Closing the Canon in John the Baptist’s Face

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Quick: Who was the greatest prophet of the Old Covenant?
Elijah? Moses maybe? Wrong!

John the Baptist. See Matthew 11:11.

Next question: How could the Jews close their canon of Scripture when the greatest prophet, the forerunner, the new Elijah a la Malachi 4:5…was still to come?

We know that they were waiting for him based on their questions in John 1. They wondered if John the Baptist was Elijah or the prophet (the new Moses).

I read something the other day on Shameless Popery that led me to think about this. (He’s got too many good posts for me to recall which one exactly.) Consider that many of the books of the Old Testament were written by prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, the twelve “minor” prophets, with the Pentateuch attributed to Moses.

So it stands to reason that the Jews, knowing that at least two prophets were still to come–the new Elijah (John the Baptist) and the new Moses (Jesus)–could not close the book on the canon until after they had made their appearance.

Several Protestants have taken the tack of claiming that the Jews had closed their canon long before Christ’s Incarnation, but the argument I present here provides strong evidence against their assertion.

Consider also that no Old Testament book claims it is the “last” one, nor was any prophet given special revelation to indicate which book was the last one.

So how does a Protestant counter this argument? Or do my fellow Catholics see flaws in it?

66 thoughts on “Closing the Canon in John the Baptist’s Face”

  1. Great point, Devin! Couple this with the fact that every OT quote in the NT is from the Septuagint, which contains the deuterocanonicals, and you have a strong case. Certainly, we can’t forget the role that the Liturgy played in the formation of the canon either.

  2. Playing a bit of devil’s advocate here…

    But wouldn’t it be possible to still expect more to come but also to have rejected books known at the time?

    I suspect a rebuttal would be of this form…

    1. Good point. Yes they could have rejected books outright, but from what I have studied of the history of the varying Jewish groups’ books, there was no authoritative decision or even universal consensus rejecting certain books outright. Instead you see stuff like the Dead Sea Scrolls containing writings from lots of books, including ones we all accept as inspired, and deuterocanonicals, and ones none of us accept as inspired.

      So while the Jews agreed on certain books widely (Pentateuch, major prophets, Psalms I would guess), there is no clear canon that was decided on by any Jewish council before Christ.

  3. Brock, you fail to realize the the ‘Septuagint’ you are referring is a Christian construct. The Jews never had a ‘Septuagint’ that contained the apocrypha/deutercanonicals. If you think that they did you I would be interested in seeing your evidence.

    Devin, the caves of Qumran contained libraries. To find a book in someone’s library does not necessitate that that person considered it ‘canonical’ or ‘inspired.’ It just means that they had the books in their library. Years from now if an archaeologist found your very excellent library, would he find books in it that you did not consider ‘inspired’ or ‘canonical’? And because he found them in your library upon what basis would he think that you considered every book in your library to be ‘inspired’ or ‘canonical’?

    You are correct that ‘there is no clear canon that was decided on by any Jewish council before Christ.’ So too after Christ. Remember, there was no ‘council of Jamnia.’ Jewish history records no council that made the decision and the evidence is that they felt no need for one.

    You are wrong in that there was indeed a recognized canon long before Christ. Again, Sirach, Philo, Josephus, and Jesus attest to that. And that same canon may be found today in Jewish and Protestant Bibles.

    In Christ,

    1. Shawn,

      Honest question here: Do you think the Jews could have closed their canon before the coming John the Baptist (aka the new Elijah they were waiting for)?

      Regarding the Dead Sea Scrolls, yes I realize that they contained many documents of various kinds, but to my knowledge they didn’t label the different jars “canonical inspired Scripture”, “some possible Scripture we’re not sure”, and “interesting writings.” So we don’t know what kind of “canon” they may have used.

      The absence of an Old Covenant prophet being given revelation that the canon was closed, or even the exact set of books that belonged in it, with the fact (that you agree with) that no Jewish council ever specified their canon, is evidence against a closed or set Jewish canon.

      Another honest question: Why do you claim that no “Septuagint” contained deuterocanonical books? I’ve heard even well-respected Protestant historians say otherwise. I’m interested in your evidence.

    2. Shawn, the fact of the matter is that all of the OT quotes in the NT are from the Greek Septuagint. This is commonly recognized by most scholars. The Septuagint did have the deuterocanonical books in it, and I am sure you know that there are multiple allusions in the NT to those deuterocanonical books. Here are a few examples: Matthew 6:14 – Sirach 28:2; Matthew 27:39-43 – Wisdom 2:16-20; Romans 1:20-32 – Wisdom 13 and 14; Hebrews 11:35 – 2 Maccabees 7:1-42; James 1:19 – Sirach 5:11. I recommend reading Gary Michuta’s book “Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger” for an in depth study of both the OT and NT as part of the canon.
      If you are interested, read my dialogue concerning the canon of Scripture at

      Shawn, you said: “what basis would he think that you considered every book in your library to be ‘inspired’ or ‘canonical’?”

      On what basis, Shawn, do you consider the 27 books of the NT canonical? How do you know that they are part of the canon? How do you know that there are 66 books of the OT and not 73? By what authority do you make your claim? Scripture?

      Do some research on this. Jesus and the Apostles very definitely quoted or alluded to the 7 deuterocanonical books in the NT. If they used them, then why shouldn’t we? The Jews no longer held authority after the Ascension so whether they felt “no need for one” or not, is irrelevant. Jesus, the 2nd person of the Blessed Trinity, gave His authority to the Church who makes these decisions.

      You said, “You are wrong in that there was indeed a recognized canon long before Christ. Again, Sirach, Philo, Josephus, and Jesus attest to that. And that same canon may be found today in Jewish and Protestant Bibles.”

      Please substantiate your claim, here. As Devin pointed out and as my article says quite clearly, there was much confusion before Christ, during Christ lifetime, and a few centuries after Christ’s Ascension into heaven about the canon of the OT. A simply look at Christian history bears this out, Shawn.

      In Christ,


    3. Shawn,

      I was under the impression that the Septuagint was written a few hundred years before Jesus was even born. If I am correct, that would make it a Greek set of books, and not a “Christian” set.

      From your comment, I am assuming that I am incorrect in my thinking. Can you please provide me with your sources so I can educate myself?

    4. Shawn,
      I mis-typed earlier when I said “All” of the OT quotes in the NT are from the Septuagint. In fact, I think I should state that I agree with you that there was no Septuagint “canon”…if that is what you are referring to when you say that it is a “Christian construct”. However, the Septuagint that I am referring to was that collection of books that mirrors the Catholic OT. And it is actually 2/3 of the OT quotes in the NT are from the Greek Septuagint. I recommend reading also, in addition to what I said earlier, Albert C. Sundberg’s “The Old Testament of the Early Church” and the following article by John Betts at

      Nevertheless, it is very clear that there was no set OT canon among the Jews until well after Jamnia. Josephus was a Roman Jew who was in contact with Jamnia so it is not surprising that he would list the same as them. This is why I maintain that we need to set some parameters regarding what we refer to as the canon. It’s a common mistake to assume that canonical means “inspired”, as if all books not included in the canon are not inspired. That’s not how the early church used the term. Rather, all canonical meant was those books which were formally approved to be read at the Liturgy…the Mass. For Christianity…Catholic Christianity…is the product of Mosiac Judaism whereas your Protestant links are more from the Rabbinical Judaism. As I am sure you are aware, St. Paul quotes from the Apocalypse of Elias in 1 Corinthians and refers to it as Scripture. Origen and Jerome bear this out in their writings as well. It was commonly known that there was a wider canon used in the early church by different city-churches. As I think someone already mentioned, the Church in the West rejected Hebrews as inspired on the mere accusation that it was not written by St. Paul whereas the Eastern Church said that it was written by St. Paul. And vice versa for the book of Revelation and it being attested to St. John. Anyways, if you would like to discuss more about this, please email me at

      Thanks, Devin for the dialogue time and for the thought-provoking post. Again, great points.



  4. I’ll post my thoughts on this very interesting topic. The assertion is quite often made that Catholics make up things or add things that are not in the Bible. Or, Catholics added books to the Bible to support praying for the dead during the Council of Trent. Or, I’ve been told that, “the Jewish people were the OT experts and we (Protestants/Anti-Protestants) follow them.” So, even amongst different groups of non-Catholics, you get different reasons for their Canon of Scripture. I often ponder, where is it written in Scripture that Christians are supposed to create a Bible and what books are to be included? I know Jesus told the Apostles that the Spirit of Truth would guide them in all things. I know Scripture says that we are to be one, etc. etc. (note: just for clarification I use the term “anti-protestant” for American style mega churches and fundamentalist churches that are very very different from traditional Protestant churches).

    Peace and unity to all

  5. Shawn,

    Adding to my previous comment so that you understand why I question your claim about the Jews never having a “Septuagint” that included deuterocanonical or apocryphal books.

    From wikipedia on the development of the Jewish Bible: “Today, there is no scholarly consensus as to when the Jewish canon was set.”

    So what is your evidence that, contrary to what is said here, the Jewish canon was “set,” and when exactly was it set, and how do you know?

    And permit me a longer quote:

    Further books were translated over the next two to three centuries [so from 3rd century BC to around Christ’s time]. It is not altogether clear which was translated when, or where; some may even have been translated twice, into different versions, and then revised.[12]

    As the work of translation progressed gradually, and new books were added to the collection, the compass of the Greek Bible came to be somewhat indefinite. The Pentateuch always maintained its pre-eminence as the basis of the canon; but the prophetic collection (out of which the Nevi’im were selected) changed its aspect by having various hagiographa incorporated into it. Some of the newer works, those called anagignoskomena in Greek, are not included in the Jewish canon. Among these books are Maccabees and the Wisdom of Ben Sira. Also, the Septuagint version of some works, like Daniel and Esther, are longer than those in the Masoretic Text.[13] Some of the later books (Wisdom of Solomon, 2 Maccabees, and others) apparently were not translated, but composed in Greek.

    The authority of the larger group of “writings”, out of which the ketuvim were selected, had not yet been determined, although some sort of selective process must have been employed because the Septuagint did not include other well-known Jewish documents such as Enoch or Jubilees or other writings that are now part of the Pseudepigrapha. It is not known what principles were used to determine the contents of the Septuagint beyond the “Law and the Prophets”, a phrase used several times in the New Testament.

    That’s from the Septuagint article on wikipedia:

    Notice that it is unknown when exactly which books got translated/added to the Septuagint, but from 300 BC to Christ’s time deuterocanonicals and apocryphal books were included. So what is your evidence that this is false?

    Finally, here’s the well-regarded Protestant historian JND Kelly’s comment:

    It should be observed that the Old Testament thus admitted as authoritative in the Church was somewhat bulkier and more comprehensive than the [Protestant Old Testament] . . . It always included, though with varying degrees of recognition, the so-called Apocrypha or Deutero-canonical books. The reason for this is that the Old Testament which passed in the first instance into the hands of Christians was . . . the Greek translation known as the Septuagint. .. . most of the Scriptural quotations found in the New Testament are based upon it rather than the Hebrew.. . . In the first two centuries. . . the Church seems to have accepted all, or most of, these additional books as inspired and to have treated them without question as Scripture. Quotations from Wisdom, for example, occur in 1 Clement and Barnabas. . . Polycarp cites Tobit, and the Didache [cites] Ecclesiasticus. Irenaeus refers to Wisdom, the History of Susannah, Bel and the Dragon [i.e., the Deuterocanonical portions of Daniel], and Baruch. The use made of the Apocrypha by Tertullian, Hippolytus, Cyprian and Clement of Alexandria is too frequent for detailed references to be necessary” (JND Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, 53-54).

    What is your explanation of Kelly’s statements? Where did he go wrong?

  6. Wikipedia seems to have an interesting article on the history and use of the Septuagint.

    The Septuagint included the deutero-canonical books and was finalized from before Christ. The early Christians used it because was written in the language they spoke. All of them. Those who rejected Christ used something else, rejecting the books not written in their liturgical language. The discontinuation of the Septuagint among the Jews was slow, ending in the 1st or 2nd century AD.

    The Christians continued using the Septuagint, even as the NT canon was being finalized. In the 4th century, the Church determined that it was a good idea to have consensus as to what constituted inspired Scripture. A papal decree officially established the OT canon following the Septuagint and the constant and universal (ie, “catholic”) practice of Christians up until then, and the NT in the form that is still accepted by Protestants today. That Bible was the only one in use by Christians until the Protestant version of the 16th century.

    The Protestant canon is thus ironic on several counts. It lets people who rejected Christ determine the OT. It lets the Catholic Church determine the NT. It nonetheless rejects the authority of the Catholic Church to determine the canon, but it takes that authority upon itself without biblical warrant. It then deprives that same authority by anyone who has another opinion (or else it would not object to the Catholic canon).

    Now, I do not mean to disparage Protestants by all this, because I wish I knew the Bible as well as many of them seem to. But the rationale employed to determine what the Bible is, sure seems ironic.

    1. To follow up on your very good post: If you’re going to break away from the Catholic Church, then why copy the Catholic Church and even have your own Bible. The Catholic Church canonized the Bible and the Catholic Church later divided the books by chapter and verse.

    2. “It lets people who rejected Christ determine the OT. It lets the Catholic Church determine the NT.”

      I think it’s more of the Protestants looking for inspired writing by prophets and the Jews have preserved the OT quite well and the Catholics have done an incredible job of preserving the writings of the Apostles.

      Since Protestant churches do not claim (that I know of) to actually have authority to canonize, they must look to those who do. Until Christ did away with the Law of Moses, the Jews had the authority. After Christ came, the Apostles had the authority.

  7. Devon,

    Another great post. As a member of the LDS faith, I’d like to give our perspective. How can Christians today believe that the cannon was closed with the death of the Apostles (The New Testament). From our perspective Malachi was referring to Joseph Smith.

    Just another perspective to ponder on.

    1. One thing I’ve never understood about the LDS position is the holding to the Canon of Scripture while at the same time claiming a Great Apostasy in the Church long before the Canon was settled – how can an apostate Church set the canon of Scripture?

  8. I don’t know if this will add to the discussion since I can’t site a source because I heard it during a discussion at a Catholic bible study. But here goes; it was after the destruction of their Temple by the Romans that the Jews decided to codify their scriptures and formalized a cannon. They decided to only include books that they could find written in Hebrew, and thus any books from the Greek Septuagint that they could not find in their native tongue were excluded for that reason. If they questioned their authenticity for any other reason I don’t know. Of course I must admit that I don’t even know if Hebrew would be considered their language or if that is a label being applied by me.

    1. Leo,

      That is a very common reason cited by Protestants for going with the Jewish canon. Though from my study, the Dead Sea Scrolls included pre-Christian copies of several deuterocanonical books in Hebrew (and maybe Aramaic?). So I don’t think that theory is good anymore.

  9. Marc, in a nutshell– Jesus gave the “keys of the Kingdom to St. Peter”, “the new and EVERLASTING covenant”was established, and HE told the Apostles that Spirit of Truth would guide them in all things. Just my summary.

    1. Richard,

      The Catholic church and the LDS church agree on quite a bit, including the Apostles (Peter specifically) receiving the keys of the Kingdom. LDS believe that when the Apostles were all killed that ended the keys being on earth and that Peter, James and John restored those keys to Joseph Smith as resurrected beings.

      Catholics, as far as I can tell, believe that Peter was the first Pope and that after the Apostles were killed the Pope still had all the keys.

      We both lay claim to the authority to administer Christ’s true church. Either the keys were lost or they weren’t.

      Then you have the other religions (Protestants if you will) whose origins don’t even try to claim they have the keys, or any authority of any kind for that matter. The way I see it, either the Catholics have the authority (it was never lost) or the LDS do (it was lost and then restored).

      1. (Sorry Marc, I’m just catching up on the comments this morning and yours keep prompting questions about LDS positions that I’ve never been quite able to wrap my head around)

        “The way I see it, either the Catholics have the authority (it was never lost) or the LDS do (it was lost and then restored).”

        Absolutely. But on what basis would one assume that the authority is lost by the Catholic Church? Were the Apostles that inept, even under the power of the Holy Spirit? Wouldn’t it mean that Jesus’ mission failed and that He chose the wrong people? Wouldn’t that mean that the gates of Hell did prevail and that Jesus didn’t remain with His Church?

        In Paul’s letters to Timothy he’s already talking about passing on the faith to the next generation and when you read those Christians of the next generation (the Early Church Fathers) you see perfect continuity. If there was a Great Apostasy, shouldn’t we see some record of this?

  10. I was taught that the Jews currently understand their canon to be “open” since they are still anticipating the Messiah.

    Given the “completeness” symbolized in the number 40, counting 39 books in their canon would seem to express this “openness” and sense of anticipation for their completion.

    But, there’s more than one way to count your books and I don’t know if they actually list 39 sacred books in their canon, or if some books are merged together or split apart.

    1. David, I think that they list 22 or 24 books, depending on how they combine them, which may align like an acrostic with the letters of the Hebrew alphabet…but that’s just something I have heard.

  11. Marc, makes no sense to me (especially in light of the thriving Church and the profound writings of the Church Fathers) that Christ gave the keys of the Kingdom to Peter and then immediately they were lost (??) and not restored for almost two thousands years? What on earth would that have been all about? Talk about confusion! And then you have to wonder why Christ was lying when he said that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church (they did pretty quickly under your scenario), and that he would not leave us orphans (if the Church and truth were lost for almost 2 millennia, right after he ascended, then we surely were orphaned!).

    But you are right to say taht at least you guys do have an authority, and you are not like Protestants in that your religion is not based on personal interpretation and subjectivism. But you are definitely farther afield from Christian teaching than Protestants, who have kept the core truths of the Faith and Christology.


  12. I have copied what I posted on the Called to Communion site. It answers most of the questions you guys have presented.

    My referencing the Word of God not needing men to confirm it actually goes to the heart of your charge against sola scriptura. You are wanting a council necessary to ‘declare’ what is and is not God’s Word. And you think that council, not being of God’s Word, violates sola scriptura, there being something or someone outside of Scripture to declare scripture.

    Josephus is the key to the point. Eusebius recognized that as did many others. He quoted Josephus at length, ending with what Josephus said of the books outside or the Jewish canon: ‘From the time of Artaxerxes to our own the details have been written but are not considered worthy of equal credence with the rest because there has not been an accurate succession of the prophets.’

    You wrote, ‘Even if I agree that he “nowhere distinguishes different canons for different Jewish sects,” it does not follow that there were not different groups of Jews with different canons at the time of the birth of the Church’ which has been pointed out to you ad naseum has no proof, hint, nor basis in history. It is a fabrication to try to find your canon among the Jews when it has never been there and is not there to this day!

    Your citing and use of the term ‘septuagint/LXX’ shows either a complete lack of familiarity of the academic discussion or your are purposely fudging it to make your point.

    Once again, from the letter of Aristeas, the ‘Septuagint’ was a production of 72 Jewish elders (6 from each tribe) who translated the TORAH into Greek. When speaking of a Jewish Septuagint you have to stick with that definition. Other books were translated into Greek but the Jewish Septuagint proper was only the Torah. And, there is no evidence that the Jews took the Greek books that were not in their canon (22 book-again, see Eusebius’s quote of Josephus) and added them to the canon. No evidence at all.

    One of the authors you quote, F.F. Bruce, makes this point on 44-45, ‘It has frequently been suggested that, while the canon of the Palestinian Jews was limited to the twenty-four books of the Law, Prophets, and Writing, the canon of the Alexandrian Jews was more comprehensive. There is no evidence that this was so: indeed, there is no evidence that the Alexandrian Jews ever promulgated a canon of scripture [why would they?]. The reason for thinking that they did, and that it was a more comprehensive canon tha[n] that acknowledge in Palestine, is that Greek-speaking Christians, who naturally took over the Greek Old Testament [notice his term] which was already in existence, took over the Greek version of other books and gave some measure of scriptural status to them also.’

    As to the identification of the popular concept of the Septuagint/LXX, there are the three great manuscripts (which you noted and which I am one floor away from physical copies of), the modern Ralphs edition, and the critical Goettingen edition—all of which are Christian productions. And, each of which have their disagreements with each other. Vaticanus doesn’t contain any of the Maccabbees books.

    On the discussion of the Jewish canon, the canon of Jesus and the NT writers, I will go with the Jews Jesus, Paul, Josephus, Philo, and Sirach when they tell me clearly what their canon is. No my dear friend, we are all heirs through Christ of the Abrahmic promises, grafted onto Israel. Have you not read Romans 11? Try 11.28-31. Jesus is the Messiah of Israel, to whom the promises were made. We are ‘wild olive’ branches grafted into the ‘cultivated olive tree.’

    Have I yet to reference any Jewish writer who came after the time of Christ? Not to my knowledge. Sirach came long before and Philo and Josephus were contemporary.

    You really don’t want to recognize that the Holy Spirit had any to do with the Jews do you?

    Yes, your whole thesis found in II (B) is completely faulty and so completely fails. This has been shown to you many times by myself and Lojahw.

    In Christ,

    1. I am new to this site, and have not yet done that much searching around. So, I don’t know where the “Called to Communion site” is located at. Would it be possible for you to recommend some books (preferably peer reviewed) on this matter so that I can research this matter, as you obviously have?

  13. Chris, you have asked a librarian for a bibliography! I will keep it fairly short. Books, per se, are not ‘peer reviewed’, they are just ‘reviewed’. There are professional ‘peer reviewed journals’ but not books. These are not necessarily in any particular order.

    Lee M. McDonald and James A. Sanders, eds. The Canon Debate. Peabody, MA: Hedrickson Publishers, 2002. This is a collection of articles from several perspectives and a wide variety of authors who, you will find, disagree with each other. Catholics on this site like to point to Albert C. Sundberg—he has an article in this book on the Septuagint and Hellenistic Judaism.

    Roger T. Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church: and Its Background in Early Judaism. Reprinted by Wipf & Stock in Eugene Oregon. Previously published by SPCK in 1985. This is a detailed, in depth investigation of the canon of the early church.

    F. F. Bruce. The Canon of Scripture. Downers Grove, IL: 1988. Good work, more accessible than Beckwith’s.

    David Ewert. From Ancient Tablets to Modern Translation: a General Introduction to the Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1983. A good work on how we got the Bible and the various manuscripts and versions, ancient and modern.

    Bruce M. Metzger. The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration. New York: Oxford University Press, 1968. Classic work on New Testament textual criticism.

    Emanuel Tov. Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992. Emanual Tov is the person in Israel in charge of the Dead Sea Scrolls. This work of his is the best discussion of Old Testament Textual Criticism.

    Flavius Josephus is a first century Jewish historian. There are many copies of his work in English that are easily available in print and on line. He is our source of information on Herod outside of the NT and he is our source for information on the Jewish sects. His work that deals with the canon of the Jews of the first century can be found in his Contra Apion and can be found here: and other places. In the classical arrangment this is at 1.40.

    Philo was a first century Jewish philosopher (neo-Platonic for the most part). What he said about the canon is in his On the Contemplative Life, III.25 and can be found here: .

    Sirach is actually Jesus, the son of Sirach, a Jewish writer, 2nd century B.C. who translated his grandfather’s Ecclesiasticus in to Greek. It can be found in any Catholic Bible.What he says about the canon is found in the prologue to that work. You can find it here:

    The Called to Communion site with the canon discussion is here:

    Hopefully you are near a good library and can check out those books. Others may want to add to this list.

    Hope this helps brother,

    In the Messiah,

    1. No offense was intended, and thank you for your reply. I will start to leaf through these so I can get a better understanding of where you are coming from.

      1. Looking back at my post, I realize that I was obviously doing my homework around the same time as I had commented. So, please forgive me.

        We both know that you can find politicians who talk about economics … when they haven’t even taken a basic class in finance. The same can be found in any field of study. I just wanted to make sure that we were looking at authors who are respected and educated in their own field. I should have asked for reputable authors … but as you are a librarian … I am going to assume that you have already done that level of research.

          1. Going back for my MS in Software Engineering (only 5 classes left … almost there)

            Depending on His plans for me … we shall see if I go back for more

      2. Chris, I saw no offense at all! Those works don’t necessarily represent my position but are rather good books to find discussions on the canon. You will find in them my position and the positions of others.

        Always my pleasure to provide a bibliography!

        In the Messiah,

  14. Just read something over at “Almost Not Catholic”…Brent offers another interesting thought I hadn’t thought of before:

    “The Maccabean revolt as recorded in 1 Maccabees shaped Jewish liturgical life by introducing the ‘festival of lights’: an *eight* day celebration commemorating God’s special help in restoring the temple. Jesus never one time explicitly denounced that tradition as being non-inspired. Hmmm…even some say Jesus celebrated Hanukkah and that John 10:22-23 is referring to Hanukkah. Even more, Christ came and truly established the New Temple on the Lord’s Day or eighth day which is the Christian day of worship”

  15. David,
    The Marine Corps ‘made’ me live in San Diego for 5 years–it was horrible! I had to go scuba diving every weekend, had to buy a motorcycle . . . terrible! Boy I miss it!

    Brent’s stuff should be easy to verify. Show me in 1 Maccabees where Hanukah was established.

    And show me ‘Christ came and truly established the New Temple on the Lord’s Day or eighth day which is the Christian day of worship.’ That seems to imply that the Sabbath commandment was done away with.

    Do this, read Ex. 20 and Deut. 5 and tell me what the text acually says that the purpose of the Sabbath is.

    And yes, I do see Jesus celebrating Hanukkah in John 10.

    In the Messiah,

    1. Dear Shawn,
      (1 Maccabees records the victory that led to the establishment of Hanukkah)

      “Whereas we then are about to celebrate the purification, we have written unto you, and ye shall do well, if ye keep the same days.” 2 Maccabees 2:16

      Jesus rejected the traditions that made the word of God of no effect. He rejected the traditions that added to the law or undermined its principles. If Jesus celebrated Hanukkah, than at the least, using the logic you’ve wielded elsewhere, we should affirm 1 and 2 Maccabees as canonical. If it was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me.

      The entire Jewish temple cult was ordered to the seven days of creation. In the time leading up to Christ, God restores the temple and Hanukkah is established as a precursor to the Light of the World who would rise from the dead on the 8th day (1st day)–inaugurating the new creation. It’s why your baptist church worships on Sunday.

      Peace in Christ,


    1. I’m afraid I haven’t read Josephus…and it’s rather huge! Is there a particular passage that you’re thinking of here?

      I’ve had a quick look and can’t see anything that directly affirms they had the same canon. I did find a passage in Book 18 though that says “But the doctrine of the Sadducees is this: That souls die with the bodies; nor do they regard the observation of any thing besides what the law enjoins them” This does kinda suggest they only held to the first five books…

      The Early Church Fathers seem to be under the same impression. Hippolytus of Rome wrote that they “…do not, however, devote attention to prophets, but neither do they to any other sages, except to the law of Moses only, in regard of which, however, they frame no interpretations.”

      Origen says something similar: “although the Samaritans and Sadducees, who receive the books of Moses alone, would say that there were contained in them predictions regarding Christ, yet certainly not in Jerusalem, which is not even mentioned in the times of Moses, was the prophecy uttered.”

      Also, when Jesus was asked about the Resurrection of the Dead by the Sadducees in Matthew 22:23-33, His selection of Exodus 3:6 as proof is a little odd. There are other passages of the Old Testament that are much clearer about the resurrection such as Daniel or Isaiah. Why did Jesus choose Exodus 3:6? Jerome concludes “We have said above that the Sadducees confessed neither Angel, nor spirit, nor resurrection of the body, and taught also the death of the soul. But they also received only the five books of Moses, rejecting the Prophets. It would have been foolish therefore to have brought forward testimonies whose authority they did not admit”

  16. Shawn and gents,

    I was at a conference the past three days and missed the ongoing discussion, but thanks for continuing it.

    Shawn, I know that you stake most of your claim of a closed Jewish canon on Josephus and a couple of other Jewish sources, but I haven’t seen you answering the argument in my article. Namely, that the Jews were awaiting the new Elijah and the new Moses, so how could they close their canon?

    Also, it is odd, to say the least, that you claim the scholarly evidence is that the pre-Christian Septuagint contained no deuterocanonical books when wikipedia says the opposite in its articles. Wikipedia has no pro-Christian bias, and certainly no pro-Catholic bias. Usually they are anti-religious/anti-Christian. So there’s a disparity there between what you say “the scholars” say and what wikipedia’s scholarly sources say.

    The Jews also went with translations of verses to oppose Christ’s Church’s interpretation, like in Isaiah where a “young woman” gives birth instead of a “virgin.” What’s your opinion on that?

    God bless,

  17. Devin,

    It continues to surprise me the theories you guys pull out of thin air to get around the facts. Just so that I am clear on this, are there any scholars, Catholic or otherwise, that you know of that has argued that the Jews could not close their canon because they were waiting on the new Elijah and the new Moses. As much as I have looked into the canon issue this is the first time I have seen that argument! Would you then argue that the NT canon is unclosed because Jesus has not yet returned?

    The facts are Devin, and I have presented them time and again, the TNK canon was closed. Josephus is clear on that. Philo is clear, Sirach too. And especially, Jesus. His TNK as found in Luke 24 is the Law, the Prophets, the Psalms (same way Josephus designates the Kethubim) and he wasn’t talking to Sadducees, or Pharisees, or Essenes or any other sect that you need to produce to try to show that it was a different canon (another theory born out of thin air!).

    Wikipedia has no bias?! Get real Devin. The articles are produced by whomever wants to write them, there is no committee to ensure a lack of bias. Anyone approaching an article needs to be familiar enough with the subject to be able to judge the veracity of the article.

    To judge between us all you have to do Devin, and I have been suggesting this for quite some time, find me the Jewish ‘Septuagint’ that has the deutercanonicals. Surely your research in wiki will turn them up.

    Who do you think translated ???? (alma) with ???????? (parthenos)?

    In the Messiah

    1. Shawn,

      No, I have not seen anyone else make the argument that I thought of in this blog post. But surely you, a Protestant, would not preclude someone coming up with a valid argument that no one had previously thought of before? What, has everything already been thought of and said before? Are you a closet Thomist? 🙂

      So this is not a “theory.” It is an argument. And a strong one, if I say so myself. One that you have not rebutted, only dismissed. Many prophets were inspired by God to write books, that were canonized in the OT. I listed them. Maybe even the majority of the OT was written specifically by prophets (I haven’t tallied the books/verse count). So it is reasonable to expect that the new Elijah, a great prophet who was still to come, would write a book. And maybe the new Moses as well. It does not seem reasonable to close the canon (something that we see nowhere in the Old Testament itself–you rely on non-inspired writings to give you certainty that the OT canon was closed) before the greatest prophets were still to come.

      The New Testament canon doesn’t help you either, for it is you who would have to explain how you know the NT canon is closed! That is no easy task for a Protestant, who cannot rely on sacred Tradition, as a Catholic does.

      The “facts” you present are again a few writings from some Jewish people, most(?) of whom had rejected Jesus as the Christ. That cannot bind one’s conscience, it’s just their opinion on the OT canon. Nor can any one or many Church Father’s opinion about the (OT or NT) canon bind one’s conscience, as you do not believe they were protected by God from error (nor do I, at least as individuals apart from the Magisterium).

      Shawn, I get why you want to rely on Josephus and those few others. And I can understand why you cannot see why they cannot bind your conscience. You’ve accepted the Protestant OT and now look for evidence for it. But it is so far from clear-cut that you have to understand why others are not convinced.

      I don’t think I said wikipedia has no bias. It certainly does, in various ways. But I said it has an anti-Christian bias, if anything, and therefore would not be trying to skew its articles on this subject in favor of any one Christian group. At least in the sense that it is against all of Christianity, it is not biased for any one Church or denomination!

  18. Devin,

    I tell my students that if they come up with a theory that no one else has in all of church history then there is a reason for it. I suggest that about yours. Of course, you could be right, the Jews were holding the canon open so that the new Elijah could write the same number of books that the old Elijah had . Oh, wait . . . .

    In the Messiah

    1. Shawn,

      I actually agree with you in general. But Catholics are the ones who, when asked something, look to the Church or to the Fathers, the saints, the Doctors, rather than thinking their own opinion (or Al Mohler’s, Rob Bell’s, John Piper’s, or NT Wright’s) is better. Protestants suffer from the reinventing the wheel syndrome more, but I digress.

      My guess is that someone has come up with this argument before, but I haven’t seen it.

      It’s just (solid) evidence against a closed canon for the Jews before Christ came, not an ironclad proof against it. Of course, who wrote 1 & 2 Kings? I don’t know. Do you?

      But your quip there is a bit of cleverness and not a rebuttal of the many prophets who have books directly attributed to them.

  19. Another thought occurred to me while I was having my morning coffee… Doesn’t it seem a bit weird to affirm that that the Jews declared the canon to be closed…and then talk about starting a *new* canon? Who says that you can even do such a thing?

    I’d be interested to hear Shawn’s response to my comments about New Testament and Patristic support concerning the canon of the Sadducees.

    With regards to Josephus, I finally tracked down the reference to which I think Shawn was referring (Against Apion 1:8). As far as I can tell, most scholarship considers Josephus as part of the Pharisaic party, which, if true, explains why he held to that particular canon.

    But even if we accept Josephus’ canon, it does still present some problems since he lists 22, rather than 24 books. Did he consider Ruth part of Judges and Lamentations part of Jeremiah? Or is it that he didn’t believe Esther and Ecclesiastes to be inspired?

  20. It does seem a little odd though, doesn’t it? Closing the canon when you *know* that there’s still more of the story to be told, shutting the book even before you’ve been able to say “…and they lived happily ever after”?

    1. Yeah exactly, not to mention that the Messiah had not yet come so closing the door before the last great prophet AND before the Messiah makes little sense.


  21. Devin,
    Church Fathers. A quick look at ‘Called to Communion’ and the citation of the fathers reveals what a cursory look at the fathers reveals, i.e., they all don’t agree with each other. Lojahw has pointed out the number of fathers who saw in Josephus the authentic canon of the 1st century Jews.
    Protestants, reinventing the wheel, ‘thinking their own opinion?!? Good grief my friend, didn’t you just admit to a brand new theory of an unclosed Jewish canon based on waiting for the second Elijah to write his books?! Get off of your high horse! We are all stating our opinions and backing them up with what scholars or fathers agree with us. Give me a break, it gets real tiring and boring when you guys accuse us of spouting our own opinion, especially after you present a theory never heard of by any father or scholar!
    What in the world does the authorship of Kings have to do on this? Its authorship is unstated.
    David, I did not mean for you have to dig—I could have told you if you asked. Josephus himself tells us he was a Pharisee and then only after trying the other sects, including the Essenes. Why that would negate his presentation of the canon is beyond me. He is our source of most of our knowledge of the sects (outside of the NT) and most scholars believe that he give a true account of the canon of all of the Jews.
    H. St. J. Thackery, Josephus, The Life, Against Apion (Loeb library), gives what he believes is Josephus’ canonical books (Against Apion 1.40-Loeb numbering), as does James Barclay in Flavius Josephus: Translation and Commentary, ed. by Steve Mason, v. 10 Against Apion, 30 and Roger Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church, 78-80. With these I concur and list the ordering here:
    These are the same books found in the Jewish TNK (from Sirach until today) and in Protestant Bibles.
    So, Luke 24.44. What books do you guys think that Jesus meant when Luke said that he said, ‘these are my words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about me in the Law of Moses and the prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled’?

    Devin, do you really think that the Jews at the time of Josephus and now consider their canon open? Upon what basis other than your very unique theory?

    In the Messiah

    1. Shawn,

      I really like you. Your irascible and shoot from the hip, and I appreciate that.

      Elijah appears in Kings I recall. But we don’t know who wrote Kings. Maybe Elijah did (and then someone else continued the writing after his life?). It was a rejoinder to your quip that Elijah didn’t write a book. But you actually don’t know if he did or not. Zing! 🙂 That’s mostly a joke, so don’t spend too much time writing a rebuttal.

      What books do you guys think that Jesus meant when Luke said that he said, ‘these are my words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about me in the Law of Moses and the prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled’?

      I’ll be honest: I don’t know [from this passage alone]. Jesus doesn’t list the books. It would have helped us A LOT if he did. But He didn’t and so the OT canon was debated in the Church for hundreds of years before it mostly settled out.

      If I just took this passage, I’d say, okay the law of Moses is the first five books Genesis – Deut. The prophets are the majors (Jeremiah, Isaiah etc.) and the minors (twelve). Okay and the Psalms.

      But….what about Ecclesiastes? Song of songs? Proverbs? Ruth? Judges? Kings and Chronicles? Let alone the deuterocanonicals? This passage doesn’t make that clear. And the history of the Jewish canon’s development leading up to the time of Christ is ambiguous. I know YOU don’t think it is, but the vast majority of people do.

      If it wasn’t ambiguous, as you contend, why was there such a debate and argument in the early Church about it, so much so that, in your eyes, the Church ended up choosing the wrong OT canon!

      (Please read those two questions again–they’re critical.)

      I doubt Jews today consider their canon open. But Jews today also believe in reincarnation. And Josephus was a Jew who knew about Jesus Christ and rejected Him. So why you continue to trust his opinion as conscience-binding gospel about anything is confusing to me. Why not trust the Jews who believed in Jesus and received the Holy Spirit?

    2. Hey Shawn,

      I think you missed my comment on September 30, 2011 at 7:05 pm (understandable, this has been a busy thread).

      I’m not suggesting that because Josephus is a Pharisee his opinion doesn’t matter, only that his answer to the question of canon is compatible with that of a Pharisee (in comparison to, say, the Sadducees).

      God bless,


  22. Devin,
    Chalk it up to being an Irish Marine who went to Texas A&M.

    ‘And Josephus was a Jew who knew about Jesus Christ and rejected Him.’

    This is what Josephus wrote:

    Antiquities of the Jews 18:63 Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works–a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ.

    Me, I can easily see Josephus being a believer. Not on the level of Paul or the other NT writers but a believer based on that statement.

    Josephus lists his canon as the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms, just like the other 1st century Jew Jesus did (Luke 24.44). I see them as identifying the same canon. And I see them matching up with Sirach and Philo. Harnart’s Introduction to Hengel’s The Septuagint as Christian Scripture, 2-3 concurs.

    In the Messiah

  23. David,

    Josephus wrote about the Jewish sects and their differing beliefs but made the point that they all had the same canon. On this most Josephus scholars agree (see previous post).

    In the Messiah

    1. Why do you suppose the Fathers often said that the Sadducees only accepted the books of Moses?

      Also, why do you think that Jesus selects Exodus 3:6 when speaking to the Sadducees in Matthew 22:23-33 when there are far clearer passages outside of the books of Moses?

  24. I think that the Fathers erred and misread Josephus.

    Notice that all of the multitue were astonished at what he said and even the Pharisees took notice. Quick note, I really don’t know, the two of us will have to ask Jesus, so what follows is my speculation, of course. Jesus’s point seems to be that those mentioned, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, were very much have not ceased to exist at their death. Jesus uses the present tense to point out clearly from the Biblical text that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were still alive, still existed. Those thinking that Dan 12 may have fit better haven’t noted that that concerns a future resurection of the body-Jesus’s point was that folks still exist, even after physical death.

    I am trying an experiment below, forgive me if it comes out garbage.

    1. Hi Shawn,

      I don’t know, sorry about that. I have the default wordpress commenting scheme; I think the Called to Communion guys are able to support Greek characters, but I’m not sure how they do it; no worries though, I don’t know Greek anyway. 🙂

  25. Isn’t the comment by Josephus calling Jesus the “Christ” highly contested by most scholars? As I understand it is generally thought of as a later interpolation, or even that the original text has “He was believed to be the Christ” while later versions omitted “believed”.

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