Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The Council of Jamnia

The Canon of Scripture

Protestants, Catholics, and most Orthodox agree now 1 that the New Testament should consist at least of the 27 Books (Matthew through Revelation/Apocalypse) that the Catholic Church determined were canonical, but the Protestant Old Testament is lacking 7 entire books 2 (Tobias, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus/Sirach, Baruch, I Maccabees, and II Maccabees), 3 chapters of Daniel and 6 chapters of Esther, leaving them with 66 incomplete books while Catholic Bibles have 73 books. How did this come to be?
Around A.D. 90-100, after the Temple fell, a rabbinical school was formed by Johanan ben Zakkai.
The "Council of Jamnia" (also called "Jabneh" or "Javneh") is the name given to the decisions made by this pharisaic school. I repeat: the gathering at Jamnia was a Jewish, not a Christian, "council" consisting of Pharisees some 40 years after the Resurrection of our Lord.
At that time, Jews were being scattered, and the very existence of Jewry per the Pharisees' vision of "Jewry" was being threatened. At this time, too, Christianity was growing and threatening that same Jewish identity, resulting in severe persecution of Christians by Jews. In reaction to these things and to the fact that "Nazarenes" (i.e., "Christians", who at that time were overwhelmingly Hebrew) used the Septuagint 3 to proselytize other Jews, Zakkai convened the Jamnian school with the goals of safeguarding Hillel's Oral Law, deciding the Jewish canon (which had theretofore been, and possibly even afterward remained 4, an open canon!), and preventing the disappearance of Jewry into the Diaspora of the Christian and Roman worlds.
So, circling their wagons, they threw out the Septuagint that they had endorsed for almost 400 years. Note that at the time of Christ, most Jews spoke Aramaic, Latin (the official language of the area), and/or Greek (the lingua franca at that time), not Hebrew, which was a sacred language used by priests for the Hebrew liturgy. In any case, a new Greek translation was created by Aquila -- but one without the ancient Septuagint's language that proved more difficult for the Jews to defend against when being evangelized by the Christians, the point being that any idea that a book "had" to have been written in Hebrew to be "Biblical" wasn't the issue.

Moving the story along: in other words, the Protestant "Reformers" decided against the canon held dear by the Apostles in favor of a canon determined by Pharisees some 40 years after Jesus rose from the dead -- the same Pharisees who denied the Truths of the entire New Testament, even accusing the "Nazarenes" of stealing Jesus' body from the tomb and lying to the world!
(Interestingly, it was Zakkai's successor, Gamaliel, who forced the "Nazarenes" out of the synagogues. Gamaliel also made it obligatory for Jews to pray the "Prayer of Eighteen Petitions," the 12th petition, which is still prayed today, known as the birkat, being "For apostates may there be no hope, and may the Nazarenes and heretics suddenly perish.")

And do you know why the Book of Maccabees was thrown out by the Jewish Council? Because the Council was conducted under the auspices of the Flavian Roman Emperors and they decided that that particular book, which tells of the Maccabean Revolt, might be inflammatory and incite rebellion by the Jews. So, all those Protestant Bibles are lacking the Book of Maccabees, which speaks clearly of praying for the dead, because a pagan emperor pressured the Pharisees, around 40 years after the Resurrection of Christ, to exclude it. And lest anyone is still tempted to think that it was the "Roman Church" that came up with these books and that they were not written by pre-Christ Jews (an assertion I've actually read at "Messianic" websites), Jews in other parts of the world who didn't get news of the Council of Jamnia's decisions still use those "extra" 7 books to this very day (research the canon used by Ethiopian Jewry).
Me, I will trust the version of the Old Testament that was loved by Peter and Paul!
1 Luther wanted to remove the Epistle of James, Esther, Hebrews, Jude and Revelation. Calvin and Zwingli also both had problems with the Book of Revelation, the former calling it "unintelligible" and forbidding the pastors in Geneva to interpret it, the latter calling it "unbiblical". The Syrian (Nestorian) Church has only 22 books in the New Testament while the Ethiopian Church has 8 "extra." The first edition of the King James Version of the Bible included the "Apocryphal" (ie, Deuterocanonical) Books.
2 The 7 books removed from Protestant Bibles are known by Catholics as the "Deuterocanonical Books" (as opposed to the "Protocanonical Books" that are not in dispute), and by Protestants as the "Apocrypha."
Septuagint: The ancient Greek translation of the Jewish scriptures. An old testament source for early Christians. Credible proof for Messianic prophecy.

"What Bible does the New Testament quote? Not the Hebrew Bible, since the majority of the New Testament was composed in Greek. The Bible used for most Scripture quotations in the New Testament is the same Bible used by the Ethiopian Jews and the same Bible used by Christians in the earliest centuries of the Church -- it is named the Septuagint (or LXX). The LXX is a translation of the Old Testament into Greek that was completed no later than 180 BC.
. . . . . in any event, one must recognize that at the time the New Testament was written the LXX was in wide use and was widely respected by the authors of the New Testament and the Jewish people living at that time -- otherwise the New Testament writers would not have made use of it. Rapidly, however, it became more a Christian than a Jewish book. In fact, I think one can say with little exaggeration that it became the Christian Old Testament."
The Old Testament Canon
4 There is debate as to whether the Council of Jamnia actually "closed" the Jewish canon because debate continued among Jews for hundreds of years afterward as to which books should be included or excluded. Even into the 3rd century A.D., controversy surrounded Ezekiel, Proverbs, Ruth, Esther, and others.

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