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September 26, 2007 / vivator

Melito and Canon of Old Testament

Melito was (c. last third of 2nd century AD) was bishop of Sardis in Asia minor (present day Turkey).  According to Church historian and bishop of Caesarea Eusebius (c. 260 to 339 AD), he wrote at least seventeen books – only fragments of (most of) them survive today.  His sermon on Easter (in Greek) was discovered in 1932.  Melito gave us the earliest known list of Old Testament books, recorded in Eusebius’ Church History (written in c. 324).

“Melito to his brother Onesimus, greeting: Since thou hast often, in thy zeal for the word, expressed a wish to have extracts made from the Law and the Prophets concerning the Saviour and concerning our entire faith, and hast also desired to have an accurate statement of the ancient book, as regards their number and their order, I have endeavored to perform the task, knowing thy zeal for the faith, and thy desire to gain information in regard to the word, and knowing that thou, in thy yearning after God, esteemest these things above all else, struggling to attain eternal salvation.

Accordingly when I went East and came to the place where these things were preached and done, I learned accurately the books of the Old Testament, and send them to thee as written below. Their names are as follows: Of Moses, five books: Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy; Jesus Nave [Joshua], Judges, Ruth; of Kings, four books; of Chronicles, two; the Psalms of David, the Proverbs of Solomon, Wisdom also, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Job; of Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah; of the twelve prophets, one book; Daniel, Ezekiel, Esdras. From which also I have made the extracts, dividing them into six books.” Such are the words of Melito.

Eusebius, Church History 4:26

Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series II, Vol. 1, page 206

If we assume he combined Lamentation with Jeremiah and Esdras in the list is equal to Ezra Nehemiah, compared to the present Jewish Scripture, missing from the list is Esther but it includes Wisdom (footnote of NPNF equates this Wisdom with Proverbs of Solomon).  Note also that he referred Old Testament as “Law and Prophets”, i.e. without the third division (Writings) as in the present Jewish Scripture.


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