Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Possible Uses of the Apocrypha in the New Testament


Did the New Testament writers use the apocrypha? Most Roman Catholics will at least admit there are no explicit apocryphal citations in the New Testament. Most argue there are allusions to the apocrypha in the New Testament. Recently we saw just how these allusions sometimes play out in an example provided from the book, Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger.

I recently read The Old Testament Apocrypha in the Early Church and Today by Daniel J. Harrington, S.J.. This is found in the book, The Canon Debate (Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2008), pp.196-210. The author of this chapter is Roman Catholic. I found some of his conclusions quite interesting. How refreshing to read a Roman Catholic writer that isn't grasping for any New Testament verse that may possibly be an allusion to the apocrypha.

Possible Uses in the New Testament and Early Christian Writings

A. New Testament
Can one prove that Jesus or the New Testament writers knew and used the apocrypha? One way to begin to answer this question is to consult the list of loci citati vel allegali in the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece. Both Sundberg and McDonald haw culled this source for references to the apocrypha and pseudepigrapha, and have produced their own lists that are very impressive at first glance.' But what do such lists prove?

The first problem emerges with the Latin adjective allegati. How strong are these alleged references? This in turn raises the question whether we are dealing with verbal sim ilarities, or background information, or conceptual parallels, or merely "will-o'-the-wisps" proposed by modern scholars. Each of these references must be weighed on its own merits On closer examination many of the alleged sources or parallels disappear.

The second problem is that even if one could prove that Jesus or a New Testamest writer did use one of the apocrypha, this alone would not prove that they regarded the text as sacred scripture or as canonical. After all, Acts 17:28 has Paul quoting the Greek poet Aratus, and no one regards Aratus as canonical. Also, Jude 14-15 contains a quotation from 1 Enoch 1:9. In the rhetorical context of both passages, the quotations are presented as possessing some intrinsic authority but not necessarily as scriptural or canonical. Moreover, neither Jesus nor any New Testament author introduces a real or alleged quotation from the apocrypha with a fulfillment formula such as "all this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet" (Matt 1:22).

The most that can be proved from the loci citati vel allegati is that Jesus and the New Testament writers may have used some of the apocrypha. Nothing can be inferred about the authority, canonicity, or sacred character that they may or may not have attributed to these books.

After this comment, Harrington looks at "three promising cases" in which it's possible the New Testament writers utilized the apocrypha (Matthew 11:25-30; Romans 1:18-32; Hebrews 1:3). In each of these, Harrington raises enough doubt for each, and concludes this section with skepticism.

I've done one other entry on related to this issue: Is Hebrews 11:35-37 a Proof for the Inclusion of the Apocrypha to the Canon?

20 comments:

Pastor Aaron said...

Titus 1:12 comes from the pagan poet Epimenides, and I think he also says the stuff about the one "in whom we live and move and have our being..."

I'll be interested to see how this post plays out. Good work looking at the "formulae" of authoritative statements.

Matthew D. Schultz said...

Moreover, neither Jesus nor any New Testament author introduces a real or alleged quotation from the apocrypha with a fulfillment formula such as "all this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet" (Matt 1:22).

That's a fairly powerful observation.

It's also important to note that Harrington is ordained and teaches at a respectable Catholic college. He carries a lot more weight than many of the practically unknown lay-apologists who might otherwise disagree with his conclusions.

Alexander said...

Regardless, the general consensus of the Christian West and large parts of the Christian East up and until the Protestant Reformation was to hold to the wider canon. Fr. Harrington would not disagree.

Apparently, to believe Schultz in saying that "the Holy Spirit is a valid means by which we can come to know the true extent of the canon (among other items of knowledge)" within the Protestant understanding inescapably leads one to believe that the general consensus of the Church prior to Protestant Reformation were wrong. Not likely.

Matthew D. Schultz said...

Regardless, the general consensus of the Christian West and large parts of the Christian East up and until the Protestant Reformation was to hold to the wider canon.

Alexander,

What scholars do you have in mind who would agree with your unqualified assessment of holding to "the" wider canon? How do you deal with the various fathers who held to varying canons throughout the early church? How would you respond to the evidential weight of the glossa ordinaria?

Apparently, to believe Schultz in saying that "the Holy Spirit is a valid means by which we can come to know the true extent of the canon (among other items of knowledge)" within the Protestant understanding inescapably leads one to believe that the general consensus of the Church prior to Protestant Reformation were wrong. Not likely.

How is that an argument? Why is that "not likely"?

And, apparently, to believe the Holy Spirit guides the modern Roman Catholic Magisterium is to believe that the consensus of the first few centuries of the Church was wrong on Mary's immaculate conception or her assumption into heaven. Not likely.

Alexander said...

What scholars do you have in mind who would agree with your unqualified assessment of holding to "the" wider canon? How do you deal with the various fathers who held to varying canons throughout the early church? How would you respond to the evidential weight of the glossa ordinaria?

How about Fr. Harrington? Or is he only useful for your cherry-picking tendencies? Thanks for providing another fairly easy example. I know, Fr. Harrington can provide very powerful observations, and is quite the scholar until you personally disagree with him. Nevermind the fact that the majority of scholarship agrees with him on the wider canon issue. That doesn't fit your apologetic.

http://books.google.com/books?id=L6zJG-9BZMQC&printsec=frontcover&dq=daniel+harrington+on+the+apocrypha&source=bl&ots=wxCCE5i43u&sig=bvFulL8-k1D0xKkYR5Bir2PbyLg&hl=en&ei=WbsrTNDaKsL-8AbQkvSfCg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CBwQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false

Alexander said...

Oh yes, look at pg 5.

Matthew D. Schultz said...

Alexander writes:

How about Fr. Harrington?

What other scholars do you have in mind who make the same, unqualified statement you did? (I'd also add that Harrington adds qualifications on page 4 that don't comport with what you stated earlier.)

Or is he only useful for your cherry-picking tendencies? Thanks for providing another fairly easy example.

You assert an inconsistency without any supporting evidence. I wasn't appealing to Harrington as a blanket authority. He made a rather specific observation within a larger topic, an observation I judged on its own merits. Yet you seem to think this requires me to submit to his general and sweeping observations on the apocrypha as well. Does he specifically and particularly address any of the evidence I alluded to earlier? If not, I don't see how your response at this point approaches being reasonable; how you logically infer "inconsistency" from all this is unknown.

Perhaps you think my comments about his credentials were tied to the objective merits of his observation. But that would be a reading comprehension error given James Swan's earlier remarks on how "most" Roman Catholics approach this issue. The only concern I had with Harrington's credentials was how he carries more weight than lay-Catholic apologists in terms of who represents Catholicism on whether the New Testament alludes to the apocrypha.

And what other examples of inconsistency do you have in mind? It's not appropriate to cite a pattern of inconsistency without any evidence.

Nevermind the fact that the majority of scholarship agrees with him on the wider canon issue. That doesn't fit your apologetic.

What "majority" of scholarship?

Oh yes, look at pg 5.

Yes, you essentially plagiarized Harrington in your first response. Is this something I should find impressive? Or clever, perhaps?

As for the rest of my response, you have ignored it. Why would you raise an objection only to ignore a response to it?

James Swan said...

Regardless, the general consensus of the Christian West and large parts of the Christian East up and until the Protestant Reformation was to hold to the wider canon. Fr. Harrington would not disagree.

That's not the point of this blog entry. Regardless:

Harrington, from the chapter I cited in my blog entry:

"In short, the evidence from the early Jewish and early Christian manuscripts and lists of Jewish scriptures shows a tendency among Jews to restrict their canon of sacred scripture to twenty-two or twenty-four books. It also shows a tendency among some early Christians especially, in the East to follow the Jewish practice, whereas in the West (except for Jerome) there is more openness to include some of the books that have come to be known as the apocrypha."

"There are many lists of canonical Old Testament books from various church fathers and councils. The lists from the Eastern churches tend to support a restricted canon very much like that of the Hebrew tradition. "

James Swan said...

Apparently, to believe Schultz in saying that "the Holy Spirit is a valid means by which we can come to know the true extent of the canon (among other items of knowledge)" within the Protestant understanding inescapably leads one to believe that the general consensus of the Church prior to Protestant Reformation were wrong. Not likely.

Harrington argues that the idea of a "wider Christian canon" following the tradition of the Jews of Alexandria is a myth. He also states: "The historical evidence is not adequate to justify the conclusion that the apocrypha were always part of the Christian Old Testament. Neither does it prove that they were never part of the Christian canon."

Well, that's certainly uncertain.

Alexander said...

How about John Barton. Secondly, as you noted I practically plagerized Fr. Harrington, and I did that for the purpose of demonstration as to how you selectively use those scholars as authorities who reinforce those conclusions which appeal to your preconceived outcome, and then attempt to bind us to their conclusions. Yet you do not offer us the same benefit of judging their claims on the merits.

He carries a lot more weight than many of the practically unknown lay-apologists who might otherwise disagree with his conclusions.

Your words, not mine.

As for the rest of my response, you have ignored it. Why would you raise an objection only to ignore a response to it?

Because I find it to have no value towards demonstrating your case.

Alexander said...

James, I practically quoted Fr. Harrington verbatim. So what are you taking issue with?

Alexander said...

The only concern I had with Harrington's credentials was how he carries more weight than lay-Catholic apologists in terms of who represents Catholicism on whether the New Testament alludes to the apocrypha.

And why exactly would he carry more weight? Is this something that you can demonstrate via Catholic teachings? Or is it an idea you wish to enforce upon us from nowhere?

John Lollard said...

"And why exactly would he carry more weight?"

This idea seems to be a constant source of contention between lay Catholic apologists and Protestants.

As far as I understand it, the Roman Catholic position on authority is that the Magisterium is a living organization that maintains the authority of the Apostles, passed on throughout the ages in the laying on of hands from generation to generation, and thus clergy have a special power and authority to discern the truth of the gospel. The Apostolic authority was handed on to new bishops and deacons and elders, which over the years have become the offices of cardinal, bishop, priest and deacon but maintain the same original trust of authoritative discernment received at ordination.

At least I think that's what Catholics believe. If it is, then you should necessarily hold a priest's teaching above your own. If you want to claim that you have every ability available to an ordained priest to discern the truth of God and Scripture, then I agree, but it would seem inconsistent with your position on authority to hold that view.

Love in Christ,
JL

Matthew D. Schultz said...

Alexander writes:

How about John Barton.

So you think Barton and Harrington represent a "majority of scholarship"?

Secondly, as you noted I practically plagerized Fr. Harrington, and I did that for the purpose of demonstration as to how you selectively use those scholars as authorities who reinforce those conclusions which appeal to your preconceived outcome, and then attempt to bind us to their conclusions.

All you're doing is repeating an explanation, Alexander. You're not interacting with my response or demonstrating from other evidence that this is habitual on my part.

Because I find it to have no value towards demonstrating your case.

Then I will just assume you can't defend your gratuitous assertion that the Protestant view on the canon is "unlikely."

Nick said...

I'd like to add another dimension here.

The 2 "quotes" in Jude supposedly from apocryphal works need not necessitate direct quotes from those books. They could rather be true inspired oral prophecies/teaching that were being quoted and which *incidentally* were written down in apocryphal works. An example of what I'm talking about can be found in John Calvin's comments on 1 Timothy 5:8 (scroll to the quote in the link) where he says Paul need not be (and Calvin says likely was *not) quoting Luke's Gospel at all but rather an inspired utterance of Christ and appeals to the parallel in 1 Cor 9:9-14.
Thus, the 2 quotes in Jude could simply be inspired OT oral Tradition.

Next, I'm shocked that Harrington would leave out examining the NT allusions to texts like Wisdom 2:12-20 and Hebrews 11 (quoting 2 Macc) - the latter which your own link largely concedes is most probable. For *anyone* to brush off Wisdom 2:12-20 is pretty arrogant, considering it's clearly the most explicit prophecy of Christ in all of the Bible.

The evidence is clearly in favor of the Catholic side here, and there's certainly no argument solid and substantial enough here that justifies the Protestant schism and attack on the apocrypha.

James Swan said...

James, I practically quoted Fr. Harrington verbatim. So what are you taking issue with?

I'm not fond of reinventing wheels. I included your words and then commented on them. To recap (which appears what you're asking me to do):

I pointed out your initial concern was not the thrust of this blog entry. As to the "general consensus" of the church on the apocryphal books, I noted Harrington admits the canon of the Jews excludes the apocrypha, and there was tendency in the East to follow this canon. As to questioning the general consensus of the church (your comment toward Matthew), I pointed out Harrington concedes that the apologetic that the church included the apocrypha because they followed the Alexandrian Jewish canon- this is a myth. Hence, the basis for following the general western consensus rests on a spurious foundation. His most damning statement though is "The historical evidence is not adequate to justify the conclusion that the apocrypha were always part of the Christian Old Testament. Neither does it prove that they were never part of the Christian canon." So, for you to quote Harrington as an apologetic is a worthless endeavor.

James Swan said...

And why exactly would he carry more weight? Is this something that you can demonstrate via Catholic teachings? Or is it an idea you wish to enforce upon us from nowhere?

In dialog with some committed to the papacy, quoting a Romanist layman with a blog is no more valuable than quoting a Roman Catholic scholar with his multiple degrees and knowledge.

James Swan said...

The 2 "quotes" in Jude supposedly from apocryphal works need not necessitate direct quotes from those books. They could rather be true inspired oral prophecies/teaching that were being quoted and which *incidentally* were written down in apocryphal works. An example of what I'm talking about can be found in John Calvin's comments on 1 Timothy 5:8 (scroll to the quote in the link) where he says Paul need not be (and Calvin says likely was *not) quoting Luke's Gospel at all but rather an inspired utterance of Christ and appeals to the parallel in 1 Cor 9:9-14. Thus, the 2 quotes in Jude could simply be inspired OT oral Tradition.

Can you cite any reputable scholar holding to this theory? I'd explore any works you can produce.

Next, I'm shocked that Harrington would leave out examining the NT allusions to texts like Wisdom 2:12-20 and Hebrews 11 (quoting 2 Macc) - the latter which your own link largely concedes is most probable. For *anyone* to brush off Wisdom 2:12-20 is pretty arrogant, considering it's clearly the most explicit prophecy of Christ in all of the Bible.

Review my blog entry. Harrington explains his reasoning.

Lvka said...

I've just found this, quite accidentally, while searching for an on-line Orthodox OT lectionary: it's from a Georgian Lectionary dating to approximately 700 AD:


Reading 4, Paul to the Hebrews [11.32-40; note the insertions in italics]:
And what more can we say, for time would fail us in this description of the judges, of Barak, of Samson, and of Jephthah, of the kings, of David and Samuel and the prophets, Abraham and the judges who through faith conquered kings, Abraham, Moses, Joshua and Phineas administered justice, Abraham, Joshua, and Caleb received promises, Samson and David and Daniel shut the mouths of lions, the three youths Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael quenched flaming fire, Uriah, Mideli [sic], and Elijah the Prophet escaped the edge of the sword, David, King Hezekiah, King Asa received strength out of weakness, Gideon, Barak, Samson, and David routed the foreign armies, the Shunammite woman and the woman from Sarepta -- women received their dead by resurrection, the seven Maccabee brothers and their mother and other prophets others were tortured ... that they might be worthy, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Job, certain were bent over ... were tested, Jeremiah and Micah chained and imprisoned, Jeremiah and Naboth were stoned, Isaiah was cut in two, Job, Zerubbabel were tempted, Micah, Amos, Zechariah the priest were killed by the sword, John the Baptist, Elijah, Elishah went around in skins...this world, the prophet who nourished Obadiah wandered in deserts...in the caves of the earth. With all these, witness was proven...that not without us will they be perfected.
Alleluia, mode 2: Blessed are the pure [Ps 118.1-2/119.1-2]

Nick said...

Hi,

Sorry for this late response, a lot of stuff came up in my life (nothing tragic, thankfully), including food poisoning the last few days. I simply have been unable to be online for more than maybe 15 minutes a day over the last week or so. I'll try to remember and respond as best as I can.

You asked: "Can you cite any reputable scholar holding to this theory? I'd explore any works you can produce."

I haven't looked to see if any make this claim, it's simply something that's been on my mind for a while. It's largely based on John Calvin's claim that Paul was not quoting Luke in 1 Tim 5:8.
My claim is logically valid, so it shouldn't rest on whether a scholar has mentioned it.

You said: "Review my blog entry. Harrington explains his reasoning."

I'm not sure what part of your post you're talking about. Only at the end do you give the quote he mention "three promising cases".