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October 10, 2007 / vivator

Cyril of Jerusalem and Canon of Old Testament

Cyril (died 386 AD) was bishop of Jerusalem from 350 to 351 AD, hence he is known as Cyril of Jerusalem.  He was noted for his catechetical lecture, in which he gave us his list of Old Testament books in c. 345 AD (English translation from The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series II, Vol. 7):

And of the Old Testament, as we have said, study the two and twenty books, which, if thou art desirous of learning, strive to remember by name, as I recite them. For of the Law the books of Moses are the first five, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. And next, Joshua the son of Nave, and the book of Judges, including Ruth, counted as seventh. And of the other historical books, the first and second books of the Kings are among the Hebrews one book; also the third and fourth one book. And in like manner, the first and second of Chronicles are with them one book; and the first and second of Esdras are counted one. Esther is the twelfth book; and these are the Historical writings. But those which are written in verses are five, Job, and the book of Psalms, and Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs, which is the seventeenth book. And after these come the five Prophetic books: of the Twelve Prophets one book, of Isaiah one, of Jeremiah one, including Baruch and Lamentations and the Epistle; then Ezekiel, and the Book of Daniel, the twenty-second of the Old Testament.

Cyril of Jerusalem, Lecture 4 of Catechetical Lecture

While his list has twenty-two books it is not the same as the present day Jewish Scripture.  First the division of books resembles Septuagint: the Law (five books), Joshua, Judges combined with Ruth, historical books (5 books), group of five books (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs) and books of prophets (5 books). Second he combined deuterocanonical Baruch and the Epistle of Jeremiah with Jeremiah and Lamentations.  However Cyril did not limit his canon in those 22 books because in his other works he still quote from Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, Song of Three Young Men, Susanna and Bel & Dragon (English translation is from The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series II, Vol. 7 with added scriptural reference).

If any man attempt to speak of God, let him first describe the bounds of the earth. Thou dwellest on the earth, and the limit of this earth which is thy dwelling thou knowest not: how then shalt thou be able to form a worthy thought of its Creator? Thou beholdest the stars, but their Maker thou beholdest not: count these which are visible, and then describe Him who is invisible, Who telleth the number of the stars, and calleth them all by their names [Psalms 147:4]. Violent rains lately came pouring down upon us, and nearly destroyed us: number the drops in this city alone: nay, I say not in the city, but number the drops on thine own house for one single hour, if thou canst: but thou canst not. Learn then thine own weakness; learn from this instance the mightiness of God: for He hath numbered the drops of rain [Job 36:27], which have been poured down on all the earth, not only now but in all time. The sun is a work of God, which, great though it be, is but a spot in comparison with the whole heaven; first gaze stedfastly upon the sun, and then curiously scan the Lord of the sun. Seek not the things that are too deep for thee, neither search out the things that are above thy strength: what is commanded thee, think thereupon [Sirach 3:21-22].

Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures 6:4

The Divine Nature then it is impossible to see with eyes of flesh: but from the works, which are Divine, it is possible to attain to some conception of His power, according to Solomon, who says, For by the greatness and beauty of the creatures proportionably the Maker of them is seen [Wisdom 13:5]. He said not that from the creatures the Maker is seen, but added proportionably. For God appears the greater to every man in proportion as he has grasped a larger survey of the creatures: and when his heart is uplifted by that larger survey, he gains withal a greater conception of God.

Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures 9:2

Wouldest thou learn that to comprehend the nature of God is impossible? The Three Children in the furnace of fire, as they hymn the praises of God, say Blessed art thou that beholdest the depths, and sittest upon the Cherubim. [Song of Three Young Men or Daniel 3:32]

Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures 9:3

And wouldest thou know that He who was begotten of the Father, and afterwards became man, is God? Hear the Prophet saying, This is our God, none other shall be accounted of in comparison with Him. He hath found out every way of knowledge, and given it to Jacob His servant, and to Israel His beloved. Afterwards He was seen on earth, and conversed among men.  [Baruch 3:35-37]

Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures 11.15

For when they speak against the ascension of the Saviour, as being impossible, remember the account of the carrying away of Habakkuk: for if Habakkuk was transported by an Angel, being carried by the hair of his head [Bel & Dragon or Daniel 14:36], much rather was the Lord of both Prophets and Angels, able by His own power to make His ascent into the Heavens on a cloud from the Mount of Olives.

Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures 14.25 



Leave a Comment
  1. friendly / Nov 19 2010 7:41 pm

    I have been trying to find information about the Hebrew Canon before 33 ad. I can not find any definite list of books from that early date, Is there any record of which books were accepted in Jesus’ time by the worshippers at the temple and in the synagogue. I am not interested in a list of books made by non-believing (and thus enemies of Christ)Jews compiled during or after the time of the apostles.

  2. vivator / Nov 19 2010 9:00 pm

    As far as I know there was no such list, i.e. list with names of Old Testament books before 33AD. Jewish historian Josephus in around 70 AD stated there were 22 books in Jewish Scripture but without naming them. I did some study on this issue, which you can read at (if the link does not work, click Old Testament category on the right and scroll down until you see them):

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