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JUST WHAT DO YOU MEAN. . ."APOCRYPHA"?

by Jared L. Olar

This series began four years ago with the story of how I was introduced to the books and chapters of the Apocrypha, and of how very strange I thought it was that Catholics included the Apocrypha in their Bibles. Now that we have finished our survey of those books and chapters, we cannot conclude this series without exploring the vexed question of why Christians disagree about whether or not the Apocrypha belong in the Bible. Of course, a proper study would require an exhaustive, book-length treatment of the subject. Starting with this installment, we will touch on the important highlights of the issues related to this controversy. As we shall see, this question is much more complicated than may appear at first.

How Many Canons?

At first glance, the issue of the proper extent of the Old Testament canon seems to be a difference of opinion between Protestant Christians and non-Christian Jews on the one hand and Catholic and Orthodox Christians on the other. But upon closer inspection, we find that there are more than just two opposing camps. For instance, even though the Catholics and Orthodox have much more in common with each other on this issue than they have with Protestants and Jews, nevertheless Catholics and Orthodox do not exactly agree with each other about the Old Testament canon.

There is also something similar on the part of the Protestant/Jewish camp. While Protestants do not admit the Apocrypha into their Old Testament canon of inspired scripture, some Protestants think these books should still be included in their Bibles, while most Protestants think they don't belong in the Bible at all. As for the Hebrew Scriptures, Orthodox Judaism hasn't debated which books ``defile the hands'' (i.e., which books belong in the Bible) since the 300s A.D., but prior to that there was a degree of uncertainty among the Jews about which books were inspired and which were not. Many Jews accepted a canon basically the same as the canon later approved by the rabbis, while others accepted a longer canon that was closer to the Catholic/Orthodox position. Still other Jews apparently accepted a canon even longer than that-one like that which is accepted by Ethiopian Christians. On the opposite extreme, there are the half-Jewish Samaritans, who have always had the shortest biblical canon of all-they accept as canonical only their recension of the Pentateuch.

Just as the Jews anciently had doubts about the proper limits of their canon, the ancient Christians in those days also were uncertain about the extent of the Old Testament canon. Thus, while ancient Christian Bibles normally included some or all of the Apocrypha, it's important to remember that a book's inclusion in a biblical codex didn't necessarily mean it was held to be divinely inspired. Again, many ancient Christian Bibles included several books or chapters that have never been universally accepted as inspired by Christians. As will become evident, the modern disagreements of Christians regarding the Old Testament Apocrypha trace back to those ancient centuries when those kinds of uncertainties and questions were rife in the Church.

Just what do you mean . . . ``Apocrypha''?

Obviously, if different groups of Christians and Jews disagree on the Old Testament canon, they will also disagree on which books should be classified as ``Apocrypha.'' The term apocrypha refers to ancient writings that are ``extra-canonical,'' even though they closely resemble canonical books of the Bible and were often very popular among ancient Jews or Christians. The trouble is, what is canonical to one Christian might be apocryphal to another.

All Christians agree with the Jews in accepting the 22 scrolls of the Hebrew Scriptures as canonical-but Protestants draw the line at those 22 scrolls, whereas most Christians accept several more books into their Old Testament canon. Thus, the books of Judith or Tobit, for example, are apocryphal to Protestant Christians, but canonical to Catholic or Orthodox Christians. However, Protestants and Catholics agree that, say, the Prayer of Manasses or Greek Ezra or III Maccabees or Psalm 151 are apocryphal, while the Orthodox Churches accept those writings as canonical. Protestants, Catholics, and most Orthodox agree that the books of Jubilees and Enoch are apocryphal, but the Ethiopian Orthodox Church believes those books to be canonical.

In part because of the disputes between Catholics and Protestants about which books belong in the Old Testament, in time a negative connotation came to be associated with the term apocrypha, so that it came to imply that a writing is spurious or inauthentic-an illegitimate book, even a deliberate forgery. Due to that negative connotation, in the 1500s two alternative, neutral terms for ``canonical'' and ``apocryphal'' were invented: ``protocanonical'' and ``deuterocanonical.'' A protocanonical book is one that appears in the Jewish canon of 22 scrolls, whereas a deuterocanonical book is a writing accepted by a Christian group as canonical, but whose canonicity was uncertain in ancient times and continues to be disputed in some circles even today. Thus, in this series we have studied books and chapters which Protestants call ``the Apocrypha,'' but which Catholics and Orthodox call ``deuterocanonical scripture.'' To understand why Christians disagree on something as important as the proper extent of the sacred canon of writings, let us trace the outline of the history of the development of the Old Testament canon.

Formation of the Hebrew Canon:

The Hebrew canon of Scripture consists of three divisions. The first is the Pentateuch or Torah, the five books of Moses which form the foundation of the Old Testament canon. Then, starting in the days of Moses' successor Joshua around 1400 B.C., works of history and prophecy began to be written and collected. These books are called the Prophets or Nebi'im, the latest of which was Malachi, written around 400 B.C. The third division is known as the Kethubim, that is, the Writings or Hagiographa, which includes books of psalms, poetry, proverbs, didactic tales, and prophetic visions, composed and compiled at various times in Israel's history. From the initial letters of the Hebrew names for these three divisions, the Jews refer to their Scriptures as the ``Tanakh.''

By ancient Jewish tradition, the Hebrew Bible consists of 22 scrolls- the five books of Moses, the six scrolls of the Prophets, and the eleven scrolls of the Writings. In that numbering, Joshua and Judges are counted as a single book, as are Ezra and Nehemiah, but an alternate numbering of the scrolls counts those four writings as separate scrolls. Thus, in the alternate system, there are 24 scrolls-five books of Moses, seven scrolls of the Prophets, and twelve scrolls of the Writings. The 22 (or 24) scrolls of the Tanakh answer to the 39 books of the Protestant Old Testament.

The basic elements of the traditional Jewish arrangement of their sacred books are very ancient. As we saw in the first installment of this series, by 180 B.C. the Jews had already begun to classify their sacred writings into three groups-Law, Prophets, and Everything Else. Also, by that time the custom had developed of placing all 12 books of the Minor Prophets in a single scroll, although the order of books varied from manuscript to manuscript. The New Testament often refers to the Old Testament writings as ``the Law and the Prophets,'' but in Luke 24:44 we may have a reference to the Jewish tripartite classification of their scriptures: Law of Moses, Prophets, and Psalms. In Jewish tradition, the Book of Psalms is the first of the Kethubim, so it is possible that Jesus referred to all the books of the Kethubim by the name of the first book in that grouping.

However, even while the tripartite division of the Hebrew Scriptures was used in ancient times, doubt remained about which books should be accepted into the canon, not to mention what order certain of the books should have. It isn't until the 90s A.D. that we first come across a reference to the tradition of limiting the Tanakh to 22 scrolls: in Against Apion, Josephus not only mentions the tripartite division, but says also that the Jews believe only 22 books to be divine-the five books of Moses, the thirteen books of the Prophets, and four books of hymns and precepts. Evidently Josephus classified as Nebi'im several books that later came to be regarded as Kethubim. Josephus claims that only books written up to the reign of Artaxerxes Longimanus-i.e., before 400 B.C.-are accepted as sacred by the Jews.

Both Orthodox Jews and most Protestant Christians accept Josephus' cut-off point of 400 B.C. as a rule for determining canonicity. According to an old Jewish tradition, in the 400s B.C. Ezra the Scribe organised an assembly of scribes, elders, and prophets known as the Great Synagogue, which compiled and edited the Jewish scriptures. For Christians who follow this tradition, the Old Testament canon was closed around four centuries before the birth of Christ. But as we shall see, whatever role Ezra and the Great Synagogue played in the development of the biblical text and canon, Jewish authorities did not finally settle all of their canonical disputes until the 200s or 300s A.D., a fact irreconcilable with the hypothesis that the Hebrew canon was closed by 400 B.C.

Others claim that the Jews actually didn't close their canon until circa 80 or 90 A.D., at the so-called Council of Jamnia. In fact, that ``council'' was a rabbinical academy or school that debated and made rulings on various topics. Rabbis at Jamnia (Yavneh) debated and discussed the canonicity of books like Esther, Daniel, the Song of Solomon, and Ecclesiastes. However, whatever rulings on canonicity may have been made at Jamnia, they did not finally settle anything at that time, because it is known that even as late as the 300s A.D, many if not most Jewish authorities still didn't accept Esther as canonical.

The problem with both the ``Great Synagogue'' and ``Jamnia'' theories is that ample historical evidence exists to show that doubts about the precise extent of the canon persisted in Judaism until the 200s A.D., around which time the Hebrew canon seems to have been settled for most Jews. For example, one ancient rabbinical scholar from Babylon actually quoted from the original Hebrew text of the Wisdom of Ben-Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) as sacred scripture, classifying it as Kethubim, and in the 100s A.D. rabbis still saw a need to deny Ben-Sirach's canonicity and to forbid Jews from reading it. Rabbinic opinions about which books ``defiled the hands'' (i.e. were canonical) continued to vary until the 200s A.D., and as we saw in our study of Baruch, Jews in Syria continued to regard Baruch as scripture until the second half of the 300s A.D. Thus, the Jewish canon could not have been definitively closed either by 400 B.C. or by 90 A.D.

Besides the ``Great Synagogue'' and ``Jamnia'' theories, many Christians have opted for a theory that there were in ancient times two basic Jewish canons: an extended ``Alexandrian'' canon in Greek translation (i.e. the Septuagint), and a shorter ``Palestinian'' canon in Hebrew and Aramaic (i.e. the proto-Masoretic text). The Septuagint text not only includes several books and chapters not found in the Hebrew Masoretic, but often shows signs of having been based on a markedly different Hebrew/Aramaic text than we find in the Masoretic text. As we saw in Issue 15's article, ``The Second Cainan,'' the Septuagint's genealogy of Abraham contains a generation not found in the Masoretic. Again, the Septuagint's recension of Jeremiah is an earlier edition of the book-it is much shorter than Masoretic Jeremiah and has chapters in a very different order. The Septuagint's text of Samuel-Kings is also generally superior to Masoretic Samuel-Kings, which frequently shows signs of textual corruption and scribal error.

Another distinction between the Septuagint and the Masoretic is that the Septuagint does not follow the traditional tripartite division of Law, Prophets, and Writings. Instead, the Septuagint books are grouped into four divisions based on topic or type of literature: Law, History, Poetry, and Prophecy. The books that appear among the Writings in the Hebrew canon are scattered among the books of History, Poetry, and Prophecy in the Septuagint. Because most of early Christianity adopted the Septuagint as the basis of its Old Testament canon, the Christian Old Testament follows the Septuagint's method of classification rather than the traditional tripartite division found in the Masoretic.

In any event, according to this theory, the Alexandrian canon was supposedly the basis for the Catholic/Eastern Orthodox Old Testament canons, whereas the Palestinian canon was the basis for the Jewish/Protestant canon. However, all extant manuscripts of the Greek Septuagint are of Christian origin, and these manuscripts often do not all contain the same books. That would indicate that there was no closed ``Alexandrian'' canon at the time of Christ, just as the facts mentioned above indicate that there was no closed ``Palestinian'' canon at the time of Christ. Rather, the evidence shows that by the time Christ founded the Church, although certain textual variations within books remained, the Law and the Prophets had substantially reached their final form and were closed collections, while the extent of the Writings had not yet been completely settled.

Formation of the Christian Old Testament Canon:

Just as Judaism does not appear to have finally settled its disputes over the biblical canon until the 200s A.D., so it was that many Christians of that era continued to have doubts about the precise extent of the Old Testament canon --- doubts that would only be allayed for most Christians in the last decades of the 300s A.D.

From the very start, we can see signs that Christians and Jews held to different views about which books were inspired of God.  In this series we have seen that, although the New Testament writers never directly quoted from the books of the Apocrypha, they were familiar with them, and often alluded to them in ways that show they held the books in high regard.  As early as the latter first century A.D., Christians begin to quote from various books of the Apocrypha as inspired scripture.  As we saw in this series, around 95 A.D., St. Clement of Rome referred to a few of these books, including Judith and the Greek version of Esther. Again, around 110 A.D., St. Polycarp of Smyrna quoted from Tobit in a way that shows he regarded it as inspired scripture.  Hermas and the unknown author of the Letter of Pseudo-Barnabas also quote from or allude to various books of the Apocrypha.  In fact, it's very difficult to find a Christian writer in the earliest centuries of Church history who does not quote from or allude to these books in ways that show they accepted them as divinely inspired.

In the second century A.D., Christian writers began to show awareness that several books the Church accepted were rejected by most Jews --- indeed, that several scripture passages the Church often used to support their doctrines were absent from the biblical texts used by most Jews at that time.  St. Justin Martyr, in his Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, accused the Jewish leaders of deliberately cutting passages out of the Bible as an underhanded means of fighting Christian evangelism.  However, while it is true that, starting in the second century A.D., Jews have re-translated various classic Messianic prophecies to prevent non-Hebrew-speaking Christians from claiming that they refer to Jesus, there is no evidence that the Jews have ever deliberately mutilated their own scriptures.  The textual differences that St. Justin noticed apparently came from innocent scribal errors on the part of both Jewish and Christian copyists, and from the fact that the Jews relied on a biblical text that came from a different family or tradition of manuscripts than that which underlies the Septuagint.

Regarding the disagreements about the canon that were developing between the Church and the Jews, most early Christian writers asserted that the Church did not depend on non-Christian Jews to settle the question, but instead had the authority to follow its own tradition that she had received from Christ and the Apostles.  This assertion is only implicit with St. Justin, but becomes explicit in later Christian writers.

The earliest known list of Old Testament books that was drawn up by a Christian is that of St. Melito of Sardis around 170 A.D.  St. Melito said he went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and while he was there he apparently learned from Jewish rabbis the list of the books then accepted by most Jews.  St. Melito's list is identical to the Jewish biblical canon except for the absence of the book of Esther, which was then still regarded as apocryphal by most Jews.  However, it would be rash to conclude that St. Melito thought the Church should adopt the Jewish canon, since we know in his other writings and homilies he followed the Church's common practice of citing from or alluding to the Apocrypha.  It is possible that his intent was to demonstrate that Christians could prove Jesus was the Messiah without quoting from the Apocrypha.

Not many years after St. Melito's death, we find St. Irenaeus of Lyons (died circa 202 A.D.), a disciple of St. Polycarp of Smyrna, following his teacher's example of making use of the Apocrypha in his writings.  For example, St. Irenaeus regarded the book of Baruch to be a part of the book of Jeremiah, and regarded the tales of Susanna and Bel and the Dragon to be accepted parts of the book of Daniel.  Then in the generation after St. Irenaeus, we find Tertullian and St. Cyprian of Carthage making use of all of the Apocrypha as inspired scripture except for Tobit, Judith, and the Additions to Esther.  Around the same time, Clement of Alexandria cited Wisdom and Sirach, while St. Hippolytus of Rome (died 236 A.D.) commented on the tale of Susanna, frequently quoted from Wisdom, and explicitly referred to Baruch and I & II Maccabees as inspired scripture.

From Origen to St. Jerome:

The second known list of Old Testament books that was drawn up by a Christian comes to us from Origen (died circa 254 A.D.), who lists the 22 books that he says were accepted by the Hebrews as canonical.  Origen's list is identical to the accepted Jewish canon in almost every respect.  According to Origen, the Jews of his day accepted Esther as canonical (in contrast to the earlier witness of St. Melito), but also included the Lamentations of Jeremiah along with the Letter of Jeremiah (from the Apocrypha) in the same scroll as the book of Jeremiah.

Origen's list reflected his awareness of what Jews of his day regarded as scripture, as well as his awareness that the Jews and the Christians had come to have very different attitudes toward the Apocrypha.  But Origen clearly did not intend his list as a delineation of which books Christians ought to accept as canonical, because in his numerous writings Origen cited all of the books of the Apocrypha as inspired scripture, and in his Letter to Julius Africanus he defends the canonicity of Tobit, Judith, and the Additions to Daniel.  In the same letter, Origen implies that the Church is not bound to follow Jewish tradition on the question of which books belong in the Old Testament.  Origen also included the Apocrypha in his Hexapla edition of the Old Testament.

Another witness to the accepted tradition of the Church in Origen's day comes from the Codex Claromontanus, which provides a list of Old Testament scripture that is identical in almost all particulars to the Catholic Church's Old Testament canon, the sole exception being the inclusion of IV Maccabees.  However, by the 300s A.D., we see indications that many Christians had doubts about the proper status of the Apocrypha.  Eusebius Pamphilii classified them among the "antilegomena" or disputed books, a rank superior to apocryphal books but a step lower than the books accepted by all Christians without dispute.

Taking essentially the same approach as Eusebius was St. Athanasius the Great, whose famous Festal Epistle of 367 A.D. lists and discusses the books accepted as canonical by Christians.  St. Athanasius' list of New Testament scripture is identical to that which all Christians have accepted ever since, but his list of Old Testament scripture differs somewhat from both Jewish tradition and subsequent Catholic/Orthodox tradition.  St. Athanasius' Old Testament list, which ostensibly reflects the Jewish tradition of his day, excludes Esther but includes Baruch as a part of Jeremiah and includes the Daniel additions.  The rest of the Apocrypha, along with Esther, are grouped together as books that the earlier Church Fathers had appointed to be read to potential converts for instruction and edification.

This distinction between "canonical" and "ecclesiastical" books, however, seems to have been merely theoretical, because St. Athanasius, like the Church Fathers before him, freely quoted from the Apocrypha as inspired scripture.  He was well aware that the Jews and the Christians differed on the question of the Old Testament canon, and perhaps drew attention to that difference in order to remind Christians not to use the Apocrypha when dialoguing and debating with Jews.

St. Epiphanius held a belief about the Apocrypha that was essentially like that of St. Athanasius and Eusebius.  St. Hilary of Poitiers and Rufinus also accepted St. Athanasius' approach to the Old Testament canon, excluding them from the canon in theory while in practice quoting them as inspired scripture.  St. Cyril of Jerusalem, however, held a much more negative opinion of the Apocrypha, although he still acknowledged the Church's right to settle canonical questions without having to give the last word to Jewish tradition.

Finally, at the end of the 300s A.D., in the Prologus Galeatus St. Jerome famously uttered his negative view of the Apocrypha.  St. Jerome's opinion was very close to that of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, and yet also resembled the more moderate approach of St. Athanasius.  As an expert scholar of the Hebrew language and a resident in the Holy Land, St. Jerome had a very high regard for what he called the Hebraica veritas ("Hebrew truth"), the authentic Old Testament texts in Hebrew.  Because the Jews did not admit the Apocrypha into their canon, and because most of those writings could no longer be found in Hebrew or Aramaic, St. Jerome had a negative opinion of them.  Nevertheless, he submitted to the Church's traditional acceptance of the Apocrypha, including them in his new Latin Vulgate translation.  He even quoted them as inspired scripture, just as Origen and St. Athanasius had done, and in a letter to Rufinus he indicated that he accepted the Church's judgment that the Additions to Daniel are a proper part of the Old Testament.

These different attitudes and approaches to the Apocrypha no doubt reflect the fact that in the third and fourth centuries A.D. questions about the canonicity of certain books remained both among the Jews and the Christians.  For practical purposes, those doubts would be resolved for Christians by a series of local councils in the late 300s and early 400s A.D.  Even so, because St. Jerome's Prologus Galeatus would be reproduced in copies of Latin Vulgate Bibles and in the influential Glossa Ordinaria for many centuries after, the negative judgments he expressed would cause questions about the proper status of the Apocrypha to continue to arise from time to time.

St. Augustine and the Councils of Rome, Hippo, and Carthage:

In 382 A.D., Pope Damasus held a synod or local council in Rome that addressed the question of the biblical canon.  From that synod came a list of books that is identical in every way to the subsequent biblical canon of the Catholic Church, grouping without distinction all of the Apocrypha among the rest of the Old Testament books.  One of the purposes of the Synod of Rome most likely was to determine which books were to be included in the proposed new Latin translation of the Bible that Damasus had in mind.  The older Latin versions were in need of revision, so Damasus assigned to St. Jerome the task of preparing a new translation, the origin of the Latin Vulgate Bible.

Not many years after Damasus' synod, a series of local councils or synods in North Africa --- at Hippo in 393 A.D., and at Carthage in 397 A.D. and again in 419 A.D.--- reiterated what had been affirmed at Rome regarding the biblical canon.  In 405 A.D. and 414 A.D., Pope Innocent I confirmed the biblical canon of the 393 A.D. council of Hippo.

The rulings of the councils at Hippo and Carthage bear the stamp of the most notable man in attendance:  the famous theologian St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, who held, in opposition to St. Jerome's preference, that the Apocrypha should not be considered as of less authority than the other Old Testament books.  St. Augustine's view would practically become universal in both Western and Eastern Christendom, and was reaffirmed by Pope Eugenius IV and the Oecumenical Council of Florence in 1442.

However, theoretical doubts did arise over the centuries, due to the abiding influence of Origen, St. Athanasius, and St. Jerome.  For example, the Eastern Fathers St. John the Damascene and Nicephorus, following St. Athanasius, expressed doubts about the proper status of the Apocrypha.  In the West, St. Jerome's Prologus Galeatus continued to influence theologians.  In 1333 the Franciscan theologian Nicholas of Lyra, following St. Jerome, discussed the differences between the Latin Vulgate Bible and the "Hebrew truth."  On the eve of the Protestant Reformation in the early 1500s, Cardinal Cajetan championed St. Jerome's views expressed in the Prologus Galeatus.  These were, however, theoretical discussions only -- in practice, Catholics and Eastern Orthodox did not distinguish between "protocanonical" and "deuterocanonical" Old Testament books.

The Era of the Reformation:

Along with the fracturing of Western Christendom during the era of the Reformation came a division of belief regarding the biblical canon.  One of the first signs of this division was Jacob van Liesveldt's Dutch translation of the Bible, printed in 1526 in Antwerp.  This was the first modern vernacular Bible to group all the Apocrypha together in its own section, separate from the Old and New Testaments.  That was six years after Martin Luther was excommunicated and his doctrines formally condemned by Pope Leo X.  Then in 1534 came Luther's own German Bible, which also grouped all of the Apocrypha in its own section between the Old and New Testaments, and which was the first Bible to name these books "the Apocrypha."

Luther had adopted St. Jerome's view that these books should be demoted from the rank of inspired, sacred scripture, and that the Christian Old Testament should include only those books and chapters found in the Orthodox Jewish canon of 22 or 24 scrolls.  The first public sign of Luther's belief that the Apocrypha were not authoritative scripture came in 1519 during a debate with Johann von Eck.  When Eck cited II Maccabees in support of the doctrine of purgatory, Luther replied that II Maccabees and the other Apocrypha were uncanonical and therefore had no binding authority.  Even so, Luther recommended that Christians should still read these books for edification.

Luther's approach to the question of the Apocrypha (i.e., "not canonical, but good things for Christians to read") remains popular in certain mainline Protestant denominations, particularly Lutheran and Anglican/Episcopalian churches.  Even today Anglican liturgy retains a few lections from the Apocrypha.  However, most Protestants adopted the more radical views of John Calvin and his disciples, who strenuously rejected the Apocrypha.  That gave rise to a tendency among many Protestants to refuse to read these books for any reason.  Despite the view that these books were not canonical, many Protestant Bibles --- especially the King James Version -- continued to include the Apocrypha, even though they would be grouped together in their own section.  In fact, in the 1600s a law was enacted in England forbidding editions of the KJV from being printed without the Apocrypha.  The Calvinist "Geneva Bible" of 1599 was the first Bible printed in England that intentionally excluded the Apocrypha.  Still, only in the first half of the 1800s did the familiar KJV minus the Apocrypha become common, due to the 1827 decision of the British and Foreign Bible Society to refuse to distribute Bibles containing the Apocrypha.

In response to the Protestant belief that the Apocrypha did not belong in the Old Testament canon, the Catholic Church's reforming Council of Trent issued a decree in 1546 that reaffirmed the biblical canon that had been in accepted use in Catholicism for at least the previous 1,200 years. The decree listed the books of the Catholic biblical canon, and then mandated that all Catholics must accept "as sacred and canonical, the said books entire and with all their parts, as they have been used to be read in the Catholic Church, and as they are contained in the old Latin vulgate edition."  This decree, coupled with the knowledge among Catholics that Protestants were championing St. Jerome's negative comments about the Apocrypha, would soon serve to put an end in the Catholic Church to theoretical doubts about the Apocrypha and their relation to the other Old Testament books.

The Biblical Canon in Eastern Christendom:

As was alluded to in the above reference to St. John the Damascene and Nicephorus, in the East the history of the biblical canon took a somewhat different path than it did in the West.  The influence of St. Athanasius' distinction between "canonical books" and "ecclesiastical books" was very strong in the East, especially due to reverence for St. Athanasius as the fourth-century champion of theological and christological orthodoxy.  But the tradition that placed both "protocanonical" and "deuterocanonical" books on the same level was also to be found in Eastern Christendom, especially as mediated through the authority of the great oecumenical councils of the early Middle Ages, which endorsed the biblical canon of the local councils of Rome, Hippo, and Carthage.

Thus, over time Eastern Christians showed more of a tendency to ignore or to forget St. Athanasius' distinction.  At the time of the Photian Schism in the 800s A.D., the Greek Church is known to have publicly read all of the Apocrypha.  Then after the Great Schism of 1054 A.D., by about 1100 A.D. the Greek Orthodox biblical canon is known to have been almost identical to the Catholic biblical canon, the only difference being that the Orthodox Churches recognised III Maccabees as scripture, a book always regarded as apocryphal among Catholics.

The Orthodox Churches responded to the Protestant Reformation about a century after the Catholic Church's official response at Trent.  This came about when Cyril Lucaris, who was elected Patriarch of Constantinople in 1621, converted to Calvinism and attempted to bring Calvinist doctrine into Eastern Orthodoxy.  His attempts naturally met with intense opposition from the Orthodox Churches, and after his death in 1638 the Orthodox condemned his doctrines in several synods, including the 1672 Synod of Jerusalem.  Just as Catholicism reaffirmed the canonicity of the Apocrypha at Trent in 1546, Orthodoxy reaffirmed their canonicity at Jerusalem in 1672.

There were, however, still Orthodox who followed St. Athanasius' approach to the canon, particularly in the Russian Orthodox Church and other Slavic Orthodox Churches.  In the 1700s, Russian Orthodox theologians began to emphasise St. Athanasius' tradition, and in consequence that particular tradition has become more prominent among Orthodox Churches.  Thus, among the Orthodox the Apocrypha in practice are used as Holy Scripture, but that practice is coupled with the ancient theoretical distinction placing them on a lower level than the rest of Scripture.

Non-canonical books in Christian Bibles:

As mentioned last time, the question of "what is apocrypha?" is answered differently depending on the Jewish and Christian tradition.  Jews and Protestants have a shorter biblical canon than Catholics, who in turn have a shorter canon than the Orthodox and other Eastern Christian traditions.  However, just because someone believes that a particular book is uninspired and uncanonical, that doesn't mean he would object to the book being included with the books that he accepts as canonical.  As noted above, some Protestants do not object to Bibles that contain the books and chapters they call "the Apocrypha," and the Anglican/Episcopal liturgy even includes readings from the Apocrypha, even though they are not regarded as a part of the Bible proper.

A similar phenomenon can be found in the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches.  In the early Church, several writings that lacked much support for their canonicity were nevertheless frequently included in handwritten biblical codices.  These writings often enjoyed popularity with early Christian writers, some of whom even quoted them as Scripture, but Church councils never formally recognised their canonicity.  As time went on, those writings would continue to appear in Bibles, but would be relegated to appendices to indicate that they were apocrypha -- useful, but not divinely inspired.

For example, ancient Greek Bibles commonly included at least some of the following writings interspersed among unquestionably canonical Old Testament books:  I Esdras, the Prayer of Manasses, Psalm 151, and III & IV Maccabees.  Similarly, Syriac and Latin and Ethiopic Bibles would commonly include some of those writings.  However, Latin Bibles also included II Esdras, an apocalypse that could also be found in Slavonic and Ethiopic Bibles.  Meanwhile, Syriac Bibles frequently lacked not only the Apocrypha, not to mention several canonical Old Testament books, but sometimes included additional psalms (such as Psalms 154 and 155, also found in pre-Christian psalters, as seen in the Dead Sea Scrolls).  As mentioned last time, Ethiopic Bibles have long included Jubilees and I Enoch, which were both very popular writings among the Jews who produced the Dead Sea Scrolls, and were quoted by many early Christian writers, beginning with St. Jude's quote from I Enoch in the New Testament.  But Ethiopic Bibles have also included the Kebra Nagast, the tale of how Menelik, alleged son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, stole the Ark of the Covenant from the Temple in Jerusalem and smuggled it down to Ethiopia.  The Kebra Nagast understandably is not found in any other sort of Jewish or Christian Bible.

Before the 1500s, the Latin Vulgate Bible would intersperse among its Old Testament the books of I & II Esdras and the Prayer of Manasses.  After the Council of Trent, however, those writings were moved to an appendix --- both to prevent any confusion about their uncanonical status and to enable Catholics to continue to read them if they wished.  Thus, just as some Protestants have Bibles with Apocrypha, Catholic Bibles have also included books that the Catholic Church regards as apocryphal.

The former popularity of the Catholic apocrypha is seen not only in the fact that some early Church Fathers (such as St. Ambrose of Milan and St. Augustine of Hippo) quoted them as Scripture, but also in their influence on Catholic liturgy and belief.  II Esdras, for instance, helped shape popular medieval conceptions of the afterlife, and, sadly, reinforced popular anti-Jewish attitudes.  But it also provided several moving prayers in Catholic liturgy, such as the traditional Latin "requiem" prayer, while passages from the other Catholic apocrypha have provided other prayers and canticles.  More recently, however, Catholic Bibles have not included these books, not even in an appendix, while they ironically continue to appear in some Protestant Bibles, and still have some degree of liturgical use in the Anglican/Episcopal communion.  For instance, the Daily Office Lectionary of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer has a reading from II Esdras for Morning Prayer on All Saints Day, and the Prayer of Manasses is used as a canticle.  Each revision of the Book of Common Prayer has fewer readings from those books, however.

In contrast to the Catholic tradition, Greek and Russian Orthodox Bibles include I Esdras, the Prayer of Manasses, Psalm 151, and III Maccabees not as "apocrypha" but as canonical scripture.  Thus, Orthodox Bibles have Old Testaments that include all the books recognised by Catholics, with four additional writings.  However, II Esdras does not appear anywhere in the Greek Bible, while IV Maccabees (an extended meditation on II Macc. 7) is included in an appendix, that is, as apocrypha.  From this survey of Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox usages, we can see that just because a writing is included in a Bible, that doesn't mean it is regarded as canonical or divinely inspired.

Some Final Thoughts:

In looking back at the things we've learned in this study of the Apocrypha, we can see that each tradition -- Jewish, Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, etc. -- accounts for its respective biblical canon through various arguments that rely on religious tradition, manuscript evidence, liturgical use, doctrinal content, citation as scripture by ancient authorities, and authoritative rulings from recognised leadership.  But each tradition's arguments place different weight on the evidence provided by those things.  In this study we've had a chance to survey some of that evidence.  In brief, Judaism bases its canon on the Oral Law as mediated through rabbinic tradition, while Catholicism and Orthodoxy similarly emphasise apostolic tradition and the authority of councils.  With Protestantism, however, one finds the argument that tradition and church authority are not necessarily dependable, so the shorter canon of the Jews -- the list of books that is recognised by all Christians ---would be the "safest" option.  In contrast, Catholicism and Orthodoxy do not give Jewish tradition the final say in this matter.  The one thing not in dispute is that the questions of what is canonical and what is apocryphal are in fact much more difficult to answer than may appear at first glance.




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