Last week in class we discussed the Septuagint. I actually discussed it in three of my four classes. The Septuagint (LXX) is the Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures; done after the return from Exile as Hebrew had fallen out of current use and the Diaspora (the spreading out of Jewish populations) caused many Jews to be more familiar with Greek than Hebrew. It was an effort to make the scripture more available. One student claimed it was also written for the library at Alexandria…but there was little substantiated evidence from said student.
The thing that has me thinking on this relates to the Apocrypha which were also included in the LXX. If Jesus and the disciples and the apostles* quoted from the LXX then they would have known the Apocrypha. In fact, one of my professors suggested that before the more formal canonization of Jewish scriptures (in the 2nd century), the Apocrypha might have even been considered scripture. Clearly they wouldn’t have read it on the same level as Torah, or probably even the same level is the Ketuvim. But would they have been considered somewhat authoritative at that time? And if so, would Jesus have considered them authoritative?
Which leads to the question of…if Jesus read them, why don’t Protestants?
Well, the Reformers removed the Apocrypha in the Reformation because they looked at the Jewish canon and the Jews themselves had denied the authority of the Apocrypha in the 2nd century. So the Reformers went with the Jews** and took the Apocrypha out as well. The Roman Catholics held onto the deutero-canonical books because they stick with tradition and the tradition was the Vulgate or the Latin translation of the LXX.
Which leads to my next question: if Jesus considered the Apocrypha scriptural (even slightly) but the Jews removed it, and the Protestants removed it as well….could Jesus have been wrong? In a human-bound-God sort of way? Are we allowed to mess with Scripture like that?
Which basically leads to one of the things I am learning in all of life currently:
the church is a messy thing.
We were messy as Jews.
and messy as city bound churches in Acts and the Epistles.
and nothing much has changed.
We squabble over interpretation
and we squabble over money and hymnals and other unnecessaries.
We defend “correct” translations
and we defend theological opinions like they’re Bunker Hill or the field at Hastings.
But what we often forget is that there are so many unanswered questions. For crying outloud, we don’t even know who wrote half of our sacred writings. There’s the Q hypothesis and the M/L or Proto-Luke theories. My personal favourite (and the simplest, it seems) is the Markan Priority. But we’ll never really know. We don’t know who wrote Hebrews, God only knows how it and the Apocalypses made it into the canon.** *
And what I guess I’m saying is I am always amazed at the ridiculous power of the Holy Spirit to work through feeble hands. I think she is strong and persuasive, but she is gentle and loving and somehow she took the words of the Father and gave them to men and the book was written as it was meant to be. I think that is the one thing that keeps me grounded in faith instead of running off the cliffside with some twisted form of textual criticism or…something else. God is beautiful, and good and mysterious. And a great deal of that mysterious nature comes from his ability and willingness! to work with humanity despite our squabbles and misinterpretations and finite understandings or our opinions that change with the next strong wind.
I think that is the most rad thing ever. Seriously.
*difference being that not all Apostles (Apollos, Paul, etc) were disciples.
** And it makes sense to follow the Jews; after all, we are grafted on to them–not they to us.
***no pun intended. hehe