Friday, May 20, 2022

A Commentary On Psalm 73:25-26

IV. He was hereby quickened to cleave the more closely to God, and very much confirmed and comforted in the choice he had made of him, v. 25, 26. His thoughts here dwell with delight upon his own happiness in God, as much greater then the happiness of the ungodly that prospered in the world. He saw little reason to envy them what they had in the creature when he found how much more and better, surer and sweeter, comforts he had in the Creator, and what cause he had to congratulate himself on this account. He had complained of his afflictions (v. 14); but this makes them very light and easy, All is well if God be mine. We have here the breathings of a sanctified soul towards God, and its repose in him, as that to a godly man really which the prosperity of a worldly man is to him in conceit and imagination: Whom have I in heaven but thee? There is scarcely a verse in all the psalms more expressive than this of the pious and devout affections of a soul to God; here it soars up towards him, follows hard after him, and yet, at the same time, has an entire satisfaction and complacency in him.

1. It is here supposed that God alone is the felicity and chief good of man. He, and he only, that made the soul, can make it happy; there is none in heaven, none in earth, that can pretend to do it besides.

2. Here are expressed the workings and breathings of a soul towards God accordingly. If God be our felicity,

(1.) Then we must have him (Whom have I but thee?), we must choose him, and make sure to ourselves an interest in him. What will it avail us that he is the felicity of souls if he be not the felicity of our souls, and if we do not by a lively faith make him ours, by joining ourselves to him in an everlasting covenant?

(2.) Then our desire must be towards him and our delight in him (the word signifies both); we must delight in what we have of God and desire what we yet further hope for. Our desires must not only be offered up to God, but they must all terminate in him, desiring nothing more than God, but still more and more of him. This includes all our prayers, Lord, give us thyself; as that includes all the promises, I will be to them a God. The desire of our souls is to thy name.

(3.) We must prefer him in our choice and desire before any other. [1.] "There is none in heaven but thee, none to seek to or trust in, none to court or covet acquaintance with, but thee." God is in himself more glorious than any celestial being (Ps 89 6), and must be, in our eyes, infinitely more desirable. Excellent beings there are in heaven, but God alone can make us happy. His favour is infinitely more to us than the refreshment of the dews of heaven or the benign influence of the stars of heaven, more than the friendship of the saints in heaven or the good offices of the angels there. [2.] I desire none on earth besides thee; not only none in heaven, a place at a distance, which we have but little acquaintance with, but none on earth neither, where we have many friends and where much of our present interest and concern lie. "Earth carries away the desires of most men, and yet I have none on earth, no persons, no things, no possessions, no delights, that I desire besides thee or with thee, in comparison or competition with thee." We must desire nothing besides God but what we desire for him (nil præter te nisi propter te—nothing besides thee except for thy sake), nothing but what we desire from him, and can be content without so that it be made up in him. We must desire nothing besides God as needful to be a partner with him in making us happy.

(4.) Then we must repose ourselves in God with an entire satisfaction, v. 26. Observe here, [1.] Great distress and trouble supposed: My flesh and my heart fail. Note, Others have experienced and we must expect, the failing both of flesh and heart. The body will fail by sickness, age, and death; and that which touches the bone and the flesh touches us in a tender part, that part of ourselves which we have been but too fond of; when the flesh fails the heart is ready to fail too; the conduct, courage, and comfort fail. [2.] Sovereign relief provided in this distress: But God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever. Note, Gracious souls, in their greatest distresses, rest upon God as their spiritual strength and their eternal portion. First, "He is the strength of my heart, the rock of my heart, a firm foundation, which will bear my weight and not sink under it. God is the strength of my heart; I have found him so; I do so still, and hope ever to find him so." In the distress supposed, he had put the case of a double failure, both flesh and heart fail; but, in the relief, he fastens on a single support: he leaves out the flesh and the consideration of that, it is enough that God is the strength of his heart. He speaks as one careless of the body (let that fail, there is no remedy), but as one concerned about the soul, to be strengthened in the inner man. Secondly, "He is my portion for ever; he will not only support me while I am here, but make me happy when I go hence." The saints choose God for their portion, they have him for their portion, and it is their happiness that he will be their portion, a portion that will last as long as the immortal soul lasts.

Excerpts taken from Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Did The Jews And Church Fathers Accept The Apocrypha As Canonical?

  • Discussion:
          -The purpose of this article is to rebut a handful of claims made by Roman Catholic apologist Trent Horn in defense of the apocrypha against charges of its canonicity being rejected by the Jews and certain church fathers. Following are excerpts from the author alongside with a critique:

          "Melito’s list of the Old Testament books lacks the deuterocanonicals, but this is not surprising given that many second-century Jews rejected the deuterocanonical books. The Protestant citation of Melito only helps their case if Melito was listing the Christian canon of the Old Testament. But because Melito was composing a defense of Christ from sources Jews would accept, we would expect Melito’s canon in his Extracts to reflect what Jews in his time accepted. In Hebrew Scripture in Patristic Biblical Theory, Edmon Gallagher says, “Most scholars have been willing to attribute [Melito’s] list ultimately to Jewish Sources.”

          This argument made by Trent Horn that these canon lists were Jewish rather than Christian backfires, since Christians accepted the Jewish canon. The Jews were entrusted with the "oracles of God" (Romans 3:1-2). Those writings are quoted as Scripture in the New Testament writings. Jesus Christ and the apostles appealed to the Old Testament in debating Jewish opponents. The very first Christians were Jews who worshiped in the synagogues. 

          "The fact that Melito went all the way to Israel (or the “eastern place”) instead of asking the Jews in Sardis about the Old Testament canon shows, as we noted earlier, that there was not a consensus among second-century Jews about the canon of the Hebrew Bible. McDonald says, “Not all Josephus scholars agree with Josephus’s account that all Jews everywhere both know and would die for these twenty-two sacred books. . . Why did [Melito] not go across the street and talk to the nearest Jew to find out, if the matter was well known long before his time?”

          Tensions existed between Christians and Jews during the second century, even though that did not prevent debate. It is possible that a situation required Melito of Sardis to travel that we know not of. Why doubt his integrity? Did the apocrypha ever have widespread acceptance as canonical amongst the Jews? These people were not fundamentally at odds with each other about the nature and extant of the Old Testament canon. Josephus said that a sacred collection of only twenty-two books existed in his day which was laid up in the temple. He was not alone in holding to a threefold division of the Jewish canon. It was also attested to by Philo of Alexandria and the Babylonian Talmud. A Dead Sea Scrolls text (4QMMT) "speaks of the Book of Moses and the words of the prophets and of David. Here "David" serves as a title for the third division, since it began with his Psalms" (Archaeological Study Bible, Walter C. Kaiser Jr. and Duane Garrett general editors). The Apostle Paul alluded to a body of writings that were accorded a special status in his own day when he made statements such as "according to the Scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:1-6) and "the Holy Scriptures" (2 Timothy 3:15). 

          "Another point to mention is that if being present in either Melito’s or Origen’s lists were necessary for canonicity, then Esther and Lamentations would be disqualified since they are absent from both lists."

          If that proves anything at all, then it would only mean some books of the Old Testament have stronger attestation than others. Even if we did remove a book from the Protestant Old Testament canon, that is not going to somehow justify adding the apocrypha. Further, an individual does not have to provide a complete list of books of the Old Testament canon in order to have relevant information about its structure. That certain canon lists fail to include books like Esther is not the only criterion that we have for canonicity.

          One reason that the authenticity of the Book of Esther has been challenged is that it nowhere mentions the word God. However, a few points of consideration can be made to mitigate this problem: 1.) We have evidence of divine providence in this narrative as God works through circumstance to reverse certain destruction on the Jewish people., 2.) The writer may have left out the name of God to convey his own belief that the Jews who did not return to Israel from Persia were severed from covenant blessings. It would be a way of saying that God was not present amongst the exiles., and 3.) The author may have written in such a way to help foreigners in Persia understand the reasoning behind the Jews observing Purim. He would narrow in on details of the king and write about the Jews without any tone of emotional involvement or interest. That could account for the Book of Esther not explicitly mentioning God.

          "Regarding Cyril, he divided the Old Testament Scripture into three groups: the protocanonical works that catechumens should read, books of “secondary rank” that catechumens should avoid, and books “not read in Churches”— that catechumens should also avoid. The fact that Cyril wanted those who were new to the faith to avoid the deutero-canonical books does not prove they were noncanonical. According to Gallagher, “Cyril himself uses and cites Wisdom and Sirach. Cyril’s canon list was written for catechumens, and so he may have intended his prohibition to apply to them alone, as those who are unable to properly separate the wheat from the chaff.

          Even though Cyril of Jerusalem did not consider the deuterocanonical books to be apocryphal, he clearly thought they had a secondary degree of authority and importance in comparison to the Old Testament Scriptures. His position on the canonicity of the apocrypha is not identical with the modern-day Roman Catholic position, which makes no such distinction between them.

          "Athanasius uses the same division in his festal letter and even places Baruch alongside protocanonical books like Jeremiah. He did not reject the inspiration of the deuterocanonical books, because, as we’ve seen, he called them “Scripture” and used the book of Wisdom in his defense of orthodox Christology. Athanasius recognized that these books were disputed by the Jews of his time but still said those who seek further catechesis should read them."

          Athanasius rejected the books of Tobit, Judith, and Maccabees as inspired. Baruch was viewed as being a part of the Book of Jeremiah. 

          "Since Jerome was mistaken about the reliability and textual tradition of the Septuagint, this refutes his claim that the true Hebrew canon could be found only in manuscripts that lacked the deuterocanonical books. It also refutes Protestant apologists who cite later medieval theologians, along with biblical commentaries, that rejected the deuterocanonical books simply because they followed Jerome’s erroneous argument about the Hebrew text."

          That claim is based on Roman Catholic tradition so as to keep those non-canonical books. Jerome was correct in following the original Hebrew canon which excluded the apocrypha. He grudgingly added the apocryphal books to his Latin Vulgate translation after he was pressured to do so.