Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Is The Jewish Apocrypha Inspired Scripture? Pt. 2


By S. S.

We continue our discussion of the OT canon by turning to the testimony of two first-century Jews, Philo of Alexandria (c. 20 BC-AD 50) and Flavius Josephus. Their testimony regarding the canon is foundational since the OT version that they used was the Septuagint (LXX), which is sometimes referred to as the Alexandrian Canon. It is often claimed that the LXX included the Apocrypha. However, if it can be shown that the LXX in use at the time did not include the Apocrypha as part of the inspired canon, then the claim that the Alexandrian canon was somehow different from the one held by Palestinian Jewry lacks any real historical weight.
Here is what Philo wrote in regards to the revelation given to the Jews:
In each house there is a consecrated room which is called a sanctuary or closet and closeted in this day in this they are initiated into the mysteries of the sacred life. They take nothing into it, either drink or food or any other of the things necessary for the needs of the body, but LAWS and ORACLES DELIVERED THROUGH THE MOUTH OF PROPHETS, and PSALMS and anything else which fosters and perfects knowledge and piety. (On the Contemporary Life 25)
F. F. Bruce writes:
"Philo of Alexandria (c 20 BC-AD 50) evidently knew the scriptures in the Greek version only. He was an illustrious representative of Alexandrian Judaism, and if Alexandrian Judaism did indeed recognize a more comprehensive canon than Palestinian Judaism, one might have expected to find some trace of this in Philo's voluminous writings. But, in fact, while Philo has not given us a formal statement on the limits of the canon such as we have in Josephus, the books which he acknowledged as holy scripture were quite certainly books included in the traditional Hebrew Biblehe shows no sign of accepting the authority of any of the books which we know as the Apocrypha." (Bruce, The Canon of the Scripture, pp. 29-30; bold emphasis ours)
Roger Beckwith states:
"The De Vita Contemplativa gives a significant account of things which each of the Therepeutae takes with him into his oratory. He takes none of the common things of life, but ‘(the) Laws, and (the) Oracles given by inspiration through (the) Prophets, and (the) Psalms (hymnous), and the other books whereby knowledge and piety are increased and completed…’ (De Vit. Cont. 25).
“The first three groups of books here listed (without the article, as is common in titles) seem to correspond closely to those referred to by the grandson of Ben Sira and especially by Jesus, in Luke 24. {Hymnoi as Conybeare remarks, is Philo's regular name for the Psalms; and that here again it refers not simply to the Psalter but to the Hagiographa in general is suggested by Philo's appeals to Job and Proverbs as Scripture, and by the Qumran community's appeals to Proverbs and Daniel as Scripture ... The Therapeutae, with their monasticism, their calendrical peculiarities and their sectarian books and hymns, were clearly akin to the Qumran community, and Philo's statement may indicate that not only he, with his Pharisaic leanings, but also the Therapeutae, with their Essene leanings, were accustomed to divide the canon into three sections. The only problem is what is meant by ‘the other books (or things) whereby knowledge and piety are increased and completed.’ These are also evidently books, both because of the context and that they ‘increase knowledge.’ The most likely explanation is that they are books outside the canon to which the Therapeutae ascribed almost equal authority. Philo does not necessarily share their view himself, any more than on some other points on which he records the Therapeutae's distinctive views." (Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon, p. 117; bold emphasis ours)
Herbert Edward Ryle observes:
"The writings of Philo, who died about 50 A.D., do not throw very much positive light upon the history of the Canon. To him, as to other Alexandrine Jews, the Law alone was in the highest sense the Canon of Scripture, and alone partook of divine inspiration in the most absolute degree. Philo's writings, however, show that he was well acquainted with many other books of the Old Testament besides the Pentateuch. He quotes from Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, the Minor Prophets, Psalms, Proverbs, Job, and Ezra. According to some scholars he is said to show acquaintance with books of the Apocrypha. But this is very doubtful; and, even if it be granted, he certainly never appeals to them in support of his teaching in the way that he does to books included in the Hebrew Canon, and never applies to them the formulae of citation which he employs, when referring to the acknowledged books of the Jewish Scriptures. By comparison with his quotations from the Pentateuch, his quotations from the other sacred writings are very scanty; but it is observable that even in these few extracts he ascribes an inspired origin to Joshua, Samuel, Kings, Ezra, Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, and Zechariah. The negative value of his testimony IS STRONG, though not conclusive, against the canonicity of any book of the Apocrypha, or of any work not eventually included in the Hebrew Canon." (Ryle, The Canon of the Old Testament [MacMillan: London, 1904], pp. 159-160; bold and capital emphasis ours)
Now turning our attention to Josephus, who wrote during the 90s AD, here is what he stated:
“We do not possess myriads of inconsistent books, conflicting with each other. Our books, those which are justly accredited, ARE BUT TWO AND TWENTY, AND CONTAIN THE RECORD OF ALL TIME.
“Of these, FIVE ARE THE BOOKS OF MOSES, comprising the laws and the traditional history from the birth of man down to the death of the lawgiver. This period falls only a little short of three thousand years. From the death of Moses until Artaxerxes, who succeeded Xerxes as king of Persia, THE PROPHETS subsequent to Moses wrote the history of the events of their own times IN THIRTEEN BOOKS. The remaining four books contain hymns to God and precepts for the conduct of human life.
“From Artaxerxes to our own time the complete history has been written, BUT HAS NOT BEEN DEEMED WORTHY OF EQUAL CREDIT WITH THE EARLIER RECORDS, BECAUSE OF THE FAILURE OF THE EXACT SUCCESSION OF THE PROPHETS.
“We have given practical proof of our reverence FOR OUR OWN SCRIPTURES. For, although such long ages have now passed, NO ONE HAS VENTURED EITHER TO ADD, OR TO REMOVE, OR TO ALTER A SYLLABLE; AND IT IS AN INSTINCT WITH EVERY JEW, from the day of his birth, TO REGARD THEM AS THE DECREES OF GOD, to abide by them, and, if need be, CHEERFULLY TO DIE FOR THEM.” (Against Apion 1.37-42 and The Jewish War 10.35)
Josephus’ statement is so foundational to our understanding to the OT canon that Ryle states:
“We must remember that Josephus writes as the spokesman of his people, in order to defend the accuracy and sufficiency of their Scriptures, as compared with the recent and contradictory histories by Greek writers… In this controversy he defends the judgment of his people. He does not merely express a personal opinion, he claims to represent his countrymen ... How then does he describe the Sacred Books? He mentions their number; he speaks of them as consisting of ‘twenty-two books’. He regards them as a well-defined national collection. That is to say, Josephus and his countrymen, at the beginning of the second cent. A.D., recognised a collection of what he, at least, calls twenty-two books, and no more, as the Canon of Holy Scripture. This Canon it was profanation to think of enlarging, diminishing, or altering in any way." (Ibid., pp. 173-174; bold emphasis ours)
John Wenham adds:
“Josephus, born about AD 37, was perhaps the most distinguished and most learned Jew of his day. His father was a priest and his mother was descended from the Maccabean kings. Given the best possible education, he proved to be something of a prodigy ... What is particularly interesting about the statement of Josephus is the clear distinction between the canonical books which were completed in the time of Artaxerxes, and those written later which were not considered worthy of like credit ‘because the exact succession of the prophets ceased’. The idea evidently is that the canonical books were either written (or accredited) by the prophets, but that when the prophetical era was over, no more books suitable for the Canon were written… Josephus commits himself to a fairly precise date for the closing of the Canon. Artaxerxes Longimanus reigned for forty years, 465 to 425 BC. Ezra came to Jerusalem in the seventh, and Nehemiah in the twentieth, year of his reign (Ez. 7:1,8; Ne. 2:1). In addition to Josephus there are several other witnesses who point to the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, with occasionally a reference to the ministries of Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, as the time of the collection, completion and recognition of the Old Testament Canon." (Wenham, Christ and the Bible [Baker: Grand Rapids, MI, 1994], pp. 134-136; bold emphasis ours)
Thus we see that the evidence from both the Palestinian and Alexandrian quarters of Judaism conclusively establishes that the Apocrypha were not recognized as part of the inspired OT canon.
With that said, it is time to turn our attention to the writings of the Church Fathers (part 3).

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