The Old Testament Canon

By COGwriter

Jesus prayed:

17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. (John 17:17):

That 'word' is the Bible. Christians are sometimes said to be 'the people of the book.' The 'book' being the Bible.

But what constitutes it?

Who preserved the books of the Old Testament? What are the books of the Hebrew scriptures? When did Christians know what they were? Where did the term Old Testament come from? Who knew? Did someone change? Which books were part of the 'faith once for all delivered to the saints' (Jude 3)?

This article will look to the Bible and historical records to attempt to answer those questions related to what Melito of Sardis called 'the Old Testament.'

To the Jews

The Apostle Paul taught:

1 What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? 2 Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God (Romans 3:1-2).

The Greek term in the New Testament for oracle, means inspired writings. And based upon historical records this was so, as the Jews in Palestine preserved what we call the Old Testament.

Jesus, of course, grew up in Palestine, and thus it is reasonable to conclude that He used the same books of the Old Testament as were preserved by the Jews in Palestine.

Here is a reference in the Old Testament to what seems to be been the books of the Bible in Daniel's time:

1 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the lineage of the Medes, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans — 2 in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the Lord through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. (Daniel 9:1-2)

(Daniel's reference to Jeremiah seems to be from 2 Chronicles 36:21.) The Hebrew term translated 'books' above is:

Daniel 9:2

(Interlinear Transliterated Bible. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc.)

Here is information from the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia about the 'canon' and the 'books':

Bible Canon:

1. Meaning and Scope

The Greek word κανών, meaning primarily a straight rod, and derivatively a norm or law, was first applied by the church fathers (not earlier than 360) to the collection of Holy Scriptures, and primarily to those of the so-called Old Testament (Credner, "Zur Gesch. des Canons," pp. 58-68). But although the older Jewish literature has no such designation for the Biblical books, and it is doubtful whether the word was ever included in the rabbinical vocabulary, it is quite certain that the idea expressed by the designation "canonical writings" (γραΦαὶ κανονικαί), both as including and as excluding certain books, is of Jewish origin. The designation "Apocrypha" affords a parallel instance: the word is Greek; the conception is Jewish (compare the words "Genuzim," "Genizah").

Origin of Idea.

The idea of canonicity can only have been suggested at a period when the national literature had progressed far enough to possess a large number of works from which a selection might be made. And the need for such selection was all the more urgent, since the Jewish mind occupied itself in producing exclusively writings of religious import, in which category, however, were also included various historical and didactic works. Which writings were included in the recognized collection, and in what manner such collection was made, are questions belonging to the history of the canon, and are discussed in this article: the origin and composition of the separate books come under the history of Biblical literature.

2. Designations

The oldest and most frequent designation for the whole collection of Biblical writings is , "Books." This word, which in Dan. ix. 2 means all the sacred writings, occurs frequently in the Mishnah, as well as in traditional literature, without closer definition. The expression ("Holy Books") belongs to later authors. It is employed first by the medieval exegetes; for instance, Ibn Ezra, introduction to "Yesod Morah" and "M'ozne Lashon ha-Ḳodesh"; see also Neubauer, "Book of Tobit," 43b, Oxford, 1878; Grätz, "Gesch. der Juden," 3d ed., vii. 384; Margoliouth, "Cat. Hebr. and Samaritan MSS. Brit Mus.," Nos. 181, 193; and elsewhere infrequently, but never in Talmud or Midrash. This fact goes to show that the ancients regarded the whole mass of the national religious writings as equally holy. The Greek translation of the term is τὰ βιβλία, which (as maybe seen from the expressions καὶ τὰ λΟιπὰ τῶν βιβλίων and καὶ τῶν ἄλλων πατρίων βιβλίων) is used by the grandson of Sirach in the introduction to Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) to designate the whole of the Scriptures.

Outside Books

The canonical books, therefore, needed no special designation, since originally all were holy. A new term had to be coined for the new idea of non-holy books. The latter were accordingly called ("outside" or "extraneous books"); that is, books not included in the established collection (Mishnah Sanh. x. 1)—a distinction analogous to that afterward made, with reference to the oral law itself, between "Mishnah" and "Outside-Mishnah" ( and , or its Aramaic equivalent , "Baraita"). Possibly this designation was due to the fact that the Apocrypha, which in popular estimation ranked nevertheless with religious works, were not included in the libraries of the Temple and synagogues (for illustration of this see Books, and Blau, "Zur Einleitung in die Heilige Schrift," i. et seq.). Another designation, ("that which is read"), applied to the whole of Scripture, is founded upon the custom of reading the Holy Scriptures to the people on Sabbaths and holidays: it is a term frequently opposed to and , which designate oral teaching (Ned. iv. 3; Ḳid. i., end; Abot v., end). A third designation is ("Holy Scriptures," Shab. xvi. 1; B. B. i., end, and elsewhere), the Greek equivalents of which are ΓραΦαὶ ἄγιαι (Rom. i. 2) and ιηρ1F70 γράμμαια (II Tim. iii. 15). This term indicates, not the writings belonging to the sanctuary, nor of Israel (Geiger, "Nachgelassene Schriften," iv. 12), but holy writings in contradistinction to profane works ( and , Tosef., Yom-Ṭob, iv.; ed. Zuckermandel, p. 207, 12), perhaps works inspired by the Holy Spirit. This interpretation is also favored by the expression πᾶα γραΘὴ Θηόπνηυστοç (II Tim. iii. 16; compare Eusebius, "Eclogæ Propheticæ," ed. Gaisford, p. 106).


A fourth designation for the entire Bible is ("Law") (Mek., Beshallaḥ, 9; ed. Friedmann, pp. 34b, 40b; Pesiḳ. R., ed. Friedmann, 9a, and elsewhere), also found in the New Testament under the form νόμΟς (John x. 34; II Esdras xix. 21). This designation owes its origin to the opinion that the entire Holy Writ is the Word of God, and that the Prophets and the Hagiographa are included in the Torah (see below). It is also possible that, since "Torah" was the title of the first and principal part of the Biblical writings, it was transferred to the entire collection.


The fifth designation, (literally, "it is written"), frequently found personified (as, for instance, , etc. = "the 'Katub' saith"; compare Bacher, "Aelteste Terminologie der Jüdischen Schriftauslegung," p. 90), is, strictly speaking, an abbreviation, and should be supplemented with the name of the book in which "it is written." The Greek equivalent is γραΦή; π1FB6σα γραΦ1F74 (II Tim. iii. 16), a translation of , which, strange to say, is found in the works of Profiat Duran, though certainly it is very old. The sixth designation is διαΘήκη ("covenant"), from which the term πλλα1F77α διαΘήκη (Vetus Testamentum = Old Testament) in the Christian Church has been derived. Even in Ecclus. (Sirach) xxiv. 23 the Pentateuch is called βίβλος διαΘήκης, and the term ("Book of the Covenant," Ex. xxiv. 7; II Kings xxiii. 2, 21) is similarly translated in the Septuagint. Though "diathēkē," like "Torah," came to be applied to Holy Writ (first by Paul, II Cor. iii. 14; compare Matt. xxvi. 28), the expression ("Book of the Covenant") is never found with this significance in Jewish tradition, except in an apparently polemic utterance of Simon ben Yoḥai (about 150), where a reference to the name "diathēkē" for the Torah occurs (Yer. Sanh. 20c; Lev. R. xix.). In all probability this designation, which, like the term "Old Testament," involves a Christian point of view, was used very rarely.

Other Expressions

In post-Talmudic times other designations were employed; e.g., ("The Twenty-four Books") (see G. Margoliouth, "Cat. Hebr. and Samaritan MSS. Brit. Mus." i. 22b, 25a, 27a, 35a); ("the cycle," in the Masorah; in a codex of the year 1309; and in Ginsburg, "Introduction," p. 564); (Ginsburg, l.c. p. 748). Medieval authors called the Holy Writ also , which originally meant "verse" (Bacher, "Rev. Etudes Juives," xvi. 278). Another very common designation is , the initials of ("Law, Prophets, and Holy Writings"), an expression frequently occurring in Talmud and Midrash. A similar acrostic name is , an abbreviation of the words . In the Middle Ages these mnemonic terms were conveniently regarded as real words, and received translations; namely, "ear-tips" and "plumb-line" respectively.

In the Mishnah (compare Yad. iii. 5) the canonicity of the Holy Books is expressed indirectly by the doctrine that those writings which are canonical "render the hands unclean." The term connoting this quality, , thus comes very near to the technical equivalent for the word "canonical." The nature of the underlying conceit is not altogether clear. It is most likely that it was meant to insure greater caution against the profanation of holy scrolls by careless handling or irreverent uses (Yad. iv. 6; Zab. v. 12; Shab. 13a, 14a). It is an open question whether this capacity to render "the hands unclean" inhered in the scroll kept in the Temple. It appears that originally the scroll in the Temple rendered food unclean; while only outside the Temple were hands made unclean (Kelim xv. 6; R. Aḳiba, Pes. 19a). At all events, the term was extended to all the writings included in the canon, and designated ultimately their canonical character or its effects as distinguished from non-canonical books (Yad. iii. 2-5; iv. 5, 6; Tosef., Yad. ii. 19; Blau, l.c. pp. 21, 69 et seq.; Friedmann, "Ha-Goren," ii. 168, but incorrect).

3. Contents and Divisions.

The Jewish canon comprises twenty-four books, the five of the Pentateuch, eight books of the Prophets (Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, the Minor Prophets), and eleven Hagiographa (Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, and Chronicles). Samuel and Kings form but a single book each, as is seen in Aquila's Greek translation. The "twelve" prophets were known to Ecclus. (Sirach) as one book (xlix. 10), and the separation of Ezra from Nehemiah is not indicated in either the Talmud or the Masorah. A Bible codex written in Spain in 1448 divides Samuel, Kings, and Ezra into two books each (Ginsburg, l.c. p. 586). These books are classified and arranged into three subdivisions, "Torah," "Prophets," and "Hagiographa"; Greek, νόνος καὶ προΦῆται καὶ βιβΛία (Ecclus. [Sirach]). In Yalḳ. ii. 702 they are styled as abstracts, "Law, Prophecy, and Wisdom," ; compare Yer. Mak. 31d, below, and Blau, l.c. p. 21, note. The division of the Prophets into ("Earlier Prophets") and ("Later Prophets) was introduced by the Masorah.

Earlier Prophets

By the former expression the Talmud understands the older Prophets, such as Isaiah, as distinguished from the later Prophets, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi (see Sifre, Deut. 27, 357; Yer. Ber. 8d, 23, etc.). In contradistinction to the last three, Samuel, David, and Solomon are sometimes called the old Prophets (Soṭah 48b, top). The entire Holy Writ is also designated by the term "Torah and Prophets" (R. H. iv. 6; compare Meg. iv. 5; Tosef., B. B. viii. 14; Sifre, Deut. 218), and the same usage is found in the New Testament (Matt. v. 17, vii. 12, xxii. 40; Luke xvi. 16, 29, 31). The abstract terms "Law and Prophecy." are found once in Pesiḳ., ed. Buber, 111a.

Another division is that into "Torah and Ḳabbalah" found in Ta'an. ii. 1; Tosef., Niddah, iv. 10; Sifre, Num. 112, 139; "Ḳabbalah" signifying tradition, which is regarded as having been carried on by the Prophets. The Aramaic equivalent for is , the Masoretic name for the Prophetical Books, and Hebraized into by Ben Asher ("Diḳduḳe ha-Te'amim," p. 2).

Still another division is "Torah" and "Miḳra." In Sifre, Deut. 317 "Miḳra" is used as a general term for the Prophets and the Hagiographa—a usage which may also underlie Gen. R. xvi. (ed. Wilna, 75b) and Cant. R. xvi. 6, below (see, however, Bacher, "Aelteste Terminologle," p. 118, note 7). The Midrash on "plena et defectiva" opposes "Torah" to "Miḳra" (Berliner, "Peleṭat Soferim," p. 36), as does also Ben Asher (Blau, "Masor. Untersuchungen," p. 50). The Masorah and Spanish authors use the word in the same sense (Bacher, l.c. pp. 118 et seq.; also in "Ḥuḳḳe ha-Torah," in Güdemann, "Gesch. der Cultur der Juden in Deutschland," p. 268), and it probably came to have this meaning because it is abbreviated from the expression "the remaining Miḳra."

The Hagiographa

The third division, "the Holy Writings," may have received its name in a similar way. Originally, the whole Bible was called "Holy Writings," but subsequently men perhaps spoke of the "Law and the Prophets," and the "other holy writings," and finally briefly of the "Holy Writings." Similarly, the current name "Ketubim" (Writings) is probably also an abbreviation of the fuller expression, "the other writings," or the "Holy Writings." This etymology is supported by the usage of Sirach's grandson, who calls the Hagiographa τά λοιπὰ, τῶν βιβλιωνand of Ben Asher a thousand years later, who speaks of "the Law, the Prophets, and the other books" (l.c. 44; emended text in Blau, "Zur Einleitung," p. 29, note 3). This is not the only instance of Asher's fidelity to older traditions. Characteristic evidence of the threefold division may be noted in the following citations:

"In the New-Year's prayers, ten passages of the Bible (from the Torah, Prophets, and Hagiographa) must be introduced at least three times" (Tosef., R. H. iv. 6). "Ben Azzai connected the words of the Torah with those of the Prophets, and the latter with those of the Hagiographa" (Lev. R. xvi. 3). "This is the progressive method of studying: first, a primer (passages of the Pentateuch) is read; then the Book (, Torah), then the Prophets, and finally the Hagiographa. After completing the study of the entire Bible, one took up the Talmud, Halakah, and Haggadah" (Deut. R. viii. 3). "To be considered conversant with the Bible one had to be able to read accurately the Torah, Prophets, and Hagiographa" (ḳid. 49a). "Just as the Torah is threefold, so Israel is threefold, consisting of priests, Levites, and Israelites " (Pesiḳ., ed. Buber, 105a). "Blessed be God, who gave the threefold teachings to the threefold nation, by three persons on the third day of the third month" (Shab. 88a). In answer to the question of the Sadducee, concerning the Biblical basis for the belief that God causes the dead to rise, the patriarch Gamaliel sought proof "in Torah, Prophets, and Holy Writings" (Sanh. 90b). "This doctrine is written in the Torah, repeated in the Prophets, and a third time in the Hagiographa" (Meg. 31a; compare Mak. 10b, 15). Hanina set up the rule that "kesef" (silver) means simply a "selah" in the Torah, a "litra" in the Prophets, and a "talent" in the Holy Writings (Bek. 50a; Yer. Ḳid. 59d; see also M. Ḳ. 21a; Ta'an. 30a; Sanh. 101a).

For passages of similar import from the Jerusalem Talmud and from the Midrash, see Blau, p. 22, note 5; p. 23, note 1.

4. Number of Books.

Tannaite literature makes no mention anywhere of the number of the Biblical books, and it does not seem to have been usual to pay attention to their number. This was felt to be of importance only when the Holy Writings were to be distinguished from others, or when their entire range was to be explained to non-Jews. The earliest two estimates (about 100 C.E.) differ. II Esdras xiv. 44-46 gives the number as 24; all variant readings of the passage (94, 204, 84, 974 books) agree in the unit figure, 4.

Epiphanius' division of the number 94 into 72 + 22 ("De Ponderibus et Mensuris Liber," in Lagarde, "Symmicta," ii. 163) is artificial. Josephus expressly puts the number at 22, as does Origen (Eusebius, "Hist. Eccl." vi. 25); while Jerome (Preface to Samuel and Kings) mentions 22, but nevertheless counts 24. Since both of these church fathers studied under Jewish teachers, it is probable that some authorities within the synagogue favored counting 22 books; and the hesitation between 22 and 24 can be explained by a Baraita (B. B. 13b), according to which each book of the latter two divisions (Prophets and Hagiographa) had to be written separately as one roll. Since Ruth with Judges or with Psalms (Jerome, and Baraita B. B. 14b) might form one roll, and Lamentations with Jeremiah another, the rolls would be counted as 22, while the books were actually 24. That there were 24 books will be apparent from the classical Baraita on thequestion (see § 5 of this article). But in more than ten passages of the Midrash 24 books are expressly mentioned; and the authorities adduced are exclusively amoraim. Simeon ben Laḳish (about 250) compares the books with the 24 ornaments of a bride (Isa. iii. 18-24); saying that just as the bride must be decorated with 24 ornaments, so the scholar must be adorned with the knowledge of all the 24 books (Ex. R. xli. 5; Tan., Ki Tissa, xi., ed. Buber, p. 111; Cant. R. iv. 11). R. Berechiah compares them with the 24 divisions of the priests and Levites and with the 24 nails driven into sandals (Num. R. xiv. 4, xv. 22; Eccl. R. xii. 11; Pesiḳ. R. ix. a, ed. Friedmann); while, according to Phineas ben Jair (beginning of third century), the 24 books (Num. R. xiv. 18) correspond to the 24 sacrificial animals (Num. vii.). The fact that the 24 books of the written Law and the 80 of the oral tradition make up 104 (Num. R. xiii. 16) recalls the number of the books mentioned in II Esdras. Counting the Minor Prophets as 12, the number 35 is obtained (23 + 12), as in Num. R. xviii. 21 and Tan., Ḳoraḥ, ed. Stettin, 552.

For the understanding of the concept of a canon, the following passages, literally rendered, are especially important:

Eccl. xii. 12 teaches: "And further, my son, be admonished by these [understood as reading "against more than these, my son, be cautioned against confusion"; the Hebrew "mehemah" (more than these) being read "mehumah" (confusion)] that he who brings more than twenty-four books into his house brings confusion. Thus, the books of Ben Sira or Ben Tigla may be read, but not to the degree of 'weariness of the flesh'" (Eccl. R. on the passage).

"And further, by these, my son, be admonished," saith God; 'Twenty-four books have I written for you; take heed to add none thereto.' Wherefore? Because of making many books there is no end. He who reads one verse not written in the twenty-four books is as though he had read in the 'outside books'; he will find no salvation there. Behold herein the punishment assigned to him who adds one book to the twenty-four. How do we know that he who reads them wearies himself in vain? Because it says, 'much study is a weariness of the flesh' (Eccl. xii. 12), from which follows, that the body of such a one shall not arise from the dust, as is said in the Mishnah (Sanh. x. 1), 'They who read in the outside books have no share in the future life'" (Num. R. xiv. 4; ed. Wilna, p. 117a; compare also Pesiḳ. R. ix. a and Yer. Sanh. xxviii. a).

The chief difference between these two passages is that in the first only the "weariness of the flesh," that is, the deep study (but not the reading) of other than the Holy Writings, which were learned by heart, is forbidden; while in the second passage the mere reading is also forbidden. The older point of view is undoubtedly the milder, as the history of the book of Ecclus. (Sirach) teaches. The Babylonian teachers represented the more liberal view (compare Sanh. 100a and Yer. Sanh. xxviii. a, 18).

The "Twenty-Four" Books

There is probably an allusion to twenty-four books in Yer. Sanh. xx. d, 4 and Gen. R. lxxx., beginning. The Babylonian Talmud (Ta'an. 8a) mentions 24; Targ. to the Song of Solomon v. 10 does the same. Dosa ben Eliezer, in a very old Masoretic note; Ben Asher ("Diḳduḳe," pp. 5 [line 12], 56); Nissim of Kairwan (Steinschneider "Festschrift," Hebrew section, p. 20, below); and many medieval writers and codices count twenty-four books. The number 24 was also known in ancient times in non-Jewish circles (Strack, in Herzog, "Real-Encyc. für Protestantische Theologie und Kirche," ix. 3 757).

5. Sequence.

The classical passage for the sequence of the books is the Baraita in B. B. 14b. With the exclusion of interjected remarks chronicled there, it runs as follows:

"The sequence of the Prophets is Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, the 12 [minor] prophets; that of the Hagiographa is Ruth, Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Lamentations, Daniel, Esther, Ezra, Chronicles. Who wrote the books? Moses wrote his book, the section of Balaam and Job; Joshua wrote his book, and the last eight verses of the Torah; Samuel wrote his book, Judges, and Ruth; David wrote the Psalms, by the hand of the ten Ancients; namely, through Adam (Psalm cxxxix. 16, perhaps also xcii.), through Melchizedek, Ps. cx.: through Abraham, Ps. lxxxix. ( explained to = Abraham); through Moses, Ps. xc.-c.; through Heman, Ps. lxxxviii.; through Jeduthun, Ps. lxii.; perhaps lxxvii.; through Asaph, Ps. l., lxxiii.-lxxxiii.; and through the three sons of Korah, Ps. xlii. xlix., lxxviii., lxxxiv., lxxxv., lxxxviii. [The question whether Solomon should be included among the Psalmists is discussed in Tosafot 15a.] Jeremiah wrote his book, the Book of Kings, and Lamentations; King Hezekiah, and his council that survived him, wrote Isaiah, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, and Ecclesiastes; the men of the Great Synagogues wrote Ezekiel, the Twelve Prophets, Daniel, and Esther Ezra wrote his book and the genealogy of Chronicles down to himself."

From the fact that in this account of the authors Moses is mentioned as the author of the Torah, it may be inferred that in the collection from which the Baraita is cited the sequence also of the five books of the Torah was probably given. But it is also possible that the Pentateuch, from its liturgical use in the synagogue, was so familiar as to be regarded almost as a single book, of the separate parts of which no enumeration was necessary.


The most striking sequence in this passage is that of the Prophets, given as Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Isaiah, a sequence commented on in the Talmud. There it is explained that this is because the Book of Kings ends with destruction, Jeremiah begins and closes with destruction, Ezekiel begins with destruction and ends with consolation, while all of Isaiah consists of consolation. Thus, destruction appropriately follows upon destruction, and consolation upon consolation. The artificiality of this interpretation needs no explanation; but it must be remarked that such sequence is not chronological. The clearest explanation is that of Strack, who claims that the Baraita evidently arranged the prophetical books according to their size, a principle apparently followed also in the arrangement of the Mishnah treatises. According to their length, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and the twelve Prophets stand to one another in the ratio of 41, 36, 32, and 30. The same principle is apparent in the sequence of the older Hagiographa, where the insertion of Job between the Psalms and Proverbs (the works of father, David, and son, Solomon) is particularly noticeable. Since the Baraita regarded Moses as the author of Job, this book might quite appropriately have been placed at the head of the Hagiographa, as was indeed recommended by the Talmud. Now, according to their lengths, the Psalms (with Ruth), Job, and Proverbs stand to one another in the ratio of 39, 15, and 13; and Job, therefore, follows Psalms. The sequence of the three Solomonic books, wherein the placing ofEcclesiastes before the Song of Solomon is especially remarkable, illustrates the same principle of arrangement, the largest being placed first. ...

6. Collection.

The most radical criticism agrees that the Torah is the first and oldest part of the canon. The narrative of Neh. viii.-x., which describes an actual canonization, is of prime importance for the history of the collection of the Holy Writings. It is thus generally agreed that in the middle of the fifth century B.C. the first part of the canon was extant. There is no foundation for the belief that, according to Neh. viii.-x., the Pentateuch was not fully completed until that date. The opinions of the synagogue will be discussed later; here only external testimony concerning the canonization will be considered. Perhaps the last three verses of the Book of Malachi, the last prophet, are to be considered as a kind of canonization. The warning concerning the teachings of Moses, and the unusually solemn words of comfort, make it seem probable that herein is intended a peroration not only to the speeches of the last prophets, but also to the whole twofold canon, the Law and the Prophets. These verses could not have come from Malachi; but they may very probably have been added by another anonymous prophet, or by some appropriate authority, in order to let the words of the Holy Scriptures conclude with a Divine reminder of the Torah, and with a promise of great comfort. Another example of what may be called "canonical ending" for the entire Holy Writ may be seen (N. Krochmal, "Moreh Nebuke ha-Zeman," viii., No. 11) in the last three verses of the Book of Ecclesiastes. This declamation against the makers of books sounds like a canonical closing; and it was really considered such by the oldest Jewish exegetes (see above, § 4). The admonition to keep the Commandments, and the threat of divine punishment, may be compared to the reminder of the Torah and the idea of punishment in Malachi.

Evidences of the Canon.

While there are no other evidences in Holy Writ itself of a collection of the Holy Writings, there are some outside of it, which, in part, may now be mentioned in chronological order. The author of the apocryphal book Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) was a contemporary of the high priest Simon—either the first or the second of that name—who lived at the beginning or at the end of the third century B.C. He knew the Law and Prophets in their present form and sequence; for he glorifies (ch. xliv.-xlix.) the great men of antiquity in the order in which they successively follow in Holy Writ. He not only knew the name ("The Twelve Prophets"), but cites Malachi iii. 23, and is acquainted with by far the greatest part of the Hagiographa, as is certain from the Hebrew original of his writings recently discovered.

Evidences of Sirach.

He knew the Psalms, which he ascribes to David (Ecclus. [Sirach] xlvii. 8, 9), and the Proverbs: "There were those who found out musical harmonies, and set forth proverbs [A. V., "poetical compositions"] in writing" (xliv. 5). An allusion to Proverbs and probably to the Song of Solomon is contained in his words on King Solomon: "The countries marveled at thee for thy songs, and proverbs, and parables [or "dark sayings"], and interpretations" (xlvii. 17); the last three words being taken from Prov. i. 6, while the Song of Solomon is alluded to in "songs." He would have had no authority to speak of "songs" at all from I Kings v. 12; he must have known them. While he had no knowledge of Ecclesiastes, his didactic style proves that he used Job, as is also indicated by the words (xliv. 4, and afterward, ). Ecclesiastes, Esther, and Daniel are not included in his canon (see Halévy, "Etude sur la Partie du Texte Hébreux de l'Ecclésiastique," pp. 67 et seq., Paris, 1897); he considers Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah as Holy Scripture (xlix. 12 = Ezra iii. 2; xlix. 13 = Neh. iii. and vi.; compare Neh. vi. 12); he mentions distinctly "the laws and prophets" (xxxix. 1); in the following sentences there are allusions to other writings; and verse 6 of the same chapter leads to the supposition that in his time only wisdom-writings and prayers were being written. ...

New Testament.

The New Testament shows that its canon was none other than that which exists to-day. None of the Apocrypha or Pseudepigrapha is ever quoted by name, while Daniel is expressly cited in Matt. xxiv. 15. Matt. xiii. 35 (= Luke xi. 51) proves that Chronicles was the last canonical book. The statement, "That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias," contains a reference to II Chron. xxiv. 20. The three chief divisions are enumerated in Luke xxiv. 44—"Law," "Prophets," and "Psalms"—as they are in Philo. Usually, however, only the Law and the Prophets are mentioned (Matt. v. 17; Luke xvi. 16); but by them the three divisions are intended just as the Talmudic teachers include the Hagiographa under Prophets (see § 3). This usage is to be attributed, on the one hand, to the lack of a current technical term for the Hagiographa, and on the other to the opinion that the collected books of the Holy Writings were written by the Prophets. In view of these facts, the silence of the writers of the New Testament concerning Canticles, Ecclesiastes, Esther, and Ezra has no bearing on the question whether these writings were or were not included in the canon (see Strack, l.c. p. 750).

Josephus (c. 38-95) enumerates 22 books, which he divides as follows: 5 books of Moses; 13 histories, containing the history of Israel from Moses' death down to Artaxerxes I., written by the Prophets; and 4 remaining books consisting of hymns and admonitions. "It is true our history hath been written since Artaxerxes very particularly, but hath not been esteemed of the like authority with the former by our forefathers, because there hath not been an exact succession of prophets since that time: and how firmly we have given credit to these books of our own nation is evident by what we do; for during so many ages as have already passed, no one hath been so bold as either to add anything to them, to take anything from them, or to make any change in them" ("Contra Ap." i. 8). It is evident that Josephus, instead of counting Ruth and Lamentations as separate books, combined them with Judges and Jeremiah, respectively. As historical books he considered all that narrated anything historical, and thus included Job. He considered Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, and Ecclesiastes non-historical. No other arrangement would have been possible for Josephus; for it is known from Talmudic and Midrashic literature that in his time, when the Tannaites flourished most, all the now familiar books were considered canonical. For various interpretations of Josephus' narrative, see Strack, l.c. p. 752. (Bible Canon. Jewish Encyclopedia. 1906. accessed 05/17/15)

The Jewish historian Josephus wrote:

For we have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from, and contradicting one another: [as the Greeks have:] but only twenty two books: which contain the records of all the past times: which are justly believed to be divine. And of them five belong to Moses: which contain his laws, and the traditions of the origin of mankind, till his death. This interval of time was little short of three thousand years. But as to the time from the death of Moses, till the reign of Artaxerxes, King of Persia, who reigned after Xerxes, the Prophets, who were after Moses, wrote down what was done in their times, in thirteen books. The remaining four books contain hymns to God; and precepts for the conduct of human life. ’Tis true, our history hath been written since Artaxerxes very particularly; but hath not been esteemed of the like authority with the former by our forefathers; because there hath not been an exact succession of Prophets since that time. And how firmly we have given credit to these books of our own nation, is evident by what we do. For during so many ages as have already passed, no one has been so bold, as either to add any thing to them; to take any thing from them; or to make any change in them. But it is become natural to all Jews, immediately, and from their very birth, to esteem these books to contain divine doctrines; and to persist in them: and, if occasion be, willingly to die for them. For ’tis no new thing for our captives, many of them in number, and frequently in time, to be seen to endure wracks, and deaths of all kinds, upon the theatres; that they may not be obliged to say one word against our laws, and the records that contain them. Whereas there are none at all among the Greeks who would undergo the least harm on that account: no nor in case all the writings that are among them were to be destroyed. For they take them to be such discourses as are framed agreeably to the inclinations of those that write them. And they have justly the same opinion of the elder writers: since they see some of the present generation bold enough to write about such affairs, wherein they were not present; nor had concern enough to inform themselves about them from those that knew them. Examples of which may be had in this late war of ours: where some persons have written histories, and published them, without having been in the places concerned; or having been near them when the actions were done: but these men put a few things together, by hearsay; and insolently abuse the world; and call these writings by the name of Histories. (Josephus. Against Apion 1:8)

The late evangelist John Ogwyn explained some of the details of what happened with the Jews:

The portion of the Bible that we commonly call the Old Testament was completed in the days of Ezra the Priest and Governor Nehemiah, about 420bc. Ezra was sent by King Artaxerxes of Persia to Jerusalem in 457bc with the temple scrolls and other treasures which had been kept in Babylon since the days of Nebuchadnezzar (Ezra 7:14). Ezra came back to teach Scripture to the people (v. 10) and to institute religious reform for people who were on the verge of losing their very identity and absorbing the syncretistic paganism of their neighbors. About thirteen years after Ezra’s return, Nehemiah returned as governor and had the authority to insist that Ezra’s reforms be carried out. The first century Jewish historian and priest, Flavius Josephus, recorded the history of the Hebrew Scriptures and contrasted them to the Greek writings extant in his day. "For we have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from and contradicting one another [as the Greeks have], but only 22 books… which are justly believed to be divine…" (Against Apion, 1, 8). Josephus went on to state that the Jewish scriptures had been compiled in their final form in the days of King Artaxerxes, who reigned in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. He emphasized that, while many books had been composed among the Jews since that time, they were not considered to have divine authority, because there had not been a succession of prophets since the time of Malachi, a late contemporary of Ezra and Nehemiah. In addition to Josephus, the book of 1 Maccabees (second century bc), writings by the first century ad philosopher Philo, and traditions preserved in Seder Olam and the Talmud (ancient commentaries) all testify to a fixed canon since the time of Ezra. The 22 books mentioned by Josephus correspond to the books of our Old Testament—normally counted as 39 books in modern translations. The difference in number is because of a difference in the way the books were counted. The 12 Minor Prophets, for instance, were kept on one scroll in Hebrew, and were counted as simply one book, not as 12 separate ones. There are several other combinations as well" (Ogwyn J. How Did We Get The Bible? TW. January-February 2002).

A modern Catholic scholar, Bellarmino Bagatti, has confirmed that it was widely believed in the second-fourth century that the preservation of the Old Testament was given to the Jews in Palestine:

The preservation of the texts among the Jews gave occasion to the anonymous author of Exhortations to the Greeks to draw this conclusion (PG 6, 268): "Today also the Jews guard the books that belong to our religion. This was a work of Divine Providence for our advantage, so as not to give rise to suspicion of any falsity to those who wish to speak ill of us, when we bring them from the church; and therefore we wish to bring them to the synagogue of the Jews, so that from these books, guarded also by them, it may be evident that the laws written by holy men for teaching clearly and evidently belong to us". (Bagatti, Bellarmino.  Translated by Eugene Hoade.  The Church from the Gentiles in Palestine, Part 1, Chapter 1.  Nihil obstat: Ignatius Mancini. Imprimi potest: Herminius Roncari. Imprimatur: +Albertus Gori, die 28 Februarii 1970.  Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem, p. 19).

So, as late as perhaps the fourth century (Exhortations to the Greeks was possibly written between the second and fourth centuries), even the Greco-Roman churches tended to accept that the Jews preserved the books now called the Old Testament.

Priest Bagatti, himself, also acknowledged that when Melito went to verify the list/canon of Old Testament books, that he went to the Jews in Palestine, not Egypt (Ibid, pp. 18-19). It should be noted that Melito held what we consider to be Church of God doctrines that, although the Church of Rome considers him to be a saint, that the Church of Rome condemns (for example, see Melito of Sardis).

Complete or Incomplete?

As far as the Old Testament being complete, the Jewish Encylopedia claims that all evidence supports that the following from a writer named Zunc is correct:

...long before the destruction of the Temple, and not long after Sirach was translated, the Holy Writings comprised their present cycle. (Jewish Encyclopedia of 1906, Bible Canon, Chapter 8)

The Jewish Encyclopedia also teaches in the Tosefta (considered a supplement to the Mishnah, the oral traditions), that, "Neither the Ben Sira nor any of the books written thereafter" are canonical (Ibid, Chapter 10).

John Ogwyn noted:

How can we know that the text of the Old Testament has been accurately preserved? The Jewish community has officially preserved the Old Testament in what is called the Masoretic Text. How was this done? Note the explanation from Appendix 30 of The Companion Bible: "The text itself had been fixed before the Masorites were put in charge of it… the Masorites were authorized custodians of it. Their work was to preserve it. The Masorah is called ‘A Fence to the Scriptures,’ because it locked all words and letters in their places.… It records the number of times the several letters occur in the various books of the Bible; the number of words, and the middle word; the number of verses, and the middle verse… for the set purpose of safeguarding the Sacred Text, and preventing the loss or misplacement of a single letter or word." This meticulous attention to detail provides a background for understanding the literal truth of Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:18 that not one jot or one tittle would pass from the Law. The jot refers to the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet and the tittle describes a part of a letter (Ogwyn J. How Did We Get The Bible? Tomorrow's World, January-February 2002).

The simple fact was that in Jesus' day, there still were scribes (e.g. Matthew 17:12). And these scribes not only copied (transcribed) scripture, they counted each character and cross-checked it to ensure that it was as error free as possible.

It should be added that there was a something called Council of Jamnia, which may have taken place around 90 A.D., which discussed the appropriate books of the Hebrew scriptures. This Jewish council allegedly confirmed the canon authoritatively for nearly all Jews (some scholars have questioned its authenticity). It, if held, really made no changes, and it basically only discussed a few books. But the books that are attributed to this possible council are the same books now used by Protestants and the Continuing Church of God (which is not Protestant).

Yet, The Catholic Encyclopedia claims:

...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" (Reid G. Canon of the Old Testament. Transcribed by Ernie Stefanik. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume III. Copyright © 1908 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

However, Irenaeus, a Roman supporter, around 180 wrote:

After this fashion also did a presbyter, a disciple of the apostles, reason with respect to the two testaments, proving that both were truly from one and the same God...

For all the apostles taught that there were indeed two testaments among the two peoples; but that it was one and the same God who appointed both for the advantage of those men (for whose sakes the testaments were given) who were to believe in God (Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book IV, Chapter 32, Verse 1,2. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Hence Irenaeus is claiming that the apostles knew the books of the Old and New Testaments. Thus he seemingly believed that the early church did have the entire canon of the Bible. I suspect that the presbyter, a disciple of the apostles Irenaeus is referring to was Polycarp or Melito. And if so, this shows that the church in Asia Minor had the complete biblical canon very early on.

As far as Jamnia goes, here is a report from a Catholic source:

The Council or School of Jamnia

Following the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD, Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai relocated to the city of Jamnia (also known as Yavne) and founded a school of Jewish law there. This school if often understood as being the foundation of Rabbinical Judaism (as opposed to Priestly Judaism which had existed before).

The notion of a Council of Jamnia is a hypothetical notion which was first introduced by Heinrich Graetz in 1871. He felt that, based on various sources, that there had to be a definitive Council which had decided and settled the Jewish canon sometime late in the first century AD. This was the prevailing scholarly consensus for much of the 20th century. However, from the 1960s onwards, based on the work of Jack P. Lewis, Sidney Z. Leiman, and others, this view came increasingly into question. In particular, later scholars noted that none of the sources actually mentioned books that had been withdrawn from a canon, and questioned the whole premise that any discussions were about canonicity at all, asserting that they were actually dealing with other concerns entirely. Today, there is no scholarly consensus as to when the Jewish canon was set. However, regardless of whether or not there was even a Council of Jamnia, the outcomes attributed to the Council of Jamnia certainly did occur; whether gradually or in a definitive, authoritative council. Several concerns of the remaining Jewish communities in Israel would have been the loss of the national language, the growing problem of conversions to Christianity, based in part on Christian promises of life after death. What emerged from this era was two fold:

i) A rejection of the Septuagint or Koine Greek Old Testament widely then in use among the Hellenized diaspora along with its additional books not part of the text now known as the Tanakh and which eventually became the Masoretic text...

ii) The inclusion of a curse on the "Minim" which probably included Jewish Christians (Birkat ha- Minim). According to the Jewish Encyclopedia article on Min: "In passages referring to the Christian period, "minim" usually indicates the Judæo-Christians, the Gnostics, and the Nazarenes, who often conversed with the Rabbis on the unity of God, creation, resurrection, and similar subjects. In some passages, indeed, it is used even for "Christian"; but it is possible that in such cases it is a substitution for the word "Noẓeri," which was the usual term for 'Christian'... On the invitation of Gamaliel II., Samuel ha-Ḳaṭan composed a prayer against the minim which was inserted in the "Eighteen Benedictions"; it is called "Birkat ha-Minim" and forms the twelfth benediction; but instead of the original "Noẓerim" ... the present text has "wela-malshinim" (="and to the informers"). The cause of this change in the text was probably the accusation brought by the Church Fathers against the Jews of cursing all the Christians under the name of the Nazarenes." (Septuagint, Jamnia, the Masoretic Text and the Qumran discoveries. St. Michael's Media, Inc., © 2010, pp. 2-3. accessed 05/17/15)

Whether or not there was a Council of Jamnia, the Septuagint and the additional books were rejected by the Jews as well as the true Church of God.

Polycarp Was a Disciple of John and Originally Knew the Books

Polycarp of Smyrna made it clear that those he wrote to that he and they had the correct Bible otherwise he would not have written:

For I trust that ye are well versed in the Sacred Scriptures, and that nothing is hid from you; but to me this privilege is not yet granted. It is declared then in these Scriptures, "Be ye angry, and sin not," and, "Let not the sun go down upon your wrath." (Polycarp. Letter to the Philippians. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1as edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885).

Note that Polycarp quoted a verse that is in the New Testament, when he used the term Scriptures. Irenaeus of Lyon c. 170 wrote in his letter to Florinus:

Polycarp related all things in harmony with the Scriptures. (Eusebius. The History of the Church. Book V, Chapter XX, verses 5-8. Digireads, Stilwel (KS), p. 112).

Notice also something that it is claimed that Polycarp said:

And on the following sabbath he said; 'Hear ye my exhortation, beloved children of God. I adjured you when the bishops were present, and now again I exhort you all to walk decorously and worthily in the way of the Lord...Watch ye, and again Be ye ready, Let not your hearts be weighed down, the new commandment concerning love one towards another, His advent suddenly manifest as of rapid lightning, the great judgment by fire, the eternal life, His immortal kingdom. And all things whatsoever being taught of God ye know, when ye search the inspired Scriptures, engrave with the pen of the Holy Spirit on your hearts, that the commandments may abide in you indelible.' (Life of Polycarp, Chapter 24. (1889) from J. B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, vol. 3.2, pp. 488-506)

Polycarp advanced greatly in the faith that is in Christ and that pursues a virtuous life. And in his untiring diligence, he from his Eastern stock bore (if one may so say) blossom as a token of good fruit hereafter to come. For the men who dwell in the East are distinguished before all others for their love of learning and their attachment to the divine Scriptures...Thus reflecting on this with a godly delight he offered himself day and night wholly and entirely as a consecrated sacrifice to God, exercising himself in the oracles contained in the divine Scriptures and in continual services of prayer and in devotion to all those who needed either attention or relief and in contentment of living (Chapter 6).

Such was his behaviour towards those from whom no benefit could be got. But bad men he avoided as mad dogs or wild beasts or venomous serpents; for he remembered the Scripture (Chapter 7).

...proving this from all the Scriptures (Chapter 13).

For he would extend his discourse to great length on diverse subjects, and from the actual Scripture which was read he would furnish edification with all demonstration and conviction (Chapter 18).

So also he pursued the reading of the Scriptures from childhood to old age, himself reading in church; and he recommended it to others, saying that the reading of the law and the prophets was the forerunner of grace, preparing and making straight the ways of the Lord, that is the hearts, which are like tablets whereon certain harsh beliefs and conceptions that were written before perfect knowledge came, are through the inculcation of the Old Testament, and the correct interpretation following thereupon, first smoothed and levelled, that, when the Holy Spirit comes as a pen, the grace and joy of the voice of the Gospel and of the doctrine of the immortal and heavenly Christ may be inscribed on them (Chapter 19).

The wealth of the grace given by Christ to Polycarp has led us on, while recording his course of life, to explain in turn the character of his teaching likewise. How he used to interpret the Scriptures, we will defer relating till another time, setting it forth in order and showing our successors also how to minister correct instruction in the holy and inspired Scriptures (Chapter 19).

And all things whatsoever being taught of God ye know, when ye search the inspired Scriptures, engrave with the pen of the Holy Spirit on your hearts, that the commandments may abide in you indelible.' Thus speaking in this way from time to time, and being persistent in his teaching, he edified and saved both himself and his hearers (Chapters 24-25).

Perhaps it also should be mentioned that there is a document known as the Harris Fragments (ca. 2nd or 3rd century) that also discusses Polycarp.  Basically it stresses that Polycarp’s connection with the Apostle John, indicates he was baptized at age 18, suggests he was appointed bishop of Smyrna by John, and that he died at martyr’s death at age 104. Here are some translated quotes from the Harris Fragments, with one addition from me in {}:

There remained [---]ter him a disciple[e ---] name was Polycar[p and] he made him bishop over Smyrna…He was… {an} old man, being one hundred and f[our] of age.  He continued to walk [i]n the canons which he had learned from his youth from John the a[p]ostle (Weidman, Frederick W.  Polycarp and John: The Harris Fragments and Their Challenge to Literary Traditions.  University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame (IL), 1999, pp. 43-44)

By mentioning the term “canons” (which seems to be in the singular form in the actual Greek--Weidman, oddly displays what appears to be a combination of upper and lower case Greek characters “ΚαΝΝωΝ”  as the original source for the translation on p. 25) the Harris Fragments could possibly be suggesting that John passed the knowledge of the proper books of the Bible to Polycarp—and that would seem to be the case.  But even if canon(s) meant only the measure of the right way to be a Christian, then all should realize that to be faithful to apostolic Christianity that they should imitate Polycarp and John as they did Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:1).

A later leader in Asia Minor, Polycrates of Ephesus, claimed that he had the complete Bible (circa 193 A.D.):

I, therefore, brethren, who have lived sixty-five years in the Lord, and have met with the brethren throughout the world, and have gone through every Holy Scripture...I did not bear my gray hairs in vain, but had always governed my life by the Lord Jesus (Eusebius. The History of the Church, Book V, Chapter XXIV, Verses 2-7 . Translated by A. Cushman McGiffert. Publishing, Stilwell (KS), 2005, p. 114).

And Polycrates would have agreed with the earlier list that Melito of Sardis put together.

Some of this evidence may have been part of why some scholars, such as the late James Moffatt, have understood that Asia Minor had the complete canon:

Was not the Apostolic Canon of scripture first Asia Minor? (Excerpt of James Moffatt's review, p.292. In: Bauer W. Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity, 2nd ed. Sigler Press Edition, Mifflinown (PA), 1996).

The true Church of God was predominant in Asia Minor until the early third century and it had the original and true canon.

Melito's List

While it is true that it was the Jews that originally were to maintain what is now called the Old Testament canon, there was one early Church leader who essentially listed it. And that was Melito of Sardis.

It appears that even though those of Asia Minor knew the correct books from the time of the Apostle John and Polycarp, that some questions arose that Melito of Sardis decided would be best to investigate.

And that was Melito of Sardis. The following written by Melito is From the Book of Extracts:

Melito to his brother Onesimus, greeting:--

As you have often, prompted by your regard for the word of God, expressed a wish to have some extracts made from the Law and the Prophets concerning the Saviour, and concerning our faith in general, and have desired, moreover, to obtain an accurate account of the Ancient Books, as regards their number and their arrangement, I have striven to the best of my ability to perform this task: well knowing your zeal for the faith, and your eagerness to become acquainted with the Word, and especially because I am assured that, through your yearning after God, you esteem these things beyond all things else, engaged as you are in a struggle for eternal salvation.

I accordingly proceeded to the East, and went to the very spot where the things in question were preached and took place; and, having made myself accurately acquainted with the books of the Old Testament, I have set them down below, and herewith send you the list. Their names are as follows:--

The five books of Moses--Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; Joshua, Judges, Ruth, the four books of Kings, the two of Chronicles, the book of the Psalms of David, the Proverbs of Solomon, also called the Book of Wisdom, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, Job, the books of the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, of the twelve contained in a single book, Daniel, Ezekiel, Esdras. From these I have made my extracts, dividing them into six books (Melito. From the Book of Extracts.  Cited in Eusebius.  The History of the Church, Book IV, Chapter XXVI. Publishing, Stilwell (KS), 2005 edition. p. 90).

(The above is the Roberts and Donaldson translation. While some translators believe that the “Wisdom” is a separate book, even The Catholic Encylopedia concluded that only the “protocanonicals” are in Melito’s list.)

These are the books in the Old Testament used by most Jews, Protestants, and those in the COGs (Esther is believed by The Catholic Encyclopedia to have been left out for political reasons as it shows the Jews killing many of their enemies--but it may have been combined with others in that list, because the Jews tended to combine it with Ezra).

It should be noted that Melito claims this was an accurate list. The fact that Melito calls these the books of the Old Testament demonstrates the deuterocanoconical books were not accepted and that the Church had to have had a New Testament (please see the related article on The New Testament Canon). This seems to be the first time in the preserved literature we see the term "Old Testament."

It should also be noted that since the Jews sometimes combined Nehemiah with Ezra, that perhaps Melito actually listed all the Old Testament books. If punctuation, which was not in extensive use when this letter was written, is added differently than some translators have come up with on their own, look at what the last paragraph from Melito above shows:

The five books of Moses--Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. Joshua, Judges, Ruth, the four books of Kings, the two of Chronicles, the book of the Psalms of David, the Proverbs of Solomon, also called the Book of Wisdom. Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, Job, the books of the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, of the twelve contained in a single book. Daniel, Ezekiel, Esdras, from these I have made my extracts, dividing them into six books.

Hence, if one adds up 5 + 1 + 1 +1 + 4 +2 + 1 + 1 +1 + 1 +1 + 1 + 1 + 12 + 6, one ends up with 39 books. The same number that is in modern Old Testaments (other than those with the later additions, sometimes called the deuterocanonical books, that Melito did not accept).

An Anglican scholar noted:

This fragment is highly significant as the first Christian Old Testament canon. It is also of interest that Melito traveled to Palestine, and is thus an indication that this is the Old Testament canon known by Palestinian Christians, and perhaps Jews (Stewart-Sykes A. Melito of Sardis On Pascha. St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, Crestwood (NY), 2001, p. 72).

Even The Catholic Encyclopedia notes this about Melito's list,

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 (Reid).

Amazingly then, even though The Catholic Encyclopedia calls Melito a saint and admits that he verified his list with the Jews, the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Bibles, while understanding possibly why Esther was not listed (Esther talks about Jews avenging themselves on their enemies, but I believe that it was combined together with Nehemiah and Ezra, which was the pattern consistent with what was done by the Jews then), include 10 additional books (or parts of books) in the Old Testament that Melito did not list.

The Catholic Encyclopedia also notes:

St. Jerome, speaking of the canon of Melito, quotes Tertullian's statement that he was esteemed a prophet by many of the faithful. (Hudleston G.R. Transcribed by Kenneth M. Caldwell. St. Melito. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume X Copyright © 1911 by Robert Appleton Company, NY. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York, pp. 166-167)

Melito was perhaps the last person listed in the early literature that was in the Church of God and considered to be a prophet in the late second century. The fact that he did research into historical matters is something I personally find of interest.

(Interestingly, according to Polycrates, Melito was a Bishop of Smyrna, between Polycarp and Polycrates, and he kept the Passover on Nisan 14 in accordance with the Gospel, and in violation of what was then being done in Rome--see Eusebius. Church History. Book V, Chapter 24).

Other Books?

In a rather weak attempt to try to justify its use of additional books, The Catholic Encyclopedia states:

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 (Reid).

Specifically, Justin claimed, that the Jews ("they") removed scriptures,

And I wish you to observe, that they have altogether taken away many Scriptures from the translations effected by those seventy elders who were with Ptolemy...Trypho remarked, "Whether[or not] the rulers of the people have erased any portion of the Scriptures, as you affirm, God knows; but it seems incredible." "Assuredly," said I, "it does seem incredible" (Justin Martyr. Dialogue with Trypho, Chapters 71,73).

Justin seemed to teach that Jewish leaders removed passages from the Bible though it is not clear that he taught that books were missing (Ibid. Chapters 71-73).

Justin Martyr, while in Ephesus, admitted that he did not live differently than the Gentiles (in violation of Paul's admonition in Ephesians 4:17), taught God's law was not in force, and did not observe the Sabbaths or the other Holy Days that the early Church did (this is all documented in the article, Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Ephesus, Smyrna, & Rome). And, apparently, did not accept the quite the same content of the books that the disciples did for the Old Testament (he seemed to teach that the Jews eliminated parts). It may be important to note that Justin wrote BEFORE Melito, and Melito did not include any of the deuterocanonical books in his list.

After Justin Martyr left Ephesus he became influential in Rome. Eusebius noted,

And in Rome ...Anicetus assumed the leadership of the Christians there... But Justin was especially prominent in those days (Eusebius Church History. Book IV, Chapter 11).

So prominent, that Justin's influence was used as justification that ultimately led to the adoption of extra books of in the Old Testament that were not in those scriptures used by Christ and the original apostles. This may have simply happened because others may have noted that since Justin claimed the Jews removed scriptures, that this justified adding books that Justin never referred too!

The Deuterocanonical Books

The books that the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox tend to call the deuterocanonical books, are normally called the Apocrypha or the apocryphal books associated with the Old Testament (there are also ones associated with the New Testament, but no non-gnostic group accepts them--they are specifically rejected by Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Protestants, and those in the Churches of God).

These books were not included in Melito's list of the 2nd century. They were also rejected in the third and fourth centuries by Catholic scholars such as Origen, Athanasius, and Jerome, essentially because they understood that the books were not properly accepted by the Jews and did not agree with certain church teachings:

St. Jerome cast his weighty suffrage on the side unfavourable to the disputed books...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....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 (Reid, Old Testament Canon).

Jerome did not simply consider these additions were inferior. Notice here where he calls Judith a historical book (as opposed to divinely inspired), but says he was forced to include it:

Among the Jews, the book of Judith is considered among the apocrypha; its warrant for affirming those [apocryphal texts] which have come into dispute is deemed less than sufficient. Moreover, since it was written in the Chaldean language, it is counted among the historical books. But since the Nicene Council is considered to have counted this book among the number of sacred Scriptures, I have acquiesced to your request (or should I say demand!): and, my other work set aside, from which I was forcibly restrained, I have given a single night's work, translating according to sense rather than verbatim. (Jerome. Jerome, The Preface on the Book of Judith: English translation by Andrew S. Jacobs. accessed 11/16/15)

Notice that Jerome called it apocrypha and that he did not consider that it actually was considered sacred at the time of Nicea (325 A.D.). Notice also the following about Tobias:

I do not cease to wonder at the constancy of your demanding. For you demand that I bring a book written in Chaldean words into Latin writing, indeed the book of Tobias, which the Hebrews exclude from the catalogue of Divine Scriptures, being mindful of those things which they have titled Hagiographa. I have done enough for your desire, yet not by my study. For the studies of the Hebrews rebuke us and find fault with us, to translate this for the ears of Latins contrary to their canon. (Jerome, Prologue to Tobit. Translated by Kevin P. Edgecomb, 2006. accessed 11/16/15)

Notice also that Jerome specifically stated that the churches condemned the Septuagint additions to the Book of Daniel:

In reference to Daniel...I also told the reader that the version read in the Christian churches was not that of the Septuagint translators but that of Theodotion. It is true, I said that the Septuagint version was in this book very different from the original, and that it was condemned by the right judgment of the churches of Christ...I repeat what the Jews say against the Story of Susanna and the Hymn of the Three Children, and the fables of Bel and the Dragon, which are not contained in the Hebrew Bible (Jerome. Apology Against Rufinus, Book II, Chapter 33).

The Septuagint version includes a section called Bel and the Dragon--a section that the original does not have, but that has been now accepted by the Roman Catholic Church as part of the deuterocanonical books.

Furthermore, Jerome specifically challenges the validity of the Septuagint and states that the Hebrew Bible was used by Jesus and the Apostles:

The Hebrew Scriptures are used by apostolic men; they are used, as is evident, by the apostles and evangelists. Our Lord and Saviour himself whenever he refers to the Scriptures, takes his quotations from the Hebrew; as in the instance of the words "He that believes in me, as the Scripture has said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water," and in the words used on the cross itself, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani," which is by interpretation "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" not, as it is given by the Septuagint, "My God, my God, look upon me, why have you forsaken me?" and many similar cases. I do not say this in order to aim a blow at the seventy translators; but I assert that the Apostles of Christ have an authority superior to theirs. Wherever the Seventy agree with the Hebrew, the apostles took their quotations from that translation; but, where they disagree, they set down in Greek what they had found in the Hebrew. (Jerome. Apology Against Rufinus, Book II, Chapter 34)

Cyril of Jerusalem also indicated that the Apocraphal books were considered to be of lesser reliability as he wrote:

We speak not from apocryphal books, but from Daniel; for he says, And they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and half a time . A time is the one year in which his coming shall for a while have increase; and the times are the remaining two years of iniquity, making up the sum of the three years; and the half a time is the six months. (Cyril of Jerusalem. Catechetical Lecture 15 On the Clause, And Shall Come in Glory to Judge the Quick and the Dead; Of Whose Kingdom There Shall Be No End, Chapter 16. Translated by Edwin Hamilton Gifford. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 7. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1894.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <>)

And, the Roman Catholic Church knows its leaders had concerns about these books for centuries:


In this period the position of the deuterocanonical literature is no longer as secure...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...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...


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...

The Latin Church

In the Latin Church, all through the Middle Ages we find evidence of hesitation about the character of the deuterocanonicals. (Reid, Canon of the Old Testament. The Catholic Encyclopedia).

Also notice that even Athanasius in the fourth century really did not consider that the deuterocanonical books were actually scripture, and that Jerome in the fifth century made disparaging comments about them. And even into the Middle Ages, the RCC was not sure if the deuterocanonical books were on a par with scripture!

Thus, while the many of the Greco-Roman churches knew which were and were not the true books at least as late as the fourth and fifth centuries. Additional books somehow came to be accepted by them, there were NOT part of the original faith, which true Christians are to earnestly contend for (Jude 3).

So when were these books actually adopted?

The Catholic Encyclopedia also states:

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 (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...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...The most explicit definition of the Catholic Canon is that given by the Council of Trent, Session IV, 1546...The order of books copies that of the Council of Florence, 1442, and in its general plan is that of the Septuagint (Reid, Old Testament Canon).

Thus, it took until 1546 for these books to be completely adopted by the Roman Catholic Church.

But why then?

Here is the view of one writer:

There is a mistaken belief among some that the Apocrypha books were part of the Bible, and that these were rejected by the Protestant Reformers. On the contrary, the Apocrypha books were never a part of the Old Testament Canon. Thus there is no question of the Reformers dropping out some books from the Canon. Rather, it is the Roman Catholic Church which ADDED these books to the Canon by a proclamation made at the Council of Trent...

With the Protestant Reformation, many of the Reformers challenged the Catholic church to prove their doctrine by supporting these from the Canon. To their dismay the Roman Catholics discovered that many of their doctrines are not derived from the Canon. At the same time they realized that at least some of these erroneous doctrines are supported by the Apocrypha. Thus for their survival it became necessary to add the Apocrypha to the Canon.

In 1545 the Roman Catholic Church convened what is called the Council Of Trent. Here they passed numerous resolutions, including many curses against the Protestant Believers. In April 1545 the Council declared that the Apocrypha are also part of the Bible. Thus for the first time in history the Apocrypha books were ADDED by the Roman Catholic church to the Bible. This was done in order to justify their doctrinal errors (for which support was available only in the Apocrypha), and also to oppose the Protestant believers. The first Vatican Council held 1869-70 reaffirmed the decision of the Roman Catholic Church to add the Apocrypha to the Canon.

Historically and theologically the Apocrypha was never part of the Canon (Philip Johnson C. Reliability Of The Canon. Indus School of Apologetics and Theology Textbook No -004A1, version used in 2006).

The Roman Catholics were not the only ones to adopt those so-called deuterocanonical books. Perhaps it should be pointed out that the original KJV of 1611 also contained non-canonical books that are part of what is called the Old Testament Apocrypha--this was not inspired by God. While the Apocrypha was later pulled out of the KJV, it was in fact part of it originally (Bruce FF. The Canon of Scripture. InterVarsity Press, 1988, pp. 108-109). Perhaps it should also be noted that Protetant reformers John Calvin and John Knox endorsed the Geneva Bible--which first came out in 1557 and also contained the Apocrypha. It seems that the so-called deuterocanonical books were at least tolerated for reading in certain Protesant churches until the 19th century, though they generally were not considered to be as the same level as scripture.

The Orthodox Church still accepts the so-called deuterocanonical books.

More on The Septuagint and the Eastern Orthodox

But what about the Septuagint?

The term ‘Septuagint’ is from the Latin septuaginta, ‘seventy.’ This term as  septuaginta seems to have been first used by Augustine in his City of God (Sundberg AC, Jr. The Septuagint: The Bible of Hellenistic Judaism. In: The Canon Debate. Baker Academic, 2002) which was published in 426. The Septuagint is a translation of Hebrew writings, which now includes ones often referred to as the Old Testament Apocrypha. This comes from the Greek ἀπόκρυφος meaning ‘hidden’ or ‘secret wisdom.’ These books, in other words, had a hidden beginning, a secret origin — not openly given to the community at first.

According to legend, seventy-two Jewish scholars were asked by the Greek King of Egypt Ptolemy II Philadelphus to translate the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) from Biblical Hebrew into Greek, in a scroll to be included in the famous Library of Alexandria (Dines JM. The Septuagint. Michael A. Knibb, Ed., London: T&T Clark, 2004). The legend claims that the translators each came up with identical translations. This translation was believed to have been done in the 2nd and/or 3rd century B.C. The Hellenistic Jews of Alexandria ended up accepting and promoting this translation. More books were later translated—but the original Septuagint did NOT include the Apocryphal books that were added later.

Some scholars have claimed that the term ‘Septuagint’ was developed from Exodus 24:1,9 and that Moses and Aaron were added to come up with 72 (Sundberg AC, Jr. The Septuagint: The Bible of Hellenistic Judaism. In: The Canon Debate. Baker Academic, 2002). But irrespective of were the term Septuagint came from, Moses did not write in Greek.

The Eastern Orthodox believe that the original books of the Old Testament were improved by human translators when they translated it into Greek:

The Orthodox Church has the same New Testament as the rest of Christendom. As its authoritative text for the Old Testament, it uses the ancient Greek Septuagint. When this differs from the original Hebrew (which happens quite often), Orthodox believe that the changes in the Septuagint were made under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and are to be accepted as part of God’s continuing revelation. (Ware T. The Orthodox Church. Penguin Books, London, 1997, p.200)

This is astounding.

While the Bible clearly teaches, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17), apparently the Orthodox (and Roman Catholic) Church believes that the Hebrew Old Testament needed to be corrected and expanded. And as their own literature admits, the Romans finally listed the ones they accepted in one place in 1546 and the Orthodox apparently did not officially finalize their list until about 100 years later!

And they took what Greek-speaking Jews (as opposed to the Hebrews of Palestine) preferred--even though other writings of these groups admit that it was the Palestinian Christians (those initially based from Jerusalem, and those that would have relied on the canon of the Palestinian Jews) that "kept the faith in purity" (see article Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Ephesus, Smyrna, & Rome). It should be noted that the New Testament makes it clear that the original disciples were Palestinian Hebrews and not from the Hellenists (e.g. Acts 6:1-2). Paul was not a Hellenist either (Acts 9:26-29).

Sadly, the Eastern Orthodox believe that the original inspiration of the Old Testament (which was mainly written in Hebrew) was improved by humans who translated it into Greek, in the Septuagint. Jewish, as well as Church of God, scholars would consider that to be an effectively blasphemous position to take. Humans cannot improve the word of God. Augustine of Hippo thought the Hebrew and Seputagint were both authoritative, even where they contradicted each other (Augustine. City of God, Book 18, Chapter 44).

Jesus declared, ‘Scripture cannot be broken’ (John 10:35), hence to suggest that scripture was broken and then declare it was later improved/fixed is theologically unsound.

We in the Continuing Church of God believe that the Bible is infallible as originally written and do not believe that the Holy Spirit improved the word of God through human translators. We believe God gave the world the Bible, through His chosen human instruments (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:19-21).

The Eastern Orthodox took many centuries to determine the books of the Bible that they accepted:

The Hebrew version of the Old Testament contains thirty-nine books. The Septuagint contains in addition ten further books not present in the Hebrew, which are known in the Orthodox Church as the ‘Deutero-Canonical Books’. These were declared by the Councils of Jassy (1641) and Jerusalem (1672) to be ‘genuine parts of Scripture’; (ibid, p. 200)

The Septuagint included the Apocrypha, the so-called Deutero-Canonical Books, which means it had extra-books. These extra books are not inspired by God.

Notice the following admission from an Eastern Orthodox source:

[M]ost Orthodox scholars ... consider that the Deutero-Canonical Books, although part of the Bible, stand at a lower footing than the rest of scripture. (Ibid, p.200)

So, while the Old Testament Apocrypha is accepted as scripture by the Eastern Orthodox, their scholars believe it is of lower footing than the actual biblical books.

This seems to be confusing, it either is scripture or it is not! ‘God is not the author of confusion’ (1 Corinthians 14:33). The extra books are not divinely inspired. Though they may have some interesting historical information, they should not be considered part of the biblical canon.

Before going further, it may be of interest to note that the Church of Rome and the Eastern Orthodox do not accept ALL the extra books that are part of the Septuagint. Though, the Eastern Orthodox claim:

The official version of the Old Testament authorized by the Orthodox Church for use in worship and reading is that of the Septuagint. The number of books in the Septuagint Old Testament edition of the Bible are forty-nine books, twenty-seven in the New Testament. (Holy Scripture In The Orthodox Church. "The Bible." Compiled by Father Demetrios Serfes, Boise, Idaho, USA. August 20 2000)

The following Septuagint books are accepted by the Eastern Orthodox, but not the Roman Catholics:

Essentially, the Roman and Orthodox Catholics do not consider 2 Esdras, to be canonical (though it is in an appendix to the Slavonic Bible) nor 4 Maccabees (though it is in an appendix to the Greek Bible). 1 & 2 Esdras was part of the Latin Vulgate that Jerome originally prepared (though he endorsed neither one).

Thus, neither the Church of Rome nor the Eastern Orthodox seemingly accept all the Septuagint books, and they also do not accept all of the same books. This would seem to be problematic in their talks about ecumenical unity.

The Deutero-Canonical Books Are False

Despite being parts of the canons of certain Greco-Roman churches, the claimed deutero-canonical books are false--they contain biblically-clear falsehoods

Looiking at part of what they teach is another way to determine that the Apocrypha should not be considered as scripture is by comparing what it teaches to the Bible.

For example, notice something from the fifth chapter of the Apocryphal Book of Tobit:

4 Tobiah went out to look for someone who would travel with him to Media, someone who knew the way. He went out and found the angel Raphael standing before him (though he did not know that this was an angel of God).

5 Tobiah said to him, “Where do you come from, young man?” He replied, “I am an Israelite, one of your kindred. I have come here to work.” …

11 Tobit asked him, “Brother, tell me, please, from what family and tribe are you?”

12 He replied, “Why? What need do you have for a tribe? Aren’t you looking for a hired man?” Tobit replied, “I only want to know, brother, whose son you truly are and what your name is.”

13 He answered, “I am Azariah, son of the great Hananiah, one of your own kindred.”

An angel of God would not lie about his ancestry. But this is what is happening in this book.

Now, this lying angel later told Tobit to get fish entrails:

7 Then the young man asked the angel this question: “Brother Azariah, what medicine is in the fish’s heart, liver, and gall?”

8 He answered: “As for the fish’s heart and liver, if you burn them to make smoke in the presence of a man or a woman who is afflicted by a demon or evil spirit, any affliction will flee and never return. 9 As for the gall, if you apply it to the eyes of one who has white scales, blowing right into them, sight will be restored.”

The Bible does not enjoin anything like burning fish entrails for removing demons—this is not something that Jesus did (Matthew 5:8; 17:18)—nor the Apostle Paul (Acts 16:18). Jesus also did not apply gall to eyes for healing (cf. Matthew 20:34; John 9:6-7).

Another false book is called Wisdom (or the Wisdom of Solomon). Its third chapter teaches:

16 But the children of adulterers will not reach maturity, the offspring of an unlawful bed will disappear.

17 Even if they live long, they will count for nothing, their old age will go unhonoured at the last; 18 while if they die early, they have neither hope nor comfort on the day of judgement, 19 for the end of a race of evil-doers is harsh.

So, in other words, if you are born out of proper wedlock, you will perish and there's nothing you can do about it! This is against scriptures in the New Testament such as Mark 3:28, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, and John 3:16-17—as well as some in the Old Testament like Ezekiel 18:19.

The sixth chapter of the Book of Wisdom contains the following lie:

24 In the greatest number of the wise lies the world's salvation, in a sagacious king the stability of a people.

The wisdom of the world IS NOT salvation (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:19-29)—salvation only comes through Jesus (1 Corinthians 30; Acts 4:12).

There are more, but these passages should help prove to anyone who loves the truth that the OT apocrypha is not to be considered as part of the word of God.

It should perhaps also be mentioned that some claim that there are also "lost books" of the Bible. They are in error on that. Details can be found in the article Lost Books of the Bible?

The Church of God Had the Full Canon from the Beginning

While some believe that because the Church of Rome held meetings to determine the canon for itself (and that to a major degree the Protestants followed many of the decisions), the reality is that the Church of God had the books from the beginning.

This is confirmed in many sources. For example, in the early third century, Serapion, Bishop of Antioch, and a supporter of COG doctrines, taught that the proper books were “handed down to us” (Eusebius. The History of the Church, Book VI, Chapter XII, verses 3-4, p. 125-126), thus negating the idea of a late canonization for the faithful.

Notice that around the end of the 4th century, the "Nazarenes" (people who held Church of God doctrines like the Sabbath) knew that they had the scriptures and that they came from God, not a Greco-Roman council. Jerome wrote that the Nazarenes stated:

…God has given us the Law and the testimonies of scriptures. (Jerome, cited in Pritz R.  Nazarene Jewish Christianity.  Magnas, Jerusalem, 1988, p. 63)

The Catholic Bishop and saint Epiphanius similarly taught about the Nazarenes:

For they use not only the New Testament but also the Old (cited in Pritz, p. 33)

Now, while many believe that because of the Latin Vulgate Bible by Jerome, that the Catholic Church gave the world the Bible, those who espouse that view overlook the question of where Jerome got his information. Based on records in Latin and other languages, Scholars Ray Pritz and the Catholic Priest Bagatti both concluded that Jerome got some of his information on the Bible from the Nazarenes and from various synagogues (Pritz, pp. 49-53; Bagatti, Bellarmino. Translated by Eugene Hoade. The Church from the Circumcision. Nihil obstat: Marcus Adinolfi, 13 Maii 1970. Imprimi potest: Herminius Roncari, 14 Junii 1970. Imprimatur: +Albertus Gori, die 26 Junii 1970. Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem, 1971, pp. 84-85).

It is a fact that Jerome did deal with “Nazarene Christians” who kept the Sabbath, etc. (Jerome. Letter 112 to Augustine, Chapter 4). Jerome also wrote that he was friendly with at least:

“one of the Hebrews that believed” (Translation by Priest Bagatti of Jerome, Epistula CXXV, Chapter 12.  Patrologia Latina (22, 1079). The edition by J. P. Migne, c. 1886, p. 1079.,_Hieronymus,_Epistolae_Secundum_Ordinem_Temporum_Distributae,_MLT.pdf viewed 11/14/11--the actual Latin is also shown in the article The New Testament Canon - From the Bible and History)

Thus, it is logical to conclude that Jerome got some of his information from people who held to Church of God doctrines.

Therefore, then it would appear that the claim that the Roman “Church gave the world the Bible” neglects to mention that their church most likely got the Bible from those in the true Church of God, also known as the Nazarenes in Asia Minor and in Jerusalem!

This seems to be indirectly acknowledged by some modern scholars. Notice a 21st century account by Gerd Theissen:

Therefore we can advance the hypothesis that above all those writings entered the canon on which the Christian communities of Asia Minor and Rome could agree. (Theissen G, Translated by John Bowden. Fortress introduction to the New Testament. Fortress Press, 2003, p. 178)

Taking this a step further, even those who later compromised in Asia Minor apparently recognized that they knew of the complete canon and thus they (and probably others) influenced the Church of Rome.

For further proof that the faithful Sabbath-keeping Christians had the canon from the beginning but that the Roman-supporters did not, there is an interesting early second century writing that can be found in the article The New Testament Canon - From the Bible Itself.

Of course, the Bible itself came from God via His Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21) as "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God" (2 Timothy 3:16). And one reason to again mention that is that some Roman Catholic writings basically claim that since they allege they gave the world the Bible, they alone are the ones to interpret it. But God gave the Bible and nothing in the Bible suggests that the Church of Rome would be the true arbitrator of what the word of God means.

Quotes in the New Testament from the Greek

Here is what the Catholic priest Jerome wrote about the Book of Matthew and its use of the Old Testament:

Matthew, also called Levi, apostle and aforetimes publican, composed a gospel of Christ at first published in Judea in Hebrew for the sake of those of the circumcision who believed, but this was afterwards translated into Greek though by what author is uncertain. The Hebrew itself has been preserved until the present day in the library. at Caesarea which Pamphilus so diligently gathered. I have also had the opportunity of having the volume described to me by the Nazarenes of Beroea, a city of Syria, who use it. In this it is to be noted that wherever the Evangelist, whether on his own account or in the person of our Lord the Saviour quotes the testimony of the Old Testament he does not follow the authority of the translators of the Septuagint but the Hebrew. Wherefore these two forms exist "Out of Egypt have I called my son, " and "for he shall be called a Nazarene" (Jerome. De Viris Illustribus (On Illustrious Men). Excerpted from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Volume 3. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. American Edition, 1892. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).

I simply cited that to show that Hebrew is what was normally what was used for scripture in Palestine.

But, since nearly all of the New Testament was written in Greek, it is logical that Greek translations were sometimes quoted.

John Ogwyn noted:

Should we be concerned that some New Testament quotations from the Old Testament were taken from a Greek translation—the Septuagint—rather than from the Hebrew Masoretic Text? Greek was the most universal language at the time when the New Testament was being written. Gentile converts were unfamiliar with the Hebrew language and even most Jews outside of Palestine no longer had a good reading knowledge of Hebrew. The Septuagint was a Greek translation of the Old Testament that had been made in Egypt. But it was not the only Greek translation of the Old Testament available in the time when the New Testament was written. There was at least one Greek translation that differed significantly from the Septuagint. It was used by Theodotion in the second century ad for his revised Greek text of the Old Testament. The book of Daniel, as preserved in Greek translation by Theodotion, matches far more closely the quotations from Daniel in the New Testament than does the Septuagint, for instance. Though none of the Greek translations of the Old Testament were totally accurate, most of their deviations from the Hebrew text were in areas that did not affect the overall sense of the message...Gleason Archer and G. C. Chirichigno in their comprehensive work, Old Testament Quotations in the New Testament: A Complete Survey, make the following points about New Testament quotations: 1) in 268 New Testament citations both the Septuagint and Masoretic Text are in complete harmony; 2) in 50 citations the New Testament agrees with the Septuagint, even though it differs slightly from the Masoretic Text (although not seriously enough to distort the meaning); 3) in 33 citations the New Testament adheres more closely to the Masoretic Text than to the Septuagint; 4) in 22 citations the New Testament adheres closely to the Septuagint even when it deviates somewhat from the Masoretic Text. The New Testament writers only made use of Septuagint quotations if those passages properly conveyed the inspired meaning of the Hebrew text (Ogwyn J. How Did We Get The Bible? Tomorrow's World, January-February 2002).

New Testament Predicted in the Old

Perhaps it should be added that there is a passage in the Old Testament that predicts a New Testament as it shows that the disciples would essentially finalize the Bible. Notice:

16 Bind up the testimony, Seal the law among my disciples (Isaiah 8:16).

While other portions of this article have shown that various of Christ's disciples were involved, the above verse suggests that there would be no additions "to the law and to the testimony" (an expression for the Bible, see Isaiah 8:20), after those disciples were gone. Isaiah is thus indicating that the original disciples would have finalized the New Testament--that would include people such as Peter, Paul, and John. For additional information, please see the article The New Testament Canon - From the Bible and History.


The Jews in Palestine were tasked with preserving the books of the Old Testament, which were almost exclusively written in Hebrew and naturally contained no Greek. This is what Jesus and the disciples would have normally used.

Melito, one-time Bishop of Smyrna (and a saint even according to Catholic sources), stated that the books of the Old Testament were those that he listed. And those that he listed were those from the Palestinian Jews (the so-called protocanonical books) and did not include one book from the additional ones that the Hellenists preserved (sometimes called deuterocanonical books). And note that Melito, according to Catholic sources, knew that the Jews had not accepted the books of the Hellenistic Alexandrians.

The following is from the Statement of Beliefs of the Continuing Church of God:


The Holy Bible is the inspired Word of God. As commonly divided, it is a collection of 66 books, with 39 from the Hebrew scriptures (The Old Testament Canon) and 27 from the Greek Scriptures (The New Testament Canon). Scripture is inspired in thought and word and contains knowledge of what is needed for salvation (2 Timothy 3:15-17; Matthew 4:4; 2 Peter 1:20-21). Scripture is truth (John 17:17) and is infallible and inerrant in its original manuscripts (John 10:35)..

We in the Continuing Church of God are following the Apostle Jude's admonition "to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). The Roman and Eastern Orthodox churches clearly are NOT doing this as they adopted books that their early leaders knew were not part of the true canon.

The 39 books that are in the Old Testaments that those in the COGs and Protestant Churches use are the correct books of the Old Testament. Only the antinomian Justin Martyr, and those that supported some of his heresies or the heresies of others, supported that the Christian Church would use different books than the Palestinian Jews. And, of course, those in the true Church of God (as well as most Protestants), never accepted this.

Even the Catholic supporting saint and doctor Jerome recognized some of the flaws of the deuterocanonical books--hence he based upon his initial research also only really accepted the 39 books as truly valid and apparently consulted partially with those with Church of God doctrines when he put his books together.

The true Old Testament canon is based on the biblical criteria and this canon essentially was affirmed during the 2nd century by one considered to have been faithful (Melito). And while it is true that “the Church gave the world the Bible”--it was the church established by Christ through the apostles Peter, Paul, and John and their successors as inspired by the Holy Spirit that did so. The Church of God which Polycarp and other early saints were part of.

The following may be of interest:

Where is the True Christian Church Today? This free online pdf booklet answers that question and includes 18 proofs, clues, and signs to identify the true vs. false Christian church. Plus 7 proofs, clues, and signs to help identify Laodicean churches. A related sermon is also available: Where is the True Christian Church? Here is a link to the booklet in the Spanish language: ¿Dónde está la verdadera Iglesia cristiana de hoy? Here is a link in the German language: WO IST DIE WAHRE CHRISTLICHE KIRCHE HEUTE?

Continuing History of the Church of God This pdf booklet is a historical overview of the true Church of God and some of its main opponents from Acts 2 in the first century to the 21st century. Two related sermon links would include Continuing History of the Church of God: c. 31 to c. 300 A.D. and Continuing History of the Church of God: 4th-16th Centuries. In Spanish: Marque aquí para ver el pdf folleto: Continuación de la Historia de la Iglesia de Dios.

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Thiel B. The Old Testament Canon. (c) 2005/2006/2007/2008/2009/2010/2011/2012/2013/2015/2016/2017 0714