General Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon William Henry Green

part of the inspired Word of God. It must first be


Download 1.32 Mb.
Date conversion17.07.2018
Size1.32 Mb.
1   ...   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   19

a part of the inspired Word of God. It must first be

ascertained whether what is alleged as a quotation

from the Apocrypha is really such, for many pretended

citations turn out upon examination to be no citations

at all, but have only that remote resemblance which

might attach to the expressions of different writers in-

dependently conceived. And, if it be a real quotation,

it must be ascertained whether it is cited in such a

manner as to show that the writer esteemed it to be the

inspired Word of God; otherwise he may have quoted it

as lie would quote any human production.

In regard to the writings of the Christians of the first

century, or, as they are commonly called, the Apostoli-

cal Fathers, Westcott sums up the case thus: "Clement
uses the narrative of Judith in exactly the same man-

ner as that of Esther; and Barnabas, as might have

been expected from an Alexandrian writer, appears to

have been familiar with Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus,

and he quotes the second Book of Esdras (4th Esdras)

as the work of a prophet. The reference of Clement to

Wisdom and of Polycarp to Tobit are very doubtful."

These fathers may have been acquainted with some

books of the Apocrypha, and have believed that Judith

was a true history; but it does not follow that they put

them on a par with the inspired writings. If Barnabas

thought that 2d Esdras, a book which is not in the

Roman Catholic canon, was written by Ezra, he was


By the fathers from the second century onward the

Apocrypha are freely quoted, but so are the books of

uninspired and heathen writers, as Homer, Virgil,

Cicero, etc. A bare citation shows nothing more than

that the book was known and contained something per-

tinent to the subject in hand. It gives no information

respecting the authority accorded to it and the esteem

in which it was held.

Another large class of citations is quite as little to

our present purpose, viz., those in which these books

are spoken of with respect, the sentiments which they

contain are quoted with approbation or their histories

appealed to as true. There is a very wide difference

between holding that a book contains much that is ex-

cellent and worthy of regard, or that it records historical

facts, and accepting it as the inspired Word of God.

Unless there is something in the mode of citation

which implies the inspiration or divine authority of the

volume quoted, it proves nothing to the purpose. It

is urged, however, that this is repeatedly done by the



1. They make use of the same formulas in quoting

from the Apocrypha that they do in quoting from the

canonical books, and they frequently apply to the

former names and epithets which are appropriate to

the latter.

2. They speak of the writers of these books in the

same terms which they employ in relation to the in-

spired writers.

Citations from the Apocrypha are introduced by the

words, "It is written," which is the common formula in

the New Testament in quoting from the Old, and which

became the established phrase in citing from the in-

spired writings. And such titles as Scripture, sacred

Scripture, holy Scripture, divine Scripture, are repeat-

edly applied to the Apocrypha as to the canonical writ-

ings. But in regard to this it should be remembered

(1.) Although the word Scripture from long and famil-

iar usage suggests at once to our minds the inspired vol-

ume, it is in its original import a general term, grafh<,

scriptura, denoting writing, and applicable to any com-

position whatever. And in this sense it was very gen-

erally employed; thus Eusebius speaks of the Scripture

of Josephus and the Scripture of Aristeas. So, too,

the expression sacred or divine Scripture, need mean

no more than a writing upon sacred or divine subjects

—in other words, a religious book. And the fathers,

in giving such titles to these books, may have meant no

more than to designate them as belonging to the cate-

gory of sacred in contrast with profane literature, or

books upon secular subjects. And there was the more

reason for using these titles in application to books

which were associated with the sacred volume in the

versions in most common use, and which had a sort of

ecclesiastical sanction in their being allowed to be read

in conjunction with the inspired books in public wor-
ship. It was to be expected that they would, in con-

sequence, be regarded with a respect and veneration

which was not felt for other human productions. And

if even the term "canonical" could be applied to them

in a loose and improper sense, as we have already seen,

it is not surprising if a like extension was given to

other terms descriptive of the sacred books.

(2.) That these terms are applied to the Apocrypha

in the general sense suggested by their etymology, or

else in the loose and improper sense just spoken of, is

convincingly shown by the fact that the same writers

who in their works distinctly exclude these books from

the canon, yet cite them under these very titles. Ter-

tullian acknowledges but 24 books of Scripture—in

other words, the Hebrew canon—and yet he quotes

from Baruch, Wisdom, and Ecclesiasticus. Origen, in

his catalogue of the canon, leaves out the Apocrypha,

yet he quotes the Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus,

Tobit, Judith, and Maccabees under the name of Script-

ure or the divine word. The canon of Jerome, in all

three of his catalogues, is identical with that of the

Hebrew Bible; yet he quotes Maccabees as Scripture,

and in one place Ecclesiasticus as Holy Scripture.

Chrysostom received only the Hebrew canon, yet he

quotes Baruch, Ecclesiasticus, and Wisdom as divine

Scripture. Athanasius adheres to the Hebrew canon

in his catalogue, and yet cites the Book of Wisdom as

Scripture, and Ecclesiasticus in one place as Holy

Scripture and in another with the formula, "As the

Holy Ghost saith." These loose, popular citations,

made perhaps in some instances without distinctly

remembering in what books they were to be found,

should not be held to prove a belief in the inspiration

of books which in their formal statements they ex-

pressly disavow and repudiate. It is much more rea-


sonable to receive their formal statements on this sub-

ject as explanatory of the sense in which they designed

their less explicit expressions to be understood.

(3.) The wide sense in which such terms as divine

books were popularly used is apparent from expressions

already quoted from Augustin, who includes among

divine books those which contain "perilous fictions

and fancies;" and from Junilius, who speaks of some

divine books as having no authority at all. Cyprian

quotes a passage from the Apocrypha as Scripture, and

then proceeds to prove the correctness of its statement

by what he calls "the testimony of truth," adducing

for that purpose the Acts of the Apostles. It is plain

that these are not put by him upon the same level.

(4.) An analogy in modern times may be found in

the fact that the Homilies of the Church of England

cite the Book of Wisdom as Scripture and as the Word

of God; and yet this book forms no part of the canon

of that Church.

(5.) Books are cited under these names which none

esteem and none ever have esteemed canonical. These

same epithets are found applied to the so-called Apos-

tolical Constitutions, the writings of Ignatius and of

Augustin, the decrees of the Council of Nice, the Sybil-

line verses, etc.

The remaining class of citations which is urged as

decisive of the point at issue comprises those in which

the writers of these books are called by some title ap-

propriate to inspired men, such as "prophet," or in

which the authorship of these books is ascribed to

some writer of known inspiration. Thus the Wisdom

of Solomon is frequently quoted with the formula,

"Solomon says," or "The prophet says." And mention

is made of "five books of Solomon." But

(1.) These expressions are employed in a loose and


popular sense. This is distinctly declared by Augustin,

who says: "Solomon prophesied in his books, three

of which are received into canonical authority—Prov-

erbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs. But two

others, one of which is called Wisdom and the other

Ecclesiasticus, have come to be commonly called Sol-

omon's on account of some similarity of style. Yet

the more learned do not doubt that they are not his."

So when the apocryphal additions to the Book of

Daniel are cited under the name of Daniel, this is

merely giving to a book the name popularly attrib-

uted to it. And when the Book of Baruch is cited

under the name of Jeremiah, this is because Baruch

was regarded as a sort of appendix to the canonical


(2.) If, however, the letter of these expressions is

pressed, the only consequence will be not to establish

the canonicity of these books, but to prove that the

fathers were mistaken; for it is capable of satisfactory

demonstration that Solomon was not the author of

Wisdom, nor Daniel of the apocryphal chapters that

are found only in the Greek, and Ecclesiasticus ex-

pressly claims to have been written by another than

Solomon, and Baruch by another than Jeremiah.

(3.) That the more intelligent of the fathers did not

seriously mean by these loose citations to sanction

these books as the work of inspired men appears from

their elsewhere declaring in a more formal way pre-

cisely the reverse. Those who were not well informed

may, under the circumstances, easily have been be-

trayed into error in this matter.

(4.) Baruch is called a prophet in the Homilies of

the Church of England, although that Church does not

accept Baruch as canonical.

(5.) Books are quoted similarly which are not in the


canon of the Council of Trent, e.g., 3d and 4th Esdras,

under the name of the Prophet Esdras or Ezra.

The history of the canon in the Christian Church

since the Council of Trent can be briefly stated. As

Roman Catholics acknowledge the authority of that

council, the canonicity of the Apocrypha has ever since

been an established dogma in that communion. It was

not to be expected, therefore, that the line of witnesses

against their inspiration, which reached down to the

very assembling of this council, would be continued

further in that Church. Yet a few learned Romanists,

such as Dupin, Jahn, and Bernard Lamy, sought to rec-

oncile the terms of its decree with the sentiments of the

primitive Church, and, while in form assenting to the

former, still to maintain their accordance with the latter

by making a distinction between the proto-canonical

and the deutero-canonical, books. The Hebrew canon

was called proto-canonical, or the first canon, and was re-

garded as in the fullest sense inspired and authoritative.

The second canon consisted of the books added by the

Council of Trent, which were held to be inferior in

authority to the first, possessing a sacredness and

entitled to veneration from the esteem with which they

were anciently regarded and the measure of ecclesiasti-

cal sanction which they enjoyed, being read for edifica-

tion in public worship, but not alleged in proof of doc-

trines. This, however, does not accord with the

language of the decree, which puts these books on a

par with the rest of the Old Testament. Accordingly,

the doctrine now universally accepted in the Church of

Rome assigns equal authority to the Apocrypha with

the other books of the canon.

In the Greek Church the Confession of Faith by

Cyril Lucar, Patriarch of Constantinople, issued in 1631,

sanctions the Hebrew canon. With this agree the Con-
fession of his friend Metrophanes Critopulus, the

Orthodox Teaching of Platon, Metropolitan of Moscow,

A.D. 1836, and the authorized Russian Catechism. On

the other hand, the Confession of Dositheus, Patriarch

of Jerusalem, prepared under Romish influence in 1672,

and in opposition to the views of Lucar, sanctioned the


The Protestant churches have from the first been

unanimous in adhering to the Hebrew canon, which is

the canon of Christ and the writers of the New Testa-

ment, and the canon of the early Church. There has,

however, been some diversity among them in regard to

the esteem in which they were disposed to hold the

Apocrypha. This may be represented by the articles

of the Church of England on the one hand, and the

Westminster Confession on the other. The former

repeat with approval the language of Jerome: "The

Church doth read "the Apocrypha" for example of life

and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply

them to establish any doctrine." The Westminster

Confession, ch. i., § 3, says: "The books commonly

called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are

no part of the canon of Scripture; and therefore are of

no authority in the Church of God, nor to be otherwise

approved or made use of than other human writings."

The former of these views naturally led to their reten-

tion in the volume of the Old Testament, if not mingled

indiscriminately with the canonical books, as in the

Vulgate and Romish Bibles generally, yet separated

from them and brought together in a sort of appendix

at the end. The view of the Westminster Confession

would logically banish them from the volume of Holy

Scripture altogether, and treat them precisely as all

other uninspired productions.

The antagonism of these two sets of opinions culmi-
nated in the famous apocryphal controversy which for

several years agitated the British and Foreign Bible

Society. In circulating the Bible in Germany, the

Society at first purchased and made use of the Canstein

Bible, which contained Luther's version of the Apocry-

pha as well as the canonical books. This fact being

brought to the attention of the Society in 1811, it was

resolved that its auxiliaries upon the Continent should

be requested to leave out the Apocrypha. The oppo-

sition which this met with led to the rescinding of this

order in 1813. The strife thus begun became more ar-

dent in 1819, when the Society undertook the printing

of Catholic Bibles in Italian, Spanish, and. Portuguese.

The apocryphal books were in these not merely printed

as such at the end of the Old Testament, but were min-

gled indiscriminately with the other books, as though

they were equally part of the canon. Still, it was con-

tended that the Society would forego all opportunity of

distributing the Scriptures in the Catholic countries of

Europe if it did not retain the Apocrypha. In 1822

the compromise was proposed and carried that the

money of the Society should only be used for printing

the canonical Scriptures, and that such auxiliaries as

chose to publish the Apocrypha should do so at their

own expense. In September, 1824, Leander Van Ess,

publisher of the Vulgate, asked the aid of the Society

in issuing an edition of the Latin Bible, promising that

he would bear the whole cost of the Apocrypha. The

sum of £500 was voted for this purpose. But in the

following December the resolution was reconsidered

and the grant withdrawn, and the Society resolved that

in future it would only aid in printing those Bibles in

which the Apocrypha was kept distinct from the canon-

ical books. Still, these half-way measures could not

satisfy those whose consciences were offended by the


intrusion of human and uninspired productions in the

volume of God's Word. The agitation was accordingly

continued, until finally, on May 3, 1827, it was resolved

"that no association or individual circulating the apoc-

ryphal books should receive aid from the Society; that

none but bound books should be distributed to the aux-

iliaries, and that the auxiliaries should circulate them as

received; and that all societies printing the apocryphal

books should place the amount granted them for Bibles

at the disposal of the parent Society."1

1 Abridged from the article entitled "Bible Societies," in Appleton's

Cyclopaedia, which was chiefly based upon the account given in Hert-




THE limits of the canon must be determined mainly

by external evidence; for it is a historical question:

What books were committed to the Church and received

by her as her rule of faith and life? To undertake to

settle the canon by internal evidence exclusively would

end in making it insecure, and subjecting it to capri-

cious and arbitrary treatment. Historical questions can

only be determined by historical evidence.

But while this is so, a negative value attaches to in-

ternal evidence, which may be of such a nature as to be

quite decisive. A book which contains what is false in

fact or erroneous in doctrine, or which is unworthy of

God, cannot have been inspired by him. If these books

be tried by this evident test, they will be found wanting.1

The books of Tobit and Judith abound in geograph-

ical, chronological, and historical mistakes, so as not

only to vitiate the truth of the narratives which they

contain, but to make it doubtful whether they even rest

upon a basis of fact. They tend to promote supersti-

tion; they justify deception and falsehood; they make

salvation and the pardon of sin to depend upon meri-

torious deeds, which may be purely formal and external.

It is said to have been in the youth of Tobit that the

ten tribes revolted from Judah under Jeroboam, Tobit

i. 4, 5; this would make him two hundred and seventy

years old at the time of the Assyrian captivity. But

1 Keerl die Apokryphen, from which the following is largely drawn.


according to xiv. 11 he was only one hundred and fifty-

eight years old when he died, and according to the Latin

text only one hundred and two. Contrary to all analogy

of angels' visits, which are always brief as recorded in

Scripture, an angel is made to journey on foot with To-

bias three hundred miles. He also tells a falsehood

about himself, professing (v. 12) to be one Azarias, a son

of one of Tobit's acquaintances, and (vii. 3) one of the

captives of the tribe of Naphtali. He afterward makes

himself known as the angel Raphael (xii. 15), and teaches

a doctrine which has no support elsewhere in Script-

ure, and which conflicts with the mediatorial office of

the Lord Jesus Christ, that there are seven holy angels

which present the prayers of the saints and which go in

and out before the glory of the Holy One (comp. ver.

12). This notion is in all likelihood borrowed from the

seven Amshaspands of the Persian superstition. An

evil spirit is fantastically represented as in love with a

woman, and so jealous as to murder whoever marries

her (vi. 14); but the smoking heart and liver of a fish

have such magical virtue as to drive this demon away

(vi. 7, 17). Ch. xii. 9 ascribes to almsgiving such virtue

as to deliver from death and to purge away all sin; so

also iv. 10, xiv. 10, 11.

Bethulia, the scene of the Book of Judith vi. 10, 11,

is a place of whose existence there is no other evidence;

its significant name, meaning virgin, suggests that the

whole story may be an allegory or romance. And no

time can be found in Jewish history for the events

which it records, or the protracted peace which is said

to have followed. The march imputed to Holofernes

is a most extraordinary zigzag. Nebuchadnezzar is

said to have reigned in Nineveh (i. 1), whereas Babylon

was his capital; and Joiakim is said to have been the

contemporary high priest (iv. 6, xv. 8), whereas there
was no high priest of this name until after the exile, and

then Nebuchadnezzar and Nineveh and the kingdom of

the Medes (i. 1) had all passed away. Judith's language

and conduct is a continued course of falsehood and

deception, and yet it is represented as approved of God,

and she is divinely assisted in it. She even prays to

God to aid her in her deception (ix. 10, 13). The crime

of Simeon, which is condemned in Gen. xlix. 5 ff., is ap-

plauded (ix. 2). And with all these offences against the

moral law, a breach of the ceremonial, even for the sake

of preserving human life, is represented as a deadly sin

(xi. 10 ff.).

The Wisdom of Solomon and the Book of Ecclesias-

ticus contain many excellent maxims, and yet the moral-

ity which they inculcate is defective and is based mainly

on expediency, without a due regard to the holiness of

God or the requirements of his law. The wisdom which

they contain is not that of Solomon, but of the Alexan-

drian philosophy. The doctrine of emanation seems to

be taught (Wisd. vii. 25) ; and the pre-existence of souls,

whose mortal destiny is determined by their character

prior to their birth into this world (viii. 19, 20); and the

creation of the world, not from nothing, but out of pre-

existent matter (xi. 17). The material body is spoken of

as a weight and clog upon the soul (ix. 15), a doctrine

which has no countenance in Scripture. Israel is repre-

sented as a righteous person, and all God's favors in

1   ...   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   19

The database is protected by copyright © 2017
send message

    Main page