Saturday, June 04, 2011

Catholic Answers: Martin Luther and the Deuterocanonicals

I've heard many of the Catholic apologists on this site make the claim that Martin Luther "removed" the DC's because they provided biblical evidence for Catholic beliefs that Luther disagreed with (purgatory, etc).

I've also heard many protestants defend Luther's move by claiming he wanted to simply stick with the shorter canon that was more universally accepted. They go on to say he didn't "remove" the books; rather he placed them at the end of the OT in a separate section.

I'm not terribly familiar with Luther, so does anyone have any actually evidence for Luther's motives? What did Luther himself say about this?


The bigger question is, why is history seemingly so muddy on this? I don't have a problem accepting the that Luther had a personal agenda, however I would hope, for his sake, that he left a written defense of his actions.

For Catholics, I would hope we have some historical evidence to back up the claim that Luther did it for the reasons we say he did it.


Simply read Luther's Works vol. 32 for Luther's opinion of the apocrypha.

Luther's Bible contains the Apocrypha. The books were not removed.A while back on Catholic Answers Fr. Sebastian Walshe addressed the topic Can Doctrine Develop? Fr. Walshe explained that previous to Trent's infallible declaration, there was uncertainty about which books were canonical. Fr. Walshe also briefly discussed the Apocrypha. Walshe admits there was indeed controversy in the church as to its status. It simply isn't the case that the church unanimously accepted these books early on and that Luther removed them.Walshe also says that Thomas Aquinas was not certain if the books of Maccabees should be considered part of canonical Scripture. That is, Aquinas didn't know one way or the other if the books of Maccabees were part of the canon because the church had yet to determine the status of these books. In fact, there were quite a number of people previous to Luther that doubted the full canonicity of the Apocrypha. Even one of the best Roman Catholic contemporaries of Luther, Cardinal Cajetan, held a similar view as Luther did on the status of the Apocrypha. There was even a group of very well respected Roman Catholic scholars at Trent that argued against including the Apocrypha as fully canonical.

Some argue Luther chose the Hebrew version out of convenience because it got rid of some of the support for the doctrine of Purgatory, with which he disagreed. The best argument so far is that put forth by Gary Michuta. In his book, Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger Michuta argues it was at the Leipzig debate in which Eck cornered Luther into rejecting Maccabees because it taught the doctrine of purgatory. A major problem though with Michuta's position is that Luther went into this debate with Eck affirming the reality of Purgatory (though with reservations). So the typical Catholic argument that Luther had to deny the canonicity of 2 Maccabees at Leipzig in order to maintain his belief in the non-existence of purgatory fails.The fact of the matter is, Luther rejected the canonicty of 2 Maccabees for other reasons.


zipper778 said...

Why do people feel that 2 Mac supports the doctrine of purgatory anyways? Are they referring to this passage:

On the following day, since the task had now become urgent, Judas and his men went to gather up the bodies of the slain and bury them with their kinsmen in their ancestral tombs.
But under the tunic of each of the dead they found amulets sacred to the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. So it was clear to all that this was why these men had been slain.
They all therefore praised the ways of the Lord, the just judge who brings to light the things that are hidden.
Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out. The noble Judas warned the soldiers to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen.
He then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view;
for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death.
But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought.
Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin.
(2 Mac 12:39-46)

If it is this passage then that makes no sense to me. The fallen soldiers that they were praying for had idols with them (v. 40). In the RCC though, purgatory isn't a place for everybody, but only those who are going to go to Heaven:

All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. (CCC 1030)

Unless of course this is just another example of the CCC having flaws and therefore nobody in the RCC knows for sure what to believe. Crazier things then that have happened.

That would be one of my main questions to ask people who accuse Luther of taking out the Apocrypha because it "supports" doctrines such as purgatory. How does that support it when it actually contradicts the definition of such a place?

PeaceByJesus said...

Came across this while researching on the apocrypha: article on the apocrypha: Do not know if you saw it but he seems to put together a good case. Thanks for your work in this regards also.