Sunday, May 13, 2012

Applying Rome's Freedom to Luther's Canon

Here's something I recently posted on the Catholic Answers Non-Catholic Religions forum and also the CARM Roman Catholic board. Both of these posts went untouched in substance.

I have 2 questions for those of you fixated with Luther's comments on which books were canonical or not.

1) In the 16th Century Catholic men like Erasmus, Luther, Cajetan expressed doubts on the canonicty of some of the New Testament books. These men all share one thing in common. They formed their opinions on the canon previous to the dogmatic and binding decisions of the Council of Trent. At the Council of Trent, the question of canonicity was put forth before the Council once and for all, and they issued a dogmatic pronouncement of which books were "canon" for the entire church. Isn't the liberty that Erasmus, Luther, and Cajetan expressed simply the liberty as allowed by the Roman Catholic Church previous to dogmatic pronouncement? [By the way, if you simply respond by citing earlier councils, I'm going to then ask you if the councils you cite were ecumenical or local, and why the New Catholic Encyclopedia states: “According to Catholic doctrine, the proximate criterion of the Biblical canon is the infallible decision of the Church. This decision was not given until rather late in the history of the Church (at the Council of Trent). Before that time there was some doubt about the canonicity of certain Biblical books, i.e., about their belonging to the canon”].

2. I would like a Roman Catholic who believes that Trent closed the canon issue once and for all to explain the following riddle. Roman Catholic apologist Gary Michuta states:
"The fourth question of the Capita Dubitationum asked whether those books that were not included in Trent's list, but were included in the Latin Vulgate (e.g. The Book of Esdras, 4 Ezra, and 3 Maccabees), should be rejected by a Conciliar decree, or should they be passed over in silence. Only three Fathers voted for an explicit rejection. Forty-two voted that the status of these books should be passed over in silence. Eight bishops did not vote. The majority won, and Trent deliberately withheld any explicit decision on these books.
...The question of Esdras' canonical status was left theoretically open." [Gary Michuta, Why Catholic Bibles are Bigger (Michigan: Grotto Press, 2007), pp. 240-241].
If Michuta is correct, isn't it possible that there exists a book that is canonical, but not currently in the canon? If it is possible that the Bible is missing a book, and this book isn't simply hypothetical, don't you think it's a bit hypocritical to chastise Luther for making a personal opinion on canonicity previous to Trent, while you're free to speculate on the Book of Esdras, 4 Ezra, and 3 Maccabees previous to the Roman church finally setteling the issue?

Think about it.

14 comments:

Algo said...

Not Too Many Flawed Assumptions Here?:

May 10, '12, 3:38 pm
pablope
Regular Member

Join Date: September 29, 2010
Posts: 3,205
Religion: catholic
Re: Question about Catholic Bible
Quote:
Originally Posted by TertiumQuid
I've done extensive studies into Luther and the canon over the last 10 years. I don't recall ever hearing that.

Some years back now I put together Luther and the Canon of Scripture, which is a basic overview of the issues involved.

In terms of a detailed study on Luther's Bible, the best treatment in English was put out by J.M. Reu, Luther's German Bible. This book was very hard to track down, and typically $100 or more, but I recently found an on-line copy! If you have any questions on Luther's German Bible, this is a credible and thorough source.

Regards,

James Swan

Thanks, James...

I do have a question for you, if you do not mind....what is your opinion of belief...should the DC books be included in the Bible?

And if you have a source or something...as to how the DC books were finally removed from Protestant Bibles. Is this only confined, initially that is, in the US and Europe (in the 1820s or so).


I find this interesting.....“[Luther] allows the canon to stand as it was established by the ancient church. But he makes distinctions within the canon.”

Looks like Luther recognized the canon of Carthage...am I right in concluding this?

Is it because of this distinctions that gave those later reformers the ammunition to remove the DC from the Bible?

http://forums.catholic.com/showpost.php?p=9284048&postcount=136

Nick said...

Here is what I would say:

(1) I've never understood how folks like Cajetan could have 'doubts' about certain books given that Councils like Florence gave the canon about 100 years earlier. That said, I doubt they would ever have treated the canon as a personal preference and instead would defer their final judgment to the Magisterium. Luther didn't have such recourse. So while one cannot 'condemn' Luther for expressing certain legitimate doubts (depending on the 'doubt'), his methodology was fundamentally different and fundamentally unCatholic.


2) I don't buy Michuta's argument that Trent left the status of certain books hanging. That's a bad argument and I don't think he's reading the data properly. If Trent was supposed to clarify the canon, it makes no sense to say it said we're going to ignore a book and maybe 500 years later decide to include it or not. In effect, what Gary is saying is that most Catholic bibles have possibly been missing a book all this time, which strikes right at the heart of the Church's idefectibility.

Constantine said...

From Algo:

I do have a question for you, if you do not mind....what is your opinion of belief...should the DC books be included in the Bible?

Answer:

Finally, the books of the Apocrypha abound in doctrinal, ethical, and historical errors. For instance, Tobit claims to have been alive when Jeroboam revolted (931 B.C.) and when Assyria conquered Israel (722 B.C.), despite the fact that his lifespan was only a total of 158 years (Tobit 1:3-5; 14:11)! Judith mistakenly identifies Nebuchadnezzar as king of the Assyrians (1:1, 7). Tobit endorses the superstitious use of fish liver to ward off demons (6: 6,7)!

The theological errors are equally significant. Wisdom of Solomon teaches the creation of the world from pre-existent matter (7:17). II Maccabees teaches prayers for the dead (12:45-46), and Tobit teaches salvation by the good work of almsgiving (12:9) -- quite contrary to inspired Scripture (such as John 1:3; II Samuel 12:19; Hebrews 9:27; Romans 4:5; Galatians 3:11).

The conclusion to which we come is that the books of the Roman Catholic Apocrypha fail to demonstrate the characteristic marks of inspiration and authority.


Excerpted from "The Concept and Importance of Canonicity" by Greg Bahnsen


Peace.

James Swan said...

I've never understood how folks like Cajetan could have 'doubts' about certain books given that Councils like Florence gave the canon about 100 years earlier

Here's a tip I learned recently in regard to medieval theology that would really, apply to your point, and probably most everything else.

If you've "never understood" Cajetan's position, it's probably because you haven't taken the time necessary to understand Cajetan's position from Cajetan's perspective. This requires research work. Once you start reading Cajetan, I think you'll realize rather quickly how methodical and fine of a theologian he was.

That said, I doubt they would ever have treated the canon as a personal preference and instead would defer their final judgment to the Magisterium.

Which is why the current anachronistic paradigm employed by many modern-Roman Catholics make doing accurately interpreted history nearly impossible. You need to understand the Roman Church as Cajetan, Luther, and Erasmus understood the Roman Church.

I don't buy Michuta's argument that Trent left the status of certain books hanging. That's a bad argument and I don't think he's reading the data properly.

Have you actually read Mr. Michuta's book, and can you defend this statement?

Keep in mind, Gary Michuta made this argument in order to attempt to refute Webster / White / Svendsen, etc. That is, there's a reason his argument was framed the way it was. Here again, research would insist you get Gary's book and attempt to understand why he made the argument he did.

I don't think I'm perfect at it, but the pattern expounded above is to reserve comment on something until one actually understands the position of the other.

Your comments Nick, while appreciated for their zeal, lack substance. I would say this is one of my major gripes against Internet discourse and blogging. We're all too lazy to actually reserve comment until we we actually have something of meaning to say. There are times I've done this, but the older get, the more I'm figuring it out.

James Swan said...

Algo said...
Not Too Many Flawed Assumptions Here?:May 10, '12, 3:38 pm
pablope Regular Member


I ignored the comment from pablope because it really didn't have anything to do with the question I asked. I've had this happen a number of times on CA. If the question can't be answered, something related but not not relevant to the question is put forth.

On the other hand Sir Algo: you cracked me up the other day. I was on the Catholic Answers Facebook page, and I was alerted that "one of my friends likes this page." I wonder who that was?

Nick said...

I've not taken the time to read Cajetan because it's simply not been a pressing issue for the areas I've had my interest in. All I was stating was an inquiry, since a council like Florence should hold at least some weight on the canon if it bothers to list off the books as a condition for the reunion of certain Eastern Churches.


I do in fact own Michuta's Why Catholic Bibles are bigger, and I read it about 2 years ago. I have also read the various articles regarding the 'floating' status of certain books on his site and your own site a while back as well. I don't recall him making a big issue of this in his book, and I never recall seeing him actually demonstrate Trent left such issues floating. If I remember right, all he ever showed was that the Tridentine fathers informally voted as to whether to discuss books like Esdras at all, which is a very different thing than voting on its canonicity or leaving it up in the air.

While laziness can often be a problem when it comes to doing research, I wouldn't say I'm guilty of that in this regard or in general.

Algo said...

@Constantine: Thanks for responding to pablov.

@James: I always enjoy cracking you up.

:o)

PeaceByJesus said...

Well, you got my involved in this forum (though i was a member before) and after responding to attacks on evangelical faith by RCs and their incessant self promotion/exaltation, in less than 2 days after my usual and substantiated manner, i received

“Your account has been locked for the following reason:
anti-Catholic agenda

This change will be lifted: Never

(All the best, Catholic Answers Forums)

And the offending posts were deleted.

BTW, there was a post awaiting your reply, but evidently they even outlawed my ip address so that even their home page is blank and says "database error" (though i cleared the cookies).

Perhaps that's a leftover from the Inquisition.

James Swan said...

BTW, there was a post awaiting your reply, but evidently they even outlawed my ip address so that even their home page is blank and says "database error" (though i cleared the cookies).

I'll take a look when I get a chance. Keep in mind, if you were banned from CA, chances are you presented a good dose of truth.

PeaceByJesus said...

That was the case (daniel1212) by the grace of God. I have them, but they deleted them.

Ana said...

Constantine:

"II Maccabees teaches prayers for the dead (12:45-46), [...]The conclusion to which we come is that the books of the Roman Catholic Apocrypha fail to demonstrate the characteristic marks of inspiration and authority."

Of the same mind as Greg Bahnsen, Matt Slick writes:

"Can anyone truly accept that money isn't offering for the sins of dead people? Such a superstitious and unbiblical concept has no place in Scripture". [http://carm.org/errors-apocrypha]

The glaring problem with this criticism:

The only way in which the content of 2 Maccabees referenced above, can be meaningfully characterized as "unbiblical", is if it is first excluded from the Bible, and then contrasted to those books which remain in the Bible. Otherwise, (obviously) if it is in the Bible, by definition, it is biblical, and must be interpreted as such.

Imagine that a Christian excludes the book of Malachi from his Bible, finding Malachi 1:11 to be grossly objectionable,

"For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name is great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense is offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name is great among the Gentiles, saith the LORD of hosts."

And then justifies the exclusion by asserting that Malachi contains an unbiblical concept, contrary to the the witness of the New Covenant.

The point here being, that the same approach that governs the rejection of 2 Maccabees, if seriously applied to another book in the Bible, a portion of which a Christian has difficulty reconciling with the rest of Scripture, would result in rejection of that book as "unscriptural".

James Swan said...

magine that a Christian excludes the book of Malachi from his Bible, finding Malachi 1:11 to be grossly objectionable,
"For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name is great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense is offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name is great among the Gentiles, saith the LORD of hosts."


Hi Ana,

Thanks for stopping by. exactly what about Malachi 1:11 is " grossly objectionable"? Are you referring to the figure of speech of the sun rising and going down? If so, I don't see how this language is "grossly objectionable" (if in fact, that's what you had in mind.

Ana said...

Hi James,

To clarify -- it is not my belief, as Ana, that the aforementioned passage of Malachi is grossly objectionable. Rather, I was proposing a scenario in which a non-Catholic Christian is disturbed by that passage -- (because it prophesies that Gentiles will continually present a pure offering to God), believing the pure offering to be a sacrificial victim, perceiving that description of the Gentiles’ relationship with God as being be contrary to the gospel -- and on these grounds, challenges the canonicity of the book to which the passage belongs.

PeaceByJesus said...

That is quite a stretch Ana, as the O.T. speaks of the Gentiles being given salvific grace and of a New Covenant under which they are on a large scale, which the N.T. affirms (Isa 42:1-4; 49:6; Jer. 31:31-34; Mt. 12:21; Rm. 15:12; Heb. 8:8-13)

In contrast, absolutely nowhere do we see prayers for the dead (nor to anyone else in Heaven but the Lord).

And if you are actually referring to the Gentiles being a sacrificial offering, then that is likewise perverse, being not simply contrary to the N.T. but also the O.T., in which forcing people to be sacrificial offerings was a pagan practice disallowed of God, (Jer. 32:35) and unable to atone as they were not without blemish. (Dt. 15:21)

While there are somethings in Scripture that by interpretation could arguably seem to be contradictory, praying for the dead, which was a late practice, simply has no support.

“It then becomes clear that at the time of Judas Maccabeus-around 170 B.C., a surprisingly innovative period-prayer for the dead was not practiced, but that a century later it was practiced by certain Jews.” - Jacques Le Goff, The Birth of Purgatory, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1984), p.45. http://www.lightshinesindarkness.com/purgatory_history_1.htm

And an aside, the lack of real Scriptural substantiation of such Roman traditions, from praying to the departed or for them, to an ordained separate class of men called priests, testifies against the Islamist charge that the Catholic church changed the Bible to fit is doctrines, as it would not have been difficult at all to slip a few words in their that would give such clear support.