You can’t make this stuff up

I recently stumbled upon a fundamentalist site, so absurd that it has lingered with me, explaining “why the Apocrypha isn’t in the Bible.” It’s absurd as any patent circular “reasoning” is absurd: the Apocrypha isn’t in the Bible, in substantial part, because it teaches false doctrine. And how does one discern false doctrine? By seeing if it’s in the Bible.

This is low-hanging fruit. The frenzied author of the site is the kind of guy who writes portions with capital letters followed by as many as (by casual count) 38 exclamation points.

The Apocrypha includes doctrines in variance with the Bible ….

“…Roman Catholic doctrines are not right. They directly contradict the scriptures …”

That’s basic illogic.

A second claim is that “The apocryphal books were never acknowledged as sacred scriptures by the Jews, custodians of the Hebrew scriptures.” That’s not illogical, but it’s ignorant. Here’s the real skinny (emphasis added):

My initial attitude was that whatever was good enough for the Apostles would be good enough for me. This is where I got my first surprise. As I mentioned previously, I knew that the Apostle Paul regarded Scripture as being inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16). But I had always assumed that the “Scripture” spoken of in this passage was the whole Bible-both the Old and New Testaments. In reality, there was no “New Testament” when this statement was made. Even the Old Testament was still in the process of formulation, for the Jews did not decide upon a definitive list or canon of Old Testament books until after the rise of Christianity. As I studied further, I discovered that the early Christians used a Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint. This translation, which was begun in Alexandria, Egypt, in the third century B.C., contained an expanded canon which included a number of the so-called “deuterocanonical” (or “apocryphal”) books. Although there was some initial debate over these books, they were eventually received by Christians into the Old Testament canon. In reaction to the rise of Christianity, the Jews narrowed their canons and eventually excluded the deuterocanonical books-although they still regarded them as sacred. The modern Jewish canon was not rigidly fixed until the third century A.D. Interestingly, it is this later version of the Jewish canon of the Old Testament, rather than the canon of early Christianity, that is followed by most modern Protestants today. When the Apostles lived and wrote, there was no New Testament and no finalized Old Testament. The concept of “Scripture” was much less well-defined than I had envisioned.

Actually, I give the guy too much credit when I say he’s ignorant. Rather, he’s Romophobic, knowing full well that the early Church used the deuterocanonical books:

The apocryphal books were not permitted among the sacred books during the first four centuries of the real Christian church (I’m certainly not talking about the Catholic religion which is not Christian).

His “real Christian church” is unhistoric. He fabricates it with a few cherry-picked quotes from some of the Church Father’s who weren’t entirely confident about the deuterocanonical books before the Christian canon had been settled.

Not even all Catholic “Church Fathers” believed the Apocrypha was scripture.

Not that this really means anything. The truth is not validated by the false. Nevertheless, this may be of interest to some… Jerome (340-420) rejected the Apocrypha:

“As the Church reads the books of Judith and Tobit and Maccabees but does not receive them among the canonical Scriptures, so also it reads Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus for the edification of the people, not for the authoritative confirmation of doctrine.”Jerome
Jerome’s preface to the books of Solomon

New Testament writers regularly quote the Septuagint and generally seem to prefer it over the Hebrew text. Christ seems to have quoted deuterocanonical books.

As I say, the guy’s a crank, so I’ll not waste more time on him. But, gentle reader, if your Bible only has the 66 books of the Protestant Bibles, can you explain why?

6 thoughts on “You can’t make this stuff up

  1. Such arguments rest in part on the assumption that the Alexandrian Jews were somehow less authentic or less authoritative than those in Jerusalem.

    Also, the OT books were written in different languages and different character sets making the argument for “Hebrew only” a bit of a stretch.

    Interestingly, some recent studies suggest that the Jews continued to use the Greek OT up through the Middle Ages.

  2. JR: Thanks for the links and for sharing the study you’ve apparently put into this.

    I hadn’t thought about how long the Jews continued using the Greek OT (I assume this is the Septuagint or later, post-New Testament Greek translations, if such there be). It certainly is plausible, especially in the Christian East, where Greek was widely read.

    What seems clear from all I’ve heard from theologically educated former Evangelicals, now Orthodox, is that Christ at points pretty clearly is quoting “deuterocanonical” books, and that the Church, before the Great Schism, accepted them as part of Scripture when the Christian canon was formally set.

    And what seems likely to me, as a corollary, is that it must be very difficult for a Protestant who’s Romophobic to credibly account for their canon without acknowledging that “we received the New Testament from the Church our forefathers abandoned, and we abandoned the Old Testament books some ancient Jews didn’t accept to distinguish ourselves as more historic than the historic Church.”

    1. Even with the settlement of the Christian canon in the late 4th century, it took a long time for acceptance and propagation of the same. Rome had central authority, but the world moves slowly. I suspect that even the most devout Catholic wouldn’t give up an older manuscript easily since it was so costly. Imagine the difficulty for the Jews who lacked a centralized authority after the destruction of the Temple. Although I have not seen anything definitive, I expect the Septuagint and its derivatives were used for a long time by the scattered Jewish communities. Something that I found interesting is that Ethiopian Jews and others from Africa use the deuterocanonicals to this day, i.e., they have the same Old Testament as Catholics, presumably derived from the Alexandrian Septuagint.

      As for Romophobes (I’ve not heard the term before, but it explains in part why Evangelicals go Orthodox — “anywhere but Rome”), I’ve read some Protestant academics that go to the extent of ignoring the role of the Church in setting the canon, attributing the effort to some nebulous “Christian community” (and thereby partially justifying what their newer “Christian community” did to “fix” the canon).

      But as to the problems of Protestants, they extend well beyond just the canon. For example:

      Peace and Happy New Year,

  3. JR:

    I happened to be online when this came in. I really don’t live here 24 x 7 x 365.

    “Romophobia” probably does explain why some Evangelicals become Orthodox rather than Roman Catholic, but it also carries over to give Orthodoxy a ghastly cast, because we share just about everything Evangelicals find offensive in Rome except the filioque (which I’ve heard described as the only true dogmatic difference, and which gives no Evangelicals offense anyway), the Pope, the Immaculate Conception, and Purgatory.

    In general, we lament Romophobia as an impediment to well-intentioned Protestants, evangelical or mainstream, finding historic Christianity, rather than rejoicing that it bring a few to us rather than to you.

  4. My comment about scripture is short and to the Jewish point;at
    least the majority of Jewish believers anyway. There is no Holy scripture except the Jewish Tanach! The new testament, and the apocrypha is not Holy and should not be considered written
    in stone (unchangeable) like the Hebrew Torah is ,which, is the guiding light to salvation and the only road to pleasing THE GREAT ETERNAL ONE (G-D) WHO IS THE ONLY SAVIOR OF MANKIND JEWISH AND GENTILE ALIKE. AND NO, G-D CANNOT

  5. Shaul:
    Shalom and thank you for visiting and offering your thoughts.
    As a Christian, I obviously disagree with you, but your comment underscores that the Incarnation of God in the Flesh (which we have just finished celebrating – if we follow the Gregorian Calendar), His Holy Crucifixion, shedding of blood and death remain controversial, foolishness to some, a stumbling block to others.

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