Saturday, March 26, 2016

Biblical Canonicity and the Ancient Ecclesia

Here are two quotes that deal with biblical canonicity as it applied to the early Christian congregation:

"While the New Testament writers all used the Septuagint, to a greater or lesser degree, none of them tells us precisely what the limits of its contents were. The 'scriptures' to which they appealed covered substantially the same range as the Hebrew Bible [which did not contain the apocrypha]" (F.F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture, pp. 50ff).

Jerome himself wrote: "Therefore as the church indeed reads Judith, Tobit and the books of Maccabees, but does not receive them among the canonical books, so let it also read these two volumes [Sirach and Parables] for the edification of the people but not for establishing the authority of ecclesiastical dogma" (Prologue to the books of Wisdom).

One Jewish perspective on the Hebrew canon is given here:

I would still recommend Roger Beckwith's 500-page+ study on this issue.


Duncan said...

"If you take a look at the articles on the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament canon by major dictionaries written after Beckwith`s book as the Dictionary of NT Background published by IVP or the New Interpreter`s Dictionary of the Bible or the Anchor Bible Dictionary you will see that Becwith arguments are not as convincing as one could think. These major reference works simply rejected Becwith`s conclusions. No the Canon of the NT church did not have only 39 books.
There are several biblical protestant scholars who reject the 39 books OT canon as the Oxford Professors of the OT as James Barr and John Barton, and there are several more. Take a look at the index of the Biblical references of the Theological Lexicon of the OT published by the protestant Hendrickson, and you can do the same with the book written by Moises Silva on the Septuagint among several other protestant books. Albert Sundberg is a protestant and he also wrote a book on the Old Testament Canon of Early Church published by Harvard University and he said that the canon of the NT church was not the 39 books of the jews of the Post NT period, because the canon of the Old Testament of the jews was not closed in the first century.
The great problem is that the NT does not quote from all the 39 books of the protestant canon, a problem that sola Scriptura can not solve. Read Not by Scripture Alone: A Catholic Critique of the Protestant Doctrine of Sola Scriptura"

Edgar Foster said...

These comments are misleading. It makes me wonder if the person has even read Beckwith's study or anything written by him. Beckwith does not write that the "Canon of the NT church" only contained 39 books. He's talking about the Hebrew-Aramaic canon (Tanach).

Of course, there is debate about how many books formed the OT (Tanach) canon in the first century. I never said Beckwith's study was or is conclusive: his conclusions can be debated and are. But one needs to consider the evidence he presents first. Furthermore, plenty of scholars (of all stripes) back Beckwith's conclusions. His study is widely respected.

The NT doesn't need to quote all books of the OT (Tanach), and I'm not srguing sola scriuptura anyway. Lastly, there are scholars who argue that no NT Bible writer ever quoted from the Apocrypha (Deuterocanonicals), even if we have quotes from non-canonical works in Jude.

Edgar Foster said...

Professor Neil Lightfoot writes regarding the Apocrypha: "These books, as far as the evidence goes, were never accepted as canonical by Jesus and his apostles."

So he thinks that neither the apostles nor Jesus quoted from the Apocrypha. Nor did Philo nor Josephus accept them. See more about Lightfoot on a blog post I've written here.

"Throughout the ancient and medieval Church the official and popular
acceptance of the Apocrypha was accompanied by scholarly protests against the wider canon or uneasiness at its acceptance. Shortly before the Council of Trent in 1546 decreed that no Roman Catholic could agree with Jerome's insistence on the sole canonicity of the Hebrew Old Testament canon, the Roman Catholic Cajetan frankly criticized the Apocrypha and conceded that they were not really canonical" (Floyd Filson. Which Books Belong in the Bible? P. 95).

The debate continues.

Duncan said...

There are those that claim:-

Matthew 7:12, and Luke 6:31, He referenced Tobit 4:16 Matthew 9:13, He quoted Hosea 6:6 Matthew 13:43, He quoted Wisdom 3:7 Matthew 22:32, He quoted Exodus 3:6 Matthew 22:37, He quoted Deuteronomy 6:5 Matthew 22:39, He quoted Leviticus 19:18 Matthew 22:44, He quoted Psalms 110:1 Mark 7:6-8, He quoted Isaiah 29:13 John 14:23, He referenced Ecclesiasticus (Sirach)2:15-16, (Septuagint) or Sirach 2:18 (Confraternity).

Nothing here is direct.

Edgar Foster said...

I cannot parse everyone of these verses now, but the claim is not new, and others have addressed similar assertioins before. Even if quotes from the Deuterocanonicals were in the NT, it would not necessarily demonstrate that the works in question were inspired or canonical. When one looks at the Greek of the passages, we have to ask--are they exact parallels, and what basis do we have for attributing the quote to the putative source?

Duncan said...

As I said, nothing direct here, but we cannot ignore the possibilities of allusion. If it is allusion then it does not nessacarily have the same meaning as the source. There may be a significant amount of allusion in OT texts to even older works using the language to show the change to a shifted meaning but we must be fair and work with a uniform method. What is good for one is good for all..

Edgar Foster said...

I grant allusions, but it seems that there has to be some basis for the allusion, and one should develop and study the allusions methodically (as you say). Many supposed allusions that have been presented to me could be explained by appealing to other texts. And, as I mentioned earlier, allusion to a text or quotation of it does not mean it's viewed as inspired. After all, the early church writers quote texts that are not canonical, and they tell us they're not canonical.

For instance, Sirach 11:19: "When [a man] says: 'I have found rest, now I will feast on my possessions, he does not know how long it will be till he dies and leaves them to others."

But While noting that Jesus' comments are echoed in Sirach 11:18-19, Craig A. Evans also informs us: "Jesus' warning about the danger of greed is commonplace in Jewish literature (See Lachs, 291). His parable of the Rich Fool reflects the words of the Psalmist: Be not afraid when one becomes rich, when the glory of his house increases. For when he dies he will carry nothing away; his glory will go down after him" (Ps. 49:16-17, RSV; see also Job 31:24-28)."

Also, compare Matt. 6:7 with Sirach 7:14. However, H.D. Betz writes:

"The instruction on prayer of the SM has at this point [Matt. 6:7] its closest parallels in Eccl. 5:2-3: Do not rush into speech, let there be no hasty utterance in God's presence. God is in heaven, you are on earth; so let your words be few (NEB)" (Sermon on the Mount, 365).

Edgar Foster said...

Cf. 1 Kings 18:25, 26 for Mt 6:7 too.