Why Everyone Should Read (and Believe in) the Deuterocanon

This is part III of an e-mail (edited, of course, to make it more blogable) which I sent to Reese Currie about two Catholic doctrines: priestly celibacy and the Deuterocanon. Thursday’s post dealt with celibacy, and yesterday’s answered two of Reese’s arguments against the Deuterocanon (they’re common arguments, so perhaps worth your read). If you don’t have much time, at least read 6 A.

Today’s post lays out what I think are the seven reasons that we can be confident that the Deuterocanon is inspired. But first, a note of explanation:

The Deuterocanon is found in the LXX (the Greek version of the Old Testament), and usually not the Hebrew versions. The Jews living outside of Palestine typically used the Greek versions, which did include the DC. Palestinian Jews tended to use the various Hebrew versions, which didn’t include the DC. In both cases, there were some other differences in the books they included and excluded as well. The Sadducees accepted only the Torah, the first five books, as Scripture. This is all pretty important to know. On with the 7 reasons!

1. Jesus usually quoted from the LXX when He cited to the Old Testament. This is especially significant because He lived in Palestine, where the “stronghold” of the Hebrew version, if you will, and He was a Hebrew and Aramaic speaker, primarily. For example, the Hebrew version of Psalm 8:2 says, “From the mouths of children and nursing babies you have ordained praise on account of your adversaries, so that you might put an end to the vindictive enemy.” The LXX version says “praise” instead of strength. Christ quotes the LXX version in Matthew 21:16. In fact, the Hebrew version wouldn’t have even made sense (since it is in response to children praising Him). That’s a pretty solid affirmation of the LXX, which as I said, includes the DC.

2. The New Testament writers quoted from the LXX the majority of the time. You can tell this because there are sometimes differences between the two versions.

3. The exact same councils which set the canon of the New Testament – the Synod of Hippo and the Council of Carthage, the latter of which was approved by Pope Innocent I around 405 A.D., included the Deuterocanon. It was all one list They didn’t believe that they were only custodians of the New Testament, because they believed that the Old Testament was an important foreshadowing of Christ. (After all, look at how Christ used the Old Testament, showing its Christological nature in Luke 24:27). Protestants rely upon these Councils as infallible for the New Testament, but reject them for the Old Testament. If Hippo and Carthage can’t be trusted on the OT, it seems to me that they can’t be trusted at all. And if we throw out the early Church’s canon, it’s a total free-for-all as to what is in the Bible. Remember that there were lots of candidates, and real differences of opinions about what was and wasn’t inspired. The DC wasn’t the only thing that was in question – so was 2 Peter, Revelation, Hebrews, Jude, and James (together, these are called the New Testament Deuterocanon). If you’re not relying upon the early Church’s understanding of which books are in the Bible, whose understanding are you relying on?

4. Other early Church sources quote the DC as Scripture. The Didache quotes Sirach 1:28, and as I mentioned before, it’s concurrent with the time of the Apostles’ active ministry. We also see references to the Didache from The Letter of Barnabas, the writings of Clement of Rome (the 3rd pope), St. Polycarp (he was a disciple of St. John), Irenaeus, and so on. Even those who questioned whether the DC should be in the Bible quoted it as authoritative – they just weren’t sure it was inspired. No one held the Protestant position of totally discarding it – it was universally respected, and generally understood as canonical, including by 1st century sources, early popes, and disciples to the Apostles. That’s strong evidence to me.

5. It is only from the books of Maccabees that you get the celebration of Channukah, which we find Jesus celebrating in John 10:22-42. And it is in this setting where He said that “the Scripture cannot be broken” in John 10:35.

6. The DC has some incredible prophesies about Christ, the afterlife, and Heaven which are not found anywhere else in the Old Testament. Here are three.
A. Wisdom 2:12-24 clearly prophesies the Passion of Christ:

12Let us set a trap for the righteous, for he annoys us and opposes our way of
life; he reproaches us for our breaches of the Law and accuses us of being false
to our upbringing.
13 He claims knowledge of God and calls himself son of the Lord.
14 He has become a reproach to our way of thinking; even to meet him is burdensome to us.
15 He does not live like others and behaves strangely.
16 According to him we have low standards, so he keeps aloof from us as if we were unclean. He emphasizes the happy end of the righteous and boasts of having God as father.
17 Let us see the truth of what he says and find out what his end will be.
18 If the righteous is a son of God, God will defend him and deliver him from his adversaries.
19 Let us humble and torture him to prove his self-control and test his patience.
20 When we have condemned him to a shameful death, we may test his words.”
21 This is the way they reason, but they are mistaken, blinded by their malice.
22 They do not know the mysteries of God nor do they hope for the reward of a holy life; they do not believe that the blameless will be recompensed.
23 Indeed God created man to be immortal in the likeness of his own nature,
24 but the envy of the devil brought death to the world, and those who take his side shall experience death.

Compare this to the mocking Jesus received on the Cross in Matthew 27:41-43. This talks about a Man who is the Son of God, and who will be put to death, but is immortal. And it’s written before Christ. If this isn’t prophetic, I don’t know what is.

B. In Tobit 12:15, the angel Raphael reveals himself: “I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels who present the prayers of holy people and who stand before the glory of God.” Now look at how the angel Gabriel describes himself in the New Testament: “I am Gabriel, who stand before God, and I am the one sent to speak to you and bring you this good news! My words will come true in their time.” (Luke 1:19). It gets even more incredible. Revelation 8:2-4 says:

Then I looked at the seven angels standing before God who were given seven
trumpets. Another angel came and stood before the altar of incense with a
golden censer. He was given much incense to be offered with the prayers of all
the holy ones, on the golden altar before the throne; and the cloud of
incense rose with the prayers of the holy ones from the hands of the angel to
the presence of God.

If this isn’t prophetic, how did the writer of Tobit know how angels speak, and how many angels stand in the presence of God? This writer is describing something so intensely intimate to God that it couldn’t have just been randomly guessed. And no other Old Testament book contains this information. The pre-Christian Jews had a lot of books which talked about who the other angels were, which is significant, because it shows that they believed this prophesy, and accepted it as inspired.

C. 2 Maccabees is historical, but it describes things which are somewhat prophetic, anyways. For example, 2 Maccabees 3:25-26 says:

25 There appeared to them a horse with magnificent gear and on it was a fearsome
rider. It rushed furiously at Heliodorus and struck at him with its forefeet.
The rider appeared to have armor of gold.
26 And two young men, strong and very beautiful and magnificently clothed, also appeared. They stood on each side of Heliodorus, and flogged him continuously, inflicting stroke after stroke.

We see that Rider again in Revelation 19:11-14:

11 Then I saw heaven opened and a white horse appeared. Its rider is the Faithful and True; he judges and wages just wars.
12 His eyes are flames of fire; he wears many crowns and written on him is his own name, which no one can understand except himself.
13 He is clothed in a cloak drenched in blood. His name is the Word of God.
14 The armies of heaven clothed in pure white linen follow him on white horses.

And we also see those two men in dazzling garments again. After the women discover the Resurrection, “Two men in dazzling garments appeared beside them.” (Luke 24:4). We see these men again in Acts 1:10, and it’s quite possible that they’re the two men sent by God in Revelation 11:3-7, who God calls “the two olive trees and the two lamps which are before the Lord of the earth” (Rev. 11:4). If so, they’re probably Enoch and Elijah, the two men who bodily ascended into Heaven before Christ [they’re probably not angels, because they’re killed in Rev. 11:7].

2 Maccabees also quotes Jeremiah as saying of the Ark that it will remain hidden “until God has compassion on his scattered people and gathers them together. Then the Lord will reveal these things again and his Glory shall appear in the cloud as it appeared in the time of Moses and when Solomon asked God to come and consecrate his house.” (see 2 Maccabees 2:5-8). And where do we see the Ark again?

“Then the sanctuary of God in the heavens was opened, and the Ark of the Covenant of God could be seen inside the sanctuary. There were flashes of lightning, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a violent hail-storm.”
(Revelation 11:19).

That’s right. With the Glory of the Lord in Heaven .

There are a lot more examples which I could have chosen, but I think that shows sufficiently that these books constitute the word of God.

7. Just as Psalm 8:2 is only prophetic in the LXX version, and not the Hebrew version, the book of Esther only talks about God in the Deuterocanon. We Catholics have a longer Esther, and in the Hebrew fragments in Protestant Bibles, you never hear anything about faith or God at all. The entire meaning of the book is lost.

So those are the major reasons I see for supporting the canonicity of the Deuterocanon. What are your thoughts on this issue?

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