A term sometimes used to designate certain books, which by the Council of Trent were included in the Old Testament, but which the Protestant churches designated as apocryphal (see APOCRYPHA), and also certain books of the New Testament which for a long time were not accepted by the whole church as Scripture. Webster says the term pertains to "a second Canon or ecclesiastical writing of inferior authority," and the history of these books shows that they were all at times regarded by a part of the church as being inferior to the others and some of them are so regarded today. This second Canon includes Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclusiasticus, 2 Esdras, 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees of the Old Testament, and Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, and Revelation of the New Testament.
1. The Old Testament Books:
The Old Testament books under consideration were not in the Hebrew Canon and they were originally designated as apocryphal. The Septuagint contained many of the apocrphyal books, and among these were most of those which we have designated deutero-canonical. The Septuagint was perhaps the Greek Bible of New Testament times and it continued to be the Old Testament of the early church, and hence, these books were widely distributed. It seems, however, that they did not continue to hold their place along with the other books, for Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, in his Festal Epistle in 367 gave a list of the books of the Bible which were to be read, and at the close of this list he said:
"There are also other books besides these, not canonized, yet set by the Fathers to be read to those who have just come up and who wish to be informed as to the word of godliness: Wisdom, Sirach, Esther, Judith, Tobit, the so-called Teaching of the Apes, and the Shepherd of Hermas." Jerome also made a distinction between the apocryphal books and the others. In his Preface, after enumerating the books contained in the Hebrew Canon, he adds: "This prologue I write as a preface to the books to be translated by us from the Hebrew into Latin, that we may know that all the books which are not of this number are apocrphyal; therefore Wisdom, which is commonly ascribed to Solomon as its author, and the book of Jesus the son of Sirach, Judith, Tobit and the Shepher are not in the Canon." Rufinus made the same distinction as did Jerome. He declared that "these books are not canonical, but have been called by our forefathers ecclesiastical." Augustine included these books in his list which he published in 397. He begins the list thus: "The entire canon of Scripture is comprised in these books." Then follows a list of the books which includes Tobit, Judith, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, 2 Esdras, Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus, and it closes with these words: "In these 44 books is comprised all the authority of the Old Testament." Inasmuch as these books were regarded by the church at large as ecclesiastical and helpful, and Augustine had given them canonical sanction, they rapidly gained in favor and most of them are found in the great manuscripts.
2. The New Testament Books:
It is not probable that there was any general council of the church in those early centuries that set apart the various books of the New Testament and canonized them as Scripture for the whole church. There was no single historical event which brought together the New Testament books which were everywhere to be regarded as Scripture. These books did not make the same progress in the various provinces and churches. A careful study of conditions reveals the fact that there was no uniform New Testament canon in the church during at least the first 3 centuries. The Ethiopic church, for example, had 35 books in its New Testament, while the Syrian church had only 22 books.
From an early date the churches were practically agreed on those books which are sometimes designated as the protocanonical, and which Eusebius designated as the homologoumena. They differed, however, in regard to the 7 disputed books which form a part of the so-called deutero-canon, and which Eusebius designated as the antilegomena. They also differed in regard to other ecclesiastical writings, for there was no fixed line between canonical and non-canonical books. While there was perhaps no council of the church that had passed on the books and declared them canonical, it is undoubtedly true that before the close of the 2nd century all the books that are in our New Testament, with the exception of those under consideration, had become recognized as Scripture in all orthodox churches.
The history of these seven books reveals the fact that although some of them were early used by the Fathers, they afterward fell into disfavor. That is especially true of Hebrews and Revelation. Generally speaking, it can be said that at the close of the 2nd century the 7 books under consideration had failed to receive any such general recognition as had the rest; however, all, with perhaps the exception of 2 Peter, had been used by some of the Fathers. He was freely attested by Clement of Rome and Justin Martyr; James by Hermas and probably by Clement of Rome; 2 John, 3 John and Jude by the Muratorian Fragment; Revelation by Hermas and Justin Martyr who names John as its author.
Jerome, who prepared the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A. D.) in the closing years of the 4th century, accepted all 7 of the doubtful books, yet he held that 2 John and 3 John were written by the Presbyter, and he intimated that 2 Peter and Jude were still rejected by some, and he said the Latins did not receive He among the canonical Scriptures, neither did the Greek churches receive Augustine, who was one of the great leaders during the last part of the 4th century and the first part of the 5th, accepted without question the 7 disputed books. These books had gradually gained in favor and the position of Jerome and Augustine practically settled their canonicity for the orthodox churches. The Council of Carthage, held in 397, adopted the catalogue of Augustine. This catalogue contained all the disputed books both of the New Testament and the Old Testament.
Since the Reformation.
The Canon of Augustine became the Canon of the majority of the churches and the Old Testament books which he accepted were added to the Vulgate, but there were some who still held to the Canon of Jerome. The awakening of the Reformation inevitably led to a reinvestigation of the Canon, since the Bible was made the source of authority, and some of the disputed books of the New Testament were again questioned by the Reformers. The position given the Bible by the Reformers led the Roman church to reaffirm its sanction and definitely to fix the books that should be accepted. Accordingly the Council of Trent, which convened in 1546, made the Canon of Augustine, which included the 7 apocphyal books of the Old Testament, and the 7 disputed books of the New Testament, the Canon of the church, and it pronounced a curse upon those who did not receive these books. The Protestants at first followed the example of Rome and adopted these books which had long had the sanction of usage as their Bible. Gradually, however, the questioned books of the Old Testament were separated from the others. That was true in Coverdale's translation, and in Matthew's Bible they were not only separated from the others but they were prefaced with the words, "the volume of the book called Hagiographa." In Cranmer's Bible, Hagiographa was changed into Apocrypha, and this passed through the succeeding edition into the King James Version.
A. W. Fortune
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