5th Century Canonical Criticism

Below is a translation from an anonymous work, Dialogue of Timothy and Aquila, which has been dated to the early 5th century:

The conversation is held to convince the Jew of the Christian religion. They are setting the perimeters of their discussion, which is the Canon. The Christian insists on using the Deuterocanon, which the Jew assents.

Now these are the inspired books, acknowledged by both Christians and Hebrews: the first book, that of Genesis; second, Exodus; third, Leviticus; fourth, Numbers — these are the books dictated by God’s mouth and written by the hand of Moses. And the fifth book is Deuteronomy, which was not dictated by God’s mouth — thus neither was it deposited in the <Arona> (that is, in the ark of the covenant). This constitutes the Mosaic Pentateuch.

It is interesting to note in the 5th century, the understanding that Moses had not written the 5th book of the Torah was not considered heretical or otherwise unknown. (For more on this issue, see here.)

The sixth book is Jesus , son of Naue; seventh is Judges with Ruth; the eighth book is 1 and 2 Chronicles; the ninth book is 1 and 2 Kingdoms ; the tenth book is 3 and 4 Kingdoms ; eleventh, Job; twelfth, the Psalter of David; thirteenth, the Proverbs of Solomon; fourteenth, Ecclesiastes with Canticles; fifteenth, the Twelve Prophets; then Isaiah, Jeremiah, and further, Ezekiel; then Daniel and further, Esdras makes twenty.

The twenty-first book is Judith; twenty-second, Esther; for the 72 translators handed down to us Tobit and the Wisdom of Solomon and the Wisdom of Jesus son of Sirach among the apocrypha.

These are the 22 books that are inspired and canonical — there are, in fact, 27, but they are counted as 22 because five of them are double and because there are only 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet –but all the rest are included among the apocrypha.

The Jew said: And which are the ones handed down to you in what you call the “new covenant”?

The Christian said: What need do we have for them?

The Jew said: So that just as you intend to refute me on the basis of the canon, I may refute you on the basis of the covenant you accept.

The Christian said: The first book is the Gospel, then the Acts of the holy apostles, and further, their epistles and 15 epistles of the apostle Paul. We acknowledge these, but all the rest are apocrypha; and if you wish to say anything based on the apocrypha, you yourself will also have to listen.

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