Friday, January 18, 2008

Catholic Scholars on the Biblical Canon


Here are some excerpts from the Jerome Biblical Commentary, a book produced by the contributions of a large group of Catholic scholars as outlined in the editor's preface:

"The question of the Catholic interpretation of the Bible constantly reappears. It seemed to the editors that the best way to expose the misunderstanding implicit in this question was to produce a commentary written entirely by Catholics. This would allow readers off all persuasions to see a representative group of Catholic scholars at work – not the isolated and allegedly liberal mavericks, but some fifty contributors teaching in the Catholic colleges and seminaries in the United States, Canada, and abroad."

The Jerome Biblical Commentary
Brown, Fitzmyer, and Murphy
Imprimatur: Lawrence Cardinal Shehan, Archbishop of Baltimore

In the section entitled Canonicity, the issues surrounding the acceptance of the deuterocanonicals into the canon is discussed:

"Doubts about the deuterocanonical books keep recurring in the history of the Church among those who are aware of the Jewish canon. Those who prefer the shorter canon or express some doubt about the full canonical status of the deuterocanonicals include Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory Nazianzen, Epiphanius, Rufinus, Gregory the Great, John Damascene, Hugh of St. Victor, Nicholas of Lyra, and Cardinal Cajetan.

As mentioned earlier, the Council of Trent accepted definitively the deuterocanonicals, and it did so directly in opposition to the Protestant preference for the Jewish canon. Although as Catholics we accept the statement of the Council as binding in faith, it is wise for us to know some of the difficulties that surround this statement. Even on the eve of the Council the Catholic view was not absolutely unified, as the mention of Cajetan in the preceding paragraph clearly indicates. Catholic editions of the Bible published in Germany and in France in 1527 and 1530 contained only the protocanonical books. The Fathers of the Council knew of the 4th century African councils that had accepted the deuterocanonical books, and they knew the position taken at Florence; but at the time of Trent, there were insufficient historical tools to reconstruct the real picture of the canon in the 1st century." (pg 523)

As with the New Catholic Encyclopedia, the authors of The Jerome Biblical Commentary outline some of the uncertainty that existed within the Catholic Church throughout history with regards to the OT canon.

10 comments:

Captain Kangaroo said...

Yes, the canon of the OT was often revisited and debated during various periods of Church history by very learned and righteous men who did not all come to the same conclusions. Similarly, though not to the same extent, the canon of the NT was also debated, (although very little in the period between the late third century and the Reformation when ML failed to get his contemporaries to dump the epistle of James and book of Revelation).

It is kind of you to help demonstrate that the canon of scripture was neither self-evident nor self-authenticating, but required the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the authority of Jesus as he placed it in the Church to be settled without equivocation.

Captain Kangaroo said...

...the issues surrounding the acceptance of the deuterocanonicals into the canon is discussed...


By the way, this observation of Carrie's would be more accurate to history phrased this way:

"…the historical debate regarding possible rejection of Deuterocanonical Scripture from the OT canon in comparison with the Jewish canon, established to combat rising Christianity circa 80 AD is discussed."

Her phrasing is understandable, but seems to lacks a degree of technical correctness that is often the hallmark of prejudice rooted in seeing history only through the clouded lens of Reformed theology, born of the desire to force history to fit it.

Lvka said...

As I've told You before, the Fathers cite the LXX. [Neither Protestant, nor Catholic Bibles follow the LXX (NOT EVEN in the Books that the LXX has in common with the MT!), neither do they plan to, for that matter ... --> and, as a result, we get this.

As I've told You before, the Fathers (those on Your list included) cite the Books that You hold to be proscribed. [And they NEVER call them by the name that You call them, i.e.: Apocrypha].

The reference to Wisdom chp. 2, or to the ending verses of Baruch chp. 3 as Messianic prophecies are commonplace among the Fathers. The same Fathers cite many instances of those Books as Scripture. The same Fathers frequently speak of "the Five Books of Solomon".

The variantions in NT Canon don't seem to bother You at all: which is good; but why the heck not, may I humbly ask?

No heretical book ever found its way in any list whatsoever: whether they may be TODAY considered Canonical or unCanonical, no heresy is found in them: whether Old Testament Books not in the Hebrew; or the Apostolic Fathers.

The LXX is a Jewish Scripture. (in what tongue, or in what city: it doesn't matter).

St. Paul's simple words about the truth coming from the Jews and about the Jews being intrusted with the oracles of God does not exclude the LXX: St. Paul's OT citations follow with an overwhelmingly over 90% the LXX.

If You reject the OT Books not found in all Fathers or in all lists, why don't You do the same for those of the NT as well? It's only logical ... :-(

Can anyone say "double standard", "convoluted argument", or "schiozophrenia" ?

Saint and Sinner said...

Actually, many of those fathers rejected all of the free-standing deutero-canonicals but accepted the appedix-type deuteros simply because they assumed they were original parts of the proto-canonicals. Athanasius and Cyril of Jerusalem are great examples.

Lastly, we Protestants don't rely solely upon the fathers to give us testimony to the canonicity of these books. There is the internal evidence as well.

This disagreement between the fathers show that there was *no* tradition past on. We must rely on internal evidence as well as external.

"but required the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the authority of Jesus as he placed it in the Church to be settled without equivocation."

Yeah, with a 44% vote.

Lvka said...

This disagreement between the fathers show that there was *no* tradition past on.

A very poetically beautiful statement ... which can be safely predicated of the NT as well ... and which SHOULD be predicated of the NT as well ... but it isn't ... and it isn't, because ...

many of those fathers rejected all of the free-standing deutero-canonicals

Did You read the works of these Fathers?

EA said...

Yes, the canon of the OT was often revisited and debated during various periods of Church history by very learned and righteous men who did not all come to the same conclusions.

An interesting admission; ostensibly the value and function of the Infallible Teaching Authority is to remove confusion, division, and error from the 'Church'. However, nearly 15 centuries are allowed to pass where no 'infallibly defined' canon was in place. Even more to the point is that the judgement of Jerome held the greatest sway in the Church (viz. that the OT deutero-canonical texts were useful for instruction and edification of the faithful but not for the determination of dogma).

Further, current Higher Criticism trends within the RC undermine the appeal to the canonical pronouncements of Trent. Trent declared Moses as the author of the Pentateuch, yet JP2 and the current Pope have openly speculated
that the first five books of the OT were actually written by as many as four different authors. There are similar speculations regarding the Letter to the Hebrews of which Trent declared St. Paul the author.
If your own popes can disregard Tridentine pronouncements, why should I feel compelled to take them seriously?

Captain Kangaroo said...

CK: "It is kind of you to help demonstrate that the canon of scripture was neither self-evident nor self-authenticating, but required the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the authority of Jesus as he placed it in the Church to be settled without equivocation."

S&S: Yeah, with a 44% vote.


You remind me of the people who think a poll showing most Americans believe man causes global warming proves that it is so.

Who told you that Church councils determined canon or any other divine truth as a matter of popular vote, or that Church councils derive their authority by democracy rather than by the institution and command of Jesus Himself to act in his name and by the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus Himself promised?


Over and over again, experts, learned men, bishops and scholars accepted council edicts as the very will of the Holy Spirit, even when they disagreed with the edict and when a vote was applicible voted against it. "It seems good to us and to the Holy Spirit," was a classic way to phrase council-borne instruction. There was no "minority report" issed--ever.

Please take your straw man away before you attract hungry bovines. It leads to bovine waste eventually being the substance of your argument.

In your seemingly willful ignorance you keep testifying to the need of all Christians to have authority outside of scripture and to the historical fact that Church leadership from the fathers onward believed it—and practiced it—as well.

As expected, you didn't address the problem: that the canon is neither self-evident nor self-authenticating. Please feel free to prove otherwise.

“This disagreement between the fathers show that there was *no* tradition past on”

Says you! Have you actually read Jerome and the earlier fathers aside from the filtered, watered down, hand-picked variety? Do you know what they overwhelmingly say about sacred tradition and church authority? Try actually reading the fathers directly if you want to know what the believed about Church authority.

Disagreement between some fathers shows that the canon of scripture was neither self-evident nor self-authenticating. The fact that they put their disagreements aside and allowed the councils to settle them demonstrates they believed in the authority of the Church to do just that.

orthodox said...

And the discussion goes on and on.

And no matter how long it goes on, no protestant can even begin to demonstrate that their canon is correct. Protestantism is bankrupt from the ground up for this reason.

phatcatholic said...

I'm just curious: What is this post supposed to prove?

Captain Kangaroo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.