By Lance Lambert.. The Canon of the Old Testament and other Jewish Literature. During these 400 years before Christ we discover three main streams of literary activity. Firstly, The Canon of the OT. We use the term ‘canon’ (meaning ‘measure’) to distinguish from other writings that which is divinely inspired and absolutely authoritative.
The Canon by the time of Christ, the TaNaKh (OT Scriptures) was fully recognized in the three fold Jewish arrangement consisting of Torah (Law), Neviim (Prophets), and Ketuvim (Writings.) No council at any time “canonized” these Scriptures. They only recognized what was universally accepted as divinely inspired. From the beginning the Law of Moses was fully accepted. By Ezra’s day the Prophets had been for the most part accepted. By the 2nd Cent BC they were fully recognized except for Ezekiel over which there was discussion.
It was The Writings, which give the most difficulty. It seems reasonably certain that they had been given full recognition by Christ’s day. As late as 70 AD there was heated discussion upon Esther, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, and Proverbs, but this would infer widespread acceptance. The result of these discussions was the absolute acceptance of these books as canonical. Thus during these years the OT took the essential form known to us.
Secondly, they had the Apocryphal Literature. Strictly speaking the Apocrypha is a varied assortment of Jewish literature from 300 BC – 100 AD not included in the Hebrew OT, nor recognized by The Scribes or later Rabbis. In the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the OT often referenced by the Roman numeral ‘LXX’ – See “The Languages Used” below) however, these were included and this was one more source of friction between Hellenist and Hebrew. Yet we have to say that whilst the Canonical books have been universally accepted, The Apocrypha has never been universally accepted. Hellenists wrote much of it under the assumed names of OT characters.
The Tradition of the Elders
The Tradition of the Elders was the teaching handed down from master to disciple. Between the Testaments there was much explanation and elaboration upon the OT, especially the Law. Jewish tradition says it was the Elders of Moses day that started it and The Scribes developed it. By NT times the Tradition of the Elders had been placed alongside the Scriptures, and made as authoritative as them. In this way the Word of God was often contradicted and “set at nought.” Finally the Tradition of the Elders became the basis of The Talmud.
The Languages Used
The Bible is written in three languages, Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. Most of the OT is in Hebrew, some small passages are in Aramaic; the whole NT is in Greek.During the 400 years before Christ, Aramaic became the language of God’s people instead of Hebrew, and Greek became the universal language of the civilized world. Aramaic is not derived from Hebrew, but belongs to the same family, being very close to it and using the same script. It seems that it was the diplomatic language of the Assyrian Empire and continued through the Persian Empire till its end in 331 BC.
After the exile it gradually superseded Hebrew as the spoken language of the Promised Land until, in NT times, it was universally spoken by the Hebrews. Thus Christ’s mother tongue, as of all the Apostles, was Aramaic. Hebrew remained the “sacred language” (rather like R.C. Latin) used by The Scribes in discussion and for writing.
Greek was the other great language of The Bible. From 331 BC Greek gradually became the common language of the Empire, until in NT times it was the universal tongue. This Greek was not Classical Greek, nor Modern Greek. It is often called “Hellenistic Greek.” Most of the Dispersion, the Hellenists spoke Greek and it was into this Greek that they translated the OT in what we now call the Septuagint (LXX). Later all the writings that were to form the NT were written in this Greek.
 Luke 24:44 cf. Luke 11:51
 See Mark 7:3, 5