When speaking about the divine inspiration of the Biblical canon many people like to point to 2 Timothy 3:16-17,
“All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.” (NRSV)
This is an incredibly important passage, but one must ask the question, what is meant by “scripture”?
Most people would probably be quick to respond with, “The Bible”, (and I’m not debating the inspiration of the entire canonical corpus, both OT and NT) but is the passage referring to what we today call “The Bible”?
The book of 2 Timothy is traditionally attributed to the Apostle Paul – though modern scholars debate his authorship of the epistle – being written around 64 AD. Now most of the books which would later be included in the New Testament canon were written anywhere from 48 AD (The Gospel of Mark) to 95-97 AD (The Apocalypse of John, ie: Revelation). It’s fairly safe to say that it was likely that the books of the New Testament were written in the mid-late 1st century, but were they considered canonical “scripture”?
It is commonly suggested that a full Biblical canon was assembled in the 4th century. Many people point to the canon list presented by St. Athanasius, as it is the same collection that is found in the present collection. But the reality is that during the early few centuries – and even after St. Athanasius’ list – the Biblical canon was fiercely debated (But this is not the topic for today’s post). It is safe to say though that in the 1st century, when the books of the New Testament were being written – though quoted from and used by the early Church and it’s writers – they weren’t part of a Biblical canon.
This means that when the word “scripture” is used in the context of 2 Timothy, it is referring to the Hebrew scriptures, ie: The Old Testament. But what was all in the Old Testament canon used by the early Christians?
The early Christians used a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures known as the “Septuagint”. As the common language of the era was Greek, the vast majority of Christians used the Septuagint. Indeed most of the references to the Old Testament that are found in the New Testament are derived from the Septuagint.
The Septuagint was the canon of the early Church.
It was composed in the 3rd century BC, which means it would have been in use in the time of Christ and His Apostles.
The haunting question we now find ourselves asking is, what was all included in the Septuagint?
This is a list of all the books that were included in the Septuagint.
- Kings (Samuel) I
- Kings (Samuel) II
- Kings III
- Kings IV
- Paralipomenon (Chronicles) I
- Paralipomenon (Chronicles) II
- Esdras I
- Esdras I (Ezra)
- Psalms of David
- Prayer of Manasseh
- Song of Solomon
- Wisdom of Solomon
- Wisdom of the Son of Sirach
- Lamentations of Jeremiah
- Epistles of Jeremiah
- Song of the Three Children
- Bel and the Dragon
- I Maccabees
- II Maccabees
- III Maccabees
It’s interesting to note that it includes all the books commonly found in modern translations, all well as many books considered by Protestants as “apocryphal”. Yet, this was the “scripture” that was considered “inspired”, for it was the scripture of the early Church.