Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Romans 3:2 And The Apocrypha (Part 1)
06/08/2007 - James SwanI've been working through Catholic apologist Gary Michuta's new book, Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger (Michigan: The Grotto Press, 2007). Michuta's book has informed us Josephus can't be trusted when he refers to a twenty-two book Jewish Bible. We also learned Rabbinical Judaisms' tradition of a cessation of prophecy after the time of Artaxerxes was concocted in the second century and read back into history. We've seen that the writer of Ecclesiasticus wasn't sure what other books were canonical, but was sure his was. Perhaps the most troubling aspect of Michuta's book is canon uncertainty. Michuta informs his readers the canonical status of 1 Esdras, 4 Ezra, and 3 Maccabees were passed over in silence by the infallible Council of Trent (p.240). In other words, there may be a few more books that could make Catholic Bibles even bigger. Apparently not a top priority, the papacy isn't in any hurry to turn this silence into the certain voice of God. They've had over four hundred years to resolve this. By implication, Catholics are certain they are uncertain on the exact number of books comprising the Old Testament.
This time lets focus on Michuta's treatment of Romans 3:2, "First of all, [the Jews] were entrusted with the oracles of God." This verse implies a specific set of authoritative inspired writings treated by the Jews as the very word of God. By looking at the New Testament and historical evidence, it can safely be said the canon of the Hebrew Bible was a definite set of books compiled before the time of Christ. The Jews knew which books were Scripture and which were not. When God gave them the oracles, they knew exactly what He gave them.
Catholic apologists argue first century Judaism was uncertain as to the exact contents of the Hebrew Bible. In other words, the Jews were unsure as to the exact extent of the oracles of God. They knew there were some inspired divine books. Their confusion was sorted out when they finally rejected the apocryphal books later in the second century. Only then were the limits of the Hebrew Bible fixed, excluding the apocryphal books once and for all. Because the Jews had no infallible magisterium, they mistakenly deleted the apocryphal books, as well as repudiating the New Testament.
Roman Catholics typically revert to certainty and infallibility arguments, and Michuta is no exception. In using Romans 3:2, Michuta argues Protestant apologists (by implication) believe the Jews must have had an infallible ability to declare the contents of the Hebrew Bible (p.11). If Oracles of God means a complete and finished Old Testament, then the apocrypha and the New Testament cannot be Scripture. Closed means closed. Gary says, "To put the case shortly, if Paul's words in Romans 3:2 mean that inspiration had already ceased in Judaism and the canon of Scripture was already closed, then Romans 3:2 itself is non-canonical and we need take no further notice of it!" (p.12).
In actuality, Protestant apologists argue something quite different.The recognition of the Hebrew Bible by the Jews points out an infallible church is not needed for canon certainty. The Jews were entrusted with the Scriptures, despite the fact they did not have an infallible magisterium. God held the Jews accountable to the books entrusted to them, as demonstrated by the interaction of Jesus and the Jewish leaders. Jesus quoted Scripture, and He assumed those listening knew it was Scripture. None of Jesus' opponents claimed uncertainty as to what was canonical in counter arguing with the Lord. Jesus charged the Pharisees as making the word of God void by their tradition (Mark 7:13). He asks them, "Did you never read in the Scriptures?" (Matthew 21:42). If Jesus held them responsible to the Scriptures, they certainly knew what those Scriptures were.
Once Gary's infallible card is removed, the entire argument collapses. Protestants are not arguing the canon of the entirety of Scripture was closed upon the death of the last prophet, Zechariah. They argue the Scriptures being spoken of in the New Testament were a definite set of recognized books. For instance:
Luke 24:27 "Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, [Jesus] explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures."
John 5:39 "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me..."
John 10:35 "...the Scripture cannot be broken..."
Acts 17:2 "And according to Paul's custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures."
Acts 17:11 "Now [the Bereans] were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so."
The Spirit of prophecy returned to Israel in John the Baptist, Jesus, and the Apostles. The miraculous signs accompanying them demonstrated this. Some of the Jews rejected them, and thus subsequently rejected their soon-to-be inscripturated message. But some of the Jews did accept the New Testament: recall, the first Christians were Jewish Christians. Like any period in history, God's people will hear his voice and follow:"God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world." (Hebrews 1:1-2)
Next, we'll continue looking at Gary Michuta's private interpretation of Romans 3:2, to see what the phrase exactly means to him.