Examining Dr. Geisler’s argument against canonicity of apocrypha/deuterocanonica
Dr. Norman Geisler is the co-founder and Dean of Southern Evangelical Seminary, Charlotte, North Carolina. A prolific writer, he already authored and co-authored over sixty-eight books and hundreds of articles (for more information visit his web site at http://www.normgeisler.com). As Protestant/Evangelical apologist, he obviously defends the canonicity of only thirty-nine books of Old Testament. In his book: Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, he stated his reasons why apocrypha (or deuterocanonical books for Catholics) cannot be considered as inspired. Let’s look at the validity of his arguments:
According to Dr. Geisler inspired books must be prophetic – hence apocryphal books, lacking this condition cannot be considered as inspired. There is no predictive prophecy in the Apocrypha, he wrote. He even cited 1 Maccabee 9:27 to support his statement. However, if inspired book must be prophetic, what kind of prophecy we can draw from Esther, Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes? If there isn’t any, why they belong to the Bible? In relation to 1 Maccabee 9:27 God can give prophecy or His words not through prophets. God spoke through the mouth of Egypt king Neco (2 Chronicles 35:21-22). In John 11:51 Caiaphas who later condemned Christ was given prophecy. What Balaam, who was not prophet, uttered from his mouth is from God (Numbers 23 and 24). It is no surprise that Dr. Geisler cited Jewish historian, Josephus, to tell his readers that prophetic line ended in around 4 century BC. Hence, apocryphal books, written after second century BC, cannot be prophetic. But Christ said in Matthew 11:13: For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John [the Baptist]. Which one is more trustworthy, Christ’ statement or that of Josephus? Stating none of apocryphal books is prophetic is not correct either. We have prophecy, fulfilled in Christ, in Wisdom 2:12 – 20. Dr. Geisler also relied on the works of Jewish philosopher, Philo (c. 20 BC to 40 AD) who never quoted from apocrypha. But this is only half true – in his extant works Philo never quoted from apocrypha but neither did he quote from Ezekiel, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentation, Ecclesiastes, Esther and Daniel either (seven books out of thirty nine books were not quoted!). Dr. Geisler’s statement that Philo quoted the Old Testament prolifically from virtually every canonical book is misleading and unfounded. Like many Protestant apologist Dr. Geisler stated the absence of quotation from apocryphal books in New Testament indicates their inferior status. But Esther, Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes are not quoted either in New Testament. New Testament even quotes from outside Old Testament (my readers may refer to my earlier post for more detail). The so-called 90 AD Jamnia Jewish council is his other argument to deny canonicity of apocrypha. Yet Jamnia council is only hypothesis, i.e. there is no evidence of such council (refer also to my earlier post). The fact that no ecumenical council in the first four century AD affirmed canonicity of apocryphal books is Dr. Geisler’s other argument. We have only two ecumenical councils before 400 AD, at Nicea and at Constantinople. These councils did not discuss canon of Bible at all, unless one accepts the “truth” from Da Vinci Code – that is the reason why they did not produce any list of inspired books of Bible. We have regional council of Hippo (North Africa) in 393 AD that produced list of canonical books, both Old and New Testaments, which agrees with that of Catholic. Dr. Geisler does not accept it as binding, and neither do Catholics. For Catholics canon of Bible remained open-ended until sixteenth century council of Trent. Catholics admit that the seven deuterocanonical/apocryphal books (plus Esther) had been disputed among Christians for sixteen centuries, but the same applies to seven books of New Testament (2 Peter, 2 & 3 John, James, Jude, Hebrews and Revelation). While the Catholic Church finally declared canonicity of forty-six books of Old Testament through Trent, Protestants opted to drop apocryphal books from their Old Testament. Finally Dr. Geisler’s statement that some Church fathers: Origen, Cyril of Jerusalem, Athanasius and Jerome did not accept all apocryphal books is again only half true. My earlier posts provide details of their view on deuterocanonical/apocryphal books.