Friday, June 24, 2016

The Roman Catholic Canon and the Book of Esdras (Part Two)

This a follow-up to my previous entry, The Roman Catholic Canon and the Book of Esdras (Part One).  I've been challenged to revisit the controversy about Rome's canonical decrees and the book of 1 Esdras because "This question keeps popping up due to the fans of James Swan, James White, etc... parroting the same erroneous assertion." The controversy involves one of the books of Esdras, the decrees of Hippo and Carthage, and the infallible pronouncement on the canon by the Council of Trent. Did the earlier councils canonize a book that Trent did not? Do the councils contradict each other? The person challenging me says they didn't, and claims an article from 1907 by Father Hugh Pope proves it: The Third Book of Esdras and the Tridentine Council. Pope's basic argument is that when Hippo and Carthage referred to the two books of Esdras in their canon, they meant Ezra - Nehemiah, not the spurious book of 1 Esdras and a second book comprising Ezra - Nehemiah.

In order to evaluate Pope's article, my previous entry presented some background as to the way this controversy has recently played out. This entry will provide some further background information before tackling Pope's article. To try and keep things cogent throughout these articles, I will refer to the disputed book of Esdras as "1 Esdras," though there may be times that "3 Esdras" is used to refer to the same book.

Henry Howorth: The Modern Roman Catholic Canon and the Book of Esdras A
Before actually getting to Father Pope's article, there's one last stop: the article to which Hugh Pope responded to and provoked him to write his article: Henry Howorth: The Modern Roman Catholic Canon and the Book of Esdras A (Journal of Theological Studies, Vol. 7. 1906), p. 343-354. The author of this old article appears to be Sir Henry Hoyle Howorth (1842 - 1923) (partial list of Howorth's work). Howorth's studies on the spurious 1 Esdras were important and influential in late nineteenth and early twentieth century scholarship.  One interesting irony is that Rome's defender Gary Michuta (mentioned in my previous entry) positively relies on other studies produced by Howorth, particularly his analysis of the Protestant Reformation on the canon.  Michuta refers to him as a "Protestant scholar." While Howorth is remembered as a scholar, and perhaps he was a Protestant, I've found no information verifying his credentials as a theological scholar or theologian.

Simply because Howorth took a position against Rome one must not automatically assume his views were defending either Protestantism or the Protestant view of the canon. If one looks at Howorth's work, he appears to be an equal-opportunity offender of established views, whether Roman Catholic or Protestant.  A detailed look at Howorth's canon views are beyond the scope of this entry, but he basically argued that the spurious book of 1 Esdras is actually a canonical book while the accepted Ezra and Nehemiah are actual spurious non-canonical books. In the article he does not come across as hostile to Rome but rather insists examining Rome's canon and 1 Esdras was to show that Rome made "a very pardonable mistake" (p. 344). His goal is the reinstatement of the spurious 1 Esdras and the rejection of Ezra - Nehemiah. The other Vulgate found books- The Prayer of Mannasses, 4 Esdras, and 3 Maccabees, are not deemed to be of the same caliber as 1 Esdras. 4 Esdras, for instance, "does not occur in any Greek Bible... It occurs in Latin, Syriac, Ethiopic, an Armenian and two Arabic translations" (p. 353).

Is Trent's Decree on the Vulgate a Palpable Contradiction?
Howorth argues Trent canonized the Vulgate edition of the Bible "as the ultima lex of all appeals," but most copies of the Vulgate contained “at least two additional works,” Esdras 3 and Esdras 4, and also the Payer of Manasses and 3 Maccabees [p. 346]. Howorth states,
It cannot fail to be noticed that in these pronouncements there is a palpable contradiction. If the books enumerated are alone to be deemed canonical, it seems difficult to understand how the Vulgate edition of the Bible as then received was to be treated as the conclusive authority in all disputes and controversies, since it contained, in very many if not in most existing copies, at least two additional works which were treated in them as of equal and co-ordinate authority with the remaining books, namely those which in the Latin Bibles were called Esdras III (that is "Esdras A) and Esdras IV; while some copies of the Vulgate also contained a third book not above enumerated, namely, the Prayer of Manasses, as well as the so-called Third book of Maccabees. (p. 346).
Using post-Trent editions of the Vulgate, Howorth documents how these books were relegated (if at all) to an appendix. The 1590 Vulgate edition issued by Pope Sixtus omits all these books. Three years later (1593) a more authoritative Vulgate came out (edition of Clement VIII), reinstating 3 and 4 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasses, placing them in an appendix (this is different than where they were in old Vulgate editions). 3 Maccabees is ignored. Howorth states,
The removal of the three books above mentioned from the text of the Bible, and the planting of them in a kind of suspense account in an Appendix, while it made the text of the canonical books in the rest of the Bible consistent with the enumeration in the decree of the Tridentine Council, was clearly a tampering with the text of the Vulgate as previously received, though this had been declared by the same Council to be the official and authentic text. (p. 348)

What About Florence?
According to Howorth, Eugenius IV's Bull affirming the Florentine Council canon makes no mention of 3 and 4 Esdras, this despite every copy of the Latin bible had them in it (p.349), so the Florentine list has the same books that Trent's list did. Horworth notes that no copy of the minutes of the Council of Florence exist, so trying to determine the Council's actions is speculative. He posits that when Florence compiled her canon list, they were not careful with the canon lists from previous councils and "jumped to the conclusion" (p. 351) on the spurious 1 Esdras. In order to understand the Florentine Council on the canon, Howorth speculates that the only way to do so is to revisit "the famous African Code which is headed 'The Canons of the 217 Blessed Fathers who assembled at Carthage', commonly called, 'The code of Canons of the African Church'" from 418-419 (p.349). Howorth positively entertains the speculation that these conciliar canon lists were produced because of "fear... of the revolutionary ideas of Jerome" (p. 350).

What About the African Councils?
Comparing these lists with Florence and Trent, Howorth says "there is a superficial and misleading equation in regard to the books of Esdras... that accounts for what was really a mistake made by later councils" (p. 350). For Howorth, when the earlier African councils stated Hesdrae libri duo (two books of Esdras), it did not mean the books of Ezra Nehemiah as Trent did. He states,
The fact is that the phrase Hesdrae libri duo in the decree of the earlier Councils does not mean the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Ezra and Nehemiah in the Septuagint and in the early Latin prae-Hieronymian translation of the Bible which followed the Septuagint, and was alone recognized as canonical in the Latin Church at the end of the fourth century, formed a single book, which in the early Greek MSS was entitled Esdras B, and which in the early Latin version was entitled Esdras II (p.350-351).
Howorth says that the earlier councils meant to include the spurious 1 Esdras is affirmed by Roman Catholic scholars: 
It is completely recognized by Roman Catholic theologians of the first rank. Thus Calmet, who wrote a special treatise on Esdras A, says: 'When the Fathers and the Councils of the earlier centuries declared the two books of Esdras to be canonical, they meant, following the current Bibles that First Esdras and Nehemiah formed only one book, while they styled First Esdras the work which is called third in our Bibles' (Calmet Comm. iii 250 'Dissert, sur le III livre d'Esdras'). Father Loisy, the most distinguished scholar among the recent writers on the Canon in France, similarly says: 'The two books of Esdras contained in them (i.e. in early copies of the Latin Bible) are not Esdras and Nehemiah; but as in the Greek Bible, the first book of Esdras is that we now call the third, which has been ejected from the Canon; the second comprised Esdras and Nehemiah' {Histoire du Canon 92) (p. 352).
There's an important point Horworth makes that Father Pope will find contentious in his article. For Horworth, the divisions of the four books of Esdras in the Vulgate were the direct result of Jerome.
It was Jerome who altered the nomenclature of these books as he altered many other things (and, as some of us think, not too wisely). It was he who, having accepted the Jewish Canon and tradition, also accepted the Jewish division of the book hitherto known to the Greeks as Esdras B, which in the old Latin Bibles was called Esdras II, and gave the two sections of it the new titles of Esdras I and Esdras II, equivalent to our Ezra and Nehemiah; and from him the titles passed into the revised Vulgate, of which he was the author, and eventually became dominant everywhere, and was thus dominant when the Council of Florence sat. It was he who poured scorn on two other books of Ezra contained in the earlier Latin Bibles, and refused to have anything to do with them, or to translate them, and gave them an entirely inferior status by numbering them Esdras III and IV, names by which they have since been styled in the Vulgate; and it was his violent and depreciatory language about them which made many doubt their value and authority [p. 351].
In a different article, Howarth isn't as bold to say it was Jerome who divided the Esdras books:
It is clear that Karlstadt did not understand that what Augustine meant were the books styled Esdras A and B in the Greek manuscripts, that is to say, the so-called apocryphal Esdras I of our Bibles and the joint books of Ezra-Nehemiah, possibly first separated for the Christians by Jerome.

To summarize: Howorth's main argument therefore is,
When the fathers at Florence discussed and decided upon their list of authorized and canonical books, finding, no doubt, that the African Councils had only recognized two books of Esdras, they jumped to the conclusion that these two books must be those called Esdras I and Esdras II in their Bibles, namely, Ezra and Nehemiah; which in fact they were not. Hence their mistake, a great but a natural mistake, which is perpetuated in the Roman Canon. The two books of Esdras recognized by the African Councils, and by all the Fathers who escaped the influence of Jerome, were the books labelled "Esdras A and "Esdras B in the Greek Bibles, that is to say, the first book of Esdras, which was remitted to the Apocrypha by the Reformers, and the joint work Ezra-Nehemiah. This evidence will not be doubted by any one who will examine the early Greek Bibles, and the Canonical lists of the Fathers who were uninfluenced by Jerome. (p. 351).
 Howorth's view is that Trent decreed that the only text of the Bible to be followed was the Vulgate, yet the earlier Vulgate's include the spurious 1 Esdras (and other books as well), so there's a contradiction with Trent's canonical decision, later editions of the Vulgate. A further contradiction exists between the earlier African Councils and Trent on the spurious 1 Esdras. Howorth blames the Councils of Florence for jumping to a conclusion about the meaning of "two books of Esdras," while Trent is blamed for "a very pardonable mistake."

In my next entry when Hugh Pope's article is examined, we'll see that there were multiple points from Howorth that were being responded to. It appears to me that Henry Howorth did not respond to Hugh Pope's rebuttal. 

1 comment:

PeaceByJesus said...

What about the response that Augustine of Hippo explains the relation between the two books of Ezra/Esdras and its separation with Chronicles (partly included in the Septuagint 1 Esdras): "...and the two of Ezra, which look more like a sequel to the continuous regular history which terminates with the books of Kings and Chronicles." (Augustine of Hippo. ''On Christian Doctrine''. Book II, Chapter 8)