The Canon of the Bible:
Its Formation, History, And Fluctuations
Samuel Davidson, D.D.
Of Halle, And LL.D.
From the Third Revised and Enlarged Edition.
Peter Eckler Publishing Co.
Preface. Chapter I. Introductory. Chapter II. The Old Testament Canon From Its Beginning To Its Close. Chapter III. The Samaritan And Alexandrian Canons. Chapter IV. Number And Order Of The Separate Books. Chapter V. Use Of The Old Testament By The First Christian Writers, And By The Fathers Till The Time Of Origen. Chapter VI. The New Testament Canon In The First Three Centuries. Chapter VII. The Bible Canon From The Fourth Century To The Reformation. Chapter VIII. Order Of The New Testament Books. Chapter IX. Summary Of The Subject. Chapter X. The Canon In The Confession Of Different Churches. Chapter XI. The Canon From Semler To The Present Time, With Reflections On Its Readjustment. Footnotes
The substance of the present work was written toward the close of the year 1875 for the new edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Having been abridged and mutilated, contrary to the author's wishes, before its publication there, he resolved to print it entire. With that view it has undergone repeated revision with enlargement in different parts, and been made as complete as the limits of an essay appeared to allow. As nothing of importance has been knowingly omitted, the writer hopes it will be found a comprehensive summary of all that concerns the formation and history of the Bible canon. The place occupied by it was vacant. No English book reflecting the processes of results of recent criticism, gives an account of the canon in both Testaments. Articles and essays upon the subject there are; but their standpoint is usually apologetic not scientific, traditional rather than impartial, unreasonably conservative without being critical. The topic is weighty, involving the consideration of great questions, such as the inspiration, authenticity, authority, and age of the Scriptures. The author has tried to handle it fairly, founding his statements on such evidence as seemed convincing, and condensing them into a moderate compass. If the reader wishes to know the evidence, he may find it in the writer's Introductions to the Old and New Testaments, where the separate books of Scripture are discussed; and in the late treatises of other critics. While his expositions are capable of expansion, it is believed that they will not be easily shaken. He commends the work to the attention of all who have an interest in the progress of theology, and are seeking a foundation for their faith less precarious than books however venerable.
It has not been the writer's purpose to chronicle phases of opinion, or to refute what he believes to be error in the newest hypotheses about the age, authority, and composition of the books. His aim has been rather to set forth the most correct view of the questions involved in a history of the canon, whether it be more or less recent. Some may think that the latest or most current account of such questions is the best; but that is not his opinion. Hence, the fashionable belief that much of the Pentateuch, the Book of Leviticus wholly, with large parts of Exodus and Numbers, in a word, that all the laws relating to divine worship, with most of the chronological tables or statistics, belong to Ezra, who is metamorphosed in fact into the first Elohist, is unnoticed. Hence, also, the earliest gospel is not declared to be Mark's. Neither has the author ventured to place the fourth gospel at the end of the first century, as Ewald and Weitzsaecker do, after the manner of the old critics; or with Keim so early as 110-115 A.D.
Many evince a restless anxiety to find something novel; and to depart from well-established conclusions for the sake of originality. This shows a morbid state of mind. Amid the feverish outlook for discoveries and the slight regard for what is safe, conservatism is a commendable thing. Some again desire to return, as far as they can, to orthodoxy, finding between that extreme and rationalism a middle way which offers a resting-place to faith. The numerous changes which criticism presents are not a symptom of soundness. The writer is far indeed from thinking that every question connected with the books of Scripture is finally settled; but the majority undoubtedly are, though several already fixed by great scholars continue to be opened up afresh. He does not profess to adopt the phase of criticism which is fashionable at the moment; it is enough to state what approves itself to his judgment, and to hold it fast amid the contrarieties of conjecture or the cravings of curiosity. Present excrescences or aberrations of belief will have their day and disappear. Large portions of the Pentateuch will cease to be consigned to a post-exile time, and the gospels of Matthew and Luke will again be counted the chief sources of Mark's. It will also be acknowledged that the first as it now exists, is of much later origin than the fall of Jerusalem. Nor will there be so great anxiety to show that Justin Martyr was acquainted with the fourth gospel, and owed his Logos-doctrine chiefly to it. The difference of ten or twenty years in the date of a gospel will not be considered of essential importance in estimating its character.
The present edition has been revised throughout and several parts re-written. The author hopes that it will be found still more worthy of the favor with which the first was received.
CHAPTER I. INTRODUCTORY.
As introductory to the following dissertation, I shall explain and define certain terms that frequently occur in it, especially canon, apocryphal, ecclesiastical, and the like. A right apprehension of these will make the observations advanced respecting the canon and its formation plainer. The words have not been taken in the same sense by all, a fact that obscures their sense. They have been employed more or less vaguely by different writers. Varying ideas have been attached to them.
The Greek original of canon(1) means primarily a straight rod or pole; and metaphorically, what serves to keep a thing upright or straight, a rule. In the New Testament it occurs in Gal. vi. 16 and 2 Cor. x. 13, 15, 16, signifying in the former, a measure; in the latter, what is measured, a district. But we have now to do with its ecclesiastical use. There are three opinions as to the origin of its application to the writings used by the church. According to Toland, Whiston, Semler, Baur, and others, the word had originally the sense of list or catalogue of books publicly read in Christian assemblies. Others, as Steiner, suppose that since the Alexandrian grammarians applied it to collections of Old Greek authors as models of excellence or classics, it meant classical (canonical) writings. According to a third opinion, the term included from the first the idea of a regulating principle. This is the more probable, because the same idea lies in the New Testament use of the noun, and pervades its applications in the language of the early Fathers down to the time of Constantine, as Credner has shown.(2) The "canon of the church" in the Clementine homilies;(3) the "ecclesiastical canon,"(4) and "the canon of the truth," in Clement and Irenaeus;(5) the "canon" of the faith in Polycrates,(6) the regula fidei of Tertullian,(7) and the libri regulares of Origen,(8) imply a normative principle. But we cannot assent to Credner's view of the Greek word for canon being an abbreviation of "Scriptures of canon,"(9) equivalent to Scripturae legis in Diocletian's Act(10)—a view too artificial, and unsanctioned by usage.
It is true that the word canon was employed by Greek writers in the sense of a mere list; but when it was transferred to the Scripture books, it included the idea of a regulative and normal power—a list of books forming a rule or law, because the newly-formed Catholic Church required a standard of appeal in opposition to the Gnostics with their arbitrary use of sacred writings. There is a lack of evidence on behalf of its use before the books of the New Testament had been paralleled with those of the Old in authority and inspiration.
The earliest example of its application to a catalogue of the Old or New Testament books occurs in the Latin translation of Origen's homily on Joshua, where the original seems to have been "canon."(11) The word itself is certainly in Amphilochius,(12) as well as in Jerome,(13) and Rufinus.(14) As the Latin translation of Origen has canonicus and canonizatus, we infer that he used "canonical,"(15) opposed as it is to apocryphus or secretus. The first occurrence of "canonical" is in the fifty-ninth canon of the Council of Laodicea, where it is contrasted with two other Greek words.(16) "Canonized books,"(17) is first used in Athanasius's 39th festal epistle. The kind of rule which the earliest fathers attributed to the Scriptures can only be conjectured; it is certain that they believed the Old Testament books to be a divine and infallible guide. But the New Testament was not so considered till towards the close of the second century when the conception of a Catholic Church was realized. The latter collection was not called Scripture, or put on a par with the Old Testament as sacred and inspired, till the time of Theophilus of Antioch (about 180 A.D.) Hence, Irenaeus applies the epithets divine and perfect to the Scriptures; and Clement of Alexandria calls them inspired.
When distinctions were made among the Biblical writings other words(18) were employed, synonymous with "canonized."(19) The canon was thus a catalogue of writings forming a rule of truth, sacred, divine, revealed by God for the instruction of men. The rule was perfect for its purpose.
The word apocryphal(20) is used in various senses, which it is difficult to trace chronologically. Apocryphal books are,—
1st, Such as contain secret or mysterious things, books of the higher wisdom. It is thus applied to the Apocalypse by Gregory of Nyssa.(21) Akin to this is the second meaning.
2nd, Such as were kept secret or withdrawn from public use. In this sense the word corresponds to the Hebrew ganuz.(22) So Origen speaking of the story of Susanna. The opposite of this is read in public,(23) a word employed by Eusebius.(24)
3rd, It was used of the secret books of the heretics by Clement(25) and Origen,(26) with the accessory idea of spurious, pseudepigraphical,(27) in opposition to the canonical writings of the Catholic Church. The book of Enoch and similar productions were so characterized.(28)
4th, Jerome applied it to the books in the Septuagint which are absent from the Hebrew canon, i.e., to the books which were read in the church, the ecclesiastical ones(29) occupying a rank next to the canonical. In doing so he had respect to the corresponding Hebrew epithet. This was a misuse of the word apocryphal, which had a prejudicial effect on the character of the books in after-times.(30) The word, which he did not employ in an injurious sense, was adopted from him by Protestants after the Reformation, who gave it perhaps a sharper distinction than he intended, so as to imply a contrast somewhat disparaging to writings which were publicly read in many churches and put beside the canonical ones by distinguished fathers. The Lutherans have adhered to Jerome's meaning longer than the Reformed; but the decree of the Council of Trent had some effect on both. The contrast between the canonical and apocryphal writings was carried to its utmost length by the Westminster divines, who asserted that the former are inspired, the latter not.
CHAPTER II. THE OLD TESTAMENT CANON FROM ITS BEGINNING TO ITS CLOSE.
The first important part of the Old Testament put together as a whole was the Pentateuch, or rather, the five books of Moses and Joshua. This was preceded by smaller documents, which one or more redactors embodied in it. The earliest things committed to writing were probably the ten words proceeding from Moses himself, afterwards enlarged into the ten commandments which exist at present in two recensions (Exod. xx., Deut. v.) It is true that we have the oldest form of the decalogue from the Jehovist not the Elohist; but that is no valid objection against the antiquity of the nucleus, out of which it arose. It is also probable that several legal and ceremonial enactments belong, if not to Moses himself, at least to his time; as also the Elohistic list of stations in Numbers xxxiii. To the same time belongs the song of Miriam in Exodus xv., probably consisting of a few lines at first, and subsequently enlarged; with a triumphal ode over the fall of Heshbon (Numbers xxi. 27-30). The little poetical piece in Numbers xxi. 17, 18, afterwards misunderstood and so taken literally, is post-Mosaic.
During the unsettled times of Joshua and the Judges there could have been comparatively little writing. The song of Deborah appeared, full of poetic force and fire. The period of the early kings was characterized not only by a remarkable development of the Hebrew people and their consolidation into a national state, but by fresh literary activity. Laws were written out for the guidance of priests and people; and the political organization of the rapidly growing nation was promoted by poetical productions in which spiritual life expressed its aspirations. Schools of prophets were instituted by Samuel, whose literary efforts tended to purify the worship. David was an accomplished poet, whose psalms are composed in lofty strains; and Solomon may have written a few odes. The building of the temple, and the arrangements connected with its worship, contributed materially to a written legislation.
During this early and flourishing period appeared the book of the Wars of Jehovah,(31) a heroic anthology, celebrating warlike deeds; and the book of Jashar,(32) also poetical. Jehoshaphat is mentioned as court-annalist to David and Solomon.(33) Above all, the Elohists now appeared, the first of whom, in the reign of Saul, was author of annals, beginning at the earliest time which were distinguished by genealogical and chronological details as well as systematic minuteness, by archaic simplicity, and by legal prescriptions more theoretical than practical. The long genealogical registers with an artificial chronology and a statement of the years of men's lives, the dry narratives, the precise accounts of the gradual enlargement of divine laws, the copious description of the tabernacle and the institution of divine worship, are wearisome, though pervaded by a theoretic interest which looks at everything from a legal point of view. A second or junior Elohist was less methodical and more fragmentary, supplying additional information, furnishing new theocratic details, and setting forth the relation of Israel to heathen nations and to God. In contrast with his predecessor, he has great beauty of description, which is exemplified in the account of Isaac's sacrifice and the history of Joseph; in picturesque and graphic narratives interspersed with few reflections. His parallels to the later writer commonly called the Jehovist, are numerous. The third author, who lived in the time of Uzziah, though more mythological than the Elohists, was less formal. His stand-point is prophetic. The third document incorporated with the Elohistic ones formed an important part of the whole, exhibiting a vividness which the first lacked; with descriptions of persons and things from another stand-point. The Jehovist belonged to the northern kingdom; the Elohists were of Judah.
The state of the nation after Rehoboam was unfavorable to literature. When the people were threatened and attacked by other nations, divided among themselves in worship and all higher interests, rent by conflicting parties, the theocratic principle which was the true bond of union could not assert itself with effect. The people were corrupt; their religious life debased. The example of the kings was usually prejudicial to political healthiness. Contact with foreigners as well as with the older inhabitants of the land, hindered progress. In these circumstances the prophets were the true reformers, the advocates of political liberty, expositors of the principles that give life and stability to a nation. In Judah, Joel wrote prophetic discourses; in Israel, Amos and Hosea. Now, too, a redactor put together the Elohistic and Jehovistic documents, making various changes in them, adding throughout sentences or words that seemed desirable, and suppressing what was unsuited to his taste. Several psalm-writers enriched the national literature after David. Learned men at the court of Hezekiah recast and enlarged (Proverbs xxv.-xxix.) the national proverbs, which bore Solomon's name because the nucleus of an older collection belonged to that monarch. These literary courtiers were not prophets, but rather scribes. The book of Job was written, with the exception of Elihu's later discourses, which were not inserted in it till after the return from Babylon; and Deuteronomy, with Joshua, was added to the preceding collection in the reign of Manasseh. The gifted author of Deuteronomy, who was evidently imbued with the prophetic spirit, completed the Pentateuch, i.e., the five books of Moses and Joshua, revising the Elohist-Jehovistic work, and making various additions and alterations. He did the same thing to the historical books of Judges, Samuel, and Kings; which received from him their present form. Immediately before and during the exile there were numerous authors and compilers. New psalms appeared, more or less national in spirit. Ezekiel, Jeremiah and others prophesied; especially an unknown seer who described the present condition of the people, predicting their coming glories and renovated worship in strains of far-reaching import.(34) This great prophet expected the regeneration of the nation from the pious portion of it, the prophets in particular, not from a kingly Messiah as Isaiah did; for the hopes resting on rulers out of David's house had been disappointed. His aspirations turned to spiritual means. He was not merely an enthusiastic seer with comprehensive glance, but also a practical philosopher who set forth the doctrine of the innocent suffering for the guilty; differing therein from Ezekiel's theory of individual reward and punishment in the present world—a theory out of harmony with the circumstances of actual life. The very misfortunes of the nation, and the signs of their return, excited within the nobler spirits hopes of a brighter future, in which the flourishing reign of David should be surpassed by the universal worship of Jehovah. In consequence of their outward condition, the prophets of the exile were usually writers, like Ezekiel, not public speakers; and their announcement of glad tidings could only be transmitted privately from person to person. This explains in part the oblivion into which their names fell; so that the author or redactor of Jeremiah l., li.; the author of chapters xiii.-xiv. 23, xxi. 1-10, xxiv.-xxvii., xxxiv., xxxv., inserted in Isaiah; and, above all, the Babylonian Isaiah, whom Hitzig improbably identifies with the high-priest Joshua, are unknown. After the return from Babylon the literary spirit manifested itself in the prophets of the restoration—Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi—who wrote to recall their countrymen to a sense of religious duties; though their ideas were borrowed in part from older prophets of more original genius. The book of Esther appeared, to make the observance of the purim feast, which was of Persian origin, more general in Palestine. The large historical work comprising the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles, was compiled partly out of materials written by Ezra and Nehemiah, partly out of older historical records which formed a portion of the national literature. Several temple-psalms were also composed; a part of the present book of Proverbs; Ecclesiastes, whose tone and language betray its late origin; and Jonah, whose diction puts its date after the Babylonian captivity. The Maccabean age called forth the book of Daniel and various psalms. In addition to new productions there was an inclination to collect former documents. To Zechariah's authentic prophecies were added the earlier ones contained in chapters ix.-xiv.; and the Psalms were gradually brought together, being made up into divisions at different times; the first and second divisions proceeding from one redactor, the third from another, the fourth and fifth from a still later. Various writings besides their own were grouped around the names of earlier prophets, as was the case with Isaiah and Jeremiah.
The literature is more indebted for its best constituents to the prophetic than to the priestly order, because the prophets were preachers of repentance and righteousness whose great aim was to make Israel a Jehovah-worshipping nation to the exclusion of other gods. Their utterances were essentially ethical and religious; their pictures of the future subjective and ideal. There was silently elaborated in their schools a spiritual monotheism, over against the crude polytheism of the people generally—a theocratic ideal inadequately apprehended by gross and sensuous Israel—Jehovism simple and sublime amid a sacerdotal worship which left the heart impure while cleansing the hands. Instead of taking their stand upon the law, with its rules of worship, its ceremonial precepts and penalties against transgressors, the prophets set themselves above it, speaking slightingly of the forms and customs which the people took for the whole of religion. To the view of such as were prepared to receive a faith that looked for its realization to the future, they helped to create a millennium, in which the worship of Jehovah alone should become the basis of a universal religion for humanity. In addition to the prophetic literature proper, they wrote historical works also. How superior this literature is to the priestly, appears from a comparison of the Kings and Chronicles. The subjective underlies the one; the objective distinguishes the other. Faith in Jehovah, clothed, it may be in sensible or historical forms, characterizes the one; reference of an outward order to a divine source, the other. The sanctity of a people under the government of a righteous God, is the object of the one; the sanctity of institutions, that of the other. Even when the prophets wrote history, the facts are subordinate to the belief. Subjective purposes colored their representation of real events.
To them we are indebted for the Messianic idea, the hope of a better time in which their high ideal of the theocracy should be realized. With such belief in the future, with pious aspirations enlivening their patriotism, did they comfort and encourage their countrymen. The hope, general or indefinite at first, was afterwards attached to the house of David, out of which a restorer of the theocracy was expected, a king pre-eminent in righteousness, and marvelously gifted. It was not merely a political but a religious hope, implying the thorough purification of the nation, the extinction of idolatry, the general spread and triumph of true religion. The pious wishes of the prophets, often repeated, became a sort of doctrine, and contributed to sustain the failing spirit of the people. The indefinite idea of a golden age was commoner than that of a personal prince who should reign in equity and peace. Neither was part of the national faith, like the law, or the doctrine of sacrifice; and but a few of the prophets portrayed a king, in their description of the period of ideal prosperity.
The man who first gave public sanction to a portion of the national literature was Ezra, who laid the foundation of a canon. He was the leader in restoring the theocracy after the exile, "a ready scribe in the law of Moses, who had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments." As we are told that he brought the book of the law of Moses before the congregation and read it publicly, the idea naturally arises that he was the final redactor of the Pentateuch, separating it from the historical work consisting of Joshua and the subsequent writings, of which it formed the commencement. Such was the first canon given to the Jewish Church after its reconstruction—ready for temple service as well as synagogue use. Henceforward the Mosaic book became an authoritative guide in spiritual, ecclesiastical, and civil matters, as we infer from various passages in Ezra and Nehemiah and from the chronicler's own statements in the book bearing his name. The doings of Ezra with regard to the Scriptures are deduced not only from what we read of him in the Biblical book that bears his name, but also from the legend in the fourth book of Ezdras,(35) where it is related that he dictated by inspiration to five ready writers ninety-four books; the first twenty-four of which he was ordered to publish openly that the worthy and unworthy might read, but reserved the last seventy for the wise. Though the twenty-four books of the Old Testament cannot be attributed to him, the fact that he copied and wrote portions need not be questioned. He edited the law, making the first canon or collection of books, and giving it an authority which it had not before. Talmudic accounts associate with him the men of the great synagogue. It is true that they are legendary, but there is a foundation of fact beneath the fanciful superstructure. As to Ezra's treatment of the Pentateuch, or his specific mode of redaction, we are left for the most part to conjecture. Yet it is safe to affirm that he added;—making new precepts and practices either in place of or beside older ones. Some things he removed as unsuited to the altered circumstances of the people; others he modified. He threw back later enactments into earlier times. It is difficult to discover all the parts that betray his hand. Some elaborate priestly details show his authorship most clearly. If his hand be not visible in Leviticus, chap. xvii.-xxvi.; a writer not far removed from his time is observable; Ezekiel or some other. It is clear that some of the portion (xxv. 19-22; xxvi. 3-45) is much later than the Elohists, and belongs to the exile or post-exile period. But great difficulty attaches to the separation of the sources here used; even after Kayser's acute handling of them. It is also perceptible from Ezekiel xx. 25, 26, that the clause in Exodus xiii. 15, "but all the first-born of my children I redeem," was added after the exile, since the prophet shows his unacquaintance with it. The statute that all which openeth the womb should be burnt in sacrifice to Jehovah, appeared inhuman not only to Ezekiel, but to Ezra or his associates in re-editing the law; and therefore the clause about the redemption of every first-born male was subjoined. Ezra, a second Moses in the eyes of the later Jews, did not scruple to refer to Moses what was of recent origin, and to deal freely with the national literature. Such was the first canon—that of Ezra the priest and scribe.
The origin of the great synagogue is noticed in Ezra x. 16, and described more particularly in Nehemiah viii.-x., the members being apparently enumerated in x. 1-27; at least the Megila Jer. (i. 5) and Midrash Ruth ( 3) speak of an assembly of eighty-five elders, who are probably found in the last passage. One name, however, is wanting, for only eighty-four are given; and as Ezra is not mentioned among them, the conjecture of Krochmal that it has dropped out of x. 9, may be allowed. Another tradition gives the number as one hundred and twenty, which may be got by adding the "chief of the fathers" enumerated in Ezra viii. 1-14 to the hundred and two heads of families in Ezra ii. 2-58. Whether the number was the same at the commencement as afterwards is uncertain. Late Jewish writers, however, such as Abarbanel, Abraham ben David, Ben Maimun, &c., speak as if it consisted of the larger number at the beginning; and have no scruple in pronouncing Ezra president, rather than Nehemiah.(36)
The oldest extra-biblical mention of the synagogue, is in the Mishnic treatise Pirke Aboth, where it is said, "Moses received the laws from Mount Sinai, and delivered it to Joshua, Joshua to the elders, the elders to the prophets, and the prophets delivered it to the men of the great synagogue. These last spake these words: 'Be slow in judgment; appoint many disciples; make a hedge for the law.' "(37) In the Talmudic Baba Bathra, their biblical doings are described: "Moses wrote his book, the section about Balaam and job. Joshua wrote his book and eight verses of the law. Samuel wrote his book and judges and Ruth. David wrote the book of Psalms by (?)(38) ten elders, by Adam the first man, by Melchizedek, by Abraham, by Moses, by Heman, by Jeduthun, by Asaph, and the three sons of Korah. Jeremiah wrote his book, the books of Kings and Lamentations. Hezekiah and his friends wrote Isaiah, Proverbs, Canticles, and Coheleth; the men of the great synagogue, Ezekiel, the twelve prophets, Daniel and Esther. Ezra wrote his own book and the genealogies of Chronicles down to himself."(39) This passage has its obscurities. What is meant by the verb write!(40) Does it mean composition and then something else; the former in the first part of the passage, and editing in the second? Rashi explains it of composition throughout, which introduces absurdity. The most obvious interpretation is that which understands the verb of writing in one place, and editing in the second. But it is improbable that the author should have used the same word in different senses, in one and the same passage. Bloch(41) understands it of copying or writing out, a sense that suits the procedure of the men of the great synagogue in regard to Ezekiel, the twelve prophets, &c., but is inapplicable to Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Jeremiah, &c. It is probable enough that the synagogue scribes put into their present form and made the first authorized copies of the works specified. The Boraitha, however, is not clear, and may only express the opinion of a private individual in a confused way. Simon the Just is said to have belonged to the remnants of the synagogue. As Ezra is called "a ready scribe," and his labors in connection with the law were important, he may have organized a body of literary men who should work in harmony, attending, among other things, to the collection and preservation of the national literature; or they may have been an association of patriotic men who voluntarily rallied round the heads of the new state, to support them in their fundamental reforms. The company of scribes mentioned in 1 Maccabees does not probably relate to it.(42) A succession of priests and scribes, excited at first by the reforming zeal of one whom later Jews looked upon as a second Moses, labored in one department of literary work till the corporation ceased to exist soon after, if not in the time of Simon, i.e., from about 445 B.C. till about 200; for we identify the Simon celebrated in Sirach l. 1-26 with Simon II., son of the high-priest Onias II., B.C. 221-202; not with Simon I., son and successor of the high-priest Onias I., B.C. 310-291. Josephus's opinion, indeed, is contrary; but leading Jewish scholars, such as Zunz, Herzfeld, Krochmal, Derenbourg, Jost, and Bloch differ from him.
To the great synagogue must be referred the compilation of the second canon, containing Joshua, Judges with Ruth, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah with Lamentations, Ezekiel and the twelve minor prophets. It was not completed prior to 300 B.C., because the book of Jonah was not written before. This work may be called a historical parable composed for a didactic purpose, giving a milder, larger view of Jehovah's favor than the orthodox one, that excluded the Gentiles. Ruth, containing an idyllic story with an unfinished genealogy attached, meant to glorify the house of David, and presenting a kindred spirit towards a people uniformly hated, was appended to Judges; but was subsequently transferred to the third canon. It was written immediately after the return from the Babylonian captivity; for the Chaldaising language points to this date, notwithstanding the supposed archaisms discovered in it by some. In like manner, the Lamentations, originally added to Jeremiah, were afterwards put into the later or third canon. Joshua, which had been separated from the five books of Moses with which it was closely joined at first, formed, with the other historical portion (Judges, Samuel, Kings), the proper continuation of Ezra's canon. The prophets included the three greater and twelve minor. With Isaiah's authentic oracles were incorporated the last twenty-seven chapters, belonging for the most part to an anonymous prophet of the exile, besides several late pieces inserted in the first thirty-nine chapters. Men of prophetic gifts wrote in the name of distinguished prophets, and put their productions with those of the latter, or adapted and wrote them over after their own fashion. The fiftieth and fifty-first chapters of Jeremiah show such over-writing. To Zechariah's authentic oracles were attached chapters ix.-xiv., themselves made up of two parts (ix.-xi., xii.-xiv.) belonging to different times and authors prior to the destruction of the Jewish state by the Babylonians.
The character of the synagogue's proceedings in regard to the books of Scripture can only be deduced from the conduct of Ezra himself, as well as the prevailing views and wants of the times. The scribes who began with Ezra, seeing how he acted, would naturally follow his example, not hesitating to revise the text in substance as well as form.(43) They did not refrain from changing what had been written, or from inserting fresh matter. Some of their novelties can be discerned even in the Pentateuch. Their chief work, however, related to the form of the text. They put into a proper form and state the text of the writings they studied, perceiving less need for revising the matter. What they did was in good faith, with honest intention.
The prophetic canon ended with Malachi's oracles. And it was made sometime after he prophesied, because the general consciousness that the function ceased with him required a considerable period for its growth. The fact that it included Jonah and Ruth brings the completion after 300 B.C., as already stated. There are no definite allusions to it till the second century B.C. Daniel speaks of a passage in Jeremiah being in "the books" or "writings;"(44) and the prologue of Jesus Sirach presupposes its formation. Such was the second canon, which had been made up gradually (444-290 B.C.)
Another view of the collection in question has been taken by various scholars. According to a passage in the second book of Maccabees, the second canon originated with Nehemiah, who "gathered together the acts of the kings and the prophets and (psalms) of David, and the epistles of the kings concerning the holy gifts."(45) These words are obscure. They occur in a letter purporting to be sent by the Sanhedrim at Jerusalem to the Jews in Egypt, which contains apocryphal things; a letter which assigns to Nehemiah the merit of various arrangements rather belonging to Ezra. It is difficult to understand the meaning of "the epistles of the kings concerning the offerings." If they were the documents of heathen or Persian kings favorable to the rebuilding of Jerusalem and its temple, would they not have been rejected from a collection of sacred books belonging to the chosen people? They might perhaps have been adopted had they been interwoven with the holy books themselves, like portions of Ezra and Nehemiah; but they could not have formed a distinct part of the national literature, because they were foreign and heathen. Again, "the psalms of David" cannot have existed in the time of Nehemiah, if the phrase includes the whole collection. It may perhaps refer to the first three divisions of the book, as Herzfeld thinks; but these contain many odes which are not David's; while earlier ones belong to the last two divisions of the Psalm-book. In like manner, "the prophets" could not all have belonged to this canon; neither Malachi, who was later, nor Jonah. The account will not bear strict examination, and must be pronounced apocryphal. Nehemiah was a statesman, not a priest or scribe; a politician, not a literary man. It is true that he may have had assistants, or committed the work to competent hands; but this is conjectural. The account of his supposed canon hardly commends itself by inherent truthfulness or probability, though it is accepted by Ewald and Bleek.
When the great synagogue ceased, there was an interval during which it is not clear whether the sacred books were neglected, except by private individuals; or whether they were studied, copied, and collected by a body of scribes. Perhaps the scribes and elders of the Hasmonaean time were active at intervals in this department. The institution of a senate by Judas Maccabaeus is supposed to be favored by 2 Maccabees (chapter i. 10-ii. 18); but the passage furnishes poor evidence of the thing. Judas is there made to write to Egypt in the year of the Seleucidae 188, though he died thirty-six years before, i.e., 152. Other places have been added as corroborative, viz., 2 Maccab. iv. 44, xi. 27; 1 Maccab. vii. 33. Some go so far as to state that Jose ben Joeser was appointed its first president at that time. The Midrash in Bereshith Rabba ( 65) makes him one of the sixty Hassidim who were treacherously murdered by Alcimus; but this is neither in the first book of the Maccabees (chapter vii.) nor in Josephus,(46) and must be pronounced conjectural. It is impossible to fix the exact date of Jose ben Joeser in the Hasmonean period. Pirke Aboth leaves it indefinite. Jonathan, Judas Maccabaeus's successor, when writing to the Lacedaemonians, speaks of the gerusia or senate as well as the people of the Jews; whence we learn that the body existed as early as the time of Judas.(47) Again, Demetrius writes to Simon, as also to the elders and nation of the Jews.(48) After Jonathan and Simon, it may have been suspended for a while, in consequence of the persecution and anarchy prevailing in Judea; till the great Sanhedrim at Jerusalem succeeded it, under Hyrcanus I. Though the traces of a senate in the Maccabaean epoch are slight, the Talmud countenances its existence.(49) We believe that it was earlier than Judas Maccabaeus. Of its constitution nothing is known; but it was probably aristocratic. The Hasmonean prince would naturally exert a commanding influence over it. The great synagogue had been a kind of democratic council, consisting of scribes, doctors or teachers, and priests.(50) Like their predecessors of the great synagogue, the Hasmonaean elders revised the text freely, putting into it explanatory or corrective additions, which were not always improvements. The way in which they used the book of Esther, employing it as a medium of Halachite prescription, shows a treatment involving little idea of sacredness attaching to the Hagiographa.
We are aware that the existence of this body is liable to doubt, and that the expressions belonging to it in Jewish books, whether elders or gerusia, have been applied to the great synagogue or to the Sanhedrim at Jerusalem, or even to the elders of any little town or hamlet; but it is difficult to explain all on that hypothesis, without attributing confusion to the places where they occur. If the body in question be not allowed, an interval of about sixty years elapsed between the great synagogue and the Sanhedrim, during which the hagiographical writings were comparatively neglected, though literary activity did not cease. No authoritative association, at least, dealt with them. This is improbable. It is true that we read of no distinguished teachers in the interval, except Antigonus of Socho, disciple of Simon the Just; but the silence can hardly weigh against a reasonable presumption. One thing is clear, viz., that Antigonus did not reach down to the time of the first pair that presided over the Sanhedrim.
The contents of the third canon, i.e., Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Canticles, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Chronicles, the formation of which we assign to the Hasmonaean gerusia, were multifarious, differing widely from one another in age, character, and value—poetical, prophetic, didactic, historical. Such as seemed worthy of preservation, though they had not been included in the second canon, were gathered together during the space of an hundred and fifty years. The oldest part consisted of psalms supposed to belong to David. The first psalm, which contains within itself traces of late authorship, was prefixed as an introduction to the whole collection now put into the third canon. Next to the Psalms were Proverbs, Job, Canticles, which, though non-prophetic and probably excluded on that account from the second canon, must have existed before the exile. Enriched with the latest additions, they survived the national disasters, and claimed a place next to the Psalms. They were but a portion of the literature current in and after the 5th century B.C., as may be inferred from the epilogue to Ecclesiastes, and the Wisdom of Sirach. The historical work compiled by the chronicle-writer was separated, Ezra being put first as the most important part, and referring also to the church of the 6th and 5th centuries whose history had not been written. The Chronicles themselves were placed last, being considered of less value than the first part, as they contained the summary of a period already described, though with numerous adaptations to post-exile times. The youngest portion consisted of the book of Daniel, not written till the Maccabean period (between 170 and 160 B.C.);(51) and probably of several Psalms (44, 60, 74, 75, 76, 79, 80, 83, 89, 110, 118) which were inserted in different places of the collection to make the whole number 150. These late odes savor of the Maccabean time; and are fitly illustrated by the history given in the first book of Maccabees. The list continued open; dominated by no stringent principle of selection, and with a character somewhat indefinite. It was called c'tubim, i.e., writings(52) a general epithet suited to the contents.
Several books put into the third canon,—as Job, Proverbs, the greater number of the Psalms, &c.,—existed when the second was made. But the latter collection was pre-eminently prophetic; and it was that idea of the origin and contents of the books in it which regulated its extent. Bloch's supposition that the parts of the third collection then existing were not looked upon as holy, but merely as productions embodying human wisdom, and were therefore excluded, is improbable. We do not think that an alteration of opinion about them in the course of a century or more, by which they became divine and holy instead of human, is a satisfactory explanation. The Psalms of David and the book of Job must have been as highly esteemed in the period of the great synagogue's existence as they were at a later time. Other considerations besides the divinity and holiness of books contributed to their introduction into a canon. Ecclesiastes was taken into the third collection because it was attributed to Solomon. The Song of Songs was understood allegorically,—a fact which, in addition to its supposed Solomonic authorship, determined its adoption. And even after their canonical reception, whether by the great synagogue or another body, the character of books was canvassed. It was so with Ecclesiastes, in spite of the supposed sanction it got from the great synagogue contained in the epilogue, added, as some think, by that body to attest the sacredness of the book.(53)
While the third canon was being made, the soferim, as the successors of the prophets, were active as before; and though interpretation was their chief duty, they must have revised and corrected the sacred books to some extent. We need not hesitate to allow that they sometimes arranged parts, and even added matter of their own. In the time of the canon's entire preparation, they and the priests, with writers and scholars generally, redacted the national literature, excluding or sanctioning such portions of it as they thought fit.
At this time appeared the present five-fold partition of the Psalms, preceded as it had been by other divisions, the last of which was very similar to the one that became final. Several inscriptions and historical notices were prefixed. The inscriptions, however, belong to very different times, their historical parts being usually older than the musical; and date from the first collection to the period of the Hasmonean college, when the final redaction of the entire Psalter took place. Those in the first three books existed at the time when the latter were made up; those in the last two were prefixed partly at the time when the collections themselves were made, and partly in the Maccabean age. How often they are out of harmony with the poems themselves, needs no remark. They are both traditional and conjectural.
The earliest attestation of the third canon is that of the prologue to Jesus Sirach (130 B.C.), where not only the law and the prophets are specified, but "the other books of the fathers," or "the rest of the books."(54) No information is given as to its extent, or the particular books included. They may have been for the most part the same as the present ones. The passage does not show that the third list was closed. The better writings of the fathers, such as tended to learning and wisdom, are not excluded by the definite article. In like manner, neither Philo nor the New Testament gives exact information as to the contents of the division in question. Indeed, several books, Canticles, Esther, Ecclesiastes, are unnoticed in the latter. The argument drawn from Matthew xxiii. 35, that the Chronicles were then the last book of the canon, is inconclusive; as the Zechariah there named was probably different from the Zechariah in 2 Chronicles xxiv. None of these witnesses proves that the third canon was finally closed.
A more definite testimony respecting the canon is given by Josephus towards the end of the first century A.D. "For we have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, ... but only twenty-two books, which contain the records of all the past times; which are justly believed to be divine. And of them five belong to Moses.... But as to the time from the death of Moses till the reign of Artaxerxes, king of Persia, the prophets who were after Moses wrote down what was done in their times in thirteen books. The remaining four books contain hymns to God and precepts for the conduct of human life. It is true our history has been written since Artaxerxes very particularly, but has not been esteemed of the like authority with the former by our forefathers, because there has not been an exact succession of prophets since that time: and how firmly we have given credit to these books of our own nation is evident by what we do; for during so many ages as have already passed, no one has been so bold as either to add anything to them, to take anything from them, or to make any change in them; but it has become natural to all Jews immediately and from their very birth, to esteem these books to contain divine doctrines, and to persist in them, and if occasion be, willingly to die for them."(55) This list agrees with our present canon, showing that the Palestinian Jews were tolerably unanimous as to the extent of the collection. The thirteen prophets include Job; the four lyric and moral books are Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Canticles.
It is not likely that the Hasmonaean senate had a long existence. It was replaced by the Sanhedrim, a more definite and state institution, intended as a counter-balance to the influence of the Hasmonaean princes. The notices of the latter reach no further back than Hyrcanus I., i.e., about 135 B.C.(56) Josephus speaks of it under Hyrcanus II.(57) It cannot be referred to an earlier period than Hyrcanus I. Frankel(58) indeed, finds a notice of it in 2 Chronicles xix. 8, 11; but the account there is indistinct, and refers to the great synagogue. The compiler having no certain information about what was long past, transfers the origin of the court he speaks of to Jehoshaphat, in order to glorify the house of David. It is impossible to date the Sanhedrim, with Frankel, in the Grecian era, in which case it must have been dissolved during the Maccabean insurrection, and afterwards reconstructed; it was not constituted till about 130 B.C. Whether it was modeled after the great synagogue or the Hasmonaean senate, is uncertain. The idea of it may have been suggested by the latter rather than the former, for its basis was aristocratic. The Hasmonaean gerusia must have been less formal and definite than the Sanhedrim; though the latter arose before the family ceased to be in power, and differed materially from its predecessor. It continued from 130 B.C. till A.D. 180, surviving the terrible disasters of the nation.(59)
The closing of the third canon cannot be assigned, with Bloch, to the great synagogue. If the college ceased with or before Simon, i.e., about 200-192, and the work of Daniel did not appear till about 170 B.C., twenty years at least intervened between the extinction of the great synagogue and Daniel's book. This holds good, whether we assume, with Krochmal, the synagogue's redaction of the work,—more correctly the putting together of the independent parts of which it is said to be composed; or equally so, if the taking of it into the canon as a book already completed, be attributed to the same body. But we are unable to see that Krochmal's reasoning about the synagogue putting Daniel's work together and one of the members writing the book of Esther is probable.
In like manner, Maccabean psalms are adverse to the hypothesis that the great synagogue completed the third canon. In consequence of these late productions, it is impossible to assert that the men of the synagogue were the redactors of the Psalter as it is. It is true that the collection was made before the Chronicles and many other books of the hagiographical canon; but the complete Psalter did not appear till the Maccabean period. The canon, however, was not considered to be finally closed in the first century before and the next after Christ. There were doubts about some portions. The book of Ezekiel gave offence, because some of its statements seemed to contradict the law. Doubts about others were of a more serious nature; about Ecclesiastes, the Canticles, Esther, and the Proverbs. The first was impugned because it had contradictory passages and a heretical tendency; the second, because of its worldly and sensual tone; Esther for its want of religiousness; and Proverbs on account of inconsistencies. This scepticism went far to procure the exclusion of the suspected works from the canon, and their relegation to the class of the genuzim.(60) But it did not prevail. Hananiah, son of Hezekiah, son of Garon, about 32 B.C., is said to have reconciled the contradictions and quieted the doubts.(61) But these traces of resistance to the fixity of the canon were not the last. They reappeared about A.D. 65, as we learn from the Talmud,(62) when the controversy turned mainly upon the canonicity of Ecclesiastes, which the school of Shammai, who had the majority, opposed; so that the book was probably excluded.(63) The question emerged again at a later synod at Jabneh or Jamnia, when R. Eleasar ben Asaria was chosen patriarch, and Gamaliel the second, deposed. Here it was decided, not unanimously however, but by a majority of Hillelites, that Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs "pollute the hands," i.e., belong properly to the Hagiographa.(64) This was about 90 A.D.(65) Thus the question of the canonicity of certain books was discussed at two synods.
Passages in the Talmud have been adduced to show that the Shammaite objections to the canonicity of Ecclesiastes "were overruled by the positive declaration from the 72 elders, being a testimony anterior to the Christian era that Coheleth is canonical; but they do not support the opinion."(66)
"The sages" referred to in the treatise Sabbat and elsewhere is a vague expression, resting apparently on no historic tradition—a mere opinion of comparatively late date. If it refer to the Jerusalem synod A.D. 65, the Hillelites were simply outnumbered there by the Shammaites. The matter was debated hastily, and determined for the time by a majority. But the synod at Jamnia consisted of 72 persons; and a passage in the treatise Yadayim refers to it.(67) The testimony of the 72 elders to whom R. Simeon ben Asai here alludes, so far from belonging to an anti-christian era, belongs to a date about 90 A.D. And the fact that the synod at Jamnia took up again a question already debated at Jerusalem A.D. 65, proves that no final settlement of the canon had taken place before. The canon was virtually settled at Jamnia, where was confirmed what R. Akiba said of the Canticles in his usual extravagant way: "No day in the whole history of the world is of so much worth as the one in which the Song of Songs was given to Israel; for all the Scriptures are holy; but the Song of Songs is most holy."(68) As the Hagiographa were not read in public, with the exception of Esther, opinions of the Jewish rabbins might still differ about Canticles and Ecclesiastes, even after the synod of Jamnia.
In opposition to these remarks, it is strenuously argued by Bloch that neither the passage in the Mishnic treatise Yadayim, nor any other, refers to the canonical character of the books to which Jewish elders raised several objections. But his arguments are more vehement than valid. Anxious to assign the final settlement of the entire canon to an authoritative body like the great synagogue, he affirms that all parties were united in opinion about the time of Christ,—Assiim, Perushim, and Zeddukim; Shammaites and Hillelites. But it requires more than his ingenuity to explain away the meaning of Yadayim 3, 5, Adoyot v. 3, Sabbat 1. To what did such diversity of opinion relate, if not to the canonical character of the books? A specific answer to the question is not given by the learned writer,(69) who is too eager in his endeavor to attribute the settlement of the third canon to the great synagogue, and to smooth away all diversities of opinion about several books, after that time, as if none could afterwards question the authoritative settlement by that body. He will not even allow a wider canon to the Alexandrian Jews than that of their Palestinian brethren, though he cannot but admit that the former read and highly esteemed various apocryphal books because of their theocratic character. Surely the practical use of writings is an evidence of their canonicity as strong as theoretical opinions.
The doubts about several books to which we have alluded, some of which Hananiah is said to have resolved in his old age, imply a diligent study of the national literature, if not a revision of the text; and the Tannaite college at Jabneh must have cared for the same things, as it had to deal with similar objections. After the last canon was made more than a century anterior to the Christian era, the text was not considered inviolate by the learned Jews; it received subsequent modifications and interpolations. The process of redaction had not ceased before the time of Christ. This was owing, among other causes, to the state of parties among the Jews, as well as the intrusion of Greek literature and culture, whose influence the Palestinian Jews themselves were not able altogether to withstand. When Jeremiah accused the Scribes of falsifying the law by their lying pen (viii. 8), it may be inferred that the same process took place afterwards; that offensive things were removed, and alterations made continuously down to the close of the canon, and even after. The corrections consisted of additions and changes of letters, being indicated in part by the most ancient versions and the traditions of the Jews themselves who often knew what stood in the text at first, and why it was altered. They are also indicated by the nature of the passage itself viewed in the light of the state of religion at the time. Here, sober judgment must guard against unnecessary conjectures. Some changes are apparent, as the plural oaks in Genesis xiii. 18, xiv. 13, xviii. 1, Deuteronomy xi. 30, for the singular oak; and the plural gods in Exodus xxxii. 4, for the singular god. So 2 Sam. Vii. 23, (comp. 1 Chron. xvii. 21, and LXX);(70) and Deuteronomy xxxii. 8,(71) have been altered. Popper and Geiger have probably assumed too much correction on the part of the Scribes and others; though they have drawn attention to the subject in the spirit of original criticism.
Jewish literature began to degenerate after the captivity, and it continued to do so. It leaned upon the past more and more, having an external and formal character with little of the living soul. The independence of their religious literature disappeared with the national independence of the Jews; and the genius of the people was too exclusive to receive much expansion from the spirit of nations with whom they came in contact. In such circumstances, amid the general consciousness of present misfortune which the hope of a brighter future could not dispel, and regretful retrospects of the past tinged with ideal splendor, the exact time of drawing a line between books that might be included in the third division of the canon must have been arbitrary. In the absence of a normal principle to determine selection, the productions were arbitrarily separated. Not that they were badly adjusted. On the contrary, the canon as a whole was settled wisely. Yet the critical spirit of learned Jews in the future could not be extinguished by anticipation. The canon was not really settled for all time by a synodical gathering at Jamnia; for Sirach was added to the Hagiographa by some rabbins about the beginning of the 4th century;(72) while Baruch circulated long in Hebrew, and was publicly read on the day of atonement in the third century, according to the Apostolic constitutions.(73) These two books were in high repute for a considerable time, possessing a kind of canonical credit even among the learned Jews of Palestine. Rab, Jochanan, Elasar, Rabba bar Mare, occasionally refer to Sirach in the way in which the c'tubim were quoted: the writer of Daniel used Baruch; and the translator of Jeremiah put it into Greek.
If it be asked on what principle books were admitted into the canon, a single answer does not suffice. One and the same criterion did not determine the process at all times. The leading principle with which the first canon-makers set out was to collect all the documents of Hebrew antiquity. This seems to have guided Ezra, if not the great synagogue after him. The nation, early imbued with the theocratic spirit and believing itself the chosen of God, was favorably inclined towards documents in which that standpoint was assumed. The legal and ethical were specially valued. The prophetic claimed a divine origin; the lyric or poetic touched and elevated the ideal faculty on which religion acts. But the leading principle which actuated Ezra and the great synagogue was gradually modified, amid the growing compass of the national literature and the consciousness that prophecy ceased with Malachi. When the latest part of the canon had to be selected from a literature almost contemporaneous, regard was had to such productions as resembled the old in spirit. Orthodoxy of contents was the dominant criterion. But this was a difficult thing, for various works really anonymous, though wearing the garb of old names and histories, were in existence, so that the boundary of the third part became uncertain and fluctuating.
The principle that actuated Ezra in making the first canon was a religious and patriotic one. From his treatment of the oldest law books we infer that he did not look upon them as inviolable. Venerable they were, and so far sacred; but neither perfect nor complete for all time. In his view they were not unconditionally authoritative. Doubtless they had a high value as the productions of inspired lawgivers and men of a prophetic spirit; but the redaction to which he submitted them shows no superstitious reverence. With him canonical and holy were not identical. Nor does the idea of an immediate, divine authority appear to have dominated the mind of the great synagogue in the selection of books. Like Ezra, these scholars reverenced the productions of the prophets, poets, and historians to whom their countrymen were indebted in the past for religious or political progress; but they did not look upon them as the offspring of unerring wisdom. How could they, while witnessing repetitions and minor contradictions in the books collected?
The same remarks apply to the third canon. Direct divinity of origin was not the criterion which determined the reception of a book into it; but the character and authorship of the book. Did it breathe the old spirit, or proceed from one venerated for his wisdom? Was it like the old orthodox productions; or did it bear the name of one renowned for his piety and knowledge of divine things? The stamp of antiquity was necessary in a certain sense; but the theocratic spirit was the leading consideration. Ecclesiastes was admitted because it bore the name of Solomon; and Daniel's apocalyptic writings, because veiled under the name of an old prophet. New psalms were taken in because of their association with much older ones in the temple service. Yet the first book of Maccabees was excluded, though written in Hebrew. It is still more remarkable that Sirach was put among the external productions; but this was owing not so much to its recent origin, for it is older than the book of Daniel, as to its being an apparent echo of the Proverbs, and therefore unnecessary. Yet it was long after assigned to the Hagiographa, and quoted as such by several rabbis. Baruch was also left out, though it is as old as Daniel, if not older; and professes to have been written by Jeremiah's friend, in Babylon.
That redactors dealt freely with the text of the second and third canons especially, without a superstitious belief in its sacredness, is apparent from the double recension which existed when the Egyptian Jews translated the books into Greek. If the one that formed the basis of the Alexandrian version be less correct than the Palestinian in the majority of instances, it is still superior in many. The differences between them, often remarkable, prove that those who had most to do with the books did not guard them as they would have done had they thought them infallibly inspired. Palestinians and Alexandrians subjected the text to redaction; or had suffered it to fall into a state inconsistent with the assumption of its supernatural origin. At a much later period, the Masoretes reduced to one type all existing copies of their Scriptures, introducing an uniformity imperatively demanded in their opinion by multiplied discrepancies.
Whatever divine character the reflecting attributed to the canonical books, it must have amounted to the same thing as that assigned to human attributes and physical phenomena—a divinity resulting from the over-leaping of second causes, in the absence of inductive philosophy. Here the imperfection conditioned by the nature of the created cannot be hid. Yet the books may be truly said to have contained the word of God.
Of the three divisions, the Law or Pentateuch was most highly venerated by the Jews. It was the first translated into Greek; and in Philo's view was inspired in a way peculiar to itself. The Prophets, or second division, occupied a somewhat lower place in their estimation, but were read in the public services as the law had been before. The c'tubim, or third division, was not looked upon as equal to the Prophets in importance: only the five Megiloth were publicly read. The three parts of the collection present the three gradations of sanctity which the books assumed successively in Israelite estimation. A certain reverence was attached to all as soon as they were made canonical; but the reverence was not of equal height, and the supposed authority was proportionally varied.(74) The consciousness of prophetism being extinct soon after the return from Babylon, was a genuine instinct. With the extinction of the Jewish state the religious spirit almost evaporated. The idealism which the old prophets proclaimed in contrast with the symbolic religion of the state gave place to the forms and an attachment to the written law. Religion came to be a thing of the understanding, the subject of learned treatment; and its essence was reduced to dogmas or precepts. Thus it ceased to be a spiritual element in which the heart had free scope for its highest aspirations. In addition to all, a foreign metaphysical theology, the Persian doctrine of spirits, was introduced, which seemed to enlarge the sphere of speculation, but really retarded the free exercise of the mind. As the external side of religion had been previously directed to the performance of good works, this externality was now determined by a written law. Even the prophetism that appeared after the restoration was little more than an echo of the past, falling in with an outward and written legalism. The literature of the people deteriorated in quality, and prophecy became apocalypse. In such circumstances the advent of a new man was needed to restore the free life of religion in higher power. Christ appeared in the fullness of time to do this effectually by proclaiming the divine Fatherhood, and founding a worship in spirit and in truth. Rising above the symbolic wrappings of the Mosaic religion, and relying upon the native power of the spirit itself, he showed how man may mount up to the throne of God, adoring the Supreme without the intervention of temple, sacrifice, or ceremony.
When the three divisions were united, the ecclesiastical respect which had gathered round the law and the prophets from ancient times began to be transferred to the c'tubim. A belief in their sanctity increased apace in the 1st century before the Christian era, so that sacredness and canonicity were almost identical. The doubts of individuals, it is true, were still expressed respecting certain books of the c'tubim, but they had no perceptible effect upon the current opinion. The sanctity attaching to the last division as well as the others did not permit the total displacement of any part.
The passage in Josephus already quoted shows the state of the canon about A.D. 100. According to it, he considered it to have been closed at the time of Artaxerxes Longimanus, whom he identifies with the Ahasuerus of Esther, 464-424 B.C. The books were divine, so that none dared to add to, subtract from, or alter them. To him the canon was something belonging to the venerable past, and inviolable. In other words, all the books were peculiarly sacred. Although we call scarcely think this to be his private opinion merely, it is probably expressed in exaggerated terms, and hardly tallies with his use of the third Esdras in preference to the canonical texts.(75) His authority, however, is small. Bloch's estimate of it is too high. It is utterly improbable that Josephus's opinion was universally held by the Jews in his day. His division of the books is peculiar: five Mosaic, thirteen historical, four containing religious songs and rules of life. It appears, indeed, that as he had the same twenty-two books we now have, Ruth was still attached to Judges, and Lamentations to Jeremiah; but his credit is not on a par with that of a Jew who adhered to his countrymen in the time of their calamity. He wrote for the Romans. One who believed that Esther was the youngest book in the canon, who looked upon Ecclesiastes as Solomon's, and Daniel as an exile production, cannot be a competent judge. In his time the historical sense of the book of Daniel was misapprehended; for after the Grecian dynasty had fallen without the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecy connected with it, the Roman empire was put into its place. Hence various allusions in The History of the Jewish Wars.(76) The passage in the Antiquities,(77) about Alexander the Great and the priests in the Temple at Jerusalem is apocryphal. In any case, Josephus does not furnish a genuine list of the canonical books any more than Philo. The Pharisaic view of his time is undoubtedly given, that the canon was then complete and sacred. The decision proceeded from that part of the nation who ruled both over school and people, and regained supremacy after the destruction of the temple; i.e., from the Pharisee-sect to which Josephus belonged. It was a conclusion of orthodox Judaism. With true critical instinct, Spinoza says that the canon was the work of the Pharisees. The third collection was undoubtedly made under their influence.
The origin of the threefold division of the canon is not, as Oehler supposes,(78) a reflection of the different stages of religious development through which the nation passed, as if the foundation were the Law, the ulterior tendency in its objective aspect the Prophets, and its subjective aspect the Hagiographa. The books of Chronicles and others refute this arbitrary conception. The triplicity lies in the manner in which the books were collected. Men who belonged to different periods and possessed different degrees of culture, worked successively in the formation of the canon; which arose out of the circumstances of the times, and the subjective ideas of those who made it.
The places of the separate books within the first division or Torah, were determined by the succession of the historical events narrated. The second division naturally begins with Moses's successor, Joshua. Judges, Samuel, and Kings follow according to the regular chronology. To the former prophets, as Joshua—Kings were called, the latter were attached, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel; succeeded by the twelve minor prophets, arranged for the most part according to their times, though the length of individual prophecies and similarity of contents also influenced their position.
The arrangement of books in the third division depended on their age, character, and authors. The Psalms were put first, because David was supposed to be the author of many, and on account of their intrinsic value in promoting the religious life of the people. After the Psalms came the three poetical works attributed to Solomon, with the book of Job among them,—Proverbs, Job, Canticles, Ecclesiastes.
The book of Esther followed, since it was intended to further the observance of the Purim feast; with the late book of Daniel. The position of Daniel among the c'tubim arises solely from the fact of its posterior origin to the prophetic writings, not excepting the book of Jonah itself; and the attempt to account for its place in the third division on the ground of its predominant subjectivity is based on the unfounded assumption that the objective state of religion is represented in the second division and the subjective in the third. Had the book existed before 400 B.C., it would doubtless have stood in the second division. But the contents themselves demonstrate its date; contemporary history being wrapped in a prophetic form. Having some affinity to Esther as regards heathenism and Greek life, the book was put next to the latter. To Ezra and Nehemiah, which were adopted before the other part of the Chronicle book and separated from it, were added the so-called Chronicles. Such was the original succession of the third division or c'tubim; but it did not remain unaltered. For the use of the synagogue, the five Megiloth were put together; so that Ruth, which was originally appended to Judges, and the Lamentations affixed at first to Jeremiah's prophecies, were taken out of the second and put into the third canon. This caused a separation of Canticles and Ecclesiastes. The new arrangement was made for liturgical purposes.
CHAPTER III. THE SAMARITAN AND ALEXANDRIAN CANONS.
The Samaritan canon consists of the Pentateuch alone. This restricted collection is owing to the fact, that when the Samaritans separated from the Jews and began their worship on Gerizim, no more than the Mosaic writings had been invested by Ezra with canonical dignity. The hostile feeling between the rivals hindered the reception of books subsequently canonized. The idea of their having the oldest and most sacred part in its entirety satisfied their spiritual wants. Some have thought that the Sadducees, who already existed as a party before the Maccabean period, agreed with the Samaritans in rejecting all but the Pentateuch; yet this is doubtful. It is true that the Samaritans themselves say so;(79) and that some of the church fathers, Origen, Jerome, and others agree; but little reliance can be put on the statement. The latter, perhaps, confounded the Samaritans and Sadducces. It is also noteworthy that Christ in refuting the Sadducees appeals to the Pentateuch alone; yet the conclusion, that he did so because of their admitting no more than that portion does not follow.
The Alexandrian canon differed from the Palestinian. The Greek translation commonly called the Septuagint contains some later productions which the Palestinian Jews did not adopt, not only from their aversion to Greek literature generally, but also from the recent origin of the books, perhaps also their want of prophetic sanction. The closing line of the third part in the Alexandrian canon was more or less fluctuating—capable of admitting recent writings appearing under the garb of old names and histories, of embracing religious subjects; while the Palestinian collection was pretty well determined, and all but finally settled. The judgment of the Alexandrians was freer than that of their brethren in the mother country. They had even separated in a measure from the latter, by erecting a temple at Leontopolis; and their enlargement of the canon was another step of divergence. Nor had they the criterion of language for the separation of canonical and uncanonical; both classes were before them in the same tongue. The enlarged canon was not formally sanctioned; it had not the approval of the Sanhedrim; yet it was to the Alexandrians what the Palestinian one was to the Palestinians. If Jews who were not well acquainted with Hebrew, used the apocryphal and canonical books alike, it was a matter of feeling and custom; and if those who knew the old language better, adhered to the canonical more closely, it was a matter of tradition and language. The former set little value on the prevalent consciousness of the race that the spirit of prophecy was extinct; their view of the Spirit's operation was larger. The latter clung to the past with all the more tenacity that the old life of the nation had degenerated.
The Alexandrian Jews opened their minds to Greek culture and philosophy, appropriating new ideas, and explaining their Scriptures in accordance with wider conceptions of the divine presence; though such adaptation turned aside the original sense. Consciously or unconsciously they were preparing Judaism in some degree to be the religion of humanity. But the Rabbins shut out those enlarging influences, confining their religion within the narrow traditions of one people. The process by which they conserved the old belief helped to quench its spirit, so that it became an antique skeleton, powerless beside the new civilization which had followed the wake of Alexander's conquests. Rabbinical Judaism proved its incapacity for regenerating the world; having no affinity for the philosophy of second causes, or for the exercise of reason beneath the love of a Father who sees with equal eye as God of all. Its isolation nourished a sectarian tendency. Tradition, having no creative power like revelation, had taken the place of it; and it could not ward off the senility of Judaism; for its creations are but feeble echoes of prophetic utterances, weak imitations of poetic inspiration or of fresh wisdom. They are of the understanding rather than the reason. The tradition which Geiger describes as the life-giving soul of Judaism—the daughter of revelation, enjoying the same rights with her mother—a spiritual power that continues ever to work—an emanation from the divine Spirit—is not, indeed, the thing which has stiffened Judaism into Rabbinism; but neither is it tradition proper; it is reason working upon revelation, and moulding it into a new system. Such tradition serves but to show the inability of genuine Judaism to assimilate philosophic thought. Rationalizing should not be styled the operation of tradition.
The truth of these remarks is evident from a comparison of two books, exemplifying Alexandrian and Palestinian Judaism respectively. The Wisdom of Solomon shows the enlarging effect of Greek philosophy. Overpassing Jewish particularism, it often approaches Christianity in doctrine and spirit, so that some(80) have even assumed a Christian origin for it. The Wisdom of Jesus, son of Sirach has not the doctrine of immortality. Death is there an eternal sleep, and retribution takes place in this life. The Jewish theocracy is the centre of history; Israel the elect people; and all wisdom is embodied in the law. The writer is shut up within the old national ideas, and leans upon the writings in which they are expressed. Thus the Hagiographical canon of Judea, conservative as it is, and purer in a sense, presents a narrower type than the best specimens of the Alexandrian one. The genial breath of Aryan culture had not expanded its Semitism.
The identity of the Palestinian and Alexandrian canons must be abandoned, notwithstanding the contrary arguments of Eichhorn and Movers. It is said, indeed, that Philo neither mentions nor quotes the Greek additions; but neither does he quote several canonical books. According to Eichhorn, no fewer than eight of the latter are unnoticed by him.(81) Besides, he had peculiar views of inspiration, and quoted loosely from memory. Believing as he did in the inspiration of the Greek version as a whole, it is difficult to think that he made a distinction between the different parts of it. In one passage he refers to the sacred books of the Therapeutae, a fanatical sect of Jews in Egypt, as "laws, oracles of prophets, hymns and other books by which knowledge and piety are increased and perfected,"(82) but this presents little information as to the canon of the Egyptian Jews generally; for it is precarious argumentation to say with Herbst that they prove a twofold canon. Even if the Alexandrian and Palestinian canons be identical, we cannot be sure that the other books which the Therapeutae read as holy besides the law, the prophets and hymns, differed from the hagiographa, and so constituted another canon than the general Egyptian one. It is quite possible that the hymns mean the Psalms; and the other books, the rest of the hagiographa. The argument for the identity of the two canons deduced from 4 Esdras xiv. 44, &c., as if the twenty-four open books were distinguished from the other writings dictated to Ezra, is of no force, because verisimilitude required that an Egyptian Jew himself must make Ezra conform to the old Palestinian canon. It is also alleged that the grandson of Jesus Sirach, who translated his grandfather's work during his abode in Egypt, knew no difference between the Hebrew and Greek canon, though he speaks of the Greek version; but he speaks as a Palestinian, without having occasion to allude to the difference between the canonical books of the Palestinian and Egyptian Jews. The latter may have reckoned the apocryphal writings in the third division; and therefore the translator of Jesus Sirach could recognize them in the ordinary classification. The mention of three classes is not opposed to their presence in the third. The general use of an enlarged canon in Egypt cannot be denied, though it was somewhat loose, not regarded as a completed collection, and without express rabbinical sanction. If they did not formally recognize a canon of their own, as De Wette says of them, they had and used one larger than the Palestinian, without troubling themselves about a formal sanction for it by a body of Rabbis at Jerusalem or elsewhere. Their canon was not identical with that of the Palestinians, and all the argumentation founded upon Philo's non-quotation of the apocryphal books, fails to prove the contrary. The very way in which apocryphal are inserted among canonical books in the Alexandrian canon, shows the equal rank assigned to both. Esdras first and second succeed the Chronicles; Tobit and Judith are between Nehemiah and Esther; the Wisdom of Solomon and Sirach follow Canticles; Baruch succeeds Jeremiah; Daniel is followed by Susanna and other productions of the same class; and the whole closes with the three books of Maccabees. Such is the order in the Vatican MS.
The threefold division of the canon, indicating three stages in its formation, has continued. Josephus, indeed, gives another, based on the nature of the separate books, not on MSS. We learn nothing from him of its history, which is somewhat remarkable, considering that he did not live two centuries after the last work had been added. The account of the canon's final arrangement was evidently unknown to him.
CHAPTER IV. NUMBER AND ORDER OF THE SEPARATE BOOKS.
The number of the books was variously estimated. Josephus gives twenty-two, which was the usual number among Christian writers in the second, third, and fourth centuries, having been derived perhaps from the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Origen, Jerome, and others have it. It continued longest among the teachers of the Greek Church, and is even in Nicephorus's stichometry.(83) The enumeration in question has Ruth with Judges, and Lamentations with Jeremiah. In Epiphanius(84) the number twenty-seven is found, made by taking the alphabet enlarged with the five final letters, and dividing Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles into two books each. This is probably an ingenious combination belonging to the father himself. The Talmud has twenty-four,(85) a number which did not originate in the Greek alphabet, else the Palestinian Jews would not have adopted it. The synagogue did not fix it officially. After the Pentateuch and the former prophets, which are in the usual order, it gives Jeremiah as the first of the later, succeeded by Ezekiel and Isaiah with the twelve minor prophets. The Talmud knows no other reason for such an order than that it was made according to the contents of the prophetic books, not according to the times of the writers. This solution is unsatisfactory. It is more probable that chronology had to do with the arrangement.(86) After the anonymous collection or second part of Isaiah had been joined to the first or authentic prophecies, the lateness of these oracles brought Isaiah into the third place among the greater prophets. The Talmudic order of the Hagiographa is Ruth, Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticles, Lamentations, Daniel, Esther, Ezra, Chronicles. Here Ruth precedes the Psalter, coming as near the former prophets as possible; for it properly belongs to them, the contents associating it with the Judges' time. The Talmudic order is that usually adopted in German MSS. What is the true estimate of it? Is it a proper Talmudic regulation? Perhaps not, else the Hebrew MSS. of the French and Spanish Jews would not so readily have departed from it. Bloch supposes that Baba Bathra, which gives the arrangement of the books, is one of the apocryphal Boraithas that proceeded from an individual teacher and had no binding authority.(87)