Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Guest Blog:Did Jerome Change His Mind on the Apocrypha ?

By Ray Aviles

[I have known Ray Aviles quite a few years now, and I've always been impressed by his work and discussions on Roman Catholic doctrine. A few years back, I read him in dialog with a Roman Catholic on Jerome and the Apocrypha. It was so compelling, I never forgot about it, so I've asked him to write on it here. This is a good one to bookmark- James].

There’s an argument going around the Catholic apologetic circles claiming that Jerome changed his position on the Apocrypha later in his life. That he came to accept these books as inspired because of the “judgment of the churches” on this matter. Furthermore, they claim the evidence of this lies in his citing these books using the word “Scripture” to define them. RC apologist Mark Shea provides an example of this in an Envoy Magazine article (found here: http://www.envoymagazine.com/backissues/1.2/marapril_story2.html). He writes:

"In his later years St. Jerome did indeed accept the Deuterocanonical books of the Bible. In fact, he wound up strenuously defending their status as inspired Scripture, writing, "What sin have I committed if I followed the judgment of the churches? But he who brings charges against me for relating the objections that the Hebrews are wont to raise against the story of Susanna, the Son of the Three Children, and the story of Bel and the Dragon, which are not found in the Hebrew volume (ie. canon), proves that he is just a foolish sycophant. For I wasn't relating my own personal views, but rather the remarks that they [the Jews] are wont to make against us" (Against Rufinus 11:33 [A.D. 402]). In earlier correspondence with Pope Damasus, Jerome did not call the deuterocanonical books unscriptural, he simply said that Jews he knew did not regard them as canonical. But for himself, he acknowledged the authority of the Church in defining the canon. When Pope Damasus and the Councils of Carthage and Hippo included the deuterocanon in Scripture, that was good enough for St. Jerome. He "followed the judgment of the churches."

Shea not only claims that Jerome accepted them, but that he “strenuously” defended them. A word used to intrigue the reader, but there is no evidence that he defended them, let alone “strenuously.” Furthermore, from the citation above, he states that Jerome followed the “judgment of the churches”, which Shea translates as the synods of Hippo and Carthage, but he is mistaken. Contextually, the “judgment of the churches” refers to Theodotion’s translation of Daniel which the churches were using instead of the Septuagint version. To add to this, he couldn’t have followed Carthage considering they met 17 years after Jerome penned the above. Both Hippo and Carthage were regional councils, didn’t speak for the entire church, thus it wasn’t mandated that Jerome submit to their decisions. Yet, it was Theodotion’s version Jerome refers to when he mentions the “judgment of the churches” and not their decision on canon:

"In reference to Daniel my answer will be that I did not say that he was not a prophet; on the contrary, I confessed in the very beginning of the Preface that he was a prophet. But I wished to show what was the opinion upheld by the Jews; and what were the arguments on which they relied for its proof. I also told the reader that the version read in the Christian churches was not that of the Septuagint translators but that of Theodotion. It is true, I said that the Septuagint version was in this book very different from the original, and that it was condemned by the right judgment of the churches of Christ; but the fault was not mine who only stated the fact, but that of those who read the version. We have four versions to choose from: those of Aquila, Symmachus, the Seventy, and Theodotion. The churches choose to read Daniel in the version of Theodotion. What sin have I committed in following the judgment of the churches? But when I repeat what the Jews say against the Story of Susanna and the Hymn of the Three Children, and the fables of Bel and the Dragon, which are not contained in the Hebrew Bible, the man who makes this a charge against me proves himself to be a fool and a slanderer; for I explained not what I thought but what they commonly say against us. I did not reply to their opinion in the Preface, because I was studying brevity, and feared that I should seem to be writing not a Preface but a book. I said therefore, "As to which this is not the time to enter into discussion." Otherwise from the fact that I stated that Porphyry had said many things against this prophet, and called, as witnesses of this, Methodius, Eusebius, and Apollinarius, who have replied to his folly in many thousand lines, it will be in his power to accuse me for not baring written in my Preface against the books of Porphyry. If there is any one who pays attention to silly things like this, I must tell him loudly and free that no one is compelled to read what he does not want; that I wrote for those who asked me, not for those who would scorn me, for the grateful not the carping, for the earnest not the indifferent. Still, I wonder that a man should read the version of Theodotion the heretic and judaizer, and should scorn that of a Christian, simple and sinful though he may be.

The issue was Theodotion’s (a known heretic) translation of Daniel which was being used by the churches. The translation was faulty, wasn’t based on the Septuagint, and condemned by the “right judgment of the churches”, but the reader can see that this in no way applies to the decision on canon made at the local councils of Hippo and Carthage.

Jerome goes on to say that he is merely stating Jewish opinion against these books. Although this was the view he espoused, he was not the originator, and it put him in the uncomfortable position of arguing with the Jews on this. J.N.D. Kelly expounds:

"Jerome, conscious of the difficulty of arguing with Jews on the basis of books they spurned and anyhow regarding the Hebrew original as authoritative, was adamant that anything not found in it was ‘to be classed among the apocrypha’, not in the canon; later he grudgingly conceded that the Church read some of these books for edification, but not to support doctrine." [J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (San Francisco: Harper, 1960), p. 55].

He was further riled by the fact that the churches followed the translation of a known heretic instead of a Christian such as himself. As an aside, Shea wrongfully associates Pope Damasus as being in agreement with the alleged “decision” at Hippo and Carthage, but Damasus died in 384 A.D, nine years before Hippo (393) and thirteen years before Carthage (397).

Shea continues with the usual RC apologetic misrepresentations against Martin Luther, naming him as the culprit who excluded the deuterocanonicals (Jim Swan did a wonderful job of putting the proper perspective on Luther and the canon here) Yet, I’ve always found this to be odd reasoning considering the Roman Catholic canon wasn’t decided until Trent. Cardinal Cajetan (the same one who opposed Luther) and Cardinal Ximenes, both contemporaries of the era, wrote against the canonicity of these books as well. Further, there was opposition within Trent regarding these books, spearheaded by the group led by Giralamo Cardinal Seripando (for more information on this, read Hubert Jedin’s Cardinal Seripando, Papal Legate at Trent). The mere fact that there was opposition at Trent substantiates that no canon was in effect where the “judgment of the churches” would authoritatively bind the Catholic to the decision at Hippo and Carthage.

Shea reiterates his error here:

"As St. Jerome said, it is upon the basis of "the judgment of the churches" and no other that the canon of Scripture is known, since the Scriptures are simply the written portion of the Church's apostolic tradition."

Again, Shea is embellishing Jerome’s statements regarding the “judgment of the churches” to mean something that it isn’t. As I’ve already shown, contextually, Jerome is saying something else entirely. Yet, Shea isn’t the only one who tries to make Jerome pro-deuteros. Some Catholic apologists play more loosely with Jerome’s words. An apologist who calls himself “Matt1618” asserts in his internet article “Did Some Church Fathers Reject the Deuterocanonicals as Scripture” (found here: http://matt1618.freeyellow.com/deut.html) that Jerome did indeed show an acceptance of these books because he never denied them inspiration and he called them “Scripture” in his later writings. This is merely “reading between the lines” in an attempt to find something more favorable to his position. He states:

"In fact it is true that none of the Fathers, even St. Jerome, ever deny their inspiration."

I don’t know how “Matt1618” would define this “denial”, but all this amounts to wishful thinking. To put it simply, what Jerome states in his prefaces and commentaries amounts to a denial of their inspiration as well as their canonicity. To put it plainly, if Jerome states that a book isn’t canonical it is only because Jerome doesn’t believe it is inspired. Scripture is “God-breathed” and men wrote as they were inspired of God. Inspired books are in the canon because they came from the very mouth of God. It defeats the purpose of the canon if some “God-breathed” Scriptures are included and others aren’t. If a book is not in the canon, it is because it is not inspired. In essence, “Matt1618” is implying that Jerome didn’t see “inspiration” as the criterion for inclusion into the canon and that a book can be “inspired” and “Scripture” and, for whatever reasons, be outside of the canon. In his commentary on Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiasticus, Jerome states:

"As, then, the Church reads Judith, Tobit, and the books of Maccabees, but does not admit them among the canonical Scriptures, so let it also read these two Volumes (Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiasticus) for the edification of the people, not to give authority to doctrines of the Church."

According to Jerome, these books are ecclesiastical, capable of spiritual teaching, but cannot be used for supporting church doctrine. This begs the question: Since when is known Scripture not to be used for supporting doctrine? Even Scripture itself attests:

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Furthermore, Jerome, emphatically states in his preface to the books of Samuel and Kings:

"This preface to the Scriptures may serve as a "helmeted" introduction to all the books which we turn from Hebrew into Latin, so that we may be assured that what is not found in our list must be placed amongst the Apocryphal writings. Wisdom, therefore, which generally bears the name of Solomon, and the book of Jesus, the Son of Sirach, and Judith, and Tobias, and the Shepherd are not in the canon."

In his preface to the Daniel he states:

"I say this to show you how hard it is to master the book of Daniel, which in Hebrew contains neither the history of Susanna, nor the hymn of the three youths, nor the fables of Bel and the Dragon; because, however, they are to be found everywhere, we have formed them into an appendix, prefixing to them an obelus, and thus making an end of them, so as not to seem to the uninformed to have cut off a large portion of the volume."

Four things are to be noted here. The first being that the additions weren’t in the Hebrew Scriptures; secondly, that Jerome calls Bel and the Dragon a “fable”; thirdly, that they were appended to his Vulgate; and fourthly, that they were marked with an “obelus” which is a critical symbol used in ancient manuscripts to mark a questionable passage. Nothing here reveals any indication that Jerome held, at least, the additions to be inspired Scripture.

Again, to Jerome, the extra books were “…not to give authority to the doctrines of the Church” and they “…are not in the canon.” Attempting to draw skepticism by claiming that he didn’t call them “uninspired” is leading the reader at best. Sure, they have some ecclesiastical value within them, but a book doesn’t need to be inspired or canonical to have ecclesiastical value. Although there are other passages from his writings that I can cite, I believe these suffice in showing that Jerome did not believe the Apocryphal books were inspired.

Next, “Matt1618” states there is evidence that Jerome did indeed cite these books and cited them “…approximately 55 times.” This is easy to refute. After all, if Paul can cite pagan writers such as Menander, Epimenedes, or Aratus, I’m sure Jerome can cite from these books which he claimed were good for the edification of the church as well as others. But “Matt 1618” goes further and says that he cited them as Scripture. He then goes to give a few selected quotes from Jerome:

(I am citing from his article, my comments are in black fonts and brackets)

Does not the SCRIPTURE say: 'Burden not thyself above thy power' [SIRACH 13:2] Jerome, To Eustochium, Epistle 108 (A.D. 404), in NPNF2, VI:207 [* Matt1618 is correct, Jerome does call this verse from Sirach “Scripture”, but one must question if what he means is in the “inspired” sense. Considering he has already stated that “Ecclesiasticus” (Sirach) is not to be used doctrinally (see above) we can assume that this is not the case]

Do not, my dearest brother, estimate my worth by the number of my years. Gray hairs are not wisdom; it is wisdom which is as good as gray hairs At least that is what Solomon says: "wisdom is the gray hair unto men.’ [Wisdom 4:9]" Moses too in choosing the seventy elders is told to take those whom he knows to be elders indeed, and to select them not for their years but for their discretion (Num. 11:16)? And, as a boy, Daniel judges old men and in the flower of youth condemns the incontinence of age (Daniel 13:55-59, or Story of Susannah 55-59, only found in the Catholic Bibles) Jerome, To Paulinus, Epistle 58 (A.D. 395), in NPNF2, VI:119 [* Matt1618 is reading too much into this citation, although he “cites” these books, citing them doesn’t mean he viewed them as “Scripture”, especially in light of the fact that he stated the books can be used “ecclesiastically”]

"I would cite the words of the psalmist: 'the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,’ [Ps 51:17] and those of Ezekiel 'I prefer the repentance of a sinner rather than his death,’ [Ez 18:23] AND THOSE OF BARUCH,'Arise, arise, O Jerusalem,’ [Baruch 5:5] AND MANY OTHER PROCLAMATIONS MADE BY THE TRUMPETS OF THE PROPHETS." Jerome, To Oceanus, Epistle 77:4 (A.D. 399), in NPNF2, VI:159 [* Same as above]

[It is true that a festival such as the birthday of Saint Peter should be seasoned with more gladness than usual;] still our merriment must not forget the limit set by Scripture, and we must not stray too far from the boundary of our wrestling-ground. Your presents, indeed, remind me of the sacred volume, for in it Ezekiel decks Jerusalem with bracelets, (Eze. 16:11) Baruch receives letters from Jeremiah,(Jer. 36, Bar. 6) and the Holy Spirit descends in the form of a dove at the baptism of Christ.(Mt. 3:16) Jerome, To Eustochium, Epistle 31:2 (A.D. 384), in NPNF2, VI:45 [* In the beginning brackets, I added what “Matt1618” left out considering this adds context to the passage. If I would’ve left it exactly as he cited it, then it would seem as if this is one thought. However, the first “Scripture” is within the context of the festival of St. Peter. The second “sacred volume” is in the context of the presents given to Jerome. These are two thought and not one. Thus, when he cites Baruch, he isn’t specifically calling it Scripture and, again, Jerome could be citing it for its ecclesiastical value].

As in good works it is God who brings them to perfection, for it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that pitieth and gives us help that we may be able to reach the goal: so in things wicked and sinful, the seeds within us give the impulse, and these are brought to maturity by the devil. When he sees that we are building upon the foundation of Christ, hay, wood, stubble, then he applies the match. Let us then build gold, silver, costly stones, and he will not venture to tempt us: although even thus there is not sure and safe possession. For the lion lurks in ambush to slay the innocent. [Sir. 27:5] "Potters' vessels are proved by the furnace, and just men by the trial of tribulation." And in another place it is written: [Sir. 2:1] "My son, when thou comest to serve the Lord, prepare thyself for temptation." Again, the same James says: [James 3:22]"Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only. For if any one is a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a mirror: for he beholdeth himself, and goeth away, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was." It was useless to warn them to add works to faith, if they could not sin after baptism. Jerome, Against Jovinianus, Book 2, 3 NPNF2, VI:390 [* Matt1618 makes the assumption that Jerome’s usage of the phrase “it is written” is being used in the biblical sense—that there is an air of Scriptural credibility within this phrase—but he never stops to think if Jerome simply meant that these citations were “written”, nothing more and nothing less).

"Yet the Holy Spirit in the thirty-ninth(9) psalm, while lamenting that all men walk in a vain show, and that they are subject to sins, speaks thus: "For all that every man walketh in the image."(Psalm 39:6) Also after David's time, in the reign of Solomon his son, we read a somewhat similar reference to the divine likeness. For in the book of Wisdom, WHICH IS INSCRIBED WITH HIS NAME, SOLOMON SAYS: "GOD CREATED MAN TO BE IMMORTAL, AND MADE HIM TO BE AN IMAGE OF HIS OWN ETERNITY."(Wisdom 2:23) And again, about eleven hundred and eleven years afterwards, we read in the New Testament that men have not lost the image of God. For James, an apostle and brother of the Lord, whom I have mentioned above--that we may not be entangled in the snares of Origen--teaches us that man does possess God's image and likeness. For, after a somewhat discursive account of the human tongue, he has gone on to say of it: "It is an unruly evil ... therewith bless we God, even the Father and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God."(James 3:8-9) Paul, too, the "chosen vessel,"(Acts 9:15) who in his preaching has fully maintained the doctrine of the gospel, instructs us that man is made in the image and after the likeness of God. "A man," he says, "ought not to wear long hair, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God."(1 Cor. 11:7) He speaks of "the image" simply, but explains the nature of the likeness by the word "glory."

7. Instead of THE THREE PROOFS FROM HOLY SCRIPTURE which you said would satisfy you if I could produce them, BEHOLD I HAVE GIVEN YOU SEVEN"--- Jerome, Letter 51, NPNF2, VI:87-8 [* In context, Jerome gives more then seven Scriptures within this passage and there is no way of telling whether the citation from Wisdom is amongst the “seven”, but for the sake of argument we’ll give it the benefit of the doubt. I don’t know why “Matt1618”capitalizes “which is inscribed with his name” and I can only hope he isn’t implying that “his name” refers to God, thus indicating inspiration. On the contrary, this evidently refers to Solomon who it is said wrote this book].

A. "Your argument is ingenious, but you do not see THAT IT GOES AGAINST HOLY SCRIPTURE, which declares that even ignorance is not without sin. Hence it was that Job offered sacrifices for his sons, test, perchance, they had unwittingly sinned in thought. And if, when one is cutting wood, the axe-head flies from the handle and kills a man, the owner is[Num. 35:8] commanded to go to one of the cities of refuge and stay there until the high priest dies; that is to say, until he is redeemed by the Saviour's blood, either in the baptistery, or in penitence which is a copy of the grace of baptism, through the ineffable mercy of the Saviour, who[Ezek. 18:23] would not have any one perish, nor delights in the death of sinners, but would rather that they should be converted and live. C. It is surely strange justice to hold me guilty of a sin of error of which my conscience does not accuse itself. I am not aware that I have sinned, and am I to pay the penalty for an offence of which I am ignorant? What more can I do, if I sin voluntarily?

A. DO YOU EXPECT ME TO EXPLAIN THE PURPOSES AND PLANS OF GOD? THE BOOK OF WISDOM GIVES AN ANSWER TO YOUR FOOLISH QUESTION: [Sir 3:21] "LOOK NOT INTO THINGS ABOVE THEE, AND SEARCH NOT THINGS TOO MIGHTY FOR THEE." AND ELSEWHERE,[5] "Make not thyself overwise, and argue not more than is fitting." And in the same place, "In wisdom and simplicity of heart seek God." You will perhaps deny the authority of this book;" "Jerome, "Against the Pelagians, NPNF2, VI:464-5" [* He submits these together, but anyone can see that when Jerome refers to Scripture in the passage, he is referring to canonical Scripture (Job, Numbers, and Ezekiel). The citation from Sirach is independent of the above citation and there is no indication that Jerome cites it as Scripture].

"And in the proverbs Solomon tells us that as "the north wind driveth away rain, so doth an angry countenance a backbiting tongue.(Prov. 25:23)" It sometimes happens that an arrow when it is aimed at a hard object rebounds upon the bowman, wounding the would-bewounder, and thus, the words are fulfilled, "they were turned aside like a deceitful bow," (Psalm 128:57) and in another passage: "whoso casteth a stone on high casteth it on his own head." (Sir. 27:25) Jerome, To Rusticus, Epistle 125, 19 (A.D. 404), in NPNF2, VI:251 [* Again, although Sirach is used in context alongside Scripture, it doesn’t prove much, especially in light of ecclesiastical usage]

9. Let me call to my aid the example of the three children, (Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel 3) who, amid the cool, encircling fire, sang hymns, (Song of Three Holy Children, found only in Deuterocanonical portion of Daniel 3) instead of weeping, and around whose turbans and holy hair the flames played harmlessly. Let me recall, too, the story of the blessed Daniel, in whose presence, though he was their natural prey, the lions crouched, with fawning tails and frightened mouths.(Daniel 6) Let Susannah also rise in the nobility of her faith before the thoughts of all; who, after she had been condemned by an unjust sentence, was saved through a youth inspired by the Holy Ghost (Susanna 45, or Daniel 13:45). In both cases the Lord's mercy was alike shewn; for while Susannah was set free by the judge, so as not to die by the sword, this woman, though condemned by the judge, was acquitted by the sword. Jerome, Letter 1:9, NPNF2, VI:2 [* Jerome cites the additions to Daniel, but this doesn’t mean he cited this as inspired Scripture and not ecclesiastically]

6. I salute your mother and mine with the respect which, as you know, I feel towards her. Associated with you as she is in a holy life, she has the start of you, her holy children, in that she is your mother. Her womb may thus be truly called golden. With her I salute your sisters, who ought all to be welcomed wherever they go, for they have triumphed over their sex and the world, and await the Bridegroom's coming, (Mt. 25:4) their lamps replenished with oil. O happy the house which is a home of a widowed Anna, of virgins that are prophetesses, and of twin Samuels bred in the Temple! (Luke 2:36, Acts 21:9, 1 Sam. 2:18) Fortunate the roof which shelters the martyr-mother of the Maccabees, with her sons around her, each and all wearing the martyr's crown! (2 Macc. 7) For although you confess Christ every day by keeping His commandments, yet to this private glory you have added the public one of an open confession; for it was through you that the poison of the Arian heresy was formerly banished from your city. Jerome, to Chromatius, Jovinus, and Eusebius, Letter 7:6, NPNF2, VI:10 [* Jerome cited a historical fact which happens to be recorded in 2 Maccabees 7. Citing history doesn’t make the history book “Scripture”]

But now that a virgin has conceived (Isa. 7:14) in the womb and has borne to us a child of which the prophet says that "Government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called the mighty God, the everlasting Father," (Isa. 9:6) now the chain of the curse is broken. Death came through Eve, but life has come through Mary. And thus the gift of virginity has been bestowed most richly upon women, seeing that it has had its beginning from a woman. As soon as the Son of God set foot upon the earth, He formed for Himself a new household there; that, as He was adored by angels in heaven, angels might serve Him also on earth. Then chaste Judith once more cut off the head of Holofernes (Jud. 13).Then Haman--whose name means iniquity--was once more burned in fire of his own kindling (Est. 7:10) Then James and John forsook father and net and ship and followed the Saviour: neither kinship nor the world's ties, nor the care of their home could hold them back. Then were the words heard: "Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (Mark 8:34) For no soldier goes with a wife to battle. Even when a disciple would have buried his father, the Lord forbade him, and said: "Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head." (Mt. 8:20-22) So you must not complain if you have but scanty house-room. In the same strain, the apostle writes: "He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord but he that is married careth for the things that are of the world how he may please his wife. There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she that is married careth for the things of the world how she may please her husband." (1 Cor. 7:34-36). Jerome, to Eustochium, Letter 22:21, NPNF2, VI:30 [* Again, citing an apocryphal book doesn’t mean that Jerome viewed it as “Scripture” when he could be using it ecclesiastically]

For it is not ecclesiastical rank that makes a man a Christian. The centurion Cornelius was still a heathen when he was cleansed by the gift of the Holy Spirit. Daniel was but a child when he judged the elders.( Dan. 13:55-63, or Susanna 55-63) Amos was stripping mulberry bushes when, in a moment, he was made a prophet (Amos 7:14) David was only a shepherd when he was chosen to be king.(2 Sam. 16:11-13) And the least of His disciples was the one whom Jesus loved the most. My brother, sit down in the lower room, that when one less honorable comes you may be bidden to go up higher (Luke 14:10). Jerome, to Heliodorus, Letter 14:9, NPNF2, VI:17. [* Jerome refers to a history recorded in Susanna. Again, nothing that would place Jerome as citing inspired Scripture]

These things, dearest daughter in Christ, I impress upon you and frequently repeat, that you may forget those things which are behind and reach forth unto those things which are before (Phil. 3:12). You have widows like yourself worthy to be your models, Judith renowned in Hebrew story (Jud. 13) and Anna the daughter of Phanuel (Lk 2) famous in the gospel. Both these lived day and night in the temple and preserved the treasure of their chastity by prayer and by fasting. One was a type of the Church which cuts off the head of the devil (Jud. 13:8) and the other first received in her arms the Saviour of the world and had revealed to her the holy mysteries which were to come (Lk 2:36-38). Jerome, to Salvina, Letter 79:10, NPNF2, VI:168 [* Jerome explicitly calls the Judith account a “Hebrew story”, but the account of Phanuel in Luke 2 he calls “the gospel.” If he were citing them both as Scripture, why classify Judith this way and contrast it to a gospel account? I think the answer is obvious].

To summarize, “Matt1618” has only one instance of Jerome calling an Apocryphal book “Scripture”, maybe two if we ease up a bit and include Jerome, Letter 51, NPNF2, VI:87-8. Yet, in neither of these instances do we have anything which would enthrall the reader into believing he accepted these books as inspired Scripture. J.N.D. Kelly sheds light on Jerome’s usage of these books and his usage of the word Scripture:

Jerome’s conversion to ‘the Hebrew verity’ [i.e. in contrast to the LXX] carried with it an important corollary—his acceptance also of the Hebrew canon, or list of books properly belonging to the Old Testament. Since the early Church had read its Old Testament in Greek, it had taken over without question the so-called Alexandrian canon used in the Greek-speaking Jewish communities outside Palestine. This had included those books (Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Judith, etc.) which are variously described as deuterocanonical or as the Apocrypha. Around the end of the first century, however, official Judaism had formally excluded these, limiting the canon to the books which figure in English Bibles as the Old Testament proper. Since Origen’s time it had been recognised that there was a distinction between the Jewish canon and the list acknowledged by Christians, but most writers preferred to place the popular and widely used deutero-canonical books in a special category (e.g. calling them ‘ecclesiastical’) rather than to discard them. Jerome now takes a much firmer line. After enumerating the ‘twenty-two’ (or perhaps twenty-four) books recognised by the Jews, he decrees that any books outside this list must be reckoned ‘apocryphal’: ‘They are not in the canon.’ Elsewhere, while admitting that the Church reads books like Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus which are strictly uncanonical, he insists on their being used solely ‘for edifying the people, not for the corroboration of ecclesiastical’. This was the attitude which, with temporary concessions for tactical or other reasons, he was to maintain for the rest of his life—in theory at any rate, for in practice he continued to cite them as if they were Scripture. Again what chiefly moved him was the embarrassment he felt at having to argue with Jews on the basis of books which they rejected or even (e.g. the stories of Susanna, or of Bel and the Dragon) found frankly ridiculous. J. N. D. Kelly, Jerome: His Life, Writings, and Controversies (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2000), pp. 160-161.

RC apologists, those who argue this way, are merely using sophistry to recreate Jerome and place him on the side of the Deuterocanonicals, but the evidence really doesn’t give them much to stand on. I guess this is due to the fact that Jerome is one of the Doctors of the Church and he happened to disagree that these books were inspired Scripture. It is a source of embarrassment to them so they attempt to salvage whatever they can and find themselves reading “between the lines” of his writings in a futile attempt to win him back. There is no record showing that Jerome had a change of heart regarding these books and the very fact that scholarly clergymen, such as the aforementioned Cardinals, used Jerome’s position as a catalyst for their own disagreements with these books shows an understanding that he never wavered, never changed his position. But some RC apologists choose to blind themselves from the facts.

In conclusion, Augustine, who was a contemporary of Jerome, advocated the Apocryphal books and used his weighty suffrage to influence the African synods (Hippo and Carthage), but his appeal to them was strictly emotional and, as evidenced in the City of God, he used folklore to gain acceptance of these books. Regarding canon issues and languages, it was Jerome who was the canon scholar and not Augustine. In their correspondence on the issue of the Latin translation (dated 404 AD), Jerome chides Augustine for misunderstanding the nuances of his translations (see here: http://www.bible-researcher.com/vulgate2.html). Augustine chose not to side with Jerome, but continued to push the Septuagint over the Hebrew, even though the Septuagint itself was translated into Greek from the Hebrew. Augustine’s adherence to the LXX was based on the story of the “Seventy” which were the 72 Jewish translators who translated the Hebrew into the Greek language. Augustine tells the story of how these men worked separately in cells and when they compared their manuscripts, they were uniform in every detail, word for word. Jerome calls the story of the cells “fables” and made up, but Augustine claimed that because they worked under the same Spirit, they were led in this endeavor, thus proving the LXX to be of God. What Augustine either didn’t understand or ignored is that the “Seventy” only translated the first 5 books of Moses, the Pentateuch. In the website “The Septuagint Online” states:

Philo of Alexandria (fl. 1st c CE) confirms that only the Torah was commissioned to be translated, and some modern scholars have concurred, noting a kind of consistency in the style of the Greek Penteteuch [sic]. Over the course of the next three centuries, however, other books of the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Greek in an order that is not altogether clear. By observing technical terms and translation styles, by comparing the Greek versions to the Dead Sea Scrolls, and by comparing them to Hellenistic literature, scholars are trying to stitch together a history of the translations that eventually found their way into collections. It seems that sometimes a Hebrew book was translated more than once, or that a particular Greek translation was revised. In other cases, a work was composed afresh in Greek, yet was included in the collection of scriptures (from http://www.kalvesmaki.com/LXX/index.htm)

Only the Pentateuch was translated by the “Seventy” and Augustine truly had no clear reasoning in accepting the Septuagint and the books not found in the Hebrew text. It would seem he influence men through the use of quaint myths or hearsay, but as for Jerome he was resolute and never changed his mind, never follow a “decision” made by the councils influenced by Augustine and, most obviously, he never felt the need to. Jerome denied both the inspiration and the canonicity of the added books and no amount of historical revision will change the facts.

17 comments:

FM483 said...

This was very interesting! A quote of Jerome was this open question posed by him:

“What sin have I committed if I followed the judgment of the churches?”

This is the mindset which must be penetrated in effectively dealing with Roman Catholics even today: are they personally accountable to God if they erred in following their church? The institution of the Roman Catholic Church is the fa├žade behind which every RC exists. A typical RC believes their church is a safeguard for their faith and salvation, but once personal accountability is clearly explained to them through the Word of God there is a real possibility of conversion to the truth of salvation by Grace through Faith in the atonement of Christ alone. My personal experiences have shown that a similar mindset exists with Mormons and JWs.

Frank Marron

PAUL L. said...

Thank You, this is a keeper.

Robbie said...

AWESOME!!!!!!

SIMPLY AWESOME!!!!!!!

Robbie

Peter said...

fm483 quote:

>>>but once personal accountability is clearly explained to them through the Word of God<<<

James or Frank, can this statement be squared with the notion of irresistable grace? It is my understanding that Calvinists do not accept the notion of human free will. Can we consider personal accountablility as being the same as free will? I would say yes because I can't see a person as being personally responsible if he does not have free will.


St Jerome quote:

“What sin have I committed if I followed the judgment of the churches?”

Obviously this man thought like a Catholic, right to the very marrow. Because St Jerome had this attitiude, and if he carried it the remainder of his life, I consider it safe to assume that he would have indeed submited to the decision of a council some years later. I may be able to get a hold of a complete collection of his writtings in order to see if my suspision is confirmed. This would take me a long time- has anyone here extensively researched St Jerome's writtings to confirm or refute my suspision?

For you James:

I think I can be quoted as saying about your blog "all bluster and no substance. I'm out of here", or something like that. That was said after following one small piece of a thread. After wading through your blog from time to time over the last couple of weeks I humbly admit that I was very much in error. Sorry. The expression
" Before you shoot your mouth off, make sure that your brains are loaded", comes to mind right about now.

Churchmouse said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Churchmouse said...

Hi Peter,

You said:

Obviously this man thought like a Catholic, right to the very marrow. Because St Jerome had this attitiude, and if he carried it the remainder of his life, I consider it safe to assume that he would have indeed submited to the decision of a council some years later. I may be able to get a hold of a complete collection of his writtings in order to see if my suspision is confirmed. This would take me a long time- has anyone here extensively researched St Jerome's writtings to confirm or refute my suspision?

I don't think he ever did. As I stated in the article, this same position was held by Cardinals Ximenes and Cajetan some 1,200 years later and debated on the floors of Trent itself by the group headed by Seripando. If a decision was made, there would be no need for debate. There was no fixed canon, therefore no decision to adhere to. Also, again, as stated in the article, J.N.D. Kelly, who researched Jerome pretty thoroughly, states:

"This was the attitude which, with temporary concessions for tactical or other reasons, he was to maintain for the rest of his life—in theory at any rate, for in practice he continued to cite them as if they were Scripture."

It would be great if you can do some research on this, but I'm sure it has been done. I haven't heard of any scholars who have concluded that Jerome did indeed submit to conciliar decisions on this matter.

Peace,
Ray

Randy said...

I think Frank's comment is right on in terms of noting how St. Jerome thought like a Catholic. He was influenced by Jewish scholars and thus his opinion on the cannon was quite skewed. Still he saw his opinion as something less important than the opinion of the church. If in fact he never came to agree with the church's view that would make him a better model of a strong Catholic. He never tried to start a new church or accuse the church of adding books to scripture. He simply obeyed the pope. The same thing Luther was called to do. The only differane is that Luther failed miserably.

Churchmouse said...

Hi Randy,

Well, first of all a correction: it was Peter who said it and not Frank.

No one is questioning Jerome's catholicity. He was as Catholic as they come, but neither can we assume that a decision by local councils would qualify as the "judgment of the churches." There really wasn't any "decision" to follow that was binding on the whole church. Jerome was very outspoken and didn't shy away from the things which brought critique. It cost him friends, in particular his childhood friend, Rufinus, over the issue of Origen's orthodoxy. Augustine, his contempory, was a sharp critique of his for choosing the Hebrew text for translation and there were heated exchanges between the two, but Augustine really had no basis for the books of the LXX, other then usage amongst the Greek churches and the fable of the 70 translators. Again, the evidence points to his never changing his mind and his usage was solely ecclesiastical.

As far as the comparison between Luther and Jerome go, I consider that apples and oranges. Jerome was given a commission and he completed it. Some criticized, some didn't. Yet, he never wavered his position and, certainly, the Church didn't tell him to recant or be excommunicated. Luther's intent was to dialogue with the Church, but was met with heavy opposition from the get. There would be no dialogue. Jim goes to give an example of this in his present blog entry:

Bainton recalls the basic “facts” of the situation: The Pope sent one of his best theologians to demand Luther to recant his position on indulgences: Cardinal Cajetan. Luther refused. The Cardinal was well versed in Roman Catholic doctrine, and realized quickly the dilemma the Pope had: there was no adequate foundation to condemn Luther as a heretic. Why? Because there was not an official teaching on indulgences when Luther posted the 95 Theses. There was no official doctrine as to the effect of the indulgence upon Purgatory. So Cajetan knew that in order to put Luther down as a heretic, he must first be declared one according to some sort of doctrinal standard. Cajetan quickly drafted a declaration of dogma on the subject of indulgences. Pope Leo X found this to be a good idea. Thus came the decretal Cum postquam. The dogma of indulgences was defined as Cajetan outlined them. The Pope also threatened any of his representatives that may have held a divergent view on the subject.

He didn't "go out" to create a new church and I've always seen this assertion as groundless. I believe you are simply mimicking the words of Catholic apologists who prefer to demonize Luther rather then entertain the fuller picture.

Peace,
Ray

Peter said...

quote from Frank:
___________________________________
This was very interesting! A quote of Jerome was this open question posed by him:

“What sin have I committed if I followed the judgment of the churches?”

This is the mindset which must be penetrated in effectively dealing with Roman Catholics even today: are they personally accountable to God if they erred in following their church?
___________________________________

I am not an apologist nor have I received any formal training in theology at prestigious Christian institutions. I do not read, write or understand Hebrew or Greek. I am a peasant so to speak, an unlearned man. If my Lord had decided my time to inhabit the earth was sometime between several hundred and two thousand years ago, I would have been totally illiterate even in my native language like almost all of my fellow citizens.
As an illiterate, unlearned man 2000 years ago, what were my options when learned men from the Christian community came to my village and began to teach me that I, a new convert to Christianity, must be circumsized. No doubt these men used Scripture to back up their assertions that I must have the procedure. I hear another man called Paul, who is also one of them, teach the opposite in an equally convincing fashion. I suspect that I would have been confused and unsettled. I can see myself throwing up my arms and exclaiming " How, Lord, could you not see this coming and provide for my authentic Christian education?"

As an illiterate unlearned man 1600 years ago, what were my options when learned men from the Christian community came to my village and began to teach me that Christ was not truly divine. No doubt these learned men, who convinced the overwhelming majority of the other learned men of the Church, sounded very convincing to me, too. Perhaps I was fortunate enough to have a front row seat throughout the council of Nicea and heard Athanasius and others debate these Arians. Both sides were convincing, and I suppose I may have been very impressed with the exegetes from the Arian side of things because as soon as a passage from Scripture was brought forth in support of Christ's divinity, a slew of 'nods and winks' from the Arian side came forth conveying the fact that they had their own interpretation (Athanasius, Defence of the Nicene Definition, 20 A.D. 350/351 NPNF 2, IV: 163-164.). I suspect I would have been very confused and unsettled and finally threw up my arms and said " How, Lord, could you not see this coming and provide for my authentic Christian education?"


As an illiterate, unlearned man in Germany 500 years ago, what were my options when the so called reformers came to my village and..., well, you get the picture.

The fact of the matter is the "mindset" that Frank suggests Jerome exemplified and which must be "penetrated even today" is what allows me to say that the Lord did indeed see these things coming and he did provide for my authentic Christian education. He provided a Church with a visible head so that I could see where His Church is in times of doctrinal confusion. So what would I have done 2000 years ago when the circumsizers came to my village after the council of Jerusalem? I would have shown these misguided men the letter from the apostles and proclaimed "This is what the Apostles of Christ teach, so this is what I will believe. I recognize their authority, not yours". When the Arians came to my village I would have recited to them the Nicean Creed and said "This is what the successors to the Apostles of Christ teach, so this is what I will believe. I recognize their authority, not yours". I would have had the same response to the self proclaimed reformers who came to my hamlet after the Council of Trent and tried to convince me of the doctrine of Sola Scriptura and other incorrect doctrines.
I have wondered how many of the circumsizers broke away from the Church after the Apostolic decree was formed at the council of Jerusalem. Who among them had the Catholic attitude and submitted to their divinely appointed authorities even though they were sure they were correct. I have the same questions regarding the followers of Arius. Scripture tells us that the people rejoiced at receiving the Apostolic decree which came from the Council of Jerusalem. I have no doubt some of it was simply relief from the gentile males who didn't have to undergo a painful procedure, but I also have no doubt that the joy was also relief that doctrinal clarity was provided by the recognized authorities.

Now I come to 2006. I have read a few apologetics books from both Catholics and Protestants. I've read some online debates as well. In all humility I can say that I often cannot understand their arguments when it comes to analyzing the Greek grammar to make their case. The Catholic people tell me what the Greek means, the Protestant people do the same. For all I know the manuscript that they are translating could be giving a recipe for baclava, or mousaka. How do I know who has the correct understanding of the Greek? " How, Lord could you not see this confusion coming and provide for my authentic Christian education." Frank writes about "personal accountability" so I wonder if I will be held accountable for not going to Westminister Seminary (certainly not some biased Catholic Seminary) to learn Greek and Hebrew in order to parse the Sacred Scriptures like learned Greek and Hebrew scholars in order to believe the correct/true doctrine? I wonder the same for the Mediterranean peasant living 1000 years ago. I guess he might get a little more Divine slack because he could not read or even if he could read he didn't have a plethora of books available, lots of universities to chose from or the internet to use to acquire much information at the click of a mouse.

Each side of the Catholic/Protestant debate accuses the other of biased reasoning and sophistry. Sophistry? What in the world is sophistry and how do I detect it!? If I am an unlearned man and perhaps a little too simpleminded, how in the world am I going to know who is presenting me with authentic Christian doctrine? "Oh my Lord, so many scholars, so many theolgians, so many "Spirit filled" priests and ministers giving me authentic Christian doctrine, but not agreeing on everything! How could you not see this coming and provide for my authentic Christian teaching!?"

Frank, what you seem to deride and feel is a barrier to getting through to Catholics, we Catholics believe to be an obvious, prudent, wise and reasonable "mindset" to have in order to properly exersize our "personal accountablility". This "mindset" protects us from false prophets and teachers-"There are some things in them (Paul's writtings) hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction as they do the other scriptures." (2Peter2:16). If those ignorant listeners of Joseph Smith and Charles Taze Russell (as you tried to compare us to) had this properly formed "mindset" they would have not fallen victim to these false prophets.

It is clear to me that Christ established a Church to teach the truth and to prevent us from being tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming (Ephesians 4:14). I know where this Church is, it is clear for all others who care to see, and it is equally clear that her Bride Groom has given her the power to bind and loose the faithful. Because of my love and devotion to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I will listen to this one Holy and Apostolic bride of His, the pillar and Bulwark of truth. It is her authority that I recognize, not yours, Frank, nor Art Sippo’s, nor St Jerome’s on his own. It will be her help which I will look to when I seek understanding of the Scared Scriptures and for clarification of life issues.

Thanks for the space James.

Your brother in Christ,

Peter

Churchmouse said...

Hi Peter,

Read your post and it's all well and good, but how do you know that Rome is that one authority, the authoritative church that Christ placed here on earth? It's pedigree? The East claims the same pedigree yet doesn't believe in various RC distinctives. They claim apostolic succession, yet differ with you on the very things the Apostles were claimed to teach. And what about these distinctives (i.e. the filioque, purgatory, infallibility, universal jurisdiction, the Immaculate Conception, etc.)?

I don't believe that anyone here refutes the Church's ability to carry on the tradition of the Apostles, whether that be Scripture or evident church practices we call "traditions", but we don't believe that the Church is infallible and that the early church is comparable to Rome, especially in light of her distinctives (the doctrines that define Rome). IOW, you see Rome as she stands today, albeit she's come a long way, but we see a Rome that is merely a shadow of what she once was and fell to compromise and error.

It seems to me that if you are going to toss all your eggs in the "Rome can never err" basket, that's your choice, but I see a very fallible choice in your decision to do so.

Peace,
Ray

Peter said...

Thanks for responding Ray

Anonymous said...

Ray, your response begs a couple of sincere questions:

To help me better understand your point of view, would you please tell me: are you a 5 point Calvinist like James White or Lutheran like Frank? Or do you have a different interpretational basket in which you infallibly place your doctrinal eggs?

Peter

Churchmouse said...

Peter,

I can say with all clarity of conscience that I have not "infallibly" placed my "doctrinal" eggs in the Reformed Baptist camp, of which I am a member, because I recognize the fallibility of all men, including my own. Frank, Jim, Dr. White would concur with me on this. I am a 5 pointer, but I really don't know what my tradition or doctrinal adherence has to do with my questions to you considering they are very specific.

Peace,
Ray

Peter said...

Ray:

I have in the past considered the questions you have raised. Nonetheless, I am pretty sure you have "heard" all of the Catholic answers to the questions you have posed above. Obviously you reject these answers and so I will not attempt to convince you. Most definitely, there are more competent people than me who could give it a go. I humbly admit that I would probably be simply cutting and pasting portions of debates and pieces of other men's work. Believe me, I can not be accused of false humility here, I am very unlearned compared to the people on both sides of these issues. I suspect that similar to a defender of Arianism at the Council of Nicea, you, with a “wink and a nod” have your responses already prepared for their arguments.

My point of asking you what I did is to help you see what the unlearned person is up against when the so called learned men come bringing their Gospel interpretations to them.

The fact that you and the other learned men you have listed above cannot agree on major points of doctrine is almost enough in itself to convince me that Christ “had” to provide an authoritative teaching Church which by the power of the Holy Ghost is prevented from teaching error in order to keep all the “learned” men from misinterpreting Scripture. Your disagreements with Dr White, Jim and Frank does not surpise me because I would have been in the same difficult position had I been a German peasant listening to the Fathers of the Reformation (Zwingli, Luther and Calvin) disagree on the Sacraments, among other things. Whom should I believe has the correct interpretation of Scripture? Again, tell me, don’t hold back, into whose interpretational nest should I put my doctrinal eggs?

I admit that I didn’t answer your questions and now I have given you my reasons why. Would you now share with me why you simply deflected my opinions and did not give me an answer as to “what is the peasant to do?” in the situations I described above in my first piece of writing. I would also ask you to provide a plausible, alternative explanation as to how Christ would comfort his unlearned peasants when faced with all the learned men and their differing opinions.

Peter

Churchmouse said...

Ray:

I have in the past considered the questions you have raised. Nonetheless, I am pretty sure you have "heard" all of the Catholic answers to the questions you have posed above. Obviously you reject these answers and so I will not attempt to convince you. Most definitely, there are more competent people than me who could give it a go. I humbly admit that I would probably be simply cutting and pasting portions of debates and pieces of other men's work. Believe me, I can not be accused of false humility here, I am very unlearned compared to the people on both sides of these issues. I suspect that similar to a defender of Arianism at the Council of Nicea, you, with a “wink and a nod” have your responses already prepared for their arguments.


Yes, Peter, you’re probably right. I have not only engaged other Catholics who haven’t given me a clear argument, but have been part of dialogues between Eastern Orthodox, Uniate churches, and Roman Catholics on this matter. All in all, although I don’t ascribe to the pedigree argument, I haven’t been convinced by either the East or the West.

My point of asking you what I did is to help you see what the unlearned person is up against when the so called learned men come bringing their Gospel interpretations to them.

That’s understandable, but no on denies that the Church has teachers. We also have the ability to judge what these teachers teach. And we have the ability to discern proper teaching through the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:20-27). Also, we are responsible for learning regardless of abilities and inabilities (Matthew 22:29; Mark 12:24; John 5:39; Acts 18:28; Romans 15:4).

The fact that you and the other learned men you have listed above cannot agree on major points of doctrine is almost enough in itself to convince me that Christ “had” to provide an authoritative teaching Church which by the power of the Holy Ghost is prevented from teaching error in order to keep all the “learned” men from misinterpreting Scripture. Your disagreements with Dr White, Jim and Frank does not surpise me because I would have been in the same difficult position had I been a German peasant listening to the Fathers of the Reformation (Zwingli, Luther and Calvin) disagree on the Sacraments, among other things. Whom should I believe has the correct interpretation of Scripture? Again, tell me, don’t hold back, into whose interpretational nest should I put my doctrinal eggs?

We are not “learned” but, like you, we are always “learning.” There is nothing that Frank, Dr. White, Jim or I would see as so over-encompassing that it would affect our relationship as brethren or our salvation. As Frank already mentioned, Christians strive for a unity which would probably not be attained until the last day, but I see no mandate that the unity Christ speaks of is a unity of doctrine, rather Scripture lends to a unity of love (John 17).

I admit that I didn’t answer your questions and now I have given you my reasons why. Would you now share with me why you simply deflected my opinions and did not give me an answer as to “what is the peasant to do?” in the situations I described above in my first piece of writing. I would also ask you to provide a plausible, alternative explanation as to how Christ would comfort his unlearned peasants when faced with all the learned men and their differing opinions.

It’s okay to have opinions and disagreements if we remain within the realm of orthodoxy. Again, the peasant would be taught by the Church, but the peasant isn’t exempt from learning the Scriptures, applying them, and discerning sound doctrine by them through the illumination of the Holy Spirit. How can a peasant simply accept teaching without the leading of that which is truly infallible? Unfortunately, there is no such thing as an infallible church, thus unless you can prove one, we cast our all before God.

Peace,
Ray

Mike Gridley said...

Dr. Chris de Hamel of Cambridge University recently published a book on the history of the Bible in which he states very clearly that Jerome not only diapproved the inclusion of the OT Apocrypha/Deuteros but that he never included them in his edition of the Vulgate.

They were added by later redactors from existing old Latin texts.

PeaceByJesus said...

I know this is an old post yet a keeper, thanks be to God. But the link to Swan "putting the proper perspective on Luther and the canon here" (http://www.ntrmin.org/Luther%20and%20the%20canon%202.htm) is long dead. But I think it must be somewhere in the collection on the sidebar, but if not i have a copy of the old page.