Friday, August 07, 2015

New Catholic Encyclopedia: The Canon Was Not Settled Until Trent

I was asked recently to document the following from the New Catholic Encyclopedia:
"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."
This quote come from the New Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. III Can to Col (New York: Mcgraw-Hill, 1967), 29.

Nihil Obstat: John P. Whalen, M.A., S.T.D. Censor Deputatus

Imprimatur: Patrick O'Boyle, D.D. Archbishop of Washington, August 5, 1966


EA said...

Was the person requesting you to document the Definition of the Canon of Scripture Catholic, by any chance?

James Swan said...

Yes, the folks over at Catholic Answers.

PeaceByJesus said...

More like statements here , by God's grace.

PeaceByJesus said...

A main point being that their was no infallible, indisputable canon for Luther to dissent from. That was only provided after Luther's death, while he had scholarly reasons and company in his doubts and dissents.

And that the Prot canon is one of antiquity, while the church began contrary to the premise than an infallible magisterium is essential to ascertain what is of God, or even that the historical stewards of express Divine revelation are to be submitted to in all things.

Both men and writings of God were recognized as being so without infallible magisterium, and the church began in dissent from those who sat in the seat of Moses, following itinerant preachers who established their Truth claims upon Scriptural substantiation in word and in power.

Thanks be to God.

Scott Windsor, Sr. said...

I am curious as to why this seems to be new information...

In each of the above I have affirmed that it was at the Council of Trent where the Canon of Sacred Scripture was first dogmatically defined. We should not overlook, however, the fact that the "canon" which was so defined was from St. Jerome's "Old Latin Vulgate," which had been in official use by the Catholic Church since it was commissioned in the late 4th century.

James Swan said...

Scott Windsor, Sr. said...I am curious as to why this seems to be new information...

Hi Scott, Have have you been?

I was challenged by someone on the Catholic Answers for the information cited above: "Please cite a specific location in the Encyclopedia for this."

So, this post was the documentation for the NCE quote that I used on Catholic Answers. Some of the Roman participants did not appreciate the historical fact that the Roman church did not dogmatically settle the canon until Trent.

James Swan said...


"someone on the Catholic Answers" should have been "someone on Catholic Answers," or more properly, a participant on their discussion forums.

PeaceByJesus said...

We should not overlook, however, the fact that the "canon" which was so defined was from St. Jerome's "Old Latin Vulgate," which had been in official use by the Catholic Church since it was commissioned in the late 4th century.

Which simply does not render that an infallible, indisputable canon, and Luther as some maverick who dissented from it, contrary to parroted RC propaganda.

In addition, there was different versions of the Vulgate (thus resulting in the infamous embarrassing Sistine Vulgate ) and
notes as Jerome's Prologue to the Books of the Kings (and included in the 8th cent. Vulgate Codex Amiatinus) expressed his rejection of the apocrypha as Scripture proper. (,,,,,

The “Glossa ordinaria,” an assembly of glosses (brief notations of the meaning of a word or wording in a text) in the margins of the Vulgate Bible states in the Preface that the Church permits the reading of the Apocryphal books only for devotion and instruction in manners, but that they have no authority for concluding controversies in matters of faith. It prefixes an introduction to them all saying, 'Here begins the book of Tobit which is not in the canon; here begins the book of Judith which is not in the canon' and so forth for Ecclesiasticus, Wisdom, and Maccabees...” (

Subsequent copyists of the Latin Bible, however, were not always careful to transmit Jerome's prefaces, and during the medieval period the Western Church generally regarded these books as part of the holy Scriptures.” (

One curious feature of many manuscripts of the Latin Vulgate is the inclusion of the apocryphal Epistola ad Laodicenses. - In several ancient Latin manuscripts the spurious Epistle to the Laodiceans is found among the canonical letters, and, in a few instances, the apocryphal III Corinthians. -

Also, apparently not all versions contained some or all the apocrypha. Moreover, the Vulgate is understood to be a compound text that is not entirely the work of Jerome, (Grammar of the Vulgate, W.E. Plater and H.J. White, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1926) and what Jerome is said to have translated only includes Tobit and Judith and the additions to Esther from the Septuagint, and the additions to Daniel from Theodotion, and which were due to a request as in the case of Judith and pressure, and which he could allow due to some Catholic sanction. Regarding Judith he states, “But because this book is found by the Nicene Council to have been counted among the number of the Sacred Scriptures, I have acquiesced to your request.” And as regards Tobit: “But it is better to be judging the opinion of the Pharisees to displease and to be subject to the commands of bishops.”

These do not reflect his own judgment on them as inspired Scripture, but that of a church yet in flux as regards the status of all the apocrypha. Some think Jerome later defended the apocrypha based on comments about Daniel, but which is countered here .

"The others, Baruch, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus, 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees, 3 Esdras and 4 Esdras, the Prayer of Manasses, Psalm 151, and Laodiceans retain in Vulgate manuscripts their Old Latin renderings. Their style is still markedly distinguishable from St. Jerome's." (

PeaceByJesus said...

In addition, the Vulgate version of the canon that Trent approved was the first Esdras that Jerome designated for the OT Book of Ezra, not the 1 Esdras of the Septuagint that Hippo and Carthage ( along with Innocent I) received as canonical. Thus Trent rejected as canonical the version of 1 Esdras that Hippo & Carthage accepted as canonical. Trent rejected the apocryphal Septuagint version of 1 Esdras (as received by Hippo and Carthage) as canonical and called it 3 Esdras.” More .