Did Augustine change his mind on his list of Old Testament books?
Augustine (354 to 430 AD) was bishop of Hippo in North Africa and was, perhaps, the most well-known among Church fathers. He left us numerous works that gives great impact on Christianity and was highly respected by both Catholics and Protestants (Calvinists). My earlier post gave his list of Old Testament books, a total of forty-four books, which agrees with Catholic’s forty-six books of Old Testament (to arrive at forty-four books, Baruch and Lamentations are combined with Jeremiah).
In around 427 AD Augustine wrote Retractations where he made some revisions in chronological order on the numerous works he had written and retracted some of his statements. Regarding what he wrote in “On Christian Doctrine”, Book 2, he wrote (English translation from The Fathers of the Church, Vol. 60):
In the second book, however, with regard to the author of the book which many call the Wisdom of Solomon, I learned later that it is not certain that Jesus, the son of Sirach, wrote this as well as Ecclesiasticus, as I stated; and I found out that it is, indeed, more probable that he is not the author. Furthermore, when I said: “The authority of the Old Testament is confined to these forty-four books,” I spoke of it according to the way in which the Church customarily speaks of it. However, the Apostle seems to give the title “Old Testament” only to that which was given in Mount Sinai.
Augustine, The Retractations, 2:30
Augustine withdrew his statement that Jesus, son of Sirach, was the person who wrote Wisdom of Solomon. He also stated that the title “Old Testament” should be applied only to the ones given in Mount Sinai (i.e. the five books of the Moses). Perhaps, since he did not elaborate, he made this conclusion from 2 Corinthians 3:14-15 where the Apostle (i.e. Paul) used the term “old covenant” (RSV) or “old testament” (KJV)” to refer to the Law of Moses. Augustine did not change his mind about his list of inspired books – in the same book he still cited as scripture deuterocanonical books Wisdom and Sirach or Ecclesiasticus (English translation from The Fathers of the Church, Vol. 60 with added scripture reference).
In another place, I said: “God does not seek the death of anyone.” This should be interpreted as follows: man brought death on himself by abandoning God and he who does not return to God brings it on himself according to what is written. “For God made not death.” [Wisdom 1:13] But the following, too, is no less true: “Life and death ……. are from the Lord God,” [Ecclesiasticus 11:14] that is, life is from the giver, death from the avenger.
Augustine, The Retractations, 1:20