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The Books of the Old Testament

Filed in Faith by on February 9, 2011 • views: 1699

The Books of the Old Testament

When the Christian Church was formed, there was no recognised, official canon of Scriptures — the Jews were not a people of the book, they were a people of the Temple. When the Romans laid siege to Jerusalem, the Christians left the city because the results had been prophesied. When Jerusalem was taken and the Temple destroyed, the Jews — who already viewed the Christians suspiciously — now regarded them as traitors. Many blamed the Christians for their defeat by the Romans.

With the Temple destroyed, the Jewish religion had to be transformed. The bulk of the work was directed by the rabbinical school at Jamnia. This school standardised synagogue worship, which included expelling the Christians from the synagogues and adding curses against the Christians as part of the service. The school at Jamnia is most famous for determing which books were canonical. A Christian examining this needs to keep in mind that this determination was made in a virulently anti-Christian environment by Jews who hated the Christians. Even books which had widespread acceptance amongst Jews were suspect if they seemed to support the hated Christian sect. The school at Jamnia also rejected books which seemed to lack Hebraic origins (i.e. books which did not exist in Hebrew) and books that were overtly messianic (the rebellion against the Roman Empire was begun by Jews who thought a revolution would hasten the Messianic Age). Interestingly, the establishment of the Jewish feast of Hanukkah is found in 2 Maccabees 10:1-8. Although the Jews spurned the book, they continued to celebrate Hanuakkah — and do so to the present.

By this time (last decade of first century), the Christians were already predominantly Greek-speaking and were using the translation of the Old Testament books into the common Greek language done by the Jews in Alexandria in the third century B.C. This translation, now known as the Septuagint, is abbreviated as LXX, the Roman numeral for seventy, because there was a story that the translation was done by seventy translators who, although working separately, produced identical translations from the Hebrew to the Greek.

In this writer’s opinion, no right-thinking Christian ought to think the first-century Christians should have followed that which was established by virulently anti-Christian rabbis — after these rabbis had already expelled the Christians from the synagogues. The historical fact is that the Christians continued to use the LXX and simply ignored the rabbinical decision. In fact, there was no challenge to using the books found in the LXX until the Protestant Revolution. At that point, Luther and others chose to follow the anti-Christian rabbinical teaching regarding which books were Scriptural instead of the unbroken practise of all Christians.

Notes:

1.Anaginoskomena Books variously rendered in English as ‘Non-canonical books’, ‘Ecclesiastical Books’, or even ‘the Apocrypha’ (see additional comments at bottom)

2.labelled deutrocanonical (literally, second canon)

3.excludes sections labelled “The Rest of the Book of Esther” (a.k.a. “Additions to Esther”)

4.excludes (1) The Song of the Three Children, (2) Daniel and Susanna, and (3) Daniel, Bel, and the Snake [Dragon]

5.always in appendix

6.list obtained from http://gbgm-umc.org/umw/bible/ethrcot.stm, apparently book names changed to Protestant names; there is no official list of the books of the Ethiopian Bible and there is much disagreement

7.sometimes included in appendix; sometimes added after Psalm 151

Additional Comments:

According to Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky’s Orthodox Dogmatic Theology:

The word canonical here has a specialized meaning with reference to the books of Scripture, and this must be distinguished from the more usual use of the word in the Orthodox Church, where it refers not to the canon of Scripture, but to canons or laws proclaimed at church councils. In the latter sense, canonical means in accordance with the Church’s canons, and uncanonical or non-canonical has the quite pejorative meaning of not in accordance with the Church’s canons. But in the former, restricted sense, “canonical” means only “included in the Hebrew canon”, and non-canonical means only not included in the Hebrew canon (but still accepted by the Church as Scripture). In the Protestant world the non-canonical books of the Old Testament are commonly called the Apocrypha, often with a pejorative connotation, even though they were included in the earliest printings of the King James Version, and a law of 1615 in England even forbade the Bible to be printed without these books. In the Roman Catholic Church since the 16th century the non-canonical books have been called Deutrocanonical — i.e. belonging to a second or later canon of Scripture. In most translations of the Bible which include the non-canonical books, they are placed together at the end of the canonical books; but in older printings in Orthodox countries there is no distinction made between the canonical and non-canonical books (see for example the Slavonic Bible printed in St. Petersburg, 1904, and approved by the Holy Synod). [emphases added]

According to Fr. George Mastrantonis’ A New-Style Catechism on the Eastern Orthodox Faith for Adults:

The Orthodox Church officially uses the Septuagint — Old Testament Greek which was translated from the original Hebrew language into Greek in the third century B.C. for the Jewish people who did not know the Hebrew language any more, but knew Greek. … The Septuagint — Old Testament of the Orthodox Church contains all the Canonical Books and the Anaginoskomena Books (called Apocrypha, in the English Version), officially accepted by the Church as a whole. [emphasis added]

Thomas Ross Valentine

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