A Brief Analysis of the Deuterocanonics of OT
By Alessandro Lima
Translation by Bruno Valadão
Many Protestants, through books, pamphlets and websites, seek to defend their position against OT deuterocanonical books, claiming that these books contain heresies. According to them, (which they call apocryphal) are not canonical books because they teach the following heresies:
- forgiveness of sin through alms: it is said that Tobias 12.9; 4.10; Ecclesiastical 3,33 and 2 Maccabees 43-47 teach that alms erase sins, thus denying the redemption of Christ’s sacrifice and therefore cannot be considered canonical. First, these references are from the OT, so they cannot have anything to do with Christ’s sacrifice. Second, they are in full compliance with the OT, which teaches that the good done to others will be considered in our judgment. This is the principle of alms. And this same doctrine is found in Prov 10, 12, for example. Isn’t the Book of Proverbs canonical too? Thirdly, this same doctrine is confirmed in the NT, just check Mc 9.41; Lk 11,41. Jesus even confirms the value of alms together with other forms of piety (cf. Mt 6,2-18), see also 1 Pet 4: 8; At 10.3-4; 10.31.
- vengeance and the practice of hatred against enemies: It is said to be in Eclo 12.6 and Judith 9.4 and fiercely contradicts Mt 5: 44-48. Once again Eclo concerns the OT, where the law of retaliation was valid. If the Book of Ecclesiastical is not canonical for this reason, neither are Exodus, Deuteronomy and Leviticus, see Ex 21,24; Lv 24,20; De 19,19-21.
- practice of suicide: The teaching on the practice of suicide is said to be in 2 Maccabees 14.41-42. However in Jz 16,28.30 Samson commits suicide and his death is considered great by the author of the Book of Judges. The Bible has several cases of suicide – mainly among warriors – just see: Jz 9,54; 16,28-29; 1Sm 31.4-5; 2Sm 17.23; 1Rs 16,18.
- teaching of magical arts: It is said that Tobias 6,8-9 favors the practice of magical arts. Now, in Tobias 8.3 we see that it is not Tobias who expels the devil, but the Archangel Raphael. The interest was to hide the Angel’s action for Tobias. In Jo 9,6 we see that Jesus reconstituted the eyes of a blind man with saliva and in Jm 5,14 there are instructions to use oil to heal the ill; Is that why these books are also no longer canonical?
- practice of lying: Judith 11,13-17 and Tob 5,15-19 are said to favor the practice of lying. Abram told King Abimelec that Sarah was his sister, and in fact was his wife (Gen. 20: 2). Jacob, assisted by his mother, lies to the blind father, saying that he was the oldest son and yet he was the youngest (cf. Gen 27,19), in addition to also deceiving his father-in-law (cf. Gen 31,20). Isn’t the book of Genesis also canonical?
- historical and chronological errors: They also say that the books by Baruc and Judite are full of contradictions in relation to the protochanonic of the OT. We must remember that Sacred Scripture is not a historical or geographical book, in it God through human limitations communicated his designs. Note that II Kings 8.26 contradicts II Cro 22.2; II Kings 23,8 also contradicts I Cro 11,11. Does this also make them non-canonical books?
Are there quotes from the OT deuterocanonicals in the NT?
A major cause of contention between Catholics and Protestants over the Biblical Canon concerns a set of seven books available in the Septuagint, in addition to additions to the Books of Daniel and Esther; and which are found in the Catholic and Orthodox OT and not in the Protestant. These books are considered apocryphal by Protestant confessions and Deuterocanonical confessions by Catholic and Orthodox confessions. They are: Judith, Baruc, Wisdom of Sirac, Ecclesiastical, 1st. Maccabees, 2nd. Maccabees and Tobias.
Protestant confessions believe that this set of books has doctrinal errors and even heresies; so they would be against the Christian Faith. However, the fact that the NT has so many references to the version of the Septuagint, which contained these books, may be an indication that neither the Jews of Alexandria, nor those of Palestine, neither Jesus nor the Apostles, had any restrictions on these books, or else why would they use a biblical version that contained heretical books?
There are also objections that claim that neither Jesus nor the Apostles cited the Deuterocanonicals. Now, if this were a true criterion for determining the conformity of a book to the Christian Faith, at least the books Judges, Chronicles, Esther, Song of Songs, which are also not cited by them, would be in non-conformity. However, it is not true that the NT lacks references to the OT deuterocanonicals.
For example, in Hebrews 11, we are encouraged to imitate the OT heroes, “the women [who] received their dead by resurrection. Some were torture refusing to accept being released, in order to rise again to a better life ”(Heb 11,35). In the OT protocanonics (which would correspond to the Protestant OT), we find several examples of women receiving their dead through resurrection. We will find Elijah resurrecting the son of the widow of Sarepta in 1 Kings 17, we will find his successor Elisha resurrecting the son of the Shunammite woman in 2 Kings 4. But we will never find (from Genesis to Malachi) any example of someone being tortured and refusing to accept being released, because of a better resurrection. The story, whose reference is made in Hebrews, is found in one of the Deuterocanonical books, namely, in 2 Maccabees. Let’s see:
“[During the Maccabean persecution] Seven brothers were also arrested, along with their mother. The king, scourging them with whips and bundles of cowhide, tried to force them to eat pork, prohibited by the Law. […] The other brothers and their mother encouraged each other to die generously, saying: ‘ the Lord God is seeing us and has compassion on us… ’Once the first died […] they took the plea to the second […] he too suffered the same torture as the first. And when he was about to take his last breath, he said: ‘You, evildoer, deprive us of the present life, but the King of the universe will raise us up to eternal life if we die out of faithfulness to his laws” (2 Mac 7,1.5- 9)
One after another the children die, proclaiming that they will be recovered in the resurrection. Let’s also see:
“Incomparably admirable and worthy of the most glorious memory was that mother who, seeing her seven children die in one day, endured everything valiantly, thanks to the hope she had put in the Lord. I exhorted each of them, [saying] ‘I don’t know how you appeared in my womb; it was not I who gave them the spirit and life nor was it I who harmoniously ordered the members of their bodies. Therefore, it is the Creator of the universe, the one who formed man at his birth and determined the origin of all things, who will mercifully return your spirit and life, since you now forget yourself for the sake of your laws ’, Saying to the last one:‘ Do not fear this executioner: show yourself worthy of your brothers and accept death, so that I will meet him again in the time of mercy ’” (2 Mac 7,20-23.29) .
Let the reader notice that in Hb 11,35, the sacred writer, when teaching an article of Faith, refers to an example of testimony, which is found only in one of the Deuterocanonical books. Now, if for this reason the book of the Maccabees contained some doctrine foreign to the faith, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews would certainly avoid mentioning it in his preaching.
This information has one more very important detail: the Letter to the Hebrews was written for the Jews of Palestine, demonstrating once again that the Septuagint version was also accepted by them; otherwise, it would make no sense for the sacred writer to refer to a story that was not known to its recipients.
It is also important to know that in some of the OT Deuterocanonical books, there are divine revelations confirmed in the NT. For example:
“When you prayed with tears and buried the dead, when you left your meal and went to hide the dead in your house during the day, to bury them when night came, I presented your prayers to the Lord. But because you were pleasing to the Lord, temptation had to prove you. Now the Lord has sent me to heal you and deliver the demon Sarah, your son’s wife. I am the angel Raphael, one of the seven we assist in the presence of the Lord ”(Tobias 12,12-15) (emphasis added).
Nowhere in the OT’s protocanonical books is there any revelation of the 7 angels who assist in the presence of the Lord and who give Him the prayers of the just. This revelation is confirmed in the book of Revelation:
“I saw the seven Angels who stand before God. They were given seven trumpets. Another angel came forward and stood at the altar, with a golden thurible in hand. Many scents were given to him to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar, which is before the throne. The smoke from the scents rose from the angel’s hand with the prayers of the saints, before God. After that, the angel took the thurible, filled it with embers from the altar and threw it to the ground; and there was thunder, voices, lightning and earthquakes ”(Ap 8,2-5) (emphasis added).
Another interesting case is in the book of Wisdom:
“He boasts of knowing God, and calls himself the Lord’s son! His existence is a censure of our ideas; your sight is enough to pester us. His life, in fact, does not look like the others, and his ways are very different. He has us for a bad carat coin, and he moves away from our paths like stains. He judges the death of the righteous happy, and glory in having God for his father. Let us see, then, if his words are true, and let us experience what will happen when he dies, because if the righteous is a son of God, God will defend him, and take it out of the hands of your opponents. We test him for outrages and tortures, in order to know his sweetness and be aware of his patience. Let us condemn him to an infamous death. Because, according to him, God must intervene ”(Wisdom 2,13-21).
The above prophecy refers to the derision promoted by the Sanhedrin against the Lord Jesus. See the NT’s testimony on its fulfillment:
“The crowd stayed there and watched. The princes of the priests scoffed at Jesus, saying: He saved others, that he save himself, if he is Christ, the chosen one of God! […] If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself. […] One of the malefactors, crucified there, blasphemed against him: If you are the Christ, save yourself and save us! ”(Lk 23,35.37.39).
“But Jesus was silent and answered nothing. The high priest asked him again: Are you the Christ, the blessed Son of God? […] Some started spitting on him, covering his face, punching him and saying: Guess what! The servants also slapped him ”(Mc 14,61.65)
“When Pilate wanted to satisfy the people, he released Barabbas to them and handed Jesus over, after being flogged, to be crucified. […] They hit him on the head with a stick, spit on him and got down on his knees as if to honor him. After they scoffed at him, they took off his purple, gave him his clothes again, and led him outside to crucify him ”(Mk 15,15,19-20).
“Save yourself! Get off the cross! In this way, the high priests and scribes also mocked him, saying to one another: He saved others and he cannot save himself! May the Christ, king of Israel, now descend from the cross, that we may see and believe! Those who had been crucified with him also insulted him ”(Mk 15,30-31).
It is important to say that in the OT protocanonics, there is a record of very objectionable things, such as Lot’s daughters became pregnant after he got him drunk (Gn 19,30-36). King Saul consulted a spiritist (I Kings 28.8), Abraham found a son outside his marriage (Gen. 16), and Patriarch Jacob several ones (Gen. 30: 4-5.7.9-10.12). David planned the death of one of his soldiers to be with his wife (cf. 2 Sam 11). One could also say that the Book of Genesis promotes polygamy (cf. Gen. 29: 28-30) and all Christians on earth still consider it canonical despite this. Therefore, if it is not subjective and personal judgment that places or removes books in the Biblical Canon, what is it? What was the judgment adopted by the early Christians to receive or not a book as canonical?
Their criterion was the same as that of Christians who lived in the apostolic age when they accepted that the Law of Moses was not necessary to achieve Justice (cf. Ac 15): the discernment of the One and True Church of Christ.
* The author is a software architect, professor, writer, columnist and founder of the Apostolate Veritatis Splendor.