Geisler and MacKenzie Refuted on the OT Canon

In this entertaining expose, Art Sippo completely debunks a number of errors in Geisler and MacKenzie’s book. Geisler and MacKenzie’s remarks are in italics. Art’s rebuttals are bolded.


1) There may be New Testament allusions to the Apocrypha, but there are no clear New Testament quotations from it. Not once is there a direct quotation from any apocryphal book accepted by the Roman Catholic church.

This is controversial and depends on what you mean by a “quotation.” (e.g. Romans 1 contains verbatim material from the Wisdom of Solomon.) Regardless, the NT does not quote at all from 10 of the protocanonical books (although there are allusions to them). Interestingly enough, 3 of these 10 books are the same ones the canonicity of which the Rabbis in the First Century AD disputed over. It is apparent that the NT authors shied away from any controversial texts and only used those parts of the OT for quotation the authority of which the Jews would not dispute.

2) The fact that the New Testament often quotes from the Greek Old Testament in no way proves that the apocryphal books contained in the Greek manuscript of the Old Testaments are inspired. First, it is not certain that the Septuagint (LXX) of the first century contained the Apocrypha.

Rubbish. The Apostolic Fathers are all late First and early Second century authors and they quote from the Greek OT including the deuterocanonical books.

The earliest Greek manuscripts that include them date from the fourth century A.D.

This is a particularly noxious half-truth since the same Greek manuscripts that contain the deuterocanonicals also contain the NT books! (i.e. the Codices Alexandrinus, Siniaticus, & Vaticanus) These were CHRISTIAN Bibles not Jewish ones.

3) Citations of the church fathers in support of the canonicity of the Apocrypha are selective and misleading.

This is an out and out lie. Their quotations are selective and misleading. Very few Fathers questioned the inspiration of the Deuterocanoniocals and ALL of the Fathers quoted from them authoritatively in their writings (i.e. as if they were scripture) including those who had reservations about them.

As a recent authority on the Apocrypha, Roger Beckwith, observes….

Calling Beckwith an “expert” on the Apocrypha is like calling Hitler an expert on Jews. He is nothing but a fundamentalist propagandist. Anglican scholar John Barton wrote a scathing critique of Beckwith’s book on the OT Canon dismissing it as a narrow minded fundamentalist tract – not serious scholarship. Forget Beckwith.

5) As even many Catholic scholars will admit, scenes from the catacombs do not prove canonicity of the books whose events they depict. Such scenes need not indicate any more than the religious significance that the portrayed events had for early Christians. They may show a respect for the books containing these events without recognizing that they are inspired.

Hogwash. The images from the Deuterocanon are put right next to those from the rest of the OT and NT without distinction. Draw your own conclusion from that.

6) None of the Greek manuscripts (Aleph, A, and B) contain all of the apocryphal books.

More selective data. None of them have an intact OT or NT either. These manuscripts are 1600 years old and have been rebound several times. So what?

7) There are some important reasons why citing these church councils does not prove the Apocrypha belonged in the canon of the Christian church. First, these were only local councils and were not binding on the whole church. Local councils have often erred in their decisions and have been overruled later by the universal church.

More lies. The Council of Hippo is recognized by everyone (Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant) to have settled the dispute over the NT canon for the whole Church from that date onwards. The council decree in question actually says that it was being sent to the “transmarine Church” [the Church over the sea – which from Hippo was ROME] for confirmation of its authenticity. The later 3rd and 4th Councils of Carthage affirmed the Canons of Hippo as authoritative. These councils were important because they dealt with the Church’s official response to Pelagianism. Their decrees are all listed in Denzinger’s Enchiridion Symbolorum and are considered part of the ordinary and universal magisterium. Hence they are considered part of Sacred Tradition and are held to be infallible.

Second, these books were not part of the Christian (New Testament period) writings and hence were not under the province of the Christian church to decide. They were the province of the Jewish community that wrote them and had centuries before rejected them as part of the canon, for books were accepted by the contemporary generations who were in the best position to verify the prophetic claims of their authors (cf. Heb. 2:3-4).

Unbelievable! EVERYTHING is under the province of the Holy Spirit. There is no such thing as a Jewish part to the Bible which is under their personal control. The Canon of Jews was not closed until after the fall of the Temple and the rabbinic synods at Javneh in 90 AD. It had reached a certain form by the mid 2nd Century BC, but it had NOT been closed. There is absolutely NO evidence to support any such contention. In the Talmud itself, there is evidence that the Rabbis debated the canonicity of the several disputed books of the OT and considered whether Sirach and Wisdom of Solomon should be included. This all happened long after the Holy Spirit departed from the Jewish people and settled on St Peter and the Apostles.

Third, the books accepted by these Christian councils may not have been the same ones in each case. Hence, they cannot be used as evidence of the exact canon later infallibly proclaimed by the Roman Catholic Church in A.D. 1546.

Another lie perpetuated by Schaff and others when they were preparing their collection of the Ante-Nicene, Nicene, and Post Nicene Fathers. If there ever was any doubt in the mid 19th Century about such texts (which I don’t believe) there is no doubt now. We know what the Hippo and Carthage councils said. We also know what the Council of Rome said (405 AD) and the Gelasian decrees (mid 6th Century: not authentic but witnesses to the faith of the period). Besides, Trent’s actions remove any doubt. The Holy Spirit has blessed the Catholic version of the matter. An anathema on all those who deny it!

Fourth, the local councils of Hippo and Carthage in North Africa were influenced by Augustine.

Nonsense. St Augustine was a new convert when the Council of Hippo occurred and had no influence over it. He did not become a Bishop until several years later and only Bishops could vote for the canons of Church Councils. Besides, prots are very likely to quote St Auggy as an authority when it is to their advantage. How come he is less valuable when he disagrees with them?

However, Augustine’s position is ill-founded . . .

What arrogance! Who says?

(a) His contemporary, Jerome, a greater biblical authority than Augustine, rejected the Apocrypha (see below). (b) Augustine himself recognized that the Jews did not accept these books as part of their canon (City of God 19.36-38). (c) Augustine erroneously reasoned that these books should be in the Bible because of their mention “of extreme and wonderful suffering of certain martyrs.” On that ground one could argue that ‘Foxe’s Book of Martyrs’ should also be in the canon! (d) Augustine was inconsistent, since he rejected books not written by prophets yet accepted a book that appears to deny being prophetic (1 Macc. 9:27). (e) Augustine’s acceptance of the Apocrypha seems to be connected with his mistaken belief in the inspiration of the Septuagint, whose later Greek manuscripts contained them.

All of these so-called “arguments” are an embarrassment to these authors. They should be ashamed of themselves for purveying such trash. (a) Jerome had his objections as I noted earlier but he translated the Deuteros for the Bible because the Pope asked him to and he obeyed lawful Church authority. (b) Who cares what the Jews did? We do not accept their choice in Messiahs. Why should we care about their choice in biblical canons? (c) St Augustine likened the sufferings of the mother and her seven sons in 2Maccabees 7:1ff to that of the Christian Martyrs. In fact evangelical scholar F. F. Bruce in his book “The Canon of Scripture” states that Hebrews 10:35ff probably refers to this story in 2 Maccabees. These people were actually celebrated in the ancient Christian Liturgical calendar as martyrs. St Augustine did this because he RECEIVED the book as canonical, not vice versa. (Besides, St Augustines favorite book of the OT was Sirach.) (d) Lots of books in the OT and NT are not written by prophets. Some books are altogether pseudononimous. So what? Inspiration does not depend on the books being written by prophets. St Auggy is apparently much more broad minded than these guys. (e) The Eastern Churches hold a very high view of the LXX because it was used by the Apostles when quoting the OT Scriptures. That seems to be advocacy from a very highly placed source (i.e. the Holy Spirit). It is too bad that Geisler and MacKenzie are to hoity-toity for that. Besides as we mentioned earlier, the LXX was THE Bible of the early Church, not the Hebrew OT. (This is a point that John Barton points out constantly.) It is only natural that a Christian will accept the traditional received canon from the bible of his own spiritual ancestors. The mania for the Masoretic Hebrew Text (MT) evinced by the prots of the 16th Century is another example of their bias against historic Christianity. In fact, the OT material from the First Century found among the Dead Sea Scrolls is closer in reading to the LXX in many places than to the MT. Read some of Frank Moore Cross’s work.

8) The Greek church has not always accepted the Apocrypha, nor is its present position unequivocal. At the synods of constantinople (A.D. 1638), Jaffa (1642), and Jerusalem (1672) these books were declared canonical. But even as late as 1839 their Larger Catechism expressly omitted the Apocrypha on the grounds that its books did not exist in the Hebrew Bible. This is still their position.

Lies, lies, lies. Ask any Orthodox. They use the FULL LXX text, deuteros and all. In fact, such comments as these would probably lead to a fist fight with orthodox apologists.

9) At the Roman Catholic Council of Trent (A.D. 1546) the infallible proclamation was made accepting the Apocrypha as part of the inspired Word of God. Unfortunately, the proclamation came a millennium and a half after the books were written and in obvious polemic against Protestantism. Furthermore, the official infallible addition of books that support prayers for the dead is highly suspect, coming as it did only a few years after Luther protested against this very doctrine. It has all the appearance of an attempt to provide ecclesiastical support for Roman Catholic doctrines that lack biblical support.

These people have no shame! These characters forget that the Council of Florence in the 15th Century also generated a list of the canon of scripture which was identical to that of Trent. Their ignorance knows no limits.

Prayers for the dead are found even in the NT:
2 Tim 1: 16-18 –
“May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me; he was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me eagerly and found me — may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day — and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.”

The Church has always supported prayers for the dead as do the Jews! St Augustine has a poignant section in his writings where he prays for his deceased mother. This was no innnovation of the Middle Ages as these guys imply.

There was never any dispute about the authenticity about Maccabees until the 16th Century. It was Luther who discarded the books because of this issue, not the Catholic Church that added them.

10) Apocryphal books did appear in Protestant Bibles prior to the Council of Trent, but were generally placed in a separate section because they were not considered of equal authority.

They were also in Guttenburg’s first Printed Bible in the 15th Century and in Luther’s translation of the Bible into German. Every Reformation edition of the Bible had the Deuteros in them. It was only in the 19th Century that prot bibles were produced without them. This merely shows that the traditional Bible ALWAYS had the deuteros in them and the reformers merely followed traditon in this regard.

11) The discovery at Qumran included not only the community’s Bible (the Old Testament) but their library, with fragments of hundreds of books. Among these were some Old Testament apocryphal books. But the fact that no commentaries were found on an apocryphal book and that only canonical books, not the Apocrypha, were found in the special parchment and script indicates that the Qumran community did not view the apocryphal books as canonical. The noted scholar on the Dead Sea Scrolls, Millar Burroughs, concluded: “There is no reason to think that any of these works were venerated as Sacred Scripture.”

Who cares? There were no commentaries on any books at Qumran except the Pentateuch. What are we to conclude from that? Were no other books considered canonical? Besides, the canon among Jewish sects before or after the coming of Christ is irrelevant. It is what the Church used that counts. The fact that several deuterocanonical and pseudepigraphal books were found there shows that he Jews did not limit their religious libraries to only undisputed canonical books. Besides, the Temple Scroll found at Qumran has all of the scribal markings used for a biblical book and most scholars think that some sect held it to be canonical. The same has been seen on scrolls of the book of Jubillees and a Hebrew version of Sirach found in the Cairo genizah. How do we interpret those?

Actually, all the arguments used in favor of the canonicity of the apocryphal books prove is that various apocryphal books were given varied degrees of esteem by different persons within the Christian church . . .

Exactly! It is an ancient tradition that goes back to the 1st Century! It was only later on that people questioned this tradition.

Only after Augustine and the local councils he dominated mistakenly pronounced them inspired did they gain wider usage and eventual acceptance by the Roman Catholic Church at Trent.

Lies, lies, lies. We have refuted this caricature above.

This falls far short of the kind of initial, continual, and complete recognition of the canonical books of the Protestant Old Testament and Jewish Torah (which exclude the Apocrypha) by the Christian church.

Absolute rubbish. The Early Church NEVER accepted the Jewish Hebrew bible as its own. It was always the LXX as far back as we can determine. That includes the witness within the NT itself. Even the order of the books in our Bibles is that of the LXX not the Jewish order.

It exemplifies how the teaching Magisterium of the Catholic church proclaims infallible one tradition to the neglect of strong evidence in favor of an opposing tradition because it supports a doctrine that lacks any real support in the canonical books.

There is no evidence of any such “opposing” tradition in the early Church. There were some Fathers who disagreed with the longer canon, but in doing so they were disagreeing with their own received traditions. They were originally overruled by the Magisterium at local councils with the support of the Popes and eventually at the Ecumenical councils of Florence, Trent, Vatican I, and Vatican II. Tradition was vindicated by the Magisterium.

Art Sippo
The Catholic Legate
May 15, 2002

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