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Apocrypha and the Old Testament Canon

Early Church Fathers Quotes on the Apocrypha and Old Testament Canon

Tertulllian:

But since Enoch in the same Scripture has preached likewise concerning the Lord, nothing at all must be rejected by us which pertains to us; and we read that “every Scripture suitable for edification is divinely inspired. By the yews it may now seem to have been rejected for that (very) reason, just like all the other (portions) nearly which tell of Christ. Nor, of course, is this fact wonderful, that they did not receive some Scriptures which spake of Him whom even in person, speaking in their presence, they were not to receive. To these considerations is added the fact that Enoch possesses a testimony in the Apostle Jude. – On the Apparel of Women

Origen:

Moreover, I remember hearing from a learned Hebrew, said among themselves to be the son of a wise man, and to have been specially trained to succeed his father, with whom I had intercourse on many subjects, the names of these elders, just as if he did not reject the History of Susanna, as they occur in Jeremias as follows: “The LORD make thee like Zedekias and Achiab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire, for the iniquity they did in Israel.” How, then, could the one be sawn asunder by an angel, and the other rent in pieces? The answer is, that these things were prophesied not of this world, but of the judgment of God, after the departure from this world. For as the lord of that wicked servant who says, “My lord delayeth his coming,” and so gives himself up to drunkenness, eating and drinking with drunkards, and smiting his fellow-servants, shall at his coming “cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers,” even so the angels appointed to punish will accomplish these things (just as they will cut asunder the wicked steward of that passage) on these men, who were called indeed elders, but who administered their stewardship wickedly. One will saw asunder him who was waxen old in wicked days, who had pronounced false judgment, condemning the innocent, and letting the guilty go free; and another will rend in pieces him of the seed of Chanaan, and not of Judah, whom beauty had deceived, and whose heart lust had perverted………..And I knew another Hebrew, who told about these elders such traditions as the following: that they pretended to the Jews in captivity, who were hoping by the coming of Christ to be freed from the yoke of their enemies, that they could explain clearly the things concerning Christ, . . . and that they so deceived the wives of their countrymen. Wherefore it is that the prophet Daniel calls the one “waxen old in wicked days,” and says to the other, “Thus have ye dealt with the children of Israel; but the daughters of Juda would not abide your wickedness.”…….But probably to this you will say, Why then is the “History” not in their Daniel, if, as you say, their wise men hand down by tradition such stories? The answer is, that they hid from the knowledge of the people as many of the passages which contained any scandal against the elders, rulers, and judges, as they could, some of which have been preserved in uncanonical writings (Apocrypha). As an example, take the story told about Esaias; and guaranteed by the Epistle to the Hebrews, which is found in none of their public books. For the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, in speaking of the prophets, and what they suffered, says, “They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, they were slain with the sword” To whom, I ask, does the “sawn asunder” refer (for by an old idiom, not peculiar to Hebrew, but found also in Greek, this is said in the plural, although it refers to but one person)? Now we know very well that tradition says that Esaias the prophet was sawn asunder; and this is found in some apocryphal work, which probably the Jews have purposely tampered with. introducing some phrases manifestly incorrect, that discredit might be thrown on the whole. – Letter from Origen to Africanus

In answer to this, I have to tell you what it behoves us to do in the cases not only of the History of Susanna, which is found in every Church of Christ in that Greek copy which the Greeks use, but is not in the Hebrew, or of the two other passages you mention at the end of the book containing the history of Bel and the Dragon, which likewise are not in the Hebrew copy of Daniel; but of thousands of other passages also which I found in many places when with my little strength I was collating the Hebrew copies with ours. For in Daniel itself I found the word “bound” followed in our versions by very many verses which are not in the Hebrew at all, beginning (according to one of the copies which circulate in the Churches) thus: “Ananias, and Azarias, and Misael prayed and sang unto God,” down to “O, all ye that worship the Lord, bless ye the God of gods. Praise Him, and say that His mercy endureth for ever and ever. And it came to pass, when the king heard them singing, and saw them that they were alive.” Or, as in another copy, from “And they walked in the midst of the fire, praising God and blessing the Lord,” down to “O, all ye that worship the Lord, bless ye the God of gods. Praise Him, and say that His mercy endureth to all generations.” But in the Hebrew copies the words, “And these three men, Sedrach, Misach, and Abednego fell down bound into the midst of the fire,” are immediately followed by the verse, “Nabouchodonosor the king was astonished, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors.” For so Aquila, following the Hebrew reading, gives it, who has obtained the credit among the Jews of having interpreted the Scriptures with no ordinary care, and whose version is most commonly used by those who do not know Hebrew, as the one which has been most successful. Of the copies in my possession whose readings I gave, one follows the Seventy, and the other Theodotion; and just as the History of Susanna which you call a forgery is found in both, together with the passages at the end of Daniel, so they give also these passages, amounting, to make a rough guess, to more than two hundred verses – Letter from Origen to Africanus

Tobias (as also Judith), we ought to notice, the Jews do not use. They are not even found in the Hebrew Apocrypha, as I learned from the Jews themselves. However, since the Churches use To – Letter from Origen to Africanus

Let us see now if in these cases we are not forced to the conclusion, that while the Savior gives a true account of them, none of the Scriptures which could prove what He tells are to be found…”If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.” In the blood of what prophets, can any one tell me? For where do we find anything like this written of Isaiah, or Jeremiah, or any of the twelve, or Daniel? Then about Zacharias the son of Barachias, who was slain between the temple and the altar, we learn from Jesus only, not knowing it otherwise from any Scripture. Wherefore I think no other supposition is possible, than that they who had the reputation of wisdom, and the rulers and elders, took away from the people every passage which might bring them into discredit among the people. We need not wonder, then, if this history of the evil device of the licentious elders against Susanna is true, but was concealed and removed from the Scriptures by men themselves not very far removed from the counsel of these elders…In the Acts of the Apostles also, Stephen, in his other testimony, says, “Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? And they have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom you have been now the betrayers and murderers.” That Stephen speaks the truth, every one will admit who receives the Acts of the Apostles; but it is impossible to show from the extant books of the Old Testament how with any justice he throws the blame of having persecuted and slain the prophets on the fathers of those who believed not in Christ. And Paul, in the first Epistle to the Thessalonians, testifies this concerning the Jews: “For you, brethren, became followers of the Churches of God which in Judea are in Christ Jesus: for you also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews; who both killed the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men.” What I have said is, I think, sufficient to prove that it would be nothing wonderful if this history were true, and the licentious and cruel attack was actually made on Susanna by those who were at that time elders, and written down by the wisdom of the Spirit, but removed by these (Jewish) rulers of Sodom, as the Spirit would call them. — Letter from Origen to Africanus

Clement of Rome:

The blessed Judith, when the city was beleaguered, asked of the elders that she might be suffered to go forth into the camp of the aliens. So she exposed herself to peril and went forth for love of her country and of her people which were beleaguered; and the Lord delivered Holophernes into the hand of a woman.

Melito of Sardis:

The five books of Moses – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; Joshua, Judges, Ruth, the four books of Kings, the two of Chronicles, the book of the Psalms of David, the Proverbs of Solomon, also called the Book of Wisdom, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, Job, the books of the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, of the twelve contained in a single book, Daniel, Ezekiel, Esdras. From these I have made my extracts, dividing them into six books. – Fragments of Melito of Sardis

Clement of Alexandria:

But Judith too, who became perfect among women, in the siege of the city, at the entreaty of the elders went forth into the strangers’ camp, despising all danger for her country’s sake, giving herself into the enemy’s hand in faith in God; and straightway she obtained the reward of her faith, though a woman, prevailing over the enemy of her faith, and gaining possession of the head of Holofernes. – The Stromata

Hippolutus:

“For even now the angel of God.” He shows also, that when Susannah prayed to God, and was heard, the angel was sent then to help her, just as was the case in the instance of Tobias and Sara. For when they prayed, the supplication of both of them was heard in the same day and the same hour, and the angel Raphael was sent to heal them both. – The Extant Works and Fragments of Hippolytus: Exegetical

I produce now the prophecy of Solomon, which speaketh of Christ, and announces clearly and perspicuously things concerning the Jews; and those which not only are befalling them at the present time, but those, too, which shall befall them in the future age, on account of the contumacy and audacity which they exhibited toward the Prince of Life; for the prophet says, “The ungodly said, reasoning with themselves, but not aright,” that is, about Christ, “Let us lie in wait for the righteous, because he is not for our turn, and he is clean contrary to our doings and words, and upbraideth us with our offending the law, and professeth to have knowledge of God; and he calleth himself the Child of God.” And then he says, “He is grievous to us even to behold; for his life is not like other men’s, and his ways are of another fashion. We are esteemed of him as counterfeits, and he abstaineth from our ways as from filthiness, and pronounceth the end of the just to be blessed.” And again, listen to this, O Jew! None of the righteous or prophets called himself the Son of God. And therefore, as in the person of the Jews, solomon speaks again of this righteous one, who is Christ, thus: “He was made to reprove our thoughts, and he maketh his boast that God is his Father. Let us see, then, if his words be true, and let us prove what shall happen in the end of him; for if the just man be the Son of God, He will help him, and deliver him from the hand of his enemies. Let us condemn him with a shameful death, for by his own saying he shall be respected.” – Expository Treatise Against the Jews

And again David, in the Psalms, says with respect to the future age, “Then shall He” (namely Christ) “speak unto them in His wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure.” And again Solomon says concerning Christ and the Jews, that “when the righteous shall stand in great boldness before the face of such as have afflicted Him, and made no account of His words, when they see it they shall be troubled with terrible fear, and shall be amazed at the strangeness of His salvation; and they, repenting and groaning for anguish of spirit, shall say within themselves, This is He whom we had sometimes in derision and a proverb of reproach; we fools accounted His life madness, and His end to he without honor. How is He numbered among the children of God, and His lot is among the saints? Therefore have we erred from the way of truth, and the light of righteousness bath not shined unto us, and the sun of righteousness rose not on us. We wearied ourselves in the way of wickedness and destruction; we have gone through deserts where there lay no way: but as for the way of the Lord, we have not known it. What has our pride profited us? all those things are passed away like a shadow.” (Wisdom 5:1-9) – Expository Treatise Against the Jews

Cyprian:

On which account, let us forsake the error and follow the truth, knowing that in Esdras also the truth conquers, as it is written: “Truth endures and grows strong to eternity, and lives and prevails for ever and ever. With her there is no accepting of persons or distinctions; but what is just she does: nor in her judgments is there unrighteousness, but the strength, and the kingdom, and the majesty, and the power of all ages. Blessed be the Lord God of truth!” (Esdras 4:38-40) This truth Christ showed to us in His Gospel, and said, “I am the truth.” Wherefore, if we are in Christ, and have Christ in us, if we abide in the truth, and the truth abides in us, let us keep fast those things which are true.

And thus Holy Scripture instructs us, saying, Prayer is good with fasting and almsgiving. Tobit 12:8 For He who will give us in the day of judgment a reward for our labours and alms, is even in this life a merciful hearer of one who comes to Him in prayer associated with good works. Thus, for instance, Cornelius the centurion, when he prayed, had a claim to be heard. For he was in the habit of doing many almsdeeds towards the people, and of ever praying to God. To this man, when he prayed about the ninth hour, appeared an angel bearing testimony to his labours, and saying, Cornelius, your prayers and your alms are gone up in remembrance before God. – Treatises of Cyprian – Treatise IV

Those prayers quickly ascend to God which the merits of our labours urge upon God. Thus also Raphael the angel was a witness to the constant prayer and the constant good works of Tobias, saying, It is honourable to reveal and confess the works of God. For when you prayed, and Sarah, I did bring the remembrance of your prayers before the holiness of God. And when you buried the dead in simplicity, and because you did not delay to rise up and to leave your dinner, but went out and covered the dead, I was sent to prove you; and again God has sent me to heal you, and Sarah your daughter-in-law. For I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels which stand and go in and out before the glory of God. Tobit 12:12-15 – Treatises of Cyprian – Treatise IV

Caius:

The Epistle of Jude, indeed, and two belonging to the above-named John–or bearing the name of John–are reckoned among the Catholic epistles. And the book of Wisdom, written by the friends of Solomon in his honour. We receive also the Apocalypse of John and that of Peter, though some amongst us will not have this latter read in the Church. The Pastor, moreover, did Hermas write very recently in our times in the city of Rome, while his brother bishop Plus sat in the chair of the Church of Rome. And therefore it also ought to be read; but it cannot be made public in the Church to the people, nor placed among the prophets, as their number is complete, nor among the apostles to the end of time. Of the writings of Arsinous, called also Valentinus, or of Miltiades, we receive nothing at all. Those are rejected too who wrote the new Book of Psalms for Marcion, together with Basilides and the founder of the Asian Cataphrygians. – Fragments of Caius

 

 

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