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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
BOOKS OF THE OLD TESTAMENT, a term applied in modern times to denote those sacred books which, originally denominated ecelesiastical and apocryphal, were not in the Jewish or Hebrew Canon, but, as being contained in the old Greek versions, were publicly read in the early Christian Church. (See APOCRYPHA). For the suspected books of the New Testament, (See ANTILEGOMENA).
1. It is acknowledged by all that these books never had a place in the Jewish Canon. The Roman Catholic professor Alber, of Pesth (who considers them as of equal authority with the received books of the Hebrew Canon), observes: ‘ The Deutero-canonical books are those which the Jews had not in their Canon, but are, notwithstanding, received by the Christian Church, concerning which, on this very account of their not having been in the Jewish Canon, there has existed some doubt even in the Church" (institut. Hermeneut. vol. 1, ch. 8, 9). Josephus, a contemporary of the apostles, after describing the Jewish Canon (Apion, 1:8), which he says consists of twenty-two books, remarks: "But from the reign of Artaxerxes to within our memory there have been several things committed to writing which, however, have not acquired the same degree of credit and authority as the former books, inasmuch as the tradition and succession of the prophets were less certain." It has been shown by Hornemann (Observat. ad illust. doctr. de Canon. V. T. ex Philone) that, although Philo was acquainted with the books in question, he has not cited any of them, at least with the view of establishing any proposition.
2. Among the early Christian writers, Jerome, in his Prefaces, gives us the most complete information that we possess regarding the authority of these books in his time. After enumerating the twenty-two books of the Hebrew Canon, consisting of the Law, the Prophets, and the Hagiographa, he adds: "This prologue I write as a preface to the books to be translated by us from the Hebrew into Latin, that we may know that all the books which are not of this number are apocryphal; therefore Wisdom, which is commonly ascribed to Solomon as its author, and the book of Jesus the son of Sirach, Judith, Tobit, and the Shepherd, are not in the Canon." Again, in the preface to his translation of the books of Solomon from the Hebrew, he observes: "These three books (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Canticles) only are Solomon's. There is also the Book of Jesus the son of Sirach, and another pseud-epigraphal book, called the Wisdom of Solomon; the former of which I have seen in Hebrew, called not Ecclesiasticus, as among the Latins, but the Parables; with which likewise have been joined Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs, that the collection might the better resemble the books of Solomon both in matter and design. The second is not to be found at all among the Hebrews, and the style plainly evinces its Greek original: some ancient writers say it is a work of Philo the Jew. As, therefore, the Church reads Judith and Tobit, and the books of Maccabees, but does not receive them among the Canonical Scriptures, so likewise it may read these two books for the edification of the people, but not as of authority for proving any doctrines of religion (ad cedificationemplebis, nonc ad auctoritatem ecclesiasticorun dogmatum confirmandam)." Of Baruch he says that he does "not translate it because it was not in Hebrew, nor received by the Jews." He never translated Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, or either of the books of Maccabees, and observes that "such books as are not of the twenty-four letters are to be utterly rejected" (Praef. ad Ezram). In his Preface to Judith he says, in like manner, "Among the Hebrews this book is read among the hagiographa (or, according to some manuscripts, apocrypha), whose authority is not judged sufficient to support disputed matters." He adds, at the same time, that "the Council of Nice is said to have included it in the catalogue of the holy Scriptures." We have, however, no authority for supposing that the' Council of Nice ever formed such a catalogue. There is no account of the matter in any of its acts which have reached us. There is, indeed, a catalogue, as is observed by Mr. Jones, attributed by Pappus, in his Synodicon, to this council, with this relation: "That the bishops there assembled were, by a very extraordinary miracle, convinced which were inspired and which were apocryphal books, after this manner: Having put all the books that laid claim to inspiration under the communion-table (τ῝ א θείᾷ τραπέζῃ ) in a church, they prayed to God that those which were of divine inspiration might be found above or upon the table, and those which were apocryphal might be found under; and, accordingly, as they prayed, it came to pass." This is universally acknowledged to be a fable, and cardinal Bellarmine (De Verbo Dei) admits that there could have been no canon determined on by the Nicene Council, as in that case none would have ventured to reject it; but he supposes that Jerome may have found in some. of its acts, now lost, some citation from the book of Judith. Bellarmine further admits that in Jerome's time the ecclesiastical books, although read in the churches, were neither in the Jewish nor Christian Canon, inasmuch as no general council had yet determined anything concernig them.
Rufinus made the same distinction with regard to the books of Scripture that Jerome did. After enumerating the books of the Old and New Testaments exactly according to the Jewish Canon, saying, "These are the volumes which the fathers have included in the Canon, and out of which they would have us prove the doctrines of our faith," he adds, "however, it ought to be observed that there are also other books which are not canonical, but have been called by our forefathers ecclesiastical, as the Wisdom of Solomon, and another called the Wisdom of the Son of Sirach, which among the Latins is called by the general name of Ecclesiasticus, by which title is denoted not the author of the. book, but the quality of the writing. Of the same order is the book of Tobit, Judith, and the books of the Maccabees. In the New Testament is the book of the Shepherd of Hermas, which is called ‘ Two Ways, or the Judgment of Peter;' all which they would have to be read in the churches, but not alleged by way of authority for proving articles of faith. Other Scriptures they call apocryphal, which they would not have to be read in churches" (In Symb. Apost.).
There have thus been three divisions made by the ancients, viz. the Canonical Scriptures, the Ecclesiastical, and the Apocryphal; or, otherwise, the Canonical and the Apocryphal, of which latter there are two kinds, viz. those which, having nothing contrary to the faith, may be profitably read, although not authentic, and those which are injurious and contrary to the faith. It is, however, maintained by professor Alber that, when Jerome and Rufinus said the ecclesiastical books were read for edification, but not for confirming articles of faith, they only meant that they were not to be employed in controversies with the Jews, who did not acknowledge their authority. These fathers, however, certainly put them into the same rank with the Shepherd of Hermas.
The earliest catalogue which we possess of the books of Scripture is that of Melito, bishop of Sardis, preserved by Eusebius. From his statement, written in the year 170, it seems evident that there had then been no catalogue authorized by the Church or any public body. He enumerates the books of the Jewish Canon only, from which, however, he omits the book of Esther (q.v.).
The first catalogue of the Holy Scriptures, drawn up by any public body in the Christian Church, which has come down to us, is that of the Council of Laodicea, in Phrygia, supposed to be held about the year 365. In the last two canons of this council, as we now have them, there is an enumeration of the books of Scripture nearly conformable, in the Old Testament, to the Jewish Canon. The canons are in these words:
"That private Psalms ought not to be said in the church, nor any books not canonical, but only the canonical books of the Old and New Testament. The books of the Old Testament which ought to be read are these: 1. Genesis 2. Exodus 3. Leviticus 4. Numbers 5. Deuteronomy 6. Joshua, son of Nun; 7. Judges, with Ruth; 8. Esther 9:1-2 Kingdoms; 10. 3 and 4 Kingdoms; 11. 1 and 2 Remains; 12. 1 and 2 Esdras 13. the book of 150 Psalms 14. Proverbs 15. Ecclesiastes; 16. Canticles; 17. Job 18. the Twelve Prophets; 19. Isaiah 20. Jeremiah and Baruch, the Lamentations and the Epistles; 21. Ezekiel 22. Daniel."
This catalogue is not, however, universally acknowledged to be genuine. "Possibly learned men," says Lardner,, "according to the different notions of the party they have been engaged in, have been led to disregard the last canon; some because of its omitting the apocryphal books of the Old Testament, and others because it has not the book of Revelation." Basnage, in his History of the Church, observes that "Protestants and Catholics have equally disparaged this synod." "It is said," remarks Lardner, "that the canons of this council were received and adopted by some General Councils in after times; nevertheless perhaps it would be difficult to show that those General Councils received the last canon, and exactly approved the catalogue of said books therein contained, without any addition or diminution, as we now have it" (see Mansi's Concilia, 2:574).
But, besides the Hebrew canon, the reader will have observed that there were certain other books publicly read in the primitive Church, and treated with a high degree of respect, although not considered, by the Hebrews, from whom they were derived (see the passage above cited from Josephus), as of equal authority with the former. These books seem to have been included in the copies of the Septuagint, which was generally made use of by the sacred writers of the New Testament. It does not appear whether the apostles gave any cautions against the reading of these books, and it has even been supposed that they have referred to them. Others, however, have maintained that the principal passages to which they have referred (for it is not pretended that they have cited them) are from the canonical books. The following are the passages here alluded to:
Some of the uncanonical books, however, had not been extant more than a hundred and thirty years at most at the Christian era, and could only have obtained a place in the Greek Scriptures a short time before this period; but the only copies of the Scriptures in existence for the first three hundred years after Christ, either among the Jews or Christians of Greece, Italy, or Africa, contained these books without any mark of distinction that we know of. The Hebrew Bible and language were quite unknown to them during this period, and the most learned were, probably, but ill informed on the subject, at least before Jerome's translation of the Scriptures from the original Hebrew. The Latin versions before his time were all made from the Septuagint. We do not, indeed, find any catalogue of these writings before the Council of Hippo, but only individual notices of separate books. Thus Clement of Alexandria (Stromata, A.D. 211) cites the Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiasticus, and Origen refers to several of these books, treating them with a high degree of veneration. "There is," says Eusebius, "an epistle of Africanus, addressed to Origen, in which he intimates his doubt on the history of Susannah in Daniel, as if it were a spurious and fictitious composition; to which Origen wrote a very full answer." These epistles are both extant. Origen, at great length, vindicates these parts of the Greek version — for he acknowledges that they were not in the Hebrew — from the objections of Africanus, asserting that they were true and genuine, and made use of in Greek among all the churches of the Gentiles, and that we should not attend to the fraudulent comments of the Jews, but take that only for true in the holy Scriptures which the seventy had translated, for that this only was confirmed by apostolic authority. In the same letter he cites the book of Tobit, and in his second book, De Principiis, he even speaks of the Shepherd of Hermas as divinely inspired. Origen, however, uses very different language in regard to the book of Enoch, the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, and the Assumption of Moses.
The local Council of Hippo, held in the year of Christ 393, at which Augustine, afterwards bishop of Hippo, was present, formed a catalogue of the sacred books of the Old and New Testament, in which the ecclesiastical books were all included. They are inserted in the following order in its 36th Canon, viz.:
"That nothing be read in the church besides the Canonical Scriptures. Under the name of Canonical Scriptures are reckoned Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 4 books of Kings, Riemains, Job, Psalms of David, 5 books of Solomon, 12 books of the Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Tobit, Judith, Hesther, Ezra, 2 books, Maccabees, 2 books." [For the books of the New Testament, (See ANTILEGOMENA).] "But for the confirmation of this canon the churches beyond the seas are to be consulted." The Passions of the Martyrs were also permitted to be read on their anniversaries.
The third Council of Carthage, generally believed to have been held in 397, at which Aurelius, bishop of Carthage, presided, and at which Augustine was present, consisting in all of forty-four bishops, adopted the same catalogue, which was confirmed at the fourth Council of Carthage, held in the year 419. The reference said to have been made from the third Council of Carthage, held in 397, to pope Boniface, is a manifest anachronism in the copies of the acts of this council (see L'Abbe's Concilia), as the pontificate of Boniface did not commence before 417. It has therefore been conjectured that this reference belongs to the fourth council.
As St. Augustine had great influence at these Councils, it must be of importance to ascertain his private sentiments on this subject. This eminent man, who was born in 354, consecrated bishop of Hippo (the present Bona) in 395, and died in 430, in the seventy-sixth year of his age, writes as follows in the year 397:
"The entire Canon of Scripture is comprised in these books. There are 5 of Moses, viz. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy 1 of Joshua, 1 of Judges, 1 small book called Ruth, which seems rather to belong to the beginning of the Kingdoms, the 4 books of the Kingdoms, and 2 of the Remains, not following one another, but parallel to each other. These are historical books which contain a succession of times in the order of events. There are others which do not observe the order of time, and are unconnected together, as Job, Tobit, Esther, and Judith, the 2 books of Maccabees, and the 2 books of Ezra, which last do more observe the order of a regular succession of events, after that contained in the Kingdoms and Remains. Next are the Prophets, among which is 1 book of the Psalms of David, and 3 of Solomon, viz. Proverbs, Canticles, and Ecclesiastes; for these 2 books, Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus, are called Solomon's for no other reason than because they have a resemblance to his writings: for it is a very general opinion that they were written by Jesus the son of Sirach; which books, however, since they are admitted into authority, are to be reckoned among prophetical books. The rest are the books of those who are properly called prophets, as the several books of the 12 Prophets, which being found together, and never separated, are reckoned 1 book. The names of which prophets are these: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. After these the four Prophets of large volumes, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel. In these 44 books is comprised all the authority of the Old Testament" (De Doctr. Christ.). [For the New, (See ANTILEGOMENA); they are the same with those now received.]
It has, indeed, been maintained that Augustine altered his opinion on the subject of the deutero-canonical books in his Retractions (see Henderson On Inspiration, p. 495); but the only passage in this work bearing on the subject, which we can discover, is that wherein he confesses his mistake in terming Ecclesiasticus a prophetical book. Augustine has also been supposed to have testified to the inferior authority of these books, from his saying that one of them was read from the reader's place. "The sentiment of the book of Wisdom is not to be rejected, which has deserved to be recited for such a long course of years from the step of the readers of the Church of Christ, and to be heard with the veneration of divine authority from the bishop to the humblest of the laics, faithful, penitents, and catechumens."
What the result of the reference from Africa to the "churches beyond the seas" may have been, we can only judge from the letter which is said to have been written on the subject by Innocent I, bishop of Rome, to St. Exupere, bishop of Toulouse, in the year 405. In this letter, which, although disputed, is most probably genuine, Innocent gives the same catalogue of the books of the Old and New Testaments as those of the councils of Hippo and Carthage, omitting only the book of Esther. The next catalogue is that of the Roman Council, drawn up by pope Gelasius and seventy bishops. The genuineness of the acts of this council has been questioned by Pearson, Cave, and the two Basnages, but vindicated by Pagi and Jeremiah Jones. The catalogue is identical with the preceding, except in the order of the books.
Some of the most important manuscripts of the Holy Scriptures which have descended to us were written soon after this period. The very ancient Alexandrian MS. now in the British Museum contains the following books in the order which we here give them, together with the annexed catalogue: "Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth — 8 books. Kingdoms, 4; Remains, 2 — 6 books. Sixteen Prophets, viz. Hosea, 1; Amos, 2; Micah, 3; Joel, 4; Obadiah 1:5; Jonah, 6; Nahum, 7; Ambacum, 8; Zephaniah, 9; Haggai. 10; Zechariah, 11; Malachi. 12; Isaiah, 13; Jeremiah, 14; Ezekiel 15; Daniel, 16; Esther; Tobit; Judith; Ezra, 2; Maccabees, 4; Psalter and Hymns; Job; Proverbs; Ecclesiastes; Canticles; Wisdom; Wisdom of Jesus Sirach 4 Gospels; Acts, 1; Acts 7 Catholic Epistles; 14 Epistles of Paul; Revelation 2 Epistles of Clement; together... . books; Psalms of Solomon." These books are equally incorporated in all the manuscripts of the Latin Vulgate (which was originally translated from the Septuagint). Those which Jerome did not translate from the Hebrew or Greek, as Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus, were adopted from the older Latin version.
Although the Canon of Scripture seemed now to be so far settled by the decrees of these councils, all did not conceive themselves bound by them; and it is observed by Jahn (Introd.) that they were not otherwise to be understood than "that the ecclesiastical books enumerated in this catalogue were to be held as useful for the edification of the people, but not to be applied to the confirmation of doctrines of faith." Such appears at least to have been the sentiment of many eminent divines between this period and the 16th century.
3. Bishop Cosin, in his excellent Scholastic History of the Canon, furnishes to this effect a host of quotations from writers of the Middle Ages, including Ven. Bede, John of Damascus, Alcuin, Peter Mauritius, Hugh de St. Victor, cardinal Hugo de St. Cher, the author of the ordinary Gloss, and Nicholas Lyranus. Of these, some call the deutero-canonical books "excellent and useful, but not in the Canon;" others speak of them as "apocryphal, that is, doubtful Scriptures," as not having been "written in the time of the prophets, but in that of the priests, under Ptolemy," etc. as not "equalling the sublime dignity of the other books, yet deserving reception for their laudable instruction," classing them with the writings of Jerome, Augustine, Ambrose, and Bede, and making a marked distinction not only between the Jewish and Christian Canons, but even between parts of the deutero-canonical writings. Dr. Archibald Alexander also (Canon of the Old and New Testament ascertained) cites several of the same authorities; he has, however, in one instance, evidently mistaken Peter Lombard for Peter Comestor, the author of Scholastic History. At the era of the Reformation we find Faber, Stapulensis, and cardinal Cajetan expressing themselves to the same effect, and the learned Sanctes Pagnini, in his translation of the Bible from the original languages, published at Lyons in 1528 (the first Bible that contained the division into verses with the present figures), dedicated to pope Clement VII, distinguished the ecclesiastical books, which he says were not in the Canon, by the term Hagiographa. For a description of this rare work, see Chiristian Remembrancer, 4:419, in a treatise On the division of verses in the Bible, by Rev. W. Wright, LL.D.
4. We now arrive at the period of the Reformation when the question of the Canon of Scripture was warmly discussed. Long before this period (viz. in 1380), Wickliffe had published his translation of the Bible, in which he substituted another prologue for Jerome's; wherein, after enumerating the "twenty-five" books of the Hebrew Canon, he adds: "Whatever book is in the Old Testament, besides these twenty-five, shall be set among the Apocrypha, that is, without authority of belief." He also, in order to distinguish the Hebrew text from the Greek interpolations, inserted Jerome's notes, rubricated, into the body of the text.
Although Martin Luther commenced the publication of his translation of the Bible in 1523, yet, as it was published in parts, he had not yet made any distinction between the two classes of books, when Lonicer published his edition of the Greek Septuagint at Strasburg in 1526, in which he separated the Deutero-canonical, or Apocryphal, books from those of the Jewish Canon, for which he was severely castigated by Morinus (see Masch's edition of Le Long's Bibliotheca Biblica, 2:268). Arias Montanus went still further, and rejected them altogether. In 1534 the complete edition of Luther's Bible appeared, wherein those books which Jerome had placed inter apocrypha were separated, and placed by themselves between the Old and New Testament; under the title "Apocrypha; that is, Books which are not to be considered as equal to holy Scripture, and yet are useful and good to read."
A few years after, the divines of the Council of Trent assembled, and among the earliest subjects of their deliberation was the Canon of Scripture. "The Canon of Augustine," says bishop Marsh, "I continued to be the canon of the ruling party. But as there were not wanting persons, especially among the learned, who from time to time recommended the Canon of Jerome, it was necessary for the Council of Trent to decide between the contending parties (Comparative View, p. 97). The Tridentine fathers had consequently a nice and difficult question to determine. On the 8th of April, 1546, all who were present at the fourth session of the Council of Trent adopted the Canon of Augustine, declaring," He also is to be anathema who does not receive these entire books, with all their parts, as they have been accustomed to be read in the Catholic Church, and are found in the ancient editions of the Latin Vulgate, as sacred and canonical, and who knowingly and willfully despises the aforesaid traditions... "We are informed by Jahn (Introduction) that this decree did not affect the distinction which the learned had always made between the canonical and deutero-canonical books, in proof of which he refers to the various opinions whi
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Deutero-Canonical'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/d/deutero-canonical.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
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