When questions arise over what books were considered canonical in the Christian Church Melito, bishop of Sardis is a good place to go. His OT list, as preserved by Eusebius, is the earliest within the Christian Church. Interestingly, the content of this list is curiously close to the Protestant and Hebrew canon. The presence of the apocryphal books found in the LXX are absent, and only in later lists do we begin to see the addition of recensions to Jeremiah-Lamentations and then later on the addition of the apocryphal books.
The content of this and later lists coupled with earlier indications of what the majority of Jews thought to be canonical help illuminate the earliest tradition of the Old Testament canon in relation to the Christian Church. If a good case for the inclusion of the apocryphal books in the Old Testament canon is lacking in early Christian (NT) and Jewish sources, then the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Church is not following the earliest canonical tradition. Assuming the evidence for the Hebrew canon provided elsewhere stands, it is the Jews and Protestants who have been true to the earlier tradition in this regard.
Melito's list and the conditions surrounding it not only give us a window into the minds of those in the Church after the NT but also the Jews. What if Melito’s list did contain what Protestants call an “apocryphal” book? This would not only mean that the earliest Christian list of canonical books of the Old Testament contained one, but that the Jewish canon Melito was influenced by did as well which could potential lead us to consider a wider Jewish canon than first thought. Scholars such as De Wette, Lake and McDonald seem to think the Wisdom of Solomon is included in Melito’s list.
Disagreements center on a phrase in Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History 4.26.14 where some scholars take the Wisdom of Solomon to be included and others think “his Wisdom” is just another name for Proverbs. After much consideration I have concluded that the Wisdom of Solomon is an unlikely interpretation (though not impossible) and that Proverbs “the All-Virtuous Wisdom” is what is being referred to here. In the upcoming posts I will do my best to present the argument for the Wisdom of Solomon and why the other translation is a better one.
*This does not pose as great of a problem for the Roman Catholic Church who believes her canon to be established by the infallible Church (though there are problems once one questions her infallibility). It does however pose a problem for Eastern Orthodox Christians wanting canonical stability since their canon is not established in any Ecumenical council except maybe in Athanasius’ list- a great disappointment for those hoping to make a case for apocryphal books in their canon.
*I will tie this series of posts together into a response in the future aimed at an argument that was put forward with the intention of scaring the Protestant into the Eastern Orthodox Church based off of canonical considerations.
*"Melito and the Eastern Canon (1)" has had a few additions made to it for clarity.