The Epistle of the Same Athanasius Taken from the XXXIX. Festal Epistle.
(Found translated in Vol. IV, of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (2d series), pp. 551 and 552.)
[Johnsons epitome is so unsatisfactory that I have been compelled to relegate it to a footnote and to make one in its room of my own. 595 ]
As the heretics are quoting apocryphal writings, an evil which was rife even as early as when St. Luke wrote his gospel, therefore I have thought good to set forth clearly what books have been received by us through tradition as belonging to the Canon, and which we believe to be divine. For there are in all twenty-two books of the Old Testament. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. After this comes Joshua, and Judges, and Ruth. The four books of the Kings, counted as two. Then Chronicles, counted the two as one. Then First and Second Esdras [i.e. Ezra and Nehemiah]. After these Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Cantica. To these follow Job, and the Twelve Prophets, counted as one book. Then Isaiah, Jeremiah together with the Epistle of Baruch, the Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel.
Of the New Testament these are the books [then follows the complete list ending with “the Apocalypse of John”]. These are the fountains of salvation, that whoso thirsteth, may be satisfied by the eloquence which is in them. In them alone (ἐν τούτοις μόνοις) is set forth the doctrine of piety. Let no one add to them, nor take aught therefrom.
I also add for further accuracy that there are certain other books, not edited in the Canon, but established by the Fathers, to be read by those who have just come to us and wish to be instructed in the doctrine of piety. The Wisdom of Solomon, the Wisdom of Sirach, Esther, Judith, Tobit, the Doctrine (Διδαχή) of the Apostles and the Pastor. And let none of the Apocrypha of the heretics be read among you.
Johnson says: “This contains the Canon of Scripture as we now receive it in all respects, save that the Epistle of Baruch is reckoned in the Canon, but Esther is not. He tells us, there are other books never reckoned in the Canon but authorized by the fathers to be read by the Catechumens, viz.: Wisdom of Solomon, of Sirach, Esther, Judith, and Tobias, and that which is called The Doctrine of the Apostles, and Pastor. These (says he) are read, the other reckoned of the Canons: Apocryphal books are the invention of heretics.” To this Johnson appends a note, to wit: “It is the common opinion of learned men that the reason why some of the ancients reckoned the book of Esther not to belong to the Canon, was the Apocryphal chapters added to it by another hand. That The Doctrine of the Apostles is a book now lost, see Dr. Grabes Essay on this subject.”
Who these “learned men” may be, I do not know, but at the time of the writing of St. Athanasius the position of the Hebrew Esther was not well assured in the restricted Palestinian Jewish Canon. On this point the reader should make himself familiar with The Canon of the Old Testament by the Rt. Rev. Tobias Mullen, Roman Catholic Bishop of Erie, U.S.A.