I won’t respond to everything the hostile commenters have said, in part because Jason, Gene, and S&S have already made many of the necessary corrections.
“Metzger is like a human xerox machine. He doesn't do much in depth research, but he's good at repeating stuff he heard.”
To say that Metzger didn’t do much in-depth research is a total falsehood. It betrays the insecurity of his Orthodox faith that Jimmy has to resort to such demonstrably false statements. Here’s an overview of Metzger’s scholarship:
Internationally recognized as a leading NT textual critic, Metzger was arguably the greatest textual specialist and biblical translator America has produced. Among his many publications, pride of place belongs to his trilogy on the text, versions, and canon of the NT. Most widely influential is his handbook on The Text of the New Testament (1964; translations include German, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian, and Russian; 3d, enl. ed. 1992; 4th ed. with Bart Ehrman, 2005), from which multiple generations of textual critics learned their craft. It presented (in a genuinely balanced and pedagogically useful form) the essentials of what would later be termed "reasoned eclecticism," the dominant approach in the discipline today (his influence with regard to methodology was extended even more widely by A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament). Without rival in the field, and an outstanding example of Metzger's wide-ranging and encyclopedic knowledge, is his Early Versions of the New Testament (1977), which surveys not only the expected major versions, but also many minor ones (e.g., Thracian and Sogdian). The Canon of the New Testament (1987) combines careful and erudite attention to historical matters with a concern for theological questions and implications — another typically Metzgerian characteristic.
Metzger's recognition as a leading NT textual critic is due also to his influential role as a member of the editorial committee responsible initially for The Greek New Testament and later for the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece, and also his involvement in, and leadership of, the International Greek New Testament Project (1948-1984).
The full breadth of Metzger's scholarship is most visible in his hundreds of articles, which cover textual criticism, philology, palaeography and papyrology, classical topics, Greco-Roman religions, the Hebrew Bible, the Apocrypha, the New Testament, patristics, early church history, and Bible translation (to name only the major areas). In addition he has published (in at least two dozen journals) reviews of hundreds of books written in eight languages. A master of bibliographic detail, Metzger would find that telling reference in sources the rest of us did not know existed (see, e.g., p. 271 n. 28 in the latest edition of the Text of the NT). In a remarkable feat, Metzger published in eight different decades: his first article appeared in 1938, and his most recent book in 2006.
Continuing with Jimmy:
“They've found inscriptions from the time of Christ in Greek on the ruins of a synagogue mentioning the leader's name in Greek. It appears there were Greek speaking synagogues. Thus the earliest Christian community received the LXX.”
i) The earliest Christian communities included Gentile Christians, Hellenistic Jews, and Palestinian Jews.
ii) To say that some Christian communities received the LXX doesn’t imply the identity of the 1C LXX with the version used by the Orthodox church.
“Firstly, no one can seriously claim that by the time of Christ the LXX has anything specificallly to do with Alexandria. By this time it was all over the world.”
Irrelevant. Alexandria was the capital of Hellenistic Judaism. If the LXX canon was fluid even in a place like Alexandria, one can hardly appeal to the LXX to establish the Orthodox canon.
“But other rabbis from the same era did quote from them.”
Are you referring to Talmudic sources? That would be a secondary source for what 1C rabbis supposedly believed. By contrast, Philo is a primary source.
“Though Origen lists what local Jews considered the canon in his time, he did not restrict himself thus.”
You’re resorting to ambiguity. What, exactly, was Origen’s position on the Apocrypha? Ambivalent, perchance?
“And among all these learned quotes, do we see any evidence of what the actual Hebrew canon of Jesus' time was? Nope. Just rumour and innuendo.”
We also don’t find any evidence of how to change a flat tire in Metzger’s book. Metzger’s book is a monograph on the Apocrypha. He’s not attempting to make a full-course case for the Palestinian canon.
Other scholars have done so, e.g. Roger Beckwith, E. E. Ellis.
“First of all it begs the question of a need for a standard critical edition of the set of books that are the Orthodox canon of Scripture. Critical editions of texts are a uniquely modernist development based on Enlightenment epistemological presuppositions not shared by either Jesus or the Apostles.”
i) If Healy is indifferent to textual criticism, then his appeal to Jesus and the apostles begs the question. For his appeal assumes that we have a reliable textual witness to the words of Jesus and the apostles. So Healy needs to identify and justify his textual tradition.
ii) We know that the process of transcription gives rise, over time, to a discrepancy between what an author or speaker originally said or wrote, and the record of his speech or writing.
For those of us to take the word of God seriously, it makes a difference to us what Jesus, the prophets, and apostles actually said. It makes a difference to us whether the words attributed to them are authentic or spurious.
But, to judge by their reaction, Orthodox believers don’t care what Jesus, the prophets, or the apostles really said. They don’t care if they attribute inspiration to uninspired scribal errors or interpolations.
“It also presupposes and imposes on the biblical canon an understanding of accuracy that is predicated upon the original texts and the individual words and particles of that text.”
The meaning of a sentence is dependent on the individual words and particles that compose that sentence. Suppose we were to tamper with Healy’s sentence, changing a word here or there. That could alter the meaning of his sentence.
“The non sequitor, of course, is that absent a standardized text critical edition of the Scripture that utilizes modernist presuppositions about accuracy of the text, no group can claim a canon of Scriptural texts.”
I’m more interested in Healy’s indifference to textual integrity. Suppose the text were 90% corrupt. Would that still be adequate according to Healy?
“That is to say it the other way around, simply because one cannot bring forth a standardized (according to modernist mores) text of, say, Jeremiah (which is a mess in the LXX).”
So Jeremiah is a mess in the LXX. That’s a striking admission from an Orthodox epologist. Why should a Protestant favor the LXX version of Jeremiah over the MT if, by Healy’s own admission, the LXX version is a mess? Why should the messy standard of the LXX be the standard of comparison?
“It presupposes that a canon necessitates strict verbal identity between manuscripts, or at least a recoverable approximation of the autograph.”
No, what it presupposes is that we should make a good faith effort, with the best available evidence, to have an edition that approximates the Urtext.
To the degree that it doesn’t approximate the Urtext, then we don’t have the words of Jesus or the apostles or the prophets. Instead, we have the words of an anonymous, uninspired scribe. Is that what Healy is basing his faith on?
We don’t need a perfect text, any more than we need perfect eyesight or hearing or a perfect memory to do God’s will. But it is incumbent on us to make a good faith effort to use the evidence which God has providentially put at our disposal.
“Origen and Jerome included these books in their versions of the Old Testament, and in so doing testified to the widespread use of these books as Christian Scripture.”
In discussing both the separation of the church from the synagogue as well as the transition from the scroll to the codex, Metzger has already explained how Apocryphal works could infiltrate the canon of Scripture. So widespread use is not a mark of authenticity.
“Also, what Protestants fail to appreciate is that our earliest surviving codices were not simply editions of the New Testament which we use as witnesses of manuscript traditions and families, but, were, in fact, among the first complete Christian Bibles, and included in their contents, those ‘extra, apocryphal’ books.”
Since, in the material I quoted from Metzger, he himself discusses that very point, I wouldn’t be quoting that portion of Metzger if I failed to appreciate that particular point.
As Metzger explained, these editions functioned as Christian lectionaries. It was convenient to include other Christian literature, along with the canonical books, in one compact source.
“So, in point of fact, the Protestant excision of these books from their Bibles is a departure from the canonical traditions of the Church.”
i) The Protestant canon was never predicated on lock-step adherence to the “canonical traditions of the Church.”
ii) These editions include Christian literature which was excluded from the canonical traditions of the church. For example, Codex Sinaiticus includes Barnabas and Hermas while Codex Alexandrinus includes 1-2 Clement. So Healy’s argument is self-refuting.
“Unlike Protestants, Orthodox do not believe that Scripture alone establishes doctrine and Tradition. Rather, Scripture itself is the primary but not the sole witness to the Apostolic Tradition. That is to say, Scripture does not stand over Tradition in the sense of judging it, but stands with Tradition as authoritative co-witness to the Apostolic Faith and way of life.”
If you’re indifferent (indeed, hostile) to NT textual criticism, then you’re indifferent to what the Apostles actually said. In that case, you’re indifferent to the Apostolic faith. You don’t care whether your faith is apostolic or spurious.
“That is to say, Scripture was not read as a book alone, isolated from a communal and worship context.”
Healy is obfuscating the issue by blurring the distinction between the identity of Scripture and its practical function in the life of the church. One must *have* a Bible before it can be put to use.
“This does not mean that Orthodox do not have a canonical tradition for Scripture, and thus do not have a Bible, but, rather, that their Bible is the same Bible with allowable variations.”
i) Having a canonical *tradition* of Scripture is not the same thing as having *Scripture*. The question is whether the tradition corresponds to its putative object. The Mormons also have a canonical tradition of Scripture.
ii) To say the Orthodox Bible is the *same* Bible with *allowable variations* is an evasive and tendentious equivocation of terms.
“Of course, looking at Orthodoxy from the lense of Protestantism further assumes that Protestantism is the standard by which the historical Church is to be judged.”
Of course, looking at Evangelicalism from the lens of Orthodoxy further assumes that Orthodoxy is the standard by which the historical Church is to be judged.
“So why don't you throw out Esther since the majority of the witnesses exclude it?”
Do they now? Esther’s “canonicity has been attested by Josephus, by Aquila, by the baraita on the order of the Prophets and Hagiographa, by the inclusion in the Mishnah of a tractate on the obligation to read the book (the tractate Megillah), and by the citation of the book as authoritative Scripture in the other Tannaitic literature,” R. Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church, 290.
By contrast, the Essenes opposed it because it conflicted with their sectarian calendar—but the Essenes were a fringe group.
“You ARE willing to go with what evidence you have, right?? Or are you just bluffing?”
I’ve now laid my cards on the table. Time for you to show your hand. Where’s your counterevidence? Or are you just bluffing?
“In part yes, because they are but individuals attesting to what they know in their place and time, without access to the reflection of further centuries of God's people.”
I)“Further centuries” take us further away from historical witnesses who would be closer to the relevant evidence.
ii) Moreover, as Metzger documents, the OT canon of the Orthodox church is fluid throughout the history of the Orthodox church.
“Really, so a Christ-rejecting Jew carries more weight.”
What makes you think that 3C BC Jews are fundamentally different from 1C AD Jews? If the Jews are so untrustworthy, why do you put your faith in Jewish translation of the OT (the LXX)—even assuming that the Orthodox version corresponds to the original?
“Great, except that Jospehus lists no canon.”
This is simpleminded. One can reconstruct his canon from what he says. One place to start is: S. Leiman, “Josephus and the Canon of the Bible,” L. Feldman & G. Hata, eds. Josephus, the bible and history (Detroit 1989), 50-58. Follow that up with Beckwith’s detailed analysis.
“You can't prove what the ancient Jews had as a canon.”
We don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time an Orthodox apparatchik drops in. What Protestant scholars have you bothered to read on the subject, anyway? Have you read Ellis, Bruce, Beckwith, Hanhart, &c.?
Have you studied the intertextuality of Scripture?
“And yet your Metzger quotes concede that the very earliest Christians used an expanded LXX canon. Go read Metzger again.”
And Metzger also explains how they got off track in so doing. Go read Metzger again.
“How do conflicting Jewish sources trump conflicting Christian sources? What nonsense.”
Earlier sources generally trump later sources. That’s a standard presumption in historiography.
“But this best evidence, is simply the opinion of some Jews. Why you think this is good evidence, but the opinion of the Church isn't, is completely mystifying.”
i) Your church doesn’t speak with one voice on the subject. It moves in zigzag fashion from one time and place to another. So we couldn’t follow your church even if we wanted to. If we tried to follow your directions, we would be backtracking, taking detours, going in circles, running into blind alleys, washed-out bridges, &c. It’s a roadmap to no man’s land.
ii) You need to make a case for your church before you can invoke the authority of your church to settle anything else.
“Josephus is not part of Holy Tradition.”
You haven’t given us any reason to credit “Holy Tradition.”
“At the time of Jesus, the state of the canon was in flux, both inside and outside of Palestine. Greek-speaking Jews by and large were very likely to use the Septuagint, and thus their canon(s) resembled the Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholics.”
You’re appealing to the 18C notion of an Alexandrian canon. This has been debunked by numerous scholars, viz. Beckwith, Bruce, Hanhart.
“You must remember that people then were very superstitious and illiterate.”
No more superstitious than in our own day, including secular superstitions like ufology, 9/11 conspiracy theories, &c.
And no one is more illiterate than Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens when it comes to their knowledge of Christian theology or Evangelical scholarship.
“Jesus had a definite opinion with regards to the canon (even though nothing is stated to such effect in the New Testament).”
The NT is a major witness to the OT. For starters, read Beale & Carson’s (eds.) Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament.
“The Greek converts (such as Paul) must have (or at least, should have) done away with their traditional Septuagint canon and adopted the Palestinian canon, without this being indicated in the New Testament.”
Aside from your unfounded assumption about an Alexandrian canon, Paul was a Pharisee who studied in Jerusalem.
“Moreover, for your arguments to be accepted by RCs and EOs, you must convince them to accept these premises, particularly #2 and #3.”
To the extent that Catholic and Orthodox believers have nonnegotiable commitments to their sectarian belief-system, it’s beyond my power to convince them otherwise, but that’s not my responsibility.
“You cannot do this. But even if you could they wouldn't accept it, because they assume value the canons of the Greek Jews and those of the Christian Churches more than you do.”
This oversimplifies the evidence. As Metzger documents, many pre-Tridentine Catholic scholars favored the Hebrew canon. And contemporary Catholic scholars go their own way too.
“This only points to the impossibility of rational theological dialogue, especially when you are describing categories ("inspiration") that defy analysis or observation.”
You’re mental states are also unobservable. Therefore, you deny the possibility of rational dialogue about anything at all if empirical categories are the only categories you accept.
“Oh ok, so gives a rip what Philo quoted?”
We understand that you don’t give a rip, since you’re an Orthodox apparatchik—but for those of us who haven’t committed self-decapitation, the reason we care about what Philo quoted is because—as Metzger already explained—we we’d expect him to quote the Apocrypha if there were, indeed, an Alexandrian canon of the OT.
“Ok great, so please shut down this blog now since everyone is going to have a different opinion of what the internal evidence points to.”
i) I look forward to your polling data to bear out that universal claim. How many billions of people, living and dead, have you interviewed thus far?
ii) Unlike you, some of us care about the ways in which earlier books of the canon foreshadow later books, while later books allude to earlier books.
“It never was when the Church was young and it never will be because Sola scriptura was never a doctrine of the Church. A difference in the Canon of scripture is only a problem for protestants because of their doctrine of sola scriptura.”
In other words, it’s irrelevant to you where revelation begins and leaves off. You don’t care about excluding some books in which God has spoken while including other books in which a false prophet has spoken. For you, the boundary between true and false prophecy is irrelevant.
“Most of your arguments against the Deutocanonicals are lame.”
What a compelling assertion! Who needs evidence when we have your ipse dixit!
“Everybody knows that the MSS is a post christian hebrew compilation that took about 900 years to edit.”
There’s no such thing as “the MSS.” “MSS” is an abbreviation for the plural form of manuscript.
i) Your blunder is a classic example of self-reinforcing ignorance. You don’t know enough to care, so you don’t care enough to know, and vice versa.
ii) There is such a thing as the MT. But Protestants don’t rely on the MT alone. That’s supplemented by the DSS, versional evidence, &c.
“Protestants had the Deuto's in their Bibles untill Calvinistic Bible Societies took them out in the 17 & 18 hundreds.”
Another good reason to be a Calvinist.
“The LXX was, is and always will be the christian Old Testament text.”
i) Where can I find the official edition of the LXX in the Orthodox church?
ii) Your assertion is unfortunate for your own position since the canonical edition of Daniel in your theological circles isn’t even based on the LXX:
“The longer version of Daniel is known primarily from the Greek, surviving in two rather different editions. The older edition, the ‘Septuagint’ proper, survives in its entirety only in a single manuscript, Codex Chisianus from the ninth century (Codes 87; Papyrus 967 contains chs. 5-14), and in the Syriac translation of Origen’s edition of the Septuagint (Pfeiffer 1949; 4:33,441; Moore 1977: 33). The more recent edition, called 'Theodotion,' displaced the older 'Septuagint' edition in the usage of the Christian church by the late third century, so that all the major codices of what we call the Septuagint actually contain the Theodotion edition Daniel…Theodotion prepared his version in the early second century CE, but appears to have utilized an earlier Greek text of Daniel that differed markedly from the Septuagint (Grelot 1966),” D. deSilva, Introducing the Apocrypha (Baker 2004), 222-223.
Continuing with JNORM888:
“And there is nothing you can say or do that will ever change that historical fact.”
And there is nothing you can say or do that will ever change the checkered history of the Apocrypha in the Orthodox church.
And there is nothing you can say or do that will ever change the checked history of the LXX.
And there is nothing you can say or do that will ever change the checked history of the Council of Ferrara-Florence.
“Saying that THEN was just like saying some half-a-century ago that communism will eventually fall and succumb: it was just unthinkable at that particular time: that was Isaiah's prophecy, and it was breath-takingly unbelievable to say the least. :-|… You just can't ‘deduce’ from the text itself, -were it to read "young woman"-, the idea that what You should *actually* look for over there is a miraculous or super-natural [virginal] bith: it's just not possible. :-\”
Protestant scholars have no difficulty establishing the Christian interpretation of Isa 7 from the MT. Read J. A. Motyer’s “Content and Context in the interpretation of Isaiah 7:14,” TynB 21 (1970), 118-25.
“There's a big difference between what Tacitus wrote about some Emperor and what some Jew writes about the canon. The canon is a theological question.”
It’s also a historical question. And you would need to furnish some hard evidence that the Jews were suppressing OT books which contain Messianic prophecy. But as Jason and I have pointed out, if that was their method and motive, then they managed to overlook many OT books which house a mother-lode of Messianic prophecy (e.g. Isaiah, Daniel, the Psalter) while—on the other hand—I notice that Orthodox apologists are very selective about which books of the Apocrypha they mine for Messianic prophecy.
Not only is there no evidence to substantiate your conspiracy theory, but plenty of counterevidence.
“This is about as good as what Josephus tells us - an apologetic for his own flawed, theologically heretical sect.”
There’s no evidence that the Pharisees had a heretical view of OT the canon.
JEFFREY LEVINE SAID:
“The Jews living at the time of Jesus, had no problem rejecting him. Gentiles with ni knowledge of Judaism were the only people to accept Jesus as Christ, and most of thise people were coerved by force!”
Since, except for Luke (who was likely a proselyte), every other NT writer was a Jew, your statement is clearly false. In addition, there were Messianic (i.e. Jewish-Christian) churches in the 1C
“G-d through the Torah gave the Jewish people a number of indicators that would readily identify the awaited messiah. The only requirement that Jesus did fulfill was that he was born of a Jewish mother. G-d was not intended to be the father of the Messiah.__When you examine these passages, you will realize that Jesus was nothing more than a regular man. That is why the Jews rejected Jesus. He was not the Messiah. If you can't accept that, check with the Jewish Torah (not the Christian version). It will teach you everything you need to know!”
What Christian books or articles on Messianic prophecy have you actually read? Try the following:
“You should also remember that there is not a single mention of this person named Jesus oputside of the Chritian Bible. Forget about the Josephus forgeries.”
i) You’ve been corrected on Josephus.
ii) Tacitus and Pliny the Younger name Christ.
iii) What evidence do you have for the existence of Moses outside the OT?
The Talmud is too late and too derivative to corroborate the existence of Moses.