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Saturday, January 17, 2009

More wise words from Michuta (this time about Melito)

Michuta did a great job on this. Melito lived around 170 A.D, but this is what Michuta had to say:

"Melito's list is important because it is the earliest surviving example of such a list compiled by a Christian. Protestant apologists claim that Melito gives us here a complete listing of the Old Testament books accepted by Christians in his day and that it happens to correspond to the shorter Protestant canon. One vital fact must be noticed, however,; Melito tells us explicitly that he acquired this list only through investigation-by going East, where he "learned accurately the Books of the Old Testament." Now, it is difficult to believe that a respected Christian bishop could possibly have been ignorant of which books were read in the churches under his care; even more difficult to believe that Melito had never thought to even attempt such a list until his conscience was pricked by Onesimus' inguiry. If this passage is to be taken at face value, one must try to imagine a church where even the leaders do not know (and show little interest in!) which books are and are not to be considered the Word of God! Gigot offers a much more feasible explanation; namely that the Extracts, quoted by Eusebius above, were a Christian apologetic work to help Christians dialogue with Jews. It was, therefore, important at the outset of the work for Melito to establish some common ground by listing books which the Jews already accepted-just as justin had a few years earlier.

Why did Melitofeel it necessary to travel all the way to Palestine to receive his Jewish canon? Surely, there must have been Jews practicing in Sardis? Indeed, there were; historians tell us that Sardis had a very large Jewish population in the second century. In fact, one of the largest synagogues from the Greco-Roman period, built around the time of Melito, has been discovered at Sardis. What prevented Melito from simply knocking on the door of this synagogue and asking one of its members? It is reasonable to assume that he did inquire, but that the Jews in Sardis were unable to give an adequate response. After all, the chaotic period of the Bar Cochba Revolt was a recent memory and much of Jewish tradition was still very in flux (including rabbinical discussions on the Old Testament canon) and would be for years to come.

We ought to take a closer look at Melito's list, as well, before moving on. A moment's reflection reveals that it does not line up with the Protestant canon at all. It omits the books of Lamentations, Nehemiah, and Esther-and includes the Book of Wisdom. Even if Lamentations and Nehemiah are present, as some have argued, under the other titles broadly defined, the omission of Esther remains unaccountable. We do know that there were disputes among rabbis in this era concerning Easther's inspired status. Melito's list, therefore, is not identical to the Protestant canon." [1] pages 74-76






JNORM888

[1] pages 74-76 from the book "Why Catholic bibles are Bigger:The untold story of the lost books of the Protestant Bible" by Gary G. Michuta

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