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Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Protestant Canon Refuted


By Jay Dyer

Many reformed acquaintances have, on various occasions, sent me different challenges relating to the canon of Scripture. One of these was a list of arguments proposed by Reformed theologian Dr. Ian Paisley against the canonicity of the 7 Deuterocanonical Books (or, the "Apocrypha," from here on titled "DB"). Another challenger stated the traditional Orthodox arguments for the necessary involvement of a Spirit-led Church in the formation of a definitive canon is not a valid argument, since the Old Testament believer needed no extra-scriptural, infallible authorities, in any sense, to recognize the veracity of the OT books. This second objection is true in principle, but I have decided to kill two birds with one stone. If it can be shown that the Protestant canon of Scripture itself is erroneous, then both of these non-Orthodox challenges fall to the ground, since the question of who has the right canon is obviously prior to one's right to quote this or that text.

Thus, if 2 Maccabees is part of Scripture, then prayer for the dead is a biblical doctrine: but almost no Protestant holds this doctrine, thus demonstrating for "sola scriptura" the implications of rejecting books of the Bible. It will be shown, then, that the Protestants are the real violators of the written Word of God, having cut out books that did not fit their preconceived notions. This is ironic, since Protestants are always accusing those that do not adhere to sola scriptura, of violating the "Word of God." One Reformed acquaintance of mine likes to think his grammatico-historico syntax arguments cannot be defeated. Rather than go into their maze of texts (as Tertullian recommends against), since they puts on a show of appearing to follow the written Word of God alone, this erroneous position will actually be shown to be violating the Word of God. Just as the Protestant follows a man-Luther-in hypocritically cutting out 7 books of the Word that didn't fit with his heretical presuppositions, we will cut out from under this view its foundation—the wrong Bible. Until the serious-minded Protestant deals with this question, the sola scriptura claim has no force.

First, I will give the basic arguments of reformed theologian Dr. Ian Paisley as they were presented to me, and I will respond, demonstrating that each argument is entirely false with specific responses exclusively from noted Protestant scholarly sources. The following points of Dr. Paisley are the strongest standard arguments most Protestants give. If someone has others they are welcome.

1. First argument of Paisley: The Jews never accepted the DB and they were not part of the oracles committed unto them (Rom. 3:2) Furthermore, they are not written in Hebrew.

Response:

This is totally false. Paisley makes no distinction between Jews of the diaspora and Palestinian Jews. Palestinian Jews rejected the DB, but the Septuagint, which is the Greek version of the OT composed in the 2nd-3rd century B.C. at Alexandria, Egypt by 70 or 72 Jewish scribes, was used by non-Palestinian Jews. It is a well known fact that the Septuagint (LXX) was both the Bible of the diaspora Jews and the Bible of all the early Christians, as will be proven below. Further, it's also a fact that the LXX contained the DB, as will also be proven below.

Protestant scholars admit the LXX was the bible of the diaspora Jews who were far more numerous at the time of Christ than Palestinian Jews.

1. Oxford University church historian Paul Johnson, in his book A History of Christianity, writes:

"There was already [in the first century] a huge Jewish diaspora, especially in the great cities of the eastern Mediterranean-Alexandria, Antioch, Tarsus, Ephesus, and so forth…The Greek adaptation of the Old Testament, or the Septuagint, which was composed in Alexandria was widely used in diaspora communities…" (pg. 10-11).

2. Baptist textual scholar Lee McDonald, in his book The Formation of the Christian Biblical Canon, writes:

"It is most likely that these [DB] books were considered by the Jewish community holy or sacred well before the time of Christ, and that they were simply received by the early Christians as part of the sacred collection they inherited from Judaism. There is evidence that at least some non-canonical books had their origin in the land of Israel and were translated and transported from Israel to Alexandria and probably wherever Jews lived in significant numbers in the Roman Empire . The grandson of Ben Sirach [the writer of the deuteroncanonical book Ecclesiasticus]…lets us know he was translating for the Jews in Alexandria . The NT also has many allusions to some [deuterocanonical] literature found in the LXX, and the oldest Christian collections of OT scriptures contain much of that literature" (page 90).

3. Furthermore, the Protestant Fausset's Bible Dictionary, under "Apocrypha" states:

Apocrypha= "…the writings added in the LXX, I and II Esdra, Tobit, Judith, the sequel to Esther, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, Song of the Three Children, Susanna, Bel and the Dragon…" (page 42)

4. Furthermore, the Protestant Nelson's New Christian Dictionary, under "Apocrypha" says:

"The Septuagint incorporates all of them (with the exception of 2 Esdras), and they are not differentiated in any other way from the other books of the OT" (page 40).

5. Renowned evangelical scholar F.F. Bruce writes also of this well known point in his The Canon of Scripture:

"However much the wording of Stephen's defense in Acts 7 may owe to the narrator, the consistency with which its biblical quotations and allusions are based on is the Septuagint is true to life….As soon as the gospel was carried into the Greek speaking world, the Septuagint came into its own as the sacred text to which preachers appealed. It was used in the Greek-speaking synagogues of throughout the Roman Empire " (page 49).

6. Renowned Protestant patristics scholar, J.N.D. Kelly, wrote in his well-known Early Christian Doctrines:

"It should be observed that the Old Testament thus admitted as authoritative in the church was somewhat bulkier and more comprehensive than the 22 or 24 books of Hebrew Palestinian Judaism. It always included, though with varying degrees of recognition the so-called Apocrypha, or deuterocanonical books. The reason for this is that the Old Testament which passed in the first instance into the hands of Christians was not the original Hebrew version, but the Greek translation known as the Septuagint…most of the scriptural quotations found in the New Testament are based upon it rather than the Hebrew" (page 53).

7. As to whether any were ever written in Hebrew, which Paisley denies, scholarship says quite different:

F.F. Bruce writes:

"…Yeshua ben Sira…in Egypt in 132 B.C, translated his grandfather's book of wisdom, commonly called Ecclesiasticus or Sirach from Hebrew into Greek" (Canon, page 31).

Baptist Lee McDonald quoted above (no. 2) agrees the DB were transported from Israel and translated from Hebrew into Greek at Alexandria.

Furthermore, it is well known that the Dead Sea Scrolls found at the Qumran community contain DB books that are in Hebrew, as Charles Pfeiffer's book The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible demonstrates (pages 16-17), as does McDonalds Formation of the Christian Biblical Canon on page 81, where he notes that Ecclesiasticus was found in Hebrew in caves 2 and 11 (page 81).

Besides, it wouldn't matter if there were no DB in Hebrew at all (though there are), since I can simply ask upon what grounds does Paisley and the Protestant say that a book "must be written in Hebrew to be canonical"? Says who? Does the Bible say that? Of course not, and it's obviously an assumption that is totally irrelevant. Dr. Paisley: the New Testament is not written in Hebrew, so does that disqualify it? Of course not.

2. Second argument of Paisley : the New Testament never quotes the DB and early Christians never used it.

Response:

This is totally false, and can be shown to be incorrect by a few simple examples:

1. Ecclus. 11:31 and 2 John 10.

2. Ecclus. 11:18-20 compared with Christ's parable of the wealthy farmer in Luke 12:19.

3. Further, Jesus' statements about the eye making the whole body dark in Matthew 6:22 seem to clearly refer to Ecclus. 14:8-11.

4. Further, Wisdom 12-13 is almost exactly parallel with Romans 1.

5. Wisdom 2 contains a lengthy, clear prophecy of Christ.

6. Hebrews 11:35 refers to women and children who refused to be delivered from death (martyrdom) that they might receive a better resurrection. Now, there is nothing like this in the Protestant canonical OT (based on the Palestinian Jewish canon), where a woman refuses to have her children saved in order to merit for them a more glorious resurrection. But there is exactly that situation in 2 Maccabees 7, where the mother and her seven sons refuse to be delivered so that they might obtain a better resurrection.

There are several more examples than these, but these suffice to prove Paisley and the Protestant wrong.

Furthermore, a book's being quoted in the New Testament cannot be a criterion of canonicity, since Song of Solomon, Esther, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah are never quoted in the New Testament, yet Protestants accept them. Aside from that, the Book of Enoch and the Assumption of Moses are quoted in the canonical book of Jude, and no Protestant accepts these two as canonical. Thus, New Testament citation is not the end all criterion.

As to whether early Christians after the Apostles ever used them, note Kelly again:

"It should be observed that the Old Testament thus admitted as authoritative n the church was somewhat bulkier and more comprehensive than the 22 or 24 books of Hebrew Palestinian Judaism. It always included, though with varying degrees of recognition the so-called Apocrypha, or deuterocanonical books. The reason for this is that the Old Testament which passed in the first instance into the hands of Christians was not the original Hebrew version, but the Greek translation known as the Septuagint…most of the scriptural quotations found in the New Testament are based upon it rather than the Hebrew" (Early Christian Doctrines, page 53).

And the Protestant Nelson's New Christian Dictionary:

"…the early church Fathers, including Clement of Rome, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen cite them [the DB] frequently. Christians made extensive use of them for apologetic purposes, because some of the texts referred to the Incarnation, Logos, and the Son of God. But the reformation leaders were instrumental in completely rejecting them, and refused to ascribe to them the status of inspired word of God" (page 41).

Anyone who spends a few hours in the post apostolic fathers sees very quickly that each of them (Clement, Ignatius, Origen, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Cyprian, Irenaeus and others) clearly cites various DB texts as authoritative.

3. Final Paisley argument: the synod of Laodicea (341-381) did not accept the DB and that the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon (451) supposedly ratifies Laodicea.

Response:

Once again Paisley is entirely incorrect and does not know what he is talking about. The Synod of Laodicea was a regional, and therefore not universally binding, series of mini-synods that took place over a period of several years. Laodicea 's canons are quoted at least 3 or 4 times in Chalcedon 's canons, but what is the evidence of Chalcedon defining a non-Deuterocanonical canon, as Paisley attempts to say? There is none.

But these points aren't the most devastating on this issue: Paisley apparently hasn't read what the canon of Scripture Laodicea lists is: it's a canon that no one follows: it excludes Revelation and Esther, while it includes Baruch! No one—Protestant, Orthodox or Catholic--accepts this list of books, so Laodicea provides absolutely no support for the Protestant canon whatsoever. Anyone who doubts these claims can look up online the "Synod of Laodicea" and see what Scriptures it lists. Paisley really should have done this.

This terrible argument is further blown away when one actually reads the Letters of Pope St. Leo the Great: the Pope who presided at the Council of Chalcedon. In St. Leo's letters you find him frequently citing the DB as Scripture. Furthermore, he quotes the book of Revelation as Scripture, which Laodicea also omits. So, clearly, St. Leo and Chalcedon afford Paisley no evidence.

Why do Protestants quote Chalcedon , as if they hallowed it? Session III calls the Bishop of Rome the "universal patriarch," in tandem with the Patriarchate of Alexandria. In other words, Apostolic Sucession. The canons of that council teach Apostolic Succession, hierarchical church government, monasticism, tradition, vows of celibacy, etc. Need I say more?

In conclusion, then, the Protestant is the one who violates the written Word of God. I am speaking specifically here to my Reformed acquaintances who want to talk all day long about Greek exegesis. One can throw "sola scriptura's" all day long, but this is meaningless when your policy for canonicity is the drunk monk (Luther) who cast seven books out of the Bible because he didn't feel they "preached the Word." One must admit that if this is correct, then Protestantism is built on a faulty foundation. The summits of conservative Protestant scholarship support these facts.
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