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EXCURSION INTO OLD TESTAMENT CANON
In our last chapter, there was occasion to consider not merely the position of II Peter in the New Testament canon, and to observe its certainty, but the Old Testament canon, as a matter in generic parallel. For those interested in the sparkle of scripture, this matter is here given more attention.
Gleason Archer, a highly qualified and incisive scholar whose works are salient reference volumes, makes many points of interest in his " A Survey of Old Testament Introduction". His substantial and informative data are entirely in accord with this statement from the New Bible Dictionary of the IVF, p. 191:
and fashions do not change these things.
In fact, as Archer makes abundantly clear from the data supplied, not only Josephus in his classical statement about continuity, fixity, non-addition and apartness of the canonical works, but various other testimonies assure us of the sure status of the enduring 22 (or depending on manner of listing) 24 as others may put them, books of the Old Testament. In what would be a good lesson for Romanism, in his Contra Apionem 1:8, he declares:
"From Artaxerxes (the successor of Xerxes) until our time everything has been recorded, but has not been deemed worthy of like credit with what preceded, because the exact succession of the prophets ceased. But what faith we have placed in our own writings is evident by our conduct; for though so long a time has now passed, no one has dared to add anything to them, or to take anything from them, or to alter anything in them."
This fixity exactly mirrors in advance, because it relays from the past what was already there, the words of Christ in Matthew 5:17-19. There was no doubt about the Old Testament canon. It is true that some books included, like the Song of Songs and Esther, were considered at Jamnia*1, but the objections were answered (cf. Archer op.cit. pp. 61-62). Thus, allegory was taken for Song of Songs, and the fact that Esther does not mention the name of God is offset by its overwhelming testimony to divine dealings in history.
They were not touched in their status. There was still no change. Targets were set up, but no dismantling is in the slightest degree attested, but rather counters.
The normal and accepted list was not altered in any way. The inheritance from the Jews has not the slightest doubt. The addition of books by any council or church has been unwise, unauthorised and contrary to the word of God. It has been a Gentile arrogation of the transmission accorded to the Jews. Augustine himself, so dynamic in the affair, was still quite clear on the distinction. It was an official fumble, rather than a substantial change, on the part of the Council of Carthage in this Old Testament matter; but fumble it was.
Thus it is interesting, in terms of early New Testament times, that even though Augustine agreed with having more books included in the list for the Old Testament, he also made his own distinction about WHY they were there (i.e. not as equal but subordinate, and not of authority so much as reference), in declaring of someone who was trying to settle a point by referring to one of these extra books, that his case must be weak if he had to resort to a book not in the same category as those received and accepted by the Jews! This occurred as Archer relates (op.cit. p. 65) in a dispute in which a passage in II Maccabees was invoked in order to resolve the point. The implication is inexorable. The canon of the Jews was indisputably without such addition as this, and was regarded even by Augustine with his desire for scope, as a criterion without match, as far as Old Testament inspiration and authority was concerned. Call it what you will, THIS is the fact; and it is the fact with which we are here concerned.
Where however what cannot
be used to determine a spiritual issue is contrasted with what may or should be
so used, we receive a double testimony. To Augustine, the actual CANON of the
direct word of God, as distinct from writings of extreme spiritual unction, is
the 39 books. Whatever the vocabulary used, this is the meaning apparent*2. If there was a measure of adventurism in the Old
Testament approach at
Indeed, Athanasius, revered as champion of trinitarian
orthodoxy, fame maintained in the name of the creed Athanasian, also in
his Thirty-ninth Letter wrote: "There are, then, of the Old
Testament twenty two books in number." He then enumerates the
books customary for the Jews, and which are found in the Bible rightly drawn
from the Jewish background by the Protestants, who in this, follow Paul and
Christ. The apocrypha are as absent here as for
The reduced number, as there made explicit in the enumeration, comes from customary aggregations but the meaning is not in question. The Massoretic text is of 24, in their particular aggregations, namely: as now, except for this, that the 12 minor prophets are counted as just one book, I II Kings, I II Chronicles as one, I II Samuel likewise; while Ezra and Nehemiah are taken to be one.
Expanding from this, one simply adds to 24, 11 plus 4, or 15, making 39.
It is to be noted that there is one slight complication relative to Athanasius: he left out Esther, with some a sensitive question; but he did acknowledge this to be in the CANON OF THE JEWS, the supreme question before us, as noted earlier, as cited in Inspiration and Canonicity of the Canon, R. Laird Harris, p. 190. In fact, as Harris points out (op.cit. 190), Athanasius’ comments are two: firstly, he indicates the apocryphal addition which commences Esther in the LXX, and then provides this salient fact, "Esther is canonical among the Hebrews; and as Ruth is reckoned as one book with Judges, so Esther with some other book". Thus, with one stroke, we see a cause of concern which may have activated some, and find a status of fact, concerning this book!
It is not a question of disputation, but information. Nor is it now uncertain what is the Jewish conclusion, at the last as at the first of the Christian millenia. But let us turn further to Christian attestation.
Going back, Bishop Melito of Sardis, A.D. 170, cannot be shown to have included any apocryphal book in his Old Testament canon list. In this, resembling our own, Lamentations is not specified, but presumably goes with Jeremiah, Nehemiah does not appear but apparently is merely the partner of Ezra in the way of those times; Esther does not appear, either a personal idiosyncrasy or an example of its inclusion elsewhere. NOTHING ANYWHERE is apocryphal in his biblical quotation ascriptions.
Origen, much concerned with Jewish people, lists the current Old Testament, in substance our 39 books, but oddly adds another under Jeremiah's name, which F.F. Bruce considers possibly was an oversight (The Canon of Scripture, p. 75), for after all, it is an egregious thing in the context. Philo likewise appears to have just the same Old Testament Canon as now, and "quotes from almost all the books" (The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. 2, p. 390). Similarly, the Aramaic Targums recognised no apocryphal (for clarity, ultra Massoretic) books, nor did the Syriac Peshitta in its earliest form; while Jerome explicitly noted the subordinate nature of such books, in translating the Hebrew Old Testament into Latin. In this of course, he precisely imitates Augustine, with his discountenancing as comparable for authority and inspiration with the 39 books (as we number them), of any others. Thus in his Prologus Galeatus he advocated acceptance of only the 22 books in the Hebrew. Other works should be relegated to an inferior role.
Even the concept of an
Alexandrian canon is not helped in its theoretical ramblings, by the fact that
adhered to no such thing. Only canonical books appeared in his scriptural
citations. While not entirely all of these appear, this is no attestation of
anything other than the Massoretic canon list as we have it. His omissions in
such a substantial arena of quotation, is to the point. Further, as R. Laird
Harris points out, the developmental hypothesis, of various authorisings, leading
to various stages, is not verified by consistent evidence (op. cit. pp.
ORGANISATION AND INFORMATION
In practice, obviously, things can be quoted and used, without being thereby endorsed; and the direct testimony to the canon is the only logically acute way to proceed, in view of various laxities, indulgences, things later clarified as with Augustine and the like. Again, orders of the books in the canon can be thus or other, for example in Melito's case, ending with Daniel, Ezekiel, Ezra, or as would appear in that important one of Josephus, with hymns to God and precepts to man, presumably Psalms, Proverbs, Canticles and Ecclesiastes. It varies.
In fact, there is no way in which facile conclusions can be drawn even about the order or standing of the books, despite F.F. Bruce's apparent fascination with Christ's reference to Zechariah (p. 31, The Canon of Scripture) , as if it showed the end of the canon list, in that this is found in the book of Chronicles, thence thought to be so situated in the sequence. There is however in this no reference, slightest suggestion that this is the last such thing mentioned in the Old Testament, in some imagined order of books. In fact, the reference by Christ here is singular, evocative, and as in the comparison with the flood and the coming events at the end of this Age, no more decrees nothing in between, than does that!
In the case of Zechariah (Matthew 23, Luke 11 ) is illustration of a hideous misuse of the prophets in their vast work, and in this case, structurally made still more relevant to Christ's own position, in its intimate relationship with the kingdom. Like a spiritual atomic bomb, this vast crater of abandoned morals acts as a structural challenge to the power brokers of Christ's own day. To assume, or imagine even, that he is mentioned because he came last, is like saying that there has been devastation from here to Geelong, and finding someone thinking you mean there is nothing beyond it. The reference to Urijah found in Jeremiah is not of the calibre to conduct the mind to the point at issue.
Again, as with Abel, so with Zechariah, there is a decisive sense that the LORD WILL REQUIRE IT (and this is the generation, that of Christ, in which the requirement specifically is to be applied! for it fits like the tip of a boil, to the base, perfectly).
Indeed, with delightful irony, in this very passage, Christ both mocks and reproves the generation who build the tombs of the prophets, saying, WE would not have killed them, as did our forefathers! Not at all! is the thrust of the Lord to this, for in that you build the tombs, you are completing the work of your forefathers: they murdered, you undertake. They create the bodies, you dispose of them!
In other words, they were (as would soon be shown to millenia to come) murderous towards the Lord, as the people of Zechariah's day were to him; and the parallel of the tomb is but a mask, shield or pretence. In heart, they are parallel, not in contrast, to the murderers. It is always the PROPHET from God, as distinct from the one who is not (as in Deuteronomy 13, 18), which is critical in all discussions of the Old Testament, and nothing changes here. It is organised, adduced, illustrated, given test, shown in infinite contradistinction to the word of mere men (Isaiah 45, Amos 3), made a basis for the prediction of the unfolding of history, the tutelage and warning of men.
The canon is the consequence, and it is a vast testimony to the power of God that the sin which slew the men, did not slay likewise their products. But then, with the sin of man, is there also a trend to keep the testimonies of what has happened, allied with the zeal of the faithful. The realities, as we see in this chapter, appear beyond the smog, standing like towers that reach upward, undisturbed by the vagrant rats which appear in the basements, but cannot erode the foundations. Let us then return in detail to our consideration of the use of the case of Zechariah, by Christ, illustrative with unusual intimacy, though the fellowship is always there, of the prophetic category.
In fact, the parallel between the time of Christ and that of Zechariah goes still further than we have so far seen. The culprit in that royal murder, Jehoash, the rescued infant king, now grown and becoming arrogant, is found killing the son of his mentor and deliverer, Jehoiada, when that old man of God had passed away. This volcano of ingratitude, the passion of the 'liberated' king, struck down the very son of his benefactor on being prophetically reproved by him, in a virtually definitive act of reckless intransigeance against the word and work, the way and witness of God.
Further, it was love that
had driven the rescue of the infant king, the work of Jehoiada in bringing him
up, as it had also produced the exhortation from Johoiada's son, Zechariah, to
stop the follies. As with Christ, so with that tableau, spiritual choreography,
the abysmal flowered, and it is cited.
Consider then the apt precision of the parallel, in a view parable from life, from the lips of Christ.
First, the priest Jehoiada
in magnificent and selfless dutifulness and kindness had protected the young
child, left after Athaliah had played murderess with the rest of the royal
seed. Next, he shows continuing compassion in looking after his young ward,
keeping him carefully till more grown. Then he acts, removing the murderess
Athaliah and installing the king. On this, at his death, the young king follows
his own mother and acts murderer to the son of Jehoiada.
Thus in this statement of Christ in Luke, concerning the blood from Abel to that of Zechariah, slain in the temple, there is the very parable from history, by parallel, of Himself. It was just so that in flagrant and violent violation of all virtue, insufferable folly and outstanding breach of any human heart, that they would kill Him, not the issue of faithful Jehoiada, but the Son of the covenantally faithful God. . He is thus moving from pinnacle to relevant pinnacle, not merely to emphasise the gravity, but to warn of the folly. All these 'REQUIRE it' matters (II Chronicles 24:22), cases of moral imputation, coming punishment, from Abel's famous one, to Zechariah's, are collected like poems. On the current generation, that of Christ's incarnation, they are to fall, for in Him, the past finds its issue, the heart its exposure and the sins of the fathers are visited to the third and fourth generation of those WHO HATE God (unlike the case where the cord of guilt is cut, when they in fact love God, and so have received His pardon).
To think that some chronological aspect governed the words of Christ is simply to commit two errors: to imagine without evidence, and to ignore a massive lesson built into the selection to apply His point. Deft, dynamic, delicate and yet able to penetrate hardened steel, the direction of the dynamic here as often is spiritual, not temporal, conceptual, not arithmetic. HE, the Christ, was the alpha and omega, acme and king of prophecy as of all men and over all their ways; and what they did to Zechariah they were about to duplicate in immeasurably greater and quite final atrocity of heart, putridity of spirit, recalcitrance against redemption, indeed, quite literal scoffing and scorning of it (cf. Luke 11:52ff.), for HE, He is the ransom! (Matthew 20:28).
This therefore beautifully illustrates the reality of the prophetic work, which though merely one of the adornments of the Christ, and total rather than partial, intrinsic rather than extrinsic, still functioned in Him as man. Death could not kill it; divorce could not annul it; force could not nullify it; shadows could not shade it, nor noise stifle.
Thus Christ declaimed it: "Therefore the wisdom of God also has said, I will send them prophets and apostles, an some of them they will kill and persecute, that the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation..." (Luke 11:49-50).Not killers of prophets ? On the contrary, garland providers in their hostility, for their aged bones, in their imposing tombs! Yet it is they, not the tombs, which are dead! (Luke 11:44). Prophets annulled ? More readily the heavens be annulled (Matthew 5:17ff., 24:35). Their tiniest utterances will be kept, and their King, though to be crucified, will arise (Matthew 23:33-34, 37-39), the Leader for all time, from His time, the first begotten from the dead, the eternal exhibit of the ineluctable power of God, to sustain what He says, against all profusion, confusion and contention.
Depart from this or any generation ? (cf. Isaiah 59:21, 34:16, Psalm 119), ludicrous. Seek to secure this result ? But of course. So is the evidence; and such is the way of the thing. Strivings to not even threaten the clarity of the books, nor do evidences secure any relief from them, any more than from Christ Himself, though 1000 Zechariahs should perish, and 1 million evasions, invasions and confusion seek to send out their fangs, tangs and tediums.
We must therefore keep to the objective evidence, and not be side-tracked in anything, by vague surmises about dates and compilations as if God were inoperative. How readily the secular assumption would steal the reins of fact, and march into theory as if it owned it! It is, however, not logically attested. What is attested is simply this: that the word of God is precisely indicated to the point that book, sentence, word, phrase and letter are available, so that their fulfilment may be assured, and those who would do well, may know with what they deal. Such is the message of Matthew 5:19-20 (cf. SMR Appendix D), on the one hand, and historical attestation including the offering of Israel in terms of its scripture, on the other. All are bound in one in the word of Paul in Romans 9:1-4. So is the word of God revealed, unambiguous, heralded, hated, enduring, loved, kept, and manifest.
It is this which in terms of Christ's words on the scripture itself, is authoritative, impeccable and final. The issue is not how the books were gathered, but that the law of Moses, the attestation of living prophets and the spiritual sanction of divinely prepared overview in spiritually oriented histories, given by God, is kept by God. Prophets wrote, people were alien or not, but the prophets were shown false or not. Their writings came, were sustained, and continued, by the power of God whether in this or that epoch, under duress or otherwise, in prosperity or adversity, profound or restricted, as far as the individual prophets were concerned, whether indeed they should be king (as with David), statesman (as with Daniel), farmer (as with Amos) or priest trainee and prophet from the earliest times of life (as with Samuel), inducing action in a renewed state (as with Zechariah and Haggai). They spoke, they did and they were sustained. Their words did not wither, find rebuttal, nor were their functions aborted. From God they came, to God they went, and their works followed them.
People may squirm, as they often did at the word of the prophets, viva voce, but they could not consign them to the abyss, nor bring up from their own imaginations, anything to secure lasting attention. Josephus is only one of those who so attest from Jew and Gentile alike. Profit might be found in much; but the prophetic word of God was different in kind, in consequence - as in II Peter 2:20-21 (on which see Ch. 3 to follow). It is like volcanic lava: there is the irruption into the crater, the eruption from it, the flow discerned and the pathway observed. Later all the flows can be categorised this way or that, re-examined and so on, but it is just a simple matter: lava flowed from beneath the surface of the earth, and it is necessary to attest its presence.
Just so does the word of God come, as II Peter and I Corinthians 2 attest, and all scripture constantly confirms, to the prophets, official or unofficial, functionally, and whether from an acknowledged crater or not, it proceeds, the reality attested by the flow, the form by the function. It is watched on arrival, the persons in their function, the products in their call, the effects in their time. When God speaks, as Amos says, it is like a lion that roars; and says Jeremiah, What is the chaff to the wheat ? (Amos 3, Jeremiah 23). Let us re-phrase that:
Thus Josephus made it eminently clear, that nothing in the genre had occurred for hundreds of years, that nothing ever merited attention in that category, that this as a view so strong as to be virtually universal among the Jews, the category of scripture being without parallel or substitute, invasion or evasion. The light sparkles on the diamonds of God, and its integrity is unmatchable, in origin, in outcome, in the observation of its place.
Let us however return for one moment to the case of Zechariah.
In fact, in this case, the Lord did NOT even state that He was indicating ONLY scripturally noted blood, nor for that matter, that the divisions were exhaustive, from Abel to Zechariah. He in no way made such distinctions, merely citing the beginning and a parallel example of hideous obviousness where the machinery of State sought to quench in the most disastrous of ways, the intimate and beautiful work of call to repentance, such as paralleled in some ways His own! In His speech, in Luke 11, He fashioned for the moral imagination, vast moral pivots of history. Moreover, He chose one, Zechariah, where the burden of guilt was openly to be transferred (II Chron. 24:22).
Now ? Now, it is to Jerusalem that it comes! The whole pent-up energy, the entire dammed up stream of guilt is to descend on those who not merely dare to revile and riot against the prophet of the Lord, but against the Lord as Himself prophet!
There was only dumb
endeavour to remove Christ, for He rose; just as there could only be sporadic
incidents to overshadow the works of the prophets, call it canon in formation
or see it simply as sequence of testimony.
Again, as Archer also notes, in a case where surmise can seek only in vain to gain its structure, and to fuss without due basis: there is NO evidence of any rejection of any of the long received books in the sessions at Jamnia, there merely being disputatious considerations and concerns. Far beyond odd erraticisms and complaints comes the continuing fact over thousands of years, that only one matrix is seen in tireless attestation, affirming itself over all the seasons of history.
FUNCTION PRECEDES STRUCTURING,
POWER PRECEDES PERFORMANCE
God's ways are not men's ways, and to assume that God performed His purpose by man's thoughts is merely self-contradiction. Theories at this level are as renegade to reality as historically unsustainable. Thus as Harris (loc.cit.) states, after review, "it is easily seen that the apocryphal books of Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, I and II Maccabees, and certain additions to Esther and Daniel have no ancient authority and were not recognised by Christ, the apostles, or the Jewish people."
The evidence for such books in any concerted, co-ordinated, continued way is simply like the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre in New York. Where one looks for them, they are not there. There is no contest; for such an evidential reality as required, there is simply no presence.
What then ?
It is of course the same as noted so emphatically and dramatically in the words of Josephus*3. The Bible continues as changeless as the directions of the compass, being composed by Him who made the directions. It was SO definitive in the eyes of Christ that not merely NO BOOK could be added, but also NO WORD and indeed NO SMALLEST PART OF A WORD.
There is NO attestation of any common and received selection of books as the "book of the Lord" (Isaiah 34:16), except the Massoretic, the Law, the Prophets and the Writings as noted by Luke, repeatedly defined. Nothing else has ever gained acknowledgment at large. Christ's detestation of traditional enterprise in adding this and that, therefore, is relative to an assumed UTTERLY distinct canon of the Old Testament, plagued potentially by listless and sometimes careless or merely pertinacious efforts to get rid of what was not wanted, desired or properly understood. In the divine providence, no such efforts are ever seen to prosper.
It is perfectly certain that Christ Himself regarded the Old Testament scriptures as displayable, discernible, incontestable by any valid enterprise; and that ONLY ONE version is of this kind. It is equally true that the Jewish canon is not in any doubt. The legacy of Romans 9:1-4 is not a subject of the slightest doubt. Theories about this and that possibility do nothing to remove these considerations. Ancient and modern testimony is one, the 24 or our 39 books, for all the furore of this or that school or corner: this has been in place, continues in place and has no citable alternative. That requires utter dismissable in terms of Christ's loathing for these very accretions and waverings, that marred both Sadducee and Pharisee in their approaches, the one objecting to this, and the other adding to that.
The 24 are in one form only displayable over history, as having a solidity of intent, a continuity of acceptance and a final transmissive confirmation. Toying with the tedious enterprises of odd variants does nothing to reduce the fact that there is a STANDARD relative to which they vary. Nor does any variation carry authoritative weight, continuity of consensus or ground of acceptance.
In fact, we have precisely what they gave; and they had precisely what was accepted; and what was accepted is precisely what Christ referred to as the Law and the Prophets; and as to this (Matthew 5:17ff.), they are so distinct as to be contradistinct, for of no other writing did the Lord Jesus Christ declare that they would not be destroyed but fulfilled, to the jot and to the tittle. (See SMR pp. 1176ff..) Of no other body of writings is such certainty of definition in the most remote degree possible. Of various writings, indeed, is aspirational force to be perceived; while yet on the other hand, in Christ there is the most intense possible loathing of all tendentious intrusions (Mark 7:7ff.), which would, if accepted, render the contra-distinct word of God OF NO EFFECT. This may be a chosen course; it has nothing to do with what Israel has handed down, what Christ has said or objective validity.
Summon all witness, all decision, all acceptance, and nothing can compete with or compare with the testimony of that oft-lauded 24, the 39 that we now have.
here is mere subtraction from the directives of the Saviour as noted in Mark.
Its fate is the scorching scorning of Him who having made it 100% clear that
the canon was 100% clear, made no allowance for intrusions, inclusions or
exemptions. Of only one Old Testament Canon does one consistent, persistent,
insistent account rest and compose itself throughout the ages, as attesting the
donation of Israel. It is this, not a retinue of someone's thoughts, which is
decisive. That, it is the thought of God (Romans 9:1-4), who indicates in
Romans that the gift of the Old Testament is the affair of Israel.
The Mishnah attests discussions on several books, namely Canticles, or Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes and Esther. These things were apt to arise among literary disputants, voicing concerns at this and that, like a mini Mars hill, but of much closer dimensions.
Some even had doubts about the book of Proverbs, though the Zadokite Documents, xi.20 show Proverbs attested as canonical in the 2nd century B.C.. The Gemara (Archer op.cit. 61) shows even Ezekiel had had some objection, but the objections were settled in A.D. 66. The contest on Ecclesiastes and Canticles alike resulted at Jamnia in A.D. 90 in the sustaining of these books against their adversaries. They were not dumped, but continued like the rest. The list did not shorten at all. Thus, Bab Bathra, in the fourth century A.D., or earlier, lists the usual norm as to content, at a date around 400 A.D., while the Jewish Talmud is quite clear on the same 39 books as appear in contemporary Bibles which regard the background, namely Protestant ones (R.L. Harris, in The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary, p. 144).
The significance, for interest in earlier days, of Melito of Sardis, around 170 A.D., and his list of Old Testament canon is simply this, that he specifically travelled to Palestine in order to ascertain accurately the number of the Old Testament books, which in items and even largely in order, mirror current limits to the 39 as we now allocate the 'books'.
The quotations of the Egyptian Jew, Philo, ONLY from the authorised canonical books has been noted, but is to be seen in cumulative proportions here.
The allegorical interpretation of Canticles removed objection as it should indeed (cf. The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 11, on this topic of interpretation OF THE BOOK). Hillel, making Solomon in this allegory to be a representation in symbol of the Lord, and the bride, of Israel, removed the pith of the objection at least (though there is far more to the book than this, if not less!), and so it remained, the important point in view, as it does to this day in the Massoretic text, that monument to intense zeal and determination to preserve the Old Testament scriptures.
Augustine himself made such a distinction when he put his mind to it, concerning prophetic word from God and all else, that it is wholly concordant with his appeal to the authoritative Jewish canon of the Old Testament in this case.
Thus in his work, The
City of God, Book XVIII, we read this:
Archer (op.cit., p. 63ff.), makes the point that Josephus includes three divisions of Hebrew scriptures, just as does the Massoretic text. He differs, to be sure, in restricting his third group to "hymns for God and counsels for men for the conduct of life", and he actually LIMITS the total to 22 books, a totally unembracive proposition as far as apocryphal structure is concerned! This is the more important still, as in his autobiography he relates that his friend, the Emperor Titus, on defeating Jerusalem, gave the sacred scrolls to this cultivated Jew! This 22 varying with the alternate numeration, 24 (see below) is the stock and standard practice of many of the most eminent witnesses. There is simply nothing in the lest degree comparable in cumulative force, just as in ultimate attestation over time to come.
Further, his emphasis as a
priest of enormous leisure (being for long a favourite in Rome), and a man of
intense interest in history, makes his contribution of special value to factual
matters. Thus he declares,
As George L Robinson points out in the ISBE, Vol. 1, p. 500, the 22 probably is obtained by joining Ruth to Judges and Lamentations to Jeremiah. The 4 hymns and maxims, in one so inveterately sure of the staple list, would be Psalms, Proverbs, Canticles and Ecclesiastes. Thus the 24, as noted in the text of this chapter, is reduced to 22 by his condensation, Ruth to Judges, Lamentations to Jeremiah. Ruth in both the LXX and Vulgate in fact follows Judges. Thus "there is little doubt that his 22 books are those of our present Hebrew canon." The fact that his date is around 100 A.D., so that his youth would be even nearer to the time of Christ, for his education, also fits to perfection with the emphasis of Christ Himself, that the very details of the scriptures were of the most obvious character, for conduct, for fulfilment and for characterisability (Matthew 5:17-20).
R. Laird Harris in his Inspiration and Canonicity of the Bible, pp. 142-143 points out the variation# between the assessment of 22 and 24 books in the Hebrew Old Testament: Eusebius (around 400 A.D.) 22, Jerome 24, Origen around 250 A.D., 22, Tertullian around 200 A.D., 24, Melito 150 A.D. 24. There are quite clearly two approaches to enumeration, according to taste or tradition.
This is one more attestation in the growing list, present, past and in a continuum of testimony, that not merely omits the apocrypha, but departs most markedly from the whole concept of clamour of writings subsequent to the days of Daniel, Ezra and Nehemiah, while assuring us that the histories were part of those. The words of Christ against the traditions which nullify the word of God, on the other hand, represent the apposing cutting edge in this business: together they cut. The staple is sure, the additives that seek to come from later time are urbane, or secular, and in any case, not authorised as the word of God, separated by a gulf from this, whether in Temple evidence or the work of many who verified with the utmost zeal.
Alas, the tendencies discounted by Christ, are just those still seeking to authorise themselves, sans history, sans teeth, sans eyes and in flagrant efforts, as if to outface even Christ, to make the tenuous sure, the uncertified stable, the addition concept authoritative. There is one way only to do this: remove Christ, the Jewish nation and the testimony. It is a large price to pay. Better is it to acknowledge the wholly concurrent testimony of massive historical attestation, and to observe that the observation of the staccato variabilities, now here, now there, is not a symphony, but a mere static.
From Israel, now as then,
there has come what God has authorised, what man must watch, and what is to be
the place to watch, as a light in a dark place, for illumination that is more,
infinitely more precious, than the passing flickers of the light of man.
#THE SPICE OF THE VARIABLE:
It is of interest that
historian Josephus' choice of the 22 numbering system, for the list of Old
Testament scriptures, together with his unusual mode of grouping,
certainly a thing which varied and can vary as diverse notions arise about
convenience or other criteria for survey, brings rather a clear implication. It
is this. In that his third group is poetical and wisdom, this leaves
Daniel as a virtually certain component of 'the prophets' group, normally
through circumstance, those who acted in
It is indeed, not merely a prophet noted by Christ, but focussed to a quite extraordinary degree, made a landmark and used with the most marked assurance (Matthew 24).
As to this latter, simple
twofold categorisation, 'the law and the prophets', it is seen in Matthew 5:17,
Luke 17:16-17, as in many other references. As R. Laird Harris points out (op.cit.
p. 144), in John , Psalm 82 is declared wirtten
"in your law". In Matthew "the law" refers to what
in context is also called "the law and the prophets". Tradition
follows cognition, and cognition is not constant, but practical, such being the
nature of man, that his thoughts are agile, his creativity substantial, and his
purposes tend to direct notation. On many things Christ was challenged by his
professionalistic adversaries; but on His utter certainty on the scriptures,
their definitive nature, decisive truth and determinate scope, nothing appears.
One does not readily attack where the facts are irrefutable, even when the ire
of the Sadducee, or the fire of the Pharisee is involved!