« Prev Canonicity Next »

CANONICITY.

Before the correspondence of Origen with Julius Africanus, whose letter is “a model of sober criticism” (Swete, Patristic Study, p. 56)—a correspondence renewed between Eusebius of Cæsarea and Porphyry5454See Jerome’s Pref. to Daniel, end., and between Rufinus and Jerome, with less sobriety—we have no record of the point having been mooted. For, as Bissell writes (p. 448), “We have no evidence that these pieces were not regarded as fully on a level with the remainder of the book.” Africanus heard Origen use Susanna in controversy 158with one Bassus, and subsequently wrote to remonstrate, he himself being resident in Palestine. Some of his objections in this famous letter have considerable force, while others are very weak (D.C.B. I. p. 54b).

Origen deems Susanna part of the genuine Daniel, cut out by the Jews, as he suggests in his Epistle to Africanus. Bishop Gray (O. T. p. 612) describes this Epistle as ‘suspected’; but it appears now to be generally accepted. Origen thinks that the motive of Susanna’s exclusion was its relation of particulars discreditable to the Jewish nation. But the Bishop truly says, “there is no foundation for this improbable fancy.” It is, however, maintained by Philippe in Vigouroux’ Dict. (cf. ‘Title and Position,’ p. 109).

Origen also asserts the canonicity of Susanna in Hom. in Levit. § 1 (middle): ”Sed tempus est nos adversus improbos presbyteros uti sanctæ Susannæ vocibus, quas illi quidem repudiantes, historiam Susannæ de catalogo divinorum voluminum desecrarunt. Nos autem et suscipimus, et opportune contra ipsos proferimus, dicentes ‘Augustiæ mihi undique,’” etc. (v. 22).

Again, Origen refers to the matter in his In Matthæum Commentariorum Series. He quotes 159Daniel’s words in v. 55, ”angelus Domini habens gladium scindet to medium,” and also ”ausi sumus uti in hoc loco, Dan. exemplo, non ignorantes quoniam in Hebraeo positum non est, sed quoniam in ecclesiis tenetur. Alterius autem temporis est requirere de huiusmodi“ (Migne, Patr. gr. XIII. 1696). Delitzsch (op. cit. p. 103) says, on second thoughts, that he ”adductum esse, ut ipsos libros apocryphos ab Origine pro γνησίοις et divinis habitos esse censeam.

About the same time, or probably a little earlier, St. Hippolytus (†230) gives a similar reason for the extrusion of this episode. He notes on v. 8, ταῦτα μὲν οὖν οἱ τῶν Ἰουδαίων ἄρχοντες βούλονται γῦν περικόπτειν τῆς βίβλου, φάσκοντες μὴ γενέσθαι ταῦτα ἐν Βαβυλῶνι· αἰσχυνόμενοι τὸ ὑπὸ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων κατ᾿ ἐκεῖνον τὸν καιρὸν γεγενημένον. On which Bardenhewer (op. cit. p.76) remarks, ”Susanna soll also früher auch in dem jüdischen Kanon gestanden haben und erst später (unliebsamen Vorwürfen gegenüber) aus demselben entfernt worden sein.

A. Scholz, however, who treats the book allegorically as a ‘vision,’ attributes early opinions adverse to its canonicity to the ”Missverstehen der Erzählung und die unlösbaren Schwierigkeiten, die 160dieselbe bei der historischen Auffassung macht“ (p. 139). The ‘vision’ theory, however, is a difficult one to maintain, serviceable though it may be in evading historic difficulties.

Lists of books of the canon do not help us much, as it is often uncertain whether ‘Daniel’ covers the Additions or not. We may safely conclude, however, that it does in Origen’s own list, as preserved for us by Eusebius (H. E. VI. 25).

In the pseudo-Athanasius’ Synopsis sacr. script. § 74, Susanna is named, after the books he deems canonical, as ἐκτὸς δὲ τούτων, along with four books of Maccabees and the Psalms of Solomon. In this case we might conclude that Δανιήλ does not cover Susanna; but in the beginning of the Synopsis of Daniel (§ 41) the story is mentioned as part of that book, and Bel and the Dragon, at the end, in the same way. This author’s view, then, for and against the canonicity looks somewhat undecided. So in Cyril of Jerusalem’s list in Catech. IV. § 35, ‘Daniel’ pretty certainly includes Susanna and probably the other two Additions, because in Cat. XVI. § 31, “de Spiritu sancto,” he quotes Susanna 45 in company with Dan. iv. 6 as if on an equal footing.

It is quoted as Scripture before Origen’s time by 161Irenæus IV. xxxv. 2, xli. 1; Tert. de Cor. IV.; Clem. Alex. Proph. Ecl. 1. Methodius, Bishop of Tyre, introduces Susanna into his Virgins’ Songs as an example of brave sanctity, calling upon Christ5555Warren, Ante-Nicene Liturgy, 1897, p. 188. (see exact words under ‘Early Christian Literature,’ p.166).

In the Apost. Const. II. 49, ‘concerning accusers and witnesses,’ this trial is instanced ὡς τοὺς δύο πρεσβυτέρους κατὰ Σωσάννης ἐν Βαβυλῶνι, and again in cap. 51 (Mansi, Concil. Florence, 1759, I. 352, 353).

Though Jerome (Pref. to Dan.) calls this and the other Additions ’fabulae’ (twice), it is pointed out by Peronne in his note to Corn. à Lap. on Dan. xiii. 1 (Paris, 1874) that Jerome uses the same word of the story of Samson (no ref. given), which he certainly regarded as canonical. He claims therefore that here it has ”verum et nativum sensum vocis fabulæ, quæ quidem significat ‘historiam, sermonem.’” But even if any disparaging sense could be eliminated from this particular word, Jerome’s opinion is otherwise expressed.

The only possible reference to Susanna observable, I think, in the N. T. is in Matt. xxvii. 24, unless the name of Susanna in St. Luke viii. 3 be 162taken from our heroine’s. It is of course emblematic of lily-like purity, and therefore very suitable for a woman. The story, with some omissions, forms the Epistle for Saturday after the third Sunday in Lent in the Sarum and Roman Missals.

Luther says that this and Bel are “beautiful and spiritual compositions, just as Judith and Tobias” (Bleek, O. T., Venables’ transl., 1869, II. 339).

In the Greek Church the Synods of Constantinople and Jerusalem in 1672 expressly decided, in opposition to Cyril Lucar and the Calvinists, that Susanna and Bel (with some other apocryphal books) were genuine elements of Divine Scripture, and denounced Cyril Lucar’s conduct in styling them Apocrypha as ignorance or wickedness (Bleek, II. 343; Loisy, O. T. p. 243). The present Eastern Church reckons them, with the Song of the Three, canonical, as Bishop Nectarius expressly states (Greek Manuals of Church Doctrine, publ. by Eng. Ch. Assoc., Lond., 1901, p. 19). Also Bar-Hebraeus (†1286), the Monophysite, comments on these fragments as if Holy Scripture (Loisy, p. 245). We see then that the testimonies to canonicity are of considerable strength, more so than is perhaps generally realised, even though the arguments to the contrary 163may be still stronger. The statement of Fritzsche (Libri apocryphi, 1871, p. xiii) is moderate and reasonable, fitting in well as it does with the views of our own Church, ”Liber Danielis canonicus iam eo ipso tempore, quo primum in linguam græcam transferebatur, additamentis græcis auctus est, quorum tria maiora fere inde a seculo quarto in eccl. christiana vulgo a viris doctis apocrypha iudicata sunt.


« Prev Canonicity Next »





Advertisements



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |