Friday, August 31, 2007

The Canonicity of Esther

Taylor Marshall over at Canterbury Tales has a challenge for Protestants: why is Esther Canonical? A better than average discussion follows (for Blogs touching on Catholic-Protestant debates).

I have been re-reading R. Laird Harris' Inspiration and Canonicity of the Scriptures: An Exegetical and Historical Study. I believe it expresses a normative PCA view, as it is written by an ordained PCA minister and career Covenant Theological Seminary (PCA) professor, who was also a charter member of the NIV translation committee. From his discourse, I have not been persuaded that there is a good reason to include Esther in the Canon.

I believe the party line is as follows: 1) what was considered to be canon at the Temple in Jerusalem would be normative/definitive for all Jews at the time of Christ, 2) the Jewish canon at the time of Christ should be our O.T. canon, 3) omissions of Esther from the oldest extant list of canon (Melito) was possibly by mistake, 4) the later testimony of Josephus (Jewish scholar), Jerome and Origen (both of whom studied under Jewish scholars) indicates Esther was accepted with the "Prophets" texts in the Jewish canon, so 5) Esther is canonical. As reinforcement (or a substitute argument), 6) those books referred to directly or by category by Christ in the N.T. are canonical, 7) and since Christ referred to the "Prophets" category, and Esther is likely in that category, it is canonical.

I really struggle with his reasoning and these arguments overall, and would appreciate hearing from anyone who can back it up.

First, this suggests that the Jews at the Temple in 90 A.D. [for the canon was not actually formed at Christ's arrival even in Jerusalem, but was only later settled] have the authority to definitively define canon. Since the Protestant says we cannot trust (or do not need) Christian authority to define canon, why am I to trust the Jews of Jerusalem after Christ's death?

Second, I fail to grasp why we should accept the rule I've given under #6 and #7 above over a rule that says 'if Christ and the Apostles quoted the N.T. in Septuagint, then the Septuagint is more reliable than what the Temple Jews of 90 A.D. thought'. [The Septuagint has the Apocrypha/Deuterocanon - think about that!]

Third, Harris leans very much on early writing by those who studied under Palestinian Jews, so were naturally persuaded by their view of canon, and denies that other early church fathers' testimony points otherwise than the accounts of Origen, Jerome and Josephus (re: their not including the Apocrypha/Deuterocanon). One doesn't have to search far on Google to find evidence to the contrary.

This is a complex issue, so I am amply prepared for reproof.

7 comments:

Joseph said...

Thos,

I think the "party line" argument #6 may be problematic for the "party line":

"...those books referred to directly or by category by Christ in the N.T. are canonical"

I have read more than one Scripture scholar that shows Jesus Christ quoted from the Septuagint. Given that Galilee and surrounding areas were supposed to be largely Hellenized (I believe, correct me if I'm wrong), it would make sense that the Scriptures used by the Apostles would be from the Septuagint as well. Not to be undone is the fact that several Scripture quotes from Jesus Christ and the Apostles come directly from the Septuagint and the DC books within it.

Where this is also problematic is when Apostles quote from non-Scriptural sources. I've read this in several places but I have no idea where to find the data again (this was all during my discernment research a couple of years ago). I'm sure you can find it without great difficulty if you search for it.

I'm no Scripture scholar so I'm not able to debate on this topic. I'm just letting you know that I have read some information that may cause ire with point #6.

Joseph said...

Oops, I was hasty... I just read your second point. Sorry about that. I have a tendency for redundancy and haste!

Joseph said...

I believe that you are also correct on the "Jewish canon". The canon that they are referring to, I think, is the same one you are talking about (circa 90 AD). It simply did not exist during Christ's time and, therefore, could not be used by Christ and the Apostles. This also blows up point #6 again, in my opinion.

Also, as I pointed out in an earlier post, there is record of at least one Early Father near the time of the Jewish canon (St. Justin Martyr "Dialogue with the Jew Trypho") that accuses the Jews of deliberately manipulating Scripture in their canon to remove and alter types, prophecies, and references that Christians were using in the Septuagint to show that Jesus Christ was the expected Messiah.

So, one can argue that this perhaps makes the Jewish canon favorable for Jews to read but deficient for Christians.

Thos said...

Joseph,

Isn't the history between the canon so hard to grasp? It's heavily spun by the competing views of the chuch, and has been heavily trammeled by the historical-critical method of scriptural exegesis.

But it's become very striking to me in recent days that Protestantism relies on the council of non-Christian Jews over councils of Christians in choosing the Palestinian (non-Septuagint, non-Apocrypha/Deuterocanon) canon. How did things come to this?

Joseph said...

Thos,

It came to this because men are weak. And many times, when we turn from God, the only source of Life, Truth, and Good, we attempt to justify our failures in the eyes of other men rather than realize that we need healing from the only One Who can heal us.

This is just another result of human weakness. It is the same weakness as the first: Pride.

We all suffer from it. We all walk around with gigantic, festering tumors sprouting forth from our bodies. We, because we don't realize that our time may come at any minute, because we don't keep our lamps filled with oil, continue to believe that we can go on without surgery. We ignore the Surgeon who is always there waiting to heal us.

Like the men (Gondor and Rohan) in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, we have succumbed to pride and attempt everyday to make our lives perfect on this earth, to build our Kingdom of Heaven here. We fight, argue, and bicker between each other, rending our unity. Meanwhile, the enemy grows in strength preparing for the greatest assault on our souls. That assault may be coming soon in physical form as well. Our pride separates us. Christian unity is important on more than just a physical, philosophical, or theological level. We need it to help each other fend off the Enemy and his minions. They never stop. They are always attacking. They know that our weakness is pride, that we will forget to invoke the Name of Our Lord to defend us because we "believe in ourselves".

This is how it all begins. It has never been any different from the beginning.

Sorry for the rant. I have been dwelling on this lately. Especially in my struggles to remain charitable to others.

Anders Branderud said...

”While the meticulous oral transmission of מָסוֹרָה dates from the formation of its developing prototype in the times of Av•râ•hâm′ ,Yi•tzәkhâq′ and the 12 Tribes of Yi•sәr•â•eil′ , it was committed to writing much later—particularly among the most pristine tradition: theTei•mân•im′ . There is clear evidence from other sources that the מָסוֹרָה was committed to writing prior to the 8th century… The proofs point to a period of 200 years within which vocalization and accentuation signs were codified: not before the 6th century nor later than the 7th. The oral tradition was so meticulously watchguarded for millennia, however, that its codification is merely the documentation of various traditions (Ash•kәnaz′ i, Sәphâ•râd•i′ , etc.). Far more significant is which tradition most pristinely preserved the tradition of Har Sin•ai′ —and scholars agree that is the Tei•mân•im′ . ”
(Quote www.netzarim.co.il ; “Glossaries”; MT (in which you will also find explanations of above words).

Thus, according to Scholars the codification of Yemenite Jews is more reliable than “LXX”. In fact “LXX” was written by Hellenists “Jews”, i.e. Yehudim who don’t do their best to keep Torah non-selectively, and thus breaches the pact with the Creator.

Furthermore it is important to know this: A logical analysis (found in www.netzarim.co.il (Netzarim.co.il is the website of the only legitimate Netzarim-group)) (including the logical implications of the research by Ben-Gurion Univ. Prof. of Linguistics Elisha Qimron of Dead Sea Scroll 4Q MMT) of all extant source documents of “the gospel of Matthew” (which is a redaction of Netzarim Hebrew Matityahu (which was perfectly in harmony with Torah) and anti-Torah) and archeology proves that the historical Ribi Yehosuha ha-Mashiakh (the Messiah) from Nazareth and his talmidim (apprentice-students), called the Netzarim, taught and lived Torah all of their lives; and that Netzarim and Christianity were always antithetical.
The person who wants to follow the historical Messiah and what he taught must study www.netzarim.co.il

Andrew Christopher Bain said...

Mr Tom B.

I applaud your bold independent thinking.

It is good to see a man throwing off the prison chains of tradition.

I found your educated blog by googling "esther canon".

I doubt Esther is God's Word.

I'd be honored to be your Facebook friend.

Andrew Christopher Bain
e24light at gmail
http://facebook.com/BainAndrew
call or text me - 561 444 9294 (USA cell phone number)

5 I am the Lord, and there is no other,
besides me there is no God;
I equip you, though you do not know me,
6 that people may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is none besides me;
I am the Lord, and there is no other.
7 I form light and create darkness,
I make well-being and create calamity,
I am the Lord, who does all these things.
Isa 45

4 I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave,[a] though he is the owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. 3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles[b] of the world. 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Galatians 4