Does 2 Maccabees “Expressly Disclaim Inspiration”?

In commenting on Heb. 11:35 Jamieson, Fausset and Brown make the following assertion: “The writer of Second Maccabees expressly disclaims inspiration, which prevents our mistaking Paul’s allusion here to it as if it sanctioned the Apocrypha as inspired. In quoting Daniel, he quotes a book claiming inspiration, and so tacitly sanctions that claim.” They don’t offer any citations of where the writer of 2 Maccabees makes this disclaimer but Ron Rhodes provides this same quote from Jamieson, Fausset and Brown and provides two verses from 2 Maccabees as support, 2:23 and 15:38. Here’s what the two verses say:

2:23 – “all this, which has been set forth by Jason of Cyrene in five volumes, we shall attempt to condense into a single book.”

15:38 – “If it is well told and to the point, that is what I myself desired; if it is poorly done and mediocre, that was the best I could do.”

How is this a disclaimer of inspiration? Rhodes explains,

“In one key apocryphal book—2 Maccabees, from which Roman Catholics draw support for the doctrine of the Mass—the author concedes that it is an abridgement of another man’s work and expresses concern as to whether a good job was done or not (see 2 Maccabees 2:23; 13:58). Such would not be the case had this book been truly inspired by God.” (Reasoning from the Scriptures with Catholics, p. 34)

I confess I don’t follow his reasoning at all. Because a writer abridged another’s work is no more compromising to inspiration as is Luke’s use of other sources (Luke 1:1-4). Paul says in 1 Cor. 7:12 “to the rest I say this (I, not the Lord)”. But we don’t say that he therefore saying at this point the letter is not inspired much less say he’s disclaiming inspiration for the entire book.

This is quite different from some, like Craig Blomberg who note, “It is also noteworthy that none of the apocryphal books claim to be God’s Word, as many books of the Hebrew Scriptures do.” (Can We Still Believe the Bible? p. 50) Here Blomberg notes the absence of a claim rather than saying the books disclaim inspiration. While Blomberg may be right, Rhodes certainly is not.

Whatever your views are of the Apocrypha in general or 2 Maccabees in particular this is an argument that ought to be laid to rest. There is no express disclaimer to inspiration in 2 Maccabees.


About Louis

I am a 1997 graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
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3 Responses to Does 2 Maccabees “Expressly Disclaim Inspiration”?

  1. Dwight Gingrich says:

    Interesting discussion! I confess I’m maybe half-way between Rhodes and you in understanding this data.

    At minimum, it is clear that the author of 2 Maccabees had no awareness of being guided by the Spirit of God. This contrasts, as Blomberg notes, with many of the OT biblical human authors, and probably all of the NT authors. N.T. Wright says:

    “It used to be said that the New Testament writers “didn’t think they were writing ‘scripture.’” That is hard to sustain historically today… That is not to say, of course, that the writers of the New Testament specifically envisaged a time when their books would be collected together and form something like we now know as the canon. I doubt very much if such an idea ever crossed their minds. But that they were conscious of a unique vocation to write Jesus-shaped, Spirit-led, church-shaping books, as part of their strange first-generation calling, we should not doubt.” (Wright, N.T. Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today [New York: Harper One, 2011], 51-52.)

    It also seems to me that we don not have anything within the canonical books that is quite equivalent to the tentative expression of the author of 2 Maccabees, when he says, “If it is poorly done and mediocre, that was the best I could do.” Paul does say that he intentionally avoided using displays of verbal eloquence (for theological reasons), but that is very different from saying that he was trying his level best to present a “well told” message but might have failed in his attempt–or that if he succeeded it was because “that is what I myself desired,” apart from God’s guidance.

    Also, I don’t think the reference from 1 Cor. 7 is a good parallel with the quote from 2 Maccabees. I’ll paste here an excerpt from one of my essays where I discussed this passage. It is an admittedly tricky one, and often misread by hasty readers, methinks, but important for any discussion of the authority of Scripture:
    What about when Paul writes, “To the rest I say (I, not the Lord)” (1 Cor. 7:12)? Or when he writes “I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy” (1 Cor. 7:25)? Is he merely voicing his own opinion?

    Several suggestions may help. First, we should remember the abundant evidence for Paul’s own apostolic authority. [Which I had just provided in the essay.] Paul did not need to cite either Christ or the Law in order for his words to bear authority. Rather, it appears that he sometimes chose to make such citations [claims of quoting Christ or the OT] in order to add rhetorical power to his writings—in order to convince those who may have doubted the true apostolic authority that he already bore. Therefore, statements that lack citations do not lack authority, even though they may have less rhetorical force.

    Second, when Paul says “I give this charge (not I, but the Lord)” (1 Cor. 7:10), he seems to be referencing a teaching that Christ gave during his earthly ministry. This happens again in Acts 18:35, where Paul quotes Jesus’ words, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” The Corinthian passage seems to be built on the teachings of Jesus that we can find in the Gospels; the Acts quotation reminds us that the apostles knew of other teachings of Jesus that have not been preserved in our Bibles (see John 21:25). Paul treasured the words of our Lord and was glad to share them in his ministry.

    Third, when Paul writes, “To the rest I say (I, not the Lord)” (1 Cor. 7:12), he has just finished referencing a teaching that Christ gave during his earthly ministry. His clarifying statement thus functions primarily to specify that he is no longer directly transmitting Christ’s earthly teaching. Rather, he is making an application of Christ’s words to a specific situation facing the Corinthians. Paul’s application and elaboration, however, bear apostolic authority. Notice that this passage contains the very same imperatives (“should not”) that Paul used when transmitting Jesus’ teachings. “Although some have understood this [Paul’s clarification in 7:12] to be Paul’s making a distinction between his
    own lesser authority and Jesus’ higher authority, a closer reading of the passage reveals the opposite. Paul’s statement… makes it clear to the Corinthians that Paul has the authority to issue binding commands and therefore to speak for Jesus on topics that have not been directly addressed by him.” (Kruger, Michael J. Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books [Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012], 187.)

    Fourth, when Paul writes “I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy” (1 Cor. 7:25), Paul is addressing a question that was not a matter of right and wrong. Rather, Paul was giving his Spirit-guided (1 Cor. 7:40) judgment on a question that
    allowed for a variety of valid choices. The question at hand (“concerning the betrothed”) was not a question that called for a command, either from the Lord or from Paul. After all, when Jesus addressed a similar question about chastity, he likewise gave a non-imperative response: “There are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it” (Matt. 19:12). Similarly, after Paul gave his judgment as to the best course of action, he clarified that each person could “do as he wishes” (1 Cor. 7:36). This passage, therefore, does not throw Paul’s authority into question. Rather, it demonstrates that he did not use his authority indiscriminately or wrongfully (see also Phlm 1:8-9). He did not wish to issue a command where Jesus himself had granted freedom.
    Thanks for your blog! I often enjoy your posts. 🙂


  2. J.W. Wartick says:

    Thanks for this post. I really appreciated the quote you shared and your own analysis. I’ll be sharing this post tomorrow on my “Really Recommended Posts.” I think that you’re right in saying this is not an expressed disclaiming of inspiration.


  3. Pingback: Really Recommended Posts 5/16/14- Edge of Tomorrow, Femininity, the Apocrypha, and more! | J.W. Wartick -"Always Have a Reason"

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