As I've mentioned in some recent posts (here and here), Eastern Orthodox disagree among themselves about the canon of scripture. Though people often claim that Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics agree in accepting the canonicity of "the Apocrypha", the two groups disagree about which Apocryphal books are to be accepted. The Eastern Orthodox scholar John Breck writes:
"'Deutero-canonical' is the qualification given by Orthodox and Roman Catholic traditions to writings considered by the Church to be inspired but having a lesser degree of authority in matters of faith and morals. These include 1-2 [some would add 3-4] Maccabees, Tobit, Judith, Sirach, Wisdom of Solomon, Baruch, and certain additions to Esther and Daniel." (Spirit Of Truth: The Holy Spirit In Johannine Tradition [Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1991], n. 1 on p. 93)
In addition to the disagreements over 3-4 Maccabees, some Eastern Orthodox include other material not mentioned by Breck. Thus, the fact that Roman Catholics and many Eastern Orthodox accept "the Apocrypha", "deuterocanonical books", etc. doesn't prove that they have the same canon. Eastern Orthodox don't even agree among themselves about the canon of scripture. As Jan Alberto Soggin explains, Eastern Orthodox hold a wide variety of views on this subject:
"Even today, moreover, the status of the books in the Alexandrian canon is a matter of controversy among the various Christian churches: while the Roman Catholic church after the Council of Trent accepted the canonicity of the greater part of the Alexandrian canon (but not all; it excluded III Ezra and III-IV Maccabees), some Eastern Orthodox churches maintain an equivocal attitude, while others have included different books in their canon; the Protestants and Anglican churches have generally rejected their canonicity, for the most part merely according them the status of devotional books" (Introduction To The Old Testament [Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 1989], p. 19)
When Steve Hays and I have mentioned the existence of multiple canons among the Eastern Orthodox in previous posts, Orthodox has responded by arguing that such disagreements are acceptable, as long as there's agreement on other points. And he claims that one thing all Eastern Orthodox agree about is the acceptance of the books defined as scripture at the synod of Jerusalem in 1672. When I documented (here and here) that not all Eastern Orthodox accept all of those books as scripture, Orthodox ignored some of the sources I cited, distorted some of them, and dismissed one of them, Roger Beckwith, with comments such as the following:
"Jo Bloggs said 'all protestants beat their wives'. Give us good reason not to doubt this fellow Jo Bloggs, who by the way is a biased polemicist against protestants....I am no more impressed with the credentials of Roger Beckwith than you are impressed with Jo Bloggs....My scholar can whup your scholar. Fisticuffs between scholars out the back of the toilet block....LOL, Beckwith is a protestant with a protestant agenda."
Notice, first of all, that comments such as the ones quoted above are commonplace in Orthodox's posts. Such comments don't do much to support Orthodox's conclusions, and they reflect more poorly on Orthodox than they do on the position he's opposing.
And notice that, in the thread in which he makes the comments above, he fails to interact with most of the scholars he's dismissing. He asked me about the significance of my citation of The Blackwell Dictionary Of Eastern Christianity, but he didn't respond to the citation after I explained its significance. He said nothing about my citation of F.F. Bruce.
His response to my citation of Timothy (Kallistos) Ware, in another thread, is problematic, for reasons I explain there. Readers should note the inaccurate claims Orthodox makes about Athanasius and Jerome at the beginning of the thread, claims he eventually had to back away from. When somebody is so wrong about church history so often, what should we conclude?
But what about Roger Beckwith? Obviously, the comparison between Beckwith and some little known person named "Jo Bloggs", who argues that "all Protestants beat their wives", is ridiculous. Beckwith is a well qualified scholar who has produced material of a high quality. His assessment of Eastern Orthodox views of the canon isn't logically in the same category as "all Protestants beat their wives", his assessment is supported by the citation of multiple sources, and other scholars have supported similar conclusions and cited some of the same sources. I gave some examples in the previous thread and will give more below.
Orthodox dismisses Beckwith on the basis that one review of his book at amazon.com refers to that book as "polemical" and refers to Beckwith as "biased and selective". But the same review makes some positive comments about the book, as do other reviews. And why should we make a judgment about Beckwith's discussion of Eastern Orthodoxy based on one review at amazon.com by a little known person ("M A Baxter")? How much does Orthodox know about this person?
Let's apply Orthodox's reasoning against his own position. On the May 8 edition of James White's Dividing Line webcast, a man who claimed to be Eastern Orthodox called in near the end of the program (about half way through minute fifty-five). He said some of the same things I've been saying about the acceptance of the Hebrew Old Testament canon by some Eastern Orthodox. If Orthodox is going to accept the claims of an amazon.com reviewer he doesn't know much about, then why can't we accept the claims of the person who called in to James White's webcast, even though we don't know much about that caller? I've offered much more corroboration of that caller's claims than Orthodox has offered for the claims he's quoting from that amazon.com reviewer.
People can disagree with some of Roger Beckwith's conclusions without dismissing him in the absurd manner in which Orthodox dismisses him. Orthodox refers to Beckwith as "a Protestant with a Protestant agenda", but his work is well-regarded in non-Protestant circles. While disagreeing with the Old Testament canon Beckwith argues for, a Roman Catholic Biblical commentary compiled by some of the foremost Catholic scholars of modern times makes some of the same points about Eastern Orthodoxy that Beckwith does, and it cites Beckwith as a reliable source on the issue we're discussing:
"The Reformers influenced some OT canonical approaches in the Eastern churches. In 1627 Zacharios Greganos, a Greek who had studied at Wittenburg, rejected the deuterocanonical books. Although similar views were held by a few others, the Gk and Slavic branches of the Byzantine church continued to maintain those books. The Synod of Jerusalem, convened at Bethlehem in 1672 by the patriarch Dositheus to repudiate tendencies toward Calvinism, specifically decreed that Tob, Jdt, Sir, Wis, 1-2 Macc, and the additions to Dan are to be considered canonical. At that time the decrees of the synod were intended to be representative of Eastern Orthodoxy as a whole. Within the Gk church, despite occasional demurrals by theologians, the longer OT canon has been accepted, including 2 Esdr and 3 Macc. Since the 19th cent., however, Russian Orthodox theologians generally have not accepted the deuterocanonical books. Yet a Moscow-published Bible of 1956 contains them. A draft statement for the proposed Great Council of the Orthodox Church (Towards the Great Council [London, 1972] 3-4) opts for the shorter canon, as does the negotiation between the Orthodox and the Old Catholics (Beckwith, OT Canon 14)." (Raymond E. Brown, et al., eds., The New Jerome Biblical Commentary [Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1990], p. 1043)
The Eastern Orthodox scholar John Meyendorff wrote:
"The Christian East took a longer time than the West in settling on an agreed canon of Scripture. The principal hesitations concerned the books of the Old Testament which are not contained in the Hebrew Canon ('shorter' canon) and the book of Revelation in the New Testament. Fourth-century conciliar and patristic authorities in the East differ in their attitude concerning the exact authority of Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Esther, Judith, and Tobit. Athanasius in his famous Paschal Letter 39 excludes them from Scripture proper, but considers them useful for catechumens, an opinion which he shares with Cyril of Jerusalem. Canon 60 of the Council of Laodicea - whether authentic or not - also reflects the tradition of a 'shorter' canon. But the Quinisext Council (692) endorses the authority of Apostolic Canon 85, which admits some books of the 'longer' canon, including even 3 Maccabees, but omits Wisdom, Tobit, and Judith. John of Damascus (t ca. 753), however, considers Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus as 'admirable,' yet fails to include them in the canon. Therefore, in spite of the fact that Byzantine patristic and ecclesiastical tradition almost exclusively uses the Septuagint as the standard Biblical text, and that parts of the 'longer' canon - especially Wisdom - are of frequent liturgical use, Byzantine theologians remain faithful to a 'Hebrew' criterion for Old Testament literature, which excludes texts originally composed in Greek. Modern Orthodox theology is consistent with this unresolved polarity when it distinguishes between 'canonical' and 'deuterocanonical' literature of the Old Testament, applying the first term only to the books of the 'shorter' canon." (Byzantine Theology [New York: Fordham University Press, 1987], p. 7)