The Formation of the Old Testament Canon
... From Second Esdras and Josephus, however, we learn that the present Hebrew and
Protestant canon of the Old Testament had already for some time been practically ...
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Remaining Books of the Old Testament.
... 7. The consideration of the extent of the canon of the Old Testament does
not properly belong here. It is sufficient to say that ...
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Appendix. The Apocryphal Books of the Old Testament.
... Jerome, the term was extended to all the books incorporated by the Alexandrine Jews,
in their Greek version, into the proper canon of the Old Testament, a few ...
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The New Testament Definitely Protected the Old Testament as a Book ...
... Though the books of the New Testament were now established as a second Canon side
by side with the Old Testament, it was impossible that this arrangement ...
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The Old Testament Canon from Its Beginning to Its Close.
... CHAPTER II. THE OLD TESTAMENT CANON FROM ITS BEGINNING TO ITS CLOSE. The
first important part of the Old Testament put together ...
/.../davidson/the canon of the bible/chapter ii the old testament.htm
These are all the Books of Old Testament Appointed to be Read...
... The Canons of the Blessed and Holy Fathers Assembled at Antioch in Syria. Canon
LX. These are all the books of Old Testament appointed to be read� ...
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Use of the Old Testament by the First Christian Writers, and by ...
... Still we know that the compass of the Old Testament canon was somewhat unsettled
to the Christians of the first century, as it was to the Hellenist Jews ...
/.../christianbookshelf.org/davidson/the canon of the bible/chapter v use of the.htm
How did the Church Arrive at a Second Authoritative Canon in ...
... that was Apostolic, declare herself to be its sole and rightful owner, and weld
together the Apostolic so closely with the Canon of the Old Testament that for ...
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The Real Nature and Purpose of the Old Testament
... [Sidenote: Secondary sources of its authority]. The ultimate basis of that authority,
however, is not their presence in the canon of the Old Testament. ...
/.../the origin and permanent value of the old testament/ii the real nature and.htm
Formation and History of the New Testament Canon.
... The occasion had now come for the recognition of a New Testament canon cooerdinate
in authority with that of the Old Testament, and from this time onward we ...
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International Standard Bible EncyclopediaCanon of the Old Testament
CANON OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
1. The Christian Term "Canon"
2. The Corresponding Hebrew Expression
3. The "Hidden Books" of the Jews
4. The Determining Principle in the Formation of the Canon
5. The Tripartite Division of the Old Testament
6. How Account for the Tripartite Division?
II. EXAMINATION OF THE WITNESSES
1. The Old Testament's Witness to Itself (circa 1450-444 B.C.)
2. The Samaritan Pentateuch (circa 432 B.C.)
3. The Septuagint Version (circa 250-150 B.C.)
4. Ecclesiasticus, or the Wisdom of Jesus ben Sirach (circa 170 B.C.)
5. The Prologue to Ecclesiasticus (circa 132 B.C.)
6. 1 and 2 Maccabees (between 125 and 70 B.C.)
7. Philo (circa 20 B.C.-50 A.D.)
8. The New Testament as a Witness (circa 50-100 A.D.)
9. 4 Esdras (circa 81-96 A.D.)
10. Josephus' "Contra Apionem" (circa 100 A.D.)
11. The Councils of Jamnia (90 and 118 A.D.)
12. The Talmud (200-500 A.D.)
13. Jewish Doubts in the 2nd Century A.D.
14. Summary and Conclusion
III. THE CANON IN THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH
1. In the Eastern or Oriental Church
2. In the Western Church
The problem of how we came by 39 books known as Old Testament "Scripture" is a purely historical investigation. The question involved is, not who wrote the several books, but who made them into a collection, not their origin or contents, but their history; not God's part, but man's. Our present aim, accordingly, must be to trace the process by which the various writings became "Scripture."
1. The Christian Term "Canon":
The word "canon" is of Christian origin, from the Greek word kanon, which in turn is probably borrowed from the Hebrew word, qaneh, meaning a reed or measuring rod, hence, norm or rule. Later it came to mean a rule of faith, and eventually a catalogue or list. In present usage it signifies a collection of religious writings Divinely inspired and hence, authoritative, normative, sacred and binding. The term occurs in Galatians 6:16 2 Corinthians 10:13-16; but it is first employed of the books of Scripture in the technical sense of a standard collection or body of sacred writings, by the church Fathers of the 4th century; e.g. in the 59th canon of the Council of Laodicea (363 A.D.); in the Festal Epistle of Athanasius (365 A.D.); and by Amphilochius, archbishop of Iconium (395 A.D.).
2. The Corresponding Hebrew Expression:
How the ancient Hebrews expressed the conception of canonicity is not known; but it is safe to say that the idea, as an idea, existed long before there was any special phrase invented to express it. In the New Testament the word "Scriptures" conveys unquestionably the notion of sacredness (Matthew 21:42 John 5:39 Acts 18:24). From the 1st century A.D. and following, however, according to the Talmud, the Jews employed the phrase "defile the hands." Writings which were suitable to be read in the synagogue were designated as books which "defile the hands." What this very peculiar oriental expression may have originally signified no one definitely knows. Probably Leviticus 16:24 gives a hint of the true interpretation. According to this passage the high priest on the great Day of Atonement washed not only when he put on the holy garments of his office, but also when he put them off. Quite possibly, therefore, the expression "defile the hands" signified that the hands which had touched the sacred writings must first be washed before touching aught else. The idea expressed, accordingly, was one akin to that of taboo. That is to say, just as certain garments worn by worshippers in encircling the sacred Kaaba at Mecca are taboo to the Mohammedans of today, i.e. cannot be worn outside the mosque, but must be left at the door as the worshippers quit the sanctuary, so the Hebrew writings which were fit to be read in the synagogue rendered the hands of those who touched them taboo, defiling their hands, as they were wont to say, so that they must first be washed before engaging in any secular business. This seems to be the best explanation of this enigmatical phrase. Various other and somewhat fanciful explanations of it, however, have been given: for example, to prevent profane uses of worn-out synagogue rolls (Buhl); or to prevent placing consecrated grain alongside of the sacred rolls in the synagogues that it might become holy, as the grain would attract the mice and the mice would gnaw the rolls (Strack, Wildeboer and others); or to prevent the sacred, worn-out parchments from being used as coverings for animals (Graetz); or to "declare the hands to be unclean unless previously washed" (Furst, Green). But no one of these explanations satisfies. The idea of taboo is more likely imbedded in the phrase.
3. The "Hidden Books" of the Jews:
The rabbins invented a special phrase to designate rolls that were worn-out or disputed. These they called genuzim, meaning "hidden away." Cemeteries filled with Hebrew manuscripts which have long been buried are frequently found today in Egypt in connection with Jewish synagogues. Such rolls might first be placed in the genizah or rubbish chamber of the sanctuary. They were not, however, apocryphal or uncanonical in the sense of being extraneous or outside the regular collection. For such the Jews had a special term cepharim chitsonim, "books that are outside." These could not be read in the synagogues. "Hidden books" were rather worn-out parchments, or canonical rolls which might by some be temporarily disputed.
4. The Determining Principle in the Formation of the Canon:
Who had the right to declare a writing canonical? To this question widely divergent answers have been given. According to a certain class of theologians the several books of the Old Testament were composed by authors who were conscious not only of their inspiration but also that their writings were destined to be handed down to the church of future generations as sacred. In other words each writer canonized, as it were, his own writings. For example, Dr. W. H. Green (Canon, 35, 106, 110) says: "No formal declaration of their canonicity was needed to give them sanction. They were from the first not only eagerly read by the devout but believed to be Divinely obligatory. Each individual book of an acknowledged prophet of Yahweh, or of anyone accredited as inspired by Him to make known His will, was accepted as the word of God immediately upon its appearance.. Those books and those only were accepted as the Divine standards of their faith and regulative of their conduct which were written for this definite purpose by those whom they believed to be inspired of God. It was this which made them canonical. The spiritual profit found in them corresponded with and confirmed the belief in their heavenly origin. And the public official action which further attested, though it did not initiate, their canonicity, followed in the wake of the popular recognition of their Divine authority.. The writings of the prophets, delivered to the people as a declaration of the Divine will, possessed canonical authority from the moment of their appearance.. The canon does not derive its authority from the church, whether Jewish or Christian; the office of the church is merely that of a custodian and a witness." So likewise Dr. J. D. Davis (Pres. and Ref. Review, April, 1902, 182).
On the contrary, Dillmann (Jahrb. fur deutsche Theol., III, 420) more scientifically claims that "history knows nothing of the individual books having been designed to be sacred from their origin.. These books bore indeed in themselves from the first those characteristics on account of which they were subsequently admitted into the sacred collection, but yet always had first to pass through a shorter or longer period of verification, and make trial of the Divine power resident within them upon the hearts of the church before they were outwardly and formally acknowledged by it as Divine books." As a matter of fact, the books of the Old Testament are still on trial, and ever will be. So far as is known, the great majority of the writers of Holy Scripture did not arbitrarily hand over their productions to the church and expect them to be regarded as canon Scripture. Two parties are involved in the making of canonical Scripture-the original authors and the church-both of whom were inspired by the same Spirit. The authors wrote inspired by the Divine Spirit, and the church ever since-Jewish and Christian alike-has been inspired to recognize the authoritative character of their writings. And so it will be to the end of time. "We cannot be certain that anything comes from God unless it bring us personally something evidently Divine" (Briggs, The Study of Holy Scripture, 162).
5. The Tripartite Division of the Old Testament:
The Jews early divided the Old Testament writings into three classes:
(1) the Torah, or Law; (2) the Nebhi'im, or Prophets; and
(3) the Kethubhim, or Writings, called in Greek the Hagiographa.
The Torah included the 5 books of the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), which were called "the Five-fifths of the Law." The Nebhi'im embraced
(a) the four so-called Former Prophets, Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, counted as one book, 1 and 2 Kings, also counted as one book; and
(b) the four so-called Latter Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Twelve Minor Prophets, counted as one book; a total of 8 books.
The Kethubhim, or Writings, were 11 in all, including Psalms, Proverbs, and Job, the five Meghilloth or Rolls (Canticles, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther), Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, counted as one book, and 1 and 2 Chronicles, also counted as one book; in all 24 books, exactly the same as those of the Protestant canon. This was the original count of the Jews as far as we can trace it back. Later certain Jewish authorities appended Ruth to Judges, and Lamentations to Jeremiah, and thereby obtained the number 22, which corresponded to the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet; but this manner of counting was secondary and fanciful. Still later others divided Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah and Jeremiah-Lamentations into two books each respectively and thereby obtained 27, which they fancifully regarded as equivalent to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet plus 5, the number of letters having a peculiar final form when standing at the end of a word. Jerome states that 22 is the correct reckoning, but he adds, "Some count both Ruth and Lamentations among the Hagiographa, and so get 24." 4 Esdras, which is the oldest (85-96 A.D.) witness to the number of books in the Old Testament, gives 24.
6. How Account for the Tripartite Division?:
The answer to the question of how to account for the tripartite division involves the most careful investigation of the whole process by which the canon actually took shape. If the entire canon of the Old Testament were formed, as some allege, by one man, or by one set of men, in a single age, then it is obvious that the books must have been separated into three groups on the basis of some material differences in their contents. If, on the other hand; the process of canonization was gradual and extended over several generations, then the various books were separated from one another probably because one section of the canon was closed before certain other books of similar character were written. At any rate it is difficult to see why Kings and Chronicles are not included in the same division, and especially strange that Daniel does not stand among the prophets. To explain this mystery, medieval Jews were wont to say that "the Prophets were inspired by the spirit of prophecy, whereas the Writings by the Holy Spirit," implying different degrees of inspiration. But this is a distinction without a difference, the Holy Spirit and the spirit of prophecy are one and the same. Modern Protestants distinguish between the donum propheticum and the munus propheticum, i.e. between the gift and the office of prophecy. They allow that Daniel possessed the gift of prophecy, but they deny that he was Divinely appointed to the office of prophet. But compare Matthew 24:15, which speaks of "Daniel the prophet," and on the other hand, Amos 7:14, in which Amos resents being considered a prophet. Oehler modifies this explanation, claiming that the threefold division of the canon corresponds to the three stages of development in the religion of Israel, namely, Mosaism, Prophetism, and Hebraism. According to Oehler, the Law was the foundation of the entire canon. From it there were two lines of development, one objective, the Prophets, the other subjective, the Writings. But Oehler's theory does not satisfactorily account for Ezra and Nehemiah and Chronicles, being in the third division; for in what sense can they be said to be more subjective than Judges, Samuel, and Kings? The Septuagint version (250-150 B.C.) takes no notice of the tripartite division. The true solution probably is that the process was gradual. When all the witnesses have been examined, we shall probably discover that the Law was canonized first, the Prophets considerably later, and the Writings last of all. And it may further become evident that the two last divisions were collected synchronously, and hence, that the tripartite divisions of the canon are due to material differences in their contents as well as to chronology.
II. Examination of the Witnesses.
1. The Old Testament's Witness to Itself (circa 1450-444 B.C.):
Though the Old Testament does not tell us anything about the processes of its own canonization, it does furnish valuable hints as to how the ancient Hebrews preserved their writings. Thus in Exodus 40:20 it is stated that the "testimony," by which is meant the two tables of the Law containing the Ten Commandments, was put into the Ark of the Covenant for safe-keeping. In Deuteronomy 31:9, 24-26, the laws of Deuteronomy are said to have been delivered to the sons of Levi, and by them deposited "by the side of the ark. that it may be there for a witness against thee." Such language indicates that the new lawbook is regarded "as a standard of faith and action" (Driver, Deuteronomy, 343). According to 1 Kings 8:9, when Solomon brought the Ark up from the city of David to the Temple, the two tables were still its only contents, which continued to be carefully preserved. According to 2 Kings 11:12, when Joash was crowned king, Jehoiada the high priest is said to have given (literally "put upon") him "the testimony," which doubtless contained "the substance of the fundamental laws of the covenant," and was regarded as "the fundamental charter of the constitution" (compare H. E. Ryle, Canon of the Old Testament 45). Likewise in Proverbs 25:1, it is stated that a large number of proverbs were copied out by Hezekiah's men. Now all these, and still other passages which might be summoned, witness to the preservation of certain portions of the Old Testament. But preservation is not synonymous with canonization. A writing might easily be preserved without being made a standard of faith and conduct. Nevertheless the two ideas are closely related; for, when religious writings are sedulously preserved it is but natural to infer that their intrinsic value was regarded as correspondingly precious.
Two other passages of paramount importance remain to be considered. The first is 2 Kings 22:8, describing the finding of the "Book of the Law," and how Josiah the king on the basis of it instituted a religious reformation and bound the people to obey it precepts. Here is an instance in which the Law, or some portion of it (how much no one can say), is regarded as of normative and authoritative character. The king and his coadjutators recognize at once that it is ancient and that it contains the words of Yahweh (2 Kings 22:13, 18, 19). Its authority is undisputed. Yet nothing is said of its "canonicity," or that it would "defile the hands"; consequently there is no real ground for speaking of it as "the beginnings of the canon," for in the same historic sense the beginnings of the canon are to be found in Exodus 24:7. The other passage of paramount importance is Nehemiah 8:8, according to which Ezra is said to have "read in the book, in the law of God, distinctly." Not only did Ezra read the Law; he accompanied it with an interpretation. This seems to imply, almost beyond question, that in Ezra's time (444 B.C.) the Law, i.e. the Pentateuch, was regarded as canonical Scripture. This is practically all that the Old Testament says about itself, though other passages, such as Zechariah 7:12 and Daniel 9:2 might be brought forward to show the deep regard which the later prophets had for the writings of their predecessors. The former of these is the locus classicus in the Old Testament, teaching the inspiration of the Prophets; it is the Old Testament parallel to 2 Timothy 3:16.
2. The Samaritan Pentateuch (circa 432 B.C.):
Chronologically the Old Testament is of course our most ancient witness. It brings us down to 444 B.C. The next in order is the Samaritan Pentateuch, the history of which is as follows: About 432 B.C., as we know from Nehemiah 13:28 and Josephus (Ant., XI, vii, 2 through viii, 4), Nehemiah expelled from the Jewish colony in Jerusalem Manasseh, the polygamous grandson of Eliashib the high priest and son-in-law of Sanballat. Manasseh founded the schismatic community of the Samaritans, and instituted on Mt. Gerizim a rival temple worship to that at Jerusalem. Of the Samaritans there still survive today some 170 souls; they reside in Shechem and are known as "the smallest religious sect in the world." It is true that Josephus, speaking of this event, confuses chronology somewhat, making Nehemiah and Alexander the Great contemporaries, whereas a century separated them, but the time element is of little moment. The bearing of the whole matter upon the history of the formation of the canon is this: the Samaritans possess the Pentateuch only; hence, it is inferred that at the time of Manasseh's expulsion the Jewish canon included the Pentateuch and the Pentateuch only. Budde (Encyclopaedia Biblica col. 659) says: "If alongside of the Law there had been other sacred writings, it would be inexplicable why these last also did not pass into currency with the Samaritans." Such a conclusion, however, is not fully warranted. It is an argument from silence. There are patent reasons on the other hand why the Samaritans should have rejected the Prophets, even though the y were already canonized. For the Samaritans would hardly adopt into their canon books that glorified the temple at Jerusalem. It cannot, accordingly, be inferred with certainty from the fact that the Samaritans accept the Pentateuch only, that therefore the Pentateuch at the time of Manasseh's expulsion was alone canonical, though it may be considered a reasonable presumption.
3. The Septuagint Version (circa 250-150 B.C.):
The Septuagint version in Greek is the first translation of the Old Testament ever made; indeed the Old Testament is the first book of any note in all literature to receive the honor of being translated into another tongue. This fact in itself is indicative of the esteem in which it was held at the time. The work of translation was inaugurated by Ptolemy Philadelphus (285-247 B.C.) and probably continued for well-nigh a century (circa 250-150 B.C.). Aristeas, a distinguished officer of Ptolemy, records how it came about. It appears that Ptolemy was exceedingly fond of books, and set his heart on adding to his famous collection in Alexandria a translation of the Hebrew Pentateuch In order to obtain it, so the story goes, the king set free 198,000 Jewish slaves, and sent them with presents to Jerusalem to ask Eleazar the high priest for their Law and Jewish scholars capable of translating it. Six learned rabbis from each tribe (6 X 12 = 72) were sent. They were royally feasted; 70 questions were asked them to test their wisdom, and after 72 days of cooperation and conference they gave the world the Old Testament in the Greek language, which is known as the Septuagint version. To this fabulous story, Christian tradition adds that the rabbis did the work of translating in 72 (some say 36) separate cells on the island of Pharos, all working independently of each other, and that it was found at the expiration of their seclusion that each had produced a translation exactly word for word alike, hence, supernaturally inspired. Justin Martyr of the 2nd century A.D. says that he was actually shown by his Alexandrian guide the ruins of these Septuagint cells. The story is obviously a fable. The kernel of real truth at the bottom of it is probably that Ptolemy Philadelphus about the middle of the 3rd century B.C. succeeded in obtaining a translation of the Law. The other books were translated subsequently, perhaps for private use. The lack of unity of plan in the books outside the Law indicates that probably many different hands at different times were engaged upon them. There is a subscription, moreover, at the close of the translation of Esther which states that Lysimachus, the son of Ptolemy in Jerusalem, translated it. But the whole was apparently completed before Jesus ben Sirach the younger wrote his Prologue to Ecclesiasticus (circa 132 B.C.).
Now the Septuagint version, which was the Bible of our Lord and His apostles, is supposed to have included originally many of the Apocryphal books. Furthermore, in our present Septuagint, the canonical and Apocryphal books stand intermingled and in an order which shows that the translators knew nothing of the tripartite division of later Judaism, or if they did they quite ignored it. The order of the books in our English Old Testament is of course derived from the Septuagint through the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) of Jerome. The books in the Septuagint are arranged as follows: Pentateuch, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, 1 and 2 Esdras, Nehemiah, Tobit, Judith, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Hosea, Amos, Micah, Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Baruch, Lamentations, Epistle of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, 1, 2 and 3 Maccabees. On the basis of the Septuagint, Catholics advocate what is known as the "larger" canon of the Jews in Alexandria; Protestants, on the other hand, deny the existence of an independent canon in Alexandria in view of the "smaller" canon of the Jews in Palestine The actual difference between the Catholic and Protestant Old Testaments is a matter of 7 complete books and portions of two others: namely, Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, 1 and 2 Maccabees, together with certain additions to Esther (Esther 10:4-16:24) and to Daniel (Da 3:24-90; The So of the Three Holy Children (Azariah); Susanna verse 13 and Bel and the Dragon verse 14). These Protestants reject as apocryphal because there is no sufficient evidence that they were ever reckoned as canonical by the Jews anywhere. The fact that the present Septuagint includes them is far from conclusive that the original Septuagint did, for the following reasons:
(1) The design of the Septuagint was purely literary; Ptolemy and the Alexandrians were interested in building up a library.
(2) All the extant manuscripts of the Septuagint are of Christian not Jewish origin. Between the actual translation of the Septuagint (circa 250-150 B.C.) and the oldest manuscripts of the Septuagint extant (circa 350 A.D.) there is a chasm of fully 500 years, during which it is highly possible that the so-called Apocryphal books crept in.
(3) In the various extant manuscripts of the Septuagint, the Apocryphal books vary in number and name. For example, the great Vatican MS, which is probably "the truest representative which remains of the Alexandrian Bible," and which comes down to us from the 4th century A.D., contains no Book of Maccabees whatever, but does include 1 Esdras, which Jerome and Catholics generally treat as apocryphal. On the other hand, the Alexandrian MS, another of the great manuscripts of the Septuagint, dating from the 5th century A.D., contains not only the extra-canonical book of 1 Esdras, but 3 and 4 Maccabees, and in the New Testament the 1st and 2nd Epistles of Clement, none of which, however, is considered canonical by Rome. Likewise the great Sinaiticus MS, hardly less important than the Vatican as a witness to the Septuagint and like it dating from the 4th century A.D., omits Baruch (which Catholics consider canonical), but includes 4 Maccabees, and in the New Testament the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas; all of which are excluded from the canon by Catholics. In other manuscripts, 3 Maccabees, 3 Esdras and The Prayer of Manasseh are occasionally included. The problem as to how many books the original Septuagint version actually included is a very complicated one. The probability is that it included no one of these variants.
(4) Still another reason for thinking that there never existed in Egypt a separate or "larger" canon is the fact that during the 2nd century A.D., the Alexandrian Jews adopted Aquila's Greek version of the Old Testament in lieu of their own, and it is known that Aquila's text excluded all Apocryphal books. Add to all this the fact that Philo, who lived in Alexandria from circa 20 B.C. till 50 A.D., never quotes from One of these Apocryphal books though he often does from the canonical, and that Origen, who also resided in Alexandria (circa 200 A.D.), never set his imprimatur upon them, and it becomes reasonably convincing that there was no "larger" canon in Alexandria. The value of the evidence derived from the Septuagint, accordingly, is largely negative. It only indicates that when the translation of the Old Testament into Greek was made in Alexandria, the process of canonization was still incomplete. For had it been actually complete, it is reasonable to suppose that the work of translation would have proceeded according to some well-defined plan, and would have been executed with greater accuracy. As it is, the translators seem to have taken all sorts of liberties with the text, adding to the books of Esther and Daniel and omitting fully one-eighth of the text of Jeremiah. Such work also indicates that they were not executing a public or ecclesiastical trust, but rather a private enterprise. Our necessary conclusion, therefore, is that the work of canonization was probably going on in Palestine while the work of translation was proceeding in Alexandria.
4. Ecclesiasticus, or the Wisdom of Jesus ben Sirach (circa 170 B.C.):
Our next witness is Jesus ben Sirach who (circa 170 B.C.) wrote a formidable work entitled Ecclesiasticus, otherwise known as Sir. The author lived in Jerusalem and wrote in Hebrew. His book is a book of Wisdom resembling Proverbs; some of his precepts approach the high level of the Gospel. In many respects Ecclesiasticus is the most important of all the Apocryphal books; theologically it is the chief monument of primitive Sadduceeism. In chapters 44-50, the author sings a "hymn to the Fathers," eulogizing the mighty heroes of Israel from Enoch to Nehemiah, in fact from Adam to Simon, including the most famous men described in the Old Testament, and making explicit mention of the Twelve Prophets. These facts would indicate that the whole or, at least, the most of the Old Testament was known to him, and that already in his day (180 B.C.) the so-called Minor Prophets were regarded as a special group of writings by themselves. What the value of Ecclesiasticus is as a witness, however, depends upon the interpretation one places on 24:33, which reads: "I will yet pour out doctrine as prophecy and leave it unto generations of ages." From this it is inferred by some that he feels himself inspired and capable of adding to the canon already in existence, and that, though he knew the full prophetic canon, he did not draw any very definite line of demarcation between his own work and the inspired writings of the prophets. For example, he passes over from the patriarchs and prophets of Israel to Simon the son of Onias, who was probably the high priest in his own time, making no distinction between them. But this may have been partly due to personal conceit; compare 39:12, "Yet more will I utter, which I have thought upon; and I am filled as the moon at the full." Yet, perhaps, in his day still only the Law and the Prophets were actually canonized, but alongside of these a body of literature was being gathered and gradually augmented of a nature not foreign to his own writings, and therefore not clearly marked off from literary compositions like his own. Yet to Sirach the Law is everything. He identifies it with the highest Wisdom; indeed, all wisdom in his judgment is derived from a study of the Law (compare Sirach 19:20-24; 15:1-18; 24:23:00; 2:16; 39:1).
5. The Prologue to Ecclesiasticus (circa 132 B.C.):
The Prologue or Preface to Ecclesiasticus is our next witness to the formation of the canon. It was written by the grandson of Jesus ben Sirach, who bore his grandfather's name (circa 132 B.C.). Jesus ben Sirach the younger translated in Egypt his grandfather's proverbs into Greek, and in doing so added a Preface or Prologue of his own. In this Prologue, he thrice refers to the tripartite division of the Old Testament. In fact the Prologue to Ecclesiasticus is the oldest witness we have to the threefold division of the Old Testament books. He says: "Whereas many and great things have been delivered unto us by the Law and the Prophets, and by others,. my grandfather, Jesus, when he had given himself to the reading of the Law, and the Prophets, and other books of our Fathers, and had gotten therein good judgment (the Revised Version (British and American) "having gained great familiarity therein"), was drawn on also himself to write something pertaining to learning and wisdom.. For the same things uttered in Hebrew and translated into another tongue, have not the same force in them; and not only these things, but the Law itself, and the Prophets, and the rest of the books, have no small difference, when they are spoken in their own language." These are explicit and definite allusions to the threefold division of the Old Testament writings, yet only the titles of the first and second divisions are the technical names usually employed; the third is especially vague because of his use of the terms, "the other books of the Fathers," and "the rest of the books." However, he evidently refers to writings with religious contents; and, by "the other books of the Fathers," he can hardly be supposed to have meant an indefinite number, though he has not told us which they were or what was their number.
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