he sanctioned the whole Jewish canon

In an article on inspiration, Girardeau incidentally makes this argument.

Our Saviour expressly acknowledged the divine authority and consequently the divine inspiration of the several books of the Jewish canon.

In the first place, he did this by his compendious distribution of the Old Testament Scriptures into the law of Moses, the prophets and the Psalms, in accordance with the accepted classification at the time when he spoke. “And he said unto them [his disciples assembled after his resurrection], These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.” (Luke 24:44.)

In the second place, he did the same by his reference to the Scriptures of the Old Testament in general.

Again and again he used the words with the solemnity of formulas, “It is written,” “Thus it is written.”

In his unanswerable argument with the Pharisees in proof of his divine commission, his last point was an appeal to the Scriptures. “Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” (John 5:39.)

In his conversation with the disciples going to Emmaeus he invoked the testimony of all the Scriptures to himself, “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:27. See also Matt 26:54, 56.)

He adduced the law and the prophets to silence the derision with which the Pharisees treated his claims, “The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass than one tittle of the law to fail.” (Luke 16:16, 17). Here it is evident that our Lord first uses the term law specifically as a member of the usual classification, and then employs it generically as synonymous with the Scriptures. Otherwise, in affirming the immutability of the law specifically considered, he would have implicitly acknowledged the mutability of the prophets. Such a construction of his language the purport of his argument excludes. He asserts the unchanging perpetuity of the Scriptures in their minutest particulars. It merits especial notice just here that the very same thing is solemnly declared by the Lord Jesus of his own words, “Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.” (Luke 21:33.) As the New Testament consists principally of reports, expositions, inferential amplifications and historical developments of his words, nay, is his Word communicated by inspiration to the sacred writers, it, according to the declaration of Christ, possesses with the Old Testament the unchangeableness of God’s veracity. Jesus affirms the immutable authority of the whole Scripture, Old and New, because it is the inspired Word of God.

In the third place, the same thing is proved by the use which our Saviour made of particular books in the Old Testament Scriptures.

In his argument with the Pharisees touching divorce he appeals to Genesis. [Quotation here of Mark 10:6-8; Gen 1:27; Gen 2:24.] He also cites the narrative in Genesis of the flood. (Matt 24:37-39.)

In his Sermon on the Mount, he expounded the ten commandments, the record of which is in Exodus. Of the moral law, and of the prophets, he affirms immutable authority, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” (Matt 5:17.) … In his argument with the Sadducees concerning the resurrection fo the dead, which, in the judgment of the Pharisees, had silenced his opponents, he cited the words of the same book as of conclusive authority. (Ex 3:6, 15, 16.)

Our Lord, as a man, conformed himself to the requirements of the ritual law contained in Leviticus and Numbers. Sufficient importance has, perhaps, not been attached to this fact as evincing his acceptance of the inspired authority of the Old Testament Scriptures. But it must be specially noted that he expressly quotes Leviticus (Matt 15:4, Lev 20:9).

In the progress of his temptation by the devil in the desert, he employed the words of the Book of Deuteronomy as a complete answer to the insidious suggestions of the great adversary. (Deut 8:3; 6:13; 10:20.) There are, besides, other references which he makes to the same book.

It has thus been pointed out that our Lord endorsed the belief of the Jews in the inspired authority of the Pentateuch.

Refuting the charge of the Pharisees that his disciples had violated the Sabbath by plucking corn on that day, he cited the act of David, approved by the high priest, as recorded in 1 Samuel, “Have ye not read what David did?” (Matt 12:3); and in Matt 23:35, he virtually attests the inspired accuracy of all the historical books which narrated events from the death of Abel to that of Zacharias, the son of Bacharias. These books are charged with serious errors by the higher critics. The contrast of judgment is conspicuous.

In Matt 13:35 he expressly quotes David as a prophet, in Matt 21:16 he cites Psalm 8, and in Matt 21:42 he uses the words of Psa 118. It was previously shown that he employed the very words of Psa 82 and Psa 110 to clench his arguments, and now attention is called to the impressive fact that on the cross he used words from Psa 22 in making the most affecting appeal to God that was ever uttered, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” — “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” He also in his dying agonies exclaimed, “I thirst,” and tasted the vinegar offered him, in fulfilment of the prediction in Psa 69, “And in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.”

In the rebuke administered at the temple to the Pharisees and Sadducees for their profanation of tha sacred edifice, he cited the words of Isaiah, with his usual formula, It is written, “Mine house shall be called an house of prayer.” (Matt 16:13; Isa 56:7.) He took for the text of his memorable sermon at Nazareth the words of Isaiah, in which his anointing for his preaching office is so beautifully and sublimely portrayed, and in regard to which he said, “This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.” (Luke 4:16-21; Isa 61:1, 2.) In Matt 13:14 and 15:7, 8, he quotes the prophecy of Isaiah.

It is more than probable that in the words reported in Matt 15:24, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” he cited, or at least referred to Ezekiel 34.

In his discourses to his disciples concerning the last things, he quotes Daniel as an inspired prophet, whose prediction in regard to the temple at Jerusalem would certainly be fulfilled, “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet stand in the holy place.” (Matt 24:15.)

He twice quoted the prophet Hosea. (Matt 12:7 and Hosea 6:6.)

He assigned to the prophet Jonah a singular eminence as the only sign that would be given to the contemporary generation who denied his divine commission as the Messiah, and by the extraordinary significance which he attributed to him as a type of his own death and resurrection, stamped his approval of a narrative which has furnished occasion for cheap ridicule of blasphemous witlings. (Matt 12:39, 40; 16:4.)

He recognised the inspired authority of the prophet Malachi in his prediction touching the coming of Elijah. (Matt 17:10-12; Mal 4:5-6.)

It has thus with some care been proved that our adorable Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ authoritatively confirmed the belief of the Jews in the inspiration of their canonical books. It may be said that the enumeration is not complete – that the are Old Testament writers to whom he did not specifically refer. It is sufficient to reply that his endorsement of those enumerated guaranteed that of all, since were the others not of inspired authority, and therefore not entitled to a place in the canon, he would, as the true and faithful Teacher of his church, have admonished her of the fact, and put her on her guard against false pretenders to inspiration. But, further, it has been proved that he confirmed the classification by the Jewish church of her canonical books, grouped all the Scriptures into unity under the compendious designation of the Scripture, and under the title of the Scriptures set his seal upon all her sacred, authoritative writings.

The argument might properly be arrested at this point. The authority of Jesus Christ, the revealer of God’s will, the great Prophet of the church, the very source of all inspiration, ought to be decisive with those who revere his name. But the testimony of the New Testament writers, partaking as they did of the same inspiring Spirit with their Master (Acts 1:2, 5), will also be briefly adduced.

[Article continues, in detail.]

[Witlings is a new one on me.]

[It’s late on Saturday night so I haven’t spent much time checking for typos – esp in translating the chapter numbers out of roman numerals, which takes me much more effort than it really should.]

16 thoughts on “he sanctioned the whole Jewish canon

  1. ?!

    But we have no evidence of any Jewish “canon”, other than Septuagint, before the second century or so. So this proves, er, not much.

    I am sure Aelianus will provide the details, I am back to fear and trembling of an academic sort.


  2. In 382 Pope Damasus at the Synod of Rome established the canon of scripture,

    The Holy See declared the 73 books of the O&NT canonical because they are inspired, they are not inspired because the Holy See declared them canonical.

    For a text to speak reliably it must have an authentic context and interpretation. Had God guaranteed only the text of scripture and not the context (tradition) and interpretation (magisterium) it would not provide reliable revelation. To deprive it of these is to render the sacred text the mute instrument of the reader’s prejudice. The Spirit will not assist those who put God to the test.

    The heresy of sola scriptura is self-refuting for two reasons. First, for this ‘doctrine’ to be true it would be necessary for scripture itself to assert that it is the all sufficent and supreme norm of doctrine but this is never asserted by scripture. To be sure various books assert their own inspiration or that of other texts and admonish us not to alter these inspired texts by addition or subtraction but it says nothing about sufficiency. Indeed, how could it as to do so would be an assertion that the remaining books which had not then been written were superfluous?! Even if one took the stern warning at the end of Revelation as referring to the whole canon of scripture that would not tell us which books are in scripture nor would it entail an assertion that scripture is an all sufficient norm. Secondly, scripture itself asserts that it does not contain all revelation. Jesus did and said many things which are not and could not be recorded. Prophets who taught for many years have only short books. Jude 14 says that Enoch prophesied and quotes the book of Enoch which is not canonical showing that Divine revelation is transmitted outside scripture. In James 4:5 a non-canonical text is cited as inspired “Or do you suppose it is in vain that the scripture says, ‘He yearns jealously over the spirit which he has made to dwell in us’?” In John 7:38 Our Lord also cites a non-canonical passage as scripture. If, as Catholic and Orthodox Christians do, you accept that prophesy was also transmitted authoritatively outside the inspired books this is not a problem but it is fatal for sola scriptura. Finally, St Paul directly commands the Thessalonians to “stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.”

    Sometimes people try to avoid St Paul’s command by saying that one can only be certain of the traditions passed on by letter. But this is circular. The great majority of Christians hold that there is indeed a means of knowing the traditions passed on by word of mouth – the authority of the Church of the living God the pillar and foundation of the truth. The contrary conclusion cannot be used as premise to demonstrate itself. The burden of proof is upon those who would claim that the Apostle commanded the impossible.

    The LXX was the only OT canon in the first century. More than 90% of all citations of the OT in the NT are from the LXX. There is no internal canon to the NT other than the LXX. If you only accept as inspired those OT books quoted in the NT you will have to exclude Judges, Ruth, Ezra, Nehemiah, Obadiah, Nahum, Esther, The Song of Songs and Ecclesiasties and include Enoch and the Assumption of Moses.

    The concept of sola scriptura might have had a passing plausibility had not the ‘reformers’ interfered with the canon but as soon as the authority of Christ’s Church was rejected Luther was tearing books out the Old Testament and the New. To accept this concept is to presume to bear witness to oneself, knowing neither whence one has come nor whither one is going.


  3. Berenike – why don’t references to “the law,” “the law and the prophets,” “the law, the prophets, and the psalms,” “the scriptures,” etc, which are appealed to as God’s Word, unbreakable, enduring, infallible, and fulfilled by Christ, count as evidence of the Jewish canon?

    Aelianus – why are you talking about sola scriptura?


  4. References to the law and the prophets and and the psalms do nothing to tell us which prophets and which psalms are in the cannon or if there even was a canon in the sense of a closed list of inspired books. They tell us that Jesus recognised the pentateuch, the psalms and a an unidentified number of prophets as inspired but no more. The question of the canon and of sola scriptura are the same question. If the canon cannot be identified by reference to the works within it but only by reference to an external teaching authority the doctrine of sola scriptura falls. If one wishes to retain a belief in the inspiration of scripture one must accept that the authority identifying the canon is infallible. Otherwise the inspiration of scripture is in vain because the text cannot be identified and so the certain teaching of scripture is washed away by the uncertainty concerning its identity.


  5. This is a purely historical question. Don’t read any more into what is being said!

    “the Law” “the Prophets” “the Scriptures”

    doesn’t tell you what is and what isn’t a book of the Law, the Prophets, the Scriptures (though i’ll grant you the probability of The Law meaning either everything, whatever that may be, or the Pentateuch). I think it’s been pointed out that as far as we know there were at least TWO standard Jewish collections of holy books at the time, the Pentateuch and the Septuagint . That there were varying opinions and versions. It may be a bit much to speak of a “canon” in our sense.

    How do the quotations you give tell you that the Song of Songs is Scripture? And Tobit not?

    They don’t, do they? So, as I said, to have any kind of argument (for your selection of writings to be included in the OT) on this basis, you would need to find some evidence that your candidate for the OT ensemble was held to be “the scriptures” by some group of Jews with whom Our Lord could with a fair probability be argued to be agreeing.

    Of course, next week some crumbly papyrus saying “here are the books of the Scriptures of the Jews in the year dot” containing all and only your candidates for OT status may be discovered. Then there’d be a leg on which to balance an argument for the *possibility* of that being what Our Lord had in mind. A week after that another crumbing papyrus is found saying that the Jews of the year dot hold as holy only the Law, the Prophets, and the books known as the Assumptions of Moses and Enoch (random example, so put soemthign else in if Enoch is from the 3rd century!).

    If you have a mo, have a wee neb at that googlebooks link.


  6. **Preamble:** I know you’re not going to find this remotely convincing, and will have many many forceful ways of saying so, and will probably manage to have a snarky dig at Luther, and might even throw in an OT lambasting of sola scriptura for good measure, buuut it’s going to be my last say for a while (extended apology coming up in a separate post), so all I’m going to do is say what I’ve got to say and go and gnash my teeth at the audacity of the inevitable multiplicity of offtopicnesses in silence. Pedantically, I’m also going to stick to the question of canonicity and ignore the sola scriptura issues – related as they are, it’s not impossible to take them separately, and it’s not particularly helpful to treat it as one and the same question.


    It’s true that terms like “the law and the prophets” don’t by themselves indicate what books precisely belonged under these classifications. But taken in their contexts they do show that there was a body of literature which was known to the Saviour and his contemporaries (by these names), which was distinct from other writings, and which was fixed. They knew what they meant by the law, the prophets, the psalms, the scriptures. Whatever it was, it was God’s word, it came by the Holy Spirit, it was authoritative, it was enduring, it could not be broken, and not one jot or tittle of it was or could be lost. None of this was challenged by the Jews who Jesus disputed with – they were disputing from the same body of writings – he opposed the Pharisees, not in terms of the identity of the scriptures but in terms of the interpretation of them. The Jews took incredible care of their scriptures, right from the placing of a copy of the law in the ark, to teaching the scriptures constantly to their children, to undergoing national judgments for their neglect of God’s law, and eventually developing the famous traditions about counting even the letters that the texts consisted of. The great privilege of the Jews, and the huge debt that the Christian church owes to them, is that to them were entrusted the oracles of God, and the New Testament is not only silent in terms of any criticism of the Jews for failing in that trust but the Saviour himself affirms that it is easier for heaven and earth to pass than for one jot or tittle of it to fail. The idea that the Jews in the time of Jesus were in confusion about what counted as their own canon (or that the copies were so corrupted that they barely knew what was authoritative or not, like the googlebook on the end of the link seems to argue from my quick peek) is simply not recognisable in the way that Christ, the Pharisees his contemporaries, and the apostles and writers of the NT, treat the scriptures.

    This means that the OT did not become canonical as a result of what’s said about it in the NT. The evidence from the NT is invaluable, but it testifies to how the Saviour and the earliest NT church treated an existing body of well known and well recognised holy scriptures of divine origin and authority. These scriptures, as has been pointed out, can be shown on the basis of direct evidence to include all the books in what we call the OT apart from a handful (namely Judges/Ruth [altho see Heb 11], the Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Ezra/Nehemiah, and Chronicles [altho see Luke 11:51 with 2 Chron 24:20]). These were controversial for one reason or another and to one degree or another, in ways that I don’t know too much about and so will frankly avoid, but by common consent the whole of the rest of the books of the OT are not only canonical as far as the Jews were concerned but also approved by the NT – leaving us far from helpless in terms of identifying what the Saviour and the apostles knew and treated as inspired/authoritative. The Septuagint was the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures – i’m not quite sure what it means to call the Pentateuch a separate canon from the Septuagint – there was the Pentateuch in the original Hebrew, and the Pentateuch as translated into Greek as part of the Septuagint. All along they had the Hebrew which underlay the Septuagint, and which could be referred to, eg in places where the translation didn’t quite capture the meaning of the original, etc. (And although the apocryphal books and writings which are now not extant must have been known to the NT writers they aren’t treated in nearly the same way – indirect allusions perhaps, in roughly the same way that Paul quoted heathen philosophers and poets (not exactly the same way, as the apocryphal books are universally acknowledged to contain both interesting and valuable material alongside their inconsistencies and flaws), but not in the context of “As the Holy Ghost spake by X.” Cases like Jas 4:5 and John 5:39, as I already mentioned in a comment on the previous post, are instances of a more general trend for making sweeping allusions to the general teaching of the scriptures as a whole, just like in places like Matt 2:23, Luke 11:49, Eph 5:14, etc.)

    It’s the inspired, God-breathed, nature of the scriptures that makes them intrinsically authoritative (and ‘canonical’ in the sense that they constitute a rule or standard for our faith and practice), and which guarantees both their continuing relevance and preservation, and which allows/obliges us as individuals and bodies of christians to treat them as authoritative (list them in our canons). The Holy Spirit who inspired them is still present and available when they are read now, ie not only ensuring that in providence the scriptures are kept intact and transmitted, but witnessing to their authority and divinity to individual Christians and groups of Christians through time. Whether or not this fact is then made a plank in an argument for sola scriptura, it should be something that all Christians are happy to recognise – that there is available a well-defined Word, a securely fixed deposit of the teaching of the prophets and apostles, a word of prophecy more sure than voices from heaven, whereunto we do well if we take heed. Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently; O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes! Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments.


  7. Of course Jesus knew which books He had inspired and which He didn’t. As is happens the canon was not closed (hence the NT) nor was prophecy ended (see John the Baptist). It is clear from the NT that the status of John as a prophet was widely accepted and not seen as a novelty. The Essenes too thought they were still producing inspired literature. The Ethiopian Jews who never heard about the Rabbis rejection of the later books of the OT in the second century retain to this day all seven of the books Luther and the Rabbis removed.

    Yes there was a canon in the time of the NT. There were several and the one accepted by the leaders of the Jewish nation consisted only of the five books of Moses. Actually, when Jesus argues with the Sadducees he is careful only to use arguments from the Pentateuch because He knew they did not accept any other text as authoritative. They did not deny that there were prophets only that we could necessarily trust the record of their preaching. Their error in that regard mirrored that of the ‘reformers’. Jesus upheld the authority of the Pharisees, derived from Moses, to guard the oral tradition, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice.” Clearly Jesus accepted a far more extensive canon than the Pentateuch but the only way this can be established is either through recourse to the oral tradition of the Apostles as guarded by he who sits in Peter’s seat or by opting for the canon most consistent with the usage of the NT and which we know existed at the time of Jesus. This latter strategy produces the canon of the LXX, for over 90% of all citations from the OT in the NT are taken from the LXX. So you have to choose between the Orthodox canon and the Catholic one, the Protestant canon isn’t in the race.


  8. I take it back – that’s not off topic at all :)

    So instead I’ll silently gnash with disagreement, and still resolutely refrain from responding.


  9. I just find a number of popular evangelical arguments of Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch to be rather wanting. Arguments from Jesus’ words, in and of themselves, prove very little.

    Note how he sets up his argument “Our Saviour expressly acknowledged the divine authority and consequently the divine inspiration of the several books of the Jewish canon.” What he does not prove is how Jesus’ in acknowledging the divine authority of the OT teaches its inspiration. Now I believe that it was inspired, I just don’t think Girardeau’s argument proves what he thinks it does. :-)

    2 Timothy 3:16 “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:”

    2 Peter 1:21 “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”


  10. It think I might have done Girardeau a disservice by only quoting this section. It’s far too long for one thing, and it doesn’t give any indication of the argumentation he’s provided prior to coming round to these points. Ie, his case doesn’t begin with that equation of authority and inspiration – what he says in the excerpt in the post comes after he has discussed the nature of inspiration (“Inspiration is an immediate, supernatural influence of the Holy Ghost upon the mind, objectively communicating to it such truth as God wills to impart, effecting the infallible communication to others of that truth…”) and he’s now discussing whether ‘the inspiration which has been contended for belongs to all parts of the scriptures’ – beginning with Christ’s testimony to the OT scriptures. It comes on top of pages of demonstration that the OT writers regarded themselves as inspired (and he sees the scriptures as authoritative because inspired).

    (It’s not really an argument about the authorship of the pentateuch incidentally. I haven’t read the whole thing but it’s the subsection of his Discussions of Theological Questions where deals with the ultimate source of theology as it is identified in different schools of thought (deism, rationalism, mysticism etc). I can’t tell when it was first written, probably sometime in the late 1800s.


  11. Pingback: the linguistics of inspiration* « ninetysix and ten

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s