Last month Readers Bureau featured the first in a 3 part discussion series of RTB’s editor Maureen Moser and Kenneth R. Samples.
We continue this week with part 2 of the fascinating and interesting discussion thus:
So, while the New Testament received challenges from the Gnostics, it seems the Old Testament faces a lot of debate within the church. Why do Catholics and Eastern Orthodox accept the Apocrypha, but Protestants don’t?
Yes, the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox have a handful of Old Testament books that are not in the Protestant Old Testament. These apocryphal works include books like 1 and 2 Maccabees, Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Esdras, and some additions to other canonical books.
However, the Protestants reject the Apocrypha. They point out that Jesus doesn’t quote from them and some of them teach doctrine that seems inconsistent with the broad scope of biblical teaching. For example, 2 Maccabees says it’s a helpful and wholesome thing to pray for the dead. Teachings like that trouble Protestants. What’s interesting is that, to my knowledge, the Catholic Church itself has said that the Apocrypha constitute a secondary canon (deuterocanonical).
What criteria do Protestants use for determining the Old Testament canon?
It would be something similar to what we outlined for the New Testament last week. We want to connect these books to authentic biblical authors, which for the Old Testament would be the prophets. We want to know if these books support overall biblical teaching. And we want to know if these are books that the Jews recognized early on.
Obviously, Jewish people wrote the Old Testament. How did they shape the canon?
Orthodox Jews believe that God gave the Torah to the Jewish people. These books are inspired and they reflect a historical narrative. Orthodox Jews usually consider the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) the most important part of the Old Testament.
The Jews affirmed their present canon in the first century around AD 90 at the Council of Jamnia. They divide their canon (what we call the Old Testament) into three sections: the Torah (first five books), the prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc.), and the wisdom literature (Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, etc.).
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