Monday, November 06, 2006

The "Quotation Equals Canonicity" Fallacy

Many protestants submit as one of their reasons for rejecting the deuterocanonical (or, as they would call them, "apocryphal") books the fact that Jesus and the apostles never quoted or alluded to them. This is erroneous on several counts.

For one, it is not a "fact" that Jesus and the apostles never quoted or alluded to these books. The deuterocanon (ie. "second canon") is a set of seven books--Sirach, Tobit, Wisdom, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, and Baruch--as well as additions to Daniel and Esther. We actually have many possible references to the deuterocanon in the NT. According to Jimmy Akin, The Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament, 27th edition (Novum Testamentum: Graece et Latine, published by Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft) proposes 332 such references. Of these, 111 are found in the Gospels. I looked through the list of 111 and narrowed it down to 31 references that I feel are the strongest examples of an actual NT allusion to an OT deuterocanonical work. These include:

Mt 4:4 and Wisdom 16:26
Mt 6:7 and Sirach 7:14
Mt 7:12 and Tobit 4:15
Mt 7:16 and Sirach 27:6
Mt 8:11 and Baruch 4:37
Mt 11:28 and Sirach 24:19
Mt 16:18 and Wisdom 16:13
Mt 18:10 and Tobit 12:15
Mt 22:13 and Wisdom 17:2
Mt 26:38 and Sirach 37:2
Mt 27:43 and Wisdom 2:13,18-20

Mr 4:5 and Sirach 40:15
Mr 9:48 and Judith 16:17

Lk 1:19 and Tobit 12:15
Lk 1:42 and Judith 13:18
Lk 1:52 and Sirach 10:14
Lk 2:29 and Tobit 11:9
Lk 2:37 and Judith 8:6
Lk 13:29 and Baruch 4:37
Lk 14:13 and Tobit 2:2
Lk 19:44 and Wisdom 3:7
Lk 21:25 and Wisdom 5:22

Jn 1:3 and Wisdom 9:1
Jn 3:8 and Sirach 16:21
Jn 3:12 and Wisdom 9:16
Jn 3:13 and Baruch 3:29
Jn 5:18 and Wisdom 2:16
Jn 8:44 and Wisdom 2:24
Jn 8:53 and Sirach 44:19
Jn 14:15 and Wisdom 6:18
Jn 17:3 and Wisdom 15:3

Note that the passion of Jesus Christ is strikingly presented in almost the entire second chapter of Wisdom. This alone would suffice as evidence of a connection between a deuterocanonical book and the NT (by way of a prophecy being fulfilled). The connection between Hebrews 11:35 and 2 Maccabees 7 is another striking example. The only place where you find what the writer to the Hebrews is talking about is in 2 Macc 7. Note that all it takes is one solid example to bust this rule of canonicity wide open.

Another reason this rule doesn't work is this: while Jesus and the apostles often quote from OT books that all Christians agree are canonical, they also quote from works that no one accepts. Jude quotes from the book of Enoch in Jude 1:14,15 and refers to the Assumption of Moses in Jude 1:9. The Ascension of Isaiah is alluded to in Heb 11:37. Paul quotes from the Cretan poet Epimenides in Acts 17:28 and Tit 1:12, from the Cilician poet Aratus in Acts 17:28, from the Athenian poet Menander in 1 Cor 15:33, and from the Targum of Jonathan in 2 Tim 3:8. Even Jesus Himself quotes from the play Agamemnon, by Aeschylus, in Acts 26:14.

This is important because, if it takes an NT quote to make a book canonical, then we would have to say that the works just listed, many of which are pagan, would have to be canonical as well.

The final blow to the "Quotation Equals Canonicity" fallacy is the fact that, at least from what I can tell, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Obadiah, Zephaniah, Judges, 1 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Lamentations and Nahum are never quoted or alluded to by Christ or the Apostles in the New Testament. Thus, if the protestant is to be consistent, he must reject these books as well.

All in all, this rule does very little to reject the deuterocanonical books, and the protestant must come up with something better if he is intent on defending his canon over the Catholic canon.

Pax Christi,

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