On Tuesday, we explored why we Catholics have Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, and a longer version of Esther in our Bibles. Today, we’ll discuss why we have the other Deuterocanonical books: Sirach, Baruch, 1st and 2nd Maccabees, and the longer version of Daniel.
Tomb of Swedish King Gustav I (d. 1560). The inscription is from Sirach 7:40:
“In all thy works remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin.”
You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
Other parts of the New Testament follow this pattern – for instance, James 1:19 seems to quote Sirach 5:11.
The Book was Declared Scripture by the Third Ecumenical Council: The First Council of Ephesus, the Third Ecumenical Council, declared:
Forasmuch as the divinely inspired Scripture says, “Do all things with advice”…
The Council is quoting Sirach 32:19. As the Protestant historian Philip Schaff notes, this is significant, since it shows that “The deutero-canonical book of Ecclesiasticus is here by an Ecumenical Council styled ‘divinely-inspired Scripture.’” Why does this matter? Because a number of Protestant bodies claim to accept the early Ecumenical Councils, even while denying what those Councils declared on this, and many other issues. For example, the Lutheran World Federation, in a joint statement with the Eastern Orthodox, called the first Seven Ecumenical Councils “normative for the faith and life of our churches today” and “authoritative for our churches.”
The Book was Accepted by the Early Church: The Didache is a first century Christian document summarizing the faith, and the practices of the Church, for new Christians. It goes back to virtually the beginning of the faith: in fact, it may well be older than parts of the New Testament. In it, it says, “Do not be one who holds his hand out to take, but shuts it when it comes to giving.” That’s almost a direct quotation of Sirach 4:31, “Let not your hand be extended to receive, but withdrawn when it is time to repay.”
But whatever ambiguity may exist as to whether the Didache is quoting Sirach, there’s no question about the use of Sirach as Scripture in a number of other early Church writings. For example, in St. Clement’s Paedagogus, written c. 189-200 A.D., we hear:
For the Father takes great care of man, and gives to him alone His own art. The Scripture therefore says, “Water, and fire, and iron, and milk, and fine flour of wheat, and honey, the blood of the grape, and oil, and clothing,—all these things are for the good of the godly.”
That Scriptural quotation is from Sirach 39:26-27.
|The Babylonian Talmud|
The Book was Accepted by the Early Jews: Michael Barber has described, one of the most fascinating discoveries in regards to this Book is that despite being rejected by modern Jews, Sirach is quoted as Scripture by the Jewish Talmud. As you may know, the Jewish canon of Scripture is divided in three parts: the Law (Torah), the Prophets (Nevi’im) and the Writings (Ketubim or Hagiographa). According to Folio 92b of Tractate Baba Kamma, the Book of Sirach belongs in this third category of Scripture, along with Books like Psalms, Proverbs, and Ezra. Here’s the relevant passage:
This matter was written in the Pentateuch, repeated in the Prophets, mentioned a third time in the Hagiographa, and also learnt in a Mishnah and taught in a Baraitha: It is stated in the Pentateuch as written, So Esau went unto Ishmael [Genesis 28:9]; repeated in the prophets, as written, And there gathered themselves to Jephthah idle men and they went out with him [Judges 11:3]; mentioned a third time in the Hagiographa, as written: Every fowl dwells near its kind and man near his equal… [Sirach 13:5]
Without a doubt, this is the Talmud quoting Sirach 13:5 (or Ecclesiasticus) as Scripture. Rabbi Dr. Ezekiel Isidore Epstein, responsible for the English translation of the Talmud, concedes as much in a footnote.
|Statue of Baruch, Servite Church (Vienna)|
The Book Seems to Have Been Treated as Canonical in the New Testament: In at least one instance in the New Testament (Heb. 8:9-10), the inspired author cites to the Greek version of Jeremiah. That’s important because Baruch, including the Epistle of Jeremiah (Baruch 6), was included as part of the Book of Jeremiah in the Greek version.
The Book was Accepted by the Early Church: St. Irenaeus (whose feast day is today) wrote Against Heresies in 180 A.D. In it, he includes a lengthy passage from Baruch 4-5, ascribing it to “Jeremiah the prophet.” Likewise, in his Scorpiace, which probably dates to about 204 A.D, Tertullian, quotes Baruch 6:3, as the words of Jeremiah, saying:
For they remembered also the words of Jeremias writing to those over whom that captivity was impending: “And now ye shall see borne upon (men’s) shoulders the gods of the Babylonians, of gold and silver and wood, causing fear to the Gentiles. Beware, therefore, that ye also do not be altogether like the foreigners, and be seized with fear while ye behold crowds worshipping those gods before and behind, but say in your mind, Our duty is to worship Thee, O Lord
By the way, due to his Festal Letter of 367 A.D., Protestants sometimes point to St. Athanasius as the “Father of the canon” – that is, as the source of their canon of Scripture. But Athanasius’ canon (in addition to excluding Esther completely) also explicitly included as one Book, “Jeremiah with Baruch, Lamentations, and the epistle.” St. Cyril of Jerusalem does the same. That is, this was not some oversight, or corrupted Scripture, but a conscious decision to treat Jeremiah, Baruch, and Lamentations as canonical.
|Statue of Daniel (19th c.)|
The Book Appears to have been Accepted by Jesus Christ: Jesus’ reference to Daniel 9:27 in Matthew 24:15 appears to have been to the (longer) Greek version of Daniel. There are two reasons to believe this. First, because the wording is different between the Greek and Hebrew versions, and second, because Jesus refers to him as “Daniel the prophet.” Why does that matter? Because the Greek version of the Old Testament numbered Daniel among the Prophets (Nevi’im), while the Hebrew version numbered the Book among the Writings (Ketubim).
The Book was Accepted by the Early Church: In addition to numerous references to the Greek version of the Book of Daniel, which, as I mentioned, includes these longer sections, there are a few references to passages that exist only in the Greek version.
For example, St. Irenaeus instructs his readers to “obey the presbyters who are in the Church,—those who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the apostles” and deriding as schismatics or heretics those “who depart from the primitive succession.” He then warns that bad presbyters “shall hear those words, to be found in Daniel the prophet: ‘O thou seed of Canaan, and not of Judah, beauty hath deceived thee, and lust perverted thy heart,’” and:
“Thou that art waxen old in wicked days, now thy sins which thou hast committed aforetime are come to light; for thou hast pronounced false judgments, and hast been accustomed to condemn the innocent, and to let the guilty go free, albeit the Lord saith, The innocent and the righteous shalt thou not slay.”
The first of the Scriptures cited there is Daniel 13:56, while the second is from Daniel 13:52-53. That whole chapter is found only in the longer version of Daniel.
|Wojciech Stattler, Maccabees (1842)|
The Book was Probably Referenced in the New Testament: As I’ve mentioned before, James Swan (a Calvinist blogger with Beggars All Reformation & Apologetics) admits that Hebrews 11:35-37 appears to be a reference to 2 Maccabees 7 (h/t Nick):
It seems highly probable the writer to the Hebrews alluded to the Apocrypha in chapter 11. The parallels Catholic apologists suggest particularly in verse 35 and 2 Maccabees seem likely. “Others were tortured,” “not accepting their release” and “so that they might obtain a better resurrection” appear to be the closest points of contact with 2 Maccabees. As noted above, other vague points of contact could be inferred, but not with the same level of certitude of these three statements. Within the arena of rhetoric and polemics, the above study demonstrates that Protestant exegetes do not disagree with the possibility of Apocryphal allusions in Hebrews 11. Thus, Protestants are not hiding the fact that 2 Maccabees may be what the writer to the Hebrews has in mind.
These Books Give us Hanukkah, Which Jesus Christ Celebrated: In John 10:35, Jesus extols Scripture, telling us that “the Scripture cannot be broken.” He says this while in the Temple, celebrating Hanukkah, which we know from John 10:22-23. Here’s the problem. The Jewish feast of Hanukkah is prescribed only in 1 and 2 Maccabees (1 Maccabees 4:36-59; 2 Maccabees 1:18), this leaves only two possibilities. Either Christ was treating the Books of Maccabees as Scripture, and/or He was fine with extra-Scriptural Tradition. Protestantism traditionally denies both of these things.
The Books were Accepted by the Early Church: Origen writes, in his early third-century work De Principiis (On the Principles):
But that we may believe on the authority of holy Scripture that such is the case, hear how in the book of Maccabees, where the mother of seven martyrs exhorts her son to endure torture, this truth is confirmed; for she says, “I ask of thee, my son, to look at the heaven and the earth, and at all things which are in them, and beholding these, to know that God made all these things when they did not exist.” [2 Maccabees 7:28]
Likewise, in the twelfth of Cyprian’s Treatises, he creates a sort of Scriptural index, in order to catalog, by topic, “certain precepts of the Lord, and divine teachings, which may be easy and useful to the readers.” The final product consists of a series of short chapters proving specific doctrines. Several times, the Scriptures he cites are from Deuterocanonical Books.
For example, 1 Maccabees 2:62-63 is quoted in Chapter 4, as it 2 Macc. 9:12. In Chapter 15, he quotes 1 Macc. 2:52. Five of the six Scriptural citations in Chapter 17 are from 2 Maccabees (the sixth is Romans 8:18). And in Chapter 53, Cyprian quotes 1 Macc. 2:60. Each of these citations is as if the source is Scripture — each is treated exactly the same way as, say, the Book of Proverbs, or one of the Gospels.
Nor are these two Books of Maccabees the only Deuterocanonical Books that Cyprian goes to for support. He quotes the Book of Wisdom in Chapter 6, Ch. 15, Ch. 20, Ch. 56, Ch. 58, Ch. 59, and Ch. 66. He quotes Tobit in Chapter 1, Ch. 6, and Ch. 62. He quotes Sirach (as Ecclesiasticus) in Chapter 1, Ch. 35, Ch. 51, Ch. 61, Ch. 86, Ch. 95, Ch. 96, Ch. 97, Ch. 109, and Ch. 110. Baruch is quoted, too, but just once, in Chapter 29.
As you can see, there are solid reasons for including each of the Books making up the Catholic Deuterocanon, which is exactly what the Church did. As I’ve asked before, on what principled basis can Protestants justify cutting each of them out of the Sacred Scriptures handed down to us by the Church?