The Canon Of The Old Testament -- By: Edwin Cone Bissell

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 043:170 (Apr 1886)
Article: The Canon Of The Old Testament
Author: Edwin Cone Bissell

The Canon Of The Old Testament

Rev. Edwin C. Bissell

Our next step backwards brings us to the Second Book of Maccabees. It is of uncertain age, but was indubitably written before the destruction of Jerusalem (a. d. 70), though probably not earlier than b.c. 125, the date of one of the two letters with which it is introduced. This, in fact, was most likely about the time of the composition of the main work.1 In the second of the two letters which, as I have said, preface it, though not originally forming a part of it, it is represented that the people of Judaea and Jerusalem, with the Sanhedrin and Judas Maccabasus, are addressing their Egyptian brethren, especially Aristobulus, the instructor of Ptolemy VI. Philometer (b.c 180-145). Beginning with the statement that Antiochus Epiphanes, their dreaded oppressor, is now dead, they go on to say that they are about to celebrate the festival of the dedication and of the re-discovery, by Nehemiah, of the holy fire. To this celebration they cordially invite the Jews of Egypt.

But the part of the letter of special interest to us is that relating to the national literature (2 Mace. 2:13). It reads: “And the same things, also, were reported in the records, namely, the memoirs of Neemias; and how he, founding a library, gathered together the books concerning the kings, and prophets, and those of David, and epistles of kings concerning holy gifts. And in like manner, also, Judas gathered together all those books that had been scattered by reason of the war we had, and they are

with us.” The book here cited as the “memoirs of Neemias” is some extra-canonical and now otherwise wholly unknown composition. It is alleged to contain, besides the legend of the holy fire, an account of Nehemiah’s founding a library consisting of books concerning prophets and kings, works of David, and letters of kings respecting holy gifts.

We have no wish to press this singular allusion in a singular apocryphal book beyond what it will justly bear. It is conceded that much that is said in the context concerning Nehemiah is incredible. It is by no means certain that, in what is ascribed to him in connection with the founding of a library, his name has not been, consciously or unconsciously, interchanged with that of Ezra, as, a little before (1:18), certain other things are imputed to him which, on much higher authority, we have every reason to believe were the achievements of a somewhat older contemporary. But, making due allowance for these drawbacks to our perfect confidence in the document as a whole, there are...

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