I read at carm.org:

Paul tells us that the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. This means that they are the ones who understood what inspired Scriptures were, and they never accepted the Apocrypha.

From the sentence above, my English understanding is that no Jews accepted the books of

  • Tobit or Tobias
  • Judith
  • Esther with additions
  • 1 and 2 Maccabees
  • Wisdom or Wisdom of Solomon
  • Sirach or Ecclesiasticus
  • Baruch
  • Letter of Jeremiah
  • Daniel with additions
  • 1 Esdras
  • 3 and 4 Maccabees
  • Psalm 151
  • Prayer of Manasseh
  • Psalms of Solomon

This list is from Wikipedia on the Septuagint.

What I don't understand is as follows:

The Translation of the Seventy', derives from the story recorded in the Letter of Aristeas that the Septuagint was translated at the request of Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285–247 BCE) by 70 Jewish scholars (or, according to later tradition, 72: six scholars from each of the Twelve Tribes of Israel).
Source ibid.

My question:

According to Reformed theology, why did the 70 Jewish scholars include the list above (the Apocrypha), "bundling" them together with the non-apocrypha into one book and then call this one book Scripture - while they themselves never accepted the list?

  • @Autodidact should your comment read ... never quote from the apocrypha? – SLM Jun 25 at 1:26
  • Correct in terms of these listed apocrypha they were never quoted word for word. Thank you. @SLM – Autodidact Jun 25 at 2:36
  • Josephus quotes from these Apocrypha multiple times - Antiquities of the Jews 12.5.1-3 quotes 1 Maccabees 1:10-64, Antiquities 11.8.7 quotes 1 Maccabees 1:1-9, and Antiquities 11.6.6 quotes additions to Esther (chapter 13). – emeth Jun 25 at 10:06
  • 2
    One might even better ask why the Olivetan Bible (with preface by Calvin himself!) included the Apocrypha. – user43409 Jun 25 at 11:11

It is true that the Jews ultimately did not accept the apocryphal books you listed in their canon, in a gradual process over several centuries at least spanning 1st century BC and 1st century AD. There was no definitive answer, but a lot of pointers showing the development, shown in the BIBLE CANON article of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia. Especially after the 1st century AD, in opposition to Christian usage of the Greek Septuagint to prove the truths of Christianity (such as how Septuagint translated Hebrew word almah into virgin in Isa 7:14 which the Christians used as one proof of Jesus's divinity), the Rabbinic Jews (whose precursor was the Pharisees) preferred the older Hebrew of the Old Testament, thus abandoning the use of Septuagint.

The early Christians who became more and more gentile in demographics and who understood only Greek (not Hebrew), understandably adopted the Septuagint more and more because they needed the prophetic background as a proof of their "New Testament" beliefs, so in ANOTHER gradual process completely separated from the Rabbinic Jews, the apocryphal books increasingly became part of their canon. But as this excellent article shows, the acceptance of the apocryphal books were not unanimous among the Church Fathers.

Starting with the Reformation, as a reaction to some abuses in the Catholic church making use of the apocryphal books to support the doctrines which the Reformers opposed (indulgences, purgatory, prayers to saints, etc.), as well as the earlier influence of Renaissance Humanism's ad fontes movement, Protestant communities started to create new editions of the whole Bible from the original Greek and Hebrew sources instead the Latin of the Vulgate, translated into their national languages such as English and German. Critical self reflection of the canon, coupled with the Protestant movement ethos to go back to the original theology of Christianity, thus formed the background on why the apocryphal books were rejected by the reformers.

The short Introduction to the Old Testament essay of the 1962 Oxford Annotated RSV translation by renowned Bible scholar Bruce M Metzger is quite valuable to give us a similar narrative about the status of the apocryphal books. The Preface is also very helpful to serve as a short history of the Bible in the English language (started with Tyndale's project in 1535).

As you can see from the articles I referenced above, the list of canonical books varies according to various criteria: holiness (inspired by God), what counted as "Scriptures", what are edifying, what can be used as a source of theology, etc. Consider also the different communities, whose identity development over centuries played into the making of the list: those who produced the Septuagint, Early Christians, Rabbinic Jews, Catholics, Protestants, etc. each understandably had varying interpretation of what the apocryphal books meant for their communities.

So by 1561, mere decades from Martin Luther's famous 95 theses, the Reformed Theology "fathers" already enshrined the "new canon" excluding the apocrypha in their Belgic Confession Articles 4-6 with the following reasons:

ARTICLE 4: We include in the Holy Scripture the two volumes of the Old and New Testaments. They are canonical books with which there can be no quarrel at all. In the church of God the list is as follows:

In the Old Testament, the five books of Moses— Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; the books of Joshua, Judges, and Ruth; the two books of Samuel, and two of Kings; the two books of Chronicles, called Paralipomenon; the first book of Ezra; Nehemiah, Esther, Job; the Psalms of David; the three books of Solomon— Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song; the four major prophets— Isaiah, Jeremiah*, Ezekiel, Daniel; and then the other twelve minor prophets— Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.

  • “Jeremiah” here includes the Book of Lamentations as well as the Book of Jeremiah.

In the New Testament, the four gospels— Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the Acts of the Apostles; the fourteen letters of Paul— to the Romans; the two letters to the Corinthians; to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians; the two letters to the Thessalonians; the two letters to Timothy; to Titus, Philemon, and to the Hebrews; the seven letters of the other apostles— one of James; two of Peter; three of John; one of Jude; and the Revelation of the apostle John.

ARTICLE 5: We receive all these books and these only as holy and canonical, for the regulating, founding, and establishing of our faith. And we believe without a doubt all things contained in them— not so much because the church receives and approves them as such but above all because the Holy Spirit testifies in our hearts that they are from God, and also because they prove themselves to be from God. For even the blind themselves are able to see that the things predicted in them do happen.

ARTICLE 6: The Difference Between Canonical and Apocryphal Books We distinguish between these holy books and the apocryphal ones, which are the third and fourth books of Esdras; the books of Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Jesus Sirach, Baruch; what was added to the Story of Esther; the Song of the Three Children in the Furnace; the Story of Susannah; the Story of Bel and the Dragon; the Prayer of Manasseh; and the two books of Maccabees.

The church may certainly read these books and learn from them as far as they agree with the canonical books. But they do not have such power and virtue that one could confirm from their testimony any point of faith or of the Christian religion. Much less can they detract from the authority of the other holy books.

  • Thank you for your explanation, GratefulDisciple. You wrote : Especially after the 1st century AD, in opposition to Christian usage of the Greek Septuagint to prove the truths of Christianity (such as how Septuagint translated Hebrew word almah into virgin in Isa 7:14 which the Christians used as one proof of Jesus's divinity), the Rabbinic Jews (whose precursor was the Pharisees) preferred the older Hebrew of the Old Testament, thus abandoning the use of Septuagint. ... (continue) – karma Jul 17 at 17:05
  • regarding my quotation in the question : so, did the article mean that on a much later time, The Rabbinic Jews (not the Christian Jews) finally never accepted the books (Apocrypha) I listed in my question (?) – karma Jul 17 at 17:05
  • That's correct. The Hebrew Bible canon was fixed late 1st century (see wikipedia). An easier to read treatment of the apocryphal books can be read in another wikipedia article. I believe nowadays the same Hebrew text is the source of translation for both Christian Old Testament and Jewish Tanakh. And in the scholarly circles I see OT scholars and Hebrew Bible scholars regularly collaborate, but of course differ in Messianic interpretation. – GratefulDisciple Jul 17 at 18:49

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