Who Constituted the Canon
Tanak (the Hebrew Scripture) is Judaism’s the most authoritative and foundational text. The word “TaNaK” is an acronym of Torah (The Five Books of Moses), Nevi’im (Prophets), and Ketuvim (Writings). The Tanak is revered as a direct revelation (the Torah and the Prophets) by the Creator first to the nation of Israel and then to the nations, and the third part as inspired writings. The first book of the Tanak is Genesis, and the last book is Malachi.
On the other side is the Christian Bible, which is a collection of books as accepted by the Christian Church as holy scripture, genuine and inspired. The first book of the Christian Bible is Genesis, and the last is Revelation.
One may assume that the only difference between the Hebrew Tanak and the Christian Bible is the so-called “New Testament. However, both canons differ not only in contents, order, but also in theology.
While the canon of the Tanak is unchanged once authorized by the Rabbinic authority, the contents and order of the Christian Bibles varies depending on the theology, denominations, and traditions. For example, the Catholic Canon includes not only the books in the Hebrew Tanak, but also extra-biblical books known as the Apocrypha; and so does the Canon of the Eastern Orthodox Church, although they differ in that respect.
The offshoot of the Catholic Church, the Protestant churches, originally accepted the Catholic Canon but later during the Reformism, the books of the Apocrypha were removed from the Protest Canon to line up with that of the Hebrew Tanak. A good example of that is the King James Bible, which originally included the Apocrypha.
Another example is the books of Maccabees: ancient historical books, which give accounts of Jewish history in the time of the Greek occupation of the Land of Israel, the revolt of the Jews, and the chronicles and affairs of the Maccabean rulers. The books of the Maccabees are received as canonical books in the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church but are not included in the Canon by the Protestants. And definitely not in the Tanak.
Why are the historical books of Maccabees not recognized by the Rabbis, even though they have created a special holiday (Channukah) to commemorate the deliverance from the despotic Greeks and the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem in 165 BC?
Two things and even three come up to explain the omission of these books. These books do not even mention two central pieces in the celebration of the Channukah story: the miracle of oil that did not cease for eight days and the nine-branch menorah which the Rabbis called “channukiah”. The miracle of oil and “channukiah” are neither in Maccabees nor in Josephus’ works.
However, the first time we find them is centuries later in the Talmud, Shabbat 21b, where the miracle of the oil is found. The rabbis’ intention was to move from the emphasis on military might and political power of the Maccabees to intervention from heaven. That served as a basis for the invention of the miracle of the oil.
The third reason why the Maccabees are not even considered historical writings is peculiar letters that were exchanged between Areus king of the Lacedemonians and Onias the high priest. It is found in these letters that the Lacedemonians and Jews were brethren, and that they were of the stock of Avraham. We argued and defended this in the article The Spartans — the Lost Tribe of Israel – Time of Reckoning Ministry.
With this we are coming to the next topic in our study …
The books that were sought to be removed from the Canon
So, who decides what is to be included in the Canon, and hence what is the Word of YHVH, and by what authority? In the following, we will provide the foundation for the intelligent reader to start making independent research, because in actuality, the answer is far from being trivial, as we will explain the reason for this in due course.
It may sound absurdly, but there are books in the Bible the Church wanted removed. And these books are not in the “Old Testament”, as it may be expected, but in the “New Testament”, which the Church holds as “expired”.
This division of the Bible into “The New Testament” and “The Old Testament” is however done for no good reason, but to build a wall of division between Israel and “the former gentiles”, as Paul called the newcomers in the faith.
So, which are the books in the Apostolic Writings the Church wanted to remove from the Canon? They are the epistle of Ya’akov (James) and the epistle of Yehudah (Jude).
The Church wanted them removed from the Canon, because in the minds of the Christian theologians Ya’akov sounded and still sounds very “legalistic”, i.e., “pro-Law”, while the reason for the removal of the epistle of Yehudah was that the apostle quoted verbatim from a book that had not been authorized by the Roman Church as a part of the Canon. This unauthorized book is The Book of Enoch (see Jud 1:14-15), which is a part of the Ethiopian Canon which contains most of the Apocrypha. Yehudah the apostle quotes 1Enoch 1:9, as follows,
And behold! He cometh with ten thousands of His set-apart ones to execute judgment upon all, and to destroy all the ungodly, and to convict all flesh of all the works of their ungodliness which they have ungodly committed, and of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.
Both epistles barely passed the vote and remained in the Christian Canon, but the names of the apostles were replaced with “James” and “Jude”, respectively, as the Church did the same to all other apostles. Thus, all apostles and the Messiah himself now look very gentile. Evidently, Yeshua did not authorize the Church to remove the letters of his two brothers, because we still have them in our Bibles.
However, the Church did remove some books from the Canon. These books are known as the books of the Apocrypha.
On the other side of the “removal” were the Jewish theologians who wanted to take the Book of Ezekiel out of the Tanak (the Hebrew Scripture), because of what was written in Eze 45:21-23. We read the controversial text,
In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, you shall have the Pesach, a festival of seven days, unleavened bread shall be eaten. And on that day the prince shall prepare for himself and for all the people of the land a bull for a sin offering. And for the seven days of the festival, he shall prepare an ascending offering to Yehovah, seven bulls and seven rams, perfect ones, daily for seven days, and a male goat daily for a sin offering. (Eze 45:21-23)
The Rabbis (according to Rashi, see Ezekiel 45:22 with Rashi) said that they sought to suppress the Book of Ezekiel, because the prophecy allegedly contradicted the words of the Torah. They found a controversy in Ezekiel where it is said that a bull and not lamb or goat is to be brought on the Festival of Pesach in the millennium Temple.
However, despite the controversy, the Rabbis did manage to find the proper explanation to keep Ezekiel in the Tanak. They said (see again Rashi),
But because of our iniquities, what he expounded on these sacrifices why a bull is brought on the fourteenth day of Nissan has been lost to us. I say that perhaps he is dealing with the fourteenth of Nissan of the first Passover in which the fully erected House will be dedicated, and this bull will be brought in place of the calf born of cattle that Aaron offered up on the eighth of investiture (see Lev 9:2).
The lost book of the Bible
Unfortunately, there are books that are lost for the Bible, even though they are quoted in the Scripture. They are, as follows:
- The Book Wars of YHVH (Num 21:14-15)
- The Book of Annals of the Kings of Israel (2Ch 35:27; 1Ki 14:19)
- The Book of Annals of the Kings of Yehudah (1Ki 14:29)
- The Book of the Acts of Shlomo (1Ki 11:41)
- The Book of Nathan the prophet (2Ch 9:29)
- The Book of Shemayah the prophet (2Ch 12:15)
- The Book of Yehu (2Ch 20:34)
- The Book of Iddo (2Ch 12:15, 2Ch 13:22).
The Book of the Wars of YHVH is the book the present author considers of high importance. While all other lost books are only mentioned in the Tanak, the Book of the Wars of YHVH is quoted by Mosheh in the Torah. We have the reason to believe that this book was written by Mosheh himself, as the book was well known to him to quote it in the Torah.
The only verse quoted from this book however has neither specifics nor clear references to events in the Scripture but is a fragmental text whose meaning remains uncertain even today. What can be implied, however, could easily be gathered from the very title of the book: “The Wars of YHVH”.
For more insight into this lost book, refer to the article The Book of the Wars of YHVH – Time of Reckoning Ministry where we have given our interpretation of the book and much more.
These are the lost books of the Bible. But there are books that are not lost, yet they are still unaccepted by many. These are the books of the Apocrypha.
The books of the Apocrypha
The Apocrypha is a controversial topic to start with; embraced by some and rejected by many, Jews and Christians alike. However, is the Apocrypha part of the Canon, and can we trust it as reliable source of information? Let us consider two books from the Apocrypha: The Book of Yashar and The Book of Jubilees.
The Book of Yashar (The Book of the Righteous)
A peculiar phenomenon is described in the Book of Joshua, namely, the lengthening of the day by the standing still of the sun and the moon,
And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation avenged itself upon their enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Yashar? Thus, the sun stopped in the midst of the heavens, and did not hasten to go down for an entire day. (Jos 10:13)
This phenomenon is described in the Book of Yashar 88:63-64 and confirmed in Hab 3:11.
And when they were smiting, the day was declining toward evening, and Joshua said in the sight of all the people, “Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon, and thou moon in the valley of Ajalon, until the nation shall have revenged itself upon its enemies”. And the Lord hearkened to the voice of Joshua, and the sun stood still in the midst of the heavens, and it stood still six and thirty moments, and the moon also stood still and hastened not to go down a whole day. (Yashar 88:63-64)
The translations usually render both texts to mean that the sun and the moon stood still, i.e., they stopped moving. But in Hebrew, the sun and the moon were “silent”, “cut down”, “ceased”, i.e., they were not doing what they were created to do: they did not shine that day.
In addition to this passage, Yashar 56:9 is also quoted in 2Sa 1:18 which proves that David considered the Book of Yashar of such high authority.
In his own recounting of the event of the prolonged day of Joshua 10 the first century priest and later Roman historian Josephus identifies the Book of Yashar as one of “the books laid up in the Temple” (Antiquities of the Jews 5:1:17). From this we learn that Yashar was laid up in the Temple along with the Torah and other books (see also Antiquities of the Jews 3:1:7), thus having given it enough credibility that Yehoshua would cite it.
Therefore, we have three witness which (as required by the Torah) validate the authority of the Book of Yashar:
- “Is not this written in the Book of Yashar?”–Joshua, Jos 10:13
- “Behold it is written in the Book of Yashar.”–II Samuel, 2Sa 1:18
- “… is expressed in the books laid up in the temple.” Antiquities of the Jews 5:1:17
With that said, we concluded concerning the Book of Yashar that this book was in circulation by the time the Book of Joshua was written, and it was still extant in the first century Judea.
The Book of Jubilee
How could have Mosheh possibly known what had happened before the Book of Exodus began? He could not have known how the world was created. The Tanak says nothing about how the Book of Genesis was given to Mosheh our teacher.
He could not have known this unless it had been revealed to him by someone. In the article “The Messenger of His Face and how Torah was given to Israel“, we explained this.
A clue of this is found in the Book of Acts. Apostle Stephanos says,
who received the Torah as it was ordained by messengers but did not watch over it (Act 7:53).
But how could Stephanos have known that Torah was ordained (enacted) through a messenger unless he had knowledge from a source outside of the Hebrew Tanak. And her comes the Book of Jubilees 1:27, which says,
And He said to the angel of the presence: Write for Mosheh from the beginning of creation till my sanctuary has been built”.
And we read further in Jubilees 2:1:
And the angel of the presence spake to Mosheh according to the word of the Lord, saying: Write the complete history of the creation, how in six days the Lord God finished all His works and all that He created, and kept Sabbath on the seventh day and hallowed it for all ages, and appointed it as a sign for all His works.
See also Chapter 3:4: And YHVH said unto us (the messengers): ‘It is not good that the man should be alone: let us make a helpmeet for him.’
This is exactly what Stephanos says in Act 7:53: everything from the beginning of creation was given to Mosheh at Mount Sinai.
Consider also the scrolls that were found at the Dead Sea, commonly known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. The scrolls in italics are non-canonical writings taken out of the Bibles:
The Book of the Twelve Minor Prophets
Proverbs The Epistle of Jeremiah
Ben Sira (Sirach) Esther
The Song of Songs Ezra-Nehemiah
The corrupted book in the Apocrypha
The Book of 2nd Esdras appears in the Latin Vulgate but not in the Greek Septuagint. This book has been given various names. In the Latin Vulgate, the canonical book of Ezra is 1Esdras, Nehemiah is 2Esdras; 1Ezra is 3 Esdras (in KJV: 1Esdras), and this Apocalypse of Ezra is titled “3Esdras” (in KJV: 2Esdras).
The canonical book of Ezra retained its Hebrew name—”Ezra”—while the apocryphal books received their Græco-Latin title—”Esdras”.
The Apocalypse of Ezra has however come to us in two versions: a long and corrupted version, which includes added chapters, and a short version which lacks the additions. How did that happen?
The monks monkied with the Latin text and added no less than four chapters to the Apocalypse of Ezra. Thus, in the Latin Vulgate, the Apocalypse of Ezra appears in two books: the first book contains the original chapters, while the second book contains the added ones.
This corrupted version of the Apocalypse of Ezra however appears in KJVA (KJV with Apocrypha) as 2Esdras having two chapters in the beginning (Chapters 1-2) and two chapters at the end of the Apocalypse of Ezra (Chapters 15-16).
The Latin version contains the additional chapters, as well as the Slavonic translation which is made from the Latin Vulgate. However, the Syriac, Coptic, Ethiopic, Arabic, Armenian, and Georgian versions do not contain the corrupted additions. Most unfortunately, the original Hebrew of the Apocalypse of Ezra has not survived, nor has the Greek text.
Why did they do this to Ezra?
These four chapters that were added to text were meant to reflect the replacement theology of the Church, namely, that Elohim had rejected Israel (see 2Es 1:24-32) and replaced the nation with “a people that will come” (2Es 1:33-40). Elohim had then declared, according to the corruption, “I will give them the kingdom of Jerusalem, which I promised to Israel” (see 2Es 2:10).
According to Jewish Encyclopedia, the original was written in Hebrew, and then translated into Greek, as has been proved by several commentators. Also, the additions of chapters 1 and 2 that describe the rejection of the Jews in favor of the Christians are of Christian origin, while chapters 15 and 16, which predict wars, may be Jewish. We leave this for the intelligent reader’s consideration.
The apocryphal psalms of the Tanak
Psalm 151 is an apocryphal 10-verse psalm attributed to King David after he slayed the giant Goliath, found in most copies of the Septuagint and in the Psalms Scroll of the Dead Sea Scrolls but not in the Masoretic text (the authoritative Hebrew version) of the Book of Psalms. Its dating and place of origin are unknown and subject to debate. Psalms 151 reads,
A psalm of David, after he battled Goliath.
Young I was in the midst of my brothers, and a lad in my father’s house.
A shepherd of my father’s flock, driving his herd in the wilderness.
My hands performed upon a lute; my fingers worked a lyre.
And who can tell Adonai? Adonai – He will hear.
He sent His messenger and took me from after my father’s flock.
And He anointed me with anointing oil and appointed me a prince of my people.
My brothers are good and strong, but them Adonai did not desire.
He took me out towards the Philistine, who cursed me through his idols.
And I tore off his sword, and cut off his head, and removed reproach from the children of Israel.
Psalm CLIV 154
Psalm CLIV or Psalm 154 is composed in Talmudic Israel, c.50 BCE – c.150 CE. The psalm is an apocryphal 20-verse praise to Elohim, composed sometime before the 1st century CE. It appears in the Peshitta, an old version of the Bible in Syriac translation, and a Hebrew manuscript of the psalm was discovered among the Dead Sea scrolls. Psalm 154 reads,
With a loud voice glorify God, in the congregation of the many proclaim His majesty.
In the multitude of the upright glorify His name, and with the faithful recount His greatness.
Bind your souls to the good ones, and to the pure ones to glorify the Most High.
Form an assembly to proclaim His salvation and be not lax in making known His might and His majesty to all simple folk.
For to make known the glory of the LORD is Wisdom given.
And for recounting His many deeds She was revealed to men.
To make known to the simple folk His might, and to explain to senseless folk His greatness.
Those far from Her gates, those who stray from Her portals.
For the Most High is the Lord of Jacob, and His majesty is over all His works.
And a man who glorifies the Most High, He accepts as one who brings a meal-offering.
As one who offers he-goats and bullocks; as one who fattens the altar with many burnt offerings; as with a sweet-smelling fragrance from the hand of the righteous.
From the gates of the righteous Her voice is heard, and from the assembly of the pious Her song.
When they eat with satiety She is cited, and when they drink in a community together.
Their meditation is on the Law of the Most High, their words on making known His might.
How far from the wicked is Her word, from all haughty men to know Her.
Behold the eyes of the LORD are compassionate over the good ones.
And upon those who glorify Him He increases His mercy; from an evil time will He deliver their soul.
Bless the LORD, who redeems the humble from the hand of adversaries, and He delivers the perfect from the power of the wicked.
Who establishes a horn out of Jacob, and a judge of peoples out of Israel.
He who desires his habitation in Zion, choose Jerusalem forever.
The books Mosheh wrote
Mosheh wrote the first five books of the Scripture: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, or Torah in Hebrew. The narrative in the Book of Genesis was given to Mosheh, while Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers were a direct revelation of the Creator. Mosheh was a direct witness of the events in these books, which he diligently put down in writing. For more insight into the matter, refer to the articles Which is the Most Important Book in the Bible?
The last book of the Torah, Deuteronomy, was authored by Mosheh and was his last address to the nation of Israel. In his speech at the threshold of the Promised Land, the greatest statesman ever born led the new generation that was born in the desert into the Covenant of YHVH before they entered the Promised Land.
But there are two more writings by Mosheh that were left in the shadow of the great Torah of the Creator, namely, Psalms 90 and 91: the psalms of Mosheh the man of Elohim.
It is good to know that in the Jewish tradition, Psalms 90 and 91 are read over a person tormented by an evil spirit, or one afflicted by an incurable disease. Both psalms in the form of a prayer were often recited together at night and before sleep. We would not be far from the truth, if we assume that Psalms 90 and 91 were probably the psalms of Mosheh David sang in order to exorcise demons from King Shaul, as recorded in 1Sa 16:14-23.
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May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days!
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