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|Septuagint · Samaritan Pentateuch
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|Hermeneutics · Pesher
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|Inerrancy · Infallibility · Criticism
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Judaism and Christianity
Biblical law in Judaism
Biblical law in Christianity
The Old Testament is the first section of the two-part Christian Biblical canon, which includes the books of the Hebrew Bible as well as several Deuterocanonical books. Its exact contents differ in the various Christian denominations. Martin Luther removed the deuterocanonical books from the Old Testament of his translation of the Bible, placing them in a section he labeled the Apocrypha. As a result Orthodox Christians, Catholics and Protestants use different canons which differ with respect to the texts which are included in the Old Testament and with respect to the Antilegomena of the New Testament.
The differences between the Hebrew Bible and the Protestant Old Testament are minor to Christians, pertaining only with the arrangement and number of the books. For example, while the Hebrew canon treats Kings as a unified text, the Protestant canon divides it into two books. Similarly, Ezra and Nehemiah are considered to be one book in the Hebrew Bible.
The differences between the Hebrew Bible and other versions of the Old Testament such as the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Syriac, Latin, Greek, Ge'ez and other canons, are more substantial. Many of these canons include books and even sections of books that the others do not. For a full discussion of these differences, see Books of the Bible.
Following Jerome's Veritas Hebraica (truth of the Hebrew) doctrine, the Protestant Old Testament consists of the same books as the Hebrew Bible, but the order and numbering of the books are different. Protestants number the Old Testament books at 39, while Judaism numbers the same books as 24. This is because Judaism considers Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles to form one book each, groups the 12 minor prophets into one book, and also considers Ezra and Nehemiah a single book. Also, the Bible for Judaism is specifically the Masoretic Text. Protestant translations of the Hebrew Bible often include other texts, such as the Septuagint.
The Roman Catholic, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox include books excluded by Judaism and later by Martin Luther, called the deuterocanonical books, which Protestants exclude as Biblical apocrypha. The basis for these books is found in the early Koine Greek Septuagint translation of the Jewish Scriptures. This translation was widely used by the Early Christians and is the one most often quoted (300 of 350 quotations including many of Jesus' own words) in the New Testament when it quotes the Old Testament.
According to J. N. D. Kelly, "It should be observed that the Old Testament thus admitted as authoritative in the Church… always included, though with varying degrees of recognition, the so-called Apocrypha or deuterocanonical books."
The traditional explanation of the development of the Old Testament canon describes two sets of Old Testament books, the protocanonical and the deuterocanonical books. According to this theory, certain Church fathers accepted the inclusion of the apocryphal books based on their inclusion in the Septuagint (most notably Augustine), while others disputed their status based on their exclusion from the Hebrew Bible (most notably Jerome). Michael Barber argues that this time-honored reconstruction is grossly inaccurate and that "the case against the apocrypha is overstated".
Michael Barber asserts that, for Christians, any discussion about the Old Testament canon must start with the question: which books did Jesus and the New Testament recognize? Thus, he asserts that many deem it important to "ascertain whether or not Jesus quoted from the MT or the LXX". He characterizes the underlying assumption as presuming that there were two rival canons in use during Jesus’ day: a “Palestinian canon” used by Jews in Jerusalem, that contained only the “proto-canonical books” and an “Alexandrian canon” that, it is said, included the apocrypha, which was accepted by Jews in the diaspora. Jesus’ support of the LXX would therefore imply his recognition of the apocrypha. However, Barber argues that this line of reasoning is full of historical misconceptions.  Barber asserts that there was no normative canon in Palestinian Judaism in Jesus' day and that the notion of a universally accepted “Palestinian canon” is a myth that runs counter to the historical evidence. Moreover, he asserts that the Jews in the diaspora were no more united on this issue than their Palestinian counterparts. 
Barber points out that the most famous “Alexandrian Jew” of them all, Philo, never once cited from the apocrypha. Finally, Barber emphasizes that, while it is abundantly clear that the apocrypha were eventually included in the Septuagint, there is very little known about the Septuagint that was used in Jesus’ day. Thus, he argues, even if it could be established that Jesus used the Septuagint, this would not necessarily prove that Jesus accepted the deuterocanonical books.
Finally, Barber argues that the whole question of which canon Jesus used is moot though because the citations found in the New Testament do not universally conform to the Masoretic Text or the Septuagint. 
Craig A. Evans in McDonald & Sanders' 2002 The Canon Debate, chapter 11: The Scriptures of Jesus and His Earliest Followers", page 185, states:
|“||In other words, Jesus quotes or alludes to all of the books of the Law, most of the Prophets, and some of the Writings. Superficially, then, the "canon" of Jesus is pretty much what it was for most religiously observant Jews of his time. This claim can be corroborated to some extent by the Dead Sea Scrolls.||”|
Early Christian missionaries used the Septuagint in their appeal to the Greek-speaking world and did not hesitate to draw upon documents later classified by Jewish rabbinical authorities as uncanonical.
The issue of canonicity had not yet become a critical issue when the New Testament literature was being written, and there are numerous references to sources which were later excluded from the Jewish canon and certain Christian canons. For example, Jude 14-16 quotes the Book of Enoch 1:9, and Hebrews 11:35 f. refers to 2 Maccabees 6-7.10 . Even after the deuterocanonical books were excluded from the Jewish canon, Christians continued to use the Septuagint, for there was no theory about the cessation of inspiration among Christians or Jewish Christians, unlike the Talmud (Soṭah 48b) which considers Malachi to be the last prophet of Judaism.
Perhaps the earliest Christian canon is the Bryennios List which was found by Philotheos Bryennios in the Codex Hierosolymitanus. The list is written in Koine Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew and dated to around 100 by J.-P. Audet. It consists of a 27-book canon which comprises:
Not all Early Christians approved of the use of Jewish scriptures. Marcion rejected the Jewish Bible and pressed for the acceptance of what was to become part of the New Testament as the Christian canon. In A.D. 140, he was expelled from the Christian community of Rome and formed a church of his own. For 100 years his followers were to challenge the tenets of other Christian groups. The Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913 characterized Marcion as "perhaps the most dangerous foe Christianity has ever known."
Everett Ferguson in chapter 18 of The Canon Debate quotes Tertullian's De praescriptione haereticorum 30:
|“||Since Marcion separated the New Testament from the Old, he is necessarily subsequent to that which he separated, inasmuch as it was only in his power to separate what was previously united. Having been united previous to its separation, the fact of its subsequent separation proves the subsequence also of the man who effected the separation.||”|
Note 61 of page 308 adds:
|“||[Wolfram] Kinzig suggests that it was Marcion who usually called his Bible testamentum [Latin for testament].||”|
For most Early Christians, the Jewish Bible was "Holy Scripture" and was to be understood and interpreted in the light of Christian convictions. See Biblical law in Christianity for the modern debate.
The first list of Old Testament books compiled by a Christian source is recorded by the 4th century historian Eusebius. Eusebius describes the collection of a 2nd century bishop, Melito of Sardis. Melito's list, dated to circa 170, the result of a trip to Palestine (probably the famous library at Caesarea Maritima) to determine both the order and number of books in the Hebrew Bible, instead seems to follow the order of the books presented in the LXX, yet he doesn't list the book of Esther or the apocrypha (except for possibly the Book of Wisdom).
In 331, Constantine I commissioned Eusebius to deliver fifty Bibles for the Church of Constantinople. Athanasius (Apol. Const. 4) recorded Alexandrian scribes around 340 preparing Bibles for Constans. Little else is known, though there is plenty of speculation. For example, it is speculated that this may have provided motivation for canon lists, and that Codex Vaticanus Graecus 1209, Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Alexandrinus are examples of these Bibles. Together with the Peshitta, these are the earliest extant Christian Bibles.
Michael Barber asserts that, although Jerome was once suspicious of the apocrypha, he later viewed them as Scripture. Barber argues that this is clear from Jerome's epistles. As an example, Barber cites Jerome's letter to Eustochium, in which Jerome quotes Sirach 13:2. , elsewhere Jerome also refers to Baruch, the Story of Susannah and Wisdom as scripture.
Jerome expressed some uneasiness about the authority of the Apocrypha. He was in general agreement with the Jewish position and separated the extra books found in the Septuagint, which he admitted could be edifying, from the Jewish canon.
In his prologues, Jerome argued for Veritas Hebraica, meaning the truth of the Hebrew text over the Septuagint and Old Latin translations. His Preface to The Books of Samuel and Kings includes the following statement, commonly called the Helmeted Preface:
|“||This preface to the Scriptures may serve as a “helmeted” introduction to all the books which we turn from Hebrew into Latin, so that we may be assured that what is not found in our list must be placed amongst the Apocryphal writings. Wisdom, therefore, which generally bears the name of Solomon, and the book of Jesus, the Son of Sirach, and Judith, and Tobias, and the Shepherd are not in the canon. The first book of Maccabees I have found to be Hebrew, the second is Greek, as can be proved from the very style.||”|
At the request of two bishops, however, he made translations of Tobit and Judith from Hebrew texts, which he made clear in his prologues he considered apocryphal. In addition to these, the Vulgate Old Testament included books outside of the 24, many from the Vetus Latina, which Jerome did not translate anew.
Jerome's views did not prevail, and in A.D. 393 at the Synod of Hippo, the Septuagint was canonized, largely because of the influence of Augustine of Hippo. Later in 397, the Synod of Carthage confirmed the action taken at Hippo, once again, due to the significant influence exerted by Augustine. These councils were under the authority of Augustine, who regarded the canon as already closed.
McDonald & Sanders's The Canon Debate, Appendix C-2, lists the following Old Testament canon of Augustine, from De doctrina christiana 2.13, circa 395:
|“||Gen, Exod, Lev, Num, Deut, Josh, Judg, Ruth, 1-4 Kgs, 1-2 Chr, Job, Tob, Esth, Jdt, 1-2 Macc, 1-2 Esd, Pss, Prov, Song, Eccles, Wis, Sir, Twelve, Isa, Jer, Dan, Ezek.||”|
Despite these formal pronouncements by the Synods, there remained those who were uncomfortable about the canonization of books not found in the Hebrew canon, and up to the time of the Protestant-Catholic schism, there continued to be scholars who made sharp distinctions between canonical and apocryphal writings.
One of the tenets of the Protestant Reformation was that translations of scriptures should be based on the original texts (i.e. Biblical Hebrew, Biblical Aramaic and Koine Greek) rather than upon Jerome's translation into Latin.
Statements were included in the Protestant Bibles indicating that the Apocrypha was not to be placed on the same level as the other documents. Luther's translation (1534) placed the Apocrypha between the Old and New Testaments with this title:
"Apocrypha, that is, books which are not held equal to the Sacred Scriptures, but nevertheless are useful and good to read."
A year later Coverdale's Bible was published with the Apocrypha placed between the two Testaments under this description:
"Apocrypha, the books and treatises which among the fathers of old are not to be reckoned of like authority with other books of the Bible neither are they found in the canon of the Hebrew."
There were doctrinal reasons behind the Protestant refusal to accept the Apocrypha, for it was in these books that the Roman Catholic Church claimed scriptural authority for the doctrine of Purgatory, for prayers and Masses for the dead (2 Macc 12:43-45), and for the efficacy of good works in attaining salvation. (Tobit 12:9; Ecclesiasticus 8:33).
Besides moving the Apocrypha to a lower level, Luther also did many other canon-related things. He argued unsuccessfully for the relocation of Esther from the Canon to the Apocrypha, since without the deuterocanonical sections, it never mentions God. As a result Catholics and Protestants continue to use different canons, which differ in respect to the Old Testament and in the concept of the Antilegomena of the New Testament.
There is some evidence that the first decision to omit these books entirely from the Bible was made by Protestant laity rather than clergy. Bibles dating from shortly after the Reformation have been found whose tables of contents included the entire Roman Catholic canon, but which did not actually contain the disputed books, leading some historians to think that the workers at the printing presses took it upon themselves to omit them. However, Anglican and Lutheran Bibles usually still contained these books until the 20th century, while Calvinist Bibles did not. Several reasons are proposed for the omission of these books from the canon. One is the support for Catholic doctrines such as Purgatory and Prayer for the dead found in 2 Maccabees. Luther himself said he was following Jerome's teaching about the Veritas Hebraica.
The Council of Trent on April 8, 1546, by vote (24 yea, 15 nay, 16 abstain) approved the present Roman Catholic Bible Canon including the Deuterocanonical Books. This is said to be the same list as produced at the Council of Florence in 1451, this list was defined as canonical in the profession of faith proposed for the Jacobite Orthodox Church. Because of its placement, the list was not considered binding for the Catholic Church, and in light of Martin Luther's demands, the Catholic Church examined the question of the Canon again at the Council of Trent, which reaffirmed the Canon of the Council of Florence. The Old Testament books that had been in doubt were termed deuterocanonical, not indicating a lesser degree of inspiration, but a later time of final approval. Beyond these books, some editions of the Latin Vulgate include Psalm 151, the Prayer of Manasseh, 1 Esdras (called 3 Esdras), 2 Esdras (called 4 Esdras), and the Epistle to the Laodiceans in an appendix, styled "Apogryphi".
In 1870, the Council of the Vatican reiterated the concepts set forth at Trent concerning the canon. Since that time, there have been no official statements issued concerning the canon by Jews, Catholics or Protestants, with the exception that on 2 June 1927, Pope Pius XI decreed that the Comma Johanneum of the New Testament was open to dispute and on 3 September 1943, Pope Pius XII decreed the Divino Afflante Spiritu which allowed translations based on other versions than just the Latin Vulgate, notably in English the New American Bible.
The Church of England published its Thirty-Nine Articles in Latin in 1563 and in Elizabethan English in 1571. Article 6 of the 1801 American revision is titled: "OF THE SUFFICIENCY OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES FOR SALVATION":
|“||...In the name of Holy Scripture we do understand those Canonical Books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church. Of the names and Number of the Canonical Books: Genesis; Exodus; Leviticus; Numbers; Deuteronomy; Joshua; Judges; Ruth; The I Book of Samuel; The II Book of Samuel; The I Book of Kings; The II Book of Kings; The I Book of Chronicles; The II Book of Chronicles; The I Book of Esdras; The II Book of Esdras; The Book of Esther; The Book of Job; The Psalms; The Proverbs; Ecclesiastes, or the Preacher; Cantica, or Songs of Solomon; Four Prophets the Greater; Twelve Prophets the Less. And the other Books (as Heirome [The Old English form of Hieronymus, or Jerome...] saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet it doth not apply them to establish any doctrine. Such are these following: The III Book of Esdras; The IV Book of Esdras; The Book of Tobias; The Book of Judith; The rest of the Book of Esther†; The Book of Wisdom; Jesus the Son of Sirach; Baruch the Prophet†; The Song of the Three Children†; The Story of Suzanna; Of Bel and the Dragon†; The Prayer of Manasses†; The I Book of Maccabees; The II Book of Maccabees. All the Books of the New Testament, as they are commonly received, we do receive and account them Canonical. [books marked † were added in 1571.]||”|
The original King James Bible of 1611 included King James Version Apocrypha which is frequently omitted in modern printings. These texts are: Additions to Daniel, Judith, Esdras, Additions to Esther, Susanna, 1-2 Maccabees , 4 Ezra, Prayer of Manassheh, Sirach, Wisdom of Solomon, Baruch (including the Epistle of Jeremiah), Tobit, Bel.
The English Civil War broke out in 1642 and lasted till 1649. The Long Parliament of 1644 decreed that only the Hebrew Canon would be read in the Church of England, and in 1647 the Westminster Confession of Faith was issued which decreed a 39-book OT and 27-book NT, the others commonly labelled as Apocrypha were excluded. Today this decree is a Protestant distinctive, a consensus of Protestant churches, not limited to the Church of Scotland, Presbyterianism, and Calvinism, but shared with Baptist and Anabaptist confessions of faith also.
With the restoration of the monarchy to Charles II of England (1660-1685), the Church of England was once again governed by the Thirty-Nine Articles, as printed in the Book of Common Prayer (1662), which explicitly excludes the Apocrypha from the inspired writings as unsuitable for forming doctrine, while eirenically conceding them value for education so permitting public reading and study.
According to The Apocrypha, Bridge of the Testaments:
|“||On the other hand, the Anglican Communion emphatically maintains that the Apocrypha is part of the Bible and is to be read with respect by her members. Two of the hymns used in the American Prayer Book office of Morning Prayer, the Benedictus es and Benedicite, are taken from the Apocrypha. One of the offertory sentences in Holy Communion comes from an apocryphal book (Tob. 4: 8-9). Lessons from the Apocrypha are regularly appointed to be read in the daily, Sunday, and special services of Morning and Evening Prayer. There are altogether 111 such lessons in the latest revised American Prayer Book Lectionary [The books used are: II Esdras, Tobit, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, Three Holy Children, and I Maccabees.] The position of the Church is best summarized in the words of Article Six of the Thirty-nine Articles: “In the name of Holy Scripture we do understand those canonical Books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority there was never any doubt in the Church. . . . And the other Books (as Hierome [St. Jerome] saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine . . .”:||”|
The Synod of Jerusalem in 1672 decreed the Greek Orthodox Canon which is the same as the one decided by the Council of Trent but adds Psalm 151, 1 Esdras, 3 Maccabees, 4 Maccabees, and Prayer of Manasseh. The Greek Orthodox generally consider the Septuagint to be divinely inspired.
The Eastern Orthodox Church took separate action. From the earliest times, the Eastern Church, which used the LXX, was undecided about the Apocrypha: some Greek Fathers quoted from these books; others preferred to follow solely the books accepted by the Jews. The matter of the Apocrypha was raised in the Trullan Council at Constantinople in 692, but no binding conclusions were reached. Again in 1672, at the Council held in Jerusalem, the issue of the canon was considered and I Esdras, Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, the Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men and I, II and III Maccabees were accorded canonical status. However, because the Jerusalem Council was a "Regional Council" and neither Ecumenical nor pan-Orthodox, its decrees were not obligatory unless accepted by all Orthodox Churches. Although there has been no official acceptance of the canon outlined at Jerusalem, all editions of the Bible published by the Greek Orthodox Church include the books selected in 1672.