Jerome and the Apocrypha

Mr.Butter

New Member
Jerome said
These instances have been just touched upon by me (the limits of a letter forbid a more discursive treatment of them) to convince you that in the holy scriptures you can make no progress unless you have a guide to shew you the way…Genesis … Exodus … Leviticus … Numbers … Deuteronomy … Job … Jesus the son of Nave … Judges … Ruth … Samuel … The third and fourth books of Kings … The twelve prophets whose writings are compressed within the narrow limits of a single volume: Hosea … Joel … Amos … Obadiah … Jonah … Micah … Nahum … Habakkuk … Zephaniah … Haggai … Zechariah … Malachi … Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel … Jeremiah also goes four times through the alphabet in different metres (Lamentations)… David…sings of Christ to his lyre; and on a psaltry with ten strings (Psalms) … Solomon, a lover of peace and of the Lord, corrects morals, teaches nature (Proverbs and Ecclesiastes), unites Christ and the church, and sings a sweet marriage song to celebrate that holy bridal (Song of Songs) … Esther … Ezra and Nehemiah. (Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953, Volume VI, St. Jerome, Letter LIII.6-8, pp. 98-101). As, then, the Church reads Judith, Tobit, and the books of Maccabees, but does not admit them among the canonical Scriptures, so let it also read these two volumes (Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiasticus) for the edification of the people, not to give authority to doctrines of the Church…I say this to show you how hard it is to master the book of Daniel, which in Hebrew contains neither the history of Susanna, nor the hymn of the three youths, nor the fables of Bel and the Dragon… (Ibid., Volume VI, Jerome, Prefaces to Jerome’s Works, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs; Daniel, pp. 492-493).
But he also said many things like
Does not the SCRIPTURE say: ‘Burden not thyself above thy power’[SIRACH 13:2] Jerome, To Eustochium, Epistle 108 (A.D. 404), in NPNF2, VI:207
Do not, my dearest brother, estimate my worth by the number of my years. Gray hairs are not wisdom; it is wisdom which is as good as gray hairs At least that is what Solomon says: “wisdom is the gray hair unto men.’[Wisdom 4:9]” Moses too in choosing the seventy elders is told to take those whom he knows to be elders indeed, and to select them not for their years but for their discretion (Num. 11:16)? And, as a boy, Daniel judges old men and in the flower of youth condemns the incontinence of age (Daniel 13:55-59, or Story of Susannah 55-59, only found in the Catholic Bibles) Jerome, To Paulinus, Epistle 58 (A.D. 395), in NPNF2, VI:119
Can someone help me here I am having a lot of trouble actually answering these: https://jmshistorycorner.wordpress.com/2020/07/27/the-church-fathers-real-opinions-on-the-canon/
I emailed Matt asking him to debunk this but that may take a while for an answer
 

Theophilos

Active member
The earliest Christian Bibles include the Septuagint (LXX) as the Old Testament with books no longer found in Hebrew scriptures. The manuscripts predate Jerome by several decades. See for example: Codex Sinaiticus - Wikipedia

The LXX is almost certainly the version of the scriptures that Greek-speaking Timothy studied as a child:

. . . from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 2 Tim 3:15

 

ziapueblo

Active member
The LXX is almost certainly the version of the scriptures that Greek-speaking Timothy studied as a child:
What is interesting is that some Scripture scholars believe that St. Paul was speaking of the LXX when he wrote, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness . . ." (2 Timothy 3:16). Makes sense since some, the Sadducees, only used the Pentateuch.
 

Theophilos

Active member
What is interesting is that some Scripture scholars believe that St. Paul was speaking of the LXX when he wrote, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness . . ." (2 Timothy 3:16). Makes sense since some, the Sadducees, only used the Pentateuch.
Yes. There was no uniform canon of scripture among Jews in the first century. Rabbinical Judaism developed its canon from the that of the Hebrew scriptures of the Pharisees, but early Christians and Greek-speaking Jews used the LXX. The LXX is still used as the Old Testament for Greek-speaking Christians.
 

rakovsky

Well-known member
Jerome said

These instances have been just touched upon by me (the limits of a letter forbid a more discursive treatment of them) to convince you that in the holy scriptures you can make no progress unless you have a guide to shew you the way…Genesis … Exodus … Leviticus … Numbers … Deuteronomy … Job … Jesus the son of Nave … Judges … Ruth … Samuel … The third and fourth books of Kings … The twelve prophets whose writings are compressed within the narrow limits of a single volume: Hosea … Joel … Amos … Obadiah … Jonah … Micah … Nahum … Habakkuk … Zephaniah … Haggai … Zechariah … Malachi … Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel … Jeremiah also goes four times through the alphabet in different metres (Lamentations)… David…sings of Christ to his lyre; and on a psaltry with ten strings (Psalms) … Solomon, a lover of peace and of the Lord, corrects morals, teaches nature (Proverbs and Ecclesiastes), unites Christ and the church, and sings a sweet marriage song to celebrate that holy bridal (Song of Songs) … Esther … Ezra and Nehemiah. (Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953, Volume VI, St. Jerome, Letter LIII.6-8, pp. 98-101).
In what you quoted, Jerome never says that the canon is limited to those books that you listed.

Later you quoted where he calls Sirach "Scripture", even though it's not in your list. So it can be what is called a non-exhaustive list.
 

Our Lord's God

Well-known member

rakovsky

Well-known member
What specifically are you seeking to debunk? I don't click on random links.
Mr. Butter, the OP, found a collection of many quotes from Church fathers who accepted Apocrypha texts / Deuterocanonical texts as canon.

The opening paragraph says:
I’ve mentioned in a couple posts now how Protestant apologists often claim that most of the early Church Fathers explicitly rejected the Apocrypha (also known as the Deuterocanon) – usually naming names such as Origen – when in fact most of them (such as the ones Protestants name) explicitly accepted them as Scripture.
...
FIRST OFF, here are some direct quotes from anti-Apocrypha apologists making this claim, so you can see I’m not taking them out of context:
...
...here is what they ACTUALLY said.

Origen

We’ll begin with the guy who is most commonly cited (along with Jerome) as rejecting the Apocrypha. He writes:
...
Mr. Butter has Calvin as his profile picture, so he must probably be looking for someone to "debunk" the claim that "most of the early Church fathers" accepted them as Scripture, or at least didn't "explicitly reject the Apocrypha".

I was confirmed PCUSA as a child, and my first answer to this as a Reformed Protestant would have been to ask why Mr. Butter would care that much about the Church fathers. My sense as a Reformed Protestant would have been that the Church fathers themselves were sketchy, like the Apocrypha, Purgatory, Popes, Bishops, and other "Catholic stuff." My sense would have been along the lines of, "OK, probably Church fathers wrote that kind of stuff, and the Church fathers were wrong."

De Facto, a lot of Reformed Protestants probably have a sense that the early Christians were good, and that the Church fathers had a lot of good, but that somewhere along the way, the Church fathers got corrupted and became the "Catholic Church", with all the baggage that Protestants assign to Catholics, rightly or wrongly. My sense is that for typical Protestants such as PCUSA or Lutherans, there is no clear date assigned to when the Christian community collectively went off the rails. Calvin and Luther liked Augustine a lot, but not the Popes. Nowadays more "radical" Protestants tend to make more the frequent claims against Constantine (4th century AD) for being a dictatorial theocrat who corrupted the Church. I'm not sure if Calvin and Luther were as critical of Constantine, but certainly it must come from Reformed Protestants a lot today, since the Reformed don't have bishops.

One criticism of the rather dismissive Protestant attitude to the Church fathers that I am describing is that it sometimes imposes modern Protestant ideas of how Christianity should be onto what modern Protestants imagine authentic 1st century Christianity to be. So if modern Reformed Protestants believe that Christianity shouldn't have "bishops" or "priests", then the natural tendency is to read into Biblical texts the idea that bishops and Christian priests aren't part of Christianity. Then Protestants come across Mr. Butter's problem that 1st-2nd century Christians and their Church fathers did teach things like bishops or Deuterocanonical books. The 2nd century AD Muratorian Canon is our earliest known official canon list, and it approves the Wisdom of Solomon as canon. A lot of these very early Christian texts like the Muratorian Fragment weren't found or publicized in widespread print form until after the Protestant Reformation started, so they didn't pose as much as a challenge to the foundational Reformers' conceptions of 1st-2nd century Christianity.

The natural Protestant response would be to first see if one can deny that the early Christians taught these doctrines like having bishops or some Deuterocanonical books. Then if it can't be denied that the early Christians did teach these things, then theoretically, Reformed Protestants would invoke "Sola Scriptura" and assert that the early Christians were teaching something "unBiblical." This creates a bit of a problem because it pushes the time of the Church's "corruption" way back past Constantine, and into the era when the Bible itself was written, finalized, and a generation afterward. I think the natural result is that Reformed Protestants pay less attention to the early Church fathers. Some Protestants, like some Pentecostals, decide that the Church's corruption started already in the mid-2nd century, like when Calvin considered "Cessationism" to set in. But Presbyterians and Lutherans don't get particularly involved glossolalia or frequent Charismatic-style SWMs, and they don't seem to want to be as critical of the early Church at such an early time.
 

BJ Bear

Well-known member
Mr. Butter, the OP, found a collection of many quotes from Church fathers who accepted Apocrypha texts / Deuterocanonical texts as canon.

The opening paragraph says:

Mr. Butter has Calvin as his profile picture, so he must probably be looking for someone to "debunk" the claim that "most of the early Church fathers" accepted them as Scripture, or at least didn't "explicitly reject the Apocrypha".

I was confirmed PCUSA as a child, and my first answer to this as a Reformed Protestant would have been to ask why Mr. Butter would care that much about the Church fathers. My sense as a Reformed Protestant would have been that the Church fathers themselves were sketchy, like the Apocrypha, Purgatory, Popes, Bishops, and other "Catholic stuff." My sense would have been along the lines of, "OK, probably Church fathers wrote that kind of stuff, and the Church fathers were wrong."

De Facto, a lot of Reformed Protestants probably have a sense that the early Christians were good, and that the Church fathers had a lot of good, but that somewhere along the way, the Church fathers got corrupted and became the "Catholic Church", with all the baggage that Protestants assign to Catholics, rightly or wrongly. My sense is that for typical Protestants such as PCUSA or Lutherans, there is no clear date assigned to when the Christian community collectively went off the rails. Calvin and Luther liked Augustine a lot, but not the Popes. Nowadays more "radical" Protestants tend to make more the frequent claims against Constantine (4th century AD) for being a dictatorial theocrat who corrupted the Church. I'm not sure if Calvin and Luther were as critical of Constantine, but certainly it must come from Reformed Protestants a lot today, since the Reformed don't have bishops.

One criticism of the rather dismissive Protestant attitude to the Church fathers that I am describing is that it sometimes imposes modern Protestant ideas of how Christianity should be onto what modern Protestants imagine authentic 1st century Christianity to be. So if modern Reformed Protestants believe that Christianity shouldn't have "bishops" or "priests", then the natural tendency is to read into Biblical texts the idea that bishops and Christian priests aren't part of Christianity. Then Protestants come across Mr. Butter's problem that 1st-2nd century Christians and their Church fathers did teach things like bishops or Deuterocanonical books. The 2nd century AD Muratorian Canon is our earliest known official canon list, and it approves the Wisdom of Solomon as canon. A lot of these very early Christian texts like the Muratorian Fragment weren't found or publicized in widespread print form until after the Protestant Reformation started, so they didn't pose as much as a challenge to the foundational Reformers' conceptions of 1st-2nd century Christianity.

The natural Protestant response would be to first see if one can deny that the early Christians taught these doctrines like having bishops or some Deuterocanonical books. Then if it can't be denied that the early Christians did teach these things, then theoretically, Reformed Protestants would invoke "Sola Scriptura" and assert that the early Christians were teaching something "unBiblical." This creates a bit of a problem because it pushes the time of the Church's "corruption" way back past Constantine, and into the era when the Bible itself was written, finalized, and a generation afterward. I think the natural result is that Reformed Protestants pay less attention to the early Church fathers. Some Protestants, like some Pentecostals, decide that the Church's corruption started already in the mid-2nd century, like when Calvin considered "Cessationism" to set in. But Presbyterians and Lutherans don't get particularly involved glossolalia or frequent Charismatic-style SWMs, and they don't seem to want to be as critical of the early Church at such an early time.
Thanks for bringing this up again.

Luther translated more books than are in what the RCC would later claim as the canon. The point being that context matters.

Looking at some stuff purportedly from Jerome quoted above or alluded to, saying something is a writing or document isn't necessarily saying it is Scripture in the canonical sense of some today. The context will probably make the sense clear to the modern reader.

Since Paul could cite heathen writers when they wrote something useful to his witness to other Christians and the world it is clear that there was and is no prohibition against reading or citing an apocryphal or deitero-canonical work since it is not an endorsement of the entire work.
 

rakovsky

Well-known member
Looking at some stuff purportedly from Jerome quoted above or alluded to, saying something is a writing or document isn't necessarily saying it is Scripture in the canonical sense of some today. The context will probably make the sense clear to the modern reader.

Jerome spoke of the Deuterocanon's canonicity more than once, but his Preface to Judith comes to mind in particular, because he drew a contrast claiming that although the Jews count Judith among the Hagiographa whose authority is less appropriate, and that it is considered among the histories, but that the Council of Nicea considered it Sacred Scripture:

Jerome’s Preface to his Translation of the Book of Judith*

Among the Hebrews the Book of Judith is found1 among the Hagiographa, the authority of which toward confirming those which have come into contention is judged less appropriate. Yet having been written in Chaldean words, it is counted among the histories. But because this book is found by the Nicene Council2 to have been counted among the number of the Sacred Scriptures, I have acquiesced to your request, indeed a demand, and works having been set aside from which I was forcibly curtailed, I have given to this (book) one short night’s work3 translating more sense from sense than word from word.

https://www.fourthcentury.com/jerome-translation-of-the-book-of-judith/

Unfortunately, Nicea's minutes have been lost, but at least in one place in our remaining records, the participants of Nicea made reference to Judith in an authoritative way.

I take it that in his discussions about the three special LXX sections of Daniel, Jerome may have backtracked. From the excerpt below, it sounds like he first implied that those three sections (like Susanna) are not in the canon when he informed his readers that the rabbis didn't consider them to be canon. Then it sounds like he got criticism for his information, and then he replied to his critics by saying that he wasn't claiming that Susanna was not canon, but rather that he was just relating what the rabbis thought about it:

... The churches choose to read Daniel in the version of Theodotion. What sin have I committed in following the judgment of the churches? But when I repeat what the Jews say against the Story of Susanna and the Hymn of the Three Children, and the fables of Bel and the Dragon, which are not contained in the Hebrew Bible, the man who makes this a charge against me proves himself to be a fool and a slanderer; for I explained not what I thought but what they commonly say against us.

SOURCE: https://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2011/10/did-jerome-change-his-mind-on-apocrypha.html
In other words, when Jerome repeats the Jewish claim that Susanna is not in the Hebrew Bible, those who makes Jerome's repetition into a charge against Jerome is a slanderer; This is because Jerome's explanation against the story of Susanna is "not what [Jerome] thought but what they [the rabbis] commonly say against us [the Christians]". That is, the rabbis commonly say against the Christians that these sections should not be in the canon.
 

BJ Bear

Well-known member
Jerome spoke of the Deuterocanon's canonicity more than once, but his Preface to Judith comes to mind in particular, because he drew a contrast claiming that although the Jews count Judith among the Hagiographa whose authority is less appropriate, and that it is considered among the histories, but that the Council of Nicea considered it Sacred Scripture:



Unfortunately, Nicea's minutes have been lost, but at least in one place in our remaining records, the participants of Nicea made reference to Judith in an authoritative way.

I take it that in his discussions about the three special LXX sections of Daniel, Jerome may have backtracked. From the excerpt below, it sounds like he first implied that those three sections (like Susanna) are not in the canon when he informed his readers that the rabbis didn't consider them to be canon. Then it sounds like he got criticism for his information, and then he replied to his critics by saying that he wasn't claiming that Susanna was not canon, but rather that he was just relating what the rabbis thought about it:


In other words, when Jerome repeats the Jewish claim that Susanna is not in the Hebrew Bible, those who makes Jerome's repetition into a charge against Jerome is a slanderer; This is because Jerome's explanation against the story of Susanna is "not what [Jerome] thought but what they [the rabbis] commonly say against us [the Christians]". That is, the rabbis commonly say against the Christians that these sections should not be in the canon.
I'm not familiar with the site, but I don't put much value on hearsay or a game of phone, even when it is ancient. Whether Jerome had a right interpretation of whatever might have been written or said at Nicea Is an open question.

It is apparent that the Hebrews had a definite low regard for Judith even though it may have been read at times in the synagogue. The evidence is what Jerome used and how he did his translation, i.e., " I have given to this (book) one short night’s work3 translating more sense from sense than word from word. I have removed the extremely faulty variety of the many books; only those which I was able to find in the Chaldean words with understanding intact did I express in Latin ones." https://www.fourthcentury.com/jerome-translation-of-the-book-of-judith/

A person reading the link will also notice Jerome's lack of motivation in translating Judith because it took the demand of another for him to spend a brief amount of time in translating it.
 

Theophilos

Active member
Thanks for bringing this up again.

Luther translated more books than are in what the RCC would later claim as the canon. The point being that context matters.

Looking at some stuff purportedly from Jerome quoted above or alluded to, saying something is a writing or document isn't necessarily saying it is Scripture in the canonical sense of some today. The context will probably make the sense clear to the modern reader.

Since Paul could cite heathen writers when they wrote something useful to his witness to other Christians and the world it is clear that there was and is no prohibition against reading or citing an apocryphal or deitero-canonical work since it is not an endorsement of the entire work.

Yes, context is important. Consider this passage from Jerome, letter 66 to Pammachius, where he quotes Sirach as scripture to support the value of alms giving and prayers for the departed:
Our dear Pammachius also waters the holy ashes and the revered bones of Paulina, but it is with the balm of almsgiving. These are the confections and the perfumes with which he cherishes the dead embers of his wife knowing that it is written: Water will quench a flaming fire; and alms makes an atonement for sins. Sirach 3:30
 

BJ Bear

Well-known member
Yes, context is important. Consider this passage from Jerome, letter 66 to Pammachius, where he quotes Sirach as scripture to support the value of alms giving and prayers for the departed:
Writing that something is written is not the same as saying that what is written is Scripture. Jerome is aware of the custom of some of the reading of non canonical books.
 
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