This is the second part of an e-mail I sent to Reese Currie, regarding specific concerns which he had about the Catholic faith. The first half, lightly edited, was yesterday’s post. Today, I’m paraphrasing a somewhat lengthy section where I talked about his two major arguments against the Deuterocanon.
His first argument relied upon 1st Maccabees 9:27, “So was there a great affliction in Israel, the like whereof was not since the time that a prophet was not seen among them.” He argued from this that the author wasn’t a prophet, and therefore, not inspired, and so it wasn’t Scripture. My response (in a nutshell) was that the author was speaking of the past (so we can’t say from this whether he was a prophet or not), that not all inspired writers are prophets, and that 1st Maccabees is an inspired history, not a prophesy. It’s describing the past (a past which many readers likely remembered), not revealing secret information. It’s similar, in this, to 1st and 2nd Kings, and 1st and 2nd Chronicles.
The other argument was that the Jews are custodians of the Old Testament. He justified this by citing to Romans 3:1-2. I answered, essentially, that Romans was talking about justification being through faith and not the Law (I looked at Romans 2:28-29), and that Paul was then answering the obvious question: why have the Law at all, then? He gave one reason: to better know God – he refers to the Old Testament as “the oracles of God.” I also pointed out that there wasn’t a set Jewish canon at the time that Paul was writing, so he couldn’t be meaning by 3:1-2 that the Jews are in charge of setting canon.
Additionally, there is functionally a difference between the Jews awaiting Christ (in the OT), and the Jews who rejected Christ in the early NT. The same Jewish school in Jamnia, Palestine, which set the canon (in about 90 A.D.), officially “de-canonizing” the widely-held Deuterocanon, required a prayer called the Birkat Haminim (the 19th petition to what is still called “the 18 petitions” today), which in its original form, prayed for the damnation of Christians.
Beyond that, the Masoretic Text, the closest thing that there is to an “official” Jewish Old Testament, wasn’t completed until the 11th Century A.D. In the Jewish version of it, Isaiah 7:14 says “a young woman will bear a son,” instead of a “Virgin.” This was done intentionally to make Isaiah seem less like a Christological prophesy. Can a Christian in good faith remove references to Christ from the Old Testament, just because certain Jews who rejected Christ tell them to?
Finally, not all the Jews in the early days of Christianity rejected Christ, of course. A great number of them embraced Him, and while still Jewish ethnically, they became what we now call Christians. And these Jewish Christians often upheld the Deuterocanon as canonical. It would certainly be a strange result where we said that God’s word (in the Old Testament) was only entrusted to those who rejected His Word.
I’ll continue this tomorrow), where I’ll relate the major reasons that I think everyone should read (and believe in) the Deuterocanon. Regardless of your faith background, I’ll make sure it’s worth your read. See you then!