Eastern Orthodox/O.T. canon


QUESTION: I have read in one Orthodox website that our church sees our apocryphal/deuteralcanonical books as having a "secondary authority" Would that imply that that these books are not as "inspired" from God as the rest of the OT books?

ANSWER: The Church has given an apparent hierarchy of importance to the various writings that make up what is commonly referred to as "the Bible". Of highest authority are the Gospels which tell us of Christ, followed closely by the Acts and Epistles of the Apostles, which help to explain and apply the message of the Gospels to our lives. These are read at every Divine Liturgy. Of course we also include many prayers taken directly from the Psalms and there are Old Testament readings during evening services such as Vespers asl well as various services and Presanctified Liturgies during Great and Holy Lent, connecting and continuing the old and the new Israel.

Interestingly, there are no readings from Revelations, but we lift the very fabric of of our worship from the Apostle John's descriptions of Heavenly worship. We do not say that Revelation is less "inspired". It should be noted that many of our teachings come from the deuterocanonical books. Maccabees is often quoted to explain and justify our prayers for the dead. Our Lord Himself as well as His Apostles quote directly from the Deuterocanonical books. Therefore I do not believe that the Church holds them to be any "less" inspired than the rest of the canon of Holy Scripture.

In fact, another very prominent document that is not even included in the "canon" of Scripture, the Protoevangelion of James, is still very important to the life of the Church, many of the holy days and hymnody dedicated to the Theotokos comes from this book. Therefore, even though it is not technically part of the "Bible", it is still considered inspired.

So certain books are more important to the worshipping life of the Church than perhaps others, and are ranked higher, but that does not mean that the other accepted books are of lesser value. The Church notes and uses the "best of the best" for certain things, but still honors the value of the rest.

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QUESTION: Thank you clarifying that for me. You said that our Lord Himself quoted directly from the Deuterocanonical books. I would like to know the reference. Thank you.

Here are a few examples:

Matt. 6:19-20 - Jesus' statement about laying up for yourselves treasure in heaven follows Sirach 29:11 - lay up your treasure.

Matt.. 7:12 - Jesus' golden rule "do unto others" is the converse of Tobit 4:15 - what you hate, do not do to others.

Matt. 7:16,20 - Jesus' statement "you will know them by their fruits" follows Sirach 27:6 - the fruit discloses the cultivation.

Matt. 9:36 - the people were "like sheep without a shepherd" is same as Judith 11:19 - sheep without a shepherd.

Matt. 11:25 - Jesus' description "Lord of heaven and earth" is the same as Tobit 7:18 - Lord of heaven and earth.

Matt. 12:42 - Jesus refers to the wisdom of Solomon which was recorded and made part of the deuterocanonical books.

Matt. 16:18 - Jesus' reference to the "power of death" and "gates of Hades" references Wisdom 16:13.

Matt. 22:25; Mark 12:20; Luke 20:29 - Gospel writers refer to the canonicity of Tobit 3:8 and 7:11 regarding the seven brothers.

Matt. 24:15 - the "desolating sacrilege" Jesus refers to is also taken from 1 Macc. 1:54 and 2 Macc. 8:17.

Matt. 24:16 - let those "flee to the mountains" is taken from 1 Macc. 2:28.

Matt. 27:43 - if He is God's Son, let God deliver him from His adversaries follows Wisdom 2:18.

Mark 4:5,16-17 - Jesus' description of seeds falling on rocky ground and having no root follows Sirach 40:15.

Mark 9:48 - description of hell where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched references Judith 16:17

In addition, the teachings of our Lord Jesus the Christ on marriage—the two become one, an everlasting covenant—comes from Tobit.

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