Thursday, February 21, 2008

Poppin-Jay on the Canon

(Posted on behalf of Steve Hays.)

I. Gutting a Cuttlefish

Jay Dyer has done a post on what he alleges to be patristic and/or NT citations of the OT apocrypha.1

Dyer’s tactic is that if you just throw enough fallacious examples at your opponent, the cumulative impact of your serial fallacies will overwhelm his position. So before I comment on any of the specifics, it’s necessary to disperse his ink-cloud by drawing some elementary distinctions which Dyer is either too inept or dishonest to draw for himself or for the benefit of his readers.
  1. One of the lines of evidence for the canon of Scripture is internal to the canon of Scripture. And that goes to the self-witness of Scripture. For later books of the Bible frequently attest earlier books of the Bible.

  2. However, this doesn’t mean that a mere allusion or quotation is equivalent to attestation. There are many other considerations. What is the nature of the quote? How does it function in the argument? Does the quotation or allusion assert something? What is the general reputation of this material? What is the author’s implied reader or target audience?

  3. In the NT, there are standard formulae for citing Scripture. That would automatically count as a form of attestation.

  4. But this is not to deny that a Scripture may also be quoted or alluded to without standard citational formulae.

  5. By definition, a quotation or allusion presupposes the chronological priority of the book which the author is quoting or alluding to. An earlier writer can’t quote or allude to a later writing.

  6. Apropos (5), Dyer makes no effort to defend the traditional date or authorship of the OT apocrypha. But literary dependence presupposes the chronological precedence of the material alluded to or quoted.

    Let us remember that Dyer is attempting to make a case for the Orthodox rule of faith. So he assumes a certain burden of proof. In debating with Protestants, he can’t very well take the prima facie claims of the OT apocrypha for granted—since their authenticity is one of the central points at issue.

  7. Dyer also disregards text-critical questions regarding the OT apocrypha. But if he’s going to cite the OT apocrypha, then he needs to tell us which text is the authentic text. Which text represents the officially sanctioned text of the Orthodox church, and why.

  8. There’s a difference between Bible writers and Bible speakers. Bible writers are inspired. And Bible writers, in historical narratives, quote the statements of various speakers. However, there is no presumption that a Bible speaker is inspired. That depends on the role of the speaker. If the Bible records the speech of a prophet or apostle, then the speaker is inspired. But the Bible also quotes many uninspired speakers.

  9. Dyer always defaults to an apocryphal allusion. He will do this when an OT allusion—or even a direct quote—is readily at hand. He never considers an OT alternative to his apocryphal sources. Is he just pig-ignorant of the OT, or is he prevaricating?

  10. He fallaciously infers that if a NT author is alluding to the same event as an apocryphal author, then the NT author is alluding to the apocryphal writing rather than the event to which the apocryphal author is also alluding. If, say, a NT author alludes to the Exodus, and an apocryphal author alludes to the Exodus, Dyer acts as if the NT author must be alluding to the apocryphal writing rather than primary, OT source which records the OT event.

    Put another way, it doesn’t occur to him that if an apocryphal author alludes to an event recorded in some OT book, that a NT author can directly allude to the same event in the same OT book, rather than alluding to a secondary, apocryphal source—as if the NT author’s knowledge of the event must be mediated by the apocryphal book. If two newspaper reporters refer to the same event, that doesn’t mean that one reporter is referring to another reporter.

    As Intertestamental writers, the authors of the OT apocrypha were naturally acquainted with various books of the OT. So they contain many allusions to the OT.

  11. Dyer acts as though, if a NT author betrays any knowledge of the OT apocrypha, this is equivalent to attestation. But that is obviously fallacious. I can be conversant with many things I don’t agree with.

  12. Dyer cites some instances in which NT authors apparently make use of generic imagery from the OT apocrypha, as if this were equivalent to attestation. Why he draws that inference, I don’t know. There’s a lot of stock, free-floating imagery in Scripture. It moves around a lot.

    Taken by itself, mere imagery isn’t making a statement, whether true or false. That all depends on what the author does with the imagery. That’s why imagery is portable. Different writers creatively reuse the same imagery in various ways.

II. Putting Tobit to the Test

I already did a post on Wisdom.2 Let’s now turn the book of Tobit as another test-case for the canonicity of the OT apocrypha. Joseph Fitzmyer has penned the standard commentary on this apocryphal writing. Here’s some of what he has to say about it:
The manuscript transmission of the story of Tobit is unusually complicated and has been rendered even more so by discoveries in the twentieth century…Prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the text of the Book of Tobit was known only from various ancient translations. The most important of these were the versions in Greek and Latin, but the book was preserved also in ancient Arabic, Armenian, Coptic (Sahidic), Ethiopic, and Syrian translation.3

As for the Greek translation of the Book of Tobit, one has to distinguish three forms known today:
  1. Short Recension: It is found mainly in the MSS Vaticanus (B) of the fourth century, Alexandrinus (A) of the fifth century, Venetus (V) of the eighth century, 990 (=P. Oxy. 1594), of the third century, containing Tob 12:14-19, and also in a host of minuscule manuscripts of the ninth and later centuries.

  2. Long Recension: It is found in the MS Sinaiticus (S) of the fourth/fifth century, and in the fragmentary eleventh-century minuscule MS 319 (Vatopedi 513, dated AD 1021), which contains this recension for Tob 3:6-6:616 (up to daimoniou toutou). A bit of the Long Recension is preserved also in the sixth-century papyrus MS 910 (=P. Oxy. 1076, containing only Tob 2:2-5,8).

  3. Intermediate Recension: It is found in miniscule MSS 44 (Codex Cittaviensis), 106 (Codex Ferrariensis), 107 (Codex Ferriensis, ca. AD 1337).4
Question for Dyer: Which edition or MS preserves the authentic text of Tobit? What edition of Tobit represents the official edition of the Orthodox church? Which edition is the canonical version?5

Continuing with Fitzmyer:
Its fictional character is evident in the improbability of several of its chronological and topographical details. For instance:
  1. Tobit speaks of the apostasy of his entire ancestral tribe (Naphtali) as having happened in his youth (1:4-5). Yet that tribe broke away from the house of David in the time of Jeroboam I, who reigned from 922-901 BC (1 Kgs 12:19-20,25-29). That break with the house of David took place two centuries earlier, well before all the people of Naphtali were carried off to Assyria. When Tobit was thus departed in 732 BC (1:10), almost two centuries later, he had hardly been an eyewitness to the apostasy of which he speaks.

  2. According to 1:2, Tobit “of the tribe of Naphtali” was taken captive “in the days of Shalmaneser,” but according to 2 Kgs 15:29 it was that king’s father, Tiglathpileser III (744-727) who conquered “all the land of Naphtali and deported the people to Assyria” (ca. 732 BC).

  3. According to 1:15, “when Shalmaneser died, his son Sennacherib
    came to rule in his stead.” Shalmaneser reigned from 727-722
    and was succeeded by a usurper, Sargon II (722-705), under whom the
    siege of Samaria continued until 721, when the city finally fell to
    the Assyrians. Sargon II was in turn succeeded by his son,
    Sennacherib, who reigned from 705-681 (2 Kgs 18:13-19:37). The author
    of the Book of Tobit has confused two Assyrian kings, in making
    Sennarcherib the son of Shalmaneser.

  4. Tobiah, Tobit’s only son, was born before the deportation to Assyria (1:9-10) and would have gone to Nineveh as a young child (ca. 732 BC). He is said to have lived until he was 117 years of age (14:14). So how would he have been able to see and hear about the destruction of Nineveh in 612 BC (14:15)?

  5. Ecbatana (modern Hamadan) lies about 2,020 meters above sea level near the Zagros Mountains and is about 200 miles away from Rages (near modern Teheran), which lies at 1,132 meters above sea level. These details create a problem when one reads 5:6, which says, “It is a journey of two full days from Ecbatana to Rages, for it lies in the mountains, whereas Ecbatana is in the midst of a plain” (cf. 9:2).

  6. Nineveh had been built on the eastern bank of the Tigris River, so that anyone traveling from Nineveh to Rages, which is almost due East of Nineveh (as the crow flies), would scarcely have crossed the Tigris en route, which does not follow in any such direction. This creates a problem when it is said in 6:2, “they camped by the River Tigris.”

  7. “Kaserin…opposite Nineveh” (11:1) is similarly problematic, because such a place is not only unknown, but its location would again seem to demand a crossing of the Tigris for one coming from Ecbatana in the East.6
Question for Dyer: How do you propose to rebut these apparent anachronisms in Tobit? Otherwise, why wouldn’t that count as evidence for spurious character of Tobit?

Continuing with Fitzmyer:
Clear allusions to the Ahiquar story are found in 1:21-22; 2:10; 11:18; 14:10, so that it would have to be required as a source that the author used. The Story and Wisdom of Ahiquar is a venerable tale, undoubtedly of Assyrian origins, but the earliest attested form of it comes from fragmentary fifth-century Elephantine papyri, written in Aramaic.7
Question for Dyer: How is the literary dependence of Tobit on an Assyrian fable consonant with the historicity of Tobit?

Continuing with Fitzmyer:
I tend to agree with this commonly-held dating, somewhere between 225 and 175 BC, preferring a date toward the end of that period…Some commentators, however, have dated the final redaction of Tobit, if not the entire composition of the book, to the Christian period. Hitzig dated the book to AD 116; Rosenthal, to AD 139-41; Zimmermann, who ascribes the main narrative (chaps. 1:12) to “the later half of the second century” [BC], dates chap. 14 “after 70” [AD). Neubauer followed Grätz in ascribing Tobit to the time of Hadrian (ca. AD 135).8
Question for Dyer: which date would you assign to the composition of Tobit? What are your supporting arguments? If Tobit actually postdates the NT, then the NT couldn’t very well allude to Tobit, correct?

Continuing with Fitzmyer:
In the earlier centuries of the Christian era, some Fathers and theologians denied the Book of Tobit canonical status: Melito of Sardis, Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Epiphanius, Gregory of Nazianzus. It is not listed in the canon of the Council of Laodicea (AD 360).9
Question: How do you, as an Orthodox believer, justify the canonicity of Tobit when several important church fathers and one church council repudiated its canonicity?

III. 77 Flat Tires

Dyer thinks the NT cites the OT apocrypha on the following occasions:10

NT passageDyer's assertionActual citation
Matt. 2:16 - Herod's decree of slaying innocent children was prophesied inWis. 11:7 - slaying the holy innocents.Wrong! Try Jer 31:15 (cf. Gen 35).
Matt. 6:19-20 - Jesus' statement about laying up for yourselves treasure in heaven followsSirach 29:11 - lay up your treasure.Wrong! Try Isa 51:8.
Matt.. 7:12 - Jesus' golden rule "do unto others" is the converse ofTobit 4:15 - what you hate, do not do to others.Wrong! This is a paraphrase of Lev 19:18.
Matt. 7:16,20 - Jesus' statement "you will know them by their fruits" followsSirach 27:6 - the fruit discloses the cultivation.Wrong! Try Isa 5:1-7.
Matt. 9:36 - the people were "like sheep without a shepherd" is same asJudith 11:19 - sheep without a shepherd.Wrong! Try Ezk 34:5
Matt. 11:25 - Jesus' description "Lord of heaven and earth" is the same asTobit 7:18 - Lord of heaven and earth.You can also find the same phrase in the Genesis Apocryphon. So it’s a stock formula.
Matt. 12:42 - Jesus refers tothe wisdom of Solomon which was recorded and made part of the deuterocanonical books.A fallacy of equivocation. The fact that Jesus refers to the wisdom of Solomon doesn’t mean that he refers to apocryphal literature attributed to Solomon. Try 1 Kgs 3; 10:1-13, & 2 Chron 9:1-12.
Matt. 16:18 - Jesus' reference to the "power of death" and "gates of Hades" referencesWisdom 16:13.Wrong! Try Deut 32:39; 1 Sam 2:6, Job 38:17 Pss 9:13; 107:18, & Isa 38:10.
Matt. 22:25; Mark 12:20; Luke 20:29 - Gospel writers refer to the canonicity ofTobit 3:8 and 7:11 regarding the seven brothers.
  1. Deceptive! It’s the Sadducees who mention this, not Jesus or a Synoptic Evangelist.
  2. Moreover, the Sadducees weren’t citing this hypothetical case as a historical event. To the contrary, they were presenting it as a counterfactual.
Matt. 24:15 - the "desolating sacrilege" Jesus refers to is also taken from1 Macc. 1:54 and 2 Macc. 8:17.Wrong! Try Dan 9:27; 11:31; 12:11.
Matt. 24:16 - let those "flee to the mountains" is taken from1 Macc. 2:28.Wrong! Try Gen 19:17.
Matt. 27:43 - if He is God's Son, let God deliver him from His adversaries followsWisdom 2:18.Wrong! Try Ps 22:8.
Mark 4:5,16-17 - Jesus' description of seeds falling on rocky ground and having no root followsSirach 40:15.Wrong! He’s treating this verse in isolation. The whole parable employs agricultural metaphors. For OT precedents, cf. Isa 5:1-7; 55:10-11, Jer 31:27-28, Ezk 36:8-9, & Hos 2:21-23.
Mark 9:48 - description of hell where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched referencesJudith 16:17.Wrong! Try Isa 66:24.
Luke 1:42 - Elizabeth's declaration of Mary's blessedness above all women follows Uzziah's declaration inJudith 13:18.
  1. Wrong! Try Deut 28:4& Judges 5:24.
  2. Besides, Elizabeth is not a Bible writer.
Luke 1:52 - Mary's magnificat addressing the mighty falling from their thrones and replaced by lowly followsSirach 10:14.Wrong! The reversal of fortunes is a common OT motif.
Luke 2:29 - Simeon's declaration that he is ready to die after seeing the Child Jesus followsTobit 11:9.Wrong! Try Gen 15:15.
Luke 13:29 - the Lord's description of men coming from east and west to rejoice in God followsBaruch 4:37.
  1. Wrong! This allusion triggers a conjunctive association of several OT motifs:
    1. The ingathering of the Jewish Diaspora (Ps 107:2-3; Isa 43:5-6; 49:12).
    2. The conversion of the Gentiles (Isa 45:6; 59:19; Zech 2:11; Mal 1:11.
    3. The Messianic banquet (Is 25:6; 55:1-2; 65:13; Zeph 1:7).
  2. There are also some basic problems with the historicity of Baruch.11
Luke 21:24 - Jesus' usage of "fall by the edge of the sword" followsSirach 28:18.Wrong! Try Jer 20:4-6.
Luke 24:4 and Acts 1:10 - Luke's description of the two men in dazzling apparel reminds us of2 Macc. 3:26.Here’s a novel suggestion: maybe Luke said that’s what they looked like because that’s what they looked like!
John 1:3 - all things were made through Him, the Word, followsWisdom 9:1.Wrong! The primary reference is to Gen 1, with intertextual reflections in Prov 3:19 & 8:30.
John 3:13 - who has ascended into heaven but He who descended from heaven referencesBaruch 3:29.Wrong! Try Deut 30:12 & Prov 30:4.
John 4:48; Acts 5:12; 15:12; 2 Cor. 12:12 - Jesus', Luke's and Paul's usage of "signs and wonders" followsWisdom 8:8.Wrong! This alludes to the miracles by which God liberated Israel from Egyptian bondage (Exod 4-11).
John 5:18 - Jesus claiming that God is His Father followsWisdom 2:16.
  1. Wrong! Wis 2:16 is alluding to Isa 63:16 & 64:8.
  2. Notice how Dyer isolates this reference to the divine sonship of Christ, as if this were the first and only Johannine verse which made that attribution. To the contrary, the divine sonship of Christ is a fixture of Johannine Christology.
John 6:35-59 - Jesus' Eucharistic discourse is foreshadowed inSirach 24:21.
  1. This assumes a sacramental reading of Jn 6, for which Dyer offers no exegetical argument.
  2. The Bread of Life discourse is foreshadowed in the wilderness narrative of the manna from heaven (e.g. Exod 16; Num 11:7-9; Pss 78:23-24; 105:40.
John 10:22 - the identification of the feast of the dedication is taken from1 Macc. 4:59.Deceptive. Jesus is observing the custom of Hanukkah, and 1 Maccabees records the origin of that festival. Dyer is confounding historical records with historical events. Jesus is observing a traditional commemoration of an event.
John 10:36 – Jesus accepts the inspiration of Maccabees as He analogizes the Hanukkah consecration to His own consecration to the Father in1 Macc. 4:36.
  1. See above.
  2. There is also a thematic carryover, at this point in the narrative, from the Feast of Tabernacles.
John 15:6 - branches that don't bear fruit and are cut down followsWis. 4:5 where branches are broken off.Wrong! Try Ps 80:15-16, Ezk 15:1-8 & 19:10-14.
Acts 1:15 - Luke's reference to the 120 may be a reference to1 Macc. 3:55 - leaders of tens / restoration of the twelve. Here’s a novel suggestion: maybe Luke said there were 120 people present because there were 120 people present!
Acts 10:34; Rom. 2:11; Gal. 2:6 - Peter's and Paul's statement that God shows no partiality referencesSirach 35:12.Wrong! Try Lev 19:15; Deut 10:17; 2 Chron 19:7; Ps 82:2 & Mal 2:9.
Acts 17:29 - description of false gods as like gold and silver made by men followsWisdom 13:10.Wrong! Try Deut 29:17.
Rom 1:18-25 - Paul's teaching on the knowledge of the Creator and the ignorance and sin of idolatry followsWis. 13:1-10.Wrong! Try Ps 106:20-21; Jer 2:11 & 10:14.
Rom. 1:20 - specifically, God's existence being evident in nature followsWis. 13:1.Wrong! Try Job 12:7-9; Ps 19:1-4, & Isa 40:26.
Rom. 1:23 - the sin of worshipping mortal man, birds, animals and reptiles followsWis. 11:15; 12:24-27; 13:10; 14:8.Wrong! Try Gen 1:20,24,26-27; Deut 4:15-19, & Ps 106:20
Rom. 1:24-27 - this idolatry results in all kinds of sexual perversion which followsWis. 14:12,24-27.Wrong! Try Deut 23:17-18; 1 Kgs 14:24, & 15:12.
Rom. 4:17 - Abraham is a father of many nations followsSirach 44:19.Wrong! Try Gen 17:5.
Rom. 5:12 - description of death and sin entering into the world is similar toWisdom 2:24.Wrong! Try Gen 2:17; 3:1 (passim), & Eccl 7:29.
Rom. 9:21 - usage of the potter and the clay, making two kinds of vessels followsWisdom 15:7.Wrong! Try Isa 29:16; 45:9 & Jer 18:1-12.
1 Cor. 2:16 - Paul's question, "who has known the mind of the Lord?" referencesWisdom 9:13.Wrong! Try Isa 40:13.
1 Cor. 6:12-13; 10:23-26 - warning that, while all things are good, beware of gluttony, followsSirach 36:18 and 37:28-30.Wrong! Try Pss 24:1; 50:12, & Prov 23:20-21.
1 Cor. 8:5-6 - Paul acknowledging many "gods" but one Lord followsWis. 13:3.Wrong! Try Deut 4:35,39; 6:4; 10:17.
1 Cor. 10:1 - Paul's description of our fathers being under the cloud passing through the sea refers toWisdom 19:7.Wrong! Try Exod 13-14.
1 Cor. 10:20 - what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God refers toBaruch 4:7.Wrong! Try Lev 17:7; Deut 32:17 & Ps 106:37.
1 Cor. 15:29 - if no expectation of resurrection, it would be foolish to be baptized on their behalf follows2 Macc. 12:43-45.Does the Orthodox church practice vicarious baptism for the dead? Does Dyer think that’s the correct interpretation of this verse? Is Dyer a closet Mormon? For better interpretations, see Garland and Thiselton.12
Eph. 1:17 - Paul's prayer for a "spirit of wisdom" follows the prayer for the spirit of wisdom inWisdom 7:7.Wrong! Try Exod 31:3; 35:31, & Isa 11:2.
Eph. 6:14 - Paul describing the breastplate of righteousness is the same asWis. 5:18. See also Isaiah 59:17 and 1 Thess. 5:8.Since Dyer volunteers an allusion to Isa 59:17, Wis 5:18 is superfluous.
Eph. 6:13-17 - in fact, the whole discussion of armor, helmet, breastplate, sword, shield followsWis. 5:17-20.Wrong! In fact, the whole discussion follows from OT passages like Ps 18:2, Isa 11:4-5, & 59:17.
1 Tim. 6:15 - Paul's description of God as Sovereign and King of kings is from2 Macc. 12:15; 13:4.Wrong! Try Deut 10:17.
2 Tim. 4:8 - Paul's description of a crown of righteousness is similar toWisdom 5:16.Wrong! It’s based on Greco-Roman athletic competitions.
Heb. 4:12 - Paul's description of God's word as a sword is similar toWisdom 18:15.Wrong! Try Isa 49:2
Heb. 11:5 - Enoch being taken up is also referenced inWis 4:10 and Sir 44:16. See also 2 Kings 2:1-13 & Sir 48:9 regarding Elijah.
  1. Wrong! Try Gen 5:24.
  2. Why does Dyer mention 2 Kgs 2? Does he think that Kings is literarily dependent on Wisdom or Sirach? When does he think these documents were written?
Longman and Provan date the final edition of Kings to the exilic era (c. 606-536BC), which, in turn, redacts a preexilic edition.13 Archer shares the same basic dating scheme.1415 while de Silva dates Sirach to the 2C BC.16 Even if we push the date of Wisdom back a ways (a la deSilva), Kings would still antedate Wisdom and Sirach by many centuries. So what is Dyer trying to say? Does he actually imagine that Kings is literarily dependent on Wisdom or Sirach? How could Kings allude to a book that didn’t exist at the time of writing? If Dyer is truly of the opinion that Wisdom and/or Sirach antedate Kings, then he needs to defend his eccentric chronology. But if he thinks that Heb 11:5 is alluding to 2 Kgs 2:1-13, then that would undercut his appeal to the Apocrypha. And if he thinks that Wisdom or Sirach is dependent on Kings, rather than the reverse, then that would also undercut his appeal to the Apocrypha. It’s hard to offer a coherent explanation for Dyer’s citations.
Heb 11:35 - Paul teaches about the martyrdom of the mother and her sons described in2 Macc. 7:1-42.I’ve been over this ground with Dyer on more than one occasion. Pity he’s immune to correction. The author of Hebrews is arranging the heroes of faith in a roughly chronological order. At this point in his exposition, he alludes to Intertestamental literature because he is alluding to Intertestamental history. In the nature of the case, the Historical books of the OT don’t record Intertestamental events. History is the study of the past, not the future.
Heb. 12:12 - the description "drooping hands" and "weak knees" comes fromSirach 25:23.Wrong! Try Isa 35:3.
James 1:19 - let every man be quick to hear and slow to respond followsSirach 5:11.Wrong! Try Prov 17:27-28 & Eccl 7:9.
James 2:23 - it was reckoned to him as righteousness follows1 Macc. 2:52 - it was reckoned to him as righteousness.Wrong! Try Gen 15:6.
James 3:13 - James' instruction to perform works in meekness followsSirach 3:17.That’s a standard ingredient of OT theology.
James 5:3 - describing silver which rusts and laying up treasure followsSirach 29:10-11.Wrong! Try Isa 50:9 (cf. 51:8), & Ezk 7:19.
James 5:6 - condemning and killing the "righteous man" followsWisdom 2:10-20.Once again, that’s a standard OT theme.
1 Peter 1:6-7 - Peter teaches about testing faith by purgatorial fire as described inWisdom 3:5-6 and Sirach 2:5.Once more, the fiery figure of speech to signify spiritual purification is a stock feature of OT usage.
1 Peter 1:17 - God judging each one according to his deeds refers toSirach 16:12 - God judges man according to his deeds.Yet another routine OT theme.
2 Peter 2:7 - God's rescue of a righteous man (Lot) is also described inWisdom 10:6.Wrong! Try Gen 19.
Rev. 1:4 – the seven spirits who are before his throne is taken fromTobit 12:15 – Raphael is one of the seven holy angels who present the prayers of the saints before the Holy One.
  1. Wrong! Try Zech 4:2-7.
  2. Rev 1:4 is not a reference to seven angels. Rather, it’s a reference to the work of Holy Spirit, subdivided by John’s septunarian numerology.
Rev. 1:18; Matt. 16:18 - power of life over death and gates of Hades followsWis. 16:13.See above (on Mt 16:18).
Rev. 2:12 - reference to the two-edged sword is similar to the description of God's Word inWisdom 18:16.Wrong! See above (under Heb 4:12).
Rev. 5:7 - God is described as seated on His throne, and this is the same description used inSirach 1:8.Wrong! Try Ps 47:8, Isa 6:1, & Dan 7:13.
Rev. 8:3-4 - prayers of the saints presented to God by the hand of an angel followsTobit 12:12,15.Wrong! Try Exod 30:1-10, Lev 16:12-13; Ps 141:1-2, & Isa 63:9.
Rev. 8:7 - raining of hail and fire to the earth followsWisdom 16:22 and Sirach 39:29.Wrong! Try the 7th Egyptian plague: Exod 9:13-35 (cf. Ezk 38:22).
Rev. 9:3 - raining of locusts on the earth followsWisdom 16:9.Wrong! Try the 8th Egyptian plague: Exod 10:1-10.
Rev. 11:19 - the vision of the ark of the covenant (Mary) in a cloud of glory was prophesied in2 Macc. 2:7.
  1. The association of the Shekinah with the tabernacle and its contents is a conventional OT motif, viz. Exod 40:34-38; 1 Kgs 8:10-11; Ezk 10, & 43:1-5.
  2. Dyer needs to defend his fanciful Marian typology.
Rev. 17:14 - description of God as King of kings follows2 Macc. 13:4.Wrong! Try Dan 4:37.
Rev. 19:1 - the cry "Hallelujah" at the coming of the new Jerusalem followsTobit 13:18.This is a standard refrain in the Psalter.
Rev. 19:11 - the description of the Lord on a white horse in the heavens follows2 Macc. 3:25; 11:8.Wrong! This evokes the OT motif of the divine warrior, viz. Exod 15:1-18; Isa 63:1-6; Zech 1:8, & 6:1-8.
Rev. 19:16 - description of our Lord as King of kings is taken from2 Macc. 13:4.See above (under Rev 17:14).
Rev. 21:19 - the description of the new Jerusalem with precious stones is prophesied inTobit 13:17.Wrong. Try Exod 28:17-21 (cf. 39:8-14), 1 Kgs 6:20-22; Isa 54:11-12, & Ezk 28:13.
Exodus 23:7 - do not slay the innocent and righteous -Dan. 13:53 - do not putto death an innocent and righteous person.What is this supposed to mean? Does Dyer imagine that Susanna antedates Exodus? Even its own fictitious setting situates this tale during the Babylonian exile.But if Dyer admits the priority of Exodus, then how would an allusion to Exod 23:7 in Susanna be relevant to the canonicity of the OT apocrypha?
1 Sam. 28:7-20 – the intercessory mediation of deceased Samuel for Saul followsSirach 46:20.Really? When does Dyer think that Samuel was written? Tsumura dates the final edition of Samuel to the 10C BC.17 How does a document from the 10C BC allude to a document from the 2C BC?
2 Kings 2:1-13 – Elijah being taken up into heaven followsSirach 48:9.The same problem with Dyer’s backwards chronology. Does he believe in retrocausation?

All the Dyer has succeeded in proving is his culpable and monumental ignorance of Scripture.

IV. 39 Square Wheels

By my count, Dyer quotes from 39 church fathers and other early church sources on the canonicity of the OT apocrypha. But there are several problems with his facile appeal:
  1. When marshalling evidence for the canon, Protestants cite the church fathers as potential historical witnesses rather than authority-figures. As such, we sift the testimony of any given father based on when he was born, where he lived, and who he knew—with a view to what he was in a position to know about the authorship of Scripture. We don’t treat every church father the same way since every church father is not the same with respect to his opportunities to render an informed judgment on this question.

    When, for example, Dyer’s sources range, according to his own dating scheme, from the latter 1C to the latter 8C, I don’t know why he thinks this timespan is supposed to impress a Protestant reader. It’s not as if a 700 year interval is indifferent to the quality of a historical witness. Historical, as well as geographical distance, can make all the difference in what a historical witness was in a position to know.

  2. By contrast, Catholic and Orthodox believers do treat the church fathers as authority-figures. And this generates a problem when one authority contradicts another authority on the scope of the canon—among other things. It doesn’t pose the same problem for a Protestant scholar since he is using different criteria. Time and space matter when sifting historical testimony.

  3. By the same token, the church fathers are of more potential value in attesting the scope of the NT canon than the OT canon. Gentile Christians would be dependent on Jewish sources for their initial acquaintance with the OT.

  4. Likewise, a modern scholar, with the benefit of Biblical archeology, is in a much better position to evaluate the historicity of the OT apocrypha than your average Greek or Latin Father.

  5. Why should I, as a Protestant, care what a church council happens to believe about the scope of the OT canon—or even the NT canon? It’s not as if a church council is privy to otherwise unobtainable evidence regarding the authenticity of the OT apocrypha.

  6. I don’t know why Dyer quotes from Jerome when Jerome was a proponent of the Hebrew canon.

  7. Why does Dyer put so much stock in the testimony of Origen? Doesn’t he regard Origen as a damnable heretic?

  8. I don’t know why Dyer dates Barnabas so early (AD 74). Dyer likes to cite McDonald’s monograph on the canon, but McDonald also coauthored a NT introduction with Stanley Porter, and in that work they date Barnabas to c. AD 130.18 Dyer also dates 1 Clement to AD 80, whereas they date it to c. AD 96.19 And he dates the Didache to AD 90, although other scholars date it as late as AD 120.

    I suspect that Dyer is trying to date these Christian documents as early as possible to create a chronological overlap with the NT canon so that he can then challenge a Protestant to explain where he draws the line.

    Of course, even if we accepted his dating scheme, we already know that first and second-generation Christians were contemporaneous with some of the Apostles. And not just the Christians. Yet this doesn’t mean that if we had the letter of Claudius Lysias to Felix, we’d canonize that historical document.

V. Quest for the Chimerical Alexandrian Canon

2 Tim. 3:16 - the inspired Scripture that Paul was referring to included the deuterocanonical texts that the Protestants removed. The books Baruch, Tobit, Maccabees, Judith, Sirach, Wisdom and parts of Daniel and Esther were all included in the Septuagint that Jesus and the apostles used.
Dyer continues to dissemble about a mythical Alexandrian canon, although he’s been corrected on this point several times now.20

VI. Tilting at Windmills

The Protestants attempt to defend their rejection of the deuterocanonicals on the ground that the early Jews rejected them. However, the Jewish councils that rejected them (e.g., School of Javneh (also called “Jamnia” in 90 - 100 A.D.) were the same councils that rejected the entire New Testatment canon. Thus, Protestants who reject the Catholic Bible are following a Jewish council that rejected Christ and the Revelation of the New Testament.
  1. This grossly understates and oversimplifies the Jewish witness to the Palestinian canon.21 Beckwith only devotes two consecutive pages to Jamnia, and that is only to dismiss it.22

  2. According to Beckwith, the OT apocrypha wasn’t even up for discussion at Jamnia. The only books in dispute were the OT books of Canticles and/or Ecclesiastes.

  3. There is also the patently fallacious structure of Dyer’s argument. It’s on the same level a saying: If Christopher Hitchens hates broccoli, and you hate broccoli, then that makes you complicit in atheism!



3 Fitzmyer, J. Tobit (Walter de Gruyter 2003), 3.

4 Ibid. 4-5.

5 Cf. Weeks, S. et al. eds. The Book of Tobit: Texts from the Principal Ancient and Medieval Versions: with synopsis, concordances, and annotated texts in Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and Syriac (Walter De Gruyter 2004).

6 Ibid. 32-33.

7 Ibid. 37.

8 Ibid. 52.

9 Ibid. 55-56.

10 By my count, it comes to about 77 citations, although his tabulation is not without its ambiguities or idiosyncrasies.

11 “The historical books know nothing of the return of the Temple vessels (1:8-9) or of the presence of Baruch in Babylon (1:1). There is something of a contradiction between the prayer itself, which presumes that the Temple is in ruins (2:26), and the introduction, which presumes that the Temple is standing and that normal worship is carried on there (1:10,14),” R. Brown et al eds. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary (Prentice Hall 1990), 563.

12 Garland, D. 1 Corinthians (Baker 2003), 234; A. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Eerdmans 2000), 1248.

13 Longman, T. & R. Dillard, An Introduction to the Old Testament (Zondervan 2006), 172-73.

14 Archer, G. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Moody 1994), 318f.

15 Winston, D. The Wisdom of Solomon (Doubleday 1979), 23.

16 DeSilva, D. Introducing the Apocrypha (Baker 2004), 157f.

17 Tusumura, D. The First Book of Samuel (Eerdmans 2007), 31f.

18 McDonald, L. & S. Porter, Early Christianity and Its Sacred Literature (Hendrickson 2000), 75.

19 Ibid. 521.


21 Beckwith, R. The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church (Eerdmans 1986).

22 Ibid. 276-77.


  1. FYI, I'm seeing several screens-worth of blank screen between the statement, "Dyer thinks the NT cites the OT apocrypha on the following occasions:10" and the tabular information that follows. Anyone else?

  2. He likes to cite Athanasius in his post, but he fails to take Athanasius's historical development into account.

    In his earlier years, he did consider the apocrypha to be Scripture, but after his trip to Palestine, he no longer considered the free-standing works to be in the inspired Canon.

    Second, he cites Melito of Sardis, but Melito rejected most of the apocrypha as well.

  3. In his section on church fathers (which I would have liked to see commented upon, even though this good piece by itself), Dyer cites John of Damascus as someone who would support his position.

    But as a matter of fact, John of Damascus did accept the Hebrew canon:

    "104 Observe, further, that there are two and twenty books of the Old Testament, one for each letter of the Hebrew tongue. For there are twenty-two letters of which five are double, and so they come to be twenty-seven...And thus the number of the books in this way is twenty-two, but is found to be twenty-seven because of the double character of five. For Ruth is joined on to Judges, and the Hebrews count them one book: the first and second books of Kings are counted one: and so are the third and fourth books of Kings: and also the frirst and second of Paraleipomena: and the first and second of Esdra. In this way, then, the books are collected together in four Pentateuchs and two others remain over, to form thus the canonical books. Five of them are of the Law, viz. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. This which is the code of the Law, constitutes the first Pentateuch. Then comes another Pentateuch, the so-called Grapheia, or as they are called by some, the Hagiographa, which are the following: Jesus the Son of Nave, Judges along with Ruth, first and second Kings, which are one book, third and fourth Kings, which are one book, and the two books of the Paraleipomena which are one book. This is the second Pentateuch. The third Pentateuch is the books in verse, viz. Job, Psalms, Proverbs of Solomon, Ecclesiastes of Solomon and the Song of Songs of Solomon. The fourth Pentateuch is the Prophetical books, viz the twelve prophets constituting one book, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel. Then come the two books of Esdra made into one, and Esther.

    There are also the Panaretus, that is the Wisdom of Solomon, and the Wisdom of Jesus, which was published in Hebrew by the father of Sirach, and afterwards translated into Greek by his grandson, Jesus, the son of Sirach. These are virtuous and noble, but are not counted nor were they placed in the ark

    (Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, Nicene and Post-NiceneFathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955), Series Two, Volume IX, John of Damascus, Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Chapter XVII)."

  4. Likewise, Dyer mentions Gregory the Great citing Sirach and Tobit, but Gregory ALSO wrote this:

    "With reference to which particular we are not acting irregularly, if from the books, though not Canonical, yet brought out for the edification of the Church, we bring forward testimony. Thus Eleazar in the battle smote and brought down an elephant, but fell under the very beast that he killed" (1 Macc. 6.46).

    (Library of the Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, (Oxford: Parker, 1845), Gregory the Great, Morals on the Book of Job, Volume II, Parts III and IV, Book XIX.34, p.424.)

  5. I'm seeing several screens-worth of blank screen

    Boy, I hate Blogger sometimes.

    I'm trying to work around it now.

  6. OK, the table now has no line breaks, so "helpful" Blogger isn't inserting HTML line breaks between the table elements now.

  7. By the way, thanks for providing this post. It's amazing how these lists circulate through the Internet.

    Thanks to your taking the time for this post, I was able to reply thus (link) to a comment that essentially cut and paste the entire 77 verse list.