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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : CHAPTER V. USE OF THE OLD TESTAMENT BY THE FIRST CHRISTIAN WRITERS, AND BY THE FATHERS TILL THE TIME OF ORIGEN.

The Canon Of The Bible by Samuel Davidson

CHAPTER V. USE OF THE OLD TESTAMENT BY THE FIRST CHRISTIAN WRITERS, AND BY THE FATHERS TILL THE TIME OF ORIGEN.

The writings of the New Testament show the authors' acquaintance with the apocryphal books. They have expressions and ideas derived from them. Stier collected one hundred and two passages which bear some resemblance to others in the Apocrypha;(90) but they needed sifting, and were cut down to a much smaller number by Bleek. They are James i.19, from Sirach v.11 and iv.29; 1 Peter i.6, 7, from Wisdom iii.3-7; Hebrews xi.34, 35, from 2 Maccabees vi.18-vii.42; Hebrews i.3, from Wisdom vii.26, &c.; Romans i.20-32, from Wisdom xiii.-xv.; Romans ix.21, from Wisdom xv.7; Eph. vi.13-17, from Wisdom v.18-20; 1 Cor. ii.10, &c., from Judith viii.14. Others are less probable.(91) When Bishop Cosin says, that |in all the New Testament we find not any one passage of the apocryphal books to have been alleged either by Christ or His apostles for the confirmation of their doctrine,|(92) the argument, though based on fact, is scarcely conclusive; else Esther, Canticles, Ecclesiastes, and other works might be equally discredited. Yet it is probable that the New Testament writers, though quoting the Septuagint much more than the original, were disinclined to the additional parts of the Alexandrian canon. They were Palestinian themselves, or had in view Judaisers of a narrow creed. Prudential motives, no less than a predisposition in favor of the old national canon, may have hindered them from expressly citing any apocryphal production. The apostle Paul and probably the other writers of the New Testament, believed in the literal inspiration of the Biblical books, for he uses an argument in the Galatian epistle which turns upon the singular or plural of a noun.(93) And as the inspiration of the Septuagint translation was commonly held by the Christians of the early centuries, it may be that the apostles and evangelists made no distinction between its parts. Jude quotes Enoch, an apocryphal work not in the Alexandrian canon; so that he at least had no rigid notions about the difference of canonical and uncanonical writings. Still we know that the compass of the Old Testament canon was somewhat unsettled to the Christians of the first century, as it was to the Hellenist Jews themselves. It is true that the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms were universally recognized as authoritative; but the extent of the third division was indefinite, so that the non-citation of the three books respecting which there was a difference of opinion among the Jews may not have been accidental. Inasmuch, however, as the Greek-speaking Jews received more books than their Palestinian brethren, the apostles and their immediate successors were not wholly disinclined to the use of the apocryphal productions. The undefined boundary of the canon facilitated also the recognition of all primitive records of the new Revelation.

The early fathers, who wrote in Greek, used the Greek Bible, as almost all of them were ignorant of Hebrew. Thus restricted; they naturally considered its parts alike, citing apocryphal and canonical in the same way. Accordingly, Irenaeus(94) quotes Baruch under the name of |Jeremiah the prophet;|(95) and the additions to Daniel as |Daniel the prophet.|(96) Clement of Alexandria(97) uses the apocryphal books like the canonical ones, for explanation and proof indiscriminately. He is fond of referring to Baruch, which he cites upwards of twenty-four times in the second book of his Paedagogus, and in a manner to show that he esteemed it as highly as many other parts of the Old Testament. A passage from Baruch is introduced by the phrase,(98) |the divine Scripture says;| and another from Tobit by(99) |Scripture has briefly signified this, saying.| Assuming that Wisdom was written by Solomon, he uses it as canonical and inspired, designating it divine.(100) Judith he cites with other books of the Old Testament(101); and the Song of the three children in the furnace is used as Scripture.(102) Ecclesiasticus also is so treated.(103) Dionysius of Alexandria(104) cites Ecclesiasticus (xvi.26), introducing the passage with |hear divine oracles.|(105) The same book is elsewhere cited, chapters xliii.29, 30(106) and i.8.9.(107) So is Wisdom, vii.15(108) and 25.(109) Baruch (iii.12-15) is also quoted.(110) The fathers who wrote in Latin used some of the old Latin versions of which Augustine speaks; one of them, and that the oldest probably dating soon after the middle of the second century, being known to us as the Itala. As this was made from the Septuagint, it had the usual apocryphal books. Jerome's critical revision or new version did not supplant the old Latin till some time after his death. Tertullian(111) quotes the Wisdom of Solomon expressly as Solomon's;(112) and introduces Sirach by |as it is written.|(113) He cites Baruch as Jeremiah.(114) He also believes in the authenticity of the book of Enoch, and defends it as Scripture at some length.(115) Cyprian often cites the Greek additions to the Palestinian canon. He introduces Tobit with the words |as it is written,|(116) or |divine Scripture teaches, saying;|(117) and Wisdom with, |the Holy Spirit shows by Solomon.|(118) Ecclesiasticus is introduced with, |it is written;|(119) and Baruch with, |the Holy Spirit teaches by Jeremiah.|(120) 1 and 2 Maccabees are used as Scripture;(121) as are the additions to Daniel.(122) The African fathers follow the Alexandrian canon without scruple. Hippolytus of Rome (about A.D.220), who wrote in Greek, quotes Baruch as Scripture;(123) and interprets the additions to Daniel, such as Susanna, as Scripture likewise.(124)

Melito of Sardis(125) made it his special business to inquire among the Palestinian Jews about the number and names of their canonical books; and the result was the following list: -- the five books of Moses, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kings, two of Chronicles, the Psalms of David, the Proverbs of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, Job, Isaiah, Jeremiah, the twelve in one book, Daniel, Ezekiel, Ezra.(126) Here Ezra includes Nehemiah; and Esther is absent, because the Jews whom he consulted did not consider it canonical.

Origen's(127) list does not differ much from the Palestinian one. After the Pentateuch, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Kings first and second, Samuel, Chronicles, come Ezra first and second, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticles, Isaiah, Jeremiah with Lamentations and the epistle, Daniel, Ezekiel, Job, Esther. Besides these there are the Maccabees, which are inscribed Sarbeth Sarbane el.(128) The twelve prophets are omitted in the Greek; but the mistake is rectified in Rufinus's Latin version, where they follow Canticles, as in Hilary and Cyril of Jerusalem. It is remarkable that Baruch is given, and why? Because Origen took it from the MSS. of the Septuagint he had before him, in which the epistle is attributed to Jeremiah. But the catalogue had no influence upon his practice. He followed the prevailing view of the extended canon. Sirach is introduced by |for this also is written|;(129) the book of Wisdom is cited as a divine word;(130) the writer is called a prophet;(131) Christ is represented as speaking in it through Solomon;(132) and Wisdom vii.17 is adduced as the word of Christ himself.(133) Tobit is cited as Scripture.(134) His view of the additions to the books of Daniel and Esther, as well as his opinion about Tobit, are sufficiently expressed in the epistle to Africanus, so that scattered quotations from these parts of Scripture can be properly estimated. Of the history of Susanna he ventures to say that the Jews withdrew it on purpose from the people.(135) He seems to argue in favor of books used and read in the churches, though they may be put out of the canon by the Jews. As divine Providence had preserved the sacred Scriptures, no alteration should be made in the ecclesiastical tradition respecting books sanctioned by the churches though they be external to the Hebrew canon.

Most of the writings of Methodius, Bishop of Tyre(136) are lost, so that we know little of his opinions respecting the books of Scripture. But it is certain that he employed the Apocrypha like the other writings of the Old Testament. Thus Sirach (xviii.30 and xix.2) is quoted in the same way as the Proverbs.(137) Wisdom (iv.1-3) is cited,(138) and Baruch (iii.14).(139)

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