Wednesday, January 17, 2007

How Big is Your Book of Daniel?

Catholic, Orthodox and Protestants all believe the Bible is the inspired and inerrant written Word of God. Yet, Protestants have a 66-book Bible, Catholics have a 73-book Bible and Orthodox have even more than 73 books in their Bible.Catholics and Orthodox alike have seven OT books not found in most Protestant Bibles (1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, Sirach, Wisdom, Baruch, Tobit, and Judith), as well as more chapters and verses in the Books of Daniel and Esther. These books were included in the first canon of Sacred Scripture of AD 382, the very same Christian canon which first declared the NT and other OT books canonical Scriptures.

I have described this in detail here… How the Bible came to be--a primer -

By what authority do Protestants abbreviate the Holy Bible which was held sacred by the Christian churches which preceded the advent of Protestantism?

After discussing the canonicity of Sacred Scripture with many Protestants, and reading the responses of many Protestant authors, I’m unconvinced with the generality of their response to this question.

For instance, I often hear, “we simply accept the scholarship of early Church Fathers such as Origen and Jerome.” Yet, they are reluctant to go any further than this general response, as this would actually involve discussing the writings of Jerome and Origen. When one actually studies the writings of the early Fathers, including Origen and Jerome, it becomes clear that this Protestant claim is simply untrue.

Protestant author William Webster writes,

“[The Protestant OT] corresponds to the Jewish canon which did not accept the books of the Apocrypha as being canonical. Jerome, who spent many years in Palestine and who had Jewish teachers, rejected the Apocrypha because those books were not recognized as canonical by the Jews…. In addition, Origen…reject[ed] the Apocryphal books as being canonical.”

[William Webster, The Canon, URL:, accessed on 17 Jan 2007]

To illustrate the inaccuracy of this claim, I will narrow the canonical question to something very specific and verifiable, the Book of Daniel. One can see from researching the historical evidence of just this one text that the Protestant claims don’t stand up to scholastic rigor.

First of all, the Jews of the first century did not agree as to which books of the Hebrew Scripture were inspired Sacred Scripture. For example, the Sadducees rejected all books accepting the Torah (as did the Samaritans). Yet, the Pharisees accepted the Torah, along with many other sacred books, such as the Book of Daniel and the Book of Esther. However, according to the earliest (yet fragmentary) evidence of the Qumran (Dead Sea) Scrolls, the Jewish sect called the Essenes accepted as Sacred Scripture an even greater variety of texts, while rejecting others such as the Book of Esther.

Moreover, it is clear from the Qumran evidence (which also included fragments from the Book of Tobit and the Book of Sirach), that Jews of the 1st century accepted different Hebrew recensions of the same Sacred books. For example, there were different versions of the Book of Jeremiah discovered at Qumran. There was also evidence that portions of the larger recension of the Book of Daniel were discovered among these Qumran findings. [cf. Martin Abegg, Jr., Peter Flint, and Eugene Ulrich, The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible, (HarperSanFrancisco, 1999), pg. 482-501].

Furthermore, the translations of the 2nd century Hebrew scholars such as Symmachus and Theodotion included the larger recension of the Book of Daniel. Thus, with regard to Daniel, it is clear that there was more than one recension accepted among first and second century Jews.

According to the Jewish authors of the The Jewish Encyclopedia (1909), the Jewish dispute over which books were considered canonical “still continued in the second century of the common era.” (“Bible Canon,” The Jewish Encyclopedia,
URL: , accessed on 17 Jan 2007). Still to this day, Ethiopian Jews accept a larger version of the Hebrew Scriptures.

Secondly, all of the ancient Christians churches of the 2nd century AD accepted the larger recension of Daniel. ALL of them. Consequently, based upon the judgment of the most ancient Christian testimony, the Catholic Church and Eastern/Oriental Orthodox churches continue to accept the longer recension of the Book of Daniel, which was based upon a Hebrew recension extant since the advent of Christ.

Protestant historian J.N.D. Kelly states:

“It should be observed that the Old Testament thus admitted as authoritative in the [ancient Christian] Church was somewhat bulkier and more comprehensive than the [Protestant Old Testament].” (Early Christian Doctrines, 53-54).

It appears that EVERY ancient Christian manuscript of Sacred Scripture in other than fragmentary form prior to the advent of Protestantism testifies to the larger recension of Daniel.

According to the Protestant commentary within the New Oxford Annotated Bible,

“… the ancient Greek version of the Book of Daniel is considerably longer than the surviving Hebrew text. ... All Greek witnesses place the Prayer of Azarias and the Song of the Three Jews in Dan ch. 3....The Greek translation made by [2nd cent. Hebrew scholar] Theodotion ... includes all the outstanding passages in the Greek Daniel as integral parts of the book ... The Old Latin, Coptic, and Arabic versions follow Theodotion…. Jerome's Latin Vulgate followed Theodotion.”

When Protestant authors claim that “we simply follow Origen and Jerome” then why don’t they accept Jerome’s larger recension of the Book of Daniel?

Jerome refutes the contrary accusation that he rejected the larger version of Daniel in his refutation against Rufinius (ca. AD 405):

"What sin have I committed if I follow the judgment of the churches? But he who brings charges against me for relating [in my preface to the book of Daniel] the objections that the Hebrews are wont to raise against the story of Susannah [Dan. 13], the Song of the Three Children [Dan. 3:29–68, RSV-CE], and the story of Bel and the Dragon [Dan. 14], which are not found in the Hebrew volume, proves that he is just a foolish sycophant. I was not relating my own personal views, but rather the remarks that they are wont to make against us. If I did not reply to their views in my preface, in the interest of brevity, lest it seem that I was composing not a preface, but a book, I believe I added promptly the remark, for I said, ‘This is not the time to discuss such matters’" (Against Rufinius 11:33 [A.D. 401]).

It is clear that Jerome, being well aware of what the ancient Christian churches of his day accepted, prudently following the judgment of the churches, accepted the larger version of the Book of Daniel. Why don’t Protestants prudently accept the judgment of the Christian churches as Jerome did?

According to Protestant author Philip Schaff’s text, Origen is quoted by Eusebius (4th century historian) as including Baruch and Maccabees as "canonical books." [cf. Philip Schaff’s NPNF2, I:272, “Origen, Canon of the Hebrews, Fragment in Eusebius’ Church History, 6:25 [AD 244]).

According to the same Protestant source, Origen likewise describes the respect that he holds for the Greek Septuagint [i.e., "the Seventy"], which according to other Protestant sources included the larger recension of Daniel:

"In all these cases consider whether it would not be well to remember the words, 'Thou shalt not remove the ancient landmarks which thy fathers have set.' Nor do I say this because I shun the labour of investigating the Jewish Scriptures, and comparing them with ours, and noticing their various readings. This, if it be not arrogant to say it, I have already to a great extent done to the best of my ability, labouring hard to get at the meaning in all the editions and various readings; while I paid particular attention to the interpretation of the Seventy , lest I might to be found to accredit any forgery to the Churches which are under heaven, and give an occasion to those who seek such a starting-point for gratifying their desire to slander the common brethren, and to bring some accusation against those who shine forth in our community." (Origen, To Africanus, 5 (ante A.D. 254), in Philip Schaff's ANF, IV:387)

Notice that Origen explicitly distinguishes between the "Jewish Scriptures" and "ours," making it clear that he believes the Jews have "variant readings" when compared to "ours." He paid particular attention to the Septuagint, as this was the version accepted by the Churches.

Origen, in defending against Africanus' charge that some portions of Origen's version of Scripture are forgeries, stated: “I used the Scripture which contains the prophecy of Daniel when yet a young man in the affair of Susanna ...” (ibid).

Note that Origen here is specifically defending the portion of Daniel he considers "Scripture” which Protestants reject. Origen goes on to defend these portions of the ancient recension of the Book of Daniel against Africanus' charge of forgery by asserting the History of Susanna as "found in every Church of Christ" (ibid). In the same work, Origen refers to those Scripture versions having the History of Susanna (Dan ch 13), Bel and the Dragon (Dan ch. 14), and the Song of the Three Children (Dan 3), as "our version" (ibid.) of Scripture.Why aren't they part of the Protestant version of Scripture? They were part of Origen's version. They were part of Jerome's version. They were "found in every Church of Christ" since apostolic times according to our most ancient Christian testimony on the matter. By what authority do Protestants truncate the inspired Word of God?

After discerning the evidence of what “every Church of Christ” accepted, to include Jerome and Origen, it is difficult to take seriously the Protestant response, “we simply accept the scholarship of early Church Fathers such as Origen and Jerome,”

Why is this an important point? Well there are over 33,000+ different Christian denominations claiming to teach Christian truth according to Scripture. Yet, of those denominations, how many have erroneously truncated the Book of Daniel which they received, which were accepted by “every Church of Christ” since the advent of Christianity? If a Christian church cannot even correctly discern the contents of Scripture, then what confidence should we have that their interpretation of Scripture is trustworthy?

God bless,