wise in his deeds and words.
With these, some approve the inclusion of Esther.
Time now for me to recite the books of the New Testament.
Accept only four Evangelists,
Matthew, then Mark, to which Luke as third
add; count John in time as
fourth, but first in sublimity of dogma.
Son of Thunder rightly he is called,
who loudly sounded forth the Word of God.
Accept from Luke a second book also,
that of the catholic Acts of the Apostles.
Add to these besides that Chosen Vessel,
Herald of the Gentiles, the Apostle
Paul, writing in wisdom to the churches
twice seven epistles, one to the Romans,
to which must be added two to the Corinthians,
and that to the Galatians, and to the Ephesians,
after which there is the one to the Philippians, then those written
to the Colossians, to the Thessalonians two,
two to Timothy, and to Titus and Philemon
one each, and to the Hebrews one.
Some call that to the Hebrews spurious,
but they say it not well; for the grace is genuine.
What then is left? Of the Catholic epistles
some say seven, others only three
must be accepted: one of James,
one of Peter, one of John,
otherwise three of John, and with them two
of Peter, and also Jude's, the seventh.
The Apocalypse of John, again,
some approve, but most
will call it spurious. This would be the most unerring
canon of the divinely inspired scriptures.
As can be seen, there is no mention of any apocryphal / deuterocanonical writings. Amphilochius does not include them in what he calls the “canon of the divinely inspired scriptures.”
8. Gregory of Nazianzus (329-390)
Gregory of Nazianzus was the Archbishop of Constantinople during the fourth century. He was known as “Gregory the Theologian,” and is considered to be on the greatest theologians of his time. He was one of the greatest defenders of the Christian faith. When he was near the end of his life, Gregory composed a list of the accepted and established canon of Scripture. He wrote,
“Concerning the Genuine Books of Divinely Inspired Scripture
The divine oracles should always on the tongue and in the mind be rehearsed. For God will indeed give a reward for this labor, so that you may obtain light from anything hidden, or, what is far better, that you may be spurred by God to greater purity, and thirdly, be called away from the cares of the world by such study. But let not extraneous books seduce your mind. For many malignant writings have been disseminated. Accept, o friend, this my approved number. These are all twelve of the historical books, of the most ancient Hebrew wisdom: First there is Genesis, then Exodus, Leviticus too. Then Numbers, and the Second Law [Deuteronomy]. Then Joshua and Judges. Ruth is eighth. The ninth and tenth books [are] the acts of Kings [1&2 Samuel as one book, 1&2 Kings as one book], and [the eleventh is] Chronicles. Last you have Ezra. The poetic books are five: Job being first, then [the Psalms of] David; and three of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, Canticles and Proverbs. And similarly five of prophetic inspiration. There are the Twelve written in one book: Hosea and Amos, and Micah the third; then Joel, and Jonah, Obadiah, Nahum also, and Habakkuk, and Zephaniah, Haggai, then Zechariah, and Malachi. All these are one. The second is of Isaiah. Then the one called as an infant, Jeremiah, Then Ezekiel, and the gift of Daniel. I count therefore, twenty-two of the ancient books, corresponding to the number of the Hebrew letters.”
In his list of the inspired canonical books of Scripture, Gregory excludes every single apocryphal / deuterocanonical writing. He does, however, warn against “extraneous books” and “malignant writings” which have been disseminated, presumably amongst the churches.
9. Epiphanius (310-403)
Epiphanius of Salamis was the bishop of Salamis, Cyprus, near the end of the 4th century. Known as “the great opposer of heresy,” Epiphanius had a reputation as a strong defender of the Christian faith. In his major work against heresy, Panarion (viii.6), he wrote,
“By the time of the captives' return from Babylon these Jews had acquired the following books and prophets, and the following books of the prophets: 1. Genesis. 2. Exodus. 3. Leviticus. 4. Numbers. 5. Deuteronomy. 6. The Book of Joshua the son of Nun. 7. The Book of the Judges. 8. Ruth. 9. Job. 10. The Psalter. 11. The Proverbs of Solomon. 12. Ecclesiastes. 13. The Song of Songs. 14. The First Book of Kings. 15. The Second Book of Kings. 16. The Third Book of Kings. 17. The Fourth Book of Kings.[1&2 Samuel and 1&2 Kings] 18. The First Book of Chronicles. 19. The Second Book of Chronicles. 20. The Book of the Twelve Prophets. 21. The Prophet Isaiah. 22. The Prophet Jeremiah, with the Lamentations and the Epistles of Jeremiah and Baruch. 23. The Prophet Ezekiel. 24. The Prophet Daniel. 25. I Ezra. 26. II Ezra.[Nehemiah] 27. Esther. These 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 (Jews) reckon as five are double. But I have explained this clearly elsewhere. And they have two more books of disputed canonicity, the Wisdom of Sirach and the Wisdom of Solomon, apart from certain other apocrypha. All these sacred books taught (them) Judaism and Law's observances till the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Here, Epiphanius not only specifically excludes the apocryphal / deuterocanonical writings from the list of accepted divinely inspired Scripture; but he also points to the Wisdom of Sirach and the Wisdom of Solomon as disputed works – works which he has pointedly excluded from the canonical Scriptures.
10. Jerome (347-420)
Jerome was a priest, historian, and theologian par excellence. Although he wrote extensively, he is perhaps best known for his translation of most of the Greek Bible into Latin. His Latin translation is known as the Vulgate. In the preface to his Books of the Kings, written in about 391 A.D., Jerome wrote,
“That the Hebrews have twenty-two letters is testified also by the Syrian and Chaldaaen languages, which for the most part correspond to the Hebrew; for they have twenty-two elementary sounds which are pronounced the same way, but are differently written. The Samaritans also write the Pentateuch of Moses with just the same number of letters, differing only in the shape and points of the letters. And it is certain that Esdras, the scribe and teacher of the law, after the capture of Jerusalem and the restoration of the temple by Zerubbabel, invented other letters which we now use, for up to that time the Samaritan and Hebrew characters were the same. In the book of Numbers, moreover, where we have the census of the Levites and priests, the same total is presented mystically. And we find the four-lettered name of the Lord in certain Greek books written to this day in the ancient characters. The thirty-seventh Psalm, moreover, the one hundred and eleventh, the one hundred and twelfth, the one hundred and nineteenth, and the one hundred and forty-fifth, although they are written in different metres, are all composed according to an alphabet of the same number of letters. The Lamentations of Jeremiah, and his Prayer, the Proverbs of Solomon also, towards the end, from the place where we read "Who will find a steadfast woman?" are instances of the same number of letters forming the division into sections. Furthermore, five are double letters, viz., Caph, Mem, Nun, Phe, Sade, for at the beginning and in the middle of words they are written one way, and at the end another way. Whence it happens that, by most people, five of the books are reckoned as double, viz., Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra, and Jeremiah with Kinoth, i.e., his Lamentations. As, then, there are twenty-two elementary characters by means of which we write in Hebrew all we say, and the human voice is comprehended within their limits, so we reckon twenty-two books, by which, as by the alphabet of the doctrine of God, a righteous man is instructed in tender infancy, and, as it were, while still at the breast.
“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, and they begin with Jesus the son of Nave, which among them is called Joshua ben Nun. Next in the series is Sophtim, 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; and the eighth is the book of the Twelve Prophets, which is called among them Thare Asra.
“To the third class belong the Hagiographa, 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; and 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 descriptively call a chronicle of the whole of the sacred history, the book that amongst us is called First and Second Paralipomenon [Chronicles]. The eighth is 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 Law; 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 books of the ancient Law. And these the Apocalypse of John represents by the twenty-four elders, who adore the Lamb and offer their crowns with lowered visage, while in their presence stand the four living creatures with eyes before and behind, that is, looking to the past and the future, and with unwearied voice crying, 'Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and will be.'
“This preface to the Scriptures may serve as a helmeted introduction to all the books which we turn from Hebrew into Latin, so that we may be assured that what is outside of them must be placed aside among the Apocryphal writings. Wisdom, therefore, which generally bears the name of Solomon, and the book of Jesus the Son of Sirach, and Judith, and Tobias, and the Shepherd are not in the canon. The first book of Maccabees is found in Hebrew, but the second is Greek, as can be proved from the very style.”
As with the previous Archbishop's, scholars, theologians, and Doctor's of the early Church, Jerome excludes the apocryphal / deuterocanonical writings from his list of inspired Scripture. By 397, however, the Church leaders had become insistent upon including them, and when Jerome produced the Vulgate without them, the Church leadership was not pleased. Although Jerome strenuously objected to the inclusion of the apocryphal / deuterocanonical writings due to their obvious lack of divine inspiration, in the end, for whatever reason, Jerome caved in to the pressure placed upon him by the Church and the apocrypha was reluctantly included in the Vulgate – but not without a disclaimer.
In his Prefaces to the Books of the Vulgate Version of the Old Testament (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs), Jerome wrote, “As, then, the Church reads Judith, Tobit, and the books of Maccabees, but does not admit them among the canonical Scriptures, so let it read these two volumes for the edification of the people, not to give authority to doctrines of the Church.”
11. Ruffinus (340-410)
Last in our examination of the Church Fathers of the first three centuries of the Christian Church, is Ruffinus, also known as Rufinus of Aquileia and also, Tyrannius Rufinus. He was a monk, an historian, a theologian, and translator of the Greek writings of the church fathers (most prominently Origen) into Latin. In his work, Expositions of the Creed, written about 400 A.D., Rufinus wrote,
“it was the Holy Spirit who in the Old Testament inspired the Law and the Prophets, and in the New the Gospels and the Epistles. For which reason the apostle also says, “All scripture given by inspiration of God is profitable for instruction.” And therefore it seems proper in this place to specify by a distinct enumeration, from the records of the fathers, the books of the New and of the Old Testament, which, in accordance with the tradition of our ancestors, are believed to have been inspired by the Holy Spirit, and 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 Joshua the son of Nun; the book of Judges together with Ruth; then four books of Kings [1&2 Samuel and 1&2 Kings], which the Hebrews reckon two; Paralipomenon, which is called the book of Days [1&2 Chronicles], and two books of Ezra [Ezra & Nehemiah], which the Hebrews reckon one, and Esther; of the Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel; moreover of the Twelve Prophets, one book; Job also and the Psalms of David, each one book. Solomon gave three books to the churches, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs. These comprise the books of the Old Testament.
“Of the New Testament there are four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the Acts of the Apostles, which was written by Luke; fourteen epistles of the apostle Paul, two of the apostle Peter, one of James, the brother of the Lord and an apostle, one of Jude, three of John, and the Revelation of John.
“These are the books which the fathers have included in the canon; on which they would have us establish the declarations of our faith.
“But it should also be known that there are other books which are called not canonical but ecclesiastical by the ancients: that is, the Wisdom attributed to Solomon, and another Wisdom attributed to the son of Sirach, which the Latins called by the title Ecclesiasticus, designating not the author of the book but its character. To the same class belong the book of Tobit and the book of Judith, and the books of Maccabees.
“With the New Testament there is the book which is called the Shepherd of Hermas, and that which is called The Two Ways [the Epistle of Barnabas] and the Judgment of Peter. They were willing to have all these read in the churches but not brought forward for the confirmation of doctrine. The other writings they named 'apocrypha,*' which they would not have read in the churches.
“These are what the fathers have handed down to us, which, as I said, I have thought it opportune to set forth in this place, for the instruction of those who are being taught the first elements of the Church and of the Faith, that they may know from what fountains of the Word of God they should draw for drinking.”
*The word, “apocrypha” as used by Ruffinus here, is used to indicate heretical books. It does not indicate non-canonical but useful books as we use the word today.
Not only does Ruffinus exclude the apocryphal / deuterocanonical writings from the established and accepted as inspired Scriptures (just as most of the Church Fathers of the first three centuries did), but he makes two very important and instructional statements. The first is his naming those books which are to be considered useful, not as inspired Scripture. He names the Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, Tobit, Judith and the books of the Maccabees, calling them “ecclesiastical” but “not canonical,” and he states this was a determination made by “the ancients.” Second, he points out that the list of inspired, canonical Scriptures have been handed down through the history of the Church by the Church Fathers.
These two statements, especially when considered in the light of other writings by the Church Fathers of the first three centuries, show without doubt that the seven apocrypha / deuterocanonical books accepted by the Roman Catholic church (Toibt, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach [or Ecclesiasticus], Baruch, 1 & 2 Maccabees, as well as their additions to Esther and Daniel) were not accepted as inspired canon prior to at least 397 A.D. Furthermore, with the possible exception of Baruch, this was not in dispute within the Church of the first three (and most of the fourth) centuries!
The recognized leaders and theological scholars of the early Church, including seven Bishops (Melito of Sardis, Cyril of Jerusalem, Athanasius, Hilary of Poitiers, Amphilochius of Iconium, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Epiphanius of Salamis), and four leading theologians (Julius Africanus, Origen, Jerome and Ruffinus) – and noting that five of these eleven Church Fathers were considered Doctors of the Church – all rejected the apocryphal / deuterocanonical writings as inspired canon!
Additional Testimony Regarding The Rejection of the Apocrypha
In addition to the documented witness of the Church Fathers of the first three (and most of the fourth) centuries regarding the established canon of Scripture, we have other early church writings that, although they do not reject the apocrypha / deuterocanonical writings specifically, they do not include them in their writings, which is indicative of their rejection of them. For example, Philo, an Alexandrian Jewish teacher who lived from 20 B.C. to 40 A.D., quoted extensively from every canonical Old Testament book in his writings. However, he never once quoted the apocryphal / deuterocanonical writings.
Additionally, we have the writings of Flavius Josephus (37 A.D. - 100 A.D.), a Romano-Jewish scholar and historian, as well as a contemporary of the Apostles Peter, Paul and John. He writes in his, Against Apion (I.8), “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.”
What is most interesting here is, not only does Josephus provide the same list of inspired Old Testament Scriptures which were accepted by the Church Fathers noted above – stating they “contain divine doctrine, but he indicates the accepted Hebrew Old Testament canon was closed by the end of the reign of Artaxerxes (who reigned from 465 B.C. to 424 B.C.), which corresponds to the writing of the last of the Old Testament books, Nehemiah (believed to have been written between 424 B.C. and 400 B.C.). Josephus then goes on to acknowledge, “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.” This is a reference to the apocryphal / deuterocanonical writings which were written between 400 B.C. and 200 A.D.
Early Canonical Lists and Councils
In addition to the testimony of the early Church Fathers of the first three (as well as most of the fourth) centuries, and the testimony of other early writings, we have the testimony of other early lists of accepted canonical Scriptures, and also the early Church Councils.
1. Codex Hierosolymitanus
Also known as the Bryennios List, this is likely the earliest reference to the accepted canonical Scriptures. Although some scholars believe it should be assigned a later date, most scholars believe it to have been written between the late first and early second century A.D. It is written in Greek, with Aramaic and Hebrew transcriptions, and was discovered in the mid-19th century in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. In addition to the list of canonical writings, the codex also includes the Didache, the Epistle of Barnabas, 1 & 2 Epistles of Clement, and the letters of Ignatius of Antioch. The list of accepted as inspired Hebrew Scriptures included in the codex is as follows:
“Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Jesus Nave [Joshua], Deuteronomy, Numbers, Judges, Ruth, 4 of Kings [1&2 Samuel and 1&2 Kings], 2 of Chronicles, 2 of Esdras [Ezra & Nehemiah], Esther, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Job, Minor Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, [and] Daniel.”
Noteworthy is, of course, the exclusion of any of the apocryphal / deuterocanonical writings in this list, which is quite possibly the oldest canonical list of inspired Scriptures extant.
2. The Muritorian Canon
The Muriatorian Canon is the earliest known accepted canon of Scripture – dated to around 170 A.D. Unfortunately, only a fragment of the papyrus remains, and it is not in the best of condition. However, what does remain contains commentary on some of the books and writings that were, at that early time, considered to by non-canonical. The fragment reads as follows:
“. . .
The third book of the Gospel is that according to Luke.
The fourth of the Gospels is that of John
John so consistently mentions these particular points also in his Epistles,
the acts of all the apostles
the Epistles of Paul,
First of all, to the Corinthians
Paul also wrote to Philemon
to Titus, and
two to Timothy
John, writes by name to only seven churches in the following sequence: To the Corinthians first, to the Ephesians second, to the Philippians third, to the Colossians fourth, to the Galatians fifth, to the Thessalonians sixth, to the Romans seventh. It is true that he writes once more to the Corinthians and to the Thessalonians for the sake of admonition, yet it is clearly recognizable that there is one Church spread throughout the whole extent of the earth. For John also in the Apocalypse, though he writes to seven churches, nevertheless speaks to all.
There is current also an epistle to the Laodiceans, and another to the Alexandrians, both forged in Paul's name to further the heresy of Marcion, and several others which cannot be received into the catholic Church --
Moreover, the epistle of Jude and two of the above-mentioned or, bearing the name of John are counted or, used in the catholic Church;
and the book of Wisdom, written by the friends of Solomon in his honour. Proverbs & Ecclesiastes
We receive only the apocalypses of John and Peter, though some of us are not willing that the latter be read in church.
But Hermas wrote the Shepherd very recently, in our times, in the city of Rome, while bishop Pius, his brother, was occupying the [episcopal] chair of the church of the city of Rome. And therefore it ought indeed to be read; but it cannot be read publicly to the people in church either among the Prophets, whose number is complete, or among the Apostles, for it is after their time. But we accept nothing whatever of Arsinous or Valentinus or Miltiades, who also composed a new book of psalms for Marcion, together with Basilides, the Asian founder of the Cataphrygians . . .”
3. Council of Laodicea
The Council of Laodicea convened in about 363 A.D., for the purpose of addressing several issues which the Church at the time considered serious enough to warrant such a council. Among the issues was the maintaining of order among the bishops, clerics and laypeople; establishing and enforcing a code of modest behavior among the clerics and laypeople; establishing and regulating a standard approach to dealing with heretics; identifying and outlining various Church practices; and, among other things, specifying a Biblical canon. This particular issue is contained withing canons 59 and 60 of the Council of Laodicea. Canon 59 prohibited the reading of non-canonical books in church. Canon 60 provided the list of the accepted canonical Scriptures. The list, as contained in the canon 60, reads as follows:
“It is proper to recognize as many books as these: of the Old Testament, 1. the Genesis of the world; 2. the Exodus from Egypt; 3. Leviticus; 4. Numbers; 5. Deuteronomy; 6. Joshua the son of Nun; 7. Judges and Ruth; 8. Esther; 9. First and Second Kings [what we refer to as 1&2 Samuel]; 10. Third and Fourth Kings [what we refer to as 1&2 Kings]; 11. First and Second Chronicles; 12. First and Second Ezra [what we refer to as Ezra and Nehemiah]; 13. the book of one hundred and fifty Psalms; 14. the Proverbs of Solomon; 15. Ecclesiastes; 16. Song of Songs; 17. Job; 18. the Twelve [minor] Prophets; 19. Isaiah; 20. Jeremiah and Baruch, Lamentations and the Epistle [of Jeremiah]; 21. Ezekiel; 22. Daniel. And the books of the New Testament: 4 Gospels, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the Acts of the Apostles; seven catholic epistles, namely, 1 of James, 2 of Peter, 3 of John, 1 of Jude; fourteen epistles of Paul, 1 to the Romans, 2 to the Corinthians, 1 to the Galatians, 1 to the Ephesians, 1 to the Philippians, 1 to the Colossians, 2 to the Thessalonians, 1 to the Hebrews, 2 to Timothy, 1 to Titus, and 1 to Philemon.”
Before we go any further discussing the canon of Scripture as outlined by the Council of Laodicea, it is is important to note that not every scholar accepts this list, indeed canon 60 in its entirety, as original to the Council's canons. Since it is missing from some copies (thought not all) of the Council's canons, some believe it was added later as an explanatory note to canon 59.
That being said, however, it is important to note that the list is virtually identical to every other list produced by the Church Fathers up to this point. Therefore, its inclusion is by no means anachronistic. It is virtually the same list of canonical books of Scripture that was accepted as the inspired word of God throughout the Church from Sardis to Jerusalem, to Alexandria, to Gaul, to Galatia, to Iconium, to Salamis, and beyond.
Acceptance of the Apocrypha by Roman Catholic theologians between 397 and the Reformation (and beyond)
As we have seen, the apocrypha (with the occasional exception of Baruch) was not accepted as inspired Scripture by most of the early Church Fathers of the first three centuries. That seemed to change in about 397 A.D. when Augustine came forth stating he accepted the apocrypha as inspired Scripture; and not long after both the Council of Carthage (397) and the Council of Hippo (397) set forth the accepted canon of inspired Scripture which included the apocrypha / deuterocanonical writings.
One might think the issue was settled at that point. The Church accepted the canon as inspired Scripture and that was that. If one did think that, then one would be wrong. The fact is that many Roman Catholic scholars, through the Protestant Reformation and beyond, rejected the apocrypha / deuterocanonical writings Scripture. For example:
1. Gregory the Great (590-604)
Gregory the Great was the Bishop of Rome from 590-604, and he is considered a Doctor of the Church. In his commentary on the Book of Job, Gregory the Great writes regarding the apocryphal / deuterocanonical book of 1 Maccabees,
“With reference to which particular we are not acting irregularly, if from the books, though not Canonical, yet brought out for the edification of the Church, we bring forward testimony. Thus Eleazar in the battle smote and brought down an elephant, but fell under the very beast that he killed.” (Morals on the Book of Job, Volume II, Parts III and IV, Book XIX.34, p.424)
Gregory wrote this approximately two centuries after Carthage and Hippo deemed 1 Maccabees and the rest of the apocryphal / deuterocanonical writings to be inspired Scripture. That this is a Bishop of the Church who is also a Church Doctor is significant, as he is stating this in direct opposition to Pope Innocent 1 who had previously sanctioned the canonical list of inspired books of Scripture presented by Augustine, Carthage, and Hippo.
2. Peter Blensensis (1130-1203)
Peter Blensensis was a Roman Catholic theologian and the Archbishop of Canterbury and Archdeacon of Bath in 1176, and he was later made Archdeacon of London. While Blensensis does not reject the apocryphal / deuterocanonical writings, he does present a startling confession of fact in his Quales sunt, wherein he lists the Old Testament canonical books as twenty-two, divided into three categories:The Law, The Prophets, and The Hagiographa. He lists the Hebrew canonical books by name and the states the apocrypha is not part of the Hebrew Old Testament canon. He goes on to write that the Catholic Church accepts the apocrypha as a fourth division or category of divine Scripture.
What makes this important is Blensensis' declaration that the apocrypha was not part of the Hebrew Scriptures (although the Roman Catholic's did adopt them as such). This is completely contrary to the claim often made by Roman Catholic apologists that the Jews of the first century accepted apocryphal / deuterocanonical writings as Scripture.
3. Nicholas of Lyra (1270-1340)
Nicholas of Lyra was a Franciscan theologian who had received his doctor's degree in Paris. An accomplished theologian, he was a master of the Hebrew language, and he was appointed professor at the University of Paris. Nicholas was considered to be one of the most influential exegetes of his time. The Catholic Encyclopedia ranks him as “among the foremost exegetes of all time.” In his biblical commentaries he writes,
“Here begins the commentary of Nicholas of Lyra on the Book of Tobit, and first the preface to the book. 'It is right to do these things and not to omit those,' Mt 23. After I have, with God's help, written on the canonical books of Holy Scripture, starting from the beginning of Genesis and proceeding to the end of Revelation, I intend, trusting again in God's help, to write on the other books that are not of the canon, namely the Book of Wisdom, Sirach, Judith, Tobit, and the Books of Maccabees, following what Jerome says in the Helmeted Prologue, which is placed before the Books of Kings; and he says the same thing about the Book of Baruch in his prologue and about Second Ezra in his prologue on Ezra.”
He goes on to write concerning the apocrypha / deuterocanonical writings:
“it should be considered that the books that are not part of the canon are received by the Church so that they may be read in her for the instruction of morals, yet their authority is not judged adequate for proving things that come into contention” (Postilla Nicolai de Lyra super librum Tobiae, prefatio. Biblia cum glosa ordinaria et expositione Lyrae litterali et morali (Basel:Petri & Froben, 1498). British Museum IB.37895, Vol. 2). Translation by Dr. Michael Woodward).
He repeats his statements regarding the apocrypha / deuterocanonical writings over and over again through his commentaries.
4. Cardinal Ximenes (1436-1517)
Cardinal Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros, O.F.M. (1436-1517), also known as Ximenes de Cisneros, was a Franciscan, a Roman Catholic Cardinal, and the Primate of Spain. Among other notable events in his life, he is known as the Grand Inquisitor, and a promoter of the Crusades. It could be said he was the epitome of a Roman Catholic of his time. During the sixteenth century, Ximenes worked alongside the leading theologians of his day to produce an edition of the Bible known as the Biblia Complutensia. It was the first printed polyglot of the entire Bible. In the preface to the Biblia Complutensia we read a disclaimer which states the books of Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, the Maccabees, the additions to Esther and Daniel (the apocrypha) are not canonical Scripture, although the Church allowed them to read simply for the purposes of edification.
The Biblia Complutensia was officially sanctioned by Pope Leo X, thus making it an authoritative edition of the Bible. This papal sanction extends to the entire polyglot, including the admonition within it to not understand the apocrypha / deuterocanonical writings as inspired Scripture. In other words, not only did Cardinal Ximenes, the Grand Inquisitor, reject the idea of divine inspiration of the apocrypha / deuterocanonical writings; but the papacy officially agreed with him!
5. Thomas Cardinal Cajetan (1469-1534)
Thomas Cardinal Cajetan was a well respected Roman Catholic theologian, a philosopher, Master of the Dominican Order (1508-1518), and Roman Catholic Cardinal (from 1517 until his death). Cajetan is probably best known as the official Roman Catholic spokesman who spoke for the Roman Catholic church against the teachings of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. He was the Pope's Legate at Wittenberg. To say he was a Roman Catholic theological heavy weight would be a huge understatement.
In 1532, more than ten years after the Diet of Worms where Luther stood to face charges of heresy, Cajetan wrote his Commentary on All the Authentic Historical Books of the Old Testament, a work which he dedicated to Pope Clement VII. What is important to this conversation is the fact that Cajetan excluded the entire apocrypha from his commentary. Note the title of his work: Commentary on All the Authentic Historical Books of the Old Testament. His exclusion of the apocrypha seems to indicate Cajetan did not accept the apocrypha as part of the Old Testament; and, in fact, this Roman Catholic heavy weight theologian actually rejected the apocrypha as canonical. He wrote in his work,
“Here we close our commentaries on the historical books of the Old Testament. For the rest (that is, Judith, Tobit, and the books of Maccabees) are counted by St Jerome out of the canonical books, and are placed amongst the Apocrypha, along with Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus, as is plain from the Prologus Galeatus*. Nor be thou disturbed, like a raw scholar, if thou shouldest find anywhere, either in the sacred councils or the sacred doctors, these books reckoned as canonical. For the words as well of councils as of doctors are to be reduced to the correction of Jerome. Now, according to his judgment, in the epistle to the bishops Chromatius and Heliodorus, these books (and any other like books in the canon of the Bible) are not canonical, that is, not in the nature of a rule for confirming matters of faith. Yet, they may be called canonical, that is, in the nature of a rule for the edification of the faithful, as being received and authorised in the canon of the Bible for that purpose. By the help of this distinction thou mayest see thy way clearly through that which Augustine says, and what is written in the provincial council of Carthage.”
*The Prologus Galeatus, or Helmeted Preface, was written by Jerome in his preface to the Latin Vulgate.
Here we have this well respected Roman Catholic theologian, the Pope's Legate at Wittenberg, standing alongside Jerome in announcing the apocrypha / deuterocanonical writings are not canonical, not inspired Scripture. He, like Jerome, states they may be considered canonical in the sense that they are worthwhile to be read as historical documents, but not as Scripture inspired by God.
6. Jean Driedo (1480-1535)
Also known as Johannes Driedo, he was a member of the Catholic University of Louvain. He is also known for his condemnation of Martin Luther's teachings in 1519. In his work, De Ecclesiasticis Scripturis et Dogmatibus, Driedo wrote concerning the apocrypha / deuterocanonical writings:
“among the Hebrew are the stories of Judith and Tobias and Ecclesiasticus and first Maccabees, which books, although they keep and read them, yet they do not count them among the canonical books, but among the Apocrypha, not because they are false, but because their secret origin was not apparent to the entire Synagogue. But third and fourth Ezra, second Maccabees, the Hymn of the three children, and the stories of Susanna and Bela and the Dragon either they do not keep or even reject, and report that they were made up. But the Christian Church, on account of the authority of certain ancient scriptures which are read to make use of evidence from stories of this kind, reads these same scriptures with pious faith, and furthermore does not reject or despise them, even if it does not receive these books with authority equal to the canonical scriptures”
Dreido notes here that not only to the Jews not accept the apocrypha as divinely inspired Scripture; but the Roman Catholic church does not accept them as having “authority equal to the canonical Scriptures.”
These few examples, combined with the numerous other similar examples, show that contrary to the claims of Roman Catholic apologist, there was no unanimity of opinion among Roman Catholic scholars regarding the divine inspiration of the apocryphal / deuterocanonical writings either before, during, or after the Protestant Reformation. In other words, Roman Catholic church authorities did not universally accept the canonicity of the apocrypha.
The Septuagint and the Apocrypha
A common argument used by Roman Catholic apologists to support their belief in the inspiration of the apocryphal / deuterocanonical writings is, that they appear in the Septuagint, and the Jews of the first century – including Jesus and the Apostles – used the Septuagint. While this might sound like a convincing argument to some, the reality is that there is no evidence to support it.
There are currently thirty-nine extant Septuagint papyrus fragments dating from the second century B.C. up to the middle of the third century A.D. In all of those fragments, there is one mention of the sixth chapter of Baruch. There are no occurrences of Sirach, Wisdom, Tobit, Judith, 1-4 Maccabees, 3-4 Esdras, nor any other apocryphal / deuterocanonical writings. None. It isn't until the middle of the third century A.D. that any of these writings begin to be found in the Septuagint fragments.
That a single occurrence of Baruch appears in the single fragment from the second century B.C. explains why a few of the early Church fathers accepted Baruch as part of the canon, while at the same time rejecting every other apocryphal / deuterocanonical book.
In addition to the numerous extant fragments of the Septuagint, there are four manuscripts (in varying degrees of decay, and all from the fourth and fifth century A.D.) that contain large portions of the Septuagint, as well as the apocryphal / deuterocanonical writings. These manuscripts are the Codex Vaticanus (350 A.D.), Codex Sinaiticus (350 A.D.), Codex Alexandrinus (450 A.D.), and Codex Ephraemi (450 A.D.). Aside from the relatively late dates of these copies of the Septuagint, there are other issues as well; primarily that Roman Catholic apologists consistently point to these four manuscripts as evidence that, 1: the Septuagint contained the apocrypha, and 2: That the inclusion of the apocrypha in these manuscripts points to the canonicity of the apocrypha. Let's take a look at the apocrypha as contained in these four manuscripts:
1. Codex Vaticanus: contains Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus (Sirach), Judith, Tobit, Baruch, and the Letter to Jeremiah.
2. Codex Sinaiticus: contains Tobit, Judith, First Maccabees, Fourth Maccabees, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus (Sirach), 2 Esdras, the Epistle Barnabas, The Shepherd of Hermas.
3. Codex Alexandrinus: contains Tobit, Judith, First Maccabees, Second Maccabees, Third Maccabees, Fourth Maccabees, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus (Sirach), the Psalms of Solomon, Psalm 151, 1 Epistle of Clement, 2 Epistle of Clement, the Epistle to Marcellinus, and the Prayer of Manasseh.
4. Codex Ephraemi (fragmented): contains Wisdom, and Sirach.
With the obvious differences between these four manuscripts, the immediate question is, which one is correct? And, if the inclusion of the apocryphal / deuterocanonical writings is indicative of their canonicity, then why doesn't the Roman Catholic church also consider 3 and 4 Maccabees, 3 and 4 Esdras, the Psalms of Solomon, Psalm 151, the Prayer of Manasseh, 1 & 2 Clement, the Epistle of Barnabas, and the Epistle to Marcellinus as inspired Scripture as well? Clearly, the inclusion of these particular books in the Septuagint refutes the Roman Catholic argument.
I actually a Roman Catholic apologist why, if the apocrypha being included in the Septuagint indicated canonicity of the apocrypha, then why weren't these particular books considered as canon? The answer was: “because the Church determined the canon of Scripture by the Keys of the Kingdom and the discernment and guidance of the Holy Spirit.” When in doubt, fall back on the infallibility of the Roman Catholic church. It seems to be their version of the standard answer when faced with an indefensible position: “Because I said so!”
While that answer may satisfy the run-of-the-mill Roman Catholic, it does not satisfy those who have been sealed by and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and know better. The clearly broken line of the Roman Catholic so-called Apostolic succession of the popes, as well as the unscriptural doctrines promoted by the Roman Catholic church; not to mention the overwhelming evidence presented in all three parts of this series, all serve to refute that standard answer as given by the Roman Catholic apologists I have debated with.
Two Competing Canons
In first century Israel, the accepted canon of Scriptures were the same twenty-four books that are currently contained in the Tanakh (the Hebrew Scriptures), which are the exact same books as found in the Protestant Bible – albeit divided up somewhat differently. Those twenty-four books are:
1. The Five Books of Moses, known as the Chumash. This is the Torah, or The Law. We also know it as the Pentateuch. The five books are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
2. The Eight Books of the Prophets, known as the Neviim. These eight books are Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekial, and the Twelve (minor prophets) Trei-Assar.
3. The Eleven Books of the Writings, known as the Kesuvim. These books are Psalms (Tehilim), Proverbs (Mishlei), Job (Iyov), Song of Songs (Shir HaShirim), Ruth (Rus), Lamentations (Eicha), Ecclesiastes (Koheles), Esther, Daniel (Doniel), Ezra/Nehemia, and Chronicles (Divrei Hayamim).
Together, these books make up the Palestinian, or Hebrew Canon.
In Alexandria, however, the Alexandrian Jews, at some point, adopted a larger canon, an expanded canon. They accepted the same twenty-four books contained in the Hebrew Canon, but they added what we know refer to as the apocrypha / deuterocanonical writings, which are 1 Esdras, the Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus (Sirach), Judith, Tobit, Baruch, the Epistle of Jeremiah, 1 & 2 Maccabees, and additions to the books of Esther and Daniel. These books comprise the Alexandrian, or Greek Canon.
The two questions that arise are, 1: Did the Hebrew Canon contain the apocrypha, and 2: Did the Alexandrian Canon contain the apocrypha? In answer to these questions we must be honest and say that there is no definitive evidence. There is no evidence the Alexandrian Canon contained the apocrypha prior to the third century, and that evidence is fragmentary at best. The earliest and most complete Alexandrian Canon comes to us from the fourth century. The Hebrew Canon, on the other hand, seems to have been generally accepted as fixed by the first century, as evidenced by the early Church fathers noted above, as well as the firsts century Jewish historian Josephus (37 A.D. - 100 A.D.) who, in addition to noting the same books of the Hebrew Scripture as exist today as accepted Hebrew Canon, indicates the Hebrew Canon was accepted as closed by 400 B.C. with the writing of Nehemiah (see the above reference to Flavius Josephus).
That the Hebrew Canon did not contain the apocrypha / deuterocanonical writings is further evidenced by the canonical list of Cyril, the Bishop of Jerusalem which contains the standard Hebrew Canon, plus the book of Baruch (which has been noted and discussed above). If the Hebrew Canon of the first, second, or early third century (during Cyril's time) contained the apocryphal / deuterocanonical writings, it can be reasonably expected that he would have included them in his list of canonical Hebrew Scripture. Since he did not include them, it is reasonable to believe they were not considered inspired Hebrew Scriptures.
Additionally, when we look at the list of inspired Hebrew Scriptures provided by Athanasius, the Bishop of Alexandria during the mid-fourth century, again we see the same list of accepted as inspired Hebrew Scriptures that Cyril provided; and again, excluding (with the exception of Baruch) the apocryphal / deuterocanonical writings. Therefore, it is also reasonable to believe the Alexandrian Canon of Athanasius' time also did not contain the apocrypha / deuterocanonical writings. If it did, then it is reasonable to believe the Bishop of Alexandria, of all people, would have included them in his list of inspired canonical Hebrew Scriptures.
The facts here are irrefutable. There is absolutely no evidence to support the Roman Catholic church's claim that the Septuagint used by the first century Church, whether the Hebrew Canon or the Alexandrian Canon, contained the apocrypha. No evidence whatsoever.
There is another claim made by some Roman Catholic apologists, that Rabbical Jews met at Yavneh in 90 A.D., at the so-called Council of Jamnia, where two things were decided. The first was to remove the apocrypha / deuterocanonical books in order to remove all Messianic references that might pertain to Jesus (and thus remove proof of His Messiahship); and second, to officially solidify the Hebrew Canon. As with the other Roman Catholic claims mentioned above regarding the inclusion of the apocrypha in the Septuagint, there is no evidence to support these claims. In fact, there is ample evidence to refute them.
To begin with, removing the apocrypha in order to remove all Messianic prophecies doesn't even make sense. There are no Messianic prophecies in the apocrypha, because none of the apocryphal writings were composed by Old Testament prophets! Additionally, there are numerous Old Testament Messianic prophecies that Jesus fulfilled. Removing the apocrypha would do nothing to negate these prophecies. Furthermore, the “Council of Jamnia” did not meet to discuss the Hebrew Canon. The whole idea that they did is nothing more than a myth. If there was a meeting in Yavneh (I say “if” because many scholars are skeptical such a “council” took place), they met only to discuss the merits of a few books of the Old Testament, namely Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Ruth, Esther, Proverbs and Ezekiel. But not to determine the Hebrew Canon. Those who are promoting the idea that Jamnia determined the Hebrew Canon in 90 A.D., are simply misrepresenting history in order to support their false beliefs concerning the canon of Scripture.
The Acceptance of the Apocryphal / Deuterocanonical Writings
Although it has been established that the Old Testament Hebrew Canon was closed by 400 B.C. (and not at the so-called Council of Jamnia” in 90 A.D.), and that there is no evidence to support the belief that the Septuagint of used by the Jews from the first century up to the middle of the fourth century; clearly at some point the apocryphal / deuterocanonical writings made their way into the Septuagint by the middle of the fourth century, and by the end of the fourth century, in 397 A.D. Augustine and two minor Church councils accepted at least some of the apocryphal / deuterocanonical writings as Scripture.
There are three notable early Church fathers who did indeed accept the apocryphal / deuterocanonical writings as Scripture. There are, however, some problems with the reliability of these three with regard to what does and does not comprise the accepted canonical Scriptures, and we will look at each of these early Church fathers, as well as those problems.
1. Clement of Alexandria (c.150A.D.-c.215A.D.)
Clement of Alexandria is quite often quoted by Roman Catholic apologists as proof the First Century Septuagint not only contained the apocryphal / deuterocanonical writings, but that they were accepted as inspired Scripture. However, Clement also quoted from the following: The Epistle of Barnabas, I Clement, Tatian's Discourse to the Greeks, The Chronologies of Cassianus, the Apocalypse of Peter, the Gospel of the Egyptians, the Gospel of the Hebrews, the Traditions of Matthias, the Preaching of Peter, the Didache, the Shepherd of Hermas, and 3rd and 4th Esdras. Therefore, according to the logic of the Roman Catholic apologists, these books must also have been included in the Septuagint, and must therefore also be accepted as inspired Scripture. The Roman Catholic church, however, does not accept these books as canonical, therefore, the argument presented by the Roman Catholic apologists is not a valid argument.
2. Tertullian (c.155A.D.-c.240A.D.)
Tertullian is another alleged proof of the inclusion of the apocrypha in the Septuagint and it's is acceptance of inspired Scripture. However, not only did Tertullian quote from the apocrypha, but in his works On the Resurrection of the Flesh and Letter on Patience, he quoted from the book of Pseudo-Ezekiel, the Ascension of Isaiah, and the Testament of Job. All three of these are Hebrew pseudepigraphal works. Tertullian also quoted from the Epistle of Barnabas (in his work, On Penitence). Additionally, in his work, On Female Fashion, Tertullian referred to the Hebrew pseudepigraphal Book of I Enoch as “Holy Scripture.” (This, by the way, was the same work [book 1, chap.1] in which Tertullian claimed women were not created in the image of God, were the devil's gateway, caused Adam to sin when the devil could not, and were responsible for the death of Christ. Nice guy.)
Again, following the reasoning of the Roman Catholic apologists, because Tertullian quoted from the above works, we should be not only accepting the apocrypha as inspired Scripture, but also the Hebrew pseudepigraphal works he quoted from as well.
Later in his life, Tertullian abandoned the Christian faith and adopted Montanism, which, among other things, teaches that prophecy and revelation from God could come through the unintelligible babbling of its founder, Montanus, and his leading female prophets. This move resulted in Tertullian being branded as a heretic by the Church.
Although Tertullian may have been a great defender of some historic Christian doctrine, he is hardly the man to place on a pedestal as a model of Church orthodoxy, much less an authority on the canon of inspired Scripture.
3. Codex Claromontanus (about A.D. 400)
The Codex Claromontus, written about 400 A.D., is a Greek-Latin manuscript of the New Testament. It too is sometimes referenced by Roman Catholic apologists to support the inclusion of the apocrypha. Although it contains the New Testament, Codex Claromontus also contains a list of those books considered to be canonical. This list contains: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua of Nun, Judges, Ruth , Kings (contains 1&2 Samuel, 1&2 Kings, 1&2 Chronicles), the Psalms of David, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, the Twelve Prophets (Hosea, Amos, Micah, Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi), Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Esdras (Ezra and Nehemiah), Esther, and Job. The list also contains the apocryphal books of Tobias, Judith, 1st Maccabees, 2nd Maccabees, 4th Maccabees, Wisdom and the Wisdom of Jesus (Ecclesiasticus / Sirach).
The New Testament list of canonical Scriptures contains the standard accepted books of the New Testament. However, the list also includes the Shepherd of Hermas, the Acts of Paul, the Revelation of Peter, and the Epistle of Barnabas; while excluding Hebrews, Philippians and 1&2 Thessalonians. Also notably missing from the apocryphal Old Testament books are 1&2 Esdras, and Baruch.
Again, following the reasoning of the Roman Catholic apologists, we should now accept 4th Maccabees, the New Testament pseudepigrapha noted above, and we should reject 1&2 Esdras, Baruch, Hebrews, Philippians, and 1&2 Thessalonians. By now, just using the three sources noted by Roman Catholic apologists, we should have, at best, a very confused canon.
3. Augustine (354-450)
Augustine was an early Church father who, at least for the purposes of this article, seems to have been responsible for the inclusion of the apocrypha in the Old Testament canon; and, he is probably the most often used source by Roman Catholic apologists to support their contention that the apocrypha has always been part of the Septuagint, and therefore, always considered to be inspired Scripture. As fine a theologian as he undoubtedly was, however, he was neither inspired nor infallible, and he was not without his problems as well when it comes to the subject of what is and what is not inspired Scripture.
Augustine was the Bishop of Hippo (now you know why the Council of Hippo accepted his list of canonical Scriptures), and in his work, On Christian Doctrine (book ii, chapter 8), written about 397 A.D., Augustine wrote the following concerning the Old Testament canon:
“Now the whole canon of Scripture on which we say this judgment is to be exercised, is contained in the following books:—Five books of Moses, that is, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; one book of Joshua the son of Nun; one of Judges; one short book called Ruth, which seems rather to belong to the beginning of Kings; next, four books of Kings, and two of Chronicles, these last not following one another, but running parallel, so to speak, and going over the same ground. The books now mentioned are history, which contains a connected narrative of the times, and follows the order of the events. There are other books which seem to follow no regular order, and are connected neither with the order of the preceding books nor with one another, such as Job, and Tobias, and Esther, and Judith, and the two books of Maccabees, and the two of Ezra, which last look more like a sequel to the continuous regular history which terminates with the books of Kings and Chronicles. Next are the Prophets, in which there is one book of the Psalms of David; and three books of Solomon, viz., Proverbs, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes. For two books, one called Wisdom and the other Ecclesiasticus, are ascribed to Solomon from a certain resemblance of style, but the most likely opinion is that they were written by Jesus the son of Sirach. Still they are to be reckoned among the prophetical books, since they have attained recognition as being authoritative. The remainder are the books which are strictly called the Prophets: twelve separate books of the prophets which are connected with one another, and having never been disjoined, are reckoned as one book; the names of these prophets are as follows:—Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi; then there are the four greater prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel. The authority of the Old Testament is contained within the limits of these forty-four books.”
This is the standard list of Old Testament Scriptures accepted by both the Council of Hippo (397) and the Council of Cathage (397) (both heavily influenced by Augustine) and the Council of Trent in 1546, where the Roman Catholic church fixed forever the accepted (by Rome) list of canonical Scriptures. It is fairly clear then why most, if not all, Roman Catholic apologists point to Augustine as “proof” of the Church's acceptance of the apocryphal / deuterocanonical writings as inspired Scripture.
As pointed out in this article, however, the Church hardly accepted them as inspired Scripture, and in fact, did not accept them as such prior to Augustine's list and the resulting councils at Carthage and Hippo. Nor did the Church accept them universally in the years between Augustine and Trent, nor after Trent. Additionally, the Roman Catholic apologist's penchant for Augustine seems to based upon a somewhat sanitized understanding of him.
Although Augustine clearly states in his work, On Christian Doctrine, the canonicity of the apocryphal / deuterocanonical writings; in his work, City of God, he not only contradicts himself and states the books of Judith and Maccabees are not canonical, but he also quotes from 3rd and 4th Esdras which no one accepts as canonical! (see City of God, book 18, chapters 26 and 36)
Additionally, Augustine readily accepted the supernatural myth regarding the origin of the Septuagint that had been put forth in the pseudepigraphal Letter of Aristeas, which relates how each of the translators did their work secluded from the others, and upon checked their work each morning discovered they had translated each section word for word identical with the others. This allegedly proved the inspiration of the Septuagint. While it was popular during Augustine's time to accept this myth as fact, no one today accepts it as such. That such a pillar of the early Church would swallow such a fantastic myth as being factual, does not speak well for him.
At best, the testimony of Augustine is ambiguous, and at worst, it seems to indicate he either had an agenda to promote (either for himself or the current pope at the time), or, that Augustine was not as impressive a scholar as we think of him today – something that is born out in the letters between Augustine and Jerome, wherein Jerome questions the extent and validity of Augustine's scholarship. It is also interesting to note that of all the ancient Church fathers of that time period, Augustine is the only one to specifically cite the current Roman Catholic apocryphal / deuterocanonical writings as canonical, and go against the commonly accepted belief that the Hebrew canon consisted of only 22 or 24 books; instead setting the number at 44. The only one to do so.
As can be clearly seen in the evidence presented in this, the second part of this article series, the Roman Catholic apologetic appeal to the early Church fathers as proof of the inclusion of the apocrypha in the first, second, or third century Septuagint simply does not work. Their argument is, to be blunt, invalid. The earliest Church fathers rejected the apocrypha, and those of Augustine's time and later are so insistent as to be ambiguous at best. The acceptance of spurious works, myths, and heretical doctrines by these later Church fathers, adds to the unreliability of them as witnesses to the acceptance of the apocrypha as inspired Scripture.
It should be obvious by now that the general consensus amongst the early church fathers was that the Apocrypha was not part of the Old Testament canon, and not considered inspired. Jesus and the New Testament writers never quoted the Apocrypha, and the Hebrew Old Testament never included the Apocrypha, and for good reason as we will see in part three.
Decree of the Council of Trent (1546)
As an interesting and noteworthy side note, we find in the Decree of the Council of Trent, regarding the canon that was fixed at Trent in 1546, the following:
“(the Synod) following the examples of the orthodox Fathers, receives and venerates with an equal affection of piety, and reverence, all the books both of the Old and of the New Testament—seeing that one God is the author of both —as also the said traditions, as well those appertaining to faith as to morals, as having been dictated, either by Christ's own word of mouth, or by the Holy Ghost, and preserved in the Catholic Church by a continuous succession. And it has thought it meet that a list of the sacred books be inserted in this decree, lest a doubt may arise in any one's mind, which are the books that are received by this Synod. They are as set down here below:
“Of the Old Testament: the five books of Moses, to wit, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; Josue, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kings, two of Paralipomenon, the first book of Esdras, and the second which is entitled Nehemias; Tobias, Judith, Esther, Job, the Davidical Psalter, consisting of a hundred and fifty psalms; the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Canticle of Canticles, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Isaias, Jeremias, with Baruch; Ezechiel, Daniel; the twelve minor prophets, to wit, Osee, Joel, Amos, Abdias, Jonas, Micheas, Nahum, Habacuc, Sophonias, Aggaeus, Zacharias, Malachias; two books of the Machabees, the first and the second.
“Of the New Testament: the four Gospels, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the Acts of the Apostles written by Luke the Evangelist; fourteen epistles of Paul the apostle, (one) to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, (one) to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, to the Colossians, two to the Thessalonians, two to Timothy, (one) to Titus, to Philemon, to the Hebrews; two of Peter the apostle, three of John the apostle, one of the apostle James, one of Jude the apostle, and the Apocalypse of John the apostle.
“But if any one receive not, as sacred and canonical, the said books entire with all their parts, as they have been used to be read in the Catholic Church, and as they are contained in the old Latin vulgate edition; and knowingly and deliberately contemn the traditions aforesaid; let him be anathema.”
Note that last line. It clearly states that those who do not accept the apocrypha as set forth by Trent are to be cursed. Bearing in mind the large number of early Church fathers, and early Church councils, and those who accepted the canon as set forth by them; the only conclusion that one can come to is the Roman Catholic church, at Trent, effectively cursed the vast majority of the early Church, including many of the early Popes and other early Church leaders.