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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Are the Right Books in the Old Testament?

Don Stewart :: Apart from the New Testament, What Other Historical Evidence Exists for the Completed Old Testament Canon?

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Question 19

Apart from the New Testament, What Other Historical Evidence Exists for the Completed Old Testament Canon?

The New Testament gives strong testimony as to a fixed canon of Scripture. Apart from the New Testament, we also find other historical evidence that there was a completed canon of Scripture centuries before the time of Christ. The evidence can be seen as follows:

  1. The Book of Ecclesiasticus (200 B.C)

    The Book of Ecclesiasticus, also known as the Wisdom of Jesus son of Sirach, was written about 200 B.C. by a man named Jesus Ben Sirach. In this work, he cites almost every book of the Old Testament as Scripture. In fact, except for the Book of Ruth, which he may link with the Book of Judges, there is either a direct citation or allusion to every Old Testament book. From his writings, we find that Ben Sirach considered these Old Testament writings as divinely authoritative.

    There is more. As we look at the work of Sirach, we discover that he makes a clear distinction between Old Testament history and his own contemporary history. For Ben Sirach, biblical history ended at the time of Nehemiah around 430 B.C. This is consistent with what we find in the Old Testament. Consequently, Ben Sirach testifies to a completed canon of Scripture, with a fixed number of books, which had been closed for about two centuries. Thus, he is an excellent witness to the Old Testament canon.

  2. The Prologue of Ecclesiasticus (132 B.C)

    In 132 B.C., the grandson of Ben Sirach translated the work from Hebrew into Greek. We can be certain of the date because of a specific reference he gives in the preface. He wrote the following in his preface to the translation:

    A legacy of great value has come down to us through the law, the prophets, and the writers who followed in their steps and Israel deserves recognition for its traditions of learning and wisdom. It is the duty of those who study the scriptures not only to become experts themselves, but also to use their scholarship for the benefit of the world outside through both the spoken and written word For this reason my grandfather Jesus, who had applied himself diligently to the study of the law, the prophets, and the other writings of our ancestors, and had gained a considerable proficiency in them, was moved to compile a book of his own on the themes of learning and wisdom, in order that, with this further help, scholars might make greater progress in their studies by living as the law directs You are asked then, to read with sympathetic attention and to make allowances whenever you think that, in spite of all the devoted work that has been put into the translation, some of the expressions I have used are inadequate. For what is said in Hebrew does not have the same force when translated into another tongue. Not only the present work, but even the law itself, as well as the prophets, and the other writings, are not a little different when spoken in the original. (Prologue to Sirach REB)

    The grandson of Sirach mentioned the Law, the Prophets, and the “other writings which followed,” or “the other books of our ancestors.” Therefore, from his testimony, there may have been a recognized threefold division of the Hebrew Scripture some two hundred years before the time of Christ. Each section in this threefold division had a title and a set list of books; the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings.

    However, it must be noted, that some have disputed that these references speak of a threefold division of the Old Testament. They argue that the Old Testament was divided into only two divisions at this time; the Law and the Prophets. The reference to “other books,” they contend, were not books that made up part of the sacred Scriptures but rather they were non-canonical writings that contained valuable wisdom and were beneficial to study. Consequently, the writer is not talking about three separate divisions of the Old Testament Scripture, but rather two divisions, the Law and the Prophets, along with other books which were not canonical, but rather helpful and instructive.

    Whatever the case may be, this is a further testimony that the Old Testament was considered to be a completed canon of Scripture with a known list of books; this is true no matter how they were divided.

  3. First Maccabees (Second Century B.C)

    Another ancient testimony to a collection of sacred writings can be found in the apocryphal book of First Maccabees.

    In 167 B.C, a Syrian leader named Antiochus Epiphanes desecrated the Jewish temple. He also showed open hostility to the holy writings. We read the following description in First Maccabees:

    The books of the law that they found they tore to pieces and burned with fire. Anyone found possessing the book of the covenant, or anyone who adhered to the law, was condemned to death by decree of the king. (1 Maccabees 1:56,57 NRSV)

    Here we have a reference to “the book of covenant.” Later, in First Maccabees, we read the following:

    Therefore, though we have no need of these things, since we have as encouragement the holy books that are in our hands. (1 Maccabees 12:9 NRSV)

    Here is another reference to the “holy books.”

    We also have a reference to the Book of the Law. We read the following:

    And they opened the book of the law to inquire into those matters about which the Gentiles consulted the likenesses of their gods. (1 Maccabees 3:48 NRSV)

    There is something else that we learn. While there was a group of holy writings with a known fixed limit, there had not been any books added to this group for many years. It was clear that the prophetic gift had ceased a long time before. We also read in First Maccabees:

    So there was great distress in Israel, such as had not been since the time that prophets ceased to appear among them. (1 Maccabees 9:27 NRSV)

    According to this verse, an authoritative prophet of God was only a memory of their distant past; they were looking for another prophet to appear. It says:

    And stored the stones in a convenient place on the temple hill until a prophet should come to tell what to do with them. (1 Maccabees 4:46 NRSV)

    This is further indication that the people were waiting for another prophet to arise. Elsewhere we read in First Maccabees:

    The Jews and their priests have resolved that Simon should be their leader and high priest forever, until a trustworthy prophet should arise. (1 Maccabees 14:41 NRSV)

    These passages testify that they knew of no one who could speak authoritatively from the Lord to them, as had been true in the past. Also, they possessed a recognized list of authoritative writings and nothing had been added to this group of sacred writings for long ages; they were waiting for another prophet before any new Scripture could be added. Therefore, the Book of First Maccabees testifies to a completed Scripture that had been long-recognized.

  4. Second Maccabees (104-64 B.C)

    Still another reference can be found in the apocryphal book of Second Maccabees. In 164 B.C., the Jewish patriot Judas Maccabaeus led a revolt that cleansed the defiled Temple. He then gathered together and compiled a list of the inspired Prophets and the Holy Writings. It is described in this manner:

    The same things are reported in the records and in the memoirs of Nehemiah, and also that he founded a library and collected the books about the kings and prophets, and the writings of David, and letters of kings about votive offerings. And in like manner Judas (Maccabaeus) also gathered together for us all those writings that had been scattered by reason of the war that befell, and they are still with us. If therefore you have need thereof, send some to bring them unto you. (2 Maccabees 2:13,14 NRSV)

    This is an obvious testimony to a collection of sacred writings that existed at this time. Although we are not certain what is meant by the “letters of kings about votive offerings,” we can be assured that there was a known group of sacred writings. These writings had been collected years earlier by Nehemiah and formed part of his library. Nehemiah, it should be remembered, wrote around 430 B.C.

    This passage indicates that some sacred books had been destroyed and needed to be replaced in the official archives. The replacements probably came from synagogue copies, or perhaps from a private collection.

    Furthermore, from Second Maccabees, we note that a canon did exist in the first century B.C. and it was divided into two sections: the Law and the Prophets. We read the following:

    Encouraging them from the law and the prophets, and reminding them also of the struggles they had won, he made them the more eager. (2 Maccabees 15:9)

    Therefore, we have another ancient testimony to the existence of Old Testament Scripture.

  5. The Septuagint

    The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, needs to be considered in the quest for the Old Testament canon. This translation, made before the time of Christ, should give us an idea of what books belong in the Old Testament.

    The problem that exists is that except for a few small scraps, the earliest manuscripts of the Septuagint date from A.D 325. This is three hundred years after the time of Christ and seven hundred years after the Old Testament was completed. Moreover, it was Christians, not Jews, who produced these manuscripts of the Septuagint since they are combined with the Greek New Testament. Consequently, we do not know what was in the Septuagint before the time of Christ. Therefore, its testimony is not decisive as to what books belong in the Old Testament Scripture.

  6. The Dead Sea Scrolls

    In 1947, a number of scrolls were discovered in several of the caves alongside the Dead Sea. They have become known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. Among other things, the Dead Sea Scrolls contain writings from the Hebrew canon. In fact, we have found manuscripts of every book of the Old Testament except Esther and possibly also Nehemiah. These scrolls provide further testimony to a completed canon of Scripture which is the same as our present Old Testament canon.

    Interestingly, there may be some evidence from the Dead Sea Scrolls as to a threefold division of the Hebrew Scriptures before the time of Christ. This is found in one scroll titled, “Some of the Works of the Torah.” It is also known as 4QMMT. In it, we find the following statement:

    We have written to you that you may have understanding in the Book of Moses, and in the words of the Prophets, and in David.

    This is a testimony to a threefold division of the Old Testament—the Book of Moses (the Law), the Prophets, and David (which would represent the Psalms). On one occasion, Jesus Himself used this designation for the entire Old Testament. We read the following in Luke:

    Then he [Jesus] said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” (Luke 24:44 ESV)

    Thus, from this work found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, we may have another testimony to a threefold division of the Old Testament at that time in history. However, as we have stated before, the usual division was twofold; the Law and the Prophets.

  7. Philo of Alexandria (20 B.C. to A.D. 50)

    Philo was a learned Jew who lived in Alexandria, Egypt at the same time as Christ. He wrote on a number of subjects. Philo wrote the following about the Law of Moses:

    After a lapse of more than two thousand years [the Jews] have not changed a single word of what had been written by him [Moses], but they would sooner endure to die a thousand times than to violate his laws and customs.

    In his various writings, Philo quoted from many different books of the Old Testament. His testimony would have reflected the view of Alexandrian Judaism at that time. He cited from each of the five books of the Law of Moses, he cited most of the prophets, as well as Psalms, Job, and Proverbs. What is also of interest is that he did not quote from the Apocrypha when citing books that were believed to be authoritative Scripture. Philo’s testimony is consistent with the other writings we possess; there was a set of sacred books at that time, the contents of which were well-known.

    In one of his writings, he described the Scripture to the “Therapeutae;” a group of Jews who lived in Egypt. This ascetic group held similar beliefs to the community of Jews who lived alongside the Dead Sea during that period; the Essenes. The Essenes were most likely the community who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls.

    Some scholars believe that Philo was actually referring to the Essenes; though he used a different name in describing them. Whatever the case may be, he described their Scriptures as follow:

    The laws and the sacred oracles of God enunciated by the holy prophets, hymns, and psalms, and all kinds of other things by reason of which knowledge and piety are increased and brought to perfection. (Philo, The Contemplative Life, 3:25-28)

    Though Philo does not specify which books are included in their collection, it is consistent with what we find among the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Dead Sea Scrolls contain parts of every Old Testament book with the exception of Esther. Therefore, the testimony of Philo as to the sacred Scripture of the Therapeutae, or possibly the Essenes, seems to be in line with what was found at Qumran.

  8. Flavius Josephus (A.D. 37-100)

    Of all the ancient writers, the clearest testimony to the Hebrew canon comes from the first-century writer Flavius Josephus. We have a number of revealing statements from Josephus about the canon of Scripture. These statements of Josephus are all the more credible because he himself was personally given the sacred Scriptures by Titus; the Roman general who conquered Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

    In his autobiography, Josephus tells us that when Titus conquered Jerusalem he took the table of showbread and the golden lampstands with him to Rome, but he gave Josephus the sacred scrolls from the temple. Consequently, Josephus would have been in a unique position to know the exact contents of the writings considered to be Holy Scripture by the Jews since he had them in his own possession.

    What We Learn from Josephus

    From the writings of Josephus, we learn a number of important truths about the canon and its contents. To begin with, we have the following statement by Josephus about the extent of the canon, as well as when it was closed:

    We have but twenty-two [books] containing the history of all time, books that are justly believed in; and of these, five are the books of Moses, which comprise the law and earliest traditions from the creation of mankind down to his death. From the death of Moses to the reign of Artaxerxes, King of Persia, the successor of Xerxes, the prophets who succeeded Moses wrote the history of the events that occurred in their own time, in thirteen books. The remaining four documents comprise hymns to God and practical precepts to men. (Contra Apion 1:7-8)
    • There are a number of important things that can be derived from this statement of Josephus. They are as follows:

    • Josephus Divided the Hebrew Scriptures into Two Periods: Before and after Moses

      Josephus divided the sacred writings into two periods; the time before Moses and the time after Moses. In the time after Moses, Josephus further divided the writings into two groups; the prophets and the books which contain hymns and wisdom.

    • The Sacred Books Are Limited to Twenty-Two

      Josephus limits the number of canonical books in these three divisions to twenty-two. Though he does not name the books, these twenty-two sacred writings certainly correspond to our present Old Testament. First, there were five books of Moses, Genesis through Deuteronomy. There is no doubt what was contained in these five books.

      Next come thirteen books of the prophets. They would most likely have been Joshua, Judges/Ruth, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra/Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Isaiah, Jeremiah/Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, and the Twelve Minor Prophets. Most likely, the Book of Ruth was attached to the Book Judges, and Lamentations was attached to Jeremiah.

      The four books which he called hymns and practical precepts would probably have been Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon.

      From the various writings of Josephus, we find that most of the Old Testament books are individually cited by him. Therefore, his list of twenty-two books agrees with the evidence we find from Ben Sirach as to exactly how many books were in the Hebrew canon as well as the identity of these writings.

    • There Has Been No Scripture Since 425 B.C

      Josephus also states something else that is important for our study. He says there had been no more authoritative writings since the reign of Artaxerxes, son of Xerxes (464-424 B.C.). This is the same time as Malachi - the last book in the Old Testament.

      The Bible actually speaks of the rule of Artaxerxes. Scripture says that Ezra came to Jerusalem in the seventh year of his rule. We read of this in Ezra. It says:

      Some of the Israelites, priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers, and temple servants accompanied [him] to Jerusalem in the seventh year of King Artaxerxes. Ezra came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, during the seventh year of the king. (Ezra7:7-8 HCSB)

      We are also told that Nehemiah, the cupbearer, entered in the presence of King Artaxerxes in his twentieth year. The Bible says:

      In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before. (Nehemiah 2:1 NIV)

      Therefore, this testimony of Josephus fits well with what we know from Scripture; the last of the writers lived and wrote in the late Persian period; no later than 425 B.C.

    • Other Writings Apart from the Scripture Were Known

      Between the time of Malachi and Josephus’ writing (425 B.C. to A.D. 90) no additional material was added to the Old Testament canon of Scripture. Josephus says that the period from Moses until 425 B.C. was one where there was an unbroken succession of prophets. This would have guaranteed the trustworthiness of what was written during that period. However, after that period, the succession of prophets ceased.

      While Josephus does testify that certain people after this period had the gift of prophecy, there was no one who wrote authoritative Scripture. Consequently, there was the notion of a long period of time without a divinely authoritative Word from God that was put in written form for the people as well as for future generations.

      Indeed, Josephus wrote concerning books that were composed after the completion of the sacred books. He said:

      From Artaxerxes to our times a complete history has been written, but has not been deemed worthy of equal credit, with the earlier records, because of the failure of the exact succession of the prophets. (Against Apion 1:41)

      From this statement we learn that other writings had been composed after the completion of the Old Testament. However, these books were not considered to be divinely authoritative as was the Scripture. There had been no authoritative Word from the Lord after Malachi.

    • Josephus Knows of No Disputes about the Canon

      We learn something else from Josephus. While he knew of various Jewish sects and reports their differences of belief, he never indicates that they had any differences with respect to the extent of Scripture. To the contrary, his statement indicates that all Jews, no matter what their particular belief, acknowledged the same sacred Scripture.

    • The Scriptures Were Copied Carefully by the Jews

      There are some other things that we learn from Josephus. For one thing, the Old Testament writings were carefully preserved. He wrote:

      But that our forefathers took no less, not to say even greater care than the nations I have mentioned in the keeping of their records-a task which they assigned to their chief priests and prophets-and that down to our own times these records have been, and if I may venture to say so, will continue to be, preserved with scrupulous accuracy, I will now endeavor briefly to demonstrate. (Again Apion 1.6.29)

      Because the Holy Scriptures were recognized as authoritative, they were treated in a manner that attested to their divine origin.

      Josephus also declared the willingness of the Jewish people to die for their sacred writings. He wrote the following about their respect for the Scripture:

      And how firmly we have given credit to those books of our own nation is evident by what we do; for during so many ages as have already passed, no one has been so bold as either to add anything to them or take anything from them, or to make any change in them; but it becomes natural to all Jews, immediately and from their very birth, to esteem those books to contain divine doctrines, and to persist in them, and, if occasion be, willing to die for them. For it is no new thing for our captives, many of them in numbers, and frequently in time, to be seen to endure racks and deaths of all kinds upon the theatres, that they may not be obliged to say one word against our laws, and the records that contain them.

      Therefore, Josephus’ writings contain a powerful testimony as to the extent of the Old Testament canon as well as the divine status in which these writings were held. Nothing was added to them and nothing was taken away from them.

    • The Sacred Writings Were Preserved in the Temple Archives

      While we learn a number of important things about the Holy Scriptures from the writings of Josephus, perhaps the most important thing which we learn is that the sacred scrolls were officially housed in the temple in Jerusalem. This is consistent with what we read in the Old Testament; placing a particular writing in the temple was the same as canonizing it.

      From various passages in the writings of Josephus, we discover the following about the canon of Scripture:

      In a writing archived in the Temple, it is revealed that God predicted to Moses that water would gush from the rock. (Antiquities 3:38)

      This is a reference to Exodus 17:6 and Numbers 20:8. These two works were archived in the temple.

      Josephus mentioned in another place that part of the writings of Moses were housed in the temple. He wrote:

      Then he [Moses] recited to them a poem in hexameter which is also archived in the Temple. (Antiquities 4:303-304)

      This is a reference to Deuteronomy 33. It too was officially housed in the temple.

      Josephus also wrote that the writings of Joshua were kept in the temple archives. He said:

      That the length of the day was increased then and was greater than what is customary is revealed in the Scriptures that are archived in the Temple. (Antiquities 5:61)

      This is evidence that sacred writings, apart from the Law of Moses, were also kept in the temple.

      We further learn that the Romans took the temple archives when they destroyed the temple in A.D. 70. Josephus wrote of the spoils taken from Jerusalem by the conquering Roman army:

      The spoils were borne in large heaps, but conspicuous of all of them were those captured in the Jerusalem Temple... And after these the Jewish Law was carried as the last of the spoils. (War of the Jews 7:148-150)

      Consequently, from a number of different passages, Josephus testifies that the Holy Writings were kept in the temple archives. When the city of Jerusalem, as well as the temple, were destroyed by the Romans, this archive ceased to exist. Therefore, no longer could one look to Jerusalem and the temple archives to know which books belong in the sacred canon of Scripture. However, until that time, if someone wanted to know the complete catalog of sacred Scripture, all they would have to do would be consult the temple archives. This was where the Hebrew canon was kept.

      We can thus rightly conclude from Josephus’ statements, as well as from the testimony of others, that the canon of Scripture was determined by which books were kept in the official archive of the temple; it was not because they were found on some list. This further explains why no list of the books which belong in the Old Testament canon is given in the writings of the New Testament, or anywhere else, until after the destruction of the temple. It was unnecessary. The sacred books were kept in the temple. This is how the people knew which books were divinely inspired and which were not. The canonical books were officially housed in the Holy temple.

    • Conclusions as to What We Learn from Josephus

      We can sum up what we learn from Josephus as follows. He was the first person to list the number of books in the Hebrew canon. Josephus notes there were twenty-two books that were deemed as sacred Scripture. He divides the history of the Jews, and these books, into two periods: before and after Moses. He is also the first person to explicitly tell us that the canon was closed because of the cessation of the prophets at the time of Nehemiah. He also explicitly tells us that the sacred books were kept as an official archive in the temple. He also lets us know that the Jews were aware of other writings after the completion of the Old Testament, but that these writings were not accepted as divinely authoritative Scripture.

      Furthermore, Josephus knows of Jewish sects and reports their differences of belief, yet he nowhere reports that they disputed about the canon. In all, Josephus presents us with invaluable evidence about the canon.

  9. The Testimony of Second Esdras or 4th Esdras (A.D. 100)

    There is the testimony of the twenty-four book Hebrew canon by the apocryphal work of Second Esdras (also known as Fourth Esdras). The Book of Second Esdras, although written in A.D. 100, claims to record revelations made to Ezra after the destruction of the first temple—some five hundred years earlier. This supposedly happened after the sacred writings had been burned.

    The fanciful story reads as follows:

    So I took the five men, as he commanded me, and we proceeded to the field, and remained there. And on the next day a voice called me, saying, “Ezra, open your mouth and drink what I give you to drink.” So I opened my mouth, and a full cup was offered to me; it was full of something like water, but its color was like fire. I took it and drank; and when I had drunk it, my heart poured forth understanding, and wisdom increased in my breast, for my spirit retained its memory, and my mouth was opened and was no longer closed. Moreover, the Most High gave understanding to the five men, and by turns they wrote what was dictated, using characters that they did not know. They sat forty days; they wrote during the daytime, and ate their bread at night. But as for me, I spoke in the daytime and was not silent at night. So during the forty days, ninety-four books were written. And when the forty days were ended, the Most High spoke to me, saying, “Make public the twenty-four books that you wrote first, and let the worthy and the unworthy read them; but keep the seventy that were written last, in order to give them to the wise among your people. For in them is the spring of understanding, the fountain of wisdom, and the river of knowledge.” And I did so. Five thousand years and three months and twelve days after creation. At that time Ezra was caught up, and taken to the place of those who are like him, after he had written all these things. And he was called the scribe of the knowledge of the Most High for ever and ever. (2 Esdras 14:37-48 NRSV)

    According to the book of 2 Esdras, Ezra republished the twenty-four books of the Hebrew Scriptures. The testimony of twenty-four, or twenty-two books, as Holy Scripture goes way back before the end of the first century A.D. Agreement on their number would also mean agreement on their identity. This is another strong testimony to a well-known set of books that existed at that time in history.

  10. The Talmud

    The Talmud is a handbook of Jewish traditions. From the Talmud, we find the Jews realized that special revelation ceased with the prophet Malachi. The Talmud reads:

    Up to this point [the time of Alexander the Great, 330 B.C.] the prophets prophesied through the Holy Spirit; from this time onward incline your ear and listen to the sayings of the wise. (Seder Olam Rabbah 30)

    The Babylonian Talmud reads:

    After the latter prophets Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi had died, the Holy Spirit departed from Israel, yet they were still able to avail themselves to the bath kol. (Yoma 98)

    In this context, the Holy Spirit is a reference to divine prophecy. The phrase, “bath kol,” literally means, “daughter of a voice.” It refers to words that were not as authoritative as the words of the prophets. Since direct revelation from God had ceased in Israel about 400 B.C., the people had to listen to the words of wise men. These wise men did not speak with the same authority as the biblical prophets.

    As far as the Jews were concerned, it is clear from all of the evidence that long before the time of Jesus Christ, the Old Testament canon was closed. They had a clearly defined group of writings which they recognized as sacred Scripture.

  11. The Testimony of 2 Baruch

    Second Baruch is a forgery. While it is claimed that the author was Baruch, the scribe of Jeremiah, it was written long after his time. In this book, the writer explains the lack of prophetic writing after the time of Malachi by saying that the prophets had “fallen asleep” (2 Baruch 85:3). Though the book is not genuine, it does reflect the current thought of the day concerning the extent of Scripture.

  12. The Testimony of Fourth Maccabees

    Finally, there is the testimony from a work known as Fourth Maccabees. This work was most likely written around A.D. 20. Therefore, it was composed around the time of the life of Christ. It reads as follows:

    While he was still with you, he taught you the Law and the Prophets. He read to you about Abel slain by Cain, and Isaac who was offered as a burnt offering, and of Joseph in prison. He told you of the zeal of Phineas, and he taught you about Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael in the fire. He praised Daniel in the den of the lions and blessed him. He reminded you of the scripture of Isaiah, which says, ‘Even though you go through the fire, the flame shall not consume you.’ He sang to you songs of the psalmist David, who said, ‘Many are the afflictions of the righteous.’ He recounted to you Solomon’s proverb, ‘There is a tree of life for those who do his will.’ He confirmed the saying of Ezekiel, ‘Shall these dry bones live?’ For he did not forget to teach you the song that Moses taught, which says, ‘I kill and I make alive: this is your life and the length of your days.’ (4 Maccabees 18:10-19)

    In this passage from Fourth Maccabees, the author cites examples from eight out of the twenty-four books of the Hebrew canon, which he calls, “the Law and the Prophets.”

    Therefore, from the evidence of Fourth Maccabees, we see that shortly before the time of Christ, there was an assumption of a completed canon of Scripture, the Law and the Prophets, which seems to be identical to our present Old Testament canon.

Conclusion: the Hebrew Canon Was Closed Four Centuries Before Christ

Therefore, when the evidence is considered from these various sources outside of Scripture, it agrees with the evidence that we find from the New Testament; that the Hebrew canon was completed and closed during the Persian period, about 400 B.C. and was recognized by all as being complete.

Did the New Testament Recognize a Completed Old Testament Canon of Scripture? ← Prior Section
Why Do the Jews and Christians Understand the Old Testament So Differently? Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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