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Adam wrote:

Hi guys,

Lately, I have been thinking about the Apocrypha. I understand the Church that approved the 66-book cannon and approved the others too.

  • Did the Jews consider the Apocrypha as canonical?


  { Did the Jews consider the Apocrypha as canonical? }

Mike replied:

Hi Adam,

You said:

  • Did the Jews consider the Apocrypha as canonical?

No, I don't believe the Jews considered the Apocrypha canonical because they couldn't find Hebrew originals for them. The Church had a Tradition of reading the books in the Church so they included them.

Luther didn't want to include them for the same reason, or at least he said so.

In 1947, this whole argument collapsed like a deck of cards when a young Bedouin boy searching for a goat in a cave near Khirbat Qumran on the Left Bank of the Dead Sea stumbled upon one of the century's most significant archaeological finds.

What did he find?

Hebrew Originals For Deuterocanonical Books!

Here is a complete posting on the issue:

If I have missed something my colleagues, John and Eric will follow up.


Eric replied:

Mike's answer has to be nuanced.

The Jews of Jesus's time did not have a closed canon. This is demonstrated in Scripture by the Sadducees, who accepted only the Torah as Scripture, unlike the Pharisees. Multiple canons were floating around.

  • One was the Palestinian canon, which corresponds to what Jews and Protestants use today.
  • One was the Alexandrian canon, which contained books we recognize as canonical, as well as additional ones various Orthodox church consider canonical. The Alexandrian canon was used by Greek-speaking Jews and was primarily in Greek.
  • There were others as well.

In summary, it is not cut and dry. The Jews simply did not have a universal and agreed-upon canon in the first century.

After the destruction of the Temple, they did draw up a canon which, not surprisingly, excluded the deuterocanonical books.


John replied:

Hi Adam,

I just wanted to add-on to what Mike has said.

Actually Luther rejected the books because he wanted to specifically reject 2 Maccabees, which teaches prayer for the dead and prayer by the dead for us. He found a pretext; that being that the Jews in 90 A.D. rejected those books for several political reasons but retained the doctrines taught in those books.

Judaism was looking to survive. Jews were reading all kinds of Christian-friendly material, like the Gospels and the letters of Paul, therefore, the Jews convened a Council, in Jamnia in 90 A.D.,
in order figure out how to survive. In the process, they purged from their Scriptures anything that might present a threat to their Jewish identity.

The same Jewish Council that rejected New Testament writings also rejected some Old Testament writings because they were not written in Hebrew. Specifically, Maccabees painted the Romans as friends, so those books weren't getting included, no matter what. Rome was now the enemy, they had just destroyed Jerusalem.

It is important to note that the Jewish Canon wasn't set until 90 A.D., some 60 years after Christ had taken away the authority from the Jewish leadership and given it to the Apostles. For that reason, the council at Jamnia in 90 A.D. had no authority for Christians; especially since one of it's primary purposes was to fight the Christian Heresy from persuaded, influenced Jews.

The same council that rejected:

  • Tobit
  • Maccabees
  • and so forth


  • Matthew
  • Mark
  • Luke, and
  • John.

One last note, and Eric alluded to it. The canon, at the time of Christ, was in flux. In fact, there is some evidence that Christ not only quoted the Deuterocanonical's, but also quoted from other books that never made it into any canon. Jews, at the time, were reading all kinds of stuff and treating it as Scripture. Now obviously, just because a book is quoted it doesn't make it Scripture.

Nevertheless my point is: There was no set canon. In fact, the Sadducees only believed the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, were inspired. They rejected the writings of the Prophets, the historical writings and the Wisdom literature as being inspired.

It wasn't until the Church decided it was necessary to have uniform Canon that we got one. That didn't happen until 382 A.D. at the Council of Rome.


Eric replied:

Hi Adam,

John wrote:
In fact, there is some evidence that Christ not only quoted the Deuterocanonical's, but also quoted from other books that never made it into any canon.

I have to disagree here. Jesus never explicitly and incontrovertibly quotes the Deuterocanonical books. He does allude to them and draw from them, but not in quoted form, and certainly not using the formula

"Scripture has it . . . "


John replied:


I'm using quoted in looser sense, by which I mean referenced.


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