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Omitting Doubted Books

Jimmy Akin

DAY 314

CHALLENGE

“If the deuterocanonical books were doubted by some early on, shouldn’t we err on the side of caution and omit them rather than risk adding to the word of God?”

DEFENSE

This is based on a faulty premise that would lead to dramatic consequences.

First, the deuterocanonicals weren’t the only doubted books of the Old Testament. At least five additional books were disputed in the Pharisee tradition but later included in the canon of modern rabbinic Judaism (see Day 255). These books—Esther, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and Ezekiel—are sometimes referred to as the Old Testament Antilegomena (Greek, “spoken against”). Applying the above principle would result in their also being taken out of the Bible.

Second, some Jews (the Sadducees), only accepted the Torah as Scripture, meaning the other protocanonical books were disputed by some Jewish authorities. Thus the principle could lead to the truncation of the Old Testament to just its first five books.

Third, the New Testament would not remain untouched, for some New Testament books were also disputed in the early Christian community. Eusebius famously labeled James, 2 Peter, 2–3 John, Jude, and potentially Revelation as Antilegomena (Church History 3:25). We also know from other sources that Hebrews was also doubted. The principle under consideration would thus truncate the New Testament canon.

Fourth, the principle is faulty, and not just because it would truncate the canon. It is also faulty because omitting a doubted book is not “erring on the side of caution.” In doubtful cases, one would assume risk either way. Including a doubtful book would entail the risk of “adding to the word of God,” while excluding it would entail the risk of “subtracting from the word of God.” The book of Revelation con- tains a warning against either adding to or taking away from the words of that book (Rev. 22:18–19), and that principle can be extended to the canon as a whole.

Finally, the principle is faulty because we are not in the position of early Jews or Christians having to decide which books belong in the Bible. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would lead us into all truth (John 16:13), and the Spirit has led the Church to recognize the books of Scripture. This is not an individual decision but a divinely guided historical process.

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