Council of Jamnia
The Council of Jamnia, A.D. 90 is an hypothetical council of chief Jewish rabbis which is said to have met by permission of the Roman authorities at the school established at Yabneh (Jabneh or Jamnia) in Palestine after the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem in A.D. 70, as an authoritative council of Judaism to decisively determine the canon of the Bible, and officially exclude the Septuagint. Evidence has proven that no such council ever met, and the claim has been largely discredited.
The idea of the Council of Jamnia was first introduced by Heinrich Graetz in 1871. The suggestion that a particular synod of Jabneh, held c. A.D. 100, finally settling the limits of the Old Testament canon, was also made by Herbert Edward Ryle. Several important ancient sources (Josephus, Against Apion 1:8; 4 Ezra 14:44-45, Babylonian Talmud, Baba Bathra 14b and others) indicate that a generally accepted list of sacred writings already existed in the days of Jamnia. The sages at Jamnia in their discussions and disputations explored the merits of Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Ruth, Esther, Proverbs and Ezekiel. In rabbinic discussions on the topic of authority of books, phrases such as “on that day” created an impression that this was a deliberation that took place during a single session (Mishna, Yadaim 3:5-4:4 and Babylonian Talmud, Berakhot 28a), thus creating the idea of The Council of Jamnia as authoritative as the former Sanhedrin in Jerusalem. Many scholars assumed that since Christians had the Nicean and Chalcedonian ecumenical councils to settle and establish doctrinal matters, a similar council took place in Jamnia at the turn of the first century, and Graetz’s theory became the widely accepted view. It was adopted as evidence in Protestant apologetics against acceptance of books in the Catholic canon of the Bible rejected as apocryphal by the Reformation. Since the late nineteenth century, many scholars have believed that a religious council convened in Jamnia in approximately A.D. 90, and by their rabbinical authority closed the limits of what eventually became the Jewish canon. However, an examination of the actual sources shows that there is no evidence that their inquiries into selected teachings, contained within those books, should be seen as an attempt to settle the status of those books. Since the 1960s, Graetz’s theory has been questioned, and is largely discredited. (Jack P. Lewis, Lee M. McDonald, James A. Sanders and Sid Z. Leiman and others). Today modern scholars are skeptical as to whether there was ever a synod in Jamnia dedicated specifically to matters of canonization.
According to the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, the "council" in Jabneh in 90 was not even an "official" council with binding authority to make such a decision: "though it has had a wide currency, there is no evidence to substantiate it"
Many Protestant authors have appealed to the Council of Jamnia in arguing the case against the Roman Catholic canon.
- Jimmy Swaggart, Catholicism & Christianity, Jimmy Swaggart Ministries, 1986
- Norman Geisler, Ralph MacKenzie, Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences, Baker Books, 1995
- Norman Geisler, General Introduction to the Bible, Moody Press, 1996
- Ralph P. Martin, Peter H. Davids, eds., Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments, InterVarsity Press, 2000
Other Protestant authors dismiss this appeal to a rabbinical council at Jabneh or Jamnia as unnecessary, given the evidence of a settled canon of the Old Testament predating the Christian Era by approximately 200 years. Still others point to evidence that there was a variety of different Jewish canons of scripture as late as A.D. 500.
Many Protestant authors have refuted the widely accepted 19th century hypothesis of Heinrich Graetz and H. E. Ryle that there was indeed a Council of Jamnia in A.D. 90.
- W. M. Christie was the first to dispute this popular theory— "The Jamnia Period in Jewish History", The Journal of Theological Studies, 1925
- Jack P. Lewis, "What Do We Mean by Jabneh?", Journal of Bible and Religion, 1964; Anchor Bible Dictionary.
- Sid Z. Leiman, The Canonization of Hebrew Scripture: The Talmudic and Midrashic Evidence, 1976
- Raymond E. Brown, Jerome Biblical Commentary, and the New Jerome Biblical Commentary of 1990.
- Albert C. Sundberg Jr., "The Old Testament of the Early Church", 1997
- F F Bruce, The Canon of Scripture, 1988
Bible students who have carefully researched the documented Jewish sources have found no substantiating support for an authoritative Jewish Council of Jamnia that settled the Old Testament of canon of scripture as authoritative evidence against the establishment of the Orthodox and Catholic canon of the Bible. For all intents and purposes, the so-called “Council of Jamnia” never happened. It is a fiction proposed by a nineteenth century German scholar, based on specious reasoning.
- Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, ed. by F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingston, Oxford Univ. Press; 3rd Revised edition (September 8, 2005), 861. ISBN-13: 978-0192802903.
- "The Jamnia Period in Jewish History", The Journal of Theological Studies]], vol. 26, July 1925, pp. 347–364.
- "What Do We Mean by Jabneh?", Journal of Bible and Religion, Journal of the American Academy of Religion Vol. 32, No. 2 (April 1964), pp. 125–132.
- Anchor Bible Dictionary Vol. III, pp. 634–7 (New York 1992).
- The Canonization of Hebrew Scripture: The Talmudic and Midrashic Evidence, New York, Anchor Books, 1976.
- "The Old Testament of the Early Church" Revisited 1997
- Bruce, F F (1988). The Canon of Scripture. InterVarsity Press. ISBN 9780830812585.
- L. M. McDonald & J. A. Sanders, (eds.), The Canon Debate, 2002, chapter 9: "Jamnia Revisited" by Jack P. Lewis.
- Kaiser, Walter (2001) The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable and Relevant?. Downers Grove: InterVarsity. ISBN 0830819754.
- Lewis, Jack P. (1964). "What Do We Mean by Jabneh?". Journal of Biblical Literature 32: 125-130.
Edward J. Young, “The Canon of the Old Testament,” Carl F.H. Henry, ed., Revelation and the Bible. Contemporary Evangelical Thought. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1958 / London: The Tyndale Press, 1959. pp.155-168. pdf
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