Wednesday, January 14, 2015

As Catholics, Let Us Reject The "Deuterocanonicals"!

It always bothers me when I hear someone speak about the “Deuterocanonical” books of the Old Testament. It bothers me even more when Catholics do it.

The eminent Protestant professor Walter Kaiser has a fantastic book, which I highly recommend, called The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable & Relevant.  In it, he talks about the Old Testament Canon, and this is where I disagree with his otherwise solid book.

Kaiser and other Protestants affirm only 39 books of the Old Testament as Canonical (they leave out Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus [also known as Sirach], Baruch, and 1 and 2 Maccabees), whereas Catholics hold that there are 46 books. Kaiser asks the question:

“Who…made the decision as to what books were to be included in the canon and what were the criteria that were used?” 

He answers his question by stating, “The answer we could give is that there is no evidence that any group, council, or any other religious or nonreligious body made such a decision, much less left a clue as to what their criteria were.” 

Historically, this is simply false. 

The Christian Canon of the Old Testament was established first in 382 at the Council of Rome, which was held under Pope Damasus. Here is what is has to say:

“Likewise it has been said: Now indeed we must treat of the divine Scriptures, what the universal Catholic Church accepts and what she ought to shun.

The order of the Old Testament begins here: Genesis one book, Exodus one book, Leviticus one book, Numbers one book, Deuteronomy one book, Josue Nave one book, Judges one book, Ruth one book, Kings four books (meaning 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings), Paralipomenon two books (1 and 2 Chronicles), Psalms one book, Solomon three books, Proverbs one book, Ecclesiastes one book, Canticle of Canticles one book, likewise Wisdom one book, Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) one book.
Likewise the order of the Prophets. Isaias one book, Jeremias one book (Baruch is included here), with Ginoth, that is, with his lamentations, Ezechiel one book, Daniel one book, Osee (Hosea) one book, Amos one book, Micheas (Micah) one book, Joel one book, Abdias (Obadiah) one book, Jonas (Jonah) one book, Nahum one book, Habacuc one book, Sophonias (Zephaniah) one book, Aggeus (Haggai) one book, Zacharias one book, Malachias one book.
Likewise the order of the histories. Job one book, Tobias one book, Esdras two books (Ezra and Nehemiah), Esther one book, Judith one book, Machabees two books."

Notice that there isn’t any talk of a “second-canon” or “deuterocanonical” books. There was only ONE canon of Sacred Scripture. The seven books that the Protestants reject never had a secondary status! 

The later councils of Hippo and Carthage (393 and 397) both affirmed the same books as being canonical. 

Then in 405, Pope Innocent I in his epistle “Consulenti tibi” to Exuperius, Bishop of Toulouse, enumerates the same books that were listed at Rome, Hippo, and Carthage as being canonical. From here on until 1442 there is no more talk of the canon amongst the Popes or councils of the Church.

The Council of Florence in 1442 lists the same as has been listed previously, again with no mention of a second canon. 

Then in 1546, at the Council of Trent, the Church reaffirms the list found at Florence in reaction against the Protestants taking out of the seven books mentioned previously. 

Thus, history witnesses against Kaiser’s claim that “At the Council of Trent (A.D. 1546), the Roman Catholic Church also added as canonical [the seven books]…though always with a secondary or deuterocanonical status.”[1]
So let us Catholics fervently reject the term “Deuterocanonical” and only speak of the Canon! There has always only been ONE canon, and one alone.

[1] To Kaiser’s credit, he does not try to invoke the oft used myth that a council of rabbis took place at Jamnia which settled the Hebrew canon in 90 A.D. Instead, he firmly rejects the notion and states that all that took place at Jamnia was a discussion on how to interpret the books of Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon. There was no mention of their canonical status. On top of all that, if Jamnia did settle the Jewish canon, which it did not, why would the Church be bound to accept it? It wouldn’t and any notion that it should is to be rejected as ludicrous.

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