Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Martin Luther, the Deuterocanonical Books and Jews in the East

Many are surprised why there are more books inside the Bible used by Catholics than the bible used by Protestants. Many know the Bible of Catholics have 73, while that of Protestants have 66 books. These seven books are called by Catholics “Deuterocanonicals” and for Protestants, these are “Apocryphal Books.”


The Catholic church based the bible on Septuagint which differs significantly from the Masoretic text.

According to a Protestant scholar, Lee Martin McDonald in his book The Origin of the Bible: A Guide for the Perplexed (page 88):

“Indeed, the scriptures of the diaspora Jews included the books circulating in the LXX, which included the apocryphal and pseudepigraphal books in it.” (The Origin of the Bible: A Guide For the Perplexed, Lee Martin McDonald, T&T Clark; 1 edition (2011), p.88)

According to the Bible scholar, R. Timothy McLay:

“The Early Church’s use of the Greek texts as Scripture mirrors the same authority that the Greek Scriptures received from the Hellenistic Jewish community. The Letter of Aristeas, which was written to defend the authority of the LXX translation for the Alexandrian Jewish community, clearly establishes that the Greek translation of the Pentateuch was Scripture for the Greek-speaking Jews.’* The external evidence of our Greek codices, which contain the apocryphal/deutero-canonical writings, is a simple testimony to the authority that the Greek Scriptures exercised in the life of the Early Church. (The Use of the Septuagint in New Testament Research, R. Timothy McLay, Eerdmans (2003), p. 144)

The Books of Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) and 1 and 4 Maccabees are in the Old Testament found in the Codex Sinaiticus.

According to Dr. Peter Flint, Protestant scholar in his book, The Bible and Qumran: Text, Shape, and Interpretation on page 85:

Some of the apocrypha are accepted by all Christian groups, excluding Protestants, as Scripture. Seven of these are entire books (Tobit, Judith, the Wisdom of Solomon, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Ecclesiasticus, and Baruch [with the Letter of Jeremiah = Baruch 6 ]).” (The Bible at Qumran: Text, Shape, and Interpretation, Peter W. Flint, Eerdmans (2001), p. 85)


According to the Protestant scholar, Lee Martin McDonald in his book, The Canon Debate on page 205:
“With regard to the apocrypha, Luther’s judgment was shaped to some extent by the theological controversy about the doctrines of purgatory and praying for the dead, which were traditionally based on 2 Mace 12:45-46. He appealed to Jerome’s distinction between the (Hebrew) canonical books and the apocrypha, and to his principle that these books should not be used for establishing ecclesiastical doctrines.” (The Canon Debate, Lee Martin McDonald, Hendrickson Publisher (2002), p.205)

Martin Luther also had the Deuterocanonical Books removed in Septuagint. One Rabbi, Professor Shaye J. D. Cohen confirmed this in his book, From the Maccabees to the Mishnah on page 175:

“In modern parlance the phrase “the Apocrypha” (or “the Apocrypha of the Old Testament”) is often used to designate those Jewish books (Ben Sira, Wisdom of Solomon, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, Judith, Tobit, etc.) which are included in the Greek or Latin Old Testament of the church but are absent from the Hebrew Tanak of the Jews. This usage gained currency only when Martin Luther removed these books from the Old Testament and edited them as a separate collection under the title “The Apocrypha.” (Catholics call these books, or at least the majority of these books, “deuterocanonical,” and use the term “apocryphal” to designate those books which the church rejected from the canon altogether.)” (From the Maccabees to the Mishnah, Shaye Cohen, Westminster John Knox Press, Third Edition, p. 174)

Even the Protestant scholar, Lee Martin McDonald admitted that some books in the New Testament cannot be accepted by Luther.

Martin Luther rejected several New Testament books, namely Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation, though he included them at the end of his New Testament. For him they added nothing to Christian doctrine and were even contrary to essential Christian teaching. His rejection of the importance and significance of these books and the Deuterocanonical books reflects the freedom in his generation to question books in the biblical canon.” (The Origin of the Bible: A Guide For the Perplexed, Lee Martin McDonald, T&T Clark, 1 edition (2011), p. 40)


In our analysis, we learned that not all Jews rejected the Deuterocanonical books. Those who did were Jews from the east. Jews in the east are those in Palestine and Babylonia. They are the Aramaic-speaking Jews. The Jews who rejected the Lord Jesus are the leaders of the Jews in Jerusalem and other places in their Ministry in Palestine. Jews in the West (Western Diaspora) are in Asia Minor, Egypt, and Europe and called Greek-speaking Jews. They did not reject the books rebuffed by Jews in the East. 

In the book of Lee Martin McDonald, he mentioned two groups of Jews (Jews in the western diaspora and the rabbinic Jews in the east). 

In this regard, the Jews in the western diaspora were much like the early Christians who initially regarded not only the books of the Hebrew Bible as scripture, but also many apocryphal and pseudepigraphal books. This may have contributed to many of the successes of the Christians in gaining a number of early converts from the diaspora Jews. As noted earlier, a factor that reflects the differences in the scriptures of Jews in the east and those in the west is the discovery of several copies of the books of Tobit and Sirach in both the Hebrew and Aramaic languages in the ninth to the tenth century Cairo Geniza (a storage room in Jewish places of worship for sacred texts that were no longer usable). There were few binding connections between the Jews in the east and those in the western part of the Roman Empire especially after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. The Temple in Jerusalem had been the center of connectedness for the Jews of the diaspora in the east and west with Jews in the Land of Israel. After its destruction, the central feature of that connectedness was missing. After the destruction of the Temple, the rabbinic Jews in the east focused especially on the oral Torah traditions that were codified in the Mishnah and those in the west focused more on the scriptures that the Jews in the east had earlier (by or before 150 CE) given to them.” (The Origin of the Bible: A Guide For the Perplexed, Lee Martin McDonald, T&T Clark, 1 edition (2011), pp. 89-90)

It is not true only the Deuterocanonical books were disregarded by Jews in the east but also the Greek translation of the Pentateuch. This was proven by Lee Martin McDonald on page 89 of his book, The Origin of the Bible: A Guide for the Perplexed.

"Those in the West continued for centuries to affirm the scriptures of the Septuagint that contained books from the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, but those books and even the Greek translation of the Pentateuch were rejected by many Jews in the east."

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