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Author Topic: Question Concerning EO Canon of Scripture  (Read 1645 times) Average Rating: 0
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EkhristosAnesti
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« on: February 27, 2006, 06:45:08 AM »

I would just like someone to verify whether or not the following information is accurate:

Quote
GREEK ORTHODOX CANON
Bibles approved by the Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Church include in the Greek canon all the books of the Septuagint including:
 Greek Ezra (called "3 Ezra")
 Prayer of Manasseh
 an additional Psalm 151 (which follows Psalm 150)
 3 Maccabees

In an Appendix (or Apocrypha) it also has:
 4 Maccabees
 
  SLAVONIC ORTHODOX CANON
The Slavonic Orthodox Church traditions has the same canon as the Greek Orthodox Church but it also includes:
 Apocalypse of Ezra (called 3 Esdras)
NB In the Slavonic Bible Ezra is called 1 Esdras and Greek Ezra is called 2 Esdras.

It does not include 4 Maccabees in an Appendix.

Source: http://www.bfbs.org.uk/canon/canon_ot.html

Thank you,

+irini nem ehmot
 
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« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2006, 12:29:32 PM »

More or less, yes. The only two issues I see are, 1) I don't understand what the difference is between "3 Ezra/Greek Ezra," "3 Esdras," etc.; and 2) while 4 Maccabees has been an appendix in Greek versions of the Scripture in the past, I was under the impression that this was not done so often (if at all) today. Also, there are disputes within Orthodoxy as to whether these books are canonical, deuterocanonical, or simply for reading, and also whether they are fully authoritative, on a lower footing, or simply for reading.
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« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2006, 09:04:34 PM »

Thank you Asteriktos; would you happen to have any links to articles discussing the disputes regarding the authority of these books within the EO Communion?

P.S. I intend on answering the thread you made regarding the OO Canons once I have gathered sufficient information on the issue. It seems that the discrepancies between Scriptural canons within the OO Communion (especially between the Copts and Ethiopians) are much greater, and even pertain to the NT Canon also.
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« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2006, 11:37:47 PM »

I look forward to your findings/thoughts Smiley As to the EO canon, much like the early Fathers like St. John Chrysostom and Gregory the Theologian, many EO up until recent times made absolute-sounding proclamations, even though their beliefs weren't really binding for the whole Church. I suppose that, with the lack of widespread communication, they figured that most people who read/heard their beliefs would be within their flock. Anyway, here are a few who discuss some of the differences in earlier times...

Junilius, Instituta Regularia Divinae Legis, 3

Sixth Ecumenical Council, Canon 2 (which "ratifies" different canons from earlier in Church History, and in the process of doing that ends up lending authority to contradictory canons held by various people).

Commentary on the 85th Apostolic Canon.

And here are some contemporary EO on the subject...

Quote
"The Hebrew version of the Old Testament contains thirty-nine books. The Septuagint contains in addition ten further books, not present in the Hebrew, which are known in the Orthodox Church as the ‘Deutero-Canonical Books’ (3 Esdras; Tobit; Judith; 1, 2, and 3 Maccabees; Wisdom of Solomon; Ecclesiasticus; Baruch; Letter of Jeremias. In the west these books are often called the ‘Apocrypha’). These were declared by the Councils of Jassy (1642) and Jerusalem (1672) to be ‘genuine parts of Scripture;’ most Orthodox scholars at the present day, however, following the opinion of Athanasius and Jerome, consider that the Deutero-Canonical Books, although part of the Bible, stand on a lower footing than the rest of the Old Testament." - Bishop Kallistos (Ware), The Orthodox Church, (Penguin Books, 1997), p. 200

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"The second difference is that the early Christians adopted a larger number of Jerish writings than the official list complied by rabbinic teachers at Jamnia or later. These additional books were in circulation from pre-Christian times in the Greek language among Greek-speaking Jews who regarded them as valuable. These books express the diverse beliefs, practices, and hopes of many Jews during the time of the Greek and Roman dominance of the ancient world. However, because they carried neither sufficient antiquity nor authority in the Jewish tradition, they were left out of the Hebrew canon by rabbinic leaders who intended to unite and consolidate Judaism after the desastrous wars with Rome during the first and second  centuries.

But the Christians esteemed these writings and preserved them. In the East, they became known as Readable Books (literally, "readable") and in the West Deuterocanonical ("of secondary authority"). Although their precise number varies, these writings are still part of the Orthodox and Roman Catholic canons of the Old Testament. With the Reformation, Protestants adopted the Jewish canon and eliminated these books from the Bible. They designated them as Apocrypha, a pejorative word meaning "hidden books," a term which in the ancient Christian tradition was applied  to still other books whose authority was rejected by the Church. These latter books, such as the Book of Jubilees, the Martyrdom of Isaiah, and the Assumption of Moses, were nevertheless preserved by Christians on account of historical and religious interestes. They carry no canonical authority but certainly bear historical value because they attest to the beliefs and practices of their authors and their specific religious grous. These books are still designated as Apocrypha in the Orthodox Church, but are called Pseudepigrapha (literally, "falsely titled") by Protestants. Thus, by and large, what Protestants call Apocrypha the Orthodox call Readable or Deuterocanonical. Many current Protestant Bibles, for reasons of ecumenical openness and scholarly interestes, regularly feature the Readable Books as "The Apocrypha" or "The Apocrypha/Deuterocanonical," albeit as an appendix.

In addition to the Readable/Deuterocanonical books, the Orthodox and Roman Catholics Bibles contain extensive passages in the canonical books of Esther and Daniel not found in the Hebrew version of these texts. Although traditionally these passages are part of the canonical books, the Protestants placed them among the "Apocrypha" according to their nomenclature and call them "Additions" to the Greek version of Esther and Daniel. In the case of Daniel, these passages include the Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Youths, the story of Susanna, and the story of Bel and the Dragon. In the case of Esther, they include shorter passages too numerous to mention here. The inclusive interests of the Eastern tradition extended to additional texts that are taken up in the Orthodox Bibles. Among them are the Prayer orf Manasses and Psalm 151. The Slavonic version alone includes Esdras 2. The Greek version alone includes Maccabees 4 as an appendix.

In total, the Hebrew Scriptures contain thirty-eight books, Ezra and Nehemiah forming one book. The Jewish tradition developed and maintains its own numbering and sequential arrangement of these books. The Protestant Old testament numbers thirty-nine books seperating the Books of Ezra and Nehimiah according to ancient Christian tradition. The Roman Catholic Old Testament, including seven Deuterocanonical Books and the Epistle of Jeremiah to Baruch, totals forty-six books. The Orthodox Old Testament maintains the most inclusive canon of the ancient Chruch which embraces, together with the ten Readable Books [ie. Tobit, Judith, 3 Book of the Maccabees, Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom of Sirach, Baruch, Epistle of Jeremiah, Esdras], forty-nine  books. In addition, a few other writings mentioned above, such as Prayer of Mansses and Psalm 151, are accorded some value within the Orthodox Tradition

It should be noted, as well, that the sequence of the scriptural books varies in the Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox Bibles, somethign easily ascertained by any reader comparing current editions of the Bible from these traditions. Two significant differences deserve the reader's attention. One is that the Orthodox and Catholic Bibles integrate the Readable and Deuterocanonical books within their respective Old Testament canons, whereas Protestant Bibles put them in an appendix. This fact indicates a remaining difference of views regarding the canonical authority of these books. The second is that the official Orthodox Old Testament continues to be the Greek Septuagint version, whereas the current Protestant and Catholic Bibles are translations of the Hebrew original called the Masoretic text." - Theodore G. Stylianopoulos, The New Testament: An Orthodox Perspective; Volume 1: Scripture, Tradition, Hermeneutic, (Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2002), pp. 22-25

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"It would be indeed unwise if we were to see the Orthodox attitude toward the Apocrypha as a kind of midpoint along our spectrum [ie. between the Protestant and Catholic positions on either side]. In this sense, we would abuse our conceptual construct. The Orthodox position is one which corresponds, in part, with both the Roman Catholic and Protestant views, neither representing one or the other faithfully, nor providing a distinct alternative to either. On the one hand, as in Roman Catholicism, the Orthodox accept the decrees of the Church Councils as authoritatively binding. On the other hand, they see these decrees as efficacious only when they are accepted by the universal Church and brought to full maturity by their compatibility with spiritual life and experience, with what is "Orthodox". About this we will have much more to write. Suffice it to say that this principle (the marriage of practice and authority...) accounts for the fact that, today (as was so vividly apparent at the unfortunate Pan-Orthodox Synod of Rhodes in 1961), Greek theological thinkers fully accept the Apocrypha, while some contemporary Russian theologians express reservations about them. Yet the unity of the two Churches prevails. It is not that two attitudes prevail in one Church, but that the two attitudes define and constitute the position of the One Church." - Archbp. Chrysostomos and Bp. Auxentios, Scripture and Tradition, (Center For Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 1999), pp. 21-22

Quote
"The [Orthodox] Church accepts these latter books also as useful and instructive and in antiquity assigned them for instructive reading not only in homes but also in churches, which is why they have been called "ecclesiastical." The Church includes these books in a single volume of the Bible together with the canonical books. As a source of the teaching of the faith, the Church puts them in a secondary place and looks on them as an appendix to the canonical books. Certain of them are so close in merit to the divinely inspired books that, for example, in the eighty-fifth Apostolic Canon, the three books of Maccabees and the book of Joshua the son of Sirach are numbered together with the canonical books, and, concerning all of them together, it is said that they are "venerable and holy." However, this means only that they were respected in the ancient Church; but a distinction between the canonical and non-canonical books of the Old Testament has always been maintained in the Church." - Fr. Michael Pomazansky, Orthodox Dogmatic Theology

Quote
"The Orthodox Bible contains certain other Scriptures besides that normally found in the Hebrew bible and most English language Bibles. The word Apocrypha means things that are hidden, although why so is not positively known. Sometimes these books are given the title Deutero-canonicalas contrasted to Proto-canonical to distinguish the first (or proto) canonical books from those that came later (deutero — second). This term is to be preferred over Apocrypha since that word may have negative meanings. The Deutero-canonical books appeared as part of Holy Scripture with the translation of the Hebrew Scripture into Greek by Alexandrian Jews who had been gathered together for that purpose in Egypt just prior to the New Testament times. Over the centuries, however, these books have been disputed by many; many hold them to have little or no value as Scripture. However, both the Orthodox and Roman Catholics accept them as part of the Biblical Canon, whereas, since the Reformation, most Protestants have rejected them as being spurious. Although the Orthodox Church accepts these books as being canonical, and treasures them and uses them liturgically, she does not use them as primary sources in the definition of her dogmas." - A Monk of Saint Tikhon's Monastery, "These Truths We Hold," The Holy Orthodox Church: Her Life and Teaching

Quote
"Beside the canonical books, a part of the Old Testament is composed of non-canonical books, sometimes called the Apocrypha among non-Orthodox. These are the books which the Jews lost and which are not in the contemporary Hebrew text of the Old Testament. They are found in the Greek translations of the Old Testament, made by the 70 translators of the Septuagint three centuries before the birth of Christ (271 B.C.). These books have been included in the Bible from ancient times and are considered by the Church to be sacred Scripture. The translation of the Septuagint is accorded special respect in the Orthodox Church. The Slavonic translation of the Bible was made from it. To the non-canonical books of the Old Testament belong: 1. Tobit, 2. Judith, 3. The Wisdom of Solomon, 4. Ecclesiasticus, or the Wisdom of Sirach, 5. Baruch, 6. Three books of Maccabees, 7. The Second and Third book of Esdras, 8. the additions to the (Book of Esther), 2 Chronicles (The Prayer of Manasseh) and Daniel (The Song of the Three Youths, Susanna and Bel and the Dragon)." - Archpriest Seraphim Slobodskoy, The Law of God, (Holy Trinity Monastery, 1994), p. 423

Quote
"All the Bible is the Word of God, all Scripture is divinely inspired (II Tim. 3:16). But one may distinguish among its parts those more or less important for us, at least within the limits of that which is accessible to us. The Gospels are for us different from the books of Ruth or Joshua; the Epistles are not the same as Ecclesiastes or Proverbs. The same distinction obtains between canonical and deutero-canonical books. Protestantism has arbitrarily impoverished its Bible by excluding the deutero-canonical books. This distinction in degree of divine inspiration seems contradictory. Can there be degrees of inspiration? Is there not simply presence or absence of inspiration? This simply means that divine inspiration is concrete and that it adapts itself to human weakness and consequently can be greater or less. This is why the non-canonical books have a certain authority as the Word of God, but less authority than that of the canonical books. Speaking generally, the Bible is an entire universe, it is a mysterious organism, and it is only partially that we attain to living in it." - Sergei Bulgakov, The Orthodox Church

Thankfully I had already typed all of this in last year, so all I had to do tonight was copy and paste it from another program! Smiley I'm afraid I don't have any links offhand that discuss the subject in more depth, however.
« Last Edit: February 27, 2006, 11:40:00 PM by Asteriktos » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2006, 08:08:57 PM »

As far as I know the Slavonic cannon of Scripture you have is correct!  
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EkhristosAnesti
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« Reply #5 on: February 28, 2006, 08:24:31 PM »

Thanks for all the info Asteriktos. Would you happen to have the references to St John and St Gregory's "absolute-sounding proclamations"? Would you happen to know which Fathers, if any, made statements to the contrary? The OO (specifically Coptic) works that I have found so far relating to this subject seem to make such "absolute-sounding proclamations" also, which I find disturbing, a) because such statements implicitly and indirectly condemn the Ethiopian Canon which is vastly different to any other Scriptual canon held by an Apostolic Church, and b) the bibliography of such works are replete with standard Protestant textbooks on the matter (though such works do make the general point that unlike the Protestants, we accept the deuterocanonical books as canonical - though without making any sort of distinction based on level of inspiration or authority). Once my homework is sufficently completed I shall get back to this thread (or the other thread in the OO section).
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« Reply #6 on: February 28, 2006, 10:45:22 PM »

I ran into similar arguments among Catholics, which is actually (I think) what prompted me to dig deeper into this area.  I would sit in chats, and Protestants would come in, and the Catholics would start launching all sorts of arguments about the Bible being fixed by them and whatnot, and when I would point out that the EO have a different Bible, as do others, and that their arguments might be a bit overstated, they normally just ignored me. Unfortunately, I got a bit riled up and ended up trying to go the other direction, and dogmatizing the fact that the Scripture isn't really (universally binding) dogma.

Anyway, regarding St. John Chrysostom, the quote I was thinking of is not an actual canonical list, but rather something he said in the middle of a sermon. He was rebuking his flock for not reading their Bibles but instead focusing on worldly things. Then, he says something which implies that there is a set canon, and that people shouldn't have any question about what constitutes that canon:

Quote
Is it not strange that those who sit by the market can tell the names, and families, and cities of charioteers, and dancers, and the kinds of power possessed by each, and can give exact account of the good or bad qualities of the very horses, but that those who come hither should know nothing of what is done here, but should be ignorant of the number even of the sacred Books? - Homily 32 on John

Regarding the quote from St. Gregory the Theologian, he does mention a Scriptural canon:

Quote
Be not disposed to treat books with the mind of thief, For there are many pieces of viciousness interpolated therein. Accept this number, my friend, from me as the approved list... [St. Gregory then goes on to give a list that excludes the deuterocanonical books]  ...If any be found outside of these, they are not genuine. - Canon of St. Gregory the Theologian

This quote from St. Gregory is included in the EOC's canonical tradition. St. John and St. Gregory do seem to quote from the Apocrypha in their writings, but I get the feeling that they don't realise who they are quoting (I have observed this among many prominent Fathers). Other Fathers do quote the deuterocanonicals by name, as Scripture though. Unfortunately, I can't think of any early Fathers that came out and said that the canon of Scripture was not dogma.
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