This is Part 8 of 9 parts answering the basic and very important question, “What does Canonicity mean and why is it important?” Part 9 will be posted tomorrow.
In review of Canonicity: Canonicity Discovered and Distinctions.
- God determines Canon, the church discovers Canon.
- God is the author of Canon, the church is the recipient of Canon.
- God is the judge of Canon, the church is the witness of Canon.
- God is the master of Canon, the church is servant of Canon.
Why are these extra-biblical writings, like the Apocrypha (and the Pseudepigrapha), not considered part of the Canon? Reading through the various writings and books, it may not seem like all the books were that different. However, there was a Divine purpose behind each of the books that were acknowledged as Canon and the rejected books all had specific reasons why they were not part of the Canon. Let me give you several reasons why the extra-biblical books were not. First, the New Testament does not quote or refer to any of the books of the Apocrypha as authoritative, like it does the Old Testament. Secondly, Jesus never quoted the Apocrypha. Thirdly, the council of Jamnia in 90 A.D. did not recognize it. Fourthly, Josephus explicitly excludes it. Fifthly, Philo, a Jewish philosopher (20 B.C. – 40 A.D) quoted from the Old Testament prolifically and recognized the three fold division of the Old Testament, but he never quoted from the Apocrypha. Sixthly, Jerome, the great scholar and translator of the Latin Vulgate, rejected it even as he disputed theology across the Mediterranean Sea with Augustine. Seventhly, the earliest Septuagint (LXX) manuscript with the Apocrypha was from 4th century A.D. Eighthly, the early church vehemently opposed their inclusion through the fourth century. Ninthly, there are arguments that because catacombs have scenes from the Apocrypha, they should be accepted as Canon. That does not prove canonicity, but may provide historicity or at least an artist’s view of the recounted scene.
Augustine was the only voice in antiquity (time before the Middle Ages, although from the fourth to the fourteenth century) who accepted the writings, but while he was a brilliant author, he was not accurate on everything. It was the Council of Trent in 1546 A.D. that made the first official proclamation of acceptance of the Apocrypha. This was a Catholic gathering as an obvious polemic (defense) against the Protestant Reformation.
Why were they not accepted? We know they were not accepted, but why not? We are often told they are not part of the Bible, but not the “why” they are not. Again, there are many reasons. First, they have heretical teachings, like prayers for the dead (2 Maccabees 12:41-46 in conflict with Heb. 9:27). Secondly, they teach salvation by works (Tobit 12:9), instead of by grace through faith (compare Eph. 2:8,9; Luke 16:25,26; 2 Sam. 12:19-23 and also Gen. 15:6 Rom. 4:5 Gal. 3:11). Thirdly, they promote suicide as a legitimate and a noble death (2 Macc. 14:41-46, but Psalm 31:5 declares that is superimposing human over Divine volition). Fourthly, they have fanciful stories of deceit (Bel and the dragon are made to be a living God (Bel) to Daniel by using a trapdoor for them to consume the food the pagan leaders wanted him to eat. Also compare similar stories in the Additions to Esther, Prayer of Azariah and Susanna, Tobit, and Judith. Fifthly, some writings are immoral- like Judith who is assisted by God to tell a lie (Judith 9:10,13), while Ecclesiasticus (not to be confused with Ecclesiastes) and the Wisdom of Solomon teach a morality based on expedience (what works for the given moment). Sixthly, there are historical and geographical inaccuracies, like in Tobit and Judith, which have many errors. For example, Tobit was allegedly alive when Jeroboam revolted against Judah in B.C. 931 and when the Assyrians conquered Israel in B.C. 722, and yet he was only 158 years old (1:3-5; 14:11). Another historical inaccuracy is in Judith speaks of Nebuchadnezzer reigning in Nineveh instead of Babylon (1:1). Seventhly, it teaches hatred of Samaritans and magical incantations are encouraged contrary to Deuteronomy 18:10-12. Additionally, it teaches intercession by angels, which is contrary to Roman’s 8:34, 1 Timothy 2:5 and Hebrews 7:25.
These are a few reasons why the books were not considered Canon. What about the New Testament? Why were those books collected and what were the guidelines for collecting the books?
Part 9 will be posted tomorrow.