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The deuterocanonical books, treated as part of the Bible by the Orthodox and Catholic churches, are accepted because they appear in the Septuagint. However, they are excluded from the Jewish Bible, the Tanakh (and are therefore also excluded by most (all?) Protestant Christians). Given that the Septuagint was a Jewish publication, why does it contain books which are not part of the Tanakh?

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I'm speculating a bit here but my suspicion is that these books were originally written in greek and didn't have Hebrew editions. – Matthew Miller May 11 '13 at 18:28
The Septuagint proper comprises only the first five books of the Torah; the rest is an accretion of translations from various sources. So any religious book popular enough to exist in Greek translation—or any that were written in Greek—would have ended up in the general “Septuagint”. – J. C. Salomon Oct 6 '13 at 16:14

4 Answers 4

up vote 11 down vote accepted

In Judaism the final decision of which writings (Ketuvim, the third part of the Tanakh) were canonical did not happen until at least the end of the 1st century CE. This was after Christianity and Judaism had largely split, and so the two groups made different decisions about which writings were accepted as canonical.

In particular, nascent Rabbinic Judaism made the decision to only include writings which were originally written in Hebrew (possibly with parts in Aramaic), but not books which were originally written in Greek (or thought to have been originally written in Greek). The deutorocanonical books are roughly the books which were popular among the Greek speaking Jewish diaspora in the 1st century, but were excluded from the writings on the basis of their being written in Greek (and possibly also excluded for other reasons). Around the same time nascent Rabbinic Judaism also rejected using the Septuagint in favor of only using the original Hebrew texts.

(A key search term to find more to read on this topic is the "Council of Jamnia," which is the name of the hypothetical council which made the decision on canonizing the Ketuvim. The hypothesis that there was an actual council is no longer particularly popular, instead people tend to think it was a more gradual process, nonetheless the name is still useful for finding material on the topic.)

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We see the conflict between the "Hebraic Jews" and the "Hellenistic Jews" in Acts – Jon Ericson Mar 5 '13 at 17:47

The Greek translation of Jewish scripture (the Septuagint) occurred between the 3rd and 1st centuries BCE. The canon of the Tanakh was finalized hundreds of years later. The Christian canon was debated from the 4th to the 16th centuries. We have a tendency of thinking of the Bible as written in stone, so to speak, but the canon has been the object of scholarly debate and change for millennia. Catholic and Orthodox Bibles are generally based on the Septuagint, whereas Protestant Bibles are based on the Masoretic (the authoritative Hebrew text of the Jewish Bible), which was developed between the 7th and 10th centuries CE.

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Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics, Joan! That's a good answer. It would be a great answer if you backed it up with your sources. ;) I look forward to reading more of your work soon. – Jon Ericson Mar 5 '13 at 17:39
Thanks! I'll see what I can do. :-) – JoanW Mar 6 '13 at 4:30
Catholic Bibles are generally based on the Latin Vulgate, which means the Hebrew and Greek texts used by Jerome, while Orthodox Christians do use the Septuagint and PATr Greek text. – Dan Jan 2 '14 at 19:58

The Tenakh was not a book but a collection of scrolls from which Jewish scribes translated into Greek. What most likely began with the Torah (original LXX: 5 Books of Moses) continued over 200 years. During this period of time additional scrolls were written in Hebrew (e.g. Books of Maccabees, Jesus Sirach, Judith, Tobith) and then translated. Some may have found more acceptance, others less. They were read, copied, translated, allowed by some, forbidden by others, valued and forgotten. One can assume (for the 1st century A.D.: The closer to Jerusalem, Temple and Saducees, the less prevalent these later (non-Torah) texts were. In Greek translation they had a longer lifespan and wider distribution (in the synagogues of diaspora), and even more so after the Greek-speaking churches grew more and more and the Rabbis emphasized on the Hebrew text to clearer separate Jewish from Christian beliefs (and followers).

The answer for the question what texts (scrolls) the Greek scriptures (later named Septuagint) comprised, depends largely on the time and location one asks for.

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Paul in his (Greek) letters at times quoted from the traditional Septuagint, at times he seemed to translate himself (or use other translation). Widely it is on his authority that the church from the second century on used the Greek translation so extensively. But as far as we can know him he would not have given a blanco credit to any one textual tradition. He encouraged the use of discernment in all matters. – hannes May 12 '13 at 3:49
This Greek translation was not a single one publication. In the course of more than one, perhaps even two centuries Hebrew writings were translated by different Jewish scholars mainly for the use in the synagogues of the hellenistic Diaspora. Whatever may have seemed useful they translated. We do not know of any binding canonic standards for that time. (Even though almost for a certainty they existed in every generation, for Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic writing. But they most likely differed considerably with time and location.) – hannes May 12 '13 at 4:19
If I understand you correctly, you are disputing that "the Septuagint was a Jewish publication", or perhaps even that it was a distinct 'publication' at all? If so, please edit your answer to make that clear (including the relevant parts of your comments here), thanks! – Jack Douglas May 12 '13 at 9:40
also, please try and back up any such factual claim with evidence (eg sources etc)! – Jack Douglas May 12 '13 at 9:42
I tried to improve. Conclusions are mostly derived from my reading of the additional catholic deuterocanonic texts in the German Jerusalem Bibel (with footnotes) – hannes May 12 '13 at 14:57

Obviously the Greek translation of the 7 books in question, means they had to be translated from something. The Greek wasn't translated from the Greek. These also were written in Hebrew. The dead sea scrolls prove this. Also the New Testament refers over 350 times to the Old Testament and 300 of those references are from the 7 books in question. So obviously the Jews in Israel at the time of Christ, used these 7 books. The truth is that there was an agenda in place by the Jews and later by the Protestants for not including these 7 books.

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Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange! Due to the nature of this site, references are required in order to support your conclusions. Be sure to visit the tour to learn more about this site. – Paul Vargas Jan 30 at 20:02
The fact that the Deuterocanonical books were first written in Hebrew is not in dispute. The question needs more than a dark hint as to an agenda on the part of the Jews and another agenda on the part of the Protestants. Please provide supporting evidence and references. – Dick Harfield Jan 30 at 20:22
There is no "dark hint" as you put it. Luther wanted a Bible that fit his theology. The Pharisees at the time wanted a Holy book different from the Septuagint which was the first written Holy book. They wanted a book that did not support Christ as the Messiah. No dark hints here. – user6878 Feb 8 at 16:03

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