Saturday, May 24, 2008

Some Protestants’ Rejection of Deuterocanonical Books (Inter-Testament Apocrypha): Justifiable?, p.3

Fact 1: Rejection of Canonical Books during the 1st – 4th Century

1. Samaritans and Sadducees (2nd century BC – 4th Century AD)
The Samaritans held only their version of the Pentateuch as authoritative while the Sadducees held only the Jewish version of Pentateuch. Both groups do not regard any other books as Scripture (L.M.McDonald, The Biblical Canon, p.136-142).


2. The Essenes & Qumran (2nd – 1st century AD)
The discovery at Qumran reveals the communities living there did not have the identical list of canon with the Hebrew Bible. Deuterocanonical texts such as Tobit, Enoch, and Sirach were found. Yet the book of Esther was not found so far. (Michael Barber, Loose Canons: The Development of the Old Testament (Part 1). Assessed on 24 May 2008)


3. LXX (Septuagint) (3rd – 1st century BC)
The LXX has been suspected to be less authoritative than the Masoretic Text which was assumed by rabbis in the medieval period to be identical with the Hebrew Bible in the 1st century AD. Yet the discovery of Dead Sea Scrolls challenges this assumption. For instance, the 1 and 2 Samuel from Qumran agree with the LXX rather than the Masoretic Text. (Michael Barber, Loose Canons: The Development of the Old Testament (Part 1). Assessed on 24 May 2008)


4. Josephus (1st – 2nd century AD)
In his Against Apion, Josephus listed a set of books that testify to the history of the Jewish communities. Yet his work cannot be taken as a given account of the sacred scripture of Jewish communities at that time because he was not concern with the list of a set of sacred scripture. He was concern with his own political standing.

Add to that, it is noteworthy that, on one hand, Josephus seems religiously reverent to the Scripture that he thinks "no one has been so bold as either to add any thing to them [Josephus' list of Hebrew Bible], to take any thing from them, or to make any change in them" (Against Apion, Book 1.8), yet on the other occasion, he exercised much flexibility when he paraphrased the book of Esther (Antiquities 11:184-296). This suggests that he does not think the book of Esther as Scripture. L.M.McDonald noted that Josephus forbade Esther from being publicly read (The Biblical Canon, p. 153).


5. Melito (2nd century AD)

Bishop Melito of Sardis in the late 2nd century travelled to Palestine for the very purpose of finding out the list of the Hebrew Bible. In his list of the Hebrew Bible, there are no Esther and Nehemiah, yet it contains the Wisdom of Solomon. Melito’s list implies two points:

a. The Hebrew Canon was not fixed and widely recognized by the Jews in Sardis and neighboring states . If it was, then Melito could just go to the nearest synagogue to asked or asked the nearest Jews.

b. The Christian community, which Melito represents, did not have a fixed list of Hebrew Bible. If not, Melito would not have to make the journey to find out. (L.M.McDonald, The Biblical Canon, p.200-201)


6. Talmud (1st – 5th century AD)
Other sources such as the Talmud and other rabbinic and Jewish tradition have listed some of the current Hebrew canonical books from being read in the public. Such sanction could only mean that these books were not recognized as Scripture and thus cannot be read to the religious communities (L.M.McDonald, The Biblical Canon, p.176-177):

Ecclesiastes – m. Yadayim 3:5; b. Berakhot 48a; b. Shabbat 100a; Ecclesiastes Rabbah 1:3; 11:9; Leviticus Rabbah 23; Avot of Rabbi Nathan 1

Esther – m. Megillah 4:1; b.Megillah 7a; b. Sanhedrin 100a; t. Megillah 2:1a; Josephus’ Antiquities 11:184-296

Ezekiel – b. Shabbat 13b; b. Hagigah 13a; b. Menabot 45a

Proverbs – b. Shabbat 30b

Ruth – b. Megillah 7a

Song of Songs – m. Yadayim 3:5; m. Eduyyot 5:3; t. Sanhedrin 12:10; t. Yadayim 2:14; b. Shahedrin 101a; b. Megillah 7a


7. Origen (2nd – 3rd century)

He does not think it is appropriate for Christians to read Numbers and Leviticus (L.M.McDonald, The Biblical Canon, p.202).


8. Athanasius of Alexandria (3rd - 4th century)
As stated in his 39th Festal Letter (or 'Paschal Letter'), he does not consider the book of Esther as canonical.

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