Canon  of  the  Old  Testament

                     The word canon as applied to the Scriptures has long had a special and
                     consecrated meaning. In its fullest comprehension it signifies the authoritative list
                     or closed number of the writings composed under Divine inspiration, and destined
                     for the well-being of the Church, using the latter word in the wide sense of the
                     theocratic society which began with God's revelation of Himself to the people of
                     Israel, and which finds its ripe development and completion in the Catholic
                     organism. The whole Biblical Canon therefore consists of the canons of the Old
                     and New Testaments. The Greek kanon means primarily a reed, or
                     measuring-rod: by a natural figure it was employed by ancient writers both
                     profane and religious to denote a rule or standard. We find the substantive first
                     applied to the Sacred Scriptures in the fourth century, by St. Athanasius; for its
                     derivatives, the Council of Laodicea of the same period speaks of the kanonika
                     biblia and Athanasius of the biblia kanonizomena. The latter phrase proves that
                     the passive sense of canon -- that of a regulated and defined collection -- was
                     already in use, and this has remained the prevailing connotation of the word in
                     ecclesiastical literature.

                     The terms protocanonical and deuterocanonical, of frequent usage among
                     Catholic theologians and exegetes, require a word of caution. They are not
                     felicitous, and it would be wrong to infer from them that the Church successively
                     possessed two distinct Biblical Canons. Only in a partial and restricted way may
                     we speak of a first and second Canon. Protocanonical (protos, "first") is a
                     conventional word denoting those sacred writings which have been always
                     received by Christendom without dispute. The protocanonical books of the Old
                     Testament correspond with those of the Bible of the Hebrews, and the Old
                     Testament as received by Protestants. The deuterocanonical (deuteros,
                     "second") are those whose Scriptural character was contested in some quarters,
                     but which long ago gained a secure footing in the Bible of the Catholic Church,
                     though those of the Old Testament are classed by Protestants as the
                     "Apocrypha". These consist of seven books: Tobias, Judith, Baruch,
                     Ecclesiasticus, Wisdom, First and Second Machabees; also certain additions to
                     Esther and Daniel.

                     It should be noted that protocanonical and deuterocanonical are modern terms,
                     not having been used before the sixteenth century. As they are of cumbersome
                     length, the latter (being frequently used in this article) will be often found in the
                     abbreviated form deutero.

                     The scope of an article on the sacred Canon may now be seen to be properly
                     limited regarding the process of

                          what may be ascertained regarding the process of the collection of the
                          sacred writings into bodies or groups which from their very inception were
                          the objects of a greater or less degree of veneration;
                          the circumstances and manner in which these collections were definitely
                          canonized, or adjudged to have a uniquely Divine and authoritative quality;
                          the vicissitudes which certain compositions underwent in the opinions of
                          individuals and localities before their Scriptural character was universally

                     It is thus seen that canonicity is a correlative of inspiration, being the extrinsic
                     dignity belonging to writings which have been officially declared as of sacred
                     origin and authority. It is antecedently very probable that according as a book
                     was written early or late it entered into a sacred collection and attained a
                     canonical standing. Hence the views of traditionalist and critic (not implying that
                     the traditionalist may not also be critical) on the Canon parallel, and are largely
                     influenced by, their respective hypotheses on the origin of its component


                     It has already been intimated that there is a smaller, or incomplete, and larger, or
                     complete, Old Testament. Both of these were handed down by the Jews; the
                     former by the Palestinian, the latter by the Alexandrian, Hellenist, Jews.

                     The Jewish Bible of today is composed of three divisions, whose titles combined
                     from the current Hebrew name for the complete Scriptures of Judaism:
                     Hat-Torah, Nebiim, wa-Kéthubim, i.e. The Law, the Prophets, and the Writings.
                     This triplication is ancient; it is supposed as long-established in the Mishnah, the
                     Jewish code of unwritten sacred laws, reduced to writing, c. A.D. 200. A grouping
                     closely akin to it occurs in the New Testament in Christ's own words, Luke, xxiv,
                     44: "All things must needs be fulfilled, which are written in the law of Moses, and
                     in the prophets, and in the psalms concerning me". Going back to the prologue
                     of Ecclesiasticus, prefixed to it about 132 B.C., we find mentioned "the Law, and
                     the Prophets, and others that have followed them". The Torah, or Law, consists
                     of the five Mosaic books, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy.
                     The Prophets were subdivided by the Jews into the Former Prophets [i.e. the
                     prophetico-historical books: Josue, Judges, Samuel, (I and II Kings), and Kings
                     (III and IV Kings)] and the Latter Prophets (Isaias, Jeremias, Ezechiel, and the
                     twelve minor Prophets, counted by the Hebrews as one book). The Writings,
                     more generally known by a title borrowed from the Greek Fathers, Hagiographa
                     (holy writings), embrace all the remaining books of the Hebrew Bible. Named in
                     the order in which they stand in the current Hebrew text, these are: Psalms,
                     Proverbs, Job, Canticle of Canticles, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther,
                     Daniel, Esdras, Nehemias, or II Esdras, Paralipomenon.

                     1. Traditional view of the Canon of the Palestinian Jews


                     In opposition to scholars of more recent views, conservatives do not admit that
                     the Prophets and the Hagiographa represent two successive stages in the
                     formation of the Palestinian Canon. According to this older school, the principle
                     which dictated the separation between the Prophets and the Hagiographa was
                     not of a chronological kind, but one found in the very nature of the respective
                     sacred compositions. That literature was grouped under the Ké-thubim, or
                     Hagiographa, which neither was the direct product of the prophetical order,
                     namely, that comprised in the Latter Prophets, nor contained the history of Israel
                     as interpreted by the same prophetic teachers--narratives classed as the Former
                     Prophets. The Book of Daniel was relegated to the Hagiographa as a work of the
                     prophetic gift indeed, but not of the permanent prophetic office. These same
                     conservative students of the Canon--now scarcely represented outside the
                     Church--maintain, for the reception of the documents composing these groups
                     into the sacred literature of the Israelites, dates which are in general much earlier
                     than those admitted by critics. They place the practical, if not formal, completion
                     of the Palestinian Canon in the era of Esdras (Ezra) and Nehemias, about the
                     middle of the fifth century B.C., while true to their adhesion to a Mosaic
                     authorship of the Pentateuch, they insist that the canonization of the five books
                     followed soon after their composition.

                     Since the traditionalists infer the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch from other
                     sources, they can rely for proof of an early collection of these books chiefly on
                     Deuteronomy, xxxi, 9-13, 24-26, where there is question of a books of the law,
                     delivered by Moses to the priests with the command to keep it in the ark and
                     read it to the people on the feast of Tabernacles. But the effort to identify this
                     book with the entire Pentateuch is not convincing to the opponents of Mosaic

                     The Remainder of the Palestinian-Jewish Canon

                     Without being positive on the subject, the advocates of the older views regard it
                     as highly probable that several additions were made to the sacred repertory
                     between the canonization of the Mosaic Torah above described and the Exile
                     (598 B.C.). They cite especially Isaias, xxxiv, 16; II Paralipomenon, xxix, 30;
                     Proverbs, xxv, 1; Daniel, ix, 2. For the period following the Babylonian Exile the
                     conservative argument takes a more confident tone. This was an era of
                     construction, a turning-point in the history of Israel. The completion of the Jewish
                     Canon, by the addition of the Prophets and Hagiographa as bodies to the Law, is
                     attributed by conservatives to Esdras, the priest-scribe and religious leader of the
                     period, abetted by Nehemias, the civil governor; or at least to a school of scribes
                     founded by the former. (Cf. II Esdras, viii-x; II Machabees, ii, 13, in the Greek
                     original.) Far more arresting in favour of an Esdrine formulation of the Hebrew
                     Bible is a the much discussed passage from Josephus, "Contra Apionem", I, viii,
                     in which the Jewish historian, writing about A.D. 100, registers his conviction and
                     that of his coreligionists--a conviction presumably based on tradition--that the
                     Scriptures of the Palestinian Hebrews formed a closed and sacred collection
                     from the days of the Persian king, Artaxerxes Longiamanus (465-425 B.C.), a
                     contemporary of Esdras. Josephus is the earliest writer who numbers the books
                     of the Jewish Bible. In its present arrangement this contains 40; Josephus arrived
                     at 22 artificially, in order to match the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet,
                     by means of collocations and combinations borrowed in part from the Septuagint.
                     The conservative exegetes find a confirmatory argument in a statement of the
                     apocryphas Fourth Book of Esdras (xiv, 18-47), under whose legendary envelope
                     they see an historical truth, and a further one in a reference in the Baba Bathra
                     tract of the Babylonian Talmud to hagiographic activity on the part of "the men of
                     the Great Synagogue", and Esdras and Nehemias.

                     But the Catholic Scripturists who admit an Esdrine Canon are far from allowing
                     that Esdras and his colleagues intended to so close up the sacred library as to
                     bar any possible future accessions. The Spirit of God might and did breathe into
                     later writings, and the presence of the deuterocanonical books in the Church's
                     Canon at once forestalls and answers those Protestant theologians of a
                     preceding generation who claimed that Esdras was a Divine agent for an
                     inviolable fixing and sealing of the Old Testament To this extent at least, Catholic
                     writers on the subject dissent from the drift of the Josephus testimony. And while
                     there is what may be called a consensus of Catholic exegetes of the
                     conservative type on an Esdrine or quasi-Esdrine formulation of the canon so far
                     as the existing material permitted it, this agreement is not absolute; Kaulen and
                     Danko, favouring a later completion, are the notable exceptions among the
                     above-mentioned scholars.

                     2. Critical views of the formation of the Palestinian Canon

                     Its three constituent bodies, the Law, Prophets, and Hagiographa, represent a
                     growth and correspond to three periods more or less extended. The reason for
                     the isolation of the Hagiographa from the Prophets was therefore mainly
                     chronological. The only division marked off clearly by intrinsic features is the
                     legal element of the Old Testament, viz., the Pentateuch.

                     The Torah, or Law

                     Until the reign of King Josias, and the epoch-making discovery of "the book of the
                     law" in the Temple (621 B.C.), say the critical exegetes, there was in Israel no
                     written code of laws, or other work, universally acknowledged as of supreme and
                     Divine authority. This "book of the law" was practically identical with
                     Deuteronomy, and its recognition or canonization consisted in the solemn pact
                     entered into by Josias and the people of Juda, described in IV Kings, xxiii. That a
                     written sacred Torah was previously unknown among the Israelites, is
                     demonstrated by the negative evidence of the earlier prophets, by the absence of
                     any such factor from the religious reform undertaken by Ezechias (Hezekiah),
                     while it was the mainspring of that carried out by Josias, and lastly by the plain
                     surprise and consternation of the latter ruler at the finding of such a work. This
                     argument, in fact, is the pivot of the current system of Pentateuchal criticism,
                     and will be developed more at length in the article on the Pentateuch, as also the
                     thesis attacking the Mosaic authorship and promulgation of the latter as a whole.
                     The actual publication of the entire Mosaic code, according to the dominant
                     hypothesis, did not occur until the days of Esdras, and is narrated in chapters
                     viii-x of the second book bearing that name. In this connection must be
                     mentioned the argument from the Samaritan Pentateuch to establish that the
                     Esdrine Canon took in nothing beyond the Hexateuch, i.e. the Pentateuch plus
                     Josue. (See PENTATEUCH; SAMARITANS.) The Nebiim, or Prophets

                     There is no direct light upon the time or manner in which the second stratum of
                     the Hebrew Canon was finished. The creation of the above-mentioned Samaritan
                     Canon (c. 432 B.C.) may furnish a terminus a quo; perhaps a better one is the
                     date of the expiration of prophecy about the close of the fifth century before
                     Christ. For the other terminus the lowest possible date is that of the prologue to
                     Ecclesiasticus (c. 132 B.C.), which speaks of "the Law", and the Prophets, and
                     the others that have followed them". But compare Ecclesiasticus itself, chapters
                     xlvi-xlix, for an earlier one.

                     The Kéthubim, or Hagiographa Completes of the Jewish Canon

                     Critical opinion as to date ranged from c. 165 B.C. to the middle of the second
                     century of our era (Wildeboer). The Catholic scholars Jahn, Movers, Nickes,
                     Danko, Haneberg, Aicher, without sharing all the views of the advanced
                     exegetes, regard the Hebrew Hagiographa as not definitely settled till after Christ.
                     It is an incontestable fact that the sacredness of certain parts of the Palestinian
                     Bible (Esther, Ecclesiastes, Canticle of Canticles) was disputed by some rabbis
                     as late as the second century of the Christian Era (Mishna, Yadaim, III, 5;
                     Babylonian Talmud, Megilla, fol. 7). However differing as to dates, the critics are
                     assured that the distinction between the Hagiographa and the Prophetic Canon
                     was one essentially chronological. It was because the Prophets already formed a
                     sealed collection that Ruth, Lamentations, and Daniel, though naturally belonging
                     to it, could not gain entrance, but had to take their place with the last-formed
                     division, the Kéthubim.

                     3. The Protocanonical Books and the New Testament

                     The absence of any citations from Esther, Ecclesiastes, and Canticles may be
                     reasonably explained by their unsuitability for New Testament purposes, and is
                     further discounted by the non-citation of the two books of Esdras. Abdias,
                     Nahum, and Sophonias, while not directly honoured, are included in the
                     quotations from the other minor Prophets by virtue of the traditional unity of that
                     collection. On the other hand, such frequent terms as "the Scripture", the
                     "Scriptures", "the holy Scriptures", applied in the New Testament to the other
                     sacred writings, would lead us to believe that the latter already formed a definite
                     fixed collection; but, on the other, the reference in St. Luke to "the Law and the
                     Prophets and the Psalms", while demonstrating the fixity of the Torah and the
                     Prophets as sacred groups, does not warrant us in ascribing the same fixity to
                     the third division, the Palestinian-Jewish Hagiographa. If, as seems certain, the
                     exact content of the broader catalogue of the Old Testament Scriptures (that
                     comprising the deutero books) cannot be established from the New Testament, a
                     fortiori there is no reason to expect that it should reflect the precise extension of
                     the narrower and Judaistic Canon. We are sure, of course, that all the
                     Hagiographa were eventually, before the death of the last Apostle, divinely
                     committed to the Church as Holy Scriptures, but we known this as a truth of
                     faith, and by theological deduction, not from documentary evidence in the New
                     Testament The latter fact has a bearing against the Protestant claim that Jesus
                     approved and transmitted en bloc an already defined Bible of the Palestinian

                     4. Authors and Standards of Canonicity among the Jews

                     Though the Old Testament reveals no formal notion of inspiration, the later Jews
                     at least must have possessed the idea (cf. II Timothy, iii, 16; II Peter, i, 21).
                     There is an instance of a Talmudic doctor distinguishing between a composition
                     "given by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit" and one supposed to be the product of
                     merely human wisdom. But as to our distinct concept of canonicity, it is a
                     modern idea, and even the Talmud gives no evidence of it. To characterize a book
                     which held no acknowledged place in the divine library, the rabbis spoke of it as
                     "defiling the hands", a curious technical expression due probably to the desire to
                     prevent any profane touching of the sacred roll. But though the formal idea of
                     canonicity was wanting among the Jews the fact existed. Regarding the sources
                     of canonicity among the Hebrew ancients, we are left to surmise an analogy.
                     There are both psychological and historical reasons against the supposition that
                     the Old Testament Canon grew spontaneously by a kind of instinctive public
                     recognition of inspired books. True, it is quite reasonable to assume that the
                     prophetic office in Israel carried its own credentials, which in a large measure
                     extended to its written compositions. But there were many pseduo-prophets in
                     the nation, and so some authority was necessary to draw the line between the
                     true and the false prophetical writings. And an ultimate tribunal was also needed
                     to set its seal upon the miscellaneous and in some cases mystifying literature
                     embraced in the Hagiographa. Jewish tradition, as illustrated by the already cited
                     Josephus, Baba Bathra, and pseudo-Esdras data, points to authority as the final
                     arbiter of what was Scriptural and what not. The so-called Council of Jamnia (c.
                     A.D. 90) has reasonably been taken as having terminated the disputes between
                     rival rabbinic schools concerning the canonicity of Canticles. So while the
                     intuitive sense and increasingly reverent consciousness of the faithful element of
                     Israel could, and presumably did, give a general impulse and direction to
                     authority, we must conclude that it was the word of official authority which
                     actually fixed the limits of the Hebrew Canon, and here, broadly speaking, the
                     advanced and conservative exegetes meet on common ground. However the case
                     may have been for the Prophets, the preponderance of evidence favours a late
                     period as that in which the Hagiographa were closed, a period when the general
                     body of Scribes dominated Judaism, sitting "in the chair of Moses", and alone
                     having the authority and prestige for such action. The term general body of
                     Scribes has been used advisedly; contemporary scholars gravely suspect, when
                     they do not entirely reject, the "Great Synagogue" of rabbinic tradition, and the
                     matter lay outside the jurisdiction of the Sanhedrim.

                     As a touchstone by which uncanonical and canonical works were discriminated,
                     an important influence was that of the Pentateuchal Law. This was always the
                     Canon par excellence of the Israelites. To the Jews of the Middle Ages the Torah
                     was the inner sanctuary, or Holy of Holies, while the Prophets were the Holy
                     Place, and the Kéthubim only the outer court of the Biblical temple, and this
                     medieval conception finds ample basis in the pre-eminence allowed to the Law
                     by the rabbis of the Talmudic age. Indeed, from Esdras downwards the Law, as
                     the oldest portion of the Canon, and the formal expression of God's commands,
                     received the highest reverence. The Cabbalists of the second century after Christ,
                     and later schools, regarded the other section of the Old Testament as merely the
                     expansion and interpretation of the Pentateuch. We may be sure, then, that the
                     chief test of canonicity, at least for the Hagiographa, was conformity with the
                     Canon par excellence, the Pentateuch. It is evident, in addition, that no book was
                     admitted which had not been composed in Hebrew, and did not possess the
                     antiquity and prestige of a classic age, or name at least. These criteria are
                     negative and exclusive rather than directive. The impulse of religious feeling or
                     liturgical usage must have been the prevailing positive factors in the decision. But
                     the negative tests were in part arbitrary, and an intuitive sense cannot give the
                     assurance of Divine certification. Only later was the infallible Voice to come, and
                     then it was to declare that the Canon of the Synagogue, though unadulterated
                     indeed, was incomplete.


                     The most striking difference between the Catholic and Protestant Bibles is the
                     presence in the former of a number of writings which are wanting in the latter and
                     also in the Hebrew Bible, which became the Old Testament of Protestantism.
                     These number seven books: Tobias (Tobit), Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus,
                     Baruch, I and II Machabees, and three documents added to protocanonical
                     books, viz., the supplement to Esther, from x, 4, to the end, the Canticle of the
                     Three Youths (Song of the Three Children) in Daniel, iii, and the stories of
                     Susanna and the Elders and Bel and the Dragon, forming the closing chapters of
                     the Catholic version of that book. Of these works, Tobias and Judith were written
                     originally in Aramaic, perhaps in Hebrew; Baruch and I Machabees in Hebrew,
                     while Wisdom and II Machabees were certainly composed in Greek. The
                     probabilities favour Hebrew as the original language of the addition to Esther, and
                     Greek for the enlargements of Daniel.

                     The ancient Greek Old Testament known as the Septuagint was the vehicle
                     which conveyed these additional Scriptures into the Catholic Church. The
                     Septuagint version was the Bible of the Greek-speaking, or Hellenist, Jews,
                     whose intellectual and literary centre was Alexandria (see SEPTUAGINT). The
                     oldest extant copies date from the fourth and fifth centuries of our era, and were
                     therefore made by Christian hands; nevertheless scholars generally admit that
                     these faithfully represent the Old Testament as it was current among the
                     Hellenist or Alexandrian Jews in the age immediately preceding Christ. These
                     venerable manuscripts of the Septuagint vary somewhat in their content outside
                     the Palestinian Canon, showing that in Alexandrian-Jewish circles the number of
                     admissible extra books was not sharply determined either by tradition or by
                     authority. However, aside from the absence of Machabees from the Codex
                     Vaticanus (the very oldest copy of the Greek Old Testament), all the entire
                     manuscripts contain all the deutero writings; where the manuscript Septuagints
                     differ from one another, with the exception noted, it is in a certain excess above
                     the deuterocanonical books. It is a significant fact that in all these Alexandrian
                     Bibles the traditional Hebrew order is broken up by the interspersion of the
                     additional literature among the other books, outside the law, thus asserting for
                     the extra writings a substantial equality of rank and privilege.

                     It is pertinent to ask the motives which impelled the Hellenist Jews to thus,
                     virtually at least, canonize this considerable section of literature, some of it very
                     recent, and depart so radically from the Palestinian tradition. Some would have it
                     that not the Alexandrian, but the Palestinian, Jews departed from the Biblical
                     tradition. The Catholic writers Nickes, Movers, Danko, and more recently Kaulen
                     and Mullen, have advocated the view that originally the Palestinian Canon must
                     have included all the deuterocanonicals, and so stood down to the time of the
                     Apostles (Kaulen, c. 100 B.C.), when, moved by the fact that the Septuagint had
                     become the Old Testament of the Church, it was put under ban by the Jerusalem
                     Scribes, who were actuated moreover (thus especially Kaulen) by hostility to the
                     Hellenistic largeness of spirit and Greek composition of our deuterocanonical
                     books. These exegetes place much reliance on St. Justin Martyr's statement
                     that the Jews had mutilated Holy Writ, a statement that rests on no positive
                     evidence. They adduce the fact that certain deutero books were quoted with
                     veneration, and even in a few cases as Scriptures, by Palestinian or Babylonian
                     doctors; but the private utterances of a few rabbis cannot outweigh the consistent
                     Hebrew tradition of the canon, attested by Josephus--although he himself was
                     inclined to Hellenism--and even by the Alexandrian-Jewish author of IV Esdras.
                     We are therefore forced to admit that the leaders of Alexandrian Judaism showed
                     a notable independence of Jerusalem tradition and authority in permitting the
                     sacred boundaries of the Canon, which certainly had been fixed for the Prophets,
                     to be broken by the insertion of an enlarged Daniel and the Epistle of Baruch. On
                     the assumption that the limits of the Palestinian Hagiographa remained undefined
                     until a relatively late date, there was less bold innovation in the addition of the
                     other books, but the wiping out of the lines of the triple division reveals that the
                     Hellenists were ready to extend the Hebrew Canon, if not establish a new official
                     one of their own.

                     On their human side these innovations are to be accounted for by the free spirit
                     of the Hellenist Jews. Under the influence of Greek thought they had conceived a
                     broader view of Divine inspiration than that of their Palestinian brethren, and
                     refused to restrict the literary manifestations of the Holy Ghost to a certain
                     terminus of time and the Hebrew form of language. The Book of Wisdom,
                     emphatically Hellenist in character, presents to us Divine wisdom as flowing on
                     from generation to generation and making holy souls and prophets (vii, 27, in the
                     Greek). Philo, a typical Alexandrian-Jewish thinker, has even an exaggerated
                     notion of the diffusion of inspiration (Quis rerum divinarum hæres, 52; ed. Lips.,
                     iii, 57; De migratione Abrahæ, 11,299; ed. Lips. ii, 334). But even Philo, while
                     indicating acquaintance with the deutero literature, nowhere cites it in his
                     voluminous writings. True, he does not employ several books of the Hebrew
                     Canon; but there is a natural presumption that if he had regarded the additional
                     works as being quite on the same plane as the others, he would not have failed
                     to quote so stimulating and congenial a production as the Book of Wisdom.
                     Moreover, as has been pointed out by several authorities, the independent spirit
                     of the Hellenists could not have gone so far as to setup a different official Canon
                     from that of Jerusalem, without having left historical traces of such a rupture. So,
                     from the available data we may justly infer that, while the deuterocanonicals were
                     admitted as sacred by the Alexandrian Jews, they possessed a lower degree of
                     sanctity and authority than the longer accepted books, i.e., the Palestinian
                     Hagiographa and the Prophets, themselves inferior to the Law.


                     The most explicit definition of the Catholic Canon is that given by the Council of
                     Trent, Session IV, 1546. For the Old Testament its catalogue reads as follows:

                          The five books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers,
                          Deuteronomy), Josue, Judges, Ruth, the four books of Kings, two
                          of Paralipomenon, the first and second of Esdras (which latter is
                          called Nehemias), Tobias, Judith, Esther, Job, the Davidic Psalter
                          (in number one hundred and fifty Psalms), Proverbs, Ecclesiastes,
                          the Canticle of Canticles, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Isaias,
                          Jeremias, with Baruch, Ezechiel, Daniel, the twelve minor Prophets
                          (Osee, Joel, Amos, Abdias, Jonas, Micheas, Nahum, Habacue,
                          Sophonias, Aggeus, Zacharias, Malachias), two books of
                          Machabees, the first and second.

                     The order of books copies that of the Council of Florence, 1442, and in its
                     general plan is that of the Septuagint. The divergence of titles from those found in
                     the Protestant versions is due to the fact that the official Latin Vulgate retained
                     the forms of the Septuagint.

                     NEW TESTAMENT

                     The Tridentine decrees from which the above list is extracted was the first
                     infallible and effectually promulgated pronouncement on the Canon, addressed to
                     the Church Universal. Being dogmatic in its purport, it implies that the Apostles
                     bequeathed the same Canon to the Church, as a part of the depositum fedei. But
                     this was not done by way of any formal decision; we should search the pages of
                     the New Testament in vain for any trace of such action. The larger Canon of the
                     Old Testament passed through the Apostles' hands to the church tacitly, by way
                     of their usage and whole attitude toward its components; an attitude which, for
                     most of the sacred writings of the Old Testament, reveals itself in the New, and
                     for the rest, must have exhibited itself in oral utterances, or at least in tacit
                     approval of the special reverence of the faithful. Reasoning backward from the
                     status in which we find the deutero books in the earliest ages of post-Apostolic
                     Christianity, we rightly affirm that such a status points of Apostolic sanction,
                     which in turn must have rested on revelation either by Christ or the Holy Spirit.
                     For the deuterocanonicals at least, we needs must have recourse to this
                     legitimate prescriptive argument, owing to the complexity and inadequacy of the
                     New Testament data.

                     All the books of the Hebrew Old Testament are cited in the New except those
                     which have been aptly called the Antilegomena of the Old Testament, viz.,
                     Esther, Ecclesiastes, and Canticles; moreover Esdras and Nehemias are not
                     employed. The admitted absence of any explicit citation of the deutero writings
                     does not therefore prove that they were regarded as inferior to the
                     above-mentioned works in the eyes of New Testament personages and authors.
                     The deutero literature was in general unsuited to their purposes, and some
                     consideration should be given to the fact that even at its Alexandrian home it was
                     not quoted by Jewish writers, as we saw in the case of Philo. The negative
                     argument drawn from the non-citation of the deuterocanonicals in the New
                     Testament is especially minimized by the indirect use made of them by the
                     same Testament. This takes the form of allusions and reminiscences, and shows
                     unquestionably that the Apostles and Evangelists were acquainted with the
                     Alexandrian increment, regarded its books as at least respectable sources, and
                     wrote more or less under its influence. A comparison of Hebrews, xi and II
                     Machabees, vi and vii reveals unmistakable references in the former to the
                     heroism of the martyrs glorified in the latter. There are close affinities of thought,
                     and in some cases also of language, between I Peter, i, 6, 7, and Wisdom, iii, 5,
                     6; Hebrews, i, 3, and Wisdom, vii, 26, 27; I Corinthians, x, 9, 10, and Judith, viii,
                     24-25; I Corinthians, vi, 13, and Ecclesiasticus, xxxvi, 20.

                     Yet the force of the direct and indirect employment of Old Testament writings by
                     the New is slightly impaired by the disconcerting truth that at least one of the
                     New Testament authors, St. Jude, quotes explicitly from the "Book of Henoch",
                     long universally recognized as apocryphal, see verse 14, while in verse 9 he
                     borrows from another apocryphal narrative, the "Assumption of Moses". The New
                     Testament quotations from the Old are in general characterized by a freedom and
                     elasticity regarding manner and source which further ten to diminish their weight
                     as proofs of canonicity. But so far as concerns the great majority of the
                     Palestinian Hagiographa--a fortiori, the Pentateuch and Prophets--whatever want
                     of conclusiveness there may be in the New Testament, evidence of their
                     canonical standing is abundantly supplemented from Jewish sources alone, in
                     the series of witnesses beginning with the Mishnah and running back through
                     Josephus and Philo to the translation of the above books for the Hellenist
                     Greeks. But for the deuterocanonical literature, only the last testimony speaks
                     as a Jewish confirmation. However, there are signs that the Greek version was
                     not deemed by its readers as a closed Bible of definite sacredness in all its
                     parts, but that its somewhat variable contents shaded off in the eyes of the
                     Hellenists from the eminently sacred Law down to works of questionable divinity,
                     such as III Machabees.

                     This factor should be considered in weighing a certain argument. A large number
                     of Catholic authorities see a canonization of the deuteros in a supposed
                     wholesale adoption and approval, by the Apostles, of the Greek, and therefore
                     larger, Old Testament The argument is not without a certain force; the New
                     Testament undoubtedly shows a preference for the Septuagint; out of the 350
                     texts from the Old Testament, 300 favour the language of the Greek version
                     rather than that of the Hebrew. But there are considerations which bid us hesitate
                     to admit an Apostolic adoption of the Septuagint en bloc. As remarked above,
                     there are cogent reasons for believing that it was not a fixed quantity at the time.
                     The existing oldest representative manuscripts are not entirely identical in the
                     books they contain. Moreover, it should be remembered that at the beginning of
                     our era, and for some time later, complete sets of any such voluminous
                     collection as the Septuagint in manuscript would be extremely rare; the version
                     must have been current in separate books or groups of books, a condition
                     favourable to a certain variability of compass. So neither a fluctuating Septuagint
                     nor an inexplicit New Testament conveys to us the exact extension of the
                     pre-Christian Bible transmitted by the Apostles to the Primitive Church. It is more
                     tenable to conclude to a selective process under the guidance of the Holy Ghost,
                     and a process completed so late in Apostolic times that the New Testament fails
                     to reflect its mature result regarding either the number or note of sanctity of the
                     extra-Palestinian books admitted. To historically learn the Apostolic Canon of the
                     Old Testament we must interrogate less sacred but later documents, expressing
                     more explicitly the belief of the first ages of Christianity.

                     THREE CENTURIES

                     The sub-Apostolic writings of Clement, Polycarp, the author of the Epistle of
                     Barnabas, of the pseudo-Clementine homilies, and the "Shepherd" of Hermas,
                     contain implicit quotations from or allusions to all the deuterocanonicals except
                     Baruch (which anciently was often united with Jeremias) and I Machabess and
                     the additions to David. No unfavourable argument can be drawn from the loose,
                     implicit character of these citations, since these Apostolic Fathers quote the
                     protocanonical Scriptures in precisely the same manner.

                     Coming down to the next age, that of the apologists, we find Baruch cited by
                     Athenagoras as a prophet. St. Justin Martyr is the first to note that the Church
                     has a set of Old Testament Scriptures different from the Jews', and also the
                     earliest to intimate the principle proclaimed by later writers, namely, the
                     self-sufficiency of the Church in establishing the Canon; its independence of the
                     Synagogue in this respect. The full realization of this truth came slowly, at least
                     in the Orient, where there are indications that in certain quarters the spell of
                     Palestinian-Jewish tradition was not fully cast off for some time. St. Melito,
                     Bishop of Sardis (c. 170), first drew up a list of the canonical books of the Old
                     Testament While maintaining the familiar arrangement of the Septuagint, he says
                     that he verified his catalogue by inquiry among Jews; Jewry by that time had
                     everywhere discarded the Alexandrian books, and Melito's Canon consists
                     exclusively of the protocanonicals minus Esther. It should be noticed, however,
                     that the document to which this catalogue was prefixed is capable of being
                     understood as having an anti-Jewish polemical purpose, in which case Melito's
                     restricted canon is explicable on another ground. St. Irenæus, always a witness
                     of the first rank, on account of his broad acquaintance with ecclesiastical
                     tradition, vouches that Baruch was deemed on the same footing as Jeremias,
                     and that the narratives of Susanna and Bel and the Dragon were ascribed to
                     Daniel. The Alexandrian tradition is represented by the weighty authority of
                     Origen. Influenced, doubtless, by the Alexandrian-Jewish usage of
                     acknowledging in practice the extra writings as sacred while theoretically holding
                     to the narrower Canon of Palestine, his catalogue of the Old Testament
                     Scriptures contains only the protocanonical books, though it follows the order of
                     the Septuagint. Nevertheless Origen employs all the deuterocanonicals as Divine
                     Scriptures, and in his letter of Julius Africanus defends the sacredness of Tobias,
                     Judith, and the fragments of Daniel, at the same time implicitly asserting the
                     autonomy of the Church in fixing the Canon (see references in Cornely). In his
                     Hexaplar edition of the Old Testament all the deuteros find a place. The
                     sixth-century Biblical manuscript known as the "Codex Claromontanus" contains
                     a catalogue to which both Harnack and Zahn assign an Alexandrian origin, about
                     contemporary with Origen. At any rate it dates from the period under examination
                     and comprises all the deuterocanonical books, with IV Machabees besides. St.
                     Hippolytus (d. 236) may fairly be considered as representing the primitive Roman
                     tradition. He comments on the Susanna chapter, often quotes Wisdom as the
                     work of Solomon, and employs as Sacred Scripture Baruch and the Machabees.
                     For the West African Church the larger canon has two strong witnesses in
                     Tertullian and St. Cyprian. All the deuteros except Tobias, Judith, and the
                     addition to Esther, are Biblically used in the works of these Fathers. (With regard
                     to the employment of apocryphal writings in this age see under APOCRYPHA.)

                     FIRST HALF OF THE FIFTH, CENTURY

                     In this period the position of the deuterocanonical literature is no longer as
                     secure as in the primitive age. The doubts which arose should be attributed
                     largely to a reaction against the apocryphal or pseudo-Biblical writings with which
                     the East especially had been flooded by heretical and other writers. Negatively,
                     the situation became possible through the absence of any Apostolic or
                     ecclesiastical definition of the Canon. The definite and inalterable determination
                     of the sacred sources, like that of all Catholic doctrines, was in the Divine
                     economy left to gradually work itself out under the stimulus of questions and
                     opposition. Alexandria, with its elastic Scriptures, had from the beginning been a
                     congenial field for apocryphal literature, and St. Athanasius, the vigilant pastor of
                     that flock, to protect it against the pernicious influence, drew up a catalogue of
                     books with the values to be attached to each. First, the strict canon and
                     authoritative source of truth is the Jewish Old Testament, Esther excepted.
                     Besides, there are certain books which the Fathers had appointed to be read to
                     catechumens for edification and instruction; these are the Wisdom of Solomon,
                     the Wisdom of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), Esther, Judith, Tobias, the Didache, or
                     Doctrine of the Apostles, the Shepherd of Hermas. All others are apocrypha and
                     the inventions of heretics (Festal Epistle for 367). Following the precedent of
                     Origen and the Alexandrian tradition, the saintly doctor recognized no other
                     formal canon of the Old Testament than the Hebrew one; but also, faithful to the
                     same tradition, he practically admitted the deutero books to a Scriptural dignity,
                     as is evident from his general usage. At Jerusalem there was a renascence,
                     perhaps a survival, of Jewish ideas, the tendency there being distinctly
                     unfavourable to the deuteros. St. Cyril of that see, while vindicating for the Church
                     the right to fix the Canon, places them among the apocrypha and forbids all
                     books to be read privately which are not read in the churches. In Antioch and
                     Syria the attitude was more favourable. St. Epiphanius shows hesitation about
                     the rank of the deuteros; he esteemed them, but they had not the same place as
                     the Hebrew books in his regard. The historian Eusebius attests the widespread
                     doubts in his time; he classes them as antilegomena, or disputed writings, and,
                     like Athanasius, places them in a class intermediate between the books received
                     by all and the apocrypha. The 59th (or 60th) canon of the provincial Council of
                     Laodicea (the authenticity of which however is contested) gives a catalogue of
                     the Scriptures entirely in accord with the ideas of St. Cyril of Jerusalem. On the
                     other hand, the Oriental versions and Greek manuscripts of the period are more
                     liberal; the extant ones have all the deuterocanonicals and, in some cases,
                     certain apocrypha.

                     The influence of Origen's and Athanasius's restricted canon naturally spread to
                     the West. St. Hilary of Poitiers and Rufinus followed their footsteps, excluding
                     the deuteros from canonical rank in theory, but admitting them in practice. The
                     latter styles them "ecclesiastical" books, but in authority unequal to the other
                     Scriptures. St. Jerome cast his weighty suffrage on the side unfavourable to the
                     disputed books. In appreciating his attitude we must remember that Jerome lived
                     long in Palestine, in an environment where everything outside the Jewish Canon
                     was suspect, and that, moreover, he had an excessive veneration for the Hebrew
                     text, the Hebraica veritas as he called it. In his famous "Prologus Galeatus", or
                     Preface to his translation of Samuel and Kings, he declares that everything not
                     Hebrew should be classed with the apocrypha, and explicitly says that Wisdom,
                     Ecclesiasticus, Tobias, and Judith are not on the Canon. These books, he adds,
                     are read in the churches for the edification of the people, and not for the
                     confirmation of revealed doctrine. An analysis of Jerome's expressions on the
                     deuterocanonicals, in various letters and prefaces, yields the following results:
                     first, he strongly doubted their inspiration; secondly, the fact that he occasionally
                     quotes them, and translated some of them as a concession to ecclesiastical
                     tradition, is an involuntary testimony on his part to the high standing these
                     writings enjoyed in the Church at large, and to the strength of the practical
                     tradition which prescribed their readings in public worship. Obviously, the inferior
                     rank to which the deuteros were relegated by authorities like Origen, Athanasius,
                     and Jerome, was due to too rigid a conception of canonicity, one demanding that
                     a book, to be entitled to this supreme dignity, must be received by all, must have
                     the sanction of Jewish antiquity, and must moreover be adapted not only to
                     edification, but also to the "confirmation of the doctrine of the Church", to borrow
                     Jerome's phrase.

                     But while eminent scholars and theorists were thus depreciating the additional
                     writings, the official attitude of the Latin Church, always favourable to them, kept
                     the majestic tenor of its way. Two documents of capital importance in the history
                     of the canon constitute the first formal utterance of papal authority on the
                     subject. The first is the so-called "Decretal of Gelasius", de recipiendis et non
                     recipiendis libris, the essential part of which is now generally attributed to a
                     synod convoked by Pope Damasus in the year 382. The other is the Canon of
                     Innocent I, sent in 405 to a Gallican bishop in answer to an inquiry. Both contain
                     all the deuterocanonicals, without any distinction, and are identical with the
                     catalogue of Trent. The African Church, always a staunch supporter of the
                     contested books, found itself in entire accord with Rome on this question. Its
                     ancient version, the Vetus Latina (less correctly the Itala), had admitted all the
                     Old Testament Scriptures. St. Augustine seems to theoretically recognize
                     degrees of inspiration; in practice he employs protos and deuteros without any
                     discrimination whatsoever. Moreover in his "De Doctrinâ Christianâ" he
                     enumerates the components of the complete Old Testament. The Synod of Hippo
                     (393) and the three of Carthage (393, 397, and 419), in which, doubtless,
                     Augustine was the leading spirit, found it necessary to deal explicitly with the
                     question of the Canon, and drew up identical lists from which no sacred books
                     are excluded. These councils base their canon on tradition and liturgical usage.
                     For the Spanish Church valuable testimony is found in the work of the heretic
                     Priscillian, "Liber de Fide et Apocryphis"; it supposes a sharp line existing
                     between canonical and uncanonical works, and that the Canon takes in all the


                     This period exhibits a curious exchange of opinions between the West and the
                     East, while ecclesiastical usage remained unchanged, at least in the Latin
                     Church. During this intermediate age the use of St. Jerome's new version of the
                     Old Testament (the Vulgate) became widespread in the Occident. With its text
                     went Jerome's prefaces disparaging the deuterocanonicals, and under the
                     influence of his authority the West began to distrust these and to show the first
                     symptoms of a current hostile to their canonicity. On the other hand, the Oriental
                     Church imported a Western authority which had canonized the disputed books,
                     viz., the decree of Carthage, and from this time there is an increasing tendency
                     among the Greeks to place the deuteros on the same level with the others--a
                     tendency, however, due more to forgetfulness of the old distinction than to
                     deference to the Council of Carthage.


                     The Greek Church

                     The result of this tendency among the Greeks was that about the beginning of
                     the twelfth century they possessed a canon identical with that of the Latins,
                     except that it took in the apocryphal III Machabees. That all the deuteros were
                     liturgically recognized in the Greek Church at the era of the schism in the ninth
                     century, is indicated by the "Syntagma Canonum" of Photius.

                     The Latin Church

                     In the Latin Church, all through the Middle Ages we find evidence of hesitation
                     about the character of the deuterocanonicals. There is a current friendly to them,
                     another one distinctly unfavourable to their authority and sacredness, while
                     wavering between the two are a number of writers whose veneration for these
                     books is tempered by some perplexity as to their exact standing, and among
                     those we note St. Thomas Aquinas. Few are found to unequivocally acknowledge
                     their canonicity. The prevailing attitude of Western medieval authors is
                     substantially that of the Greek Fathers. The chief cause of this phenomenon in
                     the West is to be sought in the influence, direct and indirect, of St. Jerome's
                     depreciating Prologus. The compilatory "Glossa Ordinaria" was widely read and
                     highly esteemed as a treasury of sacred learning during the Middle Ages; it
                     embodied the prefaces in which the Doctor of Bethlehem had written in terms
                     derogatory to the deuteros, and thus perpetuated and diffused his unfriendly
                     opinion. And yet these doubts must be regarded as more or less academic. The
                     countless manuscript copies of the Vulgate produced by these ages, with a
                     slight, probably accidental, exception, uniformly embrace the complete Old
                     Testament Ecclesiastical usage and Roman tradition held firmly to the canonical
                     equality of all parts of the Old Testament There is no lack of evidence that during
                     this long period the deuteros were read in the churches of Western Christendom.
                     As to Roman authority, the catalogue of Innocent I appears in the collection of
                     ecclesiastical canons sent by Pope Adrian I to Charlemagne, and adopted in 802
                     as the law of the Church in the Frankish Empire; Nicholas I, writing in 865 to the
                     bishops of France, appeals to the same decree of Innocent as the ground on
                     which all the sacred books are to be received.


                     The Council of Florence (1442)

                     In 1442, during the life, and with the approval, of this Council, Eugenius IV issued
                     several Bulls, or decrees, with a view to restore the Oriental schismatic bodies to
                     communion with Rome, and according to the common teaching of theologians
                     these documents are infallible states of doctrine. The "Decretum pro Jacobitis"
                     contains a complete list of the books received by the Church as inspired, but
                     omits, perhaps advisedly, the terms canon and canonical. The Council of
                     Florence therefore taught the inspiration of all the Scriptures, but did not formally
                     pass on their canonicity.

                     The Council of Trent's Definition of the Canon (1546)

                     It was the exigencies of controversy that first led Luther to draw a sharp line
                     between the books of the Hebrew Canon and the Alexandrian writings. In his
                     disputation with Eck at Leipzig, in 1519, when his opponent urged the well-known
                     text from II Machabees in proof of the doctrine of purgatory, Luther replied that
                     the passage had no binding authority since the books was outside the Canon. In
                     the first edition of Luther's Bible, 1534, the deuteros were relegated, as
                     apocrypha, to a separate place between the two Testaments. To meet this
                     radical departure of the Protestants, and as well define clearly the inspired
                     sources from which the Catholic Faith draws its defence, the Council of Trent
                     among its first acts solemnly declared as "sacred and canonical" all the books of
                     the Old and New Testaments "with all their parts as they have been used to be
                     read in the churches, and as found in the ancient vulgate edition". During the
                     deliberations of the Council there never was any real question as to the reception
                     of all the traditional Scripture. Neither--and this is remarkable--in the proceedings
                     is there manifest any serious doubt of the canonicity of the disputed writings. In
                     the mind of the Tridentine Fathers they had been virtually canonized, by the
                     same decree of Florence, and the same Fathers felt especially bound by the
                     action of the preceding ecumenical synod. The Council of Trent did not enter into
                     an examination of the fluctuations in the history of the Canon. Neither did it
                     trouble itself about questions of authorship or character of contents. True to the
                     practical genius of the Latin Church, it based its decision on immemorial tradition
                     as manifested in the decrees of previous councils and popes, and liturgical
                     reading, relying on traditional teaching and usage to determine a question of
                     tradition. The Tridentine catalogue has been given above.

                     The Vatican Council (1870)

                     The great constructive Synod of Trent had put the sacredness and canonicity of
                     the whole traditional Bible forever beyond the permissibility of doubt on the part of
                     Catholics. By implication it had defined that Bible's plenary inspiration also. The
                     Vatican Council took occasion of a recent error on inspiration to remove any
                     lingering shadow of uncertainty on this head; it formally ratified the action of Trent
                     and explicitly defined the Divine inspiration of all the books with their parts.


                     A. AMONG THE EASTERN ORTHODOX

                     The Greek Orthodox Church preserved its ancient Canon in practice as well as
                     theory until recent times, when, under the dominant influence of its Russian
                     offshoot, it is shifting its attitude towards the deuterocanonical Scriptures. The
                     rejection of these books by the Russian theologians and authorities is a lapse
                     which began early in the eighteenth century. The Monophysites, Nestorians,
                     Jacobites, Armenians, and Copts, while concerning themselves little with the
                     Canon, admit the complete catalogue and several apocrypha besides.

                     B. AMONG PROTESTANTS

                     The Protestant Churches have continued to exclude the deutero writings from
                     their canons, classifying them as "Apocrypha". Presbyterians and Calvinists in
                     general, especially since the Westminster Synod of 1648, have been the most
                     uncompromising enemies of any recognition, and owing to their influence the
                     British and Foreign Bible Society decided in 1826 to refuse to distribute Bibles
                     containing the Apocrypha. Since that time the publication of the
                     deuterocanonicals as an appendix to Protestant Bibles has almost entirely
                     ceased in English-speaking countries. The books still supply lessons for the
                     liturgy of the Church of England, but the number has been lessened by the
                     hostile agitation. There is an Apocrypha appendix to the British Revised Version,
                     in a separate volume. The deuteros are still appended to the German Bibles
                     printed under the auspices of the orthodox Lutherans.

                     GEORGE J. REID
                     Transcribed by Ernie Stefanik

                                       The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume III
                                    Copyright © 1908 by Robert Appleton Company
                                    Online Edition Copyright © 1999 by Kevin Knight
                                 Nihil Obstat, November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor
                                 Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York

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